Night Watch

Israel-Iran: Several western media outlets reported a leak of Israeli Foreign Ministry findings about the impact of sanctions on Iran. The Israeli Foreign Ministry apparently judges that the international sanctions against Iran are having a dramatic impact in Iran and are creating internal discontent that is focused on the Iranian government.

At the same time, the report said the sanctions had not yet had any effect in altering the Iranian nuclear program. The document concluded an additional round of sanctions needs to be drawn up and implemented.

Comment: The leak was deliberate. The Jerusalem Post published that the release of the document is believed to have been done with the approval of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's office.

According to the Post, Liberman, in a recent Israel Radio interview, predicted that public discontent would boil over in Iran within the year, in the run-up to the elections there, which are due in mid-2013.

Comment: The leak is tantalizing because a populist uprising in Iran that overthrew the government would be one of the few successful uses of economic warfare to achieve political change against any country not an island. The new reports and presumably the leak contained no details about the intelligence evidence that supports the Foreign Ministry's findings that Iranians are blaming increased hardship on the government.

Iranian presidential elections may act as a pressure release for discontent and buy time for the regime.

Syria: More than 305 people were killed on 26 September, according to a human rights group, making 27 September the bloodiest single day of the 18 month uprising. The group also claimed that at least 14 died in a twin bomb attack on the armed forces general staff headquarters in Damascus.

Syrian authorities sent text messages over cell phones nationwide Thursday with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Asad's regime: "Game over." The messages, signed by the Syrian Arab Army, urged the rebels to surrender their weapons and warned the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun.

Comment: The bombing in Damascus reinforces earlier judgments that the government has trouble in maintaining security in the capital. In perspective, however, the number and frequency of such bombings are low. Their occasional effectiveness appears to be a function of the Syrian authorities' determination to maintain a high degree of normality in daily life in Damascus. That makes the city vulnerable to car bombers.

The text messages from the Syrian army suggest that it is maintaining its morale.

The more important report this week is that Lebanese Hezbollah is sending fighters to augment the Alawites. Hezbollah fighters fought for Shiites in Iraq, so such a move is not unprecedented. Hezbollah has the capability to deny Lebanon and Jordan as a safe haven for the Syrian Sunni opposition and can force it to fight on two fronts.

Sudan and South Sudan: Update. The two countries signed agreements Thursday to demilitarize their border and resume the transport of southern oil through the north. The signed agreements do not deal with the oil-producing Abyei region and several other disputed border regions.

Both sides will pull their soldiers back 10 kilometers from the border. An economic settlement settles issues such as pensions, banking, national debt, and trade matters. The countries also reached agreement on the status of each country's nationals on the other's territory.

The deals mean that oil production and shipment can resume because they also agreed on transit fees the South, which has the oil deposits, will pay to use northern pipelines.

Comment: Leaders in the two Sudans seem to have taken a long time to learn the basic lesson that war is not good for prosperity in either country. This is tonight's good news.

End of NightWatch for 27 September.

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