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NightWatch 20091111

NightWatch

For the Night of 11 November 2009

Cambodia-Thailand: Update. Prime Minister Hun Sen said today Cambodia rejected Thailand's extradition request for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, according to The Associated Press. Hun Sen told Cambodian reporters that he would like to send a message that there is no extradition for Thaksin

Iran-Yemen: Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki said today that Iran is prepared to work with the Yemeni government and other nations to restore security in Yemen. Agence France-Presse reported. Mottaki said "collective efforts" are necessary to "restore security, peace and tranquility among the people of Yemen and the whole region." Mottaki made the offer the day after Tehran warned Middle Eastern governments against interfering in the affairs of Yemen, presumably an oblique reference to Saudi Arabia.

The facts behind the news are that Eritrea is the Iranian hub for distributing arms to Yemen, Sudan and Islamic extremists in Somalia. Media sources report that Iran ships arms to Eritrea where local agents arrange smaller boats to ship them across the Red Sea to the al Huthi tribe which lives in northwestern Yemen and follows the Zaydi sect of Shiism. Saudi Arabia has stationed naval warships in the southern end of the Red Sea to stop the arms infiltration.

The al Huthi tribal leader believes he has the mandate of Allah to establish an Islamic Caliphate for the whole world, or at least the Yemen part of it. Short of that, he wants greater respect for minority rights by the Yemen government, which is Sunni. He also denies his tribe receives outside support, a statement that should not be credited.

It is impossible to distinguish tribal demands from sect -based demands. The Yemen government and the Saudis have conflated them to wage a limited war against Shiite rebels in Sunni lands. The Saudi province immediately north of the al Huthi territory is dominated by Arab tribes who follow the Ismaili sect of Shiite Islam. The Saudi message is that Iran must stop its meddling or its proxies will suffer. Muslims are enjoined from fighting Muslims, unless they are heretics and apostates.

The Saudis are acting to stop the spread of insurrection, as they define it. The fight also gives the Saudi King a good test of his forces with a view towards a possible, eventual fight between Sunni Arabs and Persian Shiites.

Regional reactions. Kuwaiti and Moroccan officials denounced recent Yemeni rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia and expressed solidarity with the Saudi people, KUNA and BBC reported. Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah stressed that any attack on Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is an attack on Kuwait's sovereignty and security. The Kuwaiti Cabinet affirmed support to Saudi security and the safety of its citizens while strongly condemning acts committed by Yemeni al Huthi rebels who infiltrated Saudi territories.

In a letter from King Mohammed VI, Morocco expressed its solidarity and support of Saudi Arabia. Iran is the target of these expressions of support more than Saudi Arabia.

Russia-Cuba-Nicaragua: Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Havana, Cuba, late 10 November to sign an agreement on cooperation for "information exchange and training" for Cuban emergency specialists, RIA Novosti reported 11 November.

Shoigu, who traveled to Cuba from Nicaragua where he concluded a similar agreement, said, "The Russian government has resolved to allocate a substantial sum to buy equipment and to train Nicaragua specialists to remove mines."

The Western media seems to misunderstand the significance of the seemingly benign Russian agreements on emergency situations. The Emergency Situations Ministry is one of the most powerful in Russia in that it is the conduit for military and paramilitary assistance to nations with whom Russia has agreements, including Serbia. The definition of emergency is rather loose. These agreements are the updated versions of Friendship and Security Agreements arranged by the Soviet Union.

The significance is that Russia uses this Ministry as a substitute for the Defense or Interior Ministries to arrange relationships that in earlier times would have stood out as defense or military assistance agreements. The effects are the same in practice, but the terminology is less likely to receive careful scrutiny or attention by the West. Putin is the genius behind this quite effective subterfuge.

End of NightWatch for 11 November.

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