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Ethiopia Facing Sanctions from U.S. Congress

March 25, 2021
Processing coffee beans in Ethiopia, where coffee originated

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Concerning the allegations, they follow what is, unfortunately, a well worn pattern of the U.S. approach to hybrid warfare. It begins with the vilification of a country’s leadership, allegations – either unsubstantiated or down right false (as was the case of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) based on “secret reports,” followed by sanctions. In most of the cases, geo-political goals are sugarcoated (and hidden) by siren calls of human rights violations. Different forms of subversion intensify. War, that is actual military action, can and often does follow.

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In the next few days it is more than likely that the U.S. Congress will begin the process of imposings sanctions against Ethiopia. The exact number of countries that Washington has sanctioned is difficult to determine, 30? 40?, whatever almost certainly, Ethiopia is next on the list and this for two reasons. First that supposedly it has committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing in its policing action against rebellious Tigray Province. Secondly for its insistence of continuing to proceed with the country’s primo development program: the completion and filling of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The momentum towards sanctions against Ethiopia comes in the wake of a U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Maryland)(1) visit to Addis Ababa. Coons is a close associate of President Biden. Although Coons’ visit to Ethiopia was billed beforehand as “a factfinding mission” it was nothing of the sort. Instead Coons issued what amounted to an ultimatum demanding that Coons demanded that 1.Ethiopia stops filling the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July and postpone its completion and 2. that the Ethiopian government reconcile with the Tigray Popular Liberation Front.

Ethiopia categorically rejected what amounted to both of Washington’s demands. Given the Ethiopian response, sanctions legislation to be drawn up by Congress will almost certainly follow on the heels of Coons’ “imperial” visit.

Allegations of the Ethiopian government’s ethnic cleansing in Tigray Province are based on an internal U.S. government report which, while released to the NY Times, was not made public nor in any way shared with the Ethiopian government to respond to. Perhaps there is a report, perhaps not, but it strikes a chord as in the past unsubstantiated “secret documents” have been used in the build of sanctions’ regimes against Iraq, Libya, Syria, Russia, and China to name a few.

As for the demand that Ethiopia stop filling what is referred to as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, this comes mostly from pressure exerted on Washington from Egypt, Saudi Arabia in response to Egypt’s loss of total control of Nile River Basin flows. Negotiations over the construction of the dam and the regulation of its waters have been underway for a decade. On a number of occasions it appeared that some agreement was reached – not only between Egypt and Ethiopia but including the other countries of Nile River Basin. But then, as the saying goes, Egypt “moved the goal posts.”

Concerning the allegations, they follow what is, unfortunately, a well worn pattern of the U.S. approach to hybrid warfare. It begins with the vilification of a country’s leadership, allegations – either unsubstantiated or down right false (as was the case of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) based on “secret reports,” followed by sanctions. In most of the cases, geo-political goals are sugarcoated (and hidden) by siren calls of human rights violations. Different forms of subversion intensify. War, that is actual military action can and often does follow.

Human rights issues are “weaponized”, as they are in this case, and have become the pretext for regime change, the weakening of centralized states, with partition, either de jure or de facto as the ultimate goal. Admittedly at this point, it is not certain what Washington’s plans are for Ethiopia and how far Washington, which ultimately is the key player in this pressure campaign that involves a number of other countries and groups – is willing to go. Nor is it clear if Ethiopia will be able to stand the pressure that is being exerted upon it.

The prospect of U.S. sanctions against Ethiopia did not begin with the Coons’ visit. The idea was already publicly floated in early December of last year (2020), after the Ethiopian government mobilized to neutralize a Tigray military threat. Already only a month after hostilities had begun, two U.S. Senators called on the U.S. government “ to consider imposing sanctions on any political or military officials found responsible for human rights violations during a month of conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.” A resolution was introduced on by Senator Ben Cardin, (D-Maryland), and Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho). More recently, it was re-introduced on March 5, with Marco Rubio (R-Fla, Chris Coons (D-De;), Tim Kaine (D-Va), Todd Young (R-Ind), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) joining the original sponsors.

Commenting on the resolution, Cardin noted,

“I am extremely disturbed by the humanitarian crisis and reports of atrocities that have emerged from the conflict in Tigray,” said Cardin. “In order to secure a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous future for Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa, the violence must stop, human rights abusers must be held to account, and national reconciliation must begin.”

While such a comment sounds reasonable at first glance, already it appears to give a one-sided concern for the nature of events in Tigray Province and an acceptance of the Tigray narrative currently resonating in the American media as well. In fact, a careful reading of the resolution itself makes one wonder if the original draft was written by someone from Tigray Popular Liberation Front (TPLF) itself it is so unbalanced.

Concerning the TPLF – Well Connected in the USA

During its 28 year run the TPLF’s policies were closely calibrated with Washington’s. At Washington’s behest it twice intervened militarily in other countries in the Horn – Eritrea in 1996, and in Somalia in 2006. Its economic program was neo-liberal giving foreign corporate interests the run of the Ethiopian mill. It’s human rights policies were among the most repressive in Africa, a fact substantiated by the United Nations and by the State Department’s own human rights reports. It ruled Ethiopia with an iron hand.

And yet despite this record – and more – once the TPLF attacked an Ethiopian military barracks at Sero near the Eritrean border on November 4, 2020 killing a number of government troops, some after having surrounded to Tigray forces – the media in the U.S.A. immediately took the side of the Tigray. Tigray cries of war crimes, “genocide”, ethnic cleansing, unsubstantiated, began to appear in American newspapers and on mainstream tv reports. Ethiopian government denials recieved scant attention.

A Tigray-sympathetic narrative was crafted from the outset, one-sided and frankly, shrill. It continues. The Tigray media campaign in the United States has been well planned and brilliantly executed from the outset. It also successfully lobbied certain members of Congress, mainly in the U.S. Senate who embraced the Tigray version of events, it seems, with very little or no critical scrutiny. The Tigray Community in the United States and its allies were mobilized.

It is curious the amount of political clout that the Tigray have maintained in the United States something that a well versed journalistic researcher might find interesting to explain. The TPLF retains considerable influence in the United States despite the fact that it is no longer in power in Ethiopia. No doubt it has friends in high places, among them a number of the members of Biden’s foreign policy team.

Prime among them is Susan Rice, currently Director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council, but during the Obama years (2013-2017) was National Security Advisor and U.S Representative to the United Nations. Rice was among the first high level U.S. politicians to come to the defense of the TPLF when it came under fire for attacking a national military barracks and killing Ethiopian soldiers, accusing the Addis government – rather than the Tigray leadership – of war crimes.

Curious indeed as the U.S. Congress prepares sanctions against the Addis Ababa government. In a related development, the European Union, in tandem with Washington. Eritrea has cooperated with the Ethiopian government militarily in the latter’s efforts to end the Tigray rebellion against the national government’s authority.

(More to this part of the story in a later blog entry)

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  1. Chris Coons is emerging as a key deal maker, enforcer for Joe Biden. Not only has Coons emerged as a the “ultimatum deliverer” to the Ethiopians but he also playing a key role in trying to undermine the United States returning the Iran Nuclear Deal – (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and is one of the main sponsors of a letter circulating among the Senators to pile on “add ons” – new conditions to the JCPOA to be made to Iran, which would, affectively kill the deal. This initiative to kill the deal is being openly pushed by the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee – (AIPAC), the active pro-Israeli lobby in Washington DC
2 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    March 25, 2021 4:54 pm

    China is going around the world building fast trains and purchasing resources. The United States is run by a Federal Mafia that destroys third world countries to plunder their resources. We spend all our funds building weapons of war and using them. Meanwhile the population of the United States has massive unemployment while a few rich psychos have more money than they could spend in a billion lifetimes. The plunder of Central America for United Fruit and others has created havoc on our borders while the Mafia plunders Africa and the Middle East. I don’t think the Masked Imbecile or the Orange Clown before him have the brains or the empathy to succeed at anything except the destruction of the United States and the World, hopefully the masked imbecile is too stupid to put the key in the briefcase.

  2. April 1, 2021 9:27 pm

    I just sent you some email to ask if you could produce a piece about this for a Pacifica show “Covid, Race, and Democracy.”

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