Putin's Ukrainian Strategy is Paying Off

Night Watch
Posted: Jun 26, 2014 12:01 AM
Putin's Ukrainian Strategy is Paying Off

Pakistan: Gunmen fired on a Pakistan International Airlines plane as it was landing in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday night. The firing killed a woman passenger and injured three crew members.

Comment: No group has claimed responsibility. This was the second incident involving lax airport security this month.

Musharraf grounded again. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has suspended the Sindh High Court's (SHC) decision to remove former president Musharraf's name from the exit control list (ECL) and allow him to leave the country.

Following the SHC ruling on the 12th, the federal government appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that Musharraf would not return for trial once he left.

Today, the Supreme Court suspended the SHC's ruling and docketed a hearing of Musharraf's case in four weeks.

Comment: This is an example of dueling jurisdictions between a provincial supreme court and the federal Supreme Court. Support for Musharraf was strong in Sindh Province. The most serious charge against him is treason, a federal crime. Plus, Supreme Court justices still want justice for his unlawful detention of some of them in 2007.

The federal government had the option to not appeal the provincial court's ruling and thereby avoid a political showdown with the Pakistan Army over the trial of a former Chief of Army Staff. Today's Court ruling will stoke tension between the army and the government again. The Court has given it four weeks to build.

Iraq: Open sources reported one significant change in the security situation. ISIL or Sunni militants captured the town of Nukhayb, which is the last Iraqi town before the Saudi Arabian border, heading southwest from Baghdad. It is on the route that Iraqi pilgrims use to travel to Mecca. Its capture would complete the government's loss of key towns on the periphery of Anbar Governate.

From the Saudi border, the road through Nukhayb runs northeast through Karbala before reaching Baghdad. Karbala is one of the most revered centers of Shiite observances. ISIL fighters have destroyed Shiite images in every town in which they have found them. Shiites probably will judge that control of Nukhayb by ISIL fighters poses a threat to Karbala. It is the closest that the ultra-extremists have come to the Shiite south.

Hadi al-Amiri, the current Minister of Transportation and the secretary general of Iraq's Badr Organization, said that the Iraqi Government may ask for support from the Iranian Air Force in attacking the sites of the "armed men in Iraq", if the US refuses to do its duties on the basis of the security agreement signed between the two countries. Al-Amiri told the press that the Iraqi Government would not stand idle while the Iraqi areas are falling one after one, noting that it will ask for the aerial support from Iran and the latter is fully ready to intervene.

The Iraqi Embassy in Iran said that Baghdad will not accept any foreign help, and that Iraqis are fully ready to defend themselves.

Comment: Al-Amiri is a hard-line Shiite politician and former fighter, who claims he is close to Iranian General Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force.

It appears that Iraq already has asked for Syrian help, so the embassy statement is disingenuous.

A key factor in obtaining outside air support from any source is timing. The security situation has changed slowly this week, compared to last. That has created the illusion that there is more time to prepare an air campaign than might be the case.

Syria-Iraq: News sources reported that the Syrian air force bombed the border town of al-Qaim on 24 June, killing 20 and injuring 25 people. This is the second report of Syrian air attacks in support of the government in Baghdad.

Separate sources reported Syrian border forces fought ISIL fighters to recapture the al-Walid border crossing point for the Baghdad government.

Comment: The situation in eastern Syria is not well reported in open sources. Most reporting suggests ISIL controls everything east of the north central town of Raqqa, which is their headquarters. However, Syrian Kurds have beaten ISIL in the far northeast. Syria also has intact forces opposite al-Walid and probably elsewhere. ISIL has moved mainly along one or two roads from Raqqa and its lines of communication are vulnerable. It has operated in a friendly environment with local support.

Russia: On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Putin sent a letter to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, asking it to revoke the right of military intervention in Ukraine.

"We will always protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, as well as the part of Ukrainian people who ... feel part of the wider Russian world, and we will not only monitor this but also react," Putin said. "I hope that armed forces will not be necessary for this.

Peskov said the move was made to support Monday's talks between Kyiv and separatist leaders in the east.

Comment: Russian leaders have decided that intervention by conventional forces is not required, possibly because of the potential penalties to Russia, but also because the separatists are gaining political acceptance. Putin's comment about protecting Russians means that Russia has other military options, including sending arms and advisors to eastern Ukraine.

Now that Kyiv has agreed to hold talks with the eastern separatists, investing them with political standing, Putin can afford to be conciliatory.

Ukraine: Separatists downed a Ukrainian military helicopter near the town of Slavyansk, killing all nine people aboard. A Ukrainian official said it was downed by a shoulder-fired missile.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko warned that he might terminate the ceasefire prematurely because of the "constant violation by the rebels controlled from abroad."

Comment: The lack of central leadership of the separatist fighters makes it impossible to ensure that all groups will honor a ceasefire. That is also true for elements of Ukraine's National Guard.

Libya: Libyans will vote on Wednesday, 25 June, to elect the members of a new 200-seat parliament.

The UN described the election as "an important step in Libya's transition towards stable democratic governance."

The new parliament will be called the House of Representatives and it will convene in Benghazi, according to a cabinet decree, to make the easterners feel moreincluded.

Comment: The elections are supposed to help stabilize the country. Open sources pointed out two problems. First is that voter registration is about half what it was for the 2012 elections of the General National Congress, in which Islamists dominated. Thus, the outcome will be even less representative than was the Congress.

The second issue is that the Islamists are likely to dominate the new parliament, as they did the Congress. They are the most politically aware and active and most likely to vote. In other words, little will change. General Hifter and his secular supporters are not likely to obey another Islamist legislature any more than they obeyed the General National Congress.

Nigeria: Boko Haram abducted 60 more people in northern Nigeria.

Comment: Boko Haram continues to operate with impunity. Northern Nigerian villagers are being herded and slaughtered like farm animals.

End of NightWatch


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