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NightWatch 20110206


For the Night of 6 February 201

India: Indian Navy and coastguard captured a suspected pirate "mothership" in a firefight off southwestern India 6 February, detaining 52 people of unknown nationalities. Agence France-Presse reported that it is not known how many detainees were pirates or rescued hostages. Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Captain M. Nambiar said the "mothership" is a Thai fishing vessel that was hijacked in September 2010 off the coast of Somalia and is believed to have been a floating base of operations for attacks on shipping.

Comment: The effectiveness of the international anti-piracy patrols is measured by the distance the Somali pirates now sail to try to seize ships. The international flotilla has succeeded in pushing the pirates farther from shore, eastward in the Indian Ocean, which explains the incident described above. Success at this distance from Somalia means the pirates have sophisticated gear and significant backing to purchase the equipment and outfit the motherships.

Iran: For the record. An Iranian court began closed-door proceedings in the Tehran Revolutionary Court -- which deals with security-related charges -- against three Americans detained 18 months ago and accused of spying, Associated Press reported on the 6th. A late report indicated the two Americans pleader not guilty.

One American, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September 2010 while her fiancé Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remained in custody.

Comment: The start of legal proceedings means that the Iranians are now ready to bring this issue to a stage of closure. The sentence the two men receive sets the baseline for any negotiations to secure their return to the US. This development represents progress, compared to the legal limbo the men have endured. It does not mean the men will be released soon, but it opens the possibility that their return might come eventually.

Egypt: During the weekend, talks occurred between the government and the opposition leaders. Tension appears to have eased a bit. The police are staying out of sight and the Army is controlling Tahrir Square, where a hard core of protestors remains encamped.

Comment: The US administration somehow professes to know that the Egyptian "people" want free and fair elections, and said so again on 6 February.

This should raise questions among Readers. How does anyone know what the Egyptian people want? It is clear from the protest signs that a vocal minority of Egyptians wants Mubarak to resign. It is not clear what the other 79 million or more Egyptians want or what the protestors want to replace Mubarak. That is what is so dangerous.

The negotiations this weekend between Vice President Suleiman and the opposition involved the same old cast of characters. If a revolution is occurring in Egypt, how come its representatives and spokesmen are the same people who have been co-opted by the Mubarak regime.

This looks like Tunisia where the same cast of government and opposition politicians continue to negotiate with each other. So what is revolutionary about this?

Consider, the result of a new free and fair election could be the re-election of Mubarak for a term of office he did not seek. What would the US administration say to that? There are no recent polls or elections and most international press has been suppressed. It is unclear on what basis the US administration can be so confident about what Egyptians want.

This is mirror imaging and bias at work. The US appears to have not thought through carefully the implications of its meddling. The US supported elections in Palestine and a HAMAS victory in Gaza was the result. In Iraq, putting the best face on events, Iran gained influence in Baghdad that it never had before, as the result of elections.

As one former US official observed last week, pro-democracy means supporting elections, which Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently described as a way station en route to a goal. Elections signify nothing about the resulting government.

Many statements about Egypt are Western mirror-imaging. Liberal democracy is not even close to being established in Egypt. A religious tyranny is much more likely, but there is insufficient reliable data for cheerleading or for sackcloth and ashes at this point.

End of NightWatch for 6 February.

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