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NightWatch 20110616

NightWatch

For the Night of 15 June 2011

China: News services have reported unrest and violent disturbances in a city in eastern China. This is the third episode of violent civil disorders this month. All have been sparked by abuses by local authorities, especially involving land. The disturbances are controlled but the underlying grievances remain. More on this later.

Pakistan-US: Five Pakistani CIA informants who had provided information leading up to the raid that killed Usama bin Laden have been arrested by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, according to US officials. CIA Director Panetta raised the issue when he traveled to Islamabad earlier in June.

When questioned about the arrests during Congressional testimony on 15 June, Defense Secretary Gates conveyed resignation to having to deal with Pakistan as it is. Promised intelligence cooperation and the creation of a jointly manned intelligence center have stalled.

Comment: Ten years ago Musharraf set the tone and substance of Pakistani policy in cooperating with the US. He decided that Pakistan would cooperate as long as Pakistan benefitted. Under Musharraf the benefits were significant, including a Congressional waiver for Pakistan's violation of US and UN rules against nuclear weapons proliferation, plus F-16 arms sales,$ billions in military and civil aid, not to mention the franchises on US military shipping from Karachi to Afghanistan.

The price of US support for the Pakistan Army that Musharraf had neglected was for him to ignore US drone and other operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan always was a lukewarm ally at best and never stopped supporting the Taliban

The civilian government of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani, that forced Musharraf to leave office or face impeachment, had been the most friendly to the US in decades. The irony is that relations with the US since the killing of bin Laden have become worse than at any time when Musharraf was in office.

A major reason is that the Pakistan Army's senior officers do not trust nor respect civilian control of the Army. In contrast, during his tenure Musharraf remained the most senior and highest ranking officer in the Army and had to be obeyed under pain of court martial.

Musharraf was in the best position to terminate bin Laden and did not. Zardari and Gilani were poorly served and obviously not informed by all whom they considered allies and others who remain constitutionally their subordinates.

As a result, just when US relations with an elected Pakistani government should be flourishing, they are under stress. That stress shows in sharp relief that US and Pakistani security interests are not congruent and are barely compatible.

Musharraf understood this. The Gilani government has learned it the hard way and too late to craft a strategy to save US relations or even itself. The elected government is likely to become collateral damage from bin Laden's death.

Kazakhstan-Afghanistan-NATO: Update. The Kazakh parliament will not consider a bill to ratify an agreement to join the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, lawmaker Nurtai Sabilyanov told the press on 15 June. Sabilyanov said since both the upper house of parliament and the Kazakh public are against sending Kazakh troops to Afghanistan, the lower house of parliament will return the NATO agreement to the government. He added the agreement will not have any legal effect since it was not ratified by the parliament.

Comment: About 19 May, the lower house of parliament passed a bill authorizing the government to send a contingent of soldiers to Afghanistan to serve with the International Security Assistance Force/NATO forces on six month rotations. Today's action ends that initiative.

President Nazarbayev's policy is to triangulate among Russia, China and the US to obtain the best benefits for Kazakhstan without aligning too closely with any one power. One implication of the failure to ratify the agreement is that parliament and the government appear to appreciate that the US withdrawal is beginning. Thus it would seem pointless to start an unpopular new military program that has no future..

Kuwait: Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah said on 15 June that he will not permit any more lawlessness or confrontations that threaten the nation's security and resources. Al-Sabah said actions by some members of parliament breached the constitution.

Youth activists have held rallies every Friday for four weeks demanding the resignation of the prime minister. Another rally is scheduled for 17 June. Al-Sabah told the activists that he instructed the Interior Ministry to take measures to preserve security.

Comment: This is the first recent report that cell-phone activism has reached Kuwait. The Kuwaiti activists are on the same path as the Syrians four months ago. The Syrian activists, initially, only sought the replacement of the prime minister. When the government acted with restraint they escalated their demands to challenge the authority of the government by calling for President Asad to step down.

Emir Sheikh al-Sabah's statement indicates he will not make the mistake Asad made last February. The Arab monarchs in the Gulf region have decided that the activism is over, as far as their realms are concerned. Thus, the cell-phone activists will demonstrate on Friday after prayers and will be met by force if they break the law. They will not threaten the Kuwait emirate.

Iraq: The Hizb al-Dawah party, headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said in a statement that it is opposed to the extension of the stay of U.S. military forces in Iraq after the 2011 deadline, Al Hayat daily reported on 15 June. The party made the decision in order to ensure that the government preserves its unity and to block the way for any political blackmail attempts.

Comment: The Dawah party does not have the final say, but its statement provides political cover for al Maliki should he decide to insist on the 2011 deadline. Since the Sadrists announced their opposition to any extension of US forces in Iraq, al Maliki cannot afford to appear softer on Americans than Sadr. Both parties are Shiite with strong ties to Iran.

Syria: On June 15 has opened its border with Jordan at the Dara'a crossing in southwestern Syria from 0300-1500 GMT after it was closed for almost two months, Jordan announced. There is no announcement from Syria.

Comment: The significance is economic and political. The closure of the crossing has backed up commercial traffic on the Jordanian side of the border and caused significant losses to local merchants.

Politically, Dara'a is where the opposition activism began five months ago. Reopening the border is a statement about the government's confidence in the success of its suppression operations.

In northwest Syria, the chief of the military's political department, Major General Riad Haddad, said on 15 June that tanks surrounded but had not yet entered the northern town of Maaret al-Numa. Haddad also confirmed army units surrounded the eastern town of al-Boukamal, near the Iraqi border, for border protection.

Comment: Operations on the borders mean the government is winning. Operations in Damascus, not in just a few suburbs, would mean the government is losing, but such operations have not been needed because the opposition is ineffective.

Syrian President Bashar al Asad plans to deliver a televised speech on 16 June announcing a few more political reforms. They will include an amendment to Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which declares the Ba'ath Party to be the leader of Syrian government and society. In addition, he is expected to announce that the government will repeal Decree 49, which designates membership in the Muslim Brotherhood an offense punishable by death.

Comment: These are essentially cosmetic gestures to deflect international pressure for reforms. There is no time frame in which these actions are to occur. Even if enacted, they do not respond to the opposition demands for greater political participation and the resignation of Bashar.

The legalization of the Brotherhood is particularly empty because the Brotherhood left Syria after most of its members were massacred in 1982 in Hama.

Egypt: Some 3,000 policemen protested in front of the Interior Ministry and Tahrir Complex in Cairo on 15 June, Ahram Online reported. Protests developed because orders given by Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy that all policemen with a law degree, master's or doctorate be promoted to officer ranks were ignored. Policemen were also protesting the fact that they could not receive treatment in the police hospitals.

Comment: Police protests have occurred in the recent past in Egypt and always signify that the government is weak and fragile. Police enforce the law almost irrespective of national ideology or political platform, nearly everywhere. They work less when promises of better working conditions are not met. Police strikes can spread quickly and have the power to bring down a regime.

Libya: Update. Libyan rebels were seen patrolling Zawit Bagoul, a village 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Zentan in western Libya on the road to Tripoli. Pro-Qadhafi troops reportedly deserted the village, leaving behind clothing and ammunition. The rebels later moved into the village of Lawania, seven kilometers away from Zawit Bagoul.

Comment: This development is significant because it is the second instance in a month in which pro-Qadhafi fighters just stopped fighting. That is a strong suggestion that their pay or their contracts ran out.

As for the security situation, the rebels experienced a windfall and did nothing to capture the village in a test of arms. That means the pro-Qadhafi forces have the capability to recapture the village with ease, provided the internal issues are settled.

End of NightWatch for 15 June.

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