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NightWatch 20111123

NightWatch

For the night of 23 November 2011

Russia-NATO: President Medvedev ordered army leaders to prepare to deploy the Iskander-M road-mobile weapons system to the Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland.

Medvedev warned that other weapons could be placed in southern and western Russia, enabling them to strike European targets within minutes. He said Russia also plans to create new defense systems that would allow Russian missiles to penetrate the NATO shield. Although Russia will continue to negotiate, NATO and the United States are not interested in compromise, Medvedev said, adding that failure to reach an agreement could lead to the next arms race.

Comment: The Russian statement that US and NATO missile bases will be targeted is a statement of prudent targeting. It has no escalatory or ominous content. Everybody targets the other side's bases. That has been the case for half a century and modern press hype actually lags prudent defense planning by Russia and NATO.

Moving beyond the bluster and irresponsible and ignorant press coverage, Readers need to appreciate that Prime Minister Putin is the "czar" of Russia and that Putin considers the present US administration to be a God-send for Putin's plan to restore Russian military and security capabilities.

That means that President Medvedev and other Russian officials may be relied on to exaggerate Western threats to Russian security interests because they help generate more money for Russian forces and help restore Russia as a great power, consequential in the resolution of all global security issues, which Russia is not now. For this reason, for example, Russia invariably will back Iran in any confrontation with the US, even though Russia absolutely has  no strategic interest in a nuclear armed Iran on its southern border. However, Russia is determined to be a player.

Conversely, the day that Russia ceases its opposition to US and Western sanctions on Iran would be the day that Russian intelligence has concluded that Iran has a deliverable nuclear weapon, not just a weapons program.

Yemen: President Saleh and the opposition signed the Gulf Cooperation Council power transfer deal in the presence of Saudi King Abdallah, Al Arabiya reported on 23 November.

Saleh told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that he will go to New York City for medical treatment immediately after signing the deal. Ban said Saleh told him of the trip to New York during a telephone conversation on 22 November.

Executive powers will be transferred to Vice President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi as soon as the accord is signed. A delegation representing the opposition coalition is on its way to Riyadh to sign a practical mechanism and timeline accord for the initiative, according to the statement.

Comment: Saleh's infirmity appears to be a key driver in this agreement.

Egypt: Rioting continued for a fifth day. Protestors reportedly rejected the military government's compromise for early elections. The protestors supposedly want the immediate installation of a national unity government, of some kind.

Comment: The Egyptian Army is in a position to grant nearly any demand by the activists because their demands have almost no significance for or bearing on running a country. In any elections in the next year, organizations from the old regime will win… the youth lose.

Egyptian political parties are considering appealing to Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to postpone the first stage of parliamentary elections for two weeks. If granted, the request will delay polling in nine governorates, including Cairo and Alexandria.

Comment: The non-Islamists are not ready for next week's elections, not to mention next year's. All political outcomes lead towards a victory by the most organized political groups, which means the Muslim Brotherhood.

Algeria-Mauritania-Mali-Niger: For the record. Military officials from Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger will form a joint air force to combat al Qaida in the Sahel region, El-Khabar reported on 23 November. Military experts identified four areas in Mali and Niger believed to be havens for militant groups and the Sahara Emirate, which has ties to al Qaida. The joint air forces' operational and reconnaissance command will be based in Algeria to carry out airstrikes against Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and areas of northern Mali and Niger.

Comment: This decision should improve coordination and simplify logistics because all the countries are part of Francophone Africa. Pooling and integration of otherwise limited national assets should produce advantages for high-tech support to regional counter-terror operations.

End of NightWatch for 23 November.

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