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NightWatch 20110302

NightWatch

For the Night of 2 March 2011

Pakistan: For the record. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, aka, the Pakistani Taliban) claimed responsibility for the killing of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti on 2 March. The group claims to have killed the country's only Christian government minister for challenging a law that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam.

A TTP spokesman said Bhatti was a blasphemer like slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Bhatti was known to oppose the anti-blasphemy law of Pakistan.

Comment: Pakistan continues to demonstrate that murder of Christians is acceptable in the prevailing interpretation of Islamic law. It is, in fact, an abomination according to the Quran, but most Pakistani imams cherry pick their teachings and care nothing about the death of Christians.  Every official who opposes the anti-blasphemy law has been murdered regardless of his or her religious beliefs or is threatened with murder. This is barbaric behavior.

Bahrain: Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, met with visiting Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Riyadh on the night of 2 March.

The press service reported that, "At the outset of the meeting, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz expressed welcome of Prince Salman bin Hamad and the accompanying delegation, lauding the close ties binding the two kingdoms and the current cooperation between them in all fields.

For his part, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa thanked the Second Deputy Premier for warm welcome and generous hospitality, praising the fraternal relations binding the two countries and peoples."

Comment: An examination of the guest list showed that this meeting was about tactics and techniques for suppressing protestors and evaluating the financial costs. It was hard headed and cynical, dealing with the tactics for preserving the al Khalifa dynasty.

Egypt- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): The six GCC-states discussed plans to launch an aid package to Bahrain and Oman to boost economic and social conditions and living standards, according to unnamed senior sources, citing Kuwaiti Al-Qabas. The aid plan involves providing housing, creating jobs and upgrading public services as well as according Omani and Bahraini job-seekers priority in the other four GCC nations. No details of the cost of the plan were provided.

Comment: The per capita Gross Domestic Product for all GCC countries is among the highest in the world. However, unemployment and under-employment are unaccountably high in light of the per capita GDP. The numbers do not add.

It is difficult to accept that modern, western-educated Arab monarchs have been unaware of the poverty of their Arab populations. It is difficult to understand how the richest countries in the world require a bail-out scheme from the richest countries in the world.

Lebanon: Four members of Lebanon's caretaker cabinet have turned down requests from the prosecutor general of the U.N.-appointed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to provide information and documents, sources close to the STL said.

Comment: The new pro-Hezbollah, interim government intends to terminate Lebanese cooperation with and funding for the UN tribunal into the murder of Prime Minister Hariri. Preliminary indictments were sent in January to the investigating magistrate. The pro-Hezbollah government apparently has decided to stonewall the investigation.

Libya: Former Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younis, who now supports the opposition attempting to remove Qadhafi, said the rebels have regained control of Marsa el Brega airport, Reuters reported 2 March, citing Al Arabiya. Younis called for special operations forces to join the rebels but did not provide any other details.

Comment: Qadhafi's mercenary soldiers ran rather than died, after making a perfunctory show of force. That is the way of mercenaries. The air attacks appear to have been the more intimidating aspect of the attack on Brega, but they also failed.

Libya-India: Indian Defence Minister A K Antony today said Indian Air Force's transport aircraft could be sent to Libya to evacuate Indian citizens stranded there if the need arises. "The Navy also has sent its ships. Air Force also is ready. Whether it is Libya or other capitals, if the Government wants their service, they can also be sent," he said.

The Defence Minister was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony to flag-in Indian Army's expedition to the South Pole.

The IAF has kept its IL-76 aircraft on stand-by mode for the operations at different air fields in the country. An IL-76 can carry more than 300 passengers at one go. The Indian Navy already has sent two ships to Libya, including the amphibious ship INS Jalashwa and the Delhi-class destroyer INS Delhi to help in evacuating 18,000 Indian citizens.

Comment: The Indians apparently are evacuating through eastern Libya which makes their case less urgent. Nevertheless, the numbers of Indians trying to leave Libya impose stress on national systems half a world away.

NightWatch comment on no-fly zones: After the first Gulf War, the US enforced a no-fly zone in northern Iraq for more than ten years. The US did not attack and suppress every anti-aircraft system in that Zone, but dared them to radiate US aircraft. Whenever ground systems threatened to attack, i.e., whenever they used radar, they were instantly destroyed.

Activity in the northern Iraq no fly zone to protect the Kurds was briefed to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, every day for ten years. If the weather was good, US aircraft flew.

US combat aircraft operating from Turkey destroyed anti-aircraft guns sites that radiated; surface-to-air missile sites that radiated; animal watering troughs that reflected a targeting radar beam; nomad tents that reflected a beam; chicken coops with corrugated roofs that reflected beams and anything that moved that was made of metal.

Senator McCain has the right of it. Enforcement of a no-fly zone is doable without attacking Libya. The threat of US retaliation was more intimidating than the actual accuracy of the attacks.

Of course, the US and NATO cannot get out in front of the Benghazi Council, but the Council today asked for UN help in establishing a no-fly zone. That request should provide enough cover for NATO states to respond in some fashion.

Without the threat of bombing the revolutionaries based in Benghazi have the capabilities to stop Qadhafi's mercenary militias on the ground, as they did today at Brega.

Qadhafi never developed an army because he feared it would do to him what he did to King Idris. So he has relied on tribal militias and mercenary soldiers for security. However, Qadhafi and his acolytes apparently failed to study mercenary performance in the Congo and Ethiopia, before purchasing the services of sub-Saharan African mercenaries.

Tribal militias are easy to deal with. After brief skirmishing, they run and switch sides. The tribe benefits nothing from losses beyond the minimum for saving face. After that, the loyalty of the tribe tends to go to the highest bidder.

Older hands know that the Mercenaries are a well known entity in international relations. Mercs make no money from dying. That is the basic and only rule in fighting Mercs. Since the 100 Years War in Europe, mercenary forces do not die in grand gestures or fight to the last man, only to the largest payment. They pose, run and collect their pay. That is good news for the Libyan revolutionaries, provided the air threat is neutralized.

The best insight for the revolutionaries is the certain knowledge that no aircraft has ever been invented that can take and hold ground. Those tasks require capable ground forces, which Qadhafi seems to lack.

NightWatch Special Comment: Some old hands lived through the humiliation of the US for having failed to respond to the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Others remember the failure of NATO to respond to the Prague Spring of 1968. The Reagan administration provided only limited, indirect support to the Solidarnosc union in Poland in mid-1980. It did nothing to deter General Jaruzelski's imposition of martial law that suppressed Solidarnosc in 1981.

It took more than a generation for the cause of democracy in Eastern Europe to recover from the timidity of the great western democracies during the Cold War.

The Libyan rebellion offers the opportunity for those Democracies to redeem themselves, under new leadership, to protect their step-children -- the Arab youth who have been educated in US and Western European universities. The Democracies have a chance to help guide the NEXT generation of Arab leaders, but appear to be letting that chance slip away through hand wringing and brow wiping fears about winners and losers.

Qadhafi is from yesteryear. The world of pan-Arab unity and socialist revolution of the 1950s does not exist, except in atavistic pockets and in the mind of Hugo Chavez. Those ideas were tried and failed.

The cell-phone, social media generation represents tomorrow's leaders, though hereditary monarchs, atavistic socialists and grey-bearded ayatollahs fail to grasp the significance of what has emerged in the past two months in the Middle East.

The US has the power to speak to and encourage this new Arab generation because the US educated most of them and powered up their cell-phones. The United States is the only nation on earth where a young Libyan can migrate, become a pop singer and not fear that the secret police or the virtue and vice cops will arrest him just because he makes a living as a singer.

End of NightWatch for 2 March.

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