Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Baghdad – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tens of Thousands of Protesters in Baghdad – Other Cities Demonstrate Against Proposed Security Agreement Between Baghdad/Washington – Mass Palestinian Demonstration at Sufa Terminal on Gaza/Israel Border – President-General Musharraf Dismisses Resignation Rumors
Night Watch: BAGHDAD – In response to the call from Mahdi Army leader, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other leaders, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the new security agreement being negotiated by Washington and the administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki in Baghdad. Al Jazeera reports as scheduled by Tehran and the demonstration leaders, the protests began after Friday prayers in Baghdad and other cities for one hour with no violence. Sheikh Salah Obaidi, spokesman for the al-Sadr bloc in Parliament stated the protests were not “a threat” but a “warning”. As instructed by Tehran al-Sadr has called for weekly demonstrations every Friday after prayers and I suspect as the agreement comes closer to being signed the protests will definitely become a violent threat to whatever authority the current administration in Baghdad has left. With the close working relations al-Maliki has with Tehran it is obvious Iran wants the agreement signed to set the stage for the Mahdi Army to end its ceasefire with Washington. [ALJAZEERA]
This agreement is meant to allow Washington to maintain a large military presence in Iraq after 2008 and officials in the administration of U. S. President George W. Bush have stated it should be signed at the end of July. What Washington has accomplished is the uniting of moderate and nationalist leaders in Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr has described the agreement as “a project of humiliation for the Iraqi people.” Another major Shia leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim has stated the agreement would violate Iraq’s sovereignty and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has declared the agreement with the “US occupiers” would never be signed as long as he is alive. This means when the next wave of fighting begins, quite possibly next month, Washington will not just be engaging the 60,000 Mahdi Army but any armed Iraqi unit fighting against the agreement including Sunni groups. Washington’s response to the new fighting will probably be used by Iran to enter the war first by launching cruise missiles at US/UK bases in the country.
Sufa Terminal – Hamas continued its campaign of mass Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s Gaza blockade with thousands of demonstrators at the Sufa Terminal in south Gaza not far from Rafah and Khan Yunis. The Jerusalem Post is reporting more than ten thousand demonstrators approached the Sufa Terminal, several coming within yards of the crossing, as seven were wounded by fire from Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops who were under orders to let no one penetrate the crossing under any circumstances. Most likely this is part of the new pattern of offensives Tehran has ordered Hamas to wage against the blockade, demonstrations one week then more rocket-mortar fire the next. This is the largest demonstration so far so I expect the rocket-mortar fire to also increase next week. [JPOST]
Islamabad – President-General Pervez Musharraf is dismissing reports and rumors the military leadership, his close associates for more than thirty years, has demanded his resignation. The PakTribune reports the latest media and observer speculation began due to a late meeting Wednesday night between Musharraf and Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in which observers assumed they were discussing Musharraf’s resignation. But it was a routine meeting and President Musharraf said at a dinner Thursday, “The rumor-mongers wish to create differences between me and the Army.” It is quite possible what was really discussed Wednesday night was not only the escalation of fighting in Kashmir, which always takes place in May, but more importantly the two ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army and the cover fire provided by the Pakistan Rangers for an Islamic unit infiltrating into India’s part of Kashmir. [PAKTRIBUNE]
I don’t think the incidents were staged just to impress the visiting delegation of Iran’s Council of Guardians who were in Islamabad at the time but to show Iran the “Action Plan” Musharraf presented to Iran’s government in February last year is in its early stages. The preliminary stage of increased infiltration coupled with ceasefire violations and covering fire designed to force India to respond even by using its hot pursuit policy of attacking Islamic militant bases inside Pakistan’s part of Kashmir. If that is the case then the fighting will increase and become more serious next month.