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NightWatch 20110405


For the Night of 5 April 2011

North Korea: Update. The military delegation of the Korean People's Army, headed by General Pak Jae Gyong, vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, returned home on 5 April after visiting Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Comment: News services have reported no details of Pak's meetings. The North senses an arms market is opening up, probably in reaction to Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. If the North has a cheap and reliable anti-ship cruise missile for sale, it can probably find buyers in Southeast Asia.

Bangladesh: Police broke up angry demonstrators in Dhaka, who were protesting a new law giving women equal property rights for the first time. Dozens were arrested and injured as police used tear gas and batons. Schools, businesses and offices across the country remained closed in a nationwide strike enforced by a group of Islamic parties.

Comment: Bangladesh is a secular state, but inheritance law conforms to Sharia. Thus, a woman normally inherits half as much as her brother. Under the new law, every child would inherit an equal amount, per capita. The significant part of the story is the new law, not the protests.

Israel-Palestine: Israel's Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Israel and Gaza are on the verge of a conflict akin to Operation Cast Lead -- the December 2008 Israeli punitive campaign in the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli radio report. Aharonovitch warned residents of southern Israel to expect more rocket attacks from Gaza.

Comment: Aharonovitch's statement is the second in a week that warns Israelis to expect a large military operation in the Gaza Strip. The timing remains undisclosed, but the developing warning pattern suggests soon. At least one or two more warnings that contain more details should follow in shorter intervals, if an operation is planned. The Israeli civilians in southern Israel require advance notice to make civil defense preparations and the government always provides it, as it is doing now.

Libya: Qadhafi forces drove the mob farther away from Brega, simply by firing at them. There are no reports of casualties from the shelling among the anti-Qadhafi gaggle.

Speaking to the press, General Abd-al-Fattah Younis, former Interior Minister  and commander of special forces said, "Very unfortunately, and I am sorry to say that, NATO has disappointed us. I, along with my assistant officers, have been contacting NATO representatives to point them to targets in order to protect civilians. However, gentlemen, NATO has not given us what we want."

Younis specifically mentioned the western Libya town of Misrata, which has been under siege by government forces for weeks. He said, "If NATO had intended to lift the siege on Misrata, it would have done that days ago. Their justification is to avoid killing civilians. There are no civilians in the area where Al-Qadhafi forces are."

Comment: Younis apparently is the nominal commander of rebel fighters, but his exact title is not known. More relevant is that he seems to have no basis for expecting his orders will be followed outside Benghazi. That situation is tolerable because there are no forces west of Benghazi that would understand a coherent military order, much less follow it.

The irony in Younis' statement is that a few weeks ago the so-called rebels proclaimed they did not need outside forces and rejected offers of assistance. Older and wiser hands knew then that the rebellion could not survive without outside military assistance and that the Libyan rebel leaders would be the last people to realize it. Now they do.

Jordan-Libya: Jordanian Royal Air Force fighter jets arrived at a military base in Europe on 3 April to support and protect Jordanian aircraft flying humanitarian aid to Libyan citizens and to participate in the no-fly zone enforcement effort, according to Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on 5 April. Jordan is the third Arab state to join the effort.

Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire: For the record. More or less organized fighting has stopped in Abidjan, but there is sporadic firing by groups of rogue youths, according to the UN command. The UN spokesman said cars have been stolen, and houses and people have been attacked.

Laurent Gbagbo said the army declared a cease-fire, but he denied reports that he was ready to surrender or negotiate his departure. He repeated that he, rather than Alassane Ouattara, won the presidential election in November 2010. In other words, the military situation in the country is being resolved but there has yet to be decision made on the political situation, Gbagbo said. The discussion over who won the presidential election is ongoing, and only face-to-face talks with Ouattara can bring peace to Ivory Coast, Gbagbo added.

Comment: Gbagbo is trying to put the best face on his complete defeat. His time has passed. The actions of French forces in support of the UN peacekeepers in "protecting civilians" proved determinative in ending the civil war. Now the French have only one conflict to support, that in Libya.

End of NightWatch for 5 April.

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