Some excellent questions and conflicts in wording were raised by a reader (see Marathon, PETRONAS, and PexCo Oil and Somalia) that deserve their own post. The additional research was insightful and makes me more confident in my Boots on the Ground post earlier today.
To start, Hale pointed out a contradiction found on the Global Exploration and Product News website (aka "Oil and Gas Investor" in my previous post, or E & P) regarding the validity of Range Resource's agreement with the Transitional Government, of which Prime Minister Gedi (Geedi) is the (nominal?) head. The exact wording of the text I posted contains the contradiction Hale points out:
Mixed messages are being sent about licensing in Somalia with a Dutch firm taking acreage but an Australian firm, which thought it had won a block, being told it had negotiated with the wrong people. [Holland's] PexCo exploration has signed up for with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for exploration in the Ogaden area, according to reports in Ethiopia.
As Hale points out, there is apparently a valid agreement signed by Prime Minister Gedi and Range Resources. The contradiction is possibly just in the reporting, as the Ministry of Mines and Energy is Ethiopian, as Hale points out referencing the Alexander's Gas & Oil Connection announcement of 19 October 2005.
So, with the Ogaden area in Eastern Ethiopia and not actually in (anymore) Somalia, what gives? Is there some rumbling fallout from the 1977 war when Somalia invaded Ethiopia to "liberate" Ogaden? (This was ultimately led to Somalia agreeing to American use of "naval ports and airfields at Berbera, Chisimayu, and Mogadishu.")
There seems to be a flurry of interest in Ethiopia and Somalia and the region. So why the "mixed messages" in E & P? Was it simply a mistake? Somebody misreading Range Resources claim with Somalia and thinking it was Somali? I don't think so.
There is an overall deterioration in security in the region with Ogaden "rebels" claiming civilian deaths at the hands of Ethiopians. Between ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front) and the recent public statement about al-Qaeda in Mogadishu, Ethiopia is lining us reasons to move eastward. Fighting AQ is always a crowd pleaser and wiping out pesky ONLF while lining up routes to the sea would seem like a by-product when it is the real purpose.
Hale also commented on the agreement between Puntland and HAFZA, specifically in regards to the suspension of work due to security issues. Hale correctly points out this suspension, which I had already commented on in Puzzle Pieces when I first researched HAFZA. This security problem could be Ethiopian stocked, but that is speculation. What is not speculation is an increase in arms shipments into the Transitional Government's capital that may or may not be intended for the TG.
The cooperative agreement signed between Somalia and Ethiopia on 1 Dec 2005 came with pledges of assistance to calls "upon the international community to extend financial and political support to the transitional government and take measures on those forces who attempt to hamper peace in Somalia" [emphasis added]. Further, the "African Union, European Union, UN, World Bank and other donors pledged for their continued support to the Transitional Government of Somalia."
This "take measures on those forces..." statement could be the public pronouncement to what is coming.
Something else I noticed during this additional research was the both HAFZA (left) and Range Resources (right) used an identical map with identical dot-styles to indicate place. [Update 9 Dec 05: still believe the web designer for both are the same, which has pretty much been proven; add'l info: this map graphic is found at State.gov]
Based on this information, I think the scenario painted by Donna is going to be accurate. The details are fuzzy and contradictions do appear, but I believe the weight of the evidence points toward war breaking out in the region. With Chinese, American, and other interests heavily involved over the natural resources in the area, it would seem likely that at least one government is involved. Unfortunately, based on the TopCat starter (possibly with the luxury cruise ship w/ military grade hardware conveniently on-board... violation of the Geneva Conventions anyone? The media never questioned that, just fascinated by its use), it appears the United States may be involved.