Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quick Update: Libya, Syria + GCC

Hi Folks!

Here is a short update on Libya as well as the GCC.

British Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon aircraft taxi at Gioia Dell Colle Air Base, in Italy March 22, 2011


  • We expect to see more coalition strikes on Gaddafi's armed forces. In particular we expect Libyan tanks and other artillery equipment to be destroyed over the next few days.
  • If a settlement is to be agreed, we expect the country to be split into 2 - Tripolitania and Cyrenica. Where Gaddafi will retain control of the West (Tripolitania) with the rebels holding the East (Cyrenica).
  • The person running the rebellion is Gaddafi's former interior minister Younis Al Obaidi, who is backed by a few military officers.
  • One of the officers backing Obaidi is supposedly close to the US pentagon. As the WSJ had reported the Libyan National Council can rely on arms supplies coming from over the border in Egypt that is indeed partly financed by the KSA.
  • Obaidi's aim is to recapture Adjdabia from the Gaddafi forces, since the western coalition air force is taking out any Gaddafi forces on the main highways. Once this is complete, we believe he will head for the coastal oil transportation hubs - especially Ras Lanouf ( a site of a major oil export terminal). 
  • Capture of these oil export terminals would mean oil revenues and hence greater viability of the state of Cyrenica. Establishing a state of Cyrenaica is the minimum the rebels aim to achieve at the moment.
  • A problem Obaidi is facing is that the force is filled with enthusiastic civilians who have very little military training. 
  • Meanwhile Gaddafi is aiming to grab Zintan and Misrata as well as other Western towns. These cities would be important to be able to stabilise the Tripolitania region.
  • We expect additional political appointments to be made over the coming week - we strongly expect Ali Issawi (the former Ambassador to India) to be given a very senior posting - either in Foreign Affairs or Economy.
  • We believe most western capitals are now debating on the end game in Libya - as in what the west hopes to achieve in Libya. Also at what point do they cease military operations.


Soldiers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces guard the entrance to the Pearl Square from their armoured vehicles in Manama, March 19, 2011.

KUWAIT CITY — Arab states in the Gulf plan to deport thousands of Lebanese Shiites over their alleged links to Hezbollah and Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard force, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Thursday.
Al-Seyassah, quoting London-based Arab diplomatic sources, said the measure was being considered because of intelligence reports that Lebanese Shiites activists had been involved in protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Based on the assessments by the United States, France and Bahrain, alleged Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard agents were leading the protests along with local Shiite clerics in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, it said.
It said Bahrain's decision to suspend flights to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and its condemnation of remarks by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had "paved the way for the deportation of thousands of Lebanese Shiites from the Gulf."
"No Lebanese Shiite linked to or suspected of being associated with Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards will remain in the Gulf," the diplomatic sources said, citing high-ranking Bahraini officials.
Bahrain is preparing to deport 90 Lebanese Shiites, most of them arrested during the Shiite-led, pro-democracy in the kingdom, and is examining the status of 4,000 Lebanese families living in the Gulf kingdom, the sources said.
Last week, Bahraini authorities carried out a bloody crackdown on the protesters who have been demanding political reforms since February 14 in the tiny Shiite-majority, Sunni-ruled kingdom.
The crackdown came hours after a Saudi-led joint Gulf force rolled into Bahrain to back up the regime, a move condemned by Shiite Iran and the head of Lebanon's Shiite militant Hezbollah who has offered to help the demonstrators.
On top of the suspension of flights to Beirut by its two national carriers, Manama has advised Bahraini citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon, a popular destination for wealthy Gulf Arabs.
"Due to threats and interference by terrorists," the Bahraini foreign ministry said on Tuesday it "warns and advises its citizens not to travel to the Republic of Lebanon as they might face dangers threatening their safety."

Bahrain and KSA have pointed the finger at Iran for the unrests that have taken place over the last few weeks. This is evident by HM King Hamad's speeches of an external hand in the protests and also by the expulsion of diplomats between Iran and Bahrian.

The expulsion of Lebanese nationals appears solely directed at Iran and Iranian interests. The MOIS (Iranian Ministry of Intelligence Servies) and IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) are known to use Lebanese nationals for their operations in the GCC. This article suggests that several individuals appear to have been caught taking part in protests.

The expulsions of Lebanese individuals linked to the Hezbollah will serve to heighten the tensions between Iran and also to protect the KSA and Bahrain from any potential Iranian involvement in any unrest or future protests.

 Due to the large Lebanese community in Bahrain, any expulsion may also serve as a sanctioning of the Hezbollah led Lebanese government. We see this similar to the sanctioning of the Hamas government in Gaza by the EU after winning the democratic led elections. However for this to be truly effective, it would require a GCC wide expulsion of Lebanese individuals - the article above does suggest that there may be a GCC wide expulsion and we agree that a GCC wide expulsion may take place. There have been reports in late 2010 of expulsion of Hezbollah supporters from the UAE, so this would not be the first time that a Gulf state has taken action against lebanese expatriates in the Gulf.

Iran has making its own moves recently, by allowing Iraqi shi'ite political parties to form an alliance against the "KSA intervention" in Bahrain. This alliance has threatened to open a front (by sending shia tribes to the border) in the KSA/Iraq border in solidarity with the Bahraini shia.


In light of the major protests in Syria. This has caused serious worries of instability in neighbouring Iraq - across all parts of the country. Therefore, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Baghdad have struck an agreement to provide for security of all northern iraqi oil fields.

It appears that there is a heightened risk of serious instability all over Iraq as a result of a protests in Syria. We expect tightening of the border security between Syria and Iraq over the next few days in order to prevent any instability spreading into Iraq.


Thank you for reading. Feel free to email us any questions you have to eye.on.middleeast "at" gmail "dot" com.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Libya No Fly Zone - The Plan Plus Update on Bahrain


Our readers will know that Middle East Analysis has been fairly accurate so far on the Libyan situation. We accurately predicted that Gaddafi would use his Air force decisively to win this war with the rebels unless a No Fly Zone was implemented.

The French military have been busy planning strikes in Libya as part of the No Fly Zone implementation.

Gaddafi's air assets - He has Mig 21's, Mig 23s,a number of Sukhoi 22's and Galib trainer aircraft armed with Air to Surface rockets that have been in use in current operations. All in all, Gaddafi has only 20 air planes that are in working conditions. Out of the 4 Mirages that he had, 2 were flown to Malta as pilots defected.
Libyan Air Force Chinooks

In addition to this, Gaddafi has a decent sized helicopter fleet, which are estimated to be around 40. These compromise Chinooks (which incidentally played a signifcant and decisive role in the recent offensive on rebel held cities) that were recently upgraded in Italy as well as a number of Russian attack helicopters. Many of the pilots appear to be from the Syrian Air Force (sent by Bashaar Al Assad as part of a long standing pact that is in place between the 2 countries).

The Plan - Our sources confirm to us that the plan is for Western air forces to destroy Gaddafi's Air Force fleet in the initial strikes. This is due to the importance of the aircraft in striking rebel positions in the last week. This would be key to establishing the no fly zone. The US generals early on had hinted that a No Fly Zone would also mean taking out Libyan Surface to Air Missile sites - this maybe a difficult part of establishing the No Fly Zone but is very much possible.

A French Rafale M combat aircraft performs a catapult assisted launch from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65).

We speculate that UK would utilise bases in Cyprus and Sicily. The US appears to be interested in using Egyptian air bases to launch their raids. While the French will probably decide to deploy from the South of France which isn't too far from the Libyan cities.

News reports also sight 2 British Nimrod aircraft that were due to be scrapped this month have been pressed into service.

A crucial test for the coalition force would be to control and coordinate this operation as they have done in the past.

Future issues - Another worry in Washington is that Gaddafi has recruited mercenaries from tribes in Mali that are close to the AQIM area of operations. So the questions being asked is, what will happen once these tribal mercenaries return to their home in Mali with their weapons? Will they swell the AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) ranks? As a result, there is a worry that the enitre North Africa may become destabilised. Washington has begun to meet closely with Algerian counter terror advisors, to consult and cooperate on these issues.

Bahrain - Muqtada Al Sadr and some shia groups are debating opening a front against the KSA or Kuwait in solidarity with Bahraini Shia.

These moves are under the assumption that the Saudi led Peninsula Shield Forces are there to put down any unrest. We strongly deny that the Saudi forces are there to deal with the protesters or conduct any sort of riot control.

The KSA led PSF force is there for 2 reasons:
1) Assurance to the Bahraini King, that the KSA will intervene only if the King feels there is a threat to his rule/monarchy.
2) Prevention of any Iranian adventurism.

In fact, the Crown Prince had spoken to the opposition members to explain to them the reasons for the GCC forces deployment. This shows to us that the GCC troops are not there to deal specifically with the internal security issues. The BDF along with the other Ministry of Interior Forces as well as the Bahrain National Guard appear more than capable to deal with any serious unrest.

We expect dialogue to continue, one way or another, as a civil war will create more long term problems, which may end up being a bigger threat to the ruling powers and play into the hands of Iran. This has also been the common view amongst the rulers.

There have been reports of arrested members of the opposition circulating the news and the blogosphere. We see this as an attempt to force the opposition back to the table and solve their problems with dialogue. It remains to be seen if the plans will work.

Thanks for Reading! As always please continue emailing us at eye.on.middleeast "at" gmail "dot" com.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MENA Region - Quick Update

Editor has not been sleeping and is watching the current events unfold.

First Stop: Libya

Many are wondering what is going on in Libya. We'll make this simple.
The eastern side of Libya is currently held by "rebels". These rebels are essentially members of the armed forces of Libya and the people.

Do we see them winning? Nope. We do not. As long as Gaddafi continues to control the Airspace,
he may continue to bring in troops/Mercenaries from Niger, Chad, Syria etc. Yes that's right Syria is not a typo, Syria is showing solidarity with Libya and in the event of a full scale war, Syria will send their pilots to fly on behalf of the Libyan Air Force.

We believe that the western intelligence agencies are busy on the ground in Libya, trying to organise the rebel movement and of course evacuate their nationals. So far the french and british have delivered "aid" and weapons to the rebels.

Rebel soldiers teach civilians who have volunteered to join the rebel army at a school in Benghazi March 2, 2011. The rebel army is preparing to fight Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces if necessary, an official in the rebel army said.

Talks of no-fly zone are just that - talk, at the moment. Its something that is too difficult to impose as it would involve a US/western intervention and bombing spree. The current economic/political climate in the EU and the US does not allow for this - which is evidenced by Secretary of Defence Gates comments in the last few days.

No one appears to be covering the damage that the current crisis is going to cause the Spanish economy, which would feed into the EU economies. 

So in summary: We do not see an intervention by the West at this juncture. Rebels are slowly losing territory to Gaddafi's military evidenced by re-gaining Al Bayda today. Unless, the west enforces a no fly zone via Egypt etc anti-government forces will get over run.

We'd also like to point out that there is a heavy propaganda going on here by the west. Good quality information is particularly hard to receive at the moment.

Shades of Saddam here. By no means is this over yet - this war may continue for a while.

Next Stop: Bahrain

The process of national dialogue has begun by Crown Prince Sheikh Salman, the PM and Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad (HM King Hamad's son playing a limited role).

The opposition party Wefaq and Haq have met and are discussing their position on the issue. To date it appears they have agreed on certain issues and have had some disagreements. It is not clear what each's position is on asking for a constitutional monarchy.

The author commends the Crown Prince's call for dialogue. It is clear that others have copied this process/idea -> President Saleh (Yemen), Saif Al Gaddafi (Libya) are doing similar things.

The talk of the town was Bahraini King Sheikh Hamad visiting Riyadh to receive King Abdullah of KSA in Riyadh last week.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan (R) smiles with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa as they welcome the arrival of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, in Riyadh February 23, 2011.
King Abdullah got straight to business after landing. He had to deal with the Bahrain issue and also internal family issues that needed sorting out.

Regarding Bahrain, King Abdullah affirmed support to Bahrain and to the royal family. He told King Hamad that he supports the dialogue process initiated by the Crown Prince. They both agreed that using violence by the police or military is not the answer as it will eventually help Iran. King Abdullah also said that there are 3,000 Saudi troops stationed in the east that are on alert and are ready to help support the BDF (Bahrain Defence Force). Saudi officers are present already in Bahrain to help with any coordination, in the event of a crisis.


Protests have taken place in an industrial city of Sohar and troops have been deployed. We are monitoring this situation closely.

This is not an anti-monarchy protest. The people are in support of Sultan Qaboos, however they are not happy with the government ministers, whom they accuse of corruption. It is also about jobs for the unemployed and so on. We expect the protestors demands to be met to a certain extent and this will probably go away in a matter of days.

India and GCC

Prince Turki Al Faisal will be in New Delhi on the eve of the first Joint Indo-Saudi military exercises in India.

Omani troops are also expected to come to India for a massive Air, Sea and Land exercise in India this month.

Army Chief to visit US Centcom HQ

The India-US military relationship is set for a qualitative leap with the first ever visit of an Indian Army Chief to the headquarters of the US Central Command (Centcom), which has charge of Af-Pak, the Middle East and Iraq.

Gen. V K Singh will visit the Tampa, Florida-based Command in his 10-day trip to the US between March 6 and 15 with an aim to set up a Brigadier-level direct liaison with the Indian Army. India liaises only with the US Pacific Command, and having a liaison officer in Tampa will signal a recognition of Indian interests in the arc from the Gulf of Aden to the Straits of Malacca, government sources said.

The Centcom liaison and acquisition of M777 ultralight howitzers will figure in the bilateral Defence Policy Group meeting, for which a high-level delegation led by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar is going to Washington on March 1. Sources said Gen. Singh will meet Centcom Commander Gen. James Mattis on March 8 to discuss the situation in Af-Pak, the Arab world and Iraq. Gen. Singh will also hold talks with his US counterpart Gen. George W Casey Jr.


Watch this space!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to email us any questions at eye.on.middleeast "at" gmail "dot" com