Obama's Middle Eastern Allies Are Hedging Their Bets

Night Watch
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Posted: Oct 09, 2014 12:01 AM
Obama's Middle Eastern Allies Are Hedging Their Bets

China-Hong Kong: Late on Tuesday, pro-democracy protestors agreed to start formal talks with local authorities later this week to address concerns. Multiple news sources report, however, that the crowds have diminished to a few hundred protestors. Their camp site causes some disruption, but the movement has fizzled.

Comment: The Chief Executive and his staff accurately predicted that the protests would fall off. They refrained from applying excessive force and they give up nothing by listening to grievances. They also have no incentive to make substantive political changes in response to the protests.

Syria: The UN and the President Erdogan of Turkey warned that the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are about to overrun the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

UN Secretary General warned of an imminent massacre of Kurds. Erdogan warned that Kobani is on the verge of falling. He also warned Syrian President al-Asad that a day of reckoning is coming for him. The Coalition conducted five air strikes against ISIL on Tuesday. They had no discernible impact on the security situation.

Comment: All the major Middle Eastern states and actors linked to the crisis with ISIL appear to be hedging their short term commitments but focusing almost exclusively on the end game. Erdogan's goal is the overthrow of Asad. Baghdad politicians are jockeying for influence and cannot agree on key positions to complete the cabinet. Sunni tribal leaders have no incentive to stop ISIL because they see an increasing prospect of returning to government in Baghdad.

The flaw in this strategic approach is that a tactical setback, as at Kobani, can blossom into a strategic collapse. Only the Kurds seem to take seriously the threat posed by ISIL because it is immediate and existential.

Nigeria: Update. Multiple news outlets confirmed that Boko Haram beheaded seven civilians in a village in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria on Monday. The attack occurred as Muslims in the village celebrated Eid al Adha.

Comment: The other story about killing 70 Nigerian soldiers is not confirmed and does not appear to be true.

Cameroon: On Tuesday morning, Boko Haram claimed eight victims in northern Cameroon. A rocket launched by Boko Haram from the Nigerian city of Banki exploded in Cameroon, killing at least eight civilians and leaving an unknown number of injured.

Comment: Boko Haram suspended most attacks last month while it sorted out leadership issues. The movement claims its leader did not die, as the Nigerians claimed, and purported to back the claim with new video. That seems to have been the signal to resume attacks.

End of NightWatch

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