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NightWatch 20120216

NightWatch

For the Night of 16 February 2012

Thailand: Update. The Iranians who were arrested after mistakenly setting off explosives in Bangkok on Tuesday planned to attack Israeli diplomats, Thai police chief Prewpan Dhamapong said on 16 February. Dhamapong said that Thai authorities know for sure that Israeli diplomats were targets and that the targets were specific.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have arrested an Iranian man also suspected of being involved in the Bangkok bombings. Royal Malaysian Police Inspector General Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the suspect was detained late on 15 February at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysia is prepared to extradite the suspect to Thailand, after completing interrogation and receiving the expected Thai request.

Feedback: A brilliant and well-informed Reader reported that the individual arrested at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands earlier this week is a Russian national of questionable mental stability, but not a bomber and not connected with the Iranian operation. Thanks for the feedback.

Cyprus-Israel: Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement on 16 February for emergency use of Cypriot airspace by Israeli aircraft. News services reported the agreement would allow the Israeli air force and navy to use airspace and waters around Cyprus to protect energy resources and to establish an Israeli base on Cyprus. Netanyahu and Christofias both denied these reports and insisted the agreement is only for peaceful purposes.

Comment: This is the first visit to Cyprus by an Israeli prime minister. Multiple news commentaries noted that Cyprus traditionally has been cool to Israel because of Israel's past close military and political relations with Turkey. Thus, the down turn in Turkish ties over the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, among other issues, has rebounded into a new relationship with Cyprus.

The Israelis and Cypriots have a legitimate need to be able to protect offshore oil and gas exploration. During Netanyahu's visit, Turkey threatened to bar Cyprus from exploring in waters that Turkey also claims.

A potential advantage for Israel is that the new arrangement could afford Israeli pilots opportunities for more long distance flight training, which would be needed to prepare for an attack against Iran. The press coverage of the new agreement suggests observers should expect to see Israeli combat aircraft at Cypriot airfields and training in Cypriot airspace.

On arrival in Nicosia, Netanyahu made a point of mentioning Iran's nuclear threat, as he put it, accusing Iran of being the most dangerous country on earth. Taken together, the circumstances, statements and fact of a military agreement leave no doubt that this initiative is part of the Israeli strategy for dealing with Iran.

End of NightWatch for 16 February.

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