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NightWatch 20110225

NightWatch

For the Night of 25 February 2011

Iran: Iran plans to begin operating a second uranium enrichment plant by the summer of 2011 in an underground location near Qom, DPA reported, citing a restricted document it obtained that was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The document said no centrifuges have been installed at the second location yet, and Iran is still generating enriched uranium at the existing plant in Natanz. The report did not mention the Stuxnet virus, but an official was cited as saying several hundred centrifuges at Natanz were replaced, but it did not significantly affect production rates.

Comment: The Iranian uranium enrichment program looks increasingly like a nuclear weapons program that Iran is trying to hide in plain view.

Bahrain: Lebanese authorities freed Bahraini opposition leader Hassan Mushaima on Feb. 25 after he was pardoned of terrorism-related charges, according to an unnamed judicial official. Note: This man intends to take control of the protest movement.

Jordan: More than 5,000 Jordanians demonstrated in the streets of Amman after Friday prayers on Feb. 25 in support of reform, DPA reported.

Libya: Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, in a speech on 25 February said that the army is dealing with terrorists and decided not to attack but desires to negotiate. Hopefully negotiations can be done peacefully by 26 February, Qadhafi said, adding that there are problems in Misurata and Zawiyah.

Comment: Each of three of Muammar Qadhafi's sons is responsible for defending a sector in the defense of Tripoli. Saif's comments are an admission that he cannot hold his sector which apparently is the western approaches to Tripoli. They slaughtered hundreds in Tripoli after Friday prayers.

Libyan leader Qadhafi vowed to fight and defeat protesters in a 25 February speech in Tripoli's central Green Square, Al Arabiya reported. He called on supporters to defend Libya and its oil fields. The Libyan revolution makes the country the leader of the Third World, he said, saying the Libyans are the ones who "brought Italy to its knees."

He also said all arms depots would be opened to the Libyan people when necessary and that all aggression could be put down with armed people. He called on supporters to "prepare to defend Libya [and] petrol, prepare to defend dignity." He told the crowd to respond to protesters and "let them feel shame." Gadhafi added that the youth are the "sons and grandchildren of the jihad battles" whose fathers had "destroyed the Italian empire." Foreign media are dogs, he said.

Comment: Qadhafi is no longer in touch with reality.

A rebel officer who is coordinating an attack on Tripoli, Colonel Tarek Saad Hussein, asserted in an interview that an armed volunteer force of about 2,000 men - including army defectors - was to arrive in Tripoli on Friday night.

Comment: There was no way to confirm his claim, but if accurate, Saturday may be a turning point. Two things that seem clear is that the rebels have some form of command and control and Qahafi's hold on Tripoli is shrinking.

NightWatch Essay: Some time ago, David Goldman, purporting to channel Oswald Spengler for Asia Times Online, wrote a farsighted essay that anticipated, predicted and warned that modern impulses in the youth of the Middle East would rise up against conservative institutions to assert a modern definition of being Arab, Berber, Turk, Persian as well as Muslim. He identified the cohorts under 25 as the driving force in these pan-regional impulses.

The events that began in December 2010 in Tunisia seem to have validated parts of Goldman's prophecy. He foresaw the struggle as one between modern educated youth and the conservative, sclerotic Islamic clerisy of mullahs and ayatollahs. In the essay, Spengler did not anticipate an intermediate phase in which the cohorts of modernization battled the stodgy pan Arab socialist authoritarian strong men.

Few prophets live long enough to see even part of their vision come to pass, as has Goldman's in 2011. However, the youth that started the pro-democracy movement lack the experience and shrewdness to plan well. Still, they have spoken the language of human rights, individual worth and elected, accountable government. The words should have been a rallying call to the Western democracies.

Those states that have the maturity and wisdom to help guide the Arab pro-democracy movement are the great western democracies, who else. But, the great democracies in North America and Europe have dithered. President Reagan's beacon on a hill has not shined its light on the Arabs.

A month ago, caution was prudent. Each uprising has been different. A month later it is clear they have a consistent theme. Educated young people are tired of tutelage and have asserted their claim to have a say in their government and not defer to mullahs, imams, ayatollahs, pan Arab socialists or other authoritarian pretenders to leadership.

The youth have lacked plans and sophistication. One Brilliant and extremely well-informed Reader described the movement in feedback as a continuous Arab Grateful Dead concert. The superficiality of the celebrations should not camouflage the profound significance of the phenomenon of Arab youth risking their lives for personal freedom and individual rights against the might of entrenched authoritarian regimes.

Stodgy, professors in universities all over Europe, the UK, Canada and America and their students from all over the world for three generations can take a bow and go to their graves with a great sense of satisfaction and of accomplishment. Their work has had its impact.

Possibly more suprising is that a tribute needs be made to all the instructors in western general staff and command colleges. Who could have predicted that the military leaders of multiple authoritarian systems would choose not to fire on their fellow citizens on the orders of a single person. That is a peculiarly Western interpretation of military duty in a modern state. The armed forces have determined the outcome of every uprising thus far.

If ever there is a testament to the power of modern ideas -- that every person is created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, however that is translated in Arabic -- this movement seems to be it.

The tragedy of the past month is that the great western democracies have fiddled while Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa, Manama and, most importantly and recently, Libya burned. The leaders of democracy appear to have lost the power of discernment and the courage of convictions. The Libyan uprising is the real thing and it needs support.

NightWatch takes exception to those who would diminish the significance of what has transpired in Libya thus far. Bahrain and Yemen may be important for the protection of short term US interests, but the outcome in Libya will influence the Arab world far longer and more profoundly than the next steps in Bahrain. More importantly, the more than 200-year old values of the US more closely fit those of the rebels of Benghazi, Tobruk and Zawiyah than King Hamad of Bahrain. Thus far the US has no role.

Qadhafi's rantings are reminiscent of Hitler in the bunker. The failure of the United States and NATO to provide military support to the Libyan rebels in their time of great need, when it might determine the outcome of the struggle, is almost craven.

Opportunities for the US and NATO to support secular democratic Arab rebels in Benghazi have already come and gone. Jordan has provided some help.

Once it became clear that Tripoli was isolated -- signaled by the defection of al Zawiyah to the rebels this week and that the Qadhafis had succumbed to murderous dementia as a family -- the US and NATO should have supported the revolution with aid as well as words. It is time for the democracies to take a risk in favor of democracy in Libya in order to avert a greater massacre and to be consequential in a pan-Arab awakening, apparently unlike anything since the foundation of the Baathists.

The US evidently lacks military assets in the Mediterranean, but the French and Italians and other Mediterranean members of NATO have them. Even the British managed to send warships to Tripoli while the leadership of the most powerful nation on Earth did not.

Finally, the most significant and least reported aspect of the uprisings of the past two months is the dog that has not barked. The Islamic fundamentalists and the mullahs have had nothing significant to say about the uprisings, other than perfunctory and confused cheerleading for the overthrow of pro-US strong men. They have had no influence on the uprisings and have provided no guidance, possibly because mullahs have preached that democracy is not consistent with Islam. That is tonight's good news.

The great democracies, however, have been almost as silent as the mullahs, except for President Sarkozy of France. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan said democracy is like a streetcar. Libya is the place and now is the time for the Democracies to refute and confute Erdogan's cynical metaphor.

End of NightWatch for 25 February .

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