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NightWatch 20150325

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For the night of 25 March 2015

North Korea: On 20 March, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) Presidium announced to the deputies of the SPA that the third session of the 13th DPRK SPA will be convened in Pyongyang on 9 April 2015. Deputy registrations will be made on 7 and 8 April 2015.

Comment: The SPA is the pseudo-parliamentary legislature of North Korea. It is ex officio part of the government, not the Workers' Party. The constitution prescribes two SPA meetings a year to approve national priorities, policies and the budget. This will be the first session in 2015.

Communist party meetings always precede SPA sessions. Those meetings actually decide the agenda and priorities for the government, which the SPA rubber stamps. This session will approve the state budget, appoint officials and approve proposals for policy guidance and emphasis for the rest of the year.

The largest significance of the SPA session is that the Kim government is adhering to the prescriptions of the North Korean constitution. Kim Chong-il ignored the SPA and the North Korean constitution for most of his reign. Adherence to the constitution tends to be an indicator of moderate behavior by North Korea.

Yemen: The security situation has gotten more complex and the crisis has become international. Houthi forces came close to capturing Aden and the Royal Saudi Air Force began air attacks against the Houthis.

News services reported that Yemeni President Hadi fled his compound in Aden and left the country. Government officials confirmed he left his compound in Aden, but said he remained in a safe location in Yemen.

Houthis fighters reportedly captured Aden's international airport on 25 March, but late in the day pro-Hadi popular committees claimed they recaptured the airport. Meanwhile, Saudi combat aircraft attacked targets in Sana'a.

Comment: The first phase of the civil war has been short-lived and ended in favor of the Houthis, who control most of western Yemen. The Sunni Arabs have thus far put up no effective, or even organized, defense against the Houthis.

The Houthi success is attributable primarily to the split in the Yemen army. The best units sided with the Houthis and former president Saleh and against President Hadi.

The side with the most guns always wins in violent internal security crises. The army has determined the outcome of every violent internal instability crisis in the Middle East since the start of the so-called Arab Spring. . Field Marshal al-Sisi is the poster image for army dominance in non-monarchical Arab states.

The next chapter of confrontation in Yemen is not civil war, but a war of intervention. The phenomenology of internal instability switches to conventional war when outside powers intervene.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Today, the Royal Saudi Air Force began bombing raids in Yemen.

The Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir hosted a press conference at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia and issued the following statement:

"Saudi Arabia has launched military operations in Yemen, as part of a coalition of over 10 countries in response to a direct request from the legitimate government of Yemen. The operation will be limited in nature, and designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis, a violent extremist militia."

"The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government."

"In spite of repeated efforts by the GCC, G10 countries and the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to seek a peaceful way to implement the GCC initiatives and the outcomes of the national dialogue that define the political transition in Yemen, the Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means."

"They captured the capital city of Sana'a, they placed the legitimate president, prime minister and cabinet members under house arrest, they seized the security services and they continue to expand their occupation of the country."

"In a letter dated March 7, 2015, President Hadi of Yemen made a request of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to convene a conference under the auspices of the GCC to which all Yemeni political factions seeking to preserve security and stability in Yemen would be invited. The Houthis rejected this invitation and continued their violent onslaught in Yemen to the point where they were threatening to occupy the city of Aden, which had become the temporary capital for the legitimate government of President Hadi after he was able to escape from Sana'a."

"In a letter, dated March 24, 2015, President Hadi requested, based on the principle of self-defense, enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, as well as in the Arab League charter's collective defense mechanism, a request for immediate support - by all means necessary - including military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the continued Houthi aggression and to support it in fighting al Qaeda and ISIL."

"Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom's responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government."

King Salman ordered the airstrikes on the Houthi militia on Thursday, 26 March, at midnight Riyadh time. Saudi press said that the Kingdom's air force was "fully in control of Yemeni airspace."

Al Arabiya reported that the operations would continue until the Houthis agreed to sit down for peace talks and backtrack on all measures taken since their occupation of the capital Sana'a last September.

Comment: The Saudis have imposed the no-fly zone that Yemeni President Hadi requested the UN to provide, but that will not determine the outcome on the ground. Air superiority has not been a significant factor in the Houthi advance.

The Yemeni Sunni Arabs lack the discipline and will to defend their own interests. The Houthis appear to be disciplined and have advanced with minimal Sunni Arab opposition.

Gulf Cooperation Council. In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait said they "decided to repel Houthi militias, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the country."

Adel al-Jubair, Saudi Ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday that a coalition consisting of 10 countries, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), had begun airstrikes. Warplanes raided military camps belonging to the Shiite Houthi group in Sana'a on Thursday, a defense ministry official told the press. The strikes also targeted weapons depots at a missile base in the southern part of Sana'a, which is controlled by the army loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country," Jubair told reporters in Washington.

Comment: The air attacks will not stop the Houthis, but they will divert Arab air power from the fight against ISIL. They also are not sustainable without major US military support. If these attacks continue for more than a few days, it will mean the US is assisting the Saudis in the air campaign.

Egypt: In a statement from the state news agency, Egypt also announced political and military support for the Hadi government. "There is coordination ongoing now with Saudi Arabia and the brotherly gulf countries about preparations to participate with Egyptian air and naval forces and ground troops if necessary," the statement said.

Comment: Yemeni President Hadi succeeded in internationalizing this crisis, but the West, including the US, walked away from this crisis. The Arabs have responded with forces that will not make a difference in Houthi control of western Yemen. Aircraft cannot hold ground.

Egypt has the capability to intervene, but is unlikely to do so because of its own security problems and because of its past experience in sending forces to Yemen.

The stated objective of the Arab military intervention - air campaign --is to coerce the Houthis to agree to talks. The Houthis almost certainly will agree to negotiations. Air attacks are important, but they will not decide the outcome of this crisis. Unless Egypt agrees to send ground forces, the GCC military intervention in Yemen will be about as effective as the 60 nation coalition fighting ISIL.

Algeria: Algerian authorities temporarily evacuated nearly 100 Turkish construction workers from a roadway project east of Algiers as a precaution, after a threat from militants affiliated with ISIL, security sources said on Monday.

The Turkish workers were evacuated for 24 hours as a "preventative" measure but returned on Monday.

"Things are under control; the evacuation was just a preventive action, and the men resumed work on Monday afternoon," a security official said.

Comment: The significance of this development is that ISIL appears to have established a presence, or influence, in Algeria. That means it has sympathizers from Morocco to India, including every country in between, except maybe Iran.

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End of NightWatch for 25 March.

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