Night Watch

Turkey-Syria: Turkey's Foreign Minister announced at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Djibouti that it recognized the new Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate government of Syria.

Comment: Turkey is the second country to recognize the new leadership group. It joined France in urging other states to support the opposition with arms.

Jordan: Protests in most Jordanian cities over reduced fuel subsidies continued for a third night. News services reported no new injuries, despite local clashes between police and protestors. However, the demonstrators have made a martyr of a protestor, named Qasi Amari, who was killed by police when he and a group of demonstrators attacked a police station in the town of Irbid in northern Jordan. Protestors changed their slogans from complaints about rising prices to calls for freedom, democracy and social justice.

The government warned that it will strike those who incite violence during protests with an "iron fist," the country's police chief said. The Islamist-led opposition vowed to continue demonstrations. Amari's funeral also will take place on Friday. Larger demonstrations are expected on the 16th after prayers

Comment: It has only taken three days for the protestors to transform economic protests into the beginnings of a political opposition movement. In making his threat, the top Jordanian policeman did almost exactly what Egyptian police authorities did at the beginning of the opposition movement that led to Mubarak's ouster. Both converted protests over economic grievances into challenges to the authority or legitimacy of the government. The protests did not start out as challenges to authority, but they are now and the speed of the transformation suggests activists were ready for the reflexive police threat that would help coalesce a political movement.

By not responding to economic grievances with appropriate economic solutions, governments often become the agents of their own demise. Jordan might have little economic maneuver room, but crackdowns did not save Tunisia's Ben Ali or Egypt's Mubarak. Now, no matter what the police do, the protests will escalate and the security situation will worsen. They must at least attempt a crackdown, after having issued a threat.

Jordanian security authorities appear to have learned little or, worse, have drawn the wrong conclusions from the Arab Spring uprisings. The Kingdom is not in peril. Nevertheless, today the security situation moved farther along the path of the Arab Spring uprisings toward destabilizing the government.

Israel-Gaza Strip: Israel said it attacked 130 to 150 separate targets in Gaza overnight, in response to one or two Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza 70km (45 miles) north towards Tel Aviv. The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it had fired an Iranian-built, Fajr-5 rocket - which has an estimated range of 75km. One missile landed in an uninhabited area on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and another reportedly landed in the sea.

Israeli air attacks and Palestinian rocket attacks have intensified today in the aftermath of the air strike on Wednesday that killed Ahmed al-Jabari, the military leader of Hamas. At least 18 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, including children, and three Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.

Explosions continued in Gaza throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning according to news service reports. By Thursday night, Hamas said it had fired more than 350 rockets from Gaza, of which Israel said 130 had been intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system.

Israeli Defense Minister Barak announced mobilization of 30,000 reservists. Various news services reported military movements towards Gaza, but no start of a ground incursion.

Comment: The rocket fire towards Tel Aviv constitutes a significant psychological escalation of the attacks because it brings to memory the Iraqi Scud attacks of the first Gulf War in 1991. Some form of punitive ground operation or raid seems more likely along with the intensified air attacks, but has not yet been reported. The number of casualties reported to date is surprisingly low compared to the number of attacks in the past two days and is probably understated for the Palestinians at least. Neither side appears ready to cease attacking yet.

European Union-Mali: Update. Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and France issued a statement in Paris endorsing the African Union's plan for recovery of northern Mali by military action. West African states intend to send a force to recapture northern Mali from al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups. Troops would be in Mali within weeks of UN approval, Nigeria's army chief told the press today.

The proposal for the intervention is due to go before the UN Security Council for approval before the end of the year.

Comment: The slow pace of preparations accompanied by virtual chest-thumping and brave statements appears deliberately intended to intimidate the Islamists and the Touaregs so as to encourage them to use the time to open negotiations for returning northern Mali to the sovereignty of the government in Bamako.

End of NightWatch ###

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