Night Watch

Turkey-Syria: The Syrians apologized for the mortar round that landed in Turkey and killed five civilians. Turkey's parliament on 4 October voted 320-129 to grant the government the authority to deploy Turkish armed forces to foreign countries in the next year, meaning Syria. Turkish artillery continued to shell Syrian installations near the Tel Abyad border crossing point for a second day. The UN Security Council condemned the Syrians "attack."   The US State and Defense Departments called the Turkish response "appropriate." 

Comment: One might be justified in thinking that two days of retaliatory shelling by the Turkish Army was more than fair retaliation for what appears to have been a single Syrian mortar shell. In a fair treatment, the Turks also might have gotten honorable mention in the condemnation statement by the UN for excessive use of force. 

The Turks now have the authority to create by military action a safe haven into which they can push the 100,000 Syrian refugees now burdening Turkey. This is something the Syrian opposition has failed to do for more than 18 months.

Russia blocked a more strongly worded resolution that might have justified UN military action. Plus, open sources have not provided an explanation for the firing of a mortar round, which might have been an accident. News services have treated the incident as premeditated, but have produced no facts supporting that thesis.

The most important point to bear in mind is that there are no good guys in this situation and no good outcomes for US interests. The real parties in interest are Saudi Arabia and Iran. Syria is the battle ground where the proxies are struggling. Turkey is a bit player attempting to claim a larger leadership role and to prevent a wider Kurdish uprising against Turkey.

The past 18 or so months have shown that the opposition cannot survive without a secure base. Its supporters - the Turks, Saudis and the Western states -- now have a reason to give it that base. The lack of symmetry between a single mortar round and the two days of shelling plus a UN Security Council resolution raises suspicions about who actually fired a mortar into Turkey. This looks like a setup.

If Turkey creates and protects a safe haven for Syrian refugees, as its armed forces now are authorized to do, it also almost automatically creates a base for the opposition. Most of the arms and ammunition flowing to the opposition come through Turkey, according to several news services.

In this hypothesis, elements of the opposition would consolidate in the Turkish safe haven and try to spread southward.

This does not yet signify the start of regional war, but it is a step in that direction. Hezbollah appears to have joined the fighting from Lebanon in the west on behalf of Syria and Turkey has joined the fight from the north on behalf of the opposition.

Israel on Iran: Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said Thursday he believes 'the Arab Spring will be followed by a 'Persian Spring,' " with international sanctions against Iran leading to renewed domestic unrest in Iran. His remarks apparently were in reaction to street disorders in Tehran yesterday over the collapse of the Iranian currency.

Comment: Iranian police patrolled the grand market in Tehran to prevent another outbreak of civil disorder. Thus far, Israeli assessments have been prescient. The significance is that the Foreign Ministry, if not the government, judges that sanctions might achieve a regime overthrow and policy change favorable to Israel. The pressure for military action seems to have eased. Sanctions have more time.

Libya: More than 100 protesters broke into the National Congress, disrupting the MPs' work. The demonstrators are angry over the proposed make-up of the country's new cabinet, saying it is not representative.

According to press accounts, the demonstrators, who come from the western town of Zawiyah, one of Libya's oil hubs, traveled 50km from their home to the capital after the prime minister failed to select their nominee as oil minister. "After we heard the list, everyone in Zawiyah was angry. Some even began protesting in Zawiyah's main square last night," one protester said.

The protestors accused the Prime Minister-elect of putting ideology first when choosing cabinent candidates, which resulted in several members of the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood appear on the list. At the same time, the liberal National Forces Alliance, which holds the largest number of seats in parliament, was not represented at all.

The protesters left the congress, but carried on with their demonstration outside. The session on the transitional government is expected to resume later Thursday. The congress will vote on each of 28 candidates proposed Wednesday so the composition of the cabinet can become clear.

Comment: None of the 28 cabinet nominees was drawn from the pro-NATO, National Forces Alliance. The new Libyan government has drifted towards Islam a bit more slowly than the governments in Tunisia and Egypt, but the drift is finally apparent. Optimistic news commentaries about Libya breaking the trend towards Islam among Arab Spring states by remaining secular appear to have been premature.

End of NightWatch for 4 October.

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Night Watch

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