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NightWatch 20091105

NightWatch

For the Night of 5 November 2009

Japan-US: Update. Foreign Minister Okada met with the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia today to prepare for U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit in mid-November, according to The Associated Press. The Obama visit is being manipulated in the Japanese media to appear as the US investiture of the Democratic Party coalition government which will solve the problems in US relations, such as re-basing on Okinawa.

The new government's need for highest level US approval appears to have been reason that Secretary Gates' visit was less than successful. The Japanese Democrats required the US President, not any appointed official.

Pakistan: Police in Karachi claimed to have arrested Umar Khan, a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander, Dawn News reported 5 November. Officials said Khan was apprehended in the Sohrab Goth area, and officials confiscated weapons in his possession. Khan was active in the Qabal Gram of Malakand district, and was trying to renew contacts with supporters/.

Three of the five major news items concerning security developments this week have reported developments in Bajaur, Malakand and Swat, not South Waziristan. News from the South Waziristan offensive has been the usual military situation reports about steady progress. Usually those reports mean the Army and paramilitary forces moved farther along the roads towards other small towns.

Afghanistan: For the record. The United Nations will evacuate 900 of its international staff from Afghanistan citing security concerns, Reuters reported. A UN source in Kabul said the United Nations is reducing the number of its international staff from 1,300 to 400, effective immediately, adding that the organization will bring people back as soon as the security situation allows and secure accommodation is found where staff can be consolidated.

Kabul is unsafe in the sense that the bombings are not predictable. Sources from Afghanistan report large volumes of low grade intelligence are available and become clear after a bombing, but the analytical centers are unable to distinguish reliable and actionable intelligence before the fact. This is a problem of training and technique and can be improved.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Bloomberg reported Saudi Arabia's air force attacked Yemeni rebels holding territory in the Kingdom's border region. Combat aircraft attacked rebel positions in Jabal al-Dokhan and other areas in the mountainous region after the rebels seized territory and killed a Saudi border guard, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said early today, citing an unidentified government official. Saudi Arabia increased its forces in the region and evacuated villages in response, the news organization said.

The presence of the Shiite Muslim rebels is a "violation of the sovereignty of the kingdom," the SPA reported. Operations will continue until the gunmen are cleared from Saudi territory, it said.

Saudi Arabia has expressed concern that Yemen's conflict with Huthi rebels in the northwestern region may spill over the 1,458 kilometer (906-mile) border they share.

Yemen, which has a majority Sunni Muslim population, accuses Shiite-led Iran of arming the insurgents. Huthi rebels on 3 November attacked a border patrol inside the Kingdom, killing a Saudi guard and wounding 11 others, the SPA reported. Six Saudi border guard vehicles were destroyed in the attack, according to the statement.

The rebels warned on 2 November they would attack Saudi Arabia because the Kingdom allowed Yemeni government forces to execute an attack against the rebels in Yemen from their rear, using Saudi territory.

Comment: The significance is that Saudi Arabia is now engaged in counter-insurgency operations. Tallying the score in the Middle East-south Asian region during the past five years, a Shiite government is in Baghdad, replacing a secular government, but violence is down for now.

The Taliban in Afghanistan now operate in more than 220 of the 400 districts in Afghanistan, compared to fewer than 30 five years ago. A new Pakistani Taliban movement has sustained insurgency in the Pakistan border regions and spread terror east of the Indus River boundary and threatened to carry it to India.

Iran and North Korea have continued to proliferate weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. Lebanon has no government. Most Central Asian states have returned to the Russian fold. Western China has become less stable and more unpredictable. Yemen is fighting a low level civil war that has now required Saudi Arabian air force assistance. Iran continues to send arms to its proxies in Lebanon, Gaza, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. New Iranian made rockets now held by Hamas in Gaza can reach Tel Aviv, and maybe Dimona. Iran's nuclear program continues to expand.

The tally does not look like progress towards stability.

Somalia: Members of Somalia's al Shabaab militant Islamist movement will capture Puntland and Somaliland if assistance is not sent to those regions, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyuf Mesfin said 5 November, Somali Radio Gaalkacyo reported. Speaking to reporters in Addis Ababa, Mesfin said it was very likely that al Shabaab will attack those regions if the international community does not help the regions prevent the attack.

Ethiopia appears to be making the case to justify enlarging its now limited military presence in Somalia by exaggerating the potential for a larger threat. Al Shabaab is having difficulty holding on to Kismayu port and has yet to demonstrate the capability for controlling all of Mogadishu. Despite the limited capabilities of the African Union forces that protect the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, they are superior to those of al Shabaab.

Puntland and Somaliland are not threatened by al Shabaab, but might find Ethiopian help useful. Both are receiving Western help already. Ethiopian might want a share and encouragement to play a larger role, which does not seem conducive to greater stability at this time.

Honduras: The Associated Press reported today ousted President Zelaya is asking the Obama administration why, after pressing for his reinstatement, it now says it will recognize upcoming Honduran elections even if he isn't returned to power first.

In a letter sent to the US State Department on Wednesday, Zelaya asked Secretary of State Clinton "to clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d'etat has been changed or modified."

Maybe Zelaya really does not understand the underlying concept that the source of his position as president was the will of the people. What would be the reason he would be reluctant to let the people decide on 29 November who shall be their president? If he is as popular as he protests, he should win handily. The elections are only a little over three weeks off.

An explosive device detonated the morning of 5 November in a public bathroom in the central park of Tegucigalpa, El Heraldo reported. The facility was slightly damaged and no injuries were reported. This follows an attack by unknown men using a military-grade fragmentation grenade at radio station HRN late 4 November, which injured two men.

One of the reasons the US State Department might be less enthused about Zelaya is that his so-called supporters, in many instances, turned out to be violent goons, some of whom were paid by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez who has also been carrying Zelaya since June.

Mexico-Texas: KGNS, TV 8, Laredo, carried a brief report today that US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents found 28 illegal immigrants locked in the trailer of tractor trailer whose driver was attempting to smuggle them into the US from Mexico via I 35. This kind of operation used to be reported regularly in 2007 and early 2008, before the onset of the recession.

The technique and the number of illegals in a single trailer indicate the human traders have concluded that the US recession is about over. If that is the case, expect another wave of illegals.

Special Comment: Two years ago, a devout Pakistani cab driver told NightWatch that if Allah called him or any devout Muslim to go on jihad and to kill his family and even the riders in his cab, he must do it immediately. He made that statement calmly as a matter of fact, while driving north on US 1.

This was not the statement of an insane man, but of an educated man with a degree in engineering who was making ends meet; a devoted family man and a good cab driver. NightWatch asked whether the phone was ringing just now. He replied he did not yet hear the call.

The Fort Hood tragedy brought that conversation to mind.

End of NightWatch for 5 November.

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