For the Night of 21 August 2011
Libya: Special Comment. A senior rebel official said the Presidential Guard unit in charge of protecting Muammar Qadhafi and Tripoli has surrendered. Mahmoud Shammam, the rebel minister of information, told the press on Sunday that the unit commander "has joined the revolution and ordered his soldiers to drop their weapons."
When the unit dropped its arms, it opened the way for the rebels to enter the city with little resistance, according to the rebel minister. A pro-Qadhafi spokesman denied the unit surrendered or defected, but also called for immediate negotiations with the rebels. The video clips of rebels in Green Square in Tripoli belied the spokesman's denial.
The rebels also claim they have captured two of Qadhafi's sons, Saif al Islam and Saadi Qadhafi.
In a defiant broadcast, Qadhafi asked Libyans "How come you allow Tripoli the capital, to be under occupation once again? The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli." He has not yet been captured or killed and apparently has not fled.
Comment: The Qadhafi family rule effectively has ended. That is not the same as the end of fighting, but the regime ceased to exist when its chief military protectors surrendered their guns in Tripoli. Violent instability is centripetal and a rebel force has captured the center of power in Libya. Even if the rebels are driven out for a time by remnant pro-Qadhafi forces and loyalists hold on for a time in other towns, the regime is no longer functional. When Qadhafi is finally ousted or flees, Libya could become the first Arab state to experience a genuine, fundamental change of government, in other words, a revolution, in 2011.
One of the large uncertainties not mentioned in international press coverage is the identity of the rebel forces that entered Tripoli on Sunday. They appear to have come from the western forces that took Zawiya and which received a large arms supply from France recently. Although anit-Qadhafi, they are from different tribes than those supported from Benghazi.
The ability of the Benghazi leadership to restore order and take charge in Tripoli under some kind of arrangement with the western rebels and the willingness of the western rebes to accept Benghazi's leaders will be strong indicators of the durability of the rebel coalition. Prospects are doubtful. Regardless of whatever arrangement emerges between the two rebel branches, neither is likely to be willing or able to prevent a witch hunt against all the enablers of the Qadhafi family during the past 40 years.
Lesson for new analysts: One of the key measuring rules for violent internal instability is the side with the most, sometimes the best, guns wins. The surrender or defection of the Presidential Guard units in Tripoli changed the gun ratio in favor the rebels, despite their poor organization and discipline - evidenced by the mindless discharges of live ammunition into the air.
North Korea-Russia: For the record. Kim Chong-il, his son and heir apparent Kim Chong-un and an entourage crossed into Russia near Vladivostok on Saturday, North Korean and Russia press reported. Kim inspected a hydroelectric complex in the Far East. He is to meet his host, Russian President Medvedev in Ulan Ude in mid-week.
On Friday, the Korean Central News Agency announced that the Russian Federation had decided to provide North Korea with grant-in-aid of 50 000 tons of food. The first ship loaded with food arrived in Hungnam Port on Friday. Other aid ships are expected to come to the DPRK in the future.
Russia also donated food valued at $5 million through the World Food Program for North Korea.
Comment: The Russians appear to be making a move to increase their stature and influence in any future talks. North Korea always has been much closser to Russia than to China, despite public appearances. It probably expects to lever Russian ambition against the other members of the six-party talks.
Pakistan: Chief of Army Staff General Kayani said on 20 August that the army is ready to restore peace in Karachi if asked by the government and that the situation could be brought under control if Pakistani Rangers and police are used in an effective manner, The News reported on the 21st. Kayani said that Karachi is the center of the country's economy and that great injustice will be done if the situation there is allowed to continue for much longer.
Comment: This is Kayani's first public statement on the security situation in Karachi since last month's Army Corps Commanders' conference. The press release from that conference doubted that the civilian government's measures would suffice to control the situation.
This statement brings Army intervention closer. It is a strong request for an invitation because the civilian government's measures are failing. This creates a dilemma for the government. If the security situation continues to worsen, the Army has created a public justification for taking unilateral action. If the civilian government issues an invitation, it will have begun the process of relying on the Army for difficult problems, re-politicizing it and bringing it back into political decision making.
In reality, the Gilani government has no practical choice but to invite the Army to intervene in Karachi. Experience with Pakistan Army intervention in internal security crises is mixed. The Army usually overestimates its capabilities; the operations take longer and cost more than using the police and paramilitary forces and casualties are high while Army morale plummets. Nevertheless, there is no other force that can help.
Kashmir: Pakistan's Express Tribune news service reported on the 18th that the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), an affiliate of the Lashkar e Toiba (LeT), has resumed full-scale public activity. Activities include reaching out to former participants; working to regain its traditional physical and financial strength, and consolidating its fundraising, according to JeM members and Pakistani intelligence officials. The sources said avenues for fundraising for JeM include donors from within Pakistan as well as the Gulf states.
Comment: General Musharraf banned JeM in January 2002 for its reputed involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 that nearly led to general war between India and Pakistan. Despite suppression under Musharraf, the group has taken advantage of the more relaxed security atmosphere since his departure to reconstitute.
The Indian General Officer Commanding, 15th Army Corps in Jammu and Kashmir State, India, announced on 22 August that his forces have killed 12 or 13 leaders of JeM and LeT who were attempting to infiltrate the State from Pakistani Kashmir. He warned that August through October is the peak period for infiltration into the State because these are the months when the terrorists/militants transport supplies for winter.
Syria: Security forces killed 14 protesters on Friday, residents and activists said. According to witnesses, eight people were killed in Inkhil and Hirak, and one was killed in the Bab Amro district of Homs. Five people, including two children, were shot dead in Ghabaghab, south of Damascus, the director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
On 21 August, in a fourth public statement on unrest, President Bashar al-Asad said the unrest has become more violent in recent weeks, but that he is confident it can be controlled. He said that reforms will be introduced in the country, adding that a committee for the reforms will need at least six months to work on them. A parliamentary election is expected to be held in February 2012, al-Asad said. He promised that he would continue dialogue with protesters, especially the youth, and that there would be repercussions for any country that interferes with Syria's affairs.
Comment: Unlike Libya's Qadhafi, Asad retains the loyalty of the security forces, the bureaucracy and Syrian ethnic and religious minorities, plus the Sunni business community. Syria has an intact army. The state has not fragmented. It still has friends.
Concerning Syrian political isolation:
Comment: The reports that follow are reactions to the President Obama's call for President al-Asad to step down. It is risky for heads of state and government to make such demands, because they consider themselves equals and can make the same demand in reverse.
Iraq: Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr criticized US President Obama for interfering in Syrian affairs and rejected Western leaders' calls for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to resign, according to a statement released by al-Sadr's office. Al-Sadr said he supported the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. He distinguished the deposed leaders there from al-Asad, calling him a brother who opposes US colonial presence in the Middle East. Al-Sadr praised Syrians who oppose the United States and offered to mediate between protesters and the al-Asad regime
Turkey: A Turkish government official told the press that government leaders believe it is too early to urge Syrian President al-Asad to step down. First, Syrian citizens must call for al-Asad's exit, which has not occurred as it did in Egypt and Libya, the unnamed official said, adding that the Syrian opposition is not united. (Note: Syrian activists have called for Asad to step down. Following the visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister to Damascus this month, relations with Syria have worsened but Turkey has not called on Asad to step down.)
Russia: A Russian Foreign Ministry official told the press that Russia does not agree with US and European calls for Syrian President al-Asad to step down, believing instead that al-Asad needs time to implement all of his recently announced reforms. The source said Moscow views a recent al-Asad statement claiming an end to military operations in Syria as an important step forward. (Note: Despite Asad's statement, operations have continued, but at a slightly smaller scale.)
Final comment: Iranian and North Korean backing of Asad continues without public justification. Asad's other backers have justified their support based on false information and phony arguments. Nevertheless, Syria is not isolated as some contend.
Israel-Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing grad rockets on Ashdod, Israel, on 19 August. The group, which has ties to al Qaida, said the attack was in response to the assassination of Popular Resistance Committees military leadership and "Israel's crimes."
Israel Defense Forces had a firefight with armed militants attempting to enter Israel from Egypt overnight on Aug. 21, Israel Radio reported.
Gaza militants have agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to stop the recent violence, an unnamed senior Hamas official said on 21 August. The official said that militant groups in Gaza agreed that the truce would go into effect on the evening of 21 August. Hamas security personnel would enforce the agreement brokered by Egypt, the official said. Egypt told the groups that Israel would agree to halt its airstrikes only if the Palestinians stopped rocket attacks first, the official said. A spokesman for Israel's government would not comment on the matter.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) released a statement on 21 August that it is no rush to declare a cease-fire. The statement said that Israel has asked for a break in fighting due to the blows it has suffered. An unnamed senior member of the Islamic Jihad earlier confirmed that representatives of the organization took part in talks in Cairo of a cease-fire.
Comment: Hamas apparently has concluded at last that the ceasefire enhances prospects for Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly session next month. However, without the concurrence of PIJ, the security situation in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel appears headed for deterioration.
End of NightWatch for 21 August.
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