NightWatch: Syria is no Libya, Yet

Posted: Mar 09, 2012 12:01 AM

South Korea-North Korea: South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on 7 March that any new attacks from North Korea will be used as a chance for South Korea to avenge the North's 2010 bombing of Yeonpyeong Island. National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin made the remarks during a visit to the island.

Comment: The North is blustering, but the South means business this time. It will retaliate for a North Korean attack and might even be willing to entrap the North.

Afghanistan: Six missing British soldiers in Afghanistan are believed dead after an explosion struck an armored vehicle, according to the British Ministry of Defence. According to the ministry, the vehicle was hit as the soldiers were on patrol in Helmand province, where most British troops operate.

Comment: A few commentators have linked this to the Quran burnings, but the Taliban have not made such a claim.

Syria- Arab Red Crescent: Over the past few days, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has distributed aid provided by the ICRC to the Bab Amr district of Homs, to Hama, Idlib, Deraa, rural Damascus and the eastern city of Raqqa, a spokesman said. "The situation as we see it today is that unrest is still taking place mainly in Hama, Deraa, Rural Damascus, Homs and Idlib," Hassan said.

Opposition spokespeople said fighting was continuing in Homs, but a Red Crescent spokesman said that it was not. The Red Crescent teams found that the population had evacuated the Baba Amr district of Homs and the rest of the city was quiet.

Comment: The arrival of Red Crescent teams has provided some much needed ground truth reporting. The fighting in Homs has been concentrated in the Baba Amr district, which the government seized, but the residents apparently  had already left along with the fighters. It remains difficult to develop a relatively unbiased view of the struggle. The Red Crescent statements suggest actual confrontations are occuring in neighborhoods of five towns and cities. That is far more limited than international media suggest.

Syria-UK: British Prime Minister David Cameron told a hearing at the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 6 March that his government provided cash and equipment to foreign-backed rebels in Syria under such names as "aid agencies" operating on the ground to help deliver food and emergency medical supplies, Press TV reported.

Comment: Cameron's admission in conjunction with the capture of the 13 French officers tends to confirm the Syrian government's consistent contention that the opposition is made up of outside troublemakers. The Syrian situation in no way resembles Libya and accurate information is just not available, except one fact. There are no significant and sustained operations in Damascus. Until they occur, the regime will survive.

Libya: Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil said 7 March that he will use force if necessary to keep Libya united, following a declaration of autonomy by elements in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. Abdel-Jalil said leaders are not prepared to divide Libya and called on Cyrenaica leaders to join in dialogue.

Comment: A resumption of civil war is not imminent or inevitable. As long as the two sides are conducting diplomacy in public, by exchanging statements, the situation is stable. The public exchanges buy time for each side to arm and prepare. Once they stop and there are no negotiations, then fighting is likely to resume.

End of NightWatch. .

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