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NightWatch 20110710

NightWatch

For the Night of 10 July 2011

Pakistan: Karachi. Police and paramilitary Rangers were ordered on Friday to shoot on sight to gain control of the security situation in several areas of Karachi where gunmen indiscriminately terrorized the neighborhoods. In addition, the government deployed 1,000 Frontier Constabulary paramilitary personnel to back up the local security forces.

More than 800 people have been killed in politically-motivated violence in Karachi this year.

Comment: The Ministry of the Interior blamed the violence on Pakistani Taliban militants who were terrorizing lower class neighborhoods. Pakistani political commentators, however, reported the violence is the result of rivalries between political parties and organized-crime gangs.

The shooting is not by terrorists, according to Pakistani analysts, but by activists from a political party that believes it is underrepresented in the Sindh Province assembly, based on rigged elections. This is a study in democracy.

Yemen: The top US counterterrorism official spoke with Yemeni President Saleh in Riyadh on 10 July and urged him to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council-backed power transition agreement. According to a White House spokesman, the US official stressed the importance of a political solution to the violence in Yemen so that the government there can focus on other threats, such as al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States is working close with council allies, Europe and others to ensure that much needed assistance will be given provided for Yemen as soon as Saleh signs and implements the agreement.

Comment: By political solution, the US official meant a non-violent solution, but that is not clear from the language. The Western language of political solutions and political agreements is alien in Yemen. Even in the West "political" is not the same as non-violent and without retribution.

Saleh, at least, knows that the security situation has progressed too far and been too bloody for a peaceful transition of power. In other words, there is no way ahead that avoids violence, regardless of political agreements or elections.

The GCC transition agreement replaces one violent faction with another, and rewards the weaker faction. It is arbitrary, based on outside intervention. Internationally-monitored elections would at least comply with the Yemeni constitution.

Syria: As promised the government opened a national dialogue on 10 July with some 200 delegates, including Baath party and independent lawmakers. Some opposition leaders, however, boycotted the session.

The purpose of the dialogue is to move towards democracy. According to Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara, the dialogue was not begun as a concession to the people, but rather as an obligation for every citizen. In addition, al-Shara said the Interior Ministry would within the week remove all obstacles for any citizen returning to Syria or traveling abroad.

Comment: The dialogue is non-substantive, but might help reduce the violence. The opposition is not cohesive or unified and some so-called leaders are in exile. It is unclear why foreign media consider their presence or absence has any significance

The central issue is whether the Sunnis have the strength to overthrow the Alawites. Nothing short of that will satisfy the opposition. And that means certain death for Alawites. There are no good guys in Syria, but thus far the so-called opposition lacks the strength to prevail, despite favorable international official and press commentary.

Syria-United States: The Syrian Foreign Ministry summoned the US and French ambassadors to denounce their unauthorized 8 July visit to Hama Province to observe the demonstrations.

The government accused the American of violating Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which prohibits one country from intervening in the internal affairs of another, according to a ministry statement. Moreover, such intervention clearly illustrates a foreign presence that is trying to undermine Syrian stability and security, the statement said.

Syrian protesters rallied outside the US Embassy in Damascus for 31 hours this weekend, throwing projectiles at the compound and at one point pelting two Embassy employees with food, the State Department said Sunday. "Protesters eventually threw tomatoes, eggs, and later glass and rocks at the Embassy. Two Embassy employees were struck by food," the official said in a statement. The US has since complained to the Syrian government.

Comment: Foreign press reported a large demonstration in Hama, but since foreign press are banned from Syria, the report is difficult to credit. The US Ambassador left Hama early on Friday, apparently under some coercion, having accomplished apparently little for the US, the demonstrators or US-Syrian relations.

Lebanon: Update. Interpol has issued arrests warrants for four suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, according to a spokesman for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The identities of the suspects were not disclosed because the contents of the indictments remain confidential, the spokesman said.

Comment: The identities of at least two men already have been leaked to the public. Hezbollah has vowed to not cooperate with the Tribunal. The significance is that the involvement of Hezbollah killers in the assassination of Hariri implicates Iran, Hezbollah's primary backer.

Egypt: On 9 July, thousands of protesters demanded political reforms and swifter trials for police and former government officials charged with killing demonstrators during the uprising that resulted in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters at Cairo's Tahrir Square vowed to continue demonstrating despite concessions made by Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. Hundreds of protesters blocked traffic at the square, while others formed a picket line outside a large government complex.

Comment: No clashes with security forces occurred because they were held back from the Square. Nevertheless, the demonstrations made the military backed-government appear weak and indecisive. Up to now, no fundamental changes in government have taken place.

This might be the start of a genuine revolution, but for the catastrophic condition of the economy. News services are consistent in reporting that most Egyptians want the political unrest to stop and the economy to improve. The activists have not yet gotten that message or do not care.

Republic of South Sudan: The newest state in the community of nations became independent on 9 July.

End of NightWatch for 10 July.

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