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NightWatch 20110124


For the Night of 24 January 2011

Iraq: Six people were killed and 10 were injured when two car bombs exploded one after another in a parking lot in the al-Ibrahimiyah area in eastern Karbala. According to a police source, several nearby vehicles and buildings were destroyed in the blast.

Comment: This was the second attack of this kind in a week. Some Sunni groups are trying to incite sectarian civil warfare again.

Russia: At least 35 people were killed by the suicide bomb at Domodedovo airport. Airport representative Elena Galanova issued an official statement in which she said the blast struck the international arrivals hall in the common area, to which citizens who are not passengers have access. Consequently, the explosion occurred outside the baggage claim area, close to people who may not have been passengers.

Ria Novosti reported that Russian security services had received warning of a possible terrorist attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport, a law enforcement source said, but airport authorities denied receiving any warning.

Comment: Multiple news services reported that the head of the bomber was found intact. That is always the signature of an explosive vest worn by the suicide bomber. Pakistani media have made that observation repeatedly. They always find the head.

The features of the head were described as resembling an "Arab," which could also match the features of a Chechen or a Caucasian.

One point that is clear is that Russian airport security is so poor that it failed to detect a person wearing an explosives vest. If the Ria Novosti report proves accurate, the failure to communicate threat information to airport authorities -- who had the ability to make low cost quick security upgrades, but were not given the opportunity -- makes Russian intelligence cooperation comparable to that of the US in 2001.

Lebanon: Fifty-nine Lebanese lawmakers voted to nominate Najib Mikati to be the next Lebanese prime minister, while 49 lawmakers voted to nominate current caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to the post, Al-Manar reported today, 24 January. With that vote, a pro-Hezbollah politician has the task of assembling a cabinet.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's candidacy as the next prime minister reportedly won the blessing of Syria, France and Qatar after intensive contacts between Paris and Doha and other prominent regional capitals, Narharnet reported. According to the report, Amal Movement and Hezbollah MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Hajj Hussein Khalil conveyed the opposition's desire for his candidacy on a home visit to Mikati on the 22d.

Mikati's backers want the new government to terminate Lebanon's agreement with the international tribunal, end its financing and withdraw Lebanese judges as well as referring the false witnesses to the Lebanese Judicial

Security. Public protests began across Lebanon hours after former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the Hezbollah-backed candidate for the premiership, was assured of becoming prime minister-designate. Disorders were reported in multiple regions.

More than 500 people gathered in the northern city of Tripoli to protest the Hezbollah-backed prime ministerial candidate. The protesters vowed to return for more protests on the 25th. Residents of northern Lebanon's Beddawi region blocked the main road with flaming tires to protest Mikati's nomination. Other reports said protesters blocked the Qalamoun road in the north.

Murr Television reported that protests broke out across Beirut in support of Saad al-Hariri for prime minister and that the Jnah-Sports City highway in Beirut was blocked with flaming tires. Chouf towns in Ikleem al-Kharroub, including Chehim, Barja, Darayya and Katarmaya, have had protests against Mikati's nomination, Murr Television reported. Orange Television reported that Barja residents blocked their town's roads with burning tires.

Comment: Mikati's coalition still needs six more votes to claim the right to form a government, but no knowledgeable observers doubt that he will find the votes during the second day of discussions on the 25th. Mikati is a telecommunications entrepreneur, is considered very pro-Syria and served briefly as prime minister in 2005 after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. His return virtually embodies the restoration of Syrian influence in Beirut and is a bitter defeat for the Hariri clan and all who backed them.

Tunisia: An announcement may be made soon on a new council to oversee Tunisia's Cabinet, issue a new electoral code, and hold elections, according to Sihen Bensedrine, the head of Tunisian non-governmental organization the National Council for Liberties.

The transitional government and the committee created for political reform are in talks to disband the parliament, develop a council that would supervise the interim government and could retain Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. The council would hold elections for a basic parliament, which would rewrite the Constitution to include the labor unions, the bar association, civil society groups and political parties including Ennahda, an Islamist party.

Tunisian security forces and demonstrators clashed on the 24th during an anti-government protest near the office of interim Premier Mohammed Ghannouchi in Tunis. Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators after they threw stones at security forces, reports said.

Comment: The announcement of political reform would signify the capitulation of the old regime politicians. It is hardly credible at this stage. Nevertheless, it is representative of what some politicians hope will take place. The revolution is still emerging.

Ripple Effects

Jordan: The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front in Jordan promise to continue to protest living conditions, according to local Jordanian press. They will coordinate with the National Forum, which includes opposition parties and professional associations.

Egypt: The head of security in Cairo said police would deal "firmly and decisively" with any individuals attempting to participate in an unauthorized protest on 25 January, based on orders from Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly.The opposition Muslim Brotherhood confirmed its intention to participate in the planned protest, which was organized by a group called Revolution Day

End of NightWatch for 24 January.

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