NIGHTWATCH Revolution 2.0 Round-Up


Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Coalition Summary

Yemen: In defiance of the state of emergency declaration, thousands of Yemenis spent the night on streets across the country to maintain pressure on President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is facing a growing internal revolt by army leaders, government officials and diplomats.

Comment: Following the killing by government agents of more than 50 protestors and the wounding of 250 others last Friday, President Saleh’s government has unraveled. Dozens of officials including key generals and diplomats have declared allegiance to the Arab youth.

Warning: Saleh will resign, be assassinated or overthrown, probably by the end of the week. The collapse of Saleh’s government will create stress in US policy because Saleh has been steadfast in opposing Islamic terrorism and the ideology of a successor government is unknown.

The Defections

Military officers including Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the first armored division and the northwestern region plus half brother to President Saleh, and Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Muhsen, commander of the eastern region, abandoned the regime yesterday, 20 March.

Their action was in response to the killings last Friday. General Mohsen al-Ahmar positioned his unit’s tanks and military vehicles between the protestors and the tanks of the Yemeni Republican Guard. Army units also took up positions around key government buildings and bank offices in the capital, Sana’a, without intervening against protesters.

President Saleh’s son and putative successor, General Ahmed, heads the Republican Guard and the special forces. Ahmed’s armor is deployed to defend the presidential palace.

The general officer commanding the 310th Armored Division of the Yemeni army, Colonel Hamid al-Qashini, as well as First Deputy parliament speaker Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar joined the anti-government youth revolution, Al Jazeera reported.

The commander of the 121st Brigade, Brigadier General Nasr al-Jhuri, announced his support for the anti-government protesters. Yemen’s military attache to Russia Brigadier General Mohammed Saleh Alkukni and Yemen’s Ambassador to China, Muthanna Mohammed, announced they would resign their positions and join the protest movement.

Air Defense Commander Brigadier General Sadiq Ali Sarhan joined the anti-government protesters on 21 March. Wahid Ali Rashid, the first deputy governor of Aden also said he has joined the youth revolution and called on Yemenis to support it.

The Ambassador to Canada, Khalid Bahah, resigned from the ruling party and announced his support for the people’s revolution. The Ambassador to Germany also resigned to join the revolution. Hossein Razi, deputy director of security for the capital, announced that he was joining the revolution and confirmed his commitment to protect citizens and public and private properties.

Minister Plenipotentiary at the Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Saeed Noman, announced his defection to the opposition movement. Hajj provincial Deputy Governor Abdullah Nasser al-Muthana; al-Baydha provincial Deputy Governor Sheikh Ahmed Salim Esseily; Dhamar provincial Deputy Governor Major Hammoud Drham; Director General of Telecommunications for the Interior Ministry, Brigadier General Yahya Jaber Abdullah; presidential adviser Major General Saleh Aldhanin, and commander of the 26th Republican Guard Brigade, Brigadier General Mohsen Ahmed Shabibi, all announced their resignations and defections to the opposition movement.

In parliament, 30 MPs from the ruling party announced they are joining the people’s revolution. Deputy Oil Minister Abdul-Malik Alama; Deputy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Finance and Administration D. Riad al-Qurashi; General Consul to Dubai and Northern UAE Mohammad Saleh al Qatish; Brigadier General Faisal Rajab, commander of the 119 infantry brigade in the Radfan area of Hajj province and the Yemeni consulate for Jedda and its whole staff have resigned and announced they are joining the revolution.

The parliament will hold a meeting March 23 to follow its constitutional procedures in accordance with the decree announcing a state of emergency, Saba reported March 21.

Comment: No government can survive the fracture of the bureaucracy and the Army plus the loss of support from key constituents, namely Saleh’s own tribe. Saleh has blundered in applying his carrot and stick policy to the protestors and promoting his son as potential successor.

Friday’s violent crackdown on the protests set his fate. Brigadier General Al Mohsen al Ahmar, Saleh’s half-brother, is cited by experts as a likely interim leader or power behind the next leader. Major unknowns are whether the next government will be more or less secular and more or less friendly towards the US.

Several points are noteworthy. Saleh’s tribe and important members of his family have abandoned him. The Army is exercising decisive influence in the outcome of a political confrontation, as in Tunisia and Egypt. Saleh’s misreading and mishandling of the unrest are the catalysts for his own undoing.

Lesson for new analysts: Most often governments are the agents of their own collapse. They interpret requests for modest economic improvements or increases in political participation as challenges to authority and respond in appropriately to these non-threatening challenges.

Inappropriately means governments respond with coercion against protestors whose initial requests were to obtain help in finding jobs or relief in the form of lower, subsidized prices for staple food items. The coercive response is reflexive in authoritarian regimes. However, it also is the point at which economic issues metamorphose into political issues and become a challenge to the authority of the state. The state makes this change happen, not the protestors, in most instances.

It is a critical threshold in the analysis of internal instability that always portends escalation of the confrontation. Governments always have a choice in handling unrest. For example, a congruent response to a request for jobs is a jobs program, not offers of greater political participation or coercion by security forces.

Syria: Anti-government protests have spread to Jassem in southern Syria, where hundreds of people staged a sit-in in the center of town 21 March.

Comment: The key point is that the protests are persisting despite a government ban. The underlying issues are not economic, but political disenfranchisement for the Sunni majority by a minority government run by Alawites. The protests are a challenge to political authority.

Egypt: correction. The voter turnout in the constitutional referendum was not 41 percent as reported in the 20 March edition. The turnout was 41 million of 45 million eligible voters — an unprecedented 91 percent. The next major steps are presidential and parliamentary elections.

Libya: Politics. Libyan leader Qadhafi met with a committee to organize a “green march” consisting of unarmed civilians and parliamentarians “holding olive branches” to march on the eastern rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libyan state media Jana reported March 21. The unarmed pro-Gadhafi supporters will be escorted by some armed civilians since Benghazi is held by armed rebels, according to the Jana report.

Qadhafi also requested a UN meeting to discuss the no fly zone. The UN rejected the request but has promised a status report briefing on Thursday.

Situation Summary: Under Coalition air attacks, Qadhafi forces withdrew from Benghazi towards Ajdabiya. Other Qadhafi forces maintained attacks against Misrata, east of Tripoli and against Zintan southwest of Tripoli. News sources reported more Coalition missile attacks in Tripoli.

Comment: Benghazi no longer appears to be in danger. Qadhafi’s forces on the ground are not heeding a ceasefire order, nor are rebel fighters. Qadhafi forces have not stopped fighting. News outlets have reported no defections from Qadhafi’s leadership group at this early stage of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Coalition activity

The Coalition maintained military pressure on Libyan government forces that could harm civilians. This mission appears to be infinitely elastic.

UK: Typhoons saw their first action.

Spain: Two Spanish F-18 fighter jets executed their first missions over Libya on 21 March, the Defence Ministry said. “The two planes are taking part in the mission by the international coalition to enforce the no-fly zone established by the United Nations over Libyan airspace.”  Spain sent a total of four F-18 fighter jets and a refueling aircraft to the Italian base of Decimomannu on the island of Sardinia. An F-100 frigate, an S-74 submarine and a CN-235 maritime surveillance plane will also be deployed. Around 500 Spanish troops will eventually be involved in the operation.

France: The aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle arrived off Libya. Since Saturday, French Air Force fighters have flown 55 sorties.

Norway: 6 Norwegian fighters left Bodoe for Crete today.

Belgiun: Belgian fighters flew their first mission today in support of the no-fly zone.

Sweden: The government in Helsinki announced it would contribute a flight of combat aircraft to the Coalition.

Qatar: Qatari fighters flew their first missions today.

UAE: UAE fighters are expected to join the coalition.

Canada: CF-18s and tanker aircraft flew their first missions.

Comment: Piecemeal news reporting is misleading. Sophisticated coordination is essential in preparing daily air task orders (ATOs) for fighter aircraft from so many contributors, operating from multiple bases. The logistics of the operation is impressive as well. The US obviously is supplying the command and control coordination at this time, and probably will do so throughout the operation, possibly under the guise of NATO.

Nevertheless, both Qatar and UAE have come under the NATO umbrella by participating in this operation and that is a point aimed at Tehran.

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