Turkish Foreign Minister is visiting France, the first high-level diplomatic contact after months of tensions between the two countries. Points of contention between the two countries include Turkey’s military backing of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya; the dispute over Turkish gas exploration off the northern coast of the divided island of Cyprus; Turkey’s increasingly dominant role in northern Syria, and Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan against Armenia during the recent standoff over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
The G7 is expected to launch a ‘Clean Green Initiative’ to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative when leaders meet at a summit next week in UK. The strategy would provide a framework to support sustainable development and the green transition in developing countries. Germany, France and Italy are keen for it to support activities in Africa, while the U.S. is pushing for action in Latin America and Asia. Japan argues for more focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
A publicly available expert-level newsletter on Mozambique news reports and clippings from the middle of May predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total, which necessitates an analysis of such a move’s strategic consequences if it does indeed come to pass.
A Must-Read Report About Mozambique
The 16 May edition of the “Mozambique News Reports & Clippings” expert-level newsletter predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total that are threatened by a newfound insurgency that some have linked to ISIS. Editor Joseph Hanlon does an excellent job educating his audience about this scenario and it’s highly recommended that all interested readers review his work in full. What follows are some of the main points that he put forth in his newsletter in the order that they’re introduced:
* There’s a growing debate behind the scenes in Europe over whether France should receive an exclusive security corridor in northern Mozambique or if a Portuguese-led EU force should take the lead instead
* Whatever is ultimately decided upon, it’ll probably take at least two years before any visible progress is made on the ground against the insurgents/terrorists
* ISIS is likely to exploit the optics of a foreign military intervention in order to increase both its reported role in the combat as well as its international recruitment efforts
* Domestic political infighting in Mozambique and subsequent politicization of the conflict suggests that there won’t be any clear consensus on it until after the next presidential elections in 2025
* Influential international associations regard the offshore region of northern Mozambique as a conflict zone at risk of piracy and other threats, thereby raising insurance costs for ships operating in those waters
* Maritime security can either be achieved unilaterally by France or jointly through it, South Africa, India (which has a base in nearby Mauritius), and Mozambique carrying out patrols there
* France might replicate the Baghdad Green Zone model to protect energy-relevant localities in the northern Mozambican mainland through walls, barbed wire, drone surveillance of the area, and other such measures
* There’s talk that France might even take control of the nearby vacation resort island of Vamizi in order to base helicopters, attack and surveillance boats, and drone control systems there
* The other foreign military players to keep an eye on are Portugal, the US, Rwanda, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), EU, and private military contractors (PMCs, which France might also employ)
* Nevertheless, military intervention might not address the possible socio-economic and political roots of the conflict but only combat its terrorist manifestations, potentially creating another Mali, Somalia, or Libya
Hanlon’s points are all very important and should be deeply reflected upon by all interested readers. Building upon his implied prediction that France is the most likely party to take the lead in this growing conflict, it therefore follows that one should conduct an analysis of the strategic consequences of such a move if it indeed comes to pass. France is regarded as Africa’s military hegemon despite being located in Europe due to the commanding influence that it wields in its former colonies that are commonly referred to as “Françafrique”. Mozambique, however, lays outside of France’s traditional “sphere of influence” in Africa.
Paris’ interest in the country stems from its vast offshore energy reserves that national champion Total planned to develop before the conflict erupted a few years back. These resources were initially expected to be a game-changer for the Mozambican people who remain among the world’s poorest. Regrettably, large-scale international corruption scandals in recent years ruined the ruling Frelimo party’s reputation and it’s now widely feared that these hydrocarbon riches probably won’t end up making much of a difference for the average Mozambican at the end of the day.
Even so, they’re significant enough of a find to have a powerful impact on the industry upon their future development, which adds a conspiratorial dimension of sorts to the conflict since some have speculated that foreign forces might be backing the insurgency/terrorism so as to delay those projects’ completion. In any case, it doesn’t seem like they’ll come online anytime soon considering the worsening intensity of the violence there, hence the reason why Paris is contemplating a military intervention in order to save its national champion’s investment.
Indian Ocean Region Conflicts
Observers should take note of Mozambique’s geostrategic location astride the southwestern reaches of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) that’s nowadays considered to be the world’s most important body of water as all 21st-century processes increasingly converge there. Although Mozambique isn’t located near any European-Asian trade routes, it still sits near the French islands of Mayotte and Réunion. This convenience could facilitate any prospective French military intervention, which in that scenario would mark the country’s participation in its first IOR conflict.
At the moment, the IOR is the scene of four armed conflicts – northern Mozambique, Somalia, Yemen, and Myanmar. The first two are closer in essence than the others, ergo Hanlon’s earlier mentioned fear of the former transforming into a variation of the latter with time. Both also count ISIS among the warring parties, albeit to questionable extents in each. For this reason, any French military intervention would be an energy-driven spiritual expansion of its ongoing Operation Barkhane mission in the Sahel that’s been launched on an anti-terrorist basis despite having ulterior interests as well such as stopping large-scale immigration to the EU.
The Franco-Indian Strategic Partnership
Seeing as how India considers the entire IOR to lay within its envisioned “sphere of influence” despite presently lacking the military capabilities to exert hard power all throughout this domain, it’s possible that New Delhi might consider playing a minimal role in the conflict even if only for prestige’s sake. This explains why Hanlon brought up the country’s naval base in Mauritius’ North Agalega island. Most realistically, India could carry out highly publicized joint anti-piracy missions, perhaps even emphasizing any partnered role with nearby South Africa so as to portray it a a partial BRICS operation in order to deflect criticism of following France’s lead.
On the topic of Franco-Indian relations, the two Great Powers signed a military logistics pact in 2018 which enables them to use one another’s bases. Many at the time thought that this might see India expanding its naval presence in the Horn of Africa via France’s outpost in its former colony of Djibouti or perhaps paying more frequent visits to the French islands of the South Pacific to support Australia’s reassertion of traditional influence there against China. It now appears possible that the Southeast African country of Mozambique might be where the French-Indian military partnership first “cuts its teeth” so to speak.
From the French perspective, the primary mission is to secure Total’s investments. All other objectives are secondary and perhaps even beyond its intentions to tackle. This means that France might easily succeed with its actual mission but fail in the soft power realm if it isn’t as forthcoming with its true intentions and instead clothes its intervention in anti-terrorist rhetoric similar to its Sahel mission. In other words, even if France “wins” what it wants, it might still “lose” in the eyes of the world unless it engages in the dangerous trend of “mission creep” to expand its military “sphere of influence” there to ultimately stop the insurgency/terrorism.
France probably wouldn’t take that step unilaterally, which is why it’s more likely to expect that it’ll lead a multinational force whether on its own or perhaps in joint partnership with fellow EU-member and Mozambique’s former colonizer Portugal together with a formidable army of PMCs. Even so, since neither of them have the primary mission of stopping the insurgency/terrorism, they might not make much progress right away, instead relying more on PMCs and the Mozambican military to do such “dirty” and highly dangerous work for them though of course under their supervision.
With this in mind, one needs to consider how this mission would be sold to the rest of the world. The anti-terrorist angle is the most obvious one, but as mentioned, France’s interests in this respect aren’t all that sincere, nor for that matter are Portugal’s, since their involvement is really all about energy geopolitics, as is every foreign party’s as well. Presenting it in such a way also leads to high expectations for visible progress on the ground, which likely won’t be forthcoming anytime soon especially considering that it’s heavily forested terrain and France can’t even succeed in stopping insurgency/terrorism in the barren Sahel.
It might therefore end up being that they hype up their intent to “contain” the military threat instead of outright stop it. This would lead to more realistic expectations than talking about completely wiping out the insurgents/terrorists and appear as less selfish than being transparent about the true energy motivations. It would also engender wider support, perhaps even among domestic critics in those two EU countries and more broadly in the West since it’s veritably a virtuous mission (at least on the surface) to want to stop the spread of such threats into Tanzania and elsewhere.
To wrap it all up, France doesn’t appear to have many expected costs associated with its possible military intervention in northern Mozambique while standing to gain quite a lot in terms of energy interests and Great Power prestige, especially if it leads a multinational force in this conflict. Presenting its mission in terms of “containing” insurgency/terrorist threats instead of intending to completely wipe them out (at least right away) would also temper expectations and increase international appeal, including among India and South Africa who might participate in joint anti-piracy missions. For these reasons, Hanlon’s general prediction is very credible.
Japan’s ground troops began a large-scale joint exercise with the United States and France for the first time on Japanese soil. The move comes as Tokyo and Washington boost their alliance over regional issues including the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Beijing, in the East China Sea amid an escalation of China’s maritime assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
An ugly spat over post-Brexit fishing rights has erupted between Britain and France, as naval ships from both countries converged in the waters off the island of Jersey, where dozens of French fishing boats were threatening to blockade a port. Relations between Britain and France had already soured on a range of issues as Britain and the European Union divorced.
French energy company Total halted operations on its $20 billion investment in a liquefied natural gas project in northern Mozambique after ISIS attacks and repeated rebel insurgency. The US sent 12 special forces officers to help train Mozambique’s military, and the EU is considering sending a military training mission.
The reported killing of long-serving Chadian leader Idriss Deby at the hands of his country’s latest rebel group and subsequent imposition of a military transitional government were thought by some to herald long-overdue change in this geostrategically pivotal state, yet it might very well be that nothing will end up changing all that much since such a scenario could result in France losing control of one of its top regional allies if that happens.
Observers were shocked after learning that long-serving Chadian leader Idriss Deby was killed at the hands of his country’s latest rebel group. Some even suspected that foul play might have been involved, with one of the most prominent theories speculating that it was an inside job by rogue members of the military who attempted to pull off an armed coup. Regardless of whatever might have really happened, the fact of the matter is that Chad experienced a sudden regime change instead of the “phased leadership transition” that usually occurs in “national democracies” such as this one which don’t employ Western models of governance. What’s most controversial about the immediate consequences of this unexpected development is that the armed forces suspended the constitution, established an 18-month military transitional government, and appointed the president’s son Mahamat “Kaka” Idriss Deby Itno as leader in a move condemned by some as an unconstitutional coup and possibly indicative of a power struggle among the inner military elite.
Nevertheless, some observers expressed hope that these moves might herald long-overdue change in this geostrategically pivotal state, perhaps resulting in a more Western form of governance in partnership with the leading “Front for Change and Concord in Chad” (FACT by its French acronym) rebel group and others when all’s said and done similar in a sense to the precedent that’s gradually unfolding in neighboring Sudan. Others think that the new military government might soon fall if FACT is able to successfully take the capital of N’Djamena in the coming future like it’s promised to do, inspired by Deby’s death and incensed by what they described as the “dynastic devolution of power” in the country. Those hopes, however well intended they may be, are probably premature and much too high when considering that such scenarios could result in France losing control of one of its top regional allies if that happens. The casual observer probably doesn’t know much about their historical patron-proxy relations, so some background reading is required.
Here are three relevant analyses that I published over the years about Chad:
Chad is “too big to fail” for France despite being ripe for regime change by protesters, rebels, and terrorists.
Anti-Terrorism Or Neo-Imperialism?
France justifies its patron-proxy relationship with Chad on the basis of shared anti-terrorist concerns, the latter of which veritably exist and are legitimate to a large extent but are nevertheless exploited for neo-imperialist purposes. Despite being oil rich, the country consistently ranks near the absolute bottom of the Human Development Index and is regarded as one of the most destitute places on the planet. This is attributable to rampant corruption, which the military is also suspected of participating in. France turns a blind eye to these practices despite publicly supporting “accountability and transparency among all” abroad because it conveniently enables it to maintain its proxy network among the country’s powerful armed forces, which in turn helps advance its regional goals, most recently in Mali. For all of its governing faults, Chad objectively has one of Africa’s most powerful militaries, which explains why former President Deby’s government had yet to fall to rebels despite coming close on several occasions. France airstrikes at critical moments also helped too.
It remains to be seen whether the Chadian National Armed Forces (FANT by their French acronym) can stem FACT’s week-long blitzkrieg towards the capital from their Libyan base, but if they can’t, then it’s very likely that France will intervene once again to save its struggling proxies. In the unlikely event that Paris doesn’t do so, then it might stand to lose enormous regional influence if the revolutionary authorities espouse any sincere anti-imperialist principles. It’s much more likely, however, that the military transitional government will remain in power and overcome the speculative differences between some of its factions. In that event, France might either go along with the possibility of its proxy potentially rigging elections to ensure “Kaka’s” victory if he isn’t able to win through legitimate means or it might flexibly adapt to changing circumstances to guide Chad’s incipient democracy through an unseen hand in the direction of its strategic interests. The only wild card is whether the Chadian people can successfully employ a grassroots-driven Color Revolution to stop this.
Chad is a very diverse and highly impoverished country in spite of its rich resource wealth, and it’s pretty much only been held together by a tight fist since independence, whether that was most recently Deby or his several predecessors. It’s quite typical of many African countries in this respect, which means that the onset of sudden instability such as the capital’s fall to rebel forces who might potentially be opposed in principle to continuing the country’s present course in foreign affairs (i.e. retaining the patron-proxy neo-imperialist relationship with France) or a successful Color Revolution inspired by Deby’s death could catalyze far-reaching and largely unpredictable consequences in the worst-case scenario. France is unlikely to sit back and lose one of its top allies in Africa which is why it’s predicted that Paris might soon militarily intervene in support of FANT should the need arise, and if need be, clandestinely “manage” (i.e. hijack) Chad’s incipient democracy.
Japan will hold a joint military drill with US and French troops in the country’s southwest. It comes as Tokyo seeks to deepen defense cooperation beyond its key US ally to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
France would take part in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), and the United States will join as an observer. Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority established the EMGF in September last year, as an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean.
France has called for a meeting of the US-led International Coalition over the “revival” of the Islamic State in Iraq. The so-called Coalition against Daesh has not met for a long time, despite France, which is also part of the international coalition, called on new US President Joe Biden to continue fighting ISIS as a priority.