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NightWatch 20110320


For the Night of 20 March 2011

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported, "The U.S. imperialist aggressor troops present in South Korea are committing ceaseless reckless military provocations even in the area very close to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in the zone under the control of the north and the south on the West coast these days."

"…A total of more than 100 U.S. imperialist aggressor troops entered the area 100 meters from the MDL in the zone under the control of the north and the south on the West coast more than 50 times without any prior notice and unhesitatingly committed grave provocations against the north side from Mar. 1 to 8.

"…The North side warns that it will no longer tolerate the above-said grave military provocations being perpetrated, timed to coincide with the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises for aggression, and the attitude of the south side conniving at and encouraging them.

If the south side lets the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces strut about in areas near the MDL as they please defying our warnings, it will be held wholly responsible for all the ensuing consequences including casualties. "

Comment: A few paragraphs of he North's semi-hysterical comment were omitted. They refer to bringing women into the Demilitarized Zone and throwing the "empties" across the MDL. Yes, the North is threatening war because the South was partying in the DMZ. The grave provocations are beer bottles thrown northward, which were naturally timed to Allied exercises.

North Korean propaganda is farcical on slow news days, as when the world's focus is anywhere but on North Korea.

China: Dr. George Will wrote an insightful op-ed piece that was published in the Washington Post on 20 March about Chinese naval officers venerating the desk of Alfred Thayer Mahan, a good strategist for his time and a mediocre ship commander.

Comment: The key point is that the Chinese are pursuing an American path to great power status, with a Chinese flair. Mahan was prescribing a future strategy for the United States, which had, and has, two oceanic theaters of naval operations, but did not depend heavily on imports.

Mahan foresaw a future the US could choose, but was not critical to its survival at that time. China does not have that choice.

The Chinese maritime defense problem is complicated because it includes three seas off China plus the Indian Ocean which washes no Chinese shores. China's ability to project naval power is becoming a matter of economic necessity and a core strategic asset. Eventually, it must confront the United States Navy, but it will be decades behind US naval strategic experience and thought.

For example, the US media expected a US aircraft carrier as an essential component of any force about to attack Libya. The essential air defense suppression problem was solved by a handful of US and United Kingdom submarines, launching cruise missiles. No US or NATO member aircraft carriers participated in the initial attacks.

The US knows both the strengths and weaknesses of Mahan's naval doctrine as it may be applied. The Chinese do not, but are fast learners. The coalition attacks on Libya over the weekend will have taken the Chinese naval strategists back to the classroom.

Bahrain: The General Federation for Bahrain Trade Unions (GFWTUB) called for nationwide strikes to continue until foreign troops withdraw from the kingdom and pro-government militias are disbanded, GFWTUB General Secretary Sayed Salman said.

Speaking following a GFWTUB meeting, Salman said the union, which represents more than 60 trade unions across Bahrain, does not want to damage the economy permanently but must extend the strike, because of attacks against workers. Salman claimed that 70 percent of Bahraini workers are on strike.

Comment: The direct threat to the monarchy has eased, but it has not been removed.

Outnumbered by anti-riot police, dozens of Saudi men and women protested outside Riyadh's Interior Ministry, demanding the release of thousands of detainees held without trial for years.

Witnesses say a number of protesters were arrested today after trying to push their way into the building, heavily fortified by about 2,000 special forces and some 200 police vehicles.

Yemen: President Saleh dissolved his government over the weekend, but asked ministers to stay on as caretakers.

Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation called on Saleh to step down following a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters. Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashid confederation of which Saleh's tribe is a member, issued a statement asking Saleh to capitulate to the people's demands to leave his post peacefully. Several religious scholars signed the statement. Meanwhile, huge crowds joined the funeral processions for some of the 52 people killed in protests on 18 March.

Unconfirmed reports allege that senior army and air force leaders have joined the rebellion. No further details are available.

Comment: If Saleh has lost the support of his tribe and key military commanders, then his time as President has begun its final countdown.

For the government, the main purpose of power sharing is to stabilize conditions in order to buy time. Saleh apparently does not understand when he is not beaten, but must compromise in order to fight another day. The threat in Yemen is that Islamic fundamentalists will take control of the uprising.

Egypt: For the record.  Official results showed that 77 percent of voters in the 19 March referendum supported the government's proposed constitutional changes, BBC reported 20 March. An official said that 41 percent of the 45 million eligible voters voted.

The constitutional changes include reducing presidential terms from six years to four years, limiting presidents to two terms, obliging the president to choose a deputy within 30 days of election and new criteria for presidential candidates, including rules that they must be over 40 years old and not be married to a non-Egyptian.

Comments: As under Mubarak, Egyptians voted as the government told them to vote. None of the amendments limit the day-to-day powers of the president, who is authorized to be a tyrant. There was and is no balance of power or substantive restraints on the power of the president in the Egyptian government.

Libya: A Libyan government spokesman said that Libyan armed forces have been told to follow a cease-fire starting 20 March at 9:00 p.m. local time, adding that the country is facing "barbaric armed aggression," BBC reported. A no-fly zone has been established in less than 24 hours.

Comment; Qadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, admitted Saturday that he did not expect an attack. The family made a strategic miscalculation, but is in a bunker nevertheless.

Qadhafi has cried "uncle" at least once before, but loyalist forces pressed the attack. The effects of the attacks over the weekend have been to freeze the battlefield while equalizing the forces.

This situation creates a potential stalemate, depending on what the rebels do next and how the Coalition reacts to a rebel offensive against Qadhafi and company in Tripoli.

General Comment: The Coalition decided to attack air defenses as the first step in establishing a no-fly zone. This decision implies general intent to enable it to do anything else that might prove necessary using air power. The UN Resolution is broad.

The no-fly zone was in effect the moment the last cruise missile hit. The international media suggest France leads the coalition, but that is a ruse. Only American commanders command American forces. Obviously, a specialization of effort is in effect. The US and UK have taken the lead in destroying Qadhafi's air defenses and air offensive capability. No other nations could accomplish that with no risk of loss.

Apparently command and control of the next phase of the operation will be the responsibility of other members of the coalition. The Italians have offered to host the command center,

China: The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the multinational military strike against Libya, saying that it did not agree with resorting to force in international relations. "China has noticed the latest developments in Libya and regrets the military strike against Libya."

Turkey: The government in Ankara called on Libyan leader Qadhafi to step down, BBC News reported. According to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Qadhafi has contradicted himself and should hand over power to someone who has legitimacy.

Arab League: Egyptian presidential candidate and League leader Amr Moussa told the press the Coalition attacks against Qadhafi ground forces were not what the League had in mind when it voted to support a no-fly zone.

Morocco: Thousands of Moroccans took to the street, calling for political reforms and improved civil rights. The protests, which were called by the February 20 Movement, took place despite the pledge made recently by King Mohammad VI that political reforms would take place, including one that would give more power to parliament.

Comment: Of all the protests that have taken place during the so-called Arab spring, these are the least understandable, except as public pressure on the King to keep reform promises he has already made.

End of NightWatch for 20 March.

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