Night Watch

Iraq: Today, the al-Maliki government called for the US to speed up its weapons deliveries, as the two countries near a deal on a second set of 18 F-16s, days after Baghdad signed $4.2 billion in arms deals with Moscow.

The contracts with Russia made it Iraq's second-biggest defense supplier after the United States. The Baghdad government admits its forces are unable to protect its borders, airspace or maritime territory.

Comment: The Syrian fighting has added urgency and poignancy to Baghdad's defense deficiencies. It can hardly support Iranian interests when its border forces cannot stand against lightly armed Sunni opposition fighters from Syria.

Accelerated delivery of F-16s is not a short term solution. In the long run, however, they will help make Iraq the shield of Shiite Islam and the buffer for Iran.

Syria: For the record. The Joint Command for Military and Revolutionary Councils in Syria - the newly formed Syrian opposition's central leadership -- announced that it agrees to an initiative by UN-Arab League Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who proposed a truce in Syria during the days of Eid al-Adha.

The command set a number of conditions for accepting the truce, including the release of detainees, especially women' ending the siege on the city of Homs, and the regular army forces not using the truce as a means to reinforce their outposts. The command added that in the event any of the terms of the truce is breached, the council or joint command will be absolved of it.

Comment: This should probably be considered a positive response to the truce initiative. All parties seem tired of the fighting. The truce will provide an opportunity to determine which side of the conflict has the better control of its forces.

Greece: Update. Hundreds of youths pelted riot police with fire bombs, bottles and chunks of marble Thursday as yet another Greek anti-austerity demonstration descended into violence, less than a month after more intense clashes broke out during a similar protest.

Authorities said around 70,000 protesters took to the street in two separate demonstrations in Athens during the second general strike in a month, as workers across the country walked off the job to protest new austerity measures the government is negotiating with Greece's international creditors.

Comment: These are the kinds of actions that provide insight into the stability of a country. Greek authorities appear to have handled today's demonstrations reasonably well. There will be more and more violent follow-ups.

End of NightWatch for 18 October.

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