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NightWatch 20110322

NightWatch

For the Night of 22 March 2011

North Korea-South Korea: Volcanic activity experts from North and South Korea will discuss conducting joint Mount Paektu research on 29 March in the border village of Munsan, Seoul's Unification Ministry stated 22 March.

Comment: Apparently the South resolved its reservations about this open-ended support initiative. Still Mount Paektu is an amazing beautiful place to visit and well worth a research junket.

Bahrain-Arab League: The Arab League aims to maintain the stability of Bahrain and "Arabism," Arab League chief Amr Moussa said, after talks with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. Moussa said the league is communicating with Iran, and prior to his meeting with al-Khalifa, he met with the Iranian charge d'affaires in Cairo. The Arab League's permanent delegate-level council also confirmed the legitimacy of the Peninsula Shield Forces in Bahrain.

Comment: The Bahrain and Saudi monarchies apparently believe they have confronted and defeated a major threat from the spread of Shiite apostasy and subversion from Iran. If Iranian agents have been involved in the unrest in Bahrain, the program has backfired to the detriment of Bahraini Shiites.

Arab League: Saudi Emir Turki al-Faisal, Director of the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and former ambassador to Washington, has called for a conference in Abu Dhabi to make the Gulf Cooperation Council more like the European Union and to create a united "Gulf" army, Al-Watan reported.

Turki said other nations must be prevented from forcing their agendas on Saudi Arabia to weaken its military power. Saudi Arabia should be able to obtain nuclear weapons if it fails in its effort to persuade Iran from abandoning its nuclear program.

Comment: Taking the two preceding reports together, the message is the Arabs want a nuclear- armed pan-Arab army to fight the Persians. The implication is that Sunni Arabs appear to want to take Arab security interests into their own hands, and not rely on the US.

That implication raises the prospect of new regional polarity in the Middle East, provided the Sunni Arab leaders can remain united in support of Arab strategic objectives. Israel's survival depends on the fractiousness of the Arabs. Persians are today's enemy.

Yemen: The Foreign Ministry denied rumors that many of its envoys resigned, despite media reports to the contrary, a source at the ministry said. The ministry source said the reports were untrue and were published by media seeking to harm Yemen. There were no resignations and Yemen's ambassadors continue to perform their jobs abroad normally.

However, the source confirmed the Yemeni envoys to Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Syria, the Arab League and the United Nations have already resigned and that the decisions were received respectfully.

Resignations announced today included the base commander of Al Hudaydah airbase. Yemeni Republican Guard forces reportedly surrounded the base and laid siege to it. Central Prison Directors in Sanaa and Ta'izz announced they have joined the revolution.

President Saleh announced that he is willing to step down from office by the end of 2011 in an orderly constitutional process.

Comment: Saleh's first concession was that he would not run for another term in 2013 when his expires. This is his second major concession and a major setback to his regime. It will backfire by inciting demands for his immediate resignation and by undermining the morale of everyone who supports him now, all of whom may be out of work in eight months.

The pattern is clear that gratuitous concessions by strong leaders always stoke demands for more. After this concession, Saleh cannot stay because he has admitted his time has passed. The only issue left is how soon he departs.

Yemen-Saudi Arabia: The Saudi government has formed an "emergency room" of political, intelligence and military officials to discuss the Yemeni crisis and contact all forces in the country to plan for the potential for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz, acting on behalf of Crown Prince Sultan, is directing the group, working with his ministers and advisers as well as members of the National Security Council. Saudi Arabia has been in contact with U.S. and British officials for months over differences of opinion about Yemen's future, with the United Kingdom encouraging separatism while the United States stands against secession with Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials are searching for a way to fill the power vacuum that could be left by Saleh's ouster.

Comment: Today's statement is confusing, but suggests that Saudi Arabia considers Yemen part of its sphere of influence, if not national territory. The Saudis intervened with troops last year to support Saleh. Today's announcement suggests they are considering comparable support again.

Israel-Gaza Strip: A Grad rocket was fired from Gaza in the direction of the Israeli city of Ashdod and landed south of the city, Ynet reported.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimate that confrontations with terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will last for the next few weeks. The IDF noted that Hamas has no interest in a long-term escalation of the situation. Southern Command forces instructed residents in the vicinity of Gaza to stay on high alert, as they fear more rockets will be fired toward the region during the night.

Comment: Israel will retaliate for but not prolong the latest episode of attacks.

Libya: Situation Highlights. Despite Coalition air attacks, Qadhafi's ground forces intensified their attacks against Misrata. At least 40 civilians died in the attacks, according to new reports. Qadhafi's forces continued to hold Ajdabiya, southeast of Tripoli and fought in Zintan.

A Libyan government aircraft was shot down in eastern Libya. Reporting does clarify whether it was a combat aircraft, but its destruction is a good indicator that the no-fly zone is working.

The commander of Libya's Al-Nusur Brigade was killed on 22 March near Tripoli, Al Jazeera reported. Hussein al-Warfalli reportedly was one of the most prominent commanders of the Qadhafi brigades, according to the report.

Comment: This is a single source report. What has been striking about Libyan forces in the past month is their initial utter incompetence, compared to their effectiveness in the past two weeks. Qadhafi's cohorts include, or included, some very competent tactical commanders, not including any of his sons.

By comparison, the rebels during this time have shown no capability to overthrow the Qadhafi regime, even with modern air support. Most are untrained, probably untrainable and resist leadership.

The news reports consistently show the opposition fighters as an ignorant mob that persists in wasting ammunition for the news cameras.

Unless tribal leaders put pressure on Qadhafi to leave, the opposition, at best, will succeed in fragmenting Libya, provided modern air support continues.

Coalition air forces have provided the anti-Qadhafi opposition a second chance at overthrowing the regime or at fragmenting the state. The opposition has yet to create a command structure or even designate a single spokesman. If the opposition fails now, then its revolution never had a chance.

The Coalition can disband, knowing it saved lives and created conditions for either a successful revolution or for a negotiated power-sharing arrangement. The Libyans must create the revolution because air forces cannot do more than create conditions for success, which they have. Aircraft cannot hold ground.

US: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News that she is aware of some people allegedly reaching out on behalf of Libyan leader Qadhafi to explore his options. Clinton said some of these actions are "theater," but some of are genuine.

France: Military operations over Libya will cease when Qadhafi's forces return to the barracks, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said 22 March. France will "take the initiative in organizing peace," as it did in organizing the military intervention, Juppe said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will comment on the Libyan peace in the coming days, he said. Juppe said Libya's future political regime is up to the Libyans and that the intervention aims to allow the Libyan people to express themselves freely and to have the choice of a democratic transition.

Comment: The French explanation of the end state and the ultimate political objectives of the military operations are succinct and clear: Qadhafi forces in barracks and a free and fair transition to democracy. Those define a successful operation.

Coalition update.

Romania will send a frigate to the Mediterranean to participate in the arms embargo on Libya, Romanian President Traian Basescu said on 22 March. The frigate, the King Ferdinand, has a crew of more than 200 servicemen.

The Netherlands will contribute 200 soldiers, six F-16 jet fighters and one mine hunter ship in the next few days to enforce the arms embargo, Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen stated on 22 March. The Dutch contribution is for three months, Hillen said.

Germany withdrew from NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea on 22 March after the alliance began enforcing an arms embargo backed by the U.N. Security Council against Libya, the German Defense Ministry said. Two frigates and two other ships with a crew of 550 would revert to German command, a ministry spokesman said. The roughly 60 to 70 German military personnel involved in NATO-operated airborne warning and control system surveillance operations in the Mediterranean also would be withdrawn, according to the ministry. The Germans will increase their support for operations in Afghanistan but disapprove of attacks against Libya.

End of NightWatch for 22 March.

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