Night Watch

Thailand: The Yingluck Shinawatra government dissolved parliament and called for new elections today. The government took the move to stop escalating anti-government protests and to avert violence in Bangkok.

A royal decree set the electionsfor 2 February 2014, more than two years before the government's term of office was supposed to have ended. Despite the announcement, authorities estimated more than 100,000 protestors demonstrated in Bangkok on 9 December.

Comment: Parliamentary governments never dissolve parliament without having a good estimate of their probable success in new elections. The enduring populist appeal of the Pheu Thai Party, which is Shinawatra's party, is such that it is likely to win the next election. It has won consistently since 2001.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra might not be the party's choice for its next prime minister, but the party's base of support most likely will propel it to victory in fair elections.

The opposition Democratic Party leadership wants the government to resign immediately without elections. It wants power transferred to an unelected council, in the name of the people, of course.

Iran-Hamasand the Gaza Strip: "Relations between Hamas and Iran have resumed," according to a Hamas spokesman. He said ties had been "affected by the Syria situation, and Hamas has withdrawn from Syria so that it can't be identified with this or that side.…We've confirmed we are not interfering in the Syrian case, or in any other Arab country."

"Our relations with Iran were not cut, and we don't wish to cut ties with any Arab countries either, even those that are fighting against us."

Comment: This development is one of the most significant changes in the Middle East this past half year. Hamas is a bellwether for the ascendant power in the region.

Iran was its primary benefactor before the start of the Sunni uprising in Syria. Two years ago, flush with funds from the Sunni Arab monarchies and buoyed by promises of American backing, the Sunni opposition appeared likely to defeat the Iranian-backed Syrian government and its forces. Hamas switched sides to support the likely winner in Syria - the Sunnis.

Today's announcement means that Hamas has decided that the Sunni rebels will not win and that its fortunes now will be served best by siding with the Iranians once again.

A second reason the resumption of Hamas' relations with Iran is important is because it signifies that Iranian policy towards Israel has not changed with Ruhani's election as president.

Night Watch

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