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NightWatch 20110420


For the Night of 20 April 2011

Iran-Egypt: For the record. Iran will appoint its ambassador to Egypt and open its embassy in Cairo within six months, an Iranian Foreign Ministry source said on 20 April.

Bahrain: Bahraini citizen Ibrahim Ghuloom Abdul-Wahab is on trial in Bahrain for ties to Iran, according to press reports. Abdul-Wwahab is suspected of passing classified military information and economic data to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and has allegedly been a paid informant since 2002.

Comment: The announcement does not indicate the suspect had any connection to the Shiite uprising in Bahrain, but the timing of the announcement seems intended to create that perception. Bahrain appears to be trying to make a public case to support its charge that Iran has incited unrest in Bahrain. Bahrain has a long way to go.

Afghanistan-Turkey-US: For the record. US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said that reports that the Afghan Taliban are setting up an office in Ankara, Turkey, are true, Pakistan's GEO TV reported 20 April. According to the report, the office in Ankara is believed to have the approval of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Comment: This report indicates the US and others are trying to establish a point of contact with the Taliban that is Pakistan-neutral but authoritative. If the Afghan Taliban leadership is cooperating, that means it is ready to explore making a deal or at least listen to US proposals.

Yemen: A plan to have President Saleh step down within 30 days of its announcement is at the center of discussions aiming to solve the political crisis in Yemen, a Yemeni official told the media.

The plan would guarantee immunity for Saleh, his family and aides, and would require that he transfer power to a deputy. Elections would be held 60 days after Saleh transfers power, Secretary-General for the Yemeni Institute for the Development of Democracy Ahmed al-Soufi said.

Mohammed Abu Lahoum, the head of Yemen's new Justice and Development Bloc formed by former members of the ruling party, said President Saleh should be granted immunity from prosecution as part of a transfer of power agreement to swiftly end the country's political standoff. Lahoum said others who committed violent acts should still be brought to justice, but granting Saleh immunity was worth it if it means he quickly relinquishes power.

Comment: A deal apparently is in the works and is coming to closure. The opposition has settled for expediency and speed over accountability, provided the arrangement results in a quick departure by Saleh. It remains unclear whether Saleh's departure will lead to systemic political change, more civil strife among oppositions groups competing for power or a change of leadership with no significant change in the existing power structure. The fractiousness of the opposition with no clear leader seems to portend more strife after Saleh leaves.

Syria: For the record. Thousands of Syrians protested in Homs on 20 April in defiance of security forces and a warning by officials to stop all demonstrations. Protesters chanted slogans calling for the downfall of the regime. According to activists, about 3,000 protesters demonstrated.

End of NightWatch for 20April.

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