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NightWatch 20110223

NightWatch

For the Night of 23 February 2011

China-Libya: Update. China's State Council ordered an Air China jet to leave Beijing on 23 February for Athens and await permission from Libya to land. It will assist the evacuation of 30,000 Chinese, including Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwanese nationals with the help of COSCO cargo ships and fishing vessels carrying medical supplies, Agence France-Presse reported. China also established an emergency center, led by Vice Premier Zhang Dehiang, to coordinate the evacuation process and will look to hire "nearby large-scale passenger cruise ships and busses," the Foreign Ministry said.

Comment: Are there really 30,000 Chinese in Libya?

Burma: For the record. The highest-ranking US diplomat in Burma/Myanmar, Charge d'Affaires Larry M. Dinger, has opened a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi about the sort of aid the United States should offer the country, AP reported Feb. 23. Dinger said he and Suu Kyi began talks Feb. 22 in hopes of helping to formulate U.S. policy toward Myanmar. Washington is also discussing the matter, which centers on long-standing sanctions, with Myanmar's government and others.

Pakistan: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency's relationship with the CIA has been put into question after the shooting death of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a contracted agent of the United States, according to an ISI statement. An unnamed ISI official said ISI had no idea who Davis was when he was arrested and that the ISI fears that there are hundreds of CIA-contracted agents operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of either the Pakistani government or the ISI.

The ISI knows and works with senior CIA officials in Pakistan, the official said, adding that it is upsetting that the CIA would secretly send other agents to Pakistan. The official said that the ISI is currently not talking to the CIA at any level, even the most senior level, and that in order to regain support and assistance from the ISI, the CIA must start showing more respect.

Comment: Statements to the media by anonymous ISI leakers are a reliable indicator of damage control by ISI which is a CIA off-shoot. ISI is going on the offensive to keep from having to answer inquiries why it did not know about and control the US agent. Crying foul about clandestine agents is a bit jejune for ISI but is makes for good press.

Bahrain: The main opposition parties -- Al Wefaq, Waad and five other smaller parties -- presented their demands to the government and King Hamad on 23 February, calling for the dissolution of the government and an introduction of a constitutional monarchy, Financial Times reported. The demands also included the release of all political prisoners, an investigation into the deaths of protesters and electoral reform.

Reuters video footage of Pearl Square in Manama on 23 February showed that crowds had decreased in size from the night of 22 February, when tens of thousands of protesters had occupied the square beginning in the early evening. The video showed that handfuls of protesters remained in the square with tents and supplies but that vehicle traffic was able to make its way through the roundabout.

Comment: Apparently the large demonstration was an after-work affair of short duration. The parties, members of the existing system, have begun to take advantage of the civil disorder, as did the Brotherhood in Egypt. The protestors seldom seem to have an agenda, a condition that leaves an opening for organized opposition groups that have agendas to move into.

Special Administrative Comment. NW is a free service at this time. All are invited to subscribe. Feedback is welcome and published. Backshots and potshots by anonymous secondary and tertiary readers are unprofessional and churlish.

Primary subscribers need to know that NW always uses the CIA World Fact Book as its source for factual data about countries. If the Fact Book is in error, then government officials, especially, have a duty to convey their superior knowledge to the CIA editors, please. Nobody and everybody own the facts.

The accuracy of the predictions, not the volume of expert knowledge, distinguishes professionals. NW averages between about 90% accuracy in its judgments over six years. See Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment, for documentation of the track record of the accuracy of national experts in making predictions.

Saudi Arabia: King Abdallah increased spending on housing by 40 billion riyals ($10.7 billion), boosted the social security budget by 1 billion riyals and earmarked funds for education, Bloomberg reported, citing Saudi state-run television. King Abdallah also ordered the creation of 1,200 jobs in supervision programs and made permanent a 15 percent cost-of-living allowance for government employees.

Comment: The King is being pro-active, but similar moves by Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Bahrain did not prevent protests. Concessions consistently seem to encourage them, no matter when they are made.

Yemen: The Yemeni Embassy in Washington issued a statement said that President Saleh has ordered Yemeni security forces to attempt to halt clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters. Yemen will continue to protect the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully and have freedom of expression, the statement said.

Comment: Saleh appears to have maneuvered to position himself above the clashes so that he and his security forces can be the neutral third party broker. It might work. It is still a trick.

Egypt: Update. Protestors staged a demonstration in central Cairo on 22 February, which featured burning cars and anti-interim government statements. Part of the security headquarters in Cairo was burned, after hundreds of low-ranking police reportedly threw firebombs after four days of protests over salaries, according to a security official. Soldiers tried unsuccessfully to disperse the crowd by firing in the air, the official said. Buildings, including the criminal records building, were on fire, as well as several cars,

The Muslim Brotherhood reportedly joined the protests in criticizing the government for not keeping its promises.

Comment: Government workers - policemen - apparently were the agents of violence.. More importantly, the Army did not stop the protests on the 22nd. The convergence of disillusioned protestors and government workers is one of the conditions for a real revolution, but it has not gathered momentum at this time.

Libya: In Tripoli, residents in parts of the capital were trapped in their homes as "thousands" of soldiers patrolled the streets accompanied by African mercenaries. Tanks took up positions around public buildings including government offices, while sandbag defenses were also being built.

Libyan leader Qadhafi intends to be the "big father" adviser to any new regime in the country and believes the current unrest is a "positive earthquake" clearing a path for much-needed reform, Qadhafi's son Saadi said in an interview, the Financial Times reported.

Saadi said the army remains "very strong" and that battalions would be dispatched to quell additional unrest. He said aircraft and ships bombarded ammunition depots in the east near Benghazi, where most of the violence is concentrated, because al Qaida militants -- he said there were "thousands" in Libya -- had exploited the chaos to seize control of the eastern regions. Saadi said his brother Saif al-Islam is in the process of crafting a new Libyan Constitution, BBC reported.

Comment: This is spin, in the style of the communists. Soviet doctrine always required agents and diplomats to see opportunity in setbacks and to convert adversity into advantage. That is what the Qadhafi family is attempting to do. They are trying to position themselves to lead the next phase of the revolution.

On the ground, the fight for Tripoli appears to be going in favor of Qadhafi loyalists. Once they consolidate control of Tripoli, they will begin to break out to take back the other towns, unless the armed forces fracture or Qadhafi disappears. The highest death toll number reported today was 1,000 in the past week. Obviously, no services can confirm that number.

Oil production has declined by 1 million barrels per day at least, according to press sources. The price at the pump is rising, but that will not be the cause of public panic or pose a threat to financial systems.

The prospect of reduced supplies or unreliable supplies, however, does carry the risk of public panic, even though stockholders and investors in oil may profit. Governments, such as Berlusconi's in Italy, will come under increasing pressure because of their policy of cultivating ties with Libya, but no indicators in the pubilc domain point to an erosion of confidence in financial systems.

End of NightWatch for 23 February.

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