Monthly Archives: February 2011

>Africa File: Libyan rebels down military aircraft as 2,000 pro-Qaddafi troops attempt to re-take Misurata, Zawiyah, French send aid to rebels

>Over the weekend, rebels in Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, and the strategic refinery town of Zawiyah fought back attempts by pro-Qaddafi forces to re-assume control over the region around the national capital Tripoli. A witness in Misurata told Reuters by telephone: “An aircraft was shot down this morning while it was firing on the local radio station. Protesters captured its crew. Fighting to control the military air base started last night and is still going on. Gaddafi’s forces control only a small part of the base. Protesters control a large part of this base where there is ammunition.”

Pictured above: Rebel militiamen in Nalut, 90 kilometers from Tunisian border, on February 27.

At the same time, rebel forces consisting of mutinous army units and militiamen have seized towns throughout western Libya. On February 28, The Telegraph quoted a lawyer in the town of Nalut, Shaban Abu Sitta, as saying: “The city has been liberated since February 19. It has been run by a revolutionary committee named by the town’s communities. The towns of Rhibat, Kabaw, Jado, Rogban, Zentan, Yefren, Kekla, Gherien and Hawamed have also been free for days. In all these towns, Gaddafi’s forces have gone and a revolutionary committee put in place.”

This weekend, the USA, the United Kingdom and the United Nations Security Council slapped economic sanctions on Libya. The European Union plans to apply sanctions against the embattled Qaddafi regime on Monday.

In Washington, US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, representing both main parties, have urged President Barack Hussein Obama to recognize the transitional government in Libya and provide anti-regime forces with weapons and humanitarian assistance to oust Gaddafi.

In Paris, Prime Minister François Fillon acknowledged that France is sending two planes with humanitarian aid to Benghazi, the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya. The planes will be ferrying doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment. “It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories,” Fillon said on RTL radio. He explained that the French government was studying “all solutions” to the Libyan crisis, including military options, so that “Gadhafi understands that he should go, that he should leave power.”

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>Africa File: Qaddafi reportedly uses poison gas against opponents in rebel-held Misurata, enlists support of Western Sahara guerrillas

>– Libya’s former justice minister leads formation of interim government in Benghazi (source)

– According to the Iranian media there are unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi’s embattled regime has used poison gas against demonstrators in rebel-held Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city (source)

– Qaddafi secures support of Western Sahara’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro; hundreds of Polisario guerrillas steal across Algeria-Libya border to military camps near Tripoli (source)

– On Friday, rooftop gunmen in Tripoli fired on civilians with automatic weapons (source)

– According to Colonel Tarek Saad Hussein, a rebel officer who is coordinating an attack on the national capital, an armed volunteer force of about 2,000 men, including army defectors, is due to arrive in Tripoli shortly

– USA imposes unilateral sanctions on Qaddafi regime, freezes all assets held by Qaddafi clan, closes embassy in Tripoli (source)

– White House and NATO considering military option (source)

– United Nations World Food Program warns Libya’s food supply “close to collapse” (source)

– Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez, avoids public statements regarding fate of ally Qaddafi, posts thoughts on official Twitter account: “Gaddafi is facing a civil war. Long live Libya. Long live the independence of Libya.” (source)

>Africa File: Russia opposes sanctions against murderous Qaddafi regime, White House and NATO mull response, Islamists back Libyan rebels

>Pictured here: On February 24, anti-Qaddafi militiamen raid a military base near Benghazi and stockpile weapons for final assault against regime forces, which are concentrated in the capital Tripoli.

>Africa File: Qaddafi holed up in Bab Al-Azizia barracks with mercenaries, plane loaded with gold, cash, ready for escape to Zimbabwe

>– Mugabe’s Defense Minister Refuses to Comment on Reports of Zimbabwean Soldiers in the Employ of Qaddafi

– London-Based Libyan Oppositionist: Qaddafi Will Probably Flee Country before United Nations Imposes “No-Fly Zone”

– Qaddafi Sees “Writing on the Wall” as Tunisians and Egyptians Oust Dictators, Begins Shipping in 4,000 Mercenaries Two Days before Riots Erupt in Benghazi

Pictured above: Members of Libya’s Internal Security Forces wave the old national flag as they parade through the eastern, rebel-held city of Tobruk on February 24, 2011.

The Zimbabwe Daily reports that soldiers of that country are among Muammar al-Qaddafi’s mercenary units, which are ruthlessly gunning down civilians in Tripoli. On Wednesday, Innocent Gonese, chief whip of the Zimbabwean parliament and member of Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai, asked Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to respond to reports, broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, that Zimbabwean troops are in Libya to help prop up Qaddafi’s tottering regime. In his reply, Mnangagwa only went so far as to acknowledge that: “There are mercenaries who are African and [who] are in Libya . . . [but] I have no mandate in my duty as Minister of Defense to investigate activities happening in another African country.”

The Zimbabwe news source then points out that this is not the first time the army has been deployed abroad. In 1999 President Robert Mugabe sent 11,000 troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support fellow Marxist Laurent Kabila against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

We previously blogged that the Libyan strongman, who has never enjoyed widespread support within the military, has shipped in ex-special forces from the “former” Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, as well as hired killers from Chad and Sudan. Ukrainian nationals not only hold high ranks in the Libyan armed forces, but also pilot the fighter jets that have bombed civilian targets since last week. Patriotic Libyan soldiers refused to carry out this beastly task and, instead, mutinied, rallying around Qaddafi’s opposition.

On February 24, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a lengthy interview with London-based Libyan oppositionist Guma El-Gamaty, who commented on the extent to which rebel forces now control the North African country:

I think practically Gaddafi’s regime is finished, it’s over, he’s down. It’s just a matter of time. This time could be hours, could be days

The whole of the eastern region is now totally free of Gaddafi’s control. In the western region, big towns and cities have also fallen. We have confirmation this morning that the third biggest city in Libya, which is Misurata, some 200 kilometers east of Tripoli, is totally free of Gaddafi and they have managed to tackle the last security battalion in the city and taken it over.
In fact, the local radio station in Misurata is now broadcasting free material against Gaddafi and celebrating with the population.

Also other towns like Zaria, 40 kilometers west of Tripoli is—we had reports today directly from there—that it is free. Zwara, near the Tunisian border, Gharyan, south of Tripoli about 80 kilometers.

Gaddafi is now more or less isolated within Tripoli and within Tripoli itself is just isolated inside his headquarter barrack, which is called Bab al-Azizia barrack, surrounded by his [seven] sons and a few of his security battalions.

With respect to the role of the hired foreign gunmen in Qaddafi’s employ, El-Gamaty explains:

[Qaddafi] . . . has thousands of African mercenaries. Some of them have been caught in the eastern region and interrogated. They are Africans who speak French or English. They are totally alien to the Libyan society and they said they have been promised large amounts of dollars to fight for Gaddafi, basically. And these thousands of Africans are within the Bab al-Azizia barrack.

It’s a huge complex and they unleash them out of the barracks in to the streets of Tripoli to terrorize the population and to prevent them from coming out and demonstrating. These mercenaries have orders to shoot any people who they see on the streets. So, that is what’s holding the huge population of Tripoli, which is about two million people, not to come out en masse. Basically, they are held hostages in their houses.

However, the grip is loosening very fast and even within Bab al-Azizia barrack we hear of the factions, we hear of the Libyan elements within Bab al-Azizia, some of them are refusing to go out and shoot their own citizens and as a result they have been executed and we hear of in-fighting.

According to El-Gamaty, the Libyan leader plans to flee to Zimbabwe, where he enjoys a comradely relationship with communist dictator Robert Mugabe:

The most serious thing we’ve heard this morning from quite reliable sources from Tripoli is that somebody, a Libyan called from within Bab al-Azizia, called his cousin and said: “Look, Gaddafi is preparing his private plane to flee and fly out to Zimbabwe.”

The report says that Gaddafi’s own private plane is loaded with gold bullion and lots of hard currency, mainly dollars, and is preparing to flee to Zimbabwe with his friend Robert to stay there in the safety of his friend Robert Mugabe.

We think this could happen very shortly because the Security Council is threatening to impose a no-fly zone and we think that Gaddafi will try to escape before this no-fly zone is imposed, possibly by tomorrow [February 25].

Waiting for the “Lunatic of Libya” in Zimbabwe–should this scenario unfold–will be another deposed dictator, red tyrant Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has enjoyed a sedate retirement in a Harare suburb since fleeing Ethiopia 20 years ago.

There is no question that Qaddafi has been closely monitoring events in Tunisia and Egypt, where popular revolutions have ousted two presidents since mid-January. Through his son and heir apparent Saif, Qaddafi began shipping 4,000 mercenaries into the country two days before anti-regime protests erupted in the eastern city Benghazi. This is the testimony of Libyan Air Force Major Rajib Faytouni, who said he personally witnessed up to 4,000 mercenaries arrive on Libyan transport planes over a period of three days starting from Monday, February 14. Faytouni explained: “That’s why we turned against the government. That and the fact there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”

We suspect communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who has made no public comment about the uprising that dethroned his bud in Libya, has also been monitoring the revolutions in North Africa with obvious concern over his own fortunes in Venezuela. In any event, Qaddafi’s “duck” is finally cooked. It remains to be seen which Arab dictatorship will go down next.

>Africa File: Ukrainian mercenaries piloting Libyan air force fighter jets, cargo planes, responsible for bombing civilians in anti-Qaddafi protests

>– Qaddafi Orders Loyalists to Blow Up Libya’s Oil Pipelines as Rebel Forces Advance on Capital and Crude Shoots Up to US$117 Per Barrel

– Medvedev Identifies “Outside Forces” (CIA) for Fomenting Chechen and Arab Unrest, Deputy PM Sechin Blames Egyptian Revolution on Google (?!)

Pictured above: On Wednesday, Russians evacuated from Libya exit an Emergency Situations Ministry jet at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport.

On Thursday, Kiev-based newspaper Segodnya confirmed that “Mercenary pilots from Ukraine are flying Libyan air force planes supporting the regime of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.” Additional quotes from this source:

The Ukrainian pilots, some of whom hold senior rank in the Libyan air force, operate MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter jets, as well as An-12 and An-26 cargo planes. Stratfor, a private firm that does political analysis, reported on Tuesday that Ukrainian mercenaries piloted planes that had bombed hundreds of protesters near the Libyan capital Tripoli. A spokesman at Ukraine’s embassy in Tripoli denied that report.

The pilots receive between 2,000 and 8,000 dollars a month, Segodnya reported, citing Ukrainian combat flyers. A Ukrainian aircraft repair and overhaul facility reportedly has provided maintenance support for Libyan air force aircraft since 2008.

Ukrainian military professionals fighting on other nations’ behalf have landed the former Soviet republic in hot water repeatedly. The most controversial recent incidents involved Ukrainian helicopter gunship pilots attacking Albanian rebels for the Macedonian government in 2001, and Ukrainian missile gunners shooting down Russian aircraft for Georgia during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Russia has evacuated more than 300 citizens from Libya, as well as Ukrainians, Armenians, and Kazakhs. About 1,000 Russians, reports The Moscow Times, remain in the North African country, awaiting evacuation via ferries, presumably to the European Union.

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, Russia’s long-time ally, strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi and some 5,000 loyalists in the military are digging in, preparing to resist anti-government troops who have advanced within 50 kilometers of the national capital. “People’s committees” armed with automatic weapons patrol towns that have fallen to 40,000 anti-regime military units.

The uprising in Libya, which began with anti-government protests in Benghazi on February 15, has crippled the economy. “The uprising has virtually wiped out Libyan oil exports, said the head of Italy’s ENI, Libya’s biggest foreign oil operator,” the Irish media reports, noting: “The unrest has driven world oil prices up to around $117 a barrel, stoking concern about the economic recovery.” Crazy man Qaddafi has threatened to blow up oil pipelines that supply the EU with 10 percent of its energy requirements.

This week, Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev blamed “outside forces” for fomenting unrest that toppled the socialist dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, that presently emperils Libya’s, and that intends to dismember Russia. With a dark nod toward an alleged conspiracy between Chechen terrorists and the US Central Intelligence Agency, Soviet Komsomol grad Medvedev rumbled: “Let’s face the truth. They [USA] have been preparing such a scenario for us, and now they will try even harder to implement it. In any case, this scenario will not work.”

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin went so far as to name Google as a force behind the “regime change” in Egypt. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sechin stated: “One should examine closer the events in Egypt, to look into what high-profile Google managers had been doing in Egypt, what kind of manipulations with the people’s energy had taken place there.”

>Africa/Latin America Files: Ortega, Castro defend Qaddafi as strongman flies in ex-Soviet special forces to crush uprising; Italian FM: 1,000 dead

>– Rebellious Military Units, Anti-Regime Activists Hold Libya’s 2nd Largest City Benghazi, Eastern Part of Country

– Qaddafi’s Son Saif Coordinating Flights for “White Mercenary” Units from Russia and Eastern Europe, Many Ex-Soviet Special Forces

– Hired Gunmen from Sub-Saharan Africa Roam Streets of Tripoli as Anti-Regime Protesters Raise Pre-1969 National Flag

– Exiled Spiritual Leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Returns to Cairo, Issues Fatwa against Qaddafi, Urges Libyan Soldiers to Kill Dictator

– Algeria’s Ruling National Liberation Front Lifts 19-Year-Old State of Emergency in Bid to Halt North Africa’s Revolutionary Wave

– Former Contra Commander Assassinated in Nicaragua’s Northern Mountains, “Comandante Jahob” Declared New Insurgency against Sandinistas in July 2010

Pictured above: Libyans stand on an army tank at the state security compound in Benghazi, which is now controlled by anti-government troops. Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi never trusted the military and therefore turned to East Germany’s Stasi to build up his power base in the secret police.

The dominos of socialist dictatorship are falling across North Africa, but what will take their place? Tunisians ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January, while Egyptians ousted President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month. Anti-regime protesters profess to champion the establishment of democracy in these countries. However, in both cases long-exiled Muslim clerics swiftly returned to rally the region’s religious fundamentalists, prompting many observers to speculate that Iran may try to export its Islamic revolution to Tunisia and Egypt before democracy takes root there.

Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi appears to be the next target of this revolutionary wave. He not only faces a popular uprising inspired by the democratic revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, but also a widespread mutiny within the military and police, defections among senior officials and diplomats, and an Islamic insurgency that includes groups like the Islamic Emirate of Barqa.

With the help of his Presidential Guard and ruthless mercenaries consisting of ex-Soviet special forces, as well as hired killers from Chad and Sudan, Qaddafi is barely holding onto the capitol Tripoli. Britain’s Daily Mail reports:

Most of the ‘white mercenaries’ are believed to be from former Soviet Union countries, including the Ukraine, and have been identified by their language and by those captured and interrogated before being killed. Many carry passports and identification papers from the armies for which they were once regular soldiers. Gaddafi’s son and heir Saif is understood to be co-ordinating the mercenaries’ operations.

Air force officer Major Rajib Faytouni said he personally witnessed up to 4,000 mercenaries arrive on Libyan transport planes over a period of three days starting from February 14. Faytouni stated: “That’s why we turned against the government. That and the fact there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”

On Tuesday, in a 75-minute shrieking rant aired on state television, Qaddafi brandished his “Green Book,” vowed to die as a “martyr” for “Islamic socialism,” and urged followers to do the same: “I am not a president to step down … This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post. I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when I do, everything will burn. Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”

Islamic fundamentalists in other countries have made no attempt to disguise their contempt for long-time Moscow ally Qaddafi. The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, who lately returned to his homeland from exile in Qatar, issued a fatwa (death sentence) against the Libyan leader. “Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr. Gaddafi should do so,” Yusuf al-Qaradawi told Al-Jazeera television.

By contrast, some of Qaddafi’s venerable Latin American allies have rallied to his defense. On Tuesday, Nicaragua’s past/present Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega admitted that he has telephoned Qaddafi several times over the past few days to express Nicaragua’s solidarity with Libya. On Monday, during an event commemorating revolutionary hero Augusto Sandino, Ortega downplayed Qaddafi’s brutal crackdown by declaring: “Gadhafi is again waging a great battle to defend the unity of his nation. It’s at difficult times that loyalty and resolve are put to the test.”

Comandante Ortega’s comments do not bode well for Nicaraguans who last December opposed the passage of Sandinista-sponsored “national defense” bills that could easily resurrect Ortega’s Cold War-era dictatorship.

In his weekly Reflections column, cadaverous ex-dictator Fidel Castro went further than his disciple Ortega by weaving a conspiracy theory that pits unfortunate Libya against the world’s sole superpower “For me, what is absolutely clear,” frets Comrade Fidel, “is that the government of the United States is not in the least worried about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate in giving NATO the order to invade that rich country, perhaps in a matter of hours or a few short days.”

Qaddafi is also chummy with Venzuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who has issued no public comments on the crackdown in Libya. However, this Monday Chavez’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, denied reports that the Libyan strongmen fled his homeland in search of asylum in Venezuela. Maduro acknowledged that he spoke with Libyan counterpart Moussa Koussa, who apparently insisted that “Gaddafi is in Tripoli, exercising the powers given to him by the state and addressing the situation in the country, thereby refuting the comments made to the press in an irresponsible manner by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.” Both Chavez and Qaddafi have made official visits to the other’s country.

The pro-Washington government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia has suspended diplomatic ties with Libya, becoming the first country anywhere to take such a measure.

According to Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, Qaddafi loyalists and reputed mercenaries in the employ of the tottering regime have bombed and gunned down 1,000 civilians since the first anti-government protests erupted in Benghazi on February 15. Italy imports 25 percent of its oil from the North African country. Frattini has enjoined Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who faces embarrassing charges of consorting with prostitutes, to use his close personal ties with Qaddafi to pressure the strongman to halt the crackdown.

After the First World War, Italy took over Libya from the Ottoman Empire. During the 1920s and 1930s, Italy’s ruling National Fascist Party adopted a hard line against Arab nationalists in Libya. General Rodolfo Graziani, who led the “pacification” of the Libyan rebels, was known as the “butcher of Fezzan.”

Today, NATO country Italy has a separate treaty of friendship with Libya, one provision of which states: “Italy will not use or will not permit the use of its own territories in any hostile act against Libya and Libya will not use, nor permit the use of its own territories in any hostile act against Italy.” This would seem to prevent the unlikely scenario painted by Comrade Fidel.

Libya’s opposition groups are organized under the banner of the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition, which includes the main organization known as the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), as well as the Libyan League for Human Rights, Libyan Tmazight Congress, Committee for Libyan National Action in Europe, and the Warfalla and Tuareg tribes.

Founded in 1981, leftists allege that the NFSL is financed and trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency. On May 8, 1984, NFSL commandos took part in a daring attack on the Bab al-Aziziyah barracks near Tripoli, in an attempt to assassinate the Libyan leader. The NFSL Executive Committee is currently led by Secretary General Ibrahim Abdulaziz Sahad, who was re-elected for a second term during the 5th National Congress, held in the USA in July 2007.

With the help of military units who defected from the Qaddafi regime, the opposition has assumed control over Libya’s second largest city, Beghazi, which had been the focal point of anti-Qaddafi unrest. The mainstream media, in fact, reports that much of eastern Libya is firmly under rebel control. The Canadian media reports that the Libyans have raised pre-Qaddafi national flags in cities and town throughout the country, including in the suburbs of Tripoli:

Outside the Libyan capital, anti-government protesters have asserted their control in a number of areas in the eastern part of the country. But on Wednesday, witnesses said that some protesters were making their presence known in areas much closer to Tripoli.

In the city of Misurata, about three hours east of the capital, people were seen honking their horns and raising pre-Gadhafi flags. Local doctor Faraj al-Misrati said the people in Misurata had formed committees to protect the city, keep the streets clean and treat the injured. “The solidarity among the people here is amazing, even the disabled are helping out,” al-Misrati told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

A Facebook page showed video of anti-government protesters raising a pre-Gadhafi flag on the outskirts of Tripoli in Zawiya. Another video showed protesters using cement blocks and flaming tires to fortify their positions on a public square in Tripoli. None of the content in the videos could be independently confirmed.

The Associated Press reports that anti-government protesters have taken control of nearly the entire eastern half of Libyan’s 1,600-kilometre Mediterranean coast. They are backed by army units who have defected from Gadhafi’s control.

On Wednesday, Qaddafi loyalists and their imported killers renewed attacks against civilians in the capital, pushing up the price of crude in New York for the fifth consecutive day to US$100. Many countries with citizens working in Libya, including Russia, have scrambled to organize evacuation flights and sailings.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, anti-regime protests continue in Bahrain, Yemen, and Algeria, where the ruling National Liberation Front formally lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency in a bid to pre-empt a Tunisia/Egypt-style putsch.

Meanwhile, sinister developments in Nicaragua provide some context for Ortega’s rush to defend old comrade Qaddafi. On February 13, in the mountains of northern Nicaragua unidentified assailants posing as farmers assassinated former Contra leader José Gabriel Garmendia, whose nom de guerre was “Comandante Jahob.” Unconfirmed media reports claim he was shot dead by Nicaraguan soldiers or intelligence officers who had infiltrated his camp. Tellingly, neither the Nicaraguan Army nor the National Police has commented on the incident.

Last July, Garmendia launched a “one-man” insurgency against the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). In response, Ortega and top military brass downplayed Jahob’s mini-rebellion, accusing him of being a “common delinquent with ties to drug traffickers and coup-conspiring Honduran military officials.”

Former Contra Felix Pedro Cruz, who still goes by the code name “Comandante Jehu,” claims Garmendia had mustered 3,000 armed men—a statistic disputed by the army—to prosecute his new war against the Sandinistas. “They have only made him into a martyr. His death will serve to unite all the divided contra movements into one,” said Cruz, who believes his comrade in arms is still alive. “It’s not the first time rumors of his death have been reported by the media.” However, a wake held for Garmendia in Estelí on February 15 suggests that Comandante Jahob is well and truly dead.

Since his re-election in 2006, after a 16-year hiatus, Ortega has snuggled up to old allies in Russia, Cuba, Libya, and North Korea, forged new allies in Iran and Venezuela, made a trip to Moscow, welcomed top Russian officials to Managua, cracked down on press freedoms, harassed opposition parties, modernized the never-used Soviet-built air base at Punta Huete, begun construction of an inter-oceanic canal, and sent troops to occupy a Costa Rican island.

>Africa File: Libyan oil terminals blocked, customer Italy worried, Egypt’s military rulers reinforce western border, fleeing Egyptians report carnage

>– Senior Libyan Officials and Diplomats Resign, Air Force Pilots Defect, Protest Qaddafi’s Bloody Crackdown on Regime Opponents

– Qaddafi Employing Mercenaries from Chad and Sudan to Suppress Anti-Regime Uprising

– Rebels Reportedly Control Eastern Part of Libya, Pro-Regime Forces Holding Out in Capital Tripoli

– Qaddafi’s Son Blames Egypt for Uprising, 1 to 1.5 Million Egyptians in Libya

Pictured above: Palestinian students in Gaza express their contempt for Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in a demonstration sanctioned by Gaza Strip rulers Hamas.

– The Voice of America reports today: The Libyan military continues to crack down on anti-government protesters, prompting an international outcry. Some Libyan officials are also calling for the violence to stop. Witnesses in the capital, Tripoli, and other cities report more attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Some say the violence is being carried out by people they describe as mercenaries, apparently from sub-Saharan Africa. The day before, witnesses said helicopter gunships fired on the demonstrators

Reuters reports today: Flows from marine oil terminals in Libya were halted on Tuesday and the energy supply situation in the north African country is causing concern, an Italian government source said.

– “The situation is worrying. This morning the oil terminals were blocked in Libya,” the source said. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is using tanks, helicopters and warplanes to combat a growing and bloody revolt in Libya, which supplies 25 per cent of Italy’s crude oil.

Same source reports: Egypt’s new military rulers reinforced their border with Libya on Tuesday and opened the frontier round-the-clock to thousands fleeing the turmoil unleashed by the revolt against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

– Egypt, which borders Libya to the east, was planning to send at least four aircraft to evacuate its citizens from Tripoli, pending permission from Libyan air traffic authorities.

– The Egyptian army said on Monday that Libyan forces had withdrawn from their side of the frontier and had been replaced by “people’s committees”, though it was not clear whether or not they were loyal to Gaddafi.

MSM reports: Libya’s ambassador to Indonesia has resigned to protest a bloody crackdown against protesters by his government. Salaheddin M. El Bishari told the English-language Jakarta Post newspaper in an exclusive interview: “Soldiers are killing unarmed civilians mercilessly. Using heavy weaponry, fighter jets and mercenaries against its own people. It is not acceptable. I have enough of it. I don’t tolerate it anymore.”

>Africa File: Chaos in Libya: Troops kill 200 protesters, some soldiers defect to anti-regime forces, Qaddafi reportedly flees to Venezuela

>Pictured here: On February 21, 2011, two Libyan Air Force colonels defected to Malta after refusing to attack anti-regime protesters. They made their getaway in state property: two Mirage fighter jets.

The revolutionary wave that has engulfed the Arab world since January crashed over Libya this past week. Long-time Soviet ally Muammar al-Qaddafi’s four-decade socialist dictatorship is tottering on collapse.

BBC has reported that automatic gunfire and tear gas have been fired at demonstrators in Tripoli and some government buildings have been burned to the ground.

– Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, warned on state TV that a “civil war” was imminent. “There is a plot against Libya,” said Saif, citing that “an Islamic group with a military agenda” was behind the turmoil.

– The US State Department said it is “gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya.”

– Two Libyan air force colonels defect, fly Mirage fighter jets to Malta after refusing to attack protesters.

Arab League demands end of violence in Libya as mutinous soldiers fight and defeat Qaddafi’s elite guards.

Armed rebels attack Suncor oil rig in Libya, three Canadian and dozens of other oil workers flee into desert.

– Qaddafi himself appeared on state television on Tuesday morning, insisting that he was somewhere in Tripoli and not in Venezuela, as reported by Al-Arabiya.

>Africa/Middle East Files: Anti-Qaddafi riots hit Libya, 84 killed as Tunisia-inspired protesters in Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran demand regime change

>– Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Represented on Army-Backed Committee to Propose Constitutional Amendments

– Syrian President’s Cousin, Living in Exile in London, Warns Ba’athist Regime to “Change or Be Changed”

– Israel Denounces Iranian “Provocation” as Tehran’s Warships Request Permission to Transit Suez Canal, Sail to Syria

Pictured above: Demonstrators opposed to the regime of Libya’s Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi gather in Hyde Park, London, on February 17, 2011.

Poverty, high unemployment, and decades of political oppression are the primary catalysts for the protests gripping North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and other parts of the Muslim world.

Following the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last Friday, the army has suspended the constitution and is ruling by decree. On February 18, thousands of pro-democracy supporters converged in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a day of celebration marking one week since the socialist dictator stepped down. In attendance was leading Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who called on the army “to listen to the will of the people” by introducing new blood into Mubarak’s former cabinet, which still includes many of the ex-president’s allies.

Both the 82-year-old Mubarak and his almost equally old vice president, Omar Suleiman, who announced Mubarak’s resignation on state television, vanished last Friday. Rumors suggest that Mubarak is still keeping a low profile at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, but his health is apparently poor. One report states that Mubarak has passed out on several occasions, while others suggest that he is suffering from assorted ailments, everything from depression to cancer.

This week, Egyptian workers continued to strike in various professions. The strikes shut down state and private banks, public transit, and ambulance services. Egypt’s stock exchange plans to reopen next week at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the pro-Iran, anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood professes to have no political aspirations but, nevertheless, has announced its intention to organize itself as a formal political party. On the one hand, Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie discoursed at the organization’s website:

The revolution has started to bear fruit. Egyptians should not allow the chance for opportunists to kidnap it and its accomplishments. This is an Egypt that cannot be deceived. We will not seek the presidency or a parliamentary majority in free and fair elections, as promised by the military council. We have no appetite for the presidency, or a majority or temporal positions.

On the other hand, in a separate statement on the Brotherhood website, spokesman Mohammed Mursi conceded: “The Muslim Brotherhood group believes in the freedom of the formation of political parties. They are eager to have a political party.” The Brotherhood, which advocates the establishment of an Islamic fundamentalist state in Egypt, has a member on the judicial committee set up by the ruling military council to propose constitutional amendments. In the wake of the collapse of the National Democratic Party regime, the Brotherhood is enjoying “unprecedented recognition” from the state that banned it for three decades.

Incidentally, an Iranian academic, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, who is Secretary General of the misnamed High Council for Human Rights, alleges that “senior Egyptian military commanders are under the influence of CIA and Mossad.” Last Sunday night, Larijani, a mathematician educated at the University of California at Berkeley, told IRIB Channel 2:

The Egyptian military officials do not dare to make any problem for the United States and this is why Washington insists on empowerment the Egyptian military. The West has been trying to censor news of Egypt so that the world does not get true information about the country. The movement of Egyptians should be pursued based on Islamic principles, anti-American and anti-Zionism.

The revolutionary wave that began last month in Tunisia has finally crashed across neighboring Libya, where anti-regime protesters in the country’s second largest city, Benghazi, demanded the ouster of long-time strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of anti-Qaddafi protesters staged a “day of rage” over the arrest of a human rights activist, clashing with police and pro-regime stooges. Anti-regime protesters hurled petrol bombs at their opponents and torched cars. A witness told Reuters by telephone: “There were about 500 or 600 people involved. They went to the [government’s] revolutionary committee in Sabri district, and they tried to go to the central revolutionary committee [where] . . . they threw stones.”

Middle East experts like Charles Gurdon at Menas Associates question whether Libyans will oust their dictator, as did Tunisians and Egyptians, but he then comments: “Having said that, after Tunisia people said that Egypt would not be the same. A lot will depend on how heavy-handed the security forces are.”

In an effort to buoy up the regime, state TV reported pro-government rallies in the capital Tripoli, as well as Benghazi. Under portraits of Qaddafi, supporters shouted: “We sacrifice our blood and souls for you, our leader! We are a generation built by Muamar and anyone who opposes it will be destroyed!” At the same time, the Qaddafi regime appeared to make some concessions to the country’s Islamic opposition by releasing 110 men jailed for membership in the banned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In 1996 the prison used to incarcerate Islamic militants was the site of a violent clash with police, leading to the killing of 1,000 inmates.

On Thursday, reports the Israeli media, anti-Qaddafi protests erupted in four cities, provoking confrontations with more pro-regime rent-a-mobs. An opposition website alleges that security forces killed 14 protesters in the city of Beyida. Like Egypt’s opposition, anti-Qaddafi activists are using Facebook and Twitter to organize nationwide demonstrations. Hard news of the uprising in Libya is hard to come by as the state media refuses to acknowledge the incidents. On Friday, security forces gunned down 35 participants in a funeral procession in Benghazi, bringing the total number slain in Libya’s protests t0 84.

Inspired by Gamal Nasser in Egypt, military officer Qaddafi seized power from the Libyan monarch in 1969, proclaimed a party-less socialist republic, quickly allied his country with the Soviet Union, sponsored terrorist attacks in Europe in the 1980s, and armed and trained African revolutionaries in the 1990s. In 1986, following the Libyan-orchestrated bombing of a nightclub in West Berlin that killed two US servicemen, President Ronald Reagan dispatched the US Navy to take out Qaddafi’s residence in Tripoli and assorted military installations.

To this day, Qaddafi remains a close ally of Russia, promotes the socialist/communist-dominated African Union, over which he was lately chairman, and enjoys a cozy relationship with Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez.

In Algeria, which shares a border with both Tunisia and Libya, the long-ruling National Liberation Front regime has shut down the Internet, which has become a powerful networking tool for anti-government activists throughout the region. On February 14, Algeria’s foreign minister, Mourad Medelci, told French radio Europe 1 that his government would shortly lift the 20-year state of emergency, days after protesters took to the streets to demand government reform.

“Soon, we will discuss the past, but I say that lifting the state of emergency will occur in the coming days. It will mean a return to Algeria, a rightful state which totally allows the expression of opinions, but always with reference to the law.” The minister downplayed the protests, referring to them as “minority” movements. Earlier this month, Algeria’s socialist dictator, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said he would lift the ban in the “very close future.”

The state of emergency was imposed in 1992 to crush an Islamic insurgency that led to the deaths of what US officials estimate to be more than 150,000 people. The Algerian civil war lasted more than a decade. “It pitted a corrupt military junta, which had ruled behind the facade of an elected government, against Islamists who effectively won a popular election in the early 1990s, and were then deprived of power,” explained the Centers for Strategic and International Studies recently. Opponents of the FLN regime say the Islamist threat has long since evaporated and the law exists only to silence government critics.

On February 12, The Telegraph reported that 30,000 riot police deployed throughout Algiers to thwart the anti-regime protests. The government also shut down Internet providers and deleted Facebook accounts across Algeria. “The government doesn’t want us forming crowds through the internet,” said Rachid Salem, a spokesman for Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria. “Security forces are armed to the teeth out on the street, and they’re also doing everything to crush our uprising on the internet. Journalists, and especially those with cameras, are being taken away by the police.”

Last Saturday, at least 500 anti-regime protesters were arrested in Algiers alone, with hundreds more in Annaba, Constantine, and Oran taking part in the so-called February 12 Revolution. “The police station cells are overflowing,” related Sofiane Hamidouche, a demonstrator in Annaba. “There are running battles taking place all over the city. It’s chaos. As night falls the situation will get worse.”

On February 17, 1,500 protesters in Yemen clashed with government loyalists, who were armed with daggers and batons, as the former demanded the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule over both the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the reunited Republic of Yemen. “The people want the fall of the president, the people want the fall of the regime,” chanted the protesters. Dozens were wounded and carried away from the scene. Thursday’s bloodshed represented the seventh consecutive day of anti-regime protests in Sanaa.

President Saleh is an ally in the USA’s “War on Terror,” but a third of the population in his country faces severe hunger while 40 percent live on less than US$2 a day. The government is struggling to finalize a truce with Iran-backed Shia Muslim rebels in the north and quell an increasingly violent separatist movement in the south, which vows to restore the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Khaled Fattah, a scholar at Scotland’s St. Andrews University, comments on the anti-regime protests in Yemen:

Saleh may prove harder to topple than Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The continuity of protests, however, may put pressure on Saleh’s government to offer more political concessions to the Southern Movement. Such concessions might lead to the adoption of a federal system.

To placate his many foes, Saleh has pledged to step down when his term ends in 2013 and promised not to let his son “inherit” the presidency. Last week, a court in Aden initiated a trial in absentia for Southern Movement leader Shalal Ali Shia on charges of inciting a revolt against the central government and targeting security forces. Southern Yemen is home to most of the country’s oil facilities.

Elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrainis are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, a member of the Sunni Muslim royal family who has held the post for 40 years, and the implementation of democratic reforms. On Thursday morning, police fired tear gas at protesters after hundreds gathered at the funeral of a demonstrator who died in clashes two days before. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in an emailed statement that two people were killed during Thursday’s illegal protests.

According to Mahdi Mattar, head of research at Abu Dhabi-based CAPM Investment PJSC, “Investors are de-risking due to the events in Bahrain mainly. Both local and the few international investors might want to reduce their exposure.” Tiny Bahrain is also home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. From this location, the US military can monitor and, if necessary, intimidate the radical Islamic regime in Iran.

During Tuesday’s clashes between protesters and security forces, police blocked the main roads into Bahrain’s capital and used tear gas and bird shot to disperse marchers seeking admission into Manama.

Elsewhere in the Muslim world, on Wednesday supporters and opponents of the Iranian government clashed at a funeral for a student shot dead during an opposition rally, with both sides claiming him as one of their own. State TV showed thousands of government supporters at Tehran University for the funeral of Sanee Zhaleh, one of two people shot dead on Monday. The opposition rally, which expressed support for the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, was the first major unrest in Iran since a wave of arrests, trials, and at least two executions took place after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009.

The USA’s crypto-Muslim president, Barack Hussein Obama, commented on the unrest in Iran: “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully.”

Finally, the socialist dictatorship in Damascus has been spared the unrest sweeping across the region, but this week the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad urged the Syrian dictator that “he must change or be changed.” Living in exile in London, where he manages the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, Ribal declared: “We do not want a revolution in Syria. We want the government to start to implement change, peaceful change.”

As political unrest continues in Egypt, the Suez Canal has become a focus of concern for the West, including Israel, the USA’s only reliable ally in the Middle East. Last Tuesday, a ship ran aground in the strategically important and economically vital canal due to engine failure in poor weather. “A cargo ship ran aground due to an engine malfunction in the southern sector of the canal, blocking five ships behind it,” a maritime source told Reuters. The source could not indicate when sea traffic would resume. Five of Egypt’s Red Sea ports were also closed on Tuesday due to bad weather.

According to international law, which Egypt’s ruling military council has pledged to uphold, Cairo cannot forbid any vessel from passing through the canal unless that country is at war with Egypt. Ahmed El-Manakhly, transit director at the Suez Canal Authority, reminded the world of this fact in a February 17 interview with Bloomberg Television. However, a country that is effectively at war with Egypt’s neighbour Israel, Iran, has requested permission for two of its warships to transit the canal.

Bloomberg, citing the Islamic Republic News Agency, reports: “The vessels will go to Syria, where they will anchor ‘for a few days’ on a trip that is ‘routine according to international law’ and part of Iran’s strategic relations with Syria . . .” The information originated from Iran’s ambassador in Damascus, Ahmad Mousavi. “The request is being studied,” Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, acknowledged on February 18. “Whether or not they actually send them is another story.”

The Israeli government considers the Iranian request to transit the Suez Canal a “provocation” and is monitoring the warships’ movements. Oil prices rose on Thursday after the Iranian state media confirmed reports that its warships are planning to navigate the canal.

>Communist Bloc Military Updates: RF DM backtracks on military reform, re-hires 70,000 officers, Medvedev vows force deployment to S. Kuril Islands

>– US-Russian Nuclear Disarmament: A “New START” or Kremlin Smoke and Mirrors?

– Potential Military-Domestic Security Application for New Fiber Optic Cable Linking Cuba and Venezuela

Pictured above: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Munich Security Conference, on February 5, 2011.

On February 5, the US and Russian governments formally committed themselves to implementing the provisions of the New START treaty. Under this agreement, Washington and Moscow, which together possess 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, will establish deployment ceilings of 1,550 strategic warheads in seven years, up to 30 percent lower than in the 2002 Moscow treaty.

Last December, Russia’s KGB-communist dictator, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, told CNN’s Larry King: “Russia will be forced to build up its nuclear forces if the United States does not ratify the New Strategic Arms Ratification Treaty. That’s not our choice. We don’t want that to happen. But this is not a threat on our part. We’ve been simply saying that this is what all of us expects to happen if we don’t agree on a joint effort there.”

The new START treaty is the keystone in US President Barack Hussein Obama’s starry-eyed plan for global nuclear disarmament. The US Left, which controls the White House, is engaged in serious wishful thinking on this point. The neo-Soviet regime has no more intention of complying with “New START” than with any other bilateral disarmament arrangement concocted in the past. The fact that the Russians are anxious for their “US partners” to ratify the deal should raise red flags (pun intended).

At the same time, behind the Kremlin’s smoke and mirrors, Russian rearmament continues apace. In October 2008, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov announced plans to cut the number of officers from 355,000 to 150,000 by 2012. According to Serdyukov, son-in-law of Gazprom’s chairman, “ex”-communist Viktor Zubkov, the Russian armed forces were “top-heavy” with an abundance of senior officers with little appreciation for post-Soviet warfare tactics. He determined that the overall strength of the military must be reduced to one million, while the number of officers should be maintained at 15 percent.

Early this month, according to Interfax, Serdyukov suddenly reversed his military reform policy, explaining that by next year the number of officers will be increased by 70,000, from 150,000 to 220,000. A pay increase will be forthcoming for Russia’s military commanders too. Serdyukov did not offer any “plausible explanation” for this about-face in defense posture, nor did he clarify whether redundant officers will be reinstated or new ones recruited. The defense minister only told journalists: “A decision has been taken, because we are forming additional military units – creating an entire new military branch – the military-space defense.”

Last year, Russia’s top general, Nikolai Makarov, First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff, announced that the defense ministry will form a joint “air-space defense system” (VKO) in 2011. “To form an umbrella to defend the state anytime from ballistic and medium range missiles as well as sea-, land- and air-launched cruise missiles,” Makarov told Novosti on December 14, 2010.

The new VKO will merge existing antiaircraft guided missile units with existing and future ballistic missile defense assets. However, observes independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, the new military formation “cannot possibly absorb” 70,000 additional officers this year or next. Apparently, only a small fraction of the additional officers will be serving in the new VKO. Serdyukov’s statement, therefore, was not a clarification, but an “arrogant rebuff of legitimate public concern.”

Felgenhauer notes, too, that Russia’s defense budget is typically cloaked in secrecy, approved by essentially one man–Putin—and rubber-stamped by the United Russia-dominated State Duma. The Russian military itself is experiencing a “severe manning crisis,” characterized by “virtually no quality NCO’s and little prospect to receive any soon.” Furthermore, conscript soldiers serve only for one year, are poorly trained and motivated, and their numbers are diminishing due to Russia’s demographic crisis, that is, a birth rate below replacement levels. Of course, this is a problem throughout Europe.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has adopted an aggressive stance on his country’s occupation of the South Kuril Islands, which Soviet troops invaded at the end of the Second World War. The island’s Japanese residents were expelled two years later. On February 9, during a meeting with defense and regional development ministers, Soviet Komsomol graduate Medvedev declared:

Everybody must understand that the South Kuril Islands are Russian territory. We will do everything we can to step up our strategic presence on the South Kuril Islands while developing friendly relations with our neighbors. There should be sufficient weaponry there to ensure the security of the islands as an unalienable part of Russia.

Medvedev visited the South Kurils last November. The conflicting claims over these islands north of Hokkaido are a sore spot in Moscow-Tokyo relations. The two countries are still technically at war since they signed no formal peace agreement in 1945.

Elsewhere in the Communist Bloc, on February 9, a long-awaited fiber optic cable linking Cuba and Venezuela reached the island, promising more and faster Internet and telephone service to the least “wired” country in the Western Hemisphere. Venezuela is financing the nearly 1,000-mile, 640-gigabyte-per-second, US$70 million cable, while the French company Alcatel-Lucent SA is actually laying the cable along the seafloor. The cable will be ready for use in July, explained Wilfredo Morales, president of Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe, a joint venture between Cuba and Venezuela. It will also be extended to Jamaica.

The new telecommunication link between the communist states is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, freedom-loving Venezuelans–who are already deeply troubled by President Hugo Chavez’s close relationship with the Castro Bros., the presence of thousands of Cuban professionals in Venezuela, including in sensitive government, military, and security posts, and the communization of the Venezuelan economy–are not happy about the fiber optic cable.

“Cubans are all over the state immigration office, they’re all over [presidential palace] Miraflores, and the situation room,” complained Robert Bottome, editor of VenEconomia. He added: “We’re concerned about the increased communications between Cubans here, Cubans there and the Venezuelan people helping the Cubans. The access given to Cubans in Venezuela’s public institutions is alarming.” Enrique Marquez, a deputy from the opposition A New Era Party, opined: “It’s a useless investment for Venezuela. I haven’t seen a single benefit for the Venezuelan people in all of this. The only beneficiary is the Cuban regime.”

On the other hand, Cuban officials will no doubt carefully control the introduction of the Internet into their country. In 2007, spymaster Ramiro Valdez, now Cuba’s vice president and head of Venezuela’s energy commission, defended Havana’s restrictions on the Internet. Valdez declared that the Internet is the “wild colt of new technologies [which] can and must be controlled.”

Earlier this month, a video circulating online showed a Cuban interior ministry official warning his comrades that the government “must not cede cyberspace” to dissidents. “Technology by itself is not a threat. The threat is what someone who is behind the technology can do. They have their bloggers and we have our bloggers. We will fight to see who is stronger.”

Incidentally, this past Friday, Venezuela’s state-run telecommunications operator, Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, announced that it has finished laying a fiber-optic cable between the southern part of the country to northern Brazil. Earlier last week, both countries’ foreign ministers met in Caracas where they revealed plans to collaborate in agriculture and finance. Chavez and Brazil’s new president, “ex”-Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff, are expected to meet during the first quarter of 2011.

Although Cuba and Venezuela have never held joint military exercises, the presence of Cuban military “advisers” in Venezuela has been discussed at this blog in past months. “Armored” fiber optic cable between the two countries could provide a secure communication link between the military commands in Havana and Caracas.

“Military-grade fiber optics,” advertises one manufacturer, Glenair, “are also known for their advanced tolerance to temperature extremes, immunity from electromagnetic interference and ease of integration into tested and qualified Mil-Spec interconnect cabling and connector packaging.” Another manufacturer, JEM Electronics, boasts: “With a stainless steel armored flexible tube inside the outer jacket and connectors, the rugged fiber optic cables come in 9/125, 50/125, and 62.5/125 micron sizes and custom lengths for harsh environments.”

It is not clear at this time if the new Cuban-Venezuelan fiber optic link is “military-grade,” or merely civilian in application. We can only watch as the Havana-Caracas Axis expands its operations. Since 99 percent of the world’s long-distance communications presently travel through fiber links, rather than satellite transmissions, signals interception in most cases can only take place by clandestinely tapping cables.

For its part, Russia’s Chelyabinsk-Khabarovsk fiber optic communication line, which is 10,000 kilometers long and features a minimum transmission rate of 120 gigabits per second, poses a “competitive match” for “traditional” submarine routes. In the future, operator Rostelecom plans to increase the rate to 4 terabits.

>Africa File: Mubarak reverses yesterday’s decision, hands power to armed forces, resignation ends 30-year dictatorship

>– Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff to Visit Israel, Jordan, Reassure Countries of America’s Support

– Muslim Brotherhood Website Alleges Israeli Embassy Still Closed in Cairo, Haaretz First Reports Closure on January 30

– Anti-Regime Protesters Clash with Police in Algeria and Yemen as Revolutionary Wave Washes across Arab World

Now we’re in big trouble.
— Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, quoted in Ynet News, February 11, 2011

The popular revolution in Egypt has achieved one of its main objectives. According to CNN, President Hosni Mubarak resigned on Friday, reversing the previous day’s decision to stay on until September elections, and handed over power to the military. The end of the three-decade Mubarak dictatorship follows 18 days of anti-government protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other cities, as well as country-wide labor strikes.

“In a somber one-minute announcement on state television,” reports CNN, “Vice President Omar Suleiman said Mubarak had resigned and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will ‘run the affairs of the country.'” The same source continues: “The Swiss government has directed banks to freeze all assets belonging to Mubarak and his family, said Norbert Baerlocher, a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy in Washington. The banks do not as yet have a clear picture of what Mubarak has but protesters on the streets had worried that he would attempt to flee the country with looted money.”

The Bulgarian media covered the Muslim Brotherhood’s response to Mubarak’s resignation: “‘I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people,’ declared a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohamed el-Katatni, who is a former leader of the parliamentary bloc of the banned Islamist organization as cited by MSNBC.” The pro-Iran, anti-Israel Brotherhood’s role in any future Egyptian government has been the subject of much international media speculation.

The Egyptian army’s Supreme Council has asked the interim government of Vice President Suleiman to oversee the day-to-day aspects of national administration, while Mubarak himself has retreated to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The military has promised to hand over ultimate authority to an elected civilian government and to abide by all international agreements.

Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt was not optimistic about the future of relations between the neighbors. Zvi Mazel opined to Ynet News: “It’s over, Egypt is no longer a superpower. Egypt has completely lost its status in the area, while Turkey and Iran are on the way up. It’s a different world. As long as we had Mubarak, there was no void in our relations with the region. Now we’re in big trouble.”

According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, the Israeli embassy is still closed in Cairo in the wake of Mubarak’s departure. There is no independent confirmation of this report. However, on January 30, Haaretz reported that Israel had closed its embassy in Cairo and chartered an El Al plane to evacuate diplomatic families admidst the unrest in Egypt’s streets. “The embassy was closed all weekend,” the news source stated, “and will probably remain that way until the security situation stabilizes.”

In a related story, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel and Jordan this weekend to assure the two countries of America’s support following the demise of the National Democratic Party regime in Egypt.

Inspired by the successful revolutions that ousted the socialist dictators in Tunisia and Egypt over the past four weeks, anti-regime protesters in Algeria and Yemen have once again defied government bans and clashed with police. Sky News reports that on Saturday several thousand protesters, including four lawmakers, assembled in the streets of Algiers to demand the ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, while 2,000 demonstrators in Sanaa demanded President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation.

>Africa File: Sudan’s genocidal Muslim dictator bows to referendum results, embattled oil-rich South to become independent state on July 9, 2011

>On Friday, 105 combatants and civilians were killed in a clash between rebels and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), South Sudan’s insurgent army turned military, shattering a brief ceasefire. “It was George Athor’s men who came with machine guns, AK 47s and started firing,” said South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer.

Athor took up arms last year, alleging fraud in state elections. However, he agreed to the ceasefire deal with the SPLM/A only days before January’s referendum on secession. The South’s regional government accused Athor of being an agent provocateur of the North, sent to stir up trouble and derail the referendum. Sudanese officials in Khartoum deny the charges.

Pictured above: Former South African President Thabo Mbeki (2nd from right) arrives with Southern Sudan Referendum Commission chairperson Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil (center) to announce the official referendum results in Khartoum, on February 7, 2011.

As it turned out, some 99 percent of southern Sudanese voted for independence in last month’s week-long vote, the results of which were announced on January 31. On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan will formally secede, becoming the world’s youngest independent state, and the older Republic of Sudan will no longer be Africa’s largest country.

Peter Martell, BBC’s correspondent in the South’s capital, Juba, predicts that Athor’s mini-insurgency is “another sign of the challenges the South faces in bringing its people together and improving security.” Last weekend, 50 people were killed in fighting in southern Sudan’s Upper Nile state.

The referendum marks the final phase of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which concluded 20 years of war between the government in Khartoum and the “ex”-Marxist SPLM/A in the South. This civil war reportedly claimed the lives of some two million people and left millions more displaced. SPLM/A battlefield commander Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is currently the Vice President of Sudan, will become the first president of the independent South Sudan.

Following the referendum, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir acknowledged his acceptance of the outcome. On Wednesday, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations hinted that the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Bashir should be withdrawn as a “reward” for him accepting the South’s independence. Bashir is accused of war crimes and genocide in a separate conflict in the western region of Darfur, where a different group of rebels, with backing from Chad’s dictator, took up arms in 2003. The African Union wants the warrant to be dropped, insisting that the priority should be to “secure peace.”

Although President Bashir would no doubt like to improve his genocidal image abroad, the truncated desert state of Sudan will remain a bloody Islamic dictatorship. On Thursday, security forces arrested the opposition Umma Party’s spokeswoman Mariam al-Mahdi, the latest detention in a crackdown on anti-government protests. Mariam is the daughter of Sadeq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected president who was overthrown by the current National Congress Party government in a 1989 bloodless coup.

“Security forces took her away before she could get into her car,” related cousin Habab Mubarak. Mahdi’s sister Rabah confirmed that Mariam had been detained. “We do not know where she is being held,” she told Reuters.

Inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks, young Sudanese in the North have staged small demonstrations against food price hikes and chronic human rights abuses.

Upon secession, oil-rich South Sudan will lose access to both the Red Sea–much as Ethiopia lost its access in 1993, when Eritrea seceded from that ancient country–and the North’s petroleum infrastructure. Communist China has invested heavily in Sudan’s oil industry, which straddles the border region between the North and South. Anticipating secession, state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which is responsible for producing about one half of Sudan’s 500,000 barrels per year, established a satellite office in Juba late last year.

Red China’s CNPC has a 40 per cent share in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). The other consortium partners are Malaysia’s Petronas Carigali Overseas with 30 percent, India’s ONGC Videsh with 25 percent, and Sudan’s Sudapet with the remaining five percent. Under the current agreement, Khartoum and Juba split the Sudanese share of revenues equally. Apart from its oil revenue, South Sudan has a largely subsistence-based economy.

“Carving up the GNPOC Consortium along the border may have dire consequences for all parties involved,” warned a report by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan. A senior CNPC official told the Financial Times the GNPOC companies are concerned that their contract with Sudan will be disturbed by the South’s secession. Thus, they have proposed that the drilling blocks be managed by a joint venture formed between the two new states.

“China has a substantial amount of oil interests in the south and one of the interesting parts is the very positive role that China has been playing behind the scenes,” commented David Abramowitz, policy director at Humanity United, a US human rights group.

Rather than rely on the North’s Port Sudan on the Red Sea, South Sudan’s ruling SPLM/A favors the construction of a pipeline, which Toyota Tsusho Corp. has proposed building from Juba to Kenya’s Lamu Island.

>Africa File: Strikes paralyze Egypt, Mubarak enrages protesters, refuses to step down until Sept., military backs transfer of powers to Suleiman

>– Former Iranian President Rafsanjani Urges Egyptian Protesters to Defy Mubarak, Overthrow Pro-USA/Israel Regime in Cairo

– Crypto-Muslim Obama Admin Anxious to Implement Regime Change in Cairo, Biden Phones Suleiman, Urges “Immediate Transition,” Abolition of Emergency Laws

– Communist Cadre Leads Anti-Mubarak Kefaya Movement, Allies with El Baradei’s National Association for Change

Pictured above: Protester outside presidential palace in Heliotropolis, a suburb of Cairo, on February 11, 2011.

Yesterday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would transfer the day-to-day powers of governing the country to his vice president, former spy chief Omar Suleiman. In doing so, he reaffirmed his commitment to remain in his post until the presidential election in September. This only enraged anti-government protesters, who have demanded his immediate resignation. The military has pledged to facilitate the implementation of Mubarak’s proposed political reforms, which include eventually lifting oppressive 30-year-old emergency laws.

“Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now,” opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei posted on his Twitter page shortly after Mubarak made his announcement.

This week, widespread strikes erupted in Egypt in support of the anti-government protesters who continue to occupy Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of workers in various sectors launched strikes nationwide, including employees in the petroleum, steel, railway, telecommunication industries, as well as employees of the Suez Canal Port Authority. Egypt’s anti-government protests, now entering their 17th day, sparked international fears that the Suez Canal would be shut down and send oil prices skyrocketing.

Egypt’s finance minister tried to mollify European and North American customers of Middle East oil. On CNN’s Connect the World, Samir Hadwan soothed: “All precautions are taken to prevent any sabotage from outside to the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is safe and the Egyptian Army — I don’t talk on their behalf — but I can assure you it will do whatever is in its power to keep that open.”

Government officials have played up the “imminent threat of chaos” if the octogenarian president ends his autocratic rule by resigning forthwith. Striking medical doctors and a host of other health workers have joined the streets protests. On Thursday, medics wearing white coats streamed into Tahrir Square. A key Cairo hospital was reported to have been closed by strike action as an estimated 3,000 staff walked out.

On PBS’ NewsHour, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit raised the spectre of a military crackdown on the country’s opposition forces: “Do we want the armed forces to assume the responsibility of stabilizing the nation through imposing martial law and the army in the streets? For the army to rule, to step in, to put its friends on the scene, that would be a very dangerous possibility.” Speaking for Mubarak, Gheit continued: “He thinks that it would entail chaos and it would entail violence and it would entail also opportunities for those who would wish to act in a manner to threaten the state, the stability of the country and society,”

The Obama White House, which secretly sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized opposition group, is anxious to implement regime change in Cairo. In a telephone conversation with counterpart Suleiman, the country’s former intelligence chief, US Vice President Joe Biden “urged that the transition produce immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

Gheit expressed amazement at Biden’s reported demand that Egypt promptly lift its emergency laws, imposed after President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists. Egypt’s foreign minister spluttered: “Jailbreaks mean that 17,000 prisoners are now loose on Egypt’s streets. How can you ask me to disband the… emergency law while I’m in difficulty? Give me time.”

On Tuesday, Suleiman himself raised the spectre of a coup, either pro- or anti-government, if the protests continue unabated: “There must be an end to the crisis as soon as possible. Dialogue and understanding are the best way to achieve stability in the country, otherwise an undesirable coup will be the alternative but we try to avoid this option.”

Meanwhile, the Islamo-Nazi regime in Tehran continues to meddle in Egypt’s domestic turmoil. “A leader like Imam Khomeini is needed for Egypt,” former two-term Iranian president Rafsanjani said in an interview with the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, adding that “Only a leader like Khomeini can “resist the cheating of America.” Rafsanjani, who is a leading supporter of the opposition to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pontificated:

In the end, Americans do not want the Egyptian uprising to drag on, while Israelis are completely against the revolution in Egypt. By coincidence, all things (in Egypt) are like Iran in 1979. If the Egyptian people continue to resist, they will succeed. It needs endurance. We too endured a lot of hardships in order to triumph over the shah. I am optimistic, if the Egyptians continue their resistance. The protesters must stay united. Division will benefit America and Israel.

The Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has praised the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, calling on citizens there to establish Islamic states.

Behind closed doors, Egypt’s opposition parties are expressing different stances concerning further transition talks with Vice President Suleiman. The leftist Tagammu Party has announced that it will not pursue further negotiations after last weekend’s first round of negotiations, while the Muslim Brotherhood has stopped short of abandoning the talks, despite its stated misgivings about the government’s intentions. No date has been set for the second round of talks. “Unacceptable statements by officials have put participants in confrontation with the popular revolution,” Tagammu leaders complained in a press statement.

Presidential aspirant El Baradei, who was not invited to the first round, asserted that “the talks lack credibility and were being run by the same people who controlled Egypt for the past three decades.”

The international media continues to debate the extent of the threat posed by a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt. With respect to the true intentions of the Brotherhood, the Winnipeg Free Press reminds the West:

Revolution in Jordan seems unlikely at the moment. Revolution in Egypt, the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, seems imminent if President Hosni Mubarak will not resign before the elections scheduled for later this year, and if the groups demanding his resignation cannot form an opposition more credible than the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the Brotherhood tries to distance itself today from its terrorist cousins in al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas, it is useful to remember this is the same organization that routinely murdered Western tourists in Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s, is still linked with terrorist organizations in Sudan, Yemen and Syria and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Although they constitute a numerical minority, the Egyptian Communist Party is jockeying for power and influence in the country’s unfolding revolution. Founded in 2004, Kefaya (Enough) is one of several smaller coalitions of liberals, leftists, and Islamists that has allied itself with El Baradei’s National Association for Change. Since January 2007, the leader of Kefaya has been Abdel Wahhab Al-Messiri, a renowned anti-Zionist scholar and former cadre of both the Egyptian Communist Party and Muslim Brotherhood. In 2005, Kefaya joined a coalition of other opposition parties to form the National Front for Change to contest parliamentary elections, resulting in the attainment of only 12 seats, while the Muslim Brotherhood scored 88.

>Breaking News: State workers, medical doctors, other Egyptians strike, demand Mubarak’s immediate resignation

>Egypt’s revolution intensifies.

Labor walkouts across the country.

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: Egyptian uprising needs a leader like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (who led Islamic Revolution in 1979)

>Neo-Sandinista File: Ortega re-election prospects buoyed by broken opposition, strong public opinion, economic surge with markets in Russia, Venezuela

>– Deceptive Sandinistas Withdraw Troops from Costa Rican Island while International Court of Justice Deliberates Border Row, Redeploy Soldiers after Hearing

– Sandinistas to Send Three More Dredges to San Juan River by February, Accelerate Construction of Inter-Oceanic Canal (with Silent Backing from Russia, Iran, Venezuela)

– Army-less Costa Rica Beefs Up Northern Border Defenses with Heliports, Antiaircraft Capabilities, River Barriers to Thwart Nicaraguan Boats

– Last December President Chinchilla Approached Obama and Clinton for Support in Border Row, Gets Cold Shoulder

– Former Interior Minister Tomas Borge Hosts Cuban Ambassador, Diplomats at Unveiling of Jose Marti Memorial at Masaya, Nicaragua

Although the political turmoil in the Arab world, especially Egypt, requires extensive reportage, developments in neo-Sandinista Nicaragua and its border row with Costa Rica deserve updated review and analysis.

Concurrently with the passage of new “national defense” bills that will enable Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to declare martial law ahead of this November’s elections, an independent survey from December showed Ortega leading in voter intention polls at an impressive 47.2 percent. Voter preference for Ortega was followed by undecided voters at 31 percent and, in third place, opposition candidate Fabio Gades at 14.4 percent.

Gades is a radio station owner and a deputy in the Central American Parliament for the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), which actually voted for Ortega’s incipient military government. Bringing up the rear in the survey was the hopelessly corrupt former president Arnoldo Aleman (1997-2002) at 7.4 percent. Like Gades, Aleman’s candidacy was approved by the PLC national convention.

Another poll, conducted in late January, suggests that Ortega’s surge in popularity dropped again, but he still came ahead of the other candidates. After reviewing the latest poll results, Aleman commented that the country’s divided opposition could conceivably beat Ortega and his leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) by forming an alliance.

Opposition lawmakers accuse Ortega of making a second run at transforming Nicaragua into a Cuban-style dictatorship, but have tried and failed to overturn a 2009 ruling in the Supreme Court that lifted a ban on re-election. The court, controlled by the FSLN, overturned a constitutional clause blocking consecutive terms.

In US State Department documents published by WikiLeaks, the Obama White House has accused Ortega of corruption and other crimes. One document states that Managua accepted “suitcases full of cash” from Communist Venezuela to fund the 2008 municipal elections, which sparked protests and accusations of fraud after they were swept by the Sandinistas.

Incidentally, Guatemala also votes for a new president in November as incumbent center-left President Alvaro Colom struggles to contain the increasingly violent activities of the Mexican drug cartels, such as Los Zetas, which have set up training camps in Guatemala’s northern jungles.

Ortega’s growing popularity may be attributable to Nicaragua’s unexpected economic resurgence. According to Nicaraguan economist Néstor Avendaño, the country has achieved a four percent economic growth rate, due mainly to increased exports, such as coffee, sugar, beef, and gold, especially to new markets like Russia and Venezuela. Avendaño predicted that exports will maintain an annual growth rate of around eight percent. For over 30 years, ever since the Sandinista Revolution and the subsequent civil war, Nicaragua has been the poorest country in Central America.

Meanwhile, the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which we believe was manufactured to in part justify Ortega’s domestic power grab, continues to simmer.

Last October, Nicaragua began dredging operations in the San Juan River, provoking a fresh upswelling of animosity with neighbor Costa Rica. Putatively designed to remove sediment and improve navigability, Ortega later defiantly admitted his government’s intention of building a long-dreamed-of inter-oceanic canal. On January 10, 2011, the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa reported that the Sandinistas intend to deploy three more dredges on the San Juan by February 2011, bringing the total of machines in the area to four. According to Eden Pastora, the Sandinista revolutionary hero and official in charge of the task, the additional machines will reduce the dredging time from four years to one.

In spite of the planned arrival of more heavy equipment, last December Nicaraguan Colonel Juan Ramon Morales insisted that Managua does not intend to increase military forces along the river because “there is no situation that deserves more troops and soldiers in the area.” In late October at least 50 Nicaraguan soldiers set up camp on Isla Calero, which is situated at the river’s mouth but claimed by Costa Rica. On December 18, the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security asserted that Nicaragua reinforced its military presence there with an additional 200 soldiers.

On January 11, the Nicaraguan army denounced alleged provocations by “dark interests tied to drug trafficking” in Costa Rica, such as invading Nicaragua and attacking military positions along the international border. Citing intelligence reports, Colonel Morales warned that “pertinent measures would be taken to repel any aggression on the sovereignty of Nicaragua.”

For its part, the government of President Laura Chinchilla has announced that it will “tighten security” along the border with 30 new outposts and patrols, mainly along the adjacent Colorado River, which is wholly in Costa Rican territory. Costa Rica has no military, but its National Police are well armed, a fact that long-time Moscow ally Ortega frequently highlights when he portrays Nicaragua as the “victim” of Costa Rican aggression.

In early January, Public Security Minister José Maria Tijerino announced that a series of heliports will be constructed near Nicaragua to establish a system of national defense. Tijerino explained that the heliports are defended by tactical forces of the National Police and have their own antiaircraft defense. Costa Rica has decided to erect barriers at the mouths of the Colorado, Sarapiqui, and San Carlos rivers to prevent the possible entrance of Nicaraguan boats. The barriers consist of piles and steel cables that form a fence along the three rivers, where patrol and toll posts are expected to limit navigation along some parts of the river.

On the diplomatic front, Costa Rica has brought several charges against Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), including environmental damage, not to mention military invasion of the area. A hearing is underway at The Hague, but a full court case could be years before it is heard. Ortega, who demands discussions “without conditions,” has failed to attend several regionally mediated encounters with Costa Rican counterpart Chinchilla in order to resolve the border dispute.

In general, Washington has heaved a great big sigh of disinterest over the new conflicts in Central America. Last December, Chinchilla telephoned US counterpart Barack Hussein Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to secure their support in her dispute with Ortega, but the White House expressed little interest.

The deceptive intentions of the neo-Sandinista regime were again evident over the past week, when the Costa Rican public security minister announced that the Nicaraguan soldiers had “vanished” from the disputed Isla Calero, even as ICJ justices debated the merits of the conflicting cases presented by both countries.

After conducting flyovers of the San Juan River and Isla Calero on January 29 and January 31, Tijerino, flanked by Foreign Minister René Castro, announced that Nicaraguan soldiers were no longer present on the island. Nevertheless, both Tijerino and Castro alluded to their possible return: “[The absence of troops] does not necessarily mean that Nicaragua has abandoned the area. It could mean that the forces are hidden. On previous occasions they have come and gone… and this does not guarantee that it is safe for Costa Ricans to return to navigate the river region.” Castro labeled the supposed withdrawal a Nicaraguan “ploy,” remarking: “No announcement had been made by Managua of the apparent withdrawal of Nicaraguan forces. Nicaragua has a history of acting in bad faith.”

However, over the weekend of February 5-6, journalists from The Tico Times “observed several armed, camouflaged soldiers located on the south side of the Río San Juan on the disputed strip of land known as Isla Calero.” The English-language Costa Rican news source continues:

The white and blue Nicaraguan flag, which was absent from the photos produced by the Security Ministry last week, is again waving high on the south side of the river. The Nicaraguan outpost on the south side of the Río San Juan consists of three small houses that face the river, and is occupied by several soldiers. More soldiers are also present in a small white house further east of the larger outpost. Between the houses, soldiers with binoculars monitor traffic from several wooded, makeshift watchtowers overlooking the river.

In a related story, Ortega’s red buddies in Havana may be closely monitoring the San Juan River dispute, since Cuba’s Ernesto Che Guevara Medical Team is presently operating in Nicaragua’s South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), where the border row with Costa Rica is most intense. Officially tasked with providing medical services to leftist allies throughout the world, Havana’s health professionals also practice espionage and propagate Marxism-Leninism.

In yet another signal of the revived relationship between Communist Cuba and neo-Sandinista Nicaragua, a monument to Cuban national hero Jose Marti was unveiled in Masaya, a small city south of Managua. At the unveiling ceremony, Cuban Ambassador Eduardo Martinez Borbonet and other Cuban diplomats and “solidarity workers” were welcomed by Maoist and KGB asset Tomas Borge, the only living founder of the FSLN. In a speech, Borge extolled Marti’s life and work and his influence on generations of revolutionaries, especially fellow octogenarian Fidel Castro. “We are all Marti’s children because we have been forged as revolutionaries following Fidel Castro’s example,” Borge gushed.

Interior minister during the 1980s, the once dreaded Borge is currently Nicaragua’s ambassador to Peru. In a 2004 article, J. Michael Waller describes Borge’s interior ministry as a literal extension of the Soviet KGB, East German Stasi, and Cuban DGI:

The MINT was not an indigenous force. Rather, it was modeled after the East German Ministry for State Security (MfS). Organizing and operating such a large apparatus in a short period of time required officers and advisers from the MfS, Soviet KGB, the Cuban DGI, and other Soviet bloc internal security services. These apparatchiks not only acted as advisers, but actually staffed the MINT and ran several of its day-to-day operations.

Cuban officers aided MINT operational work, and East German personnel provided technical support. Cuban personnel operated at all levels of the Defense and Interior ministries, from the general staff to the battalion and, in some cases, to the company levels. Some foreign advisers, such as Cuban Interior Ministry Colonel Renan Montero, who ran Sandinista foreign intelligence, were given citizenship so they could function as Nicaraguans.

The new “national defense” laws that Ortega rammed through the National Assembly this past December will likely resurrect the Sandinista police state. Hundreds of Soviet, East German, and Cuban agents and “military advisers” milled about Managua during the first Sandinista regime in the 1980s. According to current estimates, there are as many as 65,000 Cuban agents in Communist Venezuela, some in important posts in the military, security, and intelligence apparatus.

>Red Terror File: Chechen warlord Umarov claims responsibility for Domodedovo airport bombing, but fingered FSB on 2010 Metro attack (?)

>ABC News reported yesterday: “A leading Chechen militant claimed responsibility for the Jan. 24 suicide bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that killed 36 people and injured scores more. Doku Umarov appears in a 16-minute video released on the internet, claiming the ‘martyr operation’ was carried out on his orders.” When will GRU asset Umarov get his story straight? Last year he blamed the Russian Federation’s Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB) for carrying out the Metro bombings.

>Africa File: Egypt’s ruling party leaders resign, VP Suleiman in talks with Muslim Brotherhood, Ayatollah Khameini lauds “Islamic revolution” in Cairo

>– Senior Member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Articulates Preference for Ahmadinejad-Style President

– 10,000 Tunisians Welcome Exiled Islamist Leader, Ghannouchi Praises “Blessed Revolution” that Ousted Dictator Ben Ali

Over the weekend, significant political developments took place in Egypt that portend strategic disaster for the USA and an existential crisis for its only reliable Middle East ally, Israel.

First, the leadership of Egypt’s ruling party, the Socialist International-affiliated National Democratic Party (NDP), resigned on Saturday. This purge was no doubt beyond the imagination of most Egyptians just a few short weeks ago, but the resignations are unlikely to mollify an opposition frustrated by President Hosni Mubarak’s determination to serve out his term until September.

The dismantling of the NDP, which descends from Gamal Nasser’s Arab Socialist Union, is one of several crises facing new Vice President Omar Suleiman. Egypt’s opposition parties, which include the banned Muslim Brotherhood, are anxious to emasculate Mubarak’s power and halt the ambitions of his son Gamal, a despised figure who was among those resigning their posts. Incidentally, Suleiman, who was formerly the country’s spy chief, professes to have no intentions of running for the presidency later this year.

The Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favors the NDP regime over an Islamic fundamentalist takeover since Mubarak has faithfully upheld the Camp David Accords since 1979, in what some Middle East analysts call a “cold peace.”

On the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian army began to reassert control around Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square on Saturday. Hundreds of soldiers moved into streets around the downtown plaza that has been the base camp of the anti-Mubarak protests since February 1. Restoring normal traffic around the square will reinforce the government’s message that Mubarak will remain in the presidency for the next seven months.

Second, Suleiman has promised to restore press freedoms and annul the emergency laws by which Mubarak has ruled Egypt since the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat in 1981. The fact that Sadat’s assassins were Islamic fundamentalists is significant today due to the role that the same political-religious group is seeking in a new transitional government.

Third, on Sunday the Egyptian vice president held an unprecedented meeting with the country’s opposition parties, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood. After the meeting, the Brotherhood, which lost all of its 88 seats in last year’s parliamentary election, remarked that the negotiations with Suleiman were well-intentioned, but not substantial with respect to forming a new government. This was the assessment of Abdel Monem Aboul Fotouh, a senior member of the Brotherhood, when he was interviewed by the Al Arabiya network.

On Monday, the Muslim Brotherhood admitted that it was reconsidering its participation in further talks with Suleiman. “We are going to reconsider, it may take one or two days for us to determine whether to continue or withdraw,” said Essam El-Erian, another senior Brotherhood official. “The regime still resists the popular appeal for the end of the regime.”

As anti-government protesters continue to occupy central Cairo, Egypt’s new cabinet met without its widely hated former interior minister, Habib al-Adly. A group including opposition organizations will study constitutional amendments that will pave the way for political reform.

In spite of his peace overtures to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s ex-spy boss and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a 2006 US diplomatic cable, view the Islamist organization as “dangerous.” Britain’s Guardian newspaper published the text of communications between Suleiman and FBI director Robert Mueller:

Soliman noted that the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] was “neither a religious organization, nor a social organization, nor a political party, but a combination of all three.” The principal danger, in Soliman’s view, was the group’s exploitation of religion to influence and mobilize the public. Soliman asserted that the MB has spawned “11 different Islamist extremist organizations,” most notably the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gama’a Islamiya (Islamic Group).

Soliman termed the MB’s recent success [2005] in the parliamentary elections as “unfortunate,” adding his view that although the group was technically illegal, existing Egyptian laws were insufficient to keep the MB in check. [FBI] Director Mueller told the Egyptians that the Bureau was keeping an eye on the MB’s fundraising and organizational efforts in the U.S. and would keep Egypt advised of relevant information the FBI developed.

This is not the case with the Obama White House, which quietly backs the admission of the Muslim Brotherhood into a new Egyptian government. In response to Sunday’s meeting, US President Barack Hussein Obama commented: “What we can do is say the time is now for you to start making a change in your country. Mubarak has already decided he’s not going to run again.” Obama played down expectations that Egypt’s best organized opposition group would take a major role in a new government, concluding: “They are only one faction in Egypt.”

Meanwhile, as the Mubarak regime enters its final months, Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt and Iran are closing ranks. Last Friday, during prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pontificated that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are the result of an “Islamic awakening, which followed the great Islamic Revolution of the Iranian nation.” The Leader of the Islamic Revolution (pictured above) made reference to Egyptians’ struggle for “dignity and honor” and lamented that Mubarak’s “biggest crime” was transforming Egypt into a pawn of “US imperialism.”

On Sunday, another senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood expressed gratitude to Khamenei for his endorsement of the “Egyptian revolution.” “Many thanks for Imam Khamenei and all who support the revolution in Egypt,” crowed Kamal al-Halbavi. He made the remark in an interview with the state-funded BBC Persian. Halbavi further expressed hope that Egypt would have “a good government, like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is very brave.” Halbavi added that he wants his country to develop in all fields “like Iran, achieving more technological and scientific advances and becoming a regional power.”

The next day, a second senior cleric in Iran, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, urged his comrades in North Africa to pursue Islamic revolution: “Today, we are witnessing that there are developments in Tunisia and Egypt which are spread to other countries as well…Enemies regard Iran as a major factor behind causing the (ongoing) movements. This is the reason that enemies have mounted pressure on our country. Enemies expected that the Islamic Republic would collapse during these years but they reached to an understanding that the Islamic establishment has been stabilized.”

On January 30, 10,000 Tunisians turned out to welcome home an Islamist leader whose return from 22 years of exile suggests that his party will emerge as a “major force” in Tunisia after its dictator, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, was ousted last month. The reception for Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party, at Tunis airport was the biggest showing by Tunisian Islamists since 1989. Under Ben Ali’s socialist regime, thousands of Islamic radicals were jailed or exiled. “Oh great people who called for this blessed revolution, continue your revolution, preserve it and translate it into democracy, justice and equality,” Ghannouchi addressed the crowd, which chanted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great).

>Breaking News: Egyptian VP Suleiman in talks with banned Muslim Brotherhood, lifts 30-year-old emergency laws

>Breaking News: Top leadership of Egypt’s ruling party, including Mubarak’s son, resigns, opposition preps for transition talks

>Today’s developments.

>Africa/Middle East Files: Anti-, pro-Mubarak forces clash, Obama concedes Muslim Brotherhood’s role in “new Egypt,” Syrian branch threatens uprising

>– Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s Foremost Arabist and Ex-Boss of KGB/SVR, Reflects on Egyptian Turmoil, Cautions “Social Revolutions Not A Thing of the Past”

– Israel Faces Strategic Disaster as USA’s Crypto-Muslim President Prepares to Hand Egypt over to Islamic Extremists

5,000 Criminals Escape in Massive Prison Breaks Last Weekend, Hamas and Hezbollah Terrorists among Escapees

– Tunisia’s Interim Interior Minister Accuses Security Services of Fomenting New Unrest to Thwart Transition to Democracy

– Jordan’s King Abdullah II Capitulates to Muslim Brotherhood and Leftists, Fires Prime Minister, Implements Reforms

– President Assad Alleges Country “Immune” to Unrest, Next Day Syrian Branch of Muslim Brotherhood Promises Civil Disobedience

– Algerian Opposition Plans More Anti-Government Rallies, Demands Ouster of National Liberation Front President Bouteflika

Pictured above: Backdropped by the Egyptian Museum, Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 3. Note the rows of many devout Muslims praying.

Over the past 10 days, more than 300 Egyptians have been killed in fighting between anti-government protesters and security forces and also between pro- and anti-government forces. In the midst of President Hosni Mubarak’s attempts to cling to power, the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the future of Egypt has entered the international media spotlight.

On Wednesday, thousands of supporters and opponents of Mubarak clashed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which is near the headquarters of the long-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Mounted on horses and camels, some wielding whips, pro-Mubarak militants stormed barricades set up by oppositionists. The next day, army tanks and soldiers finally cleared away pro-government rioters and positioned themselves between the attackers and protesters seeking Mubarak’s ouster. The clash followed a call by the army for protesters to return home, prompting the latter to accuse state security of employing thugs to break up the barricades.

The new head of government promptly made an unprecedented apology for the assault by regime backers. Appointed this past weekend, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq acknowledged that the assault on the anti-Mubarak protesters was likely organized and promised to investigate who was behind it. Shafiq is a former air force commander and lately president of Egypt Air. Observing the political turmoil from Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admonished: “If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately.”

On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, chief architect of the new Union for the Mediterranean, urged a speedy political transition “to respond to the desire for change and renewal forcefully expressed by the population.” Sarkozy has come under criticism for appearing to support the regime of Tunisian dictator President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, toppled in mass protests last month.

Internet service was restored throughout Egypt, having been cut off for days by the government. State television reported an easing of a nationwide curfew and declared that parliament was suspended until the results of last year’s contested elections were revised.

Adding uncertainty to the political turmoil were several prison breaks that occurred over the weekend, as a result of some police officers abandoning their posts. Last Sunday, a total of 5,000 inmates escaped from a penitentiary in Faiyum Governorate, located about 130 kilometers southwest of Cairo. A top prison official holding the rank of general was killed in the incident. Among the escapees in Faiyum were members of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the political party/terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

On the same day, at the Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo, incarcerated members of Hezbollah fled after guards abandoned their posts. In April 2010, a Cairo court sentenced 26 people, including members of the Lebanese political party/militia, in connection with a plot to carry out terrorist attacks against the Suez Canal and resorts on the Sinai Peninsula. Four were sentenced in absentia.

This week, the Muslim Brotherhood reiterated its demands for the president’s departure and the end of the Socialist International-affiliated NDP regime. On the organization’s website the Brotherhood urged Egyptians to resist pro-government militants and “stand in one trench against the ruling autocratic regime.” On Tuesday, Mubarak vowed to complete his present term, which expires in September, but promised that he would not stand for re-election. Despite opposition demands, the Egyptian dictator refuses to leave the country.

On Thursday, Kremlin-run Novosti reported that “Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood movement has unveiled its plans to scrap a peace treaty with Israel if it comes to power, a deputy leader said in the interview with NHK TV.” Speaking to the Japanese media, Rashad al-Bayoumi announced: “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.” Egypt was the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel and sign a peace agreement with the Israeli government in 1979.

Since January 25, the Muslim Brotherhood has participated in the mass anti-government rallies in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, prompting some political analysts to speculate about the Islamist organization’s role in a post-Mubarak government. The Brotherhood has in fact publicly declared its intention to join pro-Iranian opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei in a government of national unity following the next presidential election, slated for September.

This week, various news agencies diligently ferreted out the US government’s real stance regarding Egypt’s expected transition to democracy. Not surprisingly, the administration of crypto-Muslim US President Barack Hussein Obama is prepared to hand Egypt over to radical Islamic and pro-Iranian forces. According to the Israeli media, citing The New York Times, “Obama believes that the Muslim Brotherhood should participate in the political process in Egypt.” Online business magazine Globes, noting the White House’s disappointment with Mubarak’s decision to postpone his departure until September, continues:

The option to approach the Muslim Brotherhood came during a meeting of over a dozen foreign policy experts at the White House on Monday [January 31]. The meeting, led by deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Benjamin Rhodes, and two other National Security Council officials, Daniel Shapiro and Samantha Power, examined unrest in the region, and the potential for the protests to spread.

The New York Times quotes participants as saying that White House staff members said that Mr. Obama believed that Egyptian politics needed to encompass ‘non-secular’ parties: diplomatic-speak for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In keeping with Obama’s position, the US State Department has acknowledged that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized opposition party, may play a role in Egypt’s transition from autocracy if the group agrees to a peaceful, democratic process. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied that US officials in Cairo or Washington have spoken to Brotherhood representatives. However, he conceded that the Brotherhood is “a fact of life in Egypt.” The Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections, but lost every one in last year’s poll, partly provoking the current unrest.

An anonymous official at the US embassy in Egypt acknowledged that Ambassador Margaret Scobey had spoken to a “large number of people,” including former United Nations nuclear watchdog chief El Baradei. “Embassy has been in touched with a large number of people, but I don’t know all the names for sure. However, Muslim Brotherhood—no.”

Located at the intersection of the Asian and African continents, Egypt is a key ally of the USA and Israel. Until 1991 Egypt was armed principally by the Soviet Union. Since the so-called demise of communism, however, the Mubarak regime has turned to the USA for $1 billion in military aid each year. Cairo has used these funds to buy tanks, F-16 fighter jets, Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, and other weapons systems. Foreign policy analysts warn that “US military and intelligence agencies would lose vital air, land and sea assets if Egypt falls into the hands of radical Islamists, as Iran did in 1979.”

Ken Allard, a retired US Army colonel and military analyst, predicts: “Let me count the ways. They are our biggest strategic partner in the Middle East. At that point, you’ve lost your biggest Arab partner. Geostrategically, the mind boggles.” The US Navy would not be able to navigate the Egyptian-run Suez Canal, which reduces sailing time for Atlantic-based carriers groups going from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The US Air Force would probably lose overflight rights into the Middle East, while the US Army would lose a partner in building the M1A1 tank.

“If we lose Egypt to the Brotherhood, it is absolutely devastating,” fretted former US Representative Peter Hoekstra, who led the House Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Egyptians are a key stabilizing force for us throughout the Middle East.” During a 2009 visit to Cairo, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates stated: “Our military has benefited from the interactions with the Egyptian armed forces—one of the most professional and capable in the region. We are always looking for ways to expand these ties through education, training and exercises.”

The Obama White House has been courting the Muslim Brotherhood for some time. In January 2010, Washington lifted a ban preventing Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from entering the USA. Ramadan, an Egyptian then living in Switzerland, is a leading member of Europe’s Muslim Brotherhood branch and the grandson of the movement’s founder Hassan al-Banna.

Russia has waded cautiously into Egypt’s political turmoil, but nevertheless directed subtle warnings toward the USA and Israel not to interfere in the country’s domestic crisis. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized that Egypt remains Russia’s strategic partner, minimizing Mubarak’s alliance with the USA:

Egypt is our strategic partner and a key country in the Middle East region. That it why we are not indifferent to what is happening there and are interested in Egypt being a stable, prosperous and democratic state and want today’s socio-economic and political problems to be peacefully solved as soon as possible.

We do not consider it useful to produce any recipes from outside or deliver ultimatums – it is political forces in Egypt who should speak out.

On Tuesday, the aging Yevgeny Primakov, a trained Arabist who was formerly head of the Soviet KGB but currently presides over the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce, noted the absence of overt Islamic slogans in the Egyptian protests. However, he asserted that it is erroneous to believe that social revolutions are “a thing of the past.” Primakov’s full comments were published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily:

We have concentrated in our analysis quite fairly on radical Islamism, which has been gaining strength in the Muslim world, and we have somewhat overlooked “traditional” roots of social revolutionary explosions. Generally, we have erroneously assumed that revolutions, which sweep away conservative and authoritarian regimes, are a thing of the past, including in developing countries. The situation in Tunisia and Egypt show that we are wrong.

Having focused on the dangers of extremist Islamism, we have underestimated the influence of modernization, primarily on advanced Muslim states, in terms of their socio-cultural development. Spontaneity backed by chatting on the Internet and via mobile phones played a role in the revolutionary movement that shook Tunisia and then Egypt.

There were no Islamic slogans in demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia, even through the Muslim Brotherhood has rather strong positions in Egypt.

It is a sign of serious importance. But it gives no guarantee that the Islamists will not try to ride the revolutionary wave. The Muslim Brotherhood did so during the revolutionary events in Egypt in 1952-1953.

Whatever concessions it makes to faux rightist conspiracy theories, the New American exposes the role of the Communist Party of Egypt in the present revolutionary convulsions by quoting the party website:

Hundreds of patriotic and democratic forces and cadres of our Party in the Cairo district of Abidin and in other places in the capital as well as other demonstrations in Port Said and Alexandria against the inheritance of power to Gamal Mubarak, or an extension for Hosni Mubarak…

Our party has participated in the demonstration raising banners of the Communist Party Banners to fly the red in the field of Abdeen and confirm the position of the Communist Party of rejection of this system.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, the Syrian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood is threatening civil disobedience against the socialist dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. On Tuesday, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Riyadh Al Saqfa, warned the Ba’athist regime to “learn from what happened in Tunisia.” He rumbled: “If the [Syrian] reimge continues to ignore the views of the people and corruption and discrimination continues, we will incite the people to demand their rights until this reaches the point of civil disobedience.” A statement released by the organization demanded that the Ba’athist party remove Article VIII of the constitution, which enshrines single-party rule, terminate all emergency and martial laws, release all political prisoners, and ameliorate the country’s poverty.

This ultimatum from the Syrian section of the Muslim Brotherhood comes one day after Assad proudly declared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that his country is “immune” to the unrest gripping the Arab world.

In Jordan this week, King Abdullah II capitulated to demands from the Islamic Action Front, the national branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and leftist parties to dismiss the government and implement political reforms. In Algeria, oppositionists plan a large anti-government demonstration for February 12 with the intent of ousting National Liberation Front President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and ending a state of emergency that began when the Algerian Civil War erupted 19 years ago.

In Tunisia, where the revolutionary wave began, the new interior minister accused members of the security services of instigating further unrest to block efforts to establish democracy following the ouster of Ben Ali. Farhat Rajhi also announced the detention of his predecessor, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, who led the crackdown in December and January against protesters seeking to end Ben Ali’s 23-year rule.

>Africa File: Mubarak reportedly flees Cairo as radical Islamic, pro-Iranian forces poised to take control of Egypt, emperil Israel’s national security

>– Mubarak Clings to Power, Appoints Loyalists to Posts of Vice President, Prime Minister, Reportedly Retreats to Red Sea Resort

– Tanks Surround Anti-Government Protesters in Cairo, F-16 Fighter Jets Swoop in Low over Tahrir Square

– Protesters Storm Interior Ministry Building on Saturday Night, Army Negotiates Escape for Hated National Police

– Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed El Baradei Propose National Unity Government, US Jewish Leader Calls Ex-Director of IAEA “Stooge of Iran”

– Anti-Government Protesters Vow One Million-Person Turnout on February 1, Army Promises No Shooting (source)

The Suez Canal should be closed immediately. The flow of gas from Egypt to Israel should cease in order to bring about the downfall of the Mubarak regime. The people should be prepared for war against Israel.
— Muhammad Ghannem, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, quoted by Iran’s Al-Alam, January 31, 2011

After a week of violent protests throughout Egypt, spurred on by the successful “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, which toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Islamic and pro-Iranian forces are poised to take over the Egyptian state from long-time socialist dictator Hosni Mubarak. Anti-government forces have called for an “indefinite strike” until Mubarak resigns. According to the British media, Mubarak has retreated to the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh for safety, fearing the turmoil created by anti-government mobs occupying Tahrir Square in Cairo for the past week.

Over the weekend, Mubarak shored up his ebbing power by appointing two loyalists to the government, which he sacked on Saturday. Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s spy master since 1993, was tapped for the post of vice president, while Ahmed Shafiq, former air force commander and currently president of Egypt Air, was dropped into the post of prime minister. “He’s got a back of steel,” remarked Edward S. Walker, former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel, referring to the 75-year-old Soviet-educated Suleiman. He added: “He’s got some moderation but he’s not a liberal. He’s not a democrat.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is eyeing a national unity government with Mohammed El Baradei, former United Nations nuclear watchdog chief. On Saturday, the Brotherhood called on Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet. The Islamist group is also demanding an end to 30-year-old emergency laws, which in the wake of President Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Islamic fundamentalists in the army, have been used often to arrest and harass dissidents.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, El Baradei stated that he had a “popular and political mandate” to negotiate the formation of a unity government. El Baradei declared: “I have been authorized — mandated — by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has accused El Baradei of covering up Iran’s true nuclear weaponization capacities while he directed the International Atomic Energy Agency. “He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly,” Hoenlein asserted in an online recorded interview with Yeshiva World News. “He fronted for them, he distorted the reports.”

In a related story, on Sunday, a number of Hamas operatives, including the group’s commander for Khan Younis, escaped from a jail in Egypt and were believed to be making their way back to the Gaza Strip. Along the same theme, Egyptian troops have arrested two armed members of Hamas who entered the country illegally from Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood and the virulently anti-Israeli, pro-Iranian Hamas are closely allied.

In the streets, tens of thousands of Egyptians are resolved to oppose the Mubarak regime unto death. On Sunday, the army, which is an otherwise respected institution, deployed tanks to create a cordon around Tahrir Square, where much of the protesting has taken place, and even built a meter-high barricade around the state television building. The air force dispatched US-built F-16 fighter jets to scream low over the square in order to intimidate oppositionists, but they stood their ground. “You must tell the world that the army forces try to make all the people scared,” mechanic Abo Farah, 48, shouted. “But we are not afraid. We are brave. We will defend our cause [even] after we die. Mubarak must go.”

Elsewhere in Egypt’s capital, on Saturday night protesters attacked the Interior Ministry with Molotov cocktails. The country’s much-hated police force responded with roof-top sniper fire, killing 13 civilians. The next morning, the army negotiated “safe passage” for the police, who fled the building in black vans, guns blazing.

The Israeli government is anxiously watching events in Egypt. The Mubarak regime has upheld the Camp David Accords for nearly 30 years in what some Middle East analysts call a “cold peace” between the two countries. A pro-Iranian national unity government consisting of El Baradei’s forces and the Muslim Brotherhood could endanger Israel’s national security along its southwest border. On February 1, the Jerusalem Post reported: “A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt told the Arabic-language Iranian news network Al-Alam on Monday that he would like to see the Egyptian people prepare for war against Israel . . .”

“The Egyptians are cracking down on Hamas,” related a senior Israeli defense official said on Sunday. Israeli authorities who contacted the Egyptian government on Sunday “expressed confidence” in former spy master Suleiman’s ability to take control of the military and prevent a regime change. “This is the end of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, but the situation could be brought under control by Suleiman,” said the anonymous official mentioned above.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke by telephone on Sunday to discuss the political turmoil in Egypt.