Night Watch

Burma-Pakistan: The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan on 26 July threatened to attack "Myanmar" (Burma) to avenge the treatment of Muslims there unless Pakistan stops all relations with Myanmar. The group said in a statement that it will attack Myanmar's interests anywhere but will also attack those in Pakistan who work with Myanmar.

Comment: The Tehrik is the first Islamic fighting group to stand up for the Rohingya Muslims of western Burma, whom the Burmese persecute but not even the Muslims of Bangladesh will support.

Iran-Syria: Iran's Press TV quoted first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying Tehran's support for Syria was "unchangeable." "The Iranian people have an unchangeable stance on Syrians and will always stand by them," Rahimi said. He also accused major powers of uniting to damage the Syrian nation.

Iran's vice president for international affairs, Ali Saeedlou, said Iran is ready to share 'experience and capabilities' with the Asad government, according to IRNA, the official news agency. Saeedlou, described the two countries as powerful nations able to influence regional and global stability."

Comment: Today's statements counter news reports hinting that Iranian support was weakening. In addition, they are explicit about Iran's readiness to escalate its military support.

"Experience" is a euphemism for advisors and trainers. "Capabilities" can mean a wide range of support, including sustained logistics support, including weapons supply; intelligence sharing; and personnel, for example, to free up Syrian government forces. It also can mean Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks in the countries that are supporting the opposition, opening a second front for the Syrians to tie down the security forces of the nations that are supporting the opposition.

In any event, it suggests an escalation is imminent that will match Iranian support to the Alawis against western and Sunni Arab support to the Syrian Sunnis.

Already Iran and Iraq have agreed to assist Syria in meeting its demand for electricity, from Iran and sent across Iraq. Iraqi Shiites already defeated a Sunni insurgency and have no sympathy for the Syrian opposition, which reportedly killed Iraqi soldiers in the border post attacks last week.

Syria-Russia: Syrian rebels will attack the Russian naval base at Tartus if Moscow continues to send weapons to President Asad's government, rebel sources said.

The newly appointed Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that Russia intends to keep its naval base in Tartus. He said the base is needed to support ships during operations, including the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. Chirkov said that the base helps cut the costs of maintaining warships on long voyages.

Comment: The Russians have not weakened their support for Syria. They are on the same side as the Iranians and the Chinese. The Americans are on the same side as al Qaida and the Saudis.

Egypt-Hamas-Gaza Strip: Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi and Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, examined easing restrictions on residents of the Palestinian enclave, Mursi's spokesman said. Haniya's visit to Cairo is the second by a top-ranking Hamas official since Mursi's election last month.

Earlier this week Egypt eased visa requirements for Gazans under age 40.

Comment: This visit is important for several reasons. First Mursi is keeping his promise to pursue new directions in Egyptian foreign policy. Second, Hamas has new stature in Cairo that it never had under Mubarak. Finally, Mursi continues to test the authority of the presidency under military oversight.

Mali: Mali would welcome a West African military intervention force, not just to help recapture the north from rebels enforcing strict Islamic law but also to assist in other parts of the country, its military chief of staff said Thursday.

The comment followed a two-day emergency meeting of West African military chiefs of staff in Ivory Coast to discuss the proposed intervention in Mali.

Comment: Mali's 7,000-man armed forces are no match for the assemblage of al Qaida and Tuareg fighters who now control the north. Nevertheless the junta leader has opposed steadily any outside intervention. As a result, the situation in the north will now be much harder to retrieve.

End of NightWatch ### 

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Night Watch

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