Kabul Security Heightened

Posted: May 05, 2012 12:01 AM

Afghanistan: On 3 May, the UN declared Kabul a "White City" Highest Security Status effective immediately. This means all movements by UN staff have been suspended within Kabul and the surrounding region.

The UN claims that there also has been an increase in security threats specifically along the Jalalabad Road corridor. The warning indicated the most likely targets will be the installations of the international military, Afghan military and Police; government buildings; the UN complex and the residential areas for foreigners.

Comment: The timing relative to the Taliban announcement of their spring offensive suggests the alert order is a precaution, rather than a response to specific and detailed threats.

Saudi Arabia-Iran: The Saudi government repeated on Wednesday that it would not tolerate threats to the Gulf Arab states' sovereignty. This was the third warning by a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the past month in response to Iranian activity.

Today's warning appears to be the Saudi response to Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad's visit to Abu Musa on 11 April. The United Arab Emirates also claim Abu Musa and two other islands near entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. Abu Musa has about 2,000 inhabitants and is part of Iran's Hormozgan Province.

"Any harm that comes across any of our countries is harm that touches us all," Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Nayef said in a speech at a meeting of GCC interior ministers in Riyadh. Nayef also condemned what he called Iran's "occupation" of the island and its role in Shiite political protests in Bahrain.

"We stress that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the council countries are standing in a unified line with Bahrain and the UAE to protect sovereignty and stability, considering their security a part of the council's security as a whole."

Comment: Ahmadi-Nejad seems to have gone out of his way to annoy the GCC by his visit, which has increased tension, but the GCC also appears to be fabricating a reason for tension. The UAE claim to Abu Musa was rejected by the UN in 1980. Iraq's Saddam Hussein revived it to help justify Iraq's war against Iran.

Iranian backing for Shiite political protests in Sunni-governed Bahrain looks to be a more serious source of concern. The GCC warnings appear to be a subset of the international pressure campaign against Iran to stop the nuclear program and all other actions that destabilize the Middle East.

The US has deployed a flight of four F-22 fighters to the UAE, but a spokesman denied it represents a show of solidarity with the GCC or is intended to intimidate Iran. Nevertheless, Iran claims the US has endangered regional stability with the F-22 deployment.

Iran's accusation is the best indicator that the leaders in Tehran grasp the message that the US backs the GCC demand that Iran stop meddling in Arab matters. That, of course, does not mean to suggest the Iranians will comply with the message, but they might proceed with more caution or deception.

Egypt: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will hold to its plan to hand over power before 30 June and elections in Egypt will continue as scheduled despite clashes, General Mahmoud el-Assar said on 3 May. El-Assar said the council is equally distant from all candidates. He said police forces stopped clashes in Abbassiya.

Comment: Now that the election campaign officially has begun, the political situation is heating up and more clashes are likely, between rival camps as well as with security forces. The decisions of the election commission have guaranteed friction because the commission eliminated clear favorites whose name recognition lent some order to the field of candidates.

Russia: At a conference with US and NATO delegations in Moscow to discuss missile defense, the Chief of the General Staff General Makarov said that Russian might undertake a pre-emptive attack against NATO missile defenses. "Decisions on the pre-emptive use of ... attack components will be taken in the period of heightening tension."

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that talks between Moscow and Washington on the U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan are "close to a dead end."

The US position is that the missile defense system is intended to destroy Iranian missiles and is no threat to Russia. The missile defense system is scheduled for completion by about 2020. It will include interceptor missiles based in Poland and Romania.

Comment: The Russian statements appear to be indicators of what to expect from the new Putin presidency. The Russians gave a 3-D presentation, according to media coverage, that showed the NATO defensive missiles could shoot down all Russian missiles.

The Russian simulation presentation itself would seem to render the Russian threat of a pre-emptive strike as a bluff. Assuming the NATO radar and missiles sites are at constant combat readiness, the Russians have no expectation of executing a successful pre-emptive attack, based on their own presentation… unless the presentation might have been exaggerated for effect and not entirely accurate.

End of NightWatch for 3 May.

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