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NightWatch 20110217


For the Night of 17 February 2011

North Korea: Update. Satellite images show North Korea has completed a launch tower at a second missile launch facility at Tonchang Dong, in the northwest, Voice of America reported 17 February. The facility is more advanced than the first launch site at Musudan Ri, also known as Taepo Dong, and can handle significantly larger missiles.

Comment: This facility has been under construction and under surveillance for years. The report and the complex are reminders of North Korean intentions to build bigger and better missiles, tested from a modern complex on the west coast.

China: For the record. The Beijing government informed U.N. Security Council (UNSC) members it would block publication of a special report that accuses North Korea of violating sanctions over its nuclear program, according to a report from Reuters. The U.N. Panel of Experts on North Korea submitted the report to the UNSC sanctions Committee on 27 January. It finds that Pyongyang "almost undoubtedly" has several undisclosed uranium enrichment-related facilities. The report also found the North's enrichment program and development of a light-water reactor are serious breaches of U.N. sanctions.

China said it would block the report's publication and prevent its transfer to the full UNSC.

Iran: For the record. An Iranian opposition group called for protests in Tehran and other cities, at 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) on 20 February to honor those killed in protests earlier this week. Al Arabiya reported.

Comment: This is a forlorn and hopeless enterprise because the Iranian regime has strong support except among students and urban young people, the normal cohorts for rebellion.

Bahrain: At 3:00 a.m. local time on 17 February, police backed by troops attacked the sleeping demonstrators and cleared Pearl Square in Manama in less than a half hour. Four demonstrators were killed. With that the uprising went to ground.

Army patrols and tanks locked down the capital city. The military announced a ban on gatherings and claimed on state TV that it had "key parts" of the capital under its control. The military said it would enact "strict and preventive measures to restore security and public order." The Interior Ministry warned Bahrainis to stay off the streets. Banks and other key institutions did not open, and workers stayed home.

Comment: One important difference with Egypt's handling of the demonstrations is the performance of the armies in the two states. Policemen always do what they are paid to do, unless they run away. But the Army's response to civil disorder problems determines which side has the most guns.

The Egyptian Army used the demonstrations to alter the leadership succession. In short, it was insubordinate as an institution. Western encomiums/encomia about its professionalism are belied by the leadership's political maneuvering during the past month to ensure there will be no Mubarak dynasty.

Compare that highly politicized behavior with the Bahraini forces who followed the King's orders. Discipline and responsiveness to command and control is helped by the presence of the King's relatives from the al Khalifa clan at all top command levels and government ministries.

As an exercise in suppressing noisy opposition, this was a model. This is an example when the overreaction, i.e., use of overwhelming force, proved effective in halting the downward staircase. The quality and quantity of force overwhelmed the resistance capabilities of the opposition in Manama. That never happened in Cairo because the Army leadership was insubordinate and politicized.

For the record. All leaders of the Gulf Coordination Council supported Bahraini King Hamad al Khalifa's decision to stabilize his country.

For the record. A Fox News entertainer got carried away with his bit of learning on 17 February when he compared Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as two countries with Shiite majorities that are governed by Sunni leaders. That is accurate for Bahrain, but for Saudi Arabia, 15% of the population is Shiite who ive mainly in the Eastern Province.

Somalia: Al Shabaab militants are holding in custody several pirate bosses in Haradhere, on the Somali coast, after talks on the rebels' share of a ransom payout fell apart, Reuters reported, citing statements from pirates and local residents.

Pirate sources said they were close to cementing a multi-million-dollar ransom deal for the release of two vessels but their refusal to give al Shabaab fighters 20 percent of the ransom led to the talks' collapse. A pirate told Reuters by telephone that al Shabaab arrested four pirate ringleaders after the pirates rejected the militants' demands.

Comment: al Shabaab is not the Islamic Courts. During the Courts' brief interregnum, they executed pirates rather than negotiate with them. Al Shabaab needs the cash flow and shows itself to be a Somali clan, criminal cartel hiding behind religion.

Egypt: Strikes and protests continued in Egypt on 17 February as demonstrators called for a "day of victory" to mark the one week anniversary of former President Mubarak's resignation, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.


At least 1,500 Suez Canal Authority employees protested in the cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia. In addition, train conductors in various parts of the country went on strike over wages, halting railway traffic, and at least 20,000 employees of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company continued their strike in Mahalla al-Kubra, north of Cairo.

Former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to include civilians on the transitional presidential council tasked with plotting the course toward democracy. The presidential council needs to represent the forces of the nation as well as the military, ElBaradei said. The SCAF has not been transparent in its handling of Egypt's affairs or in its decisions about the transitional period, he said. Prolonging the transitional phase, which the SCAF says will last six months, without public participation risks returning Egypt to the arms of the old regime and to dictatorship, ElBaradei added.

Comment: El Baradei senses the double cross that the Egyptian Army is pulling off. Every day that there is no workers' uprising is a day of victory for the Army.

The Brotherhood.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) demanded the revocation of the state of emergency before a plebiscite on constitutional amendments, according to a statement posted on Ikhwanonline. The MB also called for the immediate release of all political detainees sentenced by "unfair extraordinary courts," as well as those detained in recent protests.

The MB welcomed the dissolution of the People's Assembly and Shura Council, as well as the formation of a committee of respected figures to amend the constitution. The group also praised the pledges to peacefully and hastily transfer power by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The MB said it hopes the SCAF will listen to the people's demand to change the Cabinet or set a date for changing it.


Egyptian opposition groups announced the formation of the Union of Progressive Revolutionary Youth and released a charter with six "revolutionary values" needed to advance the country, Ahram Online reported. The values include the establishment of a civil state where citizens are equal regardless of religion, color or ethnicity; an increase in democratic practice; an increase in the people's role in creating national policies; increased social justice; and respect for human rights, particularly the right of expression and national sovereignty.

Comment: The Brothers are working the system. They know how to deal with the Army because both are parts of the Mubarak system. They will attempt to take over the system, using peaceful means for now. It is important that senior US intelligence officials understand this is not a benign secular political group, as at least one official said in public.

El Baradei and the young opposition are political novices and look like it. A program that calls for "increases" of anything takes for granted the existence of that "anything." The naiveté of the youngsters is much of what they want "more of" does not exist in Egypt. There will be no revolution in Egypt until the workers revolt and the Army fractures.

Libya: Two anti-government protesters were killed by Libyan security forces near Benghazi on 17 February, Bikya Masr reported. The situation in Tripoli was calm and a pro-regime rally was being organized with students being transported in buses to the Green Square.

Comment: NightWatch perceives no domino effect of spreading revolution. Two leaders overstayed their welcome and are gone because two armies were insubordinate.. They left behind functioning political systems that continue to function and on which most citizens rely. That is the score card.

End of NightWatch for 17 February .

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