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NightWatch 20120913

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NightWatch

For the night of 13 September 2012

Anti-US protests: On 12 and 13 September anti-US protests spread. What follows is a summary of open source reporting about protests in 12 countries and Gaza City.

Yemen: Hundreds of Yemeni demonstrators stormed the US Embassy in Sana'a on Thursday in protest of the film. Unidentified witnesses said the demonstrators smashed windows of the security offices outside the embassy before breaking through the main gate of the compound. The protesters were on the embassy's grounds but did not enter the building housing the offices.

Security guards opened fire and there were reports of casualties on both sides. One Yemeni was reported to have been killed. Security forces regained control of the compound, using tear gas, water cannon and live fire to drive back protesters.

Egypt: BBC and other sources reported up to 200 persons were injured in clashes on 13 September between Egyptian security forces and demonstrators outside the US Embassy in Cairo. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters who threw stones and petrol bombs near the embassy, state television reported. The demonstrators set a police van on fire and blocked a road leading to the embassy near Tahrir Square in central Cairo.

In a TV statement on Thursday, President Mohamed Mursi said, "Expressing opinion, freedom to protest and announcing positions are guaranteed but without assaulting private or public property, diplomatic missions or embassies." He pledged to protect foreigners and condemned the killing of the US envoy in Libya.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood issued statements that criticized the violence, while calling for peaceful nationwide protests on Friday.

Morocco: Hundreds of Muslims protested on 12 September outside the US consulate in Casablanca. The 300 to 400 mostly young activists stayed about 200 yards from the consulate which was protected by police. Some shouted anti-US slogans, including "Death to Obama!", but there was no violence.

Sudan: Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the American embassy in Khartoum on 12 September, an embassy official said. The official said the embassy compound was not breached and that embassy staff met with some protestors and took their written demands.

Tunisia: On 13 September Tunisian police fired tear gas to disperse several hundred demonstrators who attempted to breach the gates of the US Embassy compound in Tunis.

Police sent reinforcements and stationed a military vehicle outside. Mobile units patrolled the area.

Iraq: Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protested in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra on 13 September. According to news service reporting, thousands of people, including some MPs from Sadr's parliamentary bloc, marched for about an hour in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Some burned an American flag. Sadr urged the Iraqi government to summon the US envoy and to impose a ban on visitors.

Sadrist cleric Sheikh Ali al-Atwani called for the Iraqi government to close the US embassy in Baghdad, for the US to issue an apology, and for other Arab countries to close US diplomatic missions.

In Najaf, demonstrators shouted slogans against the United States and Israel, but were controlled by security forces.

In Basra, hundreds demonstrated and both Sunni and Shiite clerics participated. "We have to fire the US ambassador because these things are carried out under US supervision and are aimed at offending Islam and Muslims," referring to the anti-Islamic film.

Iran: In Tehran on the 13th, Iranian students protested outside the Swiss embassy which looks after US interests in Iran. Iran reinforced the security detail around the embassy, Fars news agency reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the main suspects behind the "crazy and hateful" making of the film were the American government and Zionism. "If American politicians are honest in their claims that they were not involved, they have to hold responsible those who committed this obscene crime ... and their financial supporters," the official IRNA news agency reported.

Israel: A few dozen members of the Islamic Movement in Israel held a nonviolent protest outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Gaza City: The Hamas government's ministry of religious endowments called on the protesters gathered outside the legislative council building in Gaza City to "boycott American products."

The Minister called for new demonstrations to be held after Friday prayers.

Pakistan: Press TV reported that Pakistan's largest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, plans to hold peaceful demonstrations against the US over the anti-Islam movie. Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hassan expressed support for peaceful protests against the blasphemous film.

Demonstrations are expected in Peshawar and Lahore.

Afghanistan: President Karzai postponed a trip to Norway today. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said, "The reason is that the president, in light of the serious events in some Arab countries in the past day, sees a need to be in Afghanistan." 

The Taliban issued a statement encouraging anti-US demonstrations on Friday.

Bangladesh: In Dhaka, about 1,000 people protested and threatened to step up their protests after they were blocked from approaching the US embassy. The protesters burned a US flag and demanded an immediate apology from the United States. "We will stage bigger protests over the issue and may also besiege the US Embassy," one leader said.

Police said security around the embassy had been tightened ahead of Friday, the day for weekly Muslim prayers when big crowds can gather.

Oman: A small non-violent protest occurred in Muscat.

Comment: More protests will occur in Muslim countries on Friday after prayers. Some might turn violent. This is a warning.

The number of governments and groups around the world that have expressed condolences to the US for the deaths in Benghazi is larger than the number of countries that have experienced protests. However, the number of governments that specifically have denounced the breaching of the US Embassy compound in Cairo  is much smaller. 

On the other hand, almost every country that experienced anti-US demonstrations also sent policy and security reinforcements to protect the US Embassy compounds and to control demonstrators on the day they first gathered. Most appear ready to protect US embassies after Friday prayers. 

Several commentators have written articles that provide insights about the local dimensions to many of the protests. To summarize, in many countries, the religious nature of the protests has blended with local grievances against the government.

That explains, for example, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's public statement and call to lead the next round of protests in Cairo. Egyptian Salafists -- strictly devout and sometimes militant Muslims - are challenging the Brotherhood for Islamic leadership. In Iraq, the Shiite cleric Sadr exploited the Muslim outrage over the anti-Muslim film to show the continued relevance and organizational capabilities of his movement. In Tunisia, Tunisian Salafists have demonstrated regularly, sometimes resulting in clashes with government security forces, over the direction of the state.

Demonstrations in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the anti-Muslim film also will serve to advance the political objectives of local political/religious parties and groups, including the Taliban, against the governments.

US-Egypt: For the record. During this Watch, a State Department spokesperson clarified that Egypt is among the top US allies in the Middle East.

Comment: This statement was made to clarify or correct an earlier statement that Egypt is not an ally and not an enemy of the US.

Administrative Note to Readers: Feedback from last night's edition indicates it is time for a reminder of what NightWatch is and how it presents its analytical judgments.

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End of NightWatch for 13 September.

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