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NightWatch 20120710

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NightWatch

For the night of 10 July 2012

Afghanistan: For the record. The Taliban denied responsibility for the execution of the woman caught in adultery. A Taliban spokesman blamed the execution on tribal, clan and family leaders who took videos of the execution and posted them on the Internet.

Comment: Local leaders in Parwan Province, where the execution took place, are not known to have exacted rigid Islamic punishments for sexual misconduct. Parwan Province is one of the more modernized provinces, owing to the large US military base and presence at Bagram and the overflow of US money and influence throughout the province.

The execution is consistent with past Taliban practice in accord with its interpretations of Sharia.

Syria: UN special envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday that 'Iran can play a positive role' in ending the shooting between Syrian rebels and government forces. He also declared that Iran should be 'part of the solution in the Syrian crisis.'

Annan made the assertion in a news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Neither men provided ideas about how Iran might help bring an end to the shooting.

Comment: Annan is the first western leader who admitted in public  that the Syrian fighting is a proxy battle between Iran and the opposition, backed by Saudi Arabia. That is the significance of today's statements.

The US is acting as a Saudi proxy when it could be acting as a neutral honest broker. Kofi Annan's comments are refreshingly honest for a change.

Russia-Syria: Russia sent five amphibious landing ships, two support ships, one tanker and three escort ships to the Mediterranean Sea on 10 July, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement. The ships will be conducting combat training exercises focusing on improving interoperability across the Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets. Some will make port calls in Syria, according to the Russians.

Comment: This announcement makes a sharp contrast with western media coverage of Syrian opposition discussions with Russian officials in Moscow. The upshot of the western press commentary is that Moscow is hedging its bets on the al Asad government in Damascus.

A more detached view is that the Russians are being duplicitous. In Moscow, they are sounding out the opposition on behalf of the Syrian government. In the Mediterranean, they are displaying their support for the Syrian government. 

The discriminator that identifies the real Russian policy is the naval deployment because it requires real costs in support of an ally. Talk is cheap, but ship deployments are not and they signify commitment.

Egypt: The Supreme Constitutional Court on Tuesday issued a ruling suspending President Mohamed Mursi's decree reinstating the People's Assembly, the lower house of Egypt's parliament.

Before the Court ruled Mursi acted unconstitutionally, the parliament session opened Tuesday at 10:20am and remained in session for 12 minutes. The Speaker of the People's Assembly El-Katatni argued that President Mursi had not violated the Court's decision by reinstating parliament. The only order of business was to pass a resolution empowering the People's Assembly to seek an appeal in the court system.

The People's Assembly sessions will not resume until the Appeal Court gives its ruling on the standing of members of the lower and upper houses of parliament based on Article 40 of the 30 March 2011 Constitutional Declaration which was issued by the SCAF.

Comment: The Brotherhood miscalculated and blinked. The governmental institutions that have leaders appointed by Mubarak stood together to force the Brothers and the Salafists to back down. The latter are not yet powerful enough to provoke a lengthy constitutional crisis and that is what they learned from this two day confrontation.

Curiously, a Brotherhood source told the Egyptian press that President Mursi consulted the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before he announced his order to convene the People's Assembly. The SCAF publicly denied collusion with President Mursi.

The cycle of challenge and response is now reset.

Libya: Official election returns have not been published. Western media have proclaimed a "landslide "victory for so-called moderates in Libya's Mediterranean cities. However the returns from the Fezzan region of the south and the regions outside the cities suggest the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and associated Islamist parties have made a strong showing.

Comment: The western press' penchant to conflate urban voting results with the final outcome in Arab states is perplexing because the two have not been congruent in any countries that have experienced the so-called Arab spring.

Regardless of the vote totals, Libya will never become the model of a western democracy transplanted in North Africa. Libya does not have political parties or organizations, except for the Muslim Brotherhood. It has had no experience with democracy in two generations. It has had no experience with parliamentary government in two generations. It has experience with Islam and Islamic socialism a la Qadhafi.

The western commentary that the Libyan elections have stopped the perversion of democracy in Arab states in favor of Islamic fundamentalism is, at best, wishful thinking.

Greece: For the record. The Greek government needs 3.5 billion (US$4.3 billion) in revenue now to get its reform program back on track, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said on 10 July in Brussels.

The program must be back on track before the government can demand lenders to ease the bailout deal terms, Stournaras said.

Comment: Stournaras did not specify how or when the reform program got off track. The Greeks are telling the Germans they need another bailout, which is the inevitable and foreseeable consequence of using loans to pay off debt. The only surprise apparently is how quickly the Greeks have burned through the previous bailout.

End of NightWatch for 10 July.

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