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NightWatch 20110705


For the Night of 5 July 2011

Syria: President Bashar al Assad has turned to reforms because he understands that the military is not the only way to end the conflict in the country, Israeli military intelligence chief Major General Aviv Kochavi said on 5 July, Ynet reported.

The Syrian army has not seen many defections, only about 20 to 30 officers and a few hundred soldiers have left, Kochavi said. Most of the Syrian army remains loyal to Asad, especially high-ranking Alawite officers, who believe that quelling the demonstrations is a legitimate mission, Kochavi said. Al Asad's position will be much weaker if he remains in power after the riots, Kochavi added.

Comment: This is a balanced, if somewhat self-serving, assessment that matches the facts in Syria. It is self-serving because the Israeli government has a strong interest in the survival of the Asad regime and seeks to counter anti-Asad propaganda in Western news coverage. A more puritanical Sunni replacement regime could pose a much more serious threat to Israel than Syria has under the Alawites.

This assessment, however, contradicts most US news coverage which insists that Bashar and his government are in grave peril. That is what Syrian Sunni opposition leaders in exile would have the Western press believe. Bashar al Asad might be replaced eventually -- for his lack of leadership skills -- but not while the unrest persists.  The Alawite control of the government appears secure.

Egypt: Hundreds of Egyptians scuffled with security guards in a court in Cairo and blocked a major road for hours after a judge ordered the release of 10 police officers charged with killing protesters during the country's uprising.

Monday's unrest added to tension over the ruling military council's failure to hold accountable security forces involved in killing protesters during the demonstrations that toppled the former president, Hosni Mubarak."

Comment: The NightWatch position is that there has been no revolution in Egypt. As a result, few, if any, of Mubarak's appointees will ever come to trial. Thus far, that prediction is accurate.

Status of the uprisings

Below is a snapshot of the so-called Arab spring. Several points are worth revisiting. Each national uprising has been peculiar to the nation. It is a gross distortion of the facts to see a rising regional tide of popular sentiment in favor of increased political participation and expanded individual rights.

Most often the triggers for demonstrations were high unemployment, unfulfilled promises of better living conditions and lower prices for food and other essentials. In every instance, old order opposition movements quickly seized the leadership of the demonstrations from the callow cell-phone activists and converted them to their own political ends.

Two national leaders have been ousted by their own armed forces. A few more might be forced from power. Thus far, none of the Arab states has undergone a change of political system. The ousted leaders were sacrificed to preserve the system they set up and from which they and their cohorts profited.

Tunisia: The military remains in control in the background. Former President Ben Ali and his wife have been convicted in absentia for crimes in office. The couple is in exile in Saudi Arabia. Periodic demonstrations occur. There have been no significant changes to unemployment, high prices and other economic grievances. The stock market is down 20%.

Egypt: The military government has begun slow-rolling the return to elected government. The economy is in decline because of the unrest. The stock exchange is down 26 % according to the Associated Press. The Muslim Brotherhood has acquired unprecedented respectability and influence, which has coincided with the military decision to back-track on democracy.

Libya: The state has devolved into historic divisions that are warring with each other again. NATO military support has been essential to the survival of the Cyrenaican rebellion. If Qadhafi leaves Tripolitania, NATO will be responsible for his overthrow. The modern sector of the economy has ceased to operate.

Yemen: President Saleh is recovering in Saudi Arabia from an attempted suicide. He remains President. His aides and the opposition continue to work on a transitional agreement, but Saleh has not agreed to step down ahead of elections. The economy was a shambles before the unrest.

Syria: The Alawite government continues to crackdown on Sunni demonstrators. President Bashar al Asad has begun implementing limited reforms. The army remains loyal and responsive to the government. The stock market has declined 40% since the start of the unrest.

Bahrain: The uprising by Shiite activists has been suppressed by the Peninsula Shield Force. The monarchy is secure.

Saudi Arabia: The windfall from high crude prices supported the government's direct distribution of appeasement money to citizens to avoid unrest. The monarchy is secure.

Jordan: Activists want the cabinet replaced, but the monarchy is secure.

Morocco: A popular referendum approved political reforms proposed by the King. The monarchy is secure.

End of NightWatch for 5 July.

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