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NightWatch 20110909


For the Night of 8 September 2011

India: Update. The Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the Delhi High Court attack in New Delhi, and warned of another blast, on a shopping mall, Press Trust of India reported on 8 September. Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami had no part in the blasts, the Indian Mujahideen said.

Comment: The Indian government's investigation continues. The significance of the two competing claimants is that they require significantly different security responses from the government. The Indian Muhjahideen represent themselves as a homegrown Indian Muslim terrorist group. The Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami is foreign based. An internal review of security and a crackdown will be necessary regardless of the government's findings, but a foreign-backed group would allow the law enforcement agencies to shift some of the blame for security lapses to external affairs and intelligence agencies and, thereby, dilute pressure for internal improvements.

Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan announced that Turkish warships will escort Turkish aid vessels to Gaza, according to Al Jazeera TV.

Comment: Erdogan did not provide details about pending aid shipments. However, this is the latest escalation of the political crisis between Turkey and Israel over Israel's ban on aid shipments to the Gaza Strip. Relations between the two states, which have been close for decades, have reached an all time low.

Beyond the Gaza aid issue, Turkey continues to try to assert itself as an important influence in Mid Eastern issues. This refocus is a characteristic of Turkish policy under the Erdogan government. Turkey has developed more cordial relations with Iran; has sent peacekeepers to Lebanon and has most recently encouraged Syria to undertake political reforms and halt its suppression operations against the opposition. It is significantly different from Turkey's role in NATO as a bridge to the Islamic world. Although the results are mixed, the government appears willing to sacrifice longstanding relationships, such as that with Israel, in order to establish its credentials as Mid Eastern leader.

Egypt: The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces met for three hours with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet during the night of 7 September to discuss what a spokesperson described as a "deteriorating security situation caused by a series of strikes by workers, including postal employees. Doctors and textile workers have threatened to join the strikes next week.

The council told the Prime Minister that his cabinet must take tough measures to halt spreading strikes and protests by workers, and to curb Satellite TV stations. It issued six directives for immediate execution.

First, the cabinet will use all legal means to prosecute what the council described as all and any acts of thuggery.

Second, the cabinet will support all police efforts to maintain peace.

Third, the cabinet will intervene to halt all strike actions, and it will enforce a law it passed last spring, which criminalizes certain strikes that disrupt public life.

Fourth, Prime Minister Sharaf will not negotiate with strikers over any demands until workers halt their workplace actions.

Fifth, Prime Minister Sharaf will suspend issuing new licenses to Satellite television stations.

Sixth, the cabinet will start legal procedures to review licenses it issued to any Satellite television network that incites violence and protests.

The Minister of Information briefed reporters on the council's instructions and assured them that the military council remains committed to freedom of expression and media.

Egyptian activists are calling for new demonstrations after prayers on 9 September to encourage Egypt's military rulers to keep reform promises. The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth is asking Egyptians to demand a clear timetable for the restoration of civilian rule and a halt to routine use of military courts to try civilian cases. The largest demonstrations are expected in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Comment: The strikes indicate that the ouster of Mubarak and the limited political changes do not address the original impulses that gave rise to the uprising - poor economic conditions, high unemployment and high prices for fuel and staples. The original crowds demanded jobs and lower prices but got limited political freedom instead. The military council appears to have no idea how to respond to the economic problems or how to handle renewed demonstrations.

The military directives to the cabinet are the clearest proof that no revolution has taken place in Egypt. The military council has a civilian front, but the military remains in charge. The Supreme Council also is backtracking on reform apparently because it and powerful secular interests are concerned that political reform will lead to a revolution - a fundamental change of system that is more Islamist, less pro-US and anti-Israel. It also would not rely on the armed forces for legitimacy. Expect an increase in internal instability.

Libya: For the record. In a phone call to a Syrian television station on 7 September, Libyan leader Qadhafi vowed to defeat the National Transitional Council (NTC) - rebel -- forces that control most of the country. Qadhafi also said a Libyan military convoy that arrived in Niger was "not the first" and that convoys frequently drive into and out of Niger carrying goods. He said "the youths" are ready to escalate the resistance against NTC fighters in Tripoli and "finish off the mercenaries."

Comment: Qadhafi's phone call was made from within Libya, according to the Syrian TV station. Most sub-Saharan countries with whom Qadhafi worked, such as Chad and Niger, have recognized the National Transitional Council as the government of Libya. Except for Venezuela, he is running out of refuges.

Niger: Update. The government in Niamey officially declared that Qadhafi is not in Niger.

End of NightWatch for 8 September.

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