Where have we seen this pattern before? Allegations of thuggery on the part of the established government, the will of the people supposedly defied, and an international force sent in to impose an internationally-accepted solution...
Does that sound like the Balkans beginning in the 90's? And what was that eventually all about? The US supported (and continues to support, strongly) Islamic militant groups tied to the very terrorists who have been attacking us and whom we fight around the world: Al Qaeda.
It is a story I will not go into here, but briefly, one major reason for that support is control of the heroin trade. Heroin is produced in Afghanistan, and the US-led international force does nothing effective to stop it; it is trafficked to many destinations, including a key route through the Balkans - newly-independent Kosovo (or Kosova, or whatever). There are other reasons: the international force in the Balkans becomes a captive clientele for women forced into prostitution by our allies, ethnic Albanian organized crime; also, there are lucrative contracts to support the multinational forces there, and the Balkans is one route by which oil from the Caspian Basin can find its way westward. However, the basic idea that we are in the Balkans supporting allies of the very same terrorists we are fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere makes no sense unless you factor in all this.
Back to Côte d'Ivoire (actually, we never left it): Gbagbo says the elections in the north were rigged. From Ivory Coast general strike fails in Abidjan, December 27, 2010:
The United Nations, the European Union, the US, the African Union and Ecowas all say that Mr Ouattara won the 28 November vote.
Our correspondent says there has been a small protest outside Nigeria's embassy in Abidjan against any West African intervening force, which would almost certainly come from Nigeria.
A group held up placards, one of which read: "Let Ivorians solve Ivorian problems", AP news agency reports.
But Mr Gbagbo, who has accused the US and France of leading a plot against him, insists he is legally president.
"Did the Ivorians elect me or not? That's the only question. I'm not looking for compromise. Truth is not looking for compromise. I want truth," he said.
"In the year 2000, when I came to power, the same people fabricated stories about a massacre at Yopouogon, assassinations. We asked the United Nations to conduct an investigation. There was a report," he said.
Here I have some pertinent excerpts from Resolution 1584 (2005) (italics in original):
The Security Council,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Reaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 of 15 November 2004 that all States, particularly those bordering Côte d’Ivoire, take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Côte d’Ivoire of arms or any related materiel as well as the provision of any assistance, advice or training related to military activities;
2. Authorizes UNOCI and the French forces which support it, within their capacity and without prejudice to their mandate set out in resolution 1528 (2004) and paragraph 3 below:
(a) To monitor the implementation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), in cooperation with the group of experts referred to in paragraph 7 below, and, as appropriate, with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone and Governments concerned, including by inspecting, as they deem it necessary and as appropriate without notice, the cargo of aircraft and of any transport vehicle using the ports, airports, airfields, military bases and border crossings of Côte d’Ivoire;
(b) To collect, as appropriate, arms and any related materiel brought into Côte d’Ivoire in violation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), and to dispose of such arms and related materiel as appropriate;
5. Demands that all Ivorian parties, including the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and the Forces nouvelles, provide unhindered access, particularly to equipment, sites and installations referred to in paragraph 2 above, to UNOCI and French forces which support it to enable them to carry out the tasks set out in paragraphs 2 and 3 above;
12. Expresses its grave concern at the use of mercenaries by both Ivorian parties, and urges both sides immediately to desist from this practice;
The UN was concerned years ago about foreign mercenaries being involved in the conflict. Well, this has been common in African conflicts in recent decades.
Of course, I can't help but make a connection to the mujahideen imported to the Balkans after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan... all dressed up, and no one to fight, until jihad broke out against the Serbs...
Does the presence of foreign mercenaries equate to the presence of foreign interests? Sometimes... It did in the Balkans!
But, what could these guys be fighting over?
From Ivory Coast conflict exposes the darker side of chocolate (also Ivory Coast conflict exposes the darker side of chocolate), November 11, 2007:
But Ivorian cocoa also is tagged to darker images: child labor, corruption and accusations that it has fueled a low level war that began in 2002 and split the country into a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south.
The story of cocoa, some experts said, sums up the stakes in the fitful, five-year conflict.
"The whole Ivorian crisis can be translated into a struggle among different forces and the exclusion of part of the population in accessing these resources," said Roberto Rensi, an Ivory Coast expert at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. "It's a story we've seen in other countries - diamonds in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Sorting out cocoa would enormously decrease, if not deprive, this conflict of its fuel."
They're fighting over cocoa beans??
Chocolate lovers everywhere have reasons to be nervous about the political turmoil in Ivory Coast. The West African nation produces nearly 40% of the world's raw cocoa.
And without cocoa, of course, there would be no chocolate.
Already the wholesale price of this crucial raw ingredient in one of the planet's favourite foods has doubled in the last four years.
And that was before the single largest producer of the commodity began its recent slide towards conflict.
So will Ivory Coast's problems push up the price of a bar of chocolate in the shops?
In some respects they already have.
The current stand-off between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, the man held by the United Nations to have won recent elections, follows years of tensions.
"The tensions have starved Ivory Coast of investment and sapped the confidence of cocoa growers," Laurent Pipitone, an expert in economic issues at the London-based International Cocoa Organisation, told the BBC.
"It takes three years for a cocoa bush to become productive after it's been planted," he says.
With the political outlook uncertain, farmers in Ivory Coast have been less willing to take the financial risk and put in the effort required to grow more cocoa, which means the country's productive capacity has gone into gradual decline.
This has been one reason why world cocoa prices have risen in recent years.
But intriguingly, the general view among analysts seems to be that the latest escalation of political tension will not make matters much worse than they already are.
That is partly because of the nature of cocoa production. Ivory Coast's crop is produced by thousands of independent small farmers.
The chances are that in the short term they will carry on working, whatever the political environment.
"The farmers need the income," explains Mr Pipitone.
"They may stop planting new cocoa plants but they won't stop producing with what they've already got," he says.
He also believes the growing political crisis will not stop the farmers getting their products to market.
Well, there's money in cocoa... I guess it's as good a thing as any to fight over.
And, I wonder how many of those independent farmers will continue to be independent after Ouattara is put into power by the international community.
Frankly, I wonder if business interests aren't behind this: Big business has its media stir us up against Gbagbo and in favor of Ouattara; the international community forces Gbagbo from power, and installs Ouattara; once in power, Ouattara institutes land reforms as cover for a land grab to place the cocoa under firmer control of some international cocoa cartel.
And then, I think the land grab by the cocoa cartel itself is cover for another story.
From Resolution 1842 (2008)
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Decides to renew until 31 October 2009 the measures on arms and the financial and travel measures imposed by paragraphs 7 to 12 of resolution 1572 (2004) and the measures preventing the importation by any State of all rough diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire imposed by paragraph 6 of resolution 1643 (2005);
Diamonds... once busted, the initial thing these guys will plead guilty to is taking control of the world's cocoa market.
But I'm betting part of that land grab will center around diamonds. I think that is the conspiracy within a conspiracy.
Ah, but what is inside that?