Implications for Somalia
- Qatar maintains close ties with Somali President Farmajo, whose chief of staff previously worked on his campaign as a liaison with Qatar. The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia has previously accused Qatar of influencing Somali electoral outcomes through its financing of preferred candidates. Qatar has subsequently lobbied these government officials to support policies that increase Qatar’s commercial competitiveness in Somalia.
- Both Turkey and Qatar have had long-term commitments to humanitarian aid in Somalia and have increased their support in recent months in response to the drought.
- Qatar has attempted to hold talks between Gulf States and Somalia, where it encouraged Somalia to maintain its neutrality in the Qatar conflict. Turkey has also been in talks with UAE and Saudi officials, advocating for an end to the embargo on Qatar before the end of Ramadan (which did not occur). Somali officials, however, remain committed to neutrality in the conflict. Somali’s federal government recently criticized the semiautonomous regions of Galmudug, Puntland, and Hirshabelle for cutting ties with Qatar.
- Saudi Arabia pledged $50MM to Somalia the same day Somalia announced it would cut ties with Iran.Saudi Arabia pledged $50 million in aid to Somalia in January 2017 on the same day the Somali government announced it was cutting ties with Iran.
- Saudi Arabia offered $80 million to Somalia on June 11 in an attempt to persuade the country to dissolve diplomatic relations with Qatar and reportedly warned Farmajo that it may withdraw all financial aid if Somalia maintains neutrality in the conflict.
- The UAE recalled its ambassador to Somalia and reportedly deported Somali citizens as public disapproval of Somalia’s neutral stance in the Qatar conflict.
- The UAE opened a new training center in Mogadishu to train Somalia’s counterterrorism forces in May 2015. It has also provided armored vehicles to Somali forces and pledged in October 2015 to pay Somalia National Army (SNA) salaries. The UAE has no official military presence on the base.
- Both Somaliland and Puntland announced support for the UAE and Saudi Arabia. On June 10, the Government of the Republic of Somaliland issued a resolution in support of the UAE and Saudi Arabia and assertion of its independence from Somalia. Somaliland’s stance might only exacerbate tensions between the Emiratis and Farmajo, who rejects the legitimacy of the contracts. The Puntland administration announced on August 16 that it supported the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and it called on the Somali Federal Government to reconsider its neutral stance.
- The UAE operates in the Puntland region of Somalia through funding the Puntland Maritime Police Force and Puntland Intelligence Agency. Former Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid of Puntland has been a strong advocate for Somalia to cut ties with Qatar.
- The Somaliland parliament approved an agreement with the UAE to establish a base in the port of Berbera in February 2017. The base is still under construction, but UAE ships have docked at the port and reportedly intend to use the base for air support in Yemen.
- Dubai-based port developer DP World has signed contracts to manage the commercial ports in Berbera and Boosaaso Port in the Puntland region. Somali President Farmajo has publicly shown disapproval for the contract with Somaliland and Somali MPs have introduced parliamentary motions against the Berbera Port agreement.
Broader contest for influence in the Horn
Saudi Arabia and the UAE
- The UAE reportedly warned Saudi Arabia to abandon its support for Yemeni President PERSONAbdu Rabbu Mansour HadiHe is the internationally recognized president of Yemen. Alt...Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi or the UAE will abandon the coalition. Relations between the two states are strained by a combination of UAE skepticism toward prospects of a military victory and the UAE’s aversion to political Islamists in the north. These tensions were bolstered by former governor of Aden Aydarus al Zubaidi’s attempted declaration of southern independence, as the UAE has been accused of secretly supporting the secessionist movement.
- The forced departure of Qatari troops from Yemen could further hinder Saudi progress in Yemen.
- Sudan’s proximity to the Red Sea is likely too far from the Bab al Mandab for GCC states to see Sudan as worthy of maritime investments. However, GCC states are pursuing strategies in Sudan similar to those in the Horn: Saudi Arabia is prioritizing military aid, while Turkey focuses on humanitarian aid.
- Sudan severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iran executed a Saudi cleric. A Saudi deposit of $1 billion into Sudan’s central bank further supports the conclusion that Sudan has shifted its support to the Arab states under Saudi Arabia. Remittances from hundreds of thousands of Sudanese living in Gulf States likely factored into Sudan’s change in position as well.
- Saudi Arabia has also looked to counter Iranian influence through military assistance. In February 2016 Saudi Arabia diverted military aid from Lebanon to Sudan, amounting to $5 billion.
- Saudi Arabia has had access to Djiboutian airspace and the airfield at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti since October 2015 to support operations in Yemen.
- The Saudis announced in December 2016 their intentions to upgrade to a full military base there to act as a launching point for operations in Yemen and for interfering with Iranian attempts to supply Houthi forces.
- Saudi Arabia likely chose Djibouti for its base in part due to the presence of other forces for the purpose of power projection, and as preemptive assertion against Iranian interests in the region.
- Djibouti has not cut ties with Qatar completely, but “downgraded” its relationship with Qatar, claiming “solidarity with the international coalition combating terrorism and extremist violence.”
- The UAE began construction on the Port of Assab in eastern Eritrea in September 2015.
- The UAE was previously operating out of Djibouti, but the two states broke off diplomatic relations in April 2015 over a lease conflict, resulting in the withdrawal of Saudi and Emirati troops from the country. The Djiboutian port had been leased to the Saudi coalition for operational support in Yemen.
- The base has been used in operations to retake Aden, as well as training Yemeni counterterrorism forces, blockading Houthi-held ports, and sending humanitarian assistance into Yemen.
- Eritrea previously had relatively close ties to Qatar but followed Saudi Arabia and the UAE in distancing themselves from Qatar. Qatar withdrew peacekeepers from the Eritrea-Djibouti border, and Eritrean forces promptly took control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. The UN Security Council is mediating discussions between the two states.
Qatar and Turkey
- In Somalia, Turkey has worked with both the TFG and the semi-autonomous government in Somaliland but has indicated a preference for a unified Somalia. Turkey’s largest investment in Somalia is the management of Mogadishu’s seaport and airport. These ports are the source of 80 percent of the Somali government’s revenue.
- Ethiopia receives the largest percentage of Turkish direct investment in Africa (so far has attracted over 40 percent of such investments). Recently, Turkey loaned Ethiopia funds for the Awash-Woldiya railway, and Turkey is investing in manufacturing, power generation, and food security. In return, Ethiopia is Turkey’s fourth largest trading partner in Africa. Turkey established an industrial zone in 2015 that provided 33,000 jobs to Ethiopians.
- Ethiopia has committed to remaining neutral in the Qatar dispute, but officials from both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have met with Ethiopian officials since the start of the crisis, likely in attempts to pressure Ethiopia to declare alliance to one side.
- Qatar has no military presence in the Horn of Africa and is unlikely to compete with Turkey in the region after accepting a deployment of Turkish troops.
- Qatar has invested heavily in Sudan, becoming its largest foreign donor in hopes of ending economic and military cooperation between Iran and Sudan. It acquired farmland to enable its own food security and pressured Sudan to influence its rough relationship with Egypt.
- Turkey is pursuing a similar strategy in Sudan and Somalia. The Turkish Red Crescent and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) have launched aid campaigns in Sudan to target those affected by drought.
- Iran has indicated that it intends to strengthen its naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
- Turkey also plans to open a military base in Mogadishu in May 2017 for the purpose of training SNA soldiers. It is set to be Turkey’s largest foreign base, meaning that Turkey likely possesses ulterior motives, most likely for anti-piracy efforts but possibly including countering Iranian posturing in the region.
- The UAE utilizes the Port of Assab for blockades of Houthi-held ports in the Red Sea, preventing Iranian support to the Houthis.
- Saudi Arabia pledged $50 million in aid in January 2017 to Somalia on the same day Somalia announced it was cutting ties with Iran.
- The base in Djibouti will serve Saudi Arabia’s interests by enabling interference with Iranian attempts to supply Houthi forces and preemptively asserting Saudi influence against Iranian interests in the region.