Night Watch
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North Korea: Update. Thus far, annual Allied exercises in South Korea have elicited no response from North Korea.

China: At least 10 people died in riots in Kashgar, Xinjiang/ /Uighur Autonomous Region, on 28 February, witnesses said, Xinhua reported. Police shot and killed two rioters blamed for the deaths and are pursuing other rioters, witnesses said.

Comment: The US and international media have paid no attention to the Chinese use of the same kinds of tactics that the Syrians use to suppress dissidents.

Yemen: Comment. The new president of Yemen is pursuing the same tactics as president Saleh in dealing with opposition and militants. He is killing them. A change in the head of government does not mean that a change in the government system has occurred.

Syria:  Special comment: Over the weekend, news video footage from Homs, the so-called center of the opposition uprising, raised questions about the actual effectiveness of the opposition. The videos showed Syrian police, firefighters and militia using fire hoses to disperse a major opposition rally in Homs. So who controls Homs? Apparently the government does, with the exception of a few photogenic neighborhoods.

A European news outlet published a city map that shows the neighborhoods of Homs based on sectarian residence patterns. The map shows that most of the videos of violent confrontations have been taken in two or three mostly Sunni neighborhoods in the south of the city.

Homs is a large city and most of it appears to experience little to no violence, based on the video footage and the map of neighborhoods. The vast majority of Sunni neighborhoods and the Christian and Alawite neighborhoods report no violence. Life goes on in most of Homs.

If the Homs firefighters and police retain the capability to use fire hoses against demonstrators, then the government remains in control in that city. That is a basic precept of internal instability analysis. Homs still has a functioning government that responds to orders from Damascus.

The point of this comment is that most US news reporting on the struggle in Syria appears aimed at grabbing headlines rather than at providing a balanced view of both sides of the struggle.  Non-US news sources present a different view of the unrest. For example, it is difficult to maintain that the opposition dominates Homs, when the fire brigade is secure enough to turn hoses on an opposition rally there.  US news analysts completely missed the significance of the fire brigade operations shown in their own videos..

The bottom line is that the opposition holds no ground that it does not physically occupy and then only when government forces are not present or chasing it. Homs does not appear to be under siege or under opposition control, based on German news reporting.  Some neighborhoods are and that is worth further research. It also helps explain why the al Asad government exhibits no signs of panic or severe stress commensurate with the urgent statements by the UN, Arab League and US officials. More on this topic later.

NightWatch will report the results of the constitutional referendum as soon as they are released by the government.

Israel-US: If Israel decides to strike against Iran it will not inform the United States beforehand so that Washington is less likely to be held responsible for failing to stop the strike, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, AP reported on 28 February, citing an unnamed US intelligence official.

Comment: Any US intelligence official who believes or accepts the truth of such a statement should resign for being naive or be dismissed for simple-mindedness. The notion that Israel would attack Iran without US approval would never be believed by Arabs or Persians and would not be credible to any one.  Even if true, it would not protect US citizens or assets from retaliation. The entire discussion is pointless and is part of a continuing perception management operation by the US and Israel.

US intelligence officials are smart enough to know this. The AP report is nonsense on every level of insight and looks contrived to obtain headlines.

Egypt: The newly elected upper legislative chamber chose a member of the country's most powerful Islamist group to lead it. The vote for the Freedom and Justice Party's Ahmed Fahmy, a pharmacology professor, as speaker of the upper house followed the election of the party's Mohammed Saad el-Katatny last month to lead the much more powerful lower house."

Comment: The Brotherhood will control the parliament. If the military government transfers power to an elected parliamentary government, as it has promised, the army will have to take orders from people it suppressed for three decades.

A Brotherhood-led government will have the constitutional authority to replace the Mubarak holdovers, including Field Marshal Tantawi and his cohorts in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and prosecute them for crimes against Egypt. Egypt will remain unstable for years ... and poor.

Europe: Two events occurred that are worth reporting. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled on 28 February that the nine-member panel that the German parliament set up to monitor the activities of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is largely unconstitutional.

Talks scheduled between eurozone leaders for 3 March meant to focus on how to increase the eurozone's financial firewall were canceled on 28 February.

Comment: One inference from the two anecdotes is that political leaders have had enough of bailouts with their borderline constitutionality. Personal liability could be at risk for usurping constitutional authority.

Moreover, bailing out the banks at taxpayer expense might be unconstitutional and, thus, less attractive than it was a month ago. Bailing out Greek banks and the Greek government looms as a colossal mistake.

End of NightWatch.

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