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NightWatch 20150308

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For the night of 8 March 2015

Yemen: Over the weekend, Defense Minister Major General al-Subaihi escaped to Aden in a convoy .The Houthi regime searched for him and Houthi fighters killed several of his guards, who apparently participated in a ruse to allow the Minister to escape.

Hadi reportedly said that Aden is the capital of Yemen.

Comment: The regime that is forming in Aden continues to attract high level officials from the elected government that the Houthis ousted. The process of choosing sides is not yet complete. The Houthis have Sana'a and much of the north, but people and tribes loyal to President Hadi control much of the south and east.

Yemen-Russia: Russian Ambassador Vladimir Dedushkin met with President Hadi on 8 March and affirmed Russian support. This was the first time a Russian official stated a public position on the confrontation in Yemen. After the meeting, Dedushkin told reporters that Russia had no doubt about Hadi's legitimacy.

Comment: The Houthi leadership said that Yemen did not need the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It indicated Yemen would seek support from Iran, China and Russia.

The significance of Dedushkin's remarks is that they mean Russia has opted against the Houthis and their Iranian sponsor. Russia is not reluctant to exploit Iran as a market for Russian weapons, but it declines to be drawn into schemes to expand Iranian influence.

China also is likely to favor the rump of the elected government of Yemen and stability based on legitimacy rather than on revolutionary impulses. That means that the Houthis only can count on Iran.

Ukraine: The Ukrainian armed forces said they have completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, as required by both Minsk accords, according to government spokesman Andriy Lysenko.

"We have completed the fourth stage of the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the separation line. We have pulled away Rapira and Ruta 100-mm antitank guns and Grad and Uragan multiple rocket launchers," he said at a Sunday briefing in Kyiv. Lysenko claimed that representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, (OSCE) monitored" the withdrawal.

In his ceasefire situation report, Lysenko said that one Ukrainian soldier was killed and three wounded in eastern Ukraine in the prior 24 hours. He said the separatists violated the cease-fire 28 times in that period.

The rebels claimed that Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire 25 times.

The Ukraine government's daily situation map shows the locations of the attacks about which the Ukrainians complained. The four areas showing explosions are opposite the four important areas in the rebel territory: Luhansk, Debal'tseve, Donetsk and Mariupol.

Comment: Both sides generally are honoring the ceasefire. Both sides also are preparing for a resumption of fighting at some point in the future. Nevertheless, the daily situation map shows that the ceasefire is holding. Despite the claims and counterclaims, the Ukrainian situation map shows that that artillery shelling has nearly ceased.

Considering the acrimonious atmosphere, the hostile circumstances and the extent of fighting that formed the backdrop for ceasefire talks last month, today's map of the security situation is remarkable. It supports claims that both sides have withdrawn their heavy weapons.  There really is a ceasefire, at last..

Ukraine-Russia: On Sunday evening, 8 March, Russian TV trailed a film, "The Road to the Motherland" in which Russian President Putin talked about the events that led to the operation to bring Crimea back into Russia.

President Putin said, "I invited the leaders of our special services and the Defense Ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who would simply have been liquidated.

Putin said, "Heavy machineguns were placed there (sic), so as not to waste time talking. We prepared to pick him up straight from Donetsk, by land, by sea or from the air. It was between the 22nd and the 23rd February 2014; and we finished the meeting about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues: we are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia," Putin said.

Comment: Putin's statements are monologue from a movie, but they have the ring of truth. President Putin apparently always wanted a reason to annex Crimea. After Yanukovych was rescued from Donetsk, he apparently decided the time was right to act. The overthrow of Yanukovych gave him the opportunity..

Nigeria: Bomb blasts killed at least 50 people on Saturday, 7 March, in multiple attacks in Maiduguri. Local media reporters said it was the worst series of attacks there since armed fighters tried to seize Maiduguri in two major assaults earlier this year.

Comment: Boko Haram's tactical devolution to bombing is evidence that it lacks the capability to fight the Allied forces in head-on clashes. People are still dying, but Boko Haram is not taking and holding territory. Instead it is lashing out to kill as many people as it can reach, as it shrinks as a threat.

Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity," according to a video posted on the Web by Boko Haram.

Comment: The pledge of allegiance represents an acknowledgement of setbacks and an implicit appeal for help. Last year, Boko Haram leader Shekau claimed he was a caliph in his own right, comparable to Abubakar al-Baghdadi in Syria. Now he is pleading for help, which he will never get.

Shekau is a fraud, but somehow Nigeria cannot get that message disseminated. He also is a tribal bigot who has used an extreme interpretation of Quranic guidance to justify ethnic cleansing in northeastern Nigeria.

Forces of Order. Forces from Niger and Chad have launched a ground and air offensive against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, officials said.

Witnesses in the Diffa Region told the press that they saw a convoy of at least 300 vehicles, including army jeeps equipped with heavy weapons as well as water and fuel trucks, leaving barracks overnight and heading to the border.

A Chadian officer said that very early on Sunday, 8 March, troops from Niger and Chad began an offensive against Boko Haram in the area of Bosso and into Nigeria.

Comment: This offensive is the first time Nigerien forces have operated inside Nigeria. Officials declined to provide details, but the Francophone forces appear determined to improve security in their own border areas by doing house-cleaning in Nigeria. No news services have provided situation reports as yet.

Mali: On 8 March, attackers fired rockets towards Kidal in a dawn attack, according to a resident and a security source. The UN mission for Mali, MINUSMA, said in a statement that at least 30 rockets targeted its small camp on the outskirts of Kidal just before daybreak. The attack killed at least three people, including one UN peacekeeper, and injured 12. The target apparently was a UN peacekeeper base.

On 7 March, gunmen killed five people in a nightclub in Bamako. A group affiliated withal-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.

Comment: The rocket attack was the largest attack of that kind in over a year. Rebels and terrorists in the Kidal area have not possessed the capabilities for such an attack. It is a strong indicator that the terrorists and Touareg rebels are regrouping and rearming in the north and the northeast. A key question is how?

Although the UN peacekeepers have responsibility for security in the north, the rocket attack means the French left before they completed the mission. The rebels and terrorists remain a threat in the northeast.

The attack in Bamako was the first attack against Westerners since 2013.

Special Administrative Announcement

A NightWatch Special Administrative Announcement last June informed Readers that changes were on the horizon for NightWatch. To better serve you, we conducted a survey of Readers' preferences. We received an overwhelming and positive response. Long-time Readers will note that NightWatch has incorporated the preferences and changes Readers said they wanted most. Included in these changes is the conversion of NightWatch to a paid subscription, which will begin 16 March 2015.

To our valued Readers, we are extending the enrollment date for current subscribers to 31 March 2015 during which time you will continue to receive NightWatch free of charge. In addition to a complimentary two week sign-up period, you will also receive a 40% discount on the introductory monthly cost of $3.49 (plus applicable tax) if you sign up for an introductory subscription at a cost of $24.99 (plus applicable tax).

As the period for subscription nears, we shall publish directions about how to sign up and make payment, starting 16 March. NightWatch has been a free service for eight years. We hope through subscriptions we can continue to provide this service for years to come.

End of NightWatch for 8 March.

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