Saturday, June 15, 2013

River Wars II

While I was about two years premature with Part I, it appears that predictions about Ethiopia's hydro-electric developments on the Blue Nile have panned out with increased rhetoric and the potential for war in the region.  Egypt's President has recently stated plainly that he is prepared to defend its water rights, keeping military conflict open as an option.

These threats shouldn't be taken too lightly.  Reduced down-stream water levels would have severe negative impacts on Egypt's electrical and agriculture production.  For years, while Egypt should have been focused inward in developing  infrastructure to assist their people, the previous Mubarak regime - with our help through billions in defense support and a series of Bright Star exercises - instead developed the military force structure and tactics to fight a Desert Storm-like scenario.  Throw in continued dissatisfaction with the Mursi government, ethnic proxy fighting upstream between the Sudans, and some possible religious undertones, and the potential for a wider conflict is readily apparent.  

The Nile River supports the lives
of more than 100 million Africans.
The U.S. has interests in both countries.  Egypt, as the most populous country in North Africa, is geo-strategically important to the U.S. and Europe because it controls the vital Suez chokepoint.  Ethiopia, while land-locked, has proven to be a strong ally in the fight against al Qaeda in East Africa. The Ethiopian National Defense Force currently holds ground in southwest Somalia, preventing al Shabaab from regaining a foothold there until the nascent Somalia National Army can take its place. So while discussion of intervention in Syria, continued threats by al Qaeda in other parts of Africa, and a multitude of other issues currently absorb limited national security band-width, this water conflict should not go ignored by diplomats and military planners.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.

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