Egypt Crisis Deepens

Posted: Dec 11, 2012 12:01 AM

North Korea: Update. North Korea might have decided to reschedule its planned rocket launch apparently due to technical problems, a senior government source in Seoul told the press on Sunday. The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported earlier in the day Pyongyang was considering postponing the dates of its rocket launch, which had been scheduled for between 10 and 22 December. The report provided no explanation or details.

Comment: The South Korean report cited "unusual actions" detected at the launch site as backing up the speculation of a delay in the launch. If the North intends a delay, it should already have defueled the rocket which was fueled on Friday. That would constitute unusual activity.

Once North Korea has assembled a multi-stage rocket in a launch gantry, we are aware of no time when it has failed to launch, eventually.

Syria: Last week some 500 delegates from rebel fighting groups met in southern Turkey to form a unified military command under a Chief of Staff. They elected a 30-person Supreme Military Council and named ex-Army Brigadier General Salim Idriss as the Chief of Staff on Friday.

The next step is to meet with representatives from the opposition's newly reorganized political leadership.

Comment: Most mainstream news services reported that the new Council is dominated by Islamist and Salafist leaders, some of whom boasted about executing captured Syrian soldiers.

Turkey and the US are the key actors trying to unite the fighting groups into some form of unified command. Control of equipment, arms and funds provides the incentive for the groups to go along with the effort. Thus far, outside aid provided to fighting groups lacks consistency, accountability or traceability. A unified command would help improve the efficiency of the aid operations.

The most important problem to solve is establishing some functional relationship with the political leadership that avoids the creation of warlords in Syria. The distance between the opposition politicians and the rebel fighting groups is wide and dangerous.

The formation of a Council looks like a step towards a unified command, but it is too soon to describe it as a positive development or to offer odds in favor of its longevity or effectiveness. The entire process could backfire easily.

Egypt: President Mursi issued an order effective Monday that directs the Egyptian Army to maintain security and protect government buildings until the results of the 15 December referendum are announced. The military is tasked to co-ordinate with the police on maintaining security and also is authorized to arrest civilians.

The army has built a wall of concrete blocks to seal off the presidential palace, which has been the focus of opposition demonstrations. During the day on Sunday, Egyptian F-16 fighter jets made low passes over Cairo.

On Saturday Mursi rescinded most of his decree on 22 November that exempted his actions from judicial review. He left in place that right, with respect to what he calls "constitutional declarations." His modified decree also exempts from review his actions taken under the 22 November, such as the dismissal of the public prosecutor.

Egypt's opposition National Salvation Front rejected Mursi's compromised and announced it will not participate in the referendum on the constitution on the 15th. It also called for a million-man protest march on Tuesday.

Comment: Events moved quickly over the weekend, but served to deepen the constitutional crisis. As before, Mursi continues to operate above the law and to use flawed processes, for a democracy, asking the people to trust his good intentions. His reliance on the Egyptian Army is a form of martial law. The Army, however, has made clear that it is not interested in governing, but is acting to carry out the president's order. There will be more clashes and casualties this week.

End of NightWatch for 9 December.

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