For the night of 12 August 2012
Syria: The only significant news is the opposition claims to control a secure zone north of Aleppo that links to Turkey. The opposition says, however, that it needs air defense weapons, implying it is not as secure as it claims.
The opposition claim coincides with a US report that CIA is carefully controlling the weapons it dispenses through Turkey because it does not want Islamists to overthrow the al Asad government, but does not want them to lose.
Comment: Control of a secure base is part of the definition of civil war and distinguishes it from an uprising. The opposition claim is probably premature, as long as the Syrian government has an air force.
The US administration reportedly and belatedly does not want the opposition to win because it fears that the US may have abetted genocide, if the al Asad regime collapses in violence. The Syrian opposition fighters from all over the Middle East have committed so many atrocities against Syrian minorities and prisoners that international organizations have denounced the opposition.
The US wants, apparently, some kind of negotiated arrangement, but cannot control the violence it has released, encouraged and supported.
Egypt: By now most Readers know that Field Marshal Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff General Sami Enan have retired and been replaced as of 12 August. The June 2012 constitutional declaration by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, limiting presidential powers, has been rescinded, repealed or made null and void, by a resurgent President Mursi. Both military men remain as advisors to President Mursi.
Tanta WI's replacement is General Abdellatif Sisi. Enan's replacement is General Sidki Sobhi.
Comment: Western press coverage of the event ranges from the absurd to the curious. The absurd versions are that Mursi stood up and ordered them to retire, essentially firing them on his own authority.. That is clearly not consistent with reports that he consulted with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces before taking any action.
The details of that consultation are critical to any judgments of the significance of what happened and are what makes it most curious. There are no reports about the substance of the consultation.
One thing that is certain is that the US has been viscerally opposed to an elected president of Egypt whose powers were limited by an armed forces veto. That view appears to have deterred investors and potential aid donors as well because the political power arrangement was not stable enough to encourage investment or aid.
Thus, without warning and no power, Mursi has transformed Egypt into a respectable presidential democracy, waiting for a parliament. This is almost risible and not to be taken seriously based on weekend reports. For example it is not clear whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still exists. It is not clear whether Tantawi was ousted by his subordinates in the same way that he ousted his President, Mubarak. How does this affect multiple law suits against nearly everyone in public office?
On the evidence adduced to date, this looks like a face-lift for Egyptian democracy to satisfy American sensibilities and to attract investors, but without really changing the underlying power-sharing arrangement. Nothing indicates the Egyptian armed forces surrendered to Mursi their exclusive control of defense interests, internal security problems and military economic enterprises.
It is all cosmetics with no substance.
Morocco: Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against corruption, high costs of living and the jailing of activists in Morocco's main cities on 11 August. The demonstrations were called for by rights groups, trade unionists and the 20 February Movement amid public frustration at the perceived failure of the government to uphold its electoral promises.
Comment: It is premature to make judgments about political stability at this time, except that the Monarchy looks stable and progressive. Nevertheless, low level protests of this kind have been the precursors of the Arab spring.
The King has been ahead of the curve in liberalizing the political system, but such measures in other countries have only encouraged the activists, rather than satisfied them. At this point, the activists have small numbers and are weekend agitators.
The NightWatch hypothesis is that the Arab monarchies are determined to save themselves against onslaughts of democracy, but are in as much danger as the civilian governments.
Saudi Arabia's interest in Syria, thus, is clearly anti-democracy as well as anti-Iran, as is Qatar's. Over the weekend several Imams issued fatwas that democracy is not consistent with Islam. This is a long standing view of all conservative Muslim clerics, by the way, but it will not save the Arab monarchies.
Morocco is in danger of becoming the next victim of the so-called Arab spring. Morocco poses significant challenges to the Arab monarchs because of the geographic distances involved in lending aid to the King and the vast cultural differences between Moroccans and, say, Saudi Arabians. \
The Kingdom is not in danger at this time., however, The process of undermining a monarchy is just beginning.
End of NightWatch for 12 August.
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