Afghanistan: Update. Reports from Afghanistan stated that Kabul was on lock down for at least part of 2 May because of fighting in the city and that the road to Jalalabad was blocked for a time because of attacks by anti-government elements. At least seven persons were killed in the attacks on early 2 May, not counting the suicide bombers.
Comment: This was a massive breach of security on 2 May. Kabul is not safe militarily or politically because future US force contingents do not have and are not likely to get a Status of Forces Agreement to cover them. In Iraq, that condition precluded any follow-on US training mission after the combat forces departed.
Taliban: A website posting announced the Taliban spring offensive would begin on 3 May and be targeted against foreigners and their contractors and supporters. There are no other targets. Plus, anti-government forces have been fighting at elevated levels since late March. This is the second time the Taliban announced an offensive.
Kuwait-Iraq-UN: Kuwait yesterday "stressed the need" for Iraq's continuing regular deposits in the UN war compensation fund in line with relevant international resolutions. Kuwait stressed the need for continuation of regular deposits in the Compensation Fund, as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1956 (2010), of 5% of the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas of Iraq; as well as 5% of the value of any non-monetary payments of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas, said Chairman of the Public Authority for Assessment of Compensation for Damages Resulting from the Iraqi Aggression.
Comment: Despite all that has happened since 1990, Kuwait, one of the richest countries in the world, insists that the Iraqis continue to pay for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. This miserly attitude is one of the chief reasons Saddam invaded Kuwait in the first place. The Kuwaitis refused to pay their contribution for the eight-year war against the Iranians that protected the Emir of Kuwait from being enslaved by the Shiites. There were other equally stingy reasons.
The Kuwaitis still want to hobble a recovering Iraq, possibly as a way of increasing pressure on Iran
because the Baghdad government is Shiite Arab-led and pro-Iran.
Special comment: This note illustrates why it is hard for Americans to tell the good guys from their friends in the Middle East.
Israel: The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has issued emergency call up orders to six reserve battalions in light of new dangers on the Egyptian and Syrian borders, Israeli press reported. The Knesset has given the IDF permission to summon a further 16 reserve battalions if necessary, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
An IDF spokesperson said intelligence assessments called for the deployment of more soldiers. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the request recently, authorizing the IDF to summon up to 22 battalions for active duty for the second time in three years. The six battalions are part of the total of 22 battalions.
"This signifies that the IDF regards the Egyptian and Syrian borders as the potential sources of a greater threat than in the past," the former deputy chief of staff, Dan Harel, said on Wednesday night.
"The army needs a better 'answer' than in the past to the threat," he said, citing Egypt's deteriorating control over the Sinai, marked by an upsurge in Bedouin smuggling of weapons and other goods. He also spoke of the growing threat of terrorism from Sinai, as exemplified by an infiltration last August in which eight Israelis were killed. The Syrian situation was also highly combustible, Harel said, "and it could explode at any moment… and pose a direct challenge to us."
Comment: Many of the criticisms of IDF policy and practices after the 2006 invasion of Lebanon concerned the poor training, ill-equipment and low readiness of the reserves. Thus, there is a need to recall reserve units to active duty more often than was the case in 2006.
The public justification for the reserve recall compared to the domestic economic costs of mobilizing reserve battalions in the absence of a threat of war do not add up well. The Bedouin problem is a law and order problem. The Syrian problem is population control of refugee and occasional spillover from Syrian suppression operations. Neither seems to require activation of reserve battalions, unless media coverage has understated the gravity of the border problems.
As a contingency measure, reinforcement of the Egyptian border looks timely in light of presidential candidate Amr Moussa's statement that he thinks the Egyptian treaty with Israel has outlived its relevance. Open source reporting suggests the Syrian situation poses no security threat to Israel, only the irritant of Sunni protestors seeking refuge.
A more dangerous and fragile security situation exists on the Lebanon border, but these battalions apparently are not destined for the northern command.
The activation does convey a message that Israeli leaders are in no mood to be patient with even minor provocations on any border. If that is the case, then Readers should expect asymmetric Israeli responses to real or perceived provocations, comparable to Israeli responses to provocations by Hamas in Gaza.
Finally, if the Israeli leaders have decided to ramp up of capabilities and readiness in a way so as not to cause alarm as a contingency preparation for a war with Iran, this activation and its media cover story precisely match longstanding Israeli deception practices. The lameness of the public reasons for the reserve activations relative to the economic costs should raise red flags of vigilance that an Israeli deception operation is in effect.
Egypt: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Annan said SCAF is considering handing over power on 24 May if a presidential candidate wins the first round of the election.
Comment: What this statement means is that the SCAF will not wait until June when the election winner is to be installed as President and it must transfer executive power. The Egyptian Army leadership seems to want to lower its profile and get out of the political cross hairs, otherwise there would seem to be little reason for the Army leaders to truncate a process they set up.
End of NightWatch for 2 May.
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