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NightWatch 20110421

NightWatch

For the Night of 21 April 2011

Pakistan-US: The United States will give Pakistan 85 small "Raven" remotely piloted aircraft, a U.S. military official said April 21, Reuters reported. The official declined to state the cost or model of the aircraft.

Comment: The backdrop for this announcement is the longstanding Pakistan Army request for US drones and the supporting intelligence and technology. The Pakistanis have demanded their own drones since the start of the US drone attacks inside Pakistan.

The US has resisted giving this technology to Pakistan because of the high likelihood that the Pakistan Army will use US-supplied drones against India, as well as against the Pakistani or the Afghan Taliban. The timing and the backdrop of strain in the US relationship suggest the new drone program is a bribe between so-called "allies" to permit the US drone campaign to continue. Readers should hope that US decision makers understand than any weapons technology transfer to Pakistan is a no-cost technology transfer to China.

Saudi Arabia: Leading Saudi Shiite clerics on 21 April called for an end to the two-month-long protests in Saudi Arabia's predominantly Shiite Eastern Province, Reuters reported. A statement signed by 51 clerics and others said the best way to help achieve their demands is to "calm the streets for the sake of brotherly cooperation."

Dozens of people ignored the request and staged protests in Qatif and Awamiya, in Eastern Province.

Comment: The activist Shiites in Eastern Province seem to be a hard case that is not learning the lessons from Bahrain and the deployment of the Peninsula Shield Force. The Sunni monarchies apparently have exhausted their patience with Shiite activism, partly because they remain convinced the Persians are behind it. The Shiite clerics in Eastern Province clearly understand the nature and extent of the crackdown that will ensue if the activists persist.

Yemen: President Saleh has been offered the option of resigning within 30 days with guaranteed immunity, according to Haq party Secretary-General Hassan Zayd on 21 April. The proposal has yet to be approved by Saleh, Zayd said.

Saleh would be required to transfer power to the vice president, who would serve as the acting president for two months, until presidential elections were held. The proposal was negotiated by the Yemeni opposition and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani presented Saleh with the proposal, Reuters reported. A Yemeni official said the government welcomes the proposal and will take it under consideration.

Comment: As noted in prior reports, the only immediate issues are the terms of Saleh's departure. Far more important is the composition of a post-Saleh administration in Sanaa. That remains unclear.

Syria: Damascus Satellite Channel Television broadcast on 21 April that President Al-Asad issued Legislative Decree No.161 decree, which ended the state of emergency. Asad's signature was essential, but a foregone formality.

Security. Armed Syrian security forces have been deployed to the city of Homs ahead of large anti-regime demonstrations scheduled for after Friday prayers, a local witness said on 21 April. Fearing attacks by gunmen known as "al-shabbiha," resident in Homs have organized themselves into unarmed groups to guard their neighborhoods, according to the witness.

Comment: Every Friday after prayers, regional security is slightly better because the Muslims are fighting themselves, depending on one's perspective.

Libya-Tunisia: Tunisian radio reported that an attack by anti-Qadhafi rebels in western Libya along the Tunisian border forced some Qadhafi loyalist units to fee to Tunisia, a short walk across the border. These Libyan security forces handed over their weapons to the Tunisian army.

At the Dhiba border post, violent clashes with rebel attackers resulted in three Qadhafi soldiers wounded and induced a 70-man border unit to flee to Tunisia, surrendering to the Tunisian army and National Guards in the Benachour area, in Dhiba.

After this unit fled, the revolutionaries took control of the border crossing at Wazin.

A senior Tunisian military source said that the fleeing Libyan unit arrived in Tunisia with 13 senior officers, including a brigadier general and two majors, all of whom are in the protection of the Tunisian military leadership. He added that the border post which has come under the Libyan revolutionaries' control had been closed.

Comment: The significance of this development is that it indicates that anti-Qadhafi sentiment is alive and well in western Libya, in Tripolitania. This is tonight's good news. It is the first good news for rebel forces in several weeks.

Mali-Libya: "About a hundred Malian Touareg fighters, who had left to fight for Qadhafi, have returned to their country. It is good news for us," an official of the Kidal region in north east Mali told Agence France-Presse.

"Either they did not get what they wanted or they were disappointed and came to realize that this war is not theirs," he added. One of the Touaregs said that on arrival in Libya "some of us wanted to fight in groups comprised solely of Touaregs. The Libyans did not want that. After the fighting started, the others understood that this is not our war."

Comment: This is the first open source information that tends to support Libyan rebel charges that the forces fighting for Qadhafi include Sahelian and Sub-Saharan African mercenaries. The Touaregs have admitted it.

The main problems in hiring mercenaries arise from a failure to pay as agreed and a failure to supply them with the materiel they require to fight according to their contracts. Thus, the Touaregs' return to Mali evidences problems in the pro-Qadhafi mercenary forces.

End of NightWatch for 21 April.

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