A few days ago, Iran sent a warship to the Gulf Aden to keep marauding Somali pirates from attacking its merchant ships, joining a growing fleet of international ships patrolling the Somali coastline. I've speculated here before that this might inadvertently open the door to US engagement with Tehran. The news this morning is that China has dispatched three ships to the region. It's an increasingly interesting cast of characters—American and Western European ships cruising in close proximity to those from Russia, China, and Iran, among others. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, right?
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group points out that piracy is a symptom of the larger problem. In a report it released today (.pdf), the group warns that Somalia is much worse for wear thanks to the US-backed Ethiopian occupation, but says that things could improve after the Ethiopians withdraw (planned by the end of this year). "There is reason to believe that despite radical posturing, a significant majority in the Islamist insurgency would engage in a political process that does not seek to criminalise it and offers them a role in future governance," the report asserts. "There is no other practical course than to reach out to it in an effort to stabilise the security situation with a ceasefire and then move on with a process that addresses the root causes of the conflict. In the course of that effort, the insurgents will need to provide assurances about the kind of Islamic state they envisage as well as clarify their rejection of foreign groups like al-Qaeda."