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NightWatch 20100224

NightWatch

For the Night of 24 February 2010

North Korea: According to party sources, the Communist Party of China (CPC) told North Korea to reform and open up its economy, end its hereditary succession of political power and abandon its nuclear development programs, Japanese daily Asahi reported 24 February. Wang Jiarui, Director of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, met North Korea's Chang Sung Taek, a National Defense Commission member and Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, and conveyed China's three requests to North Korea.

Unidentified diplomatic sources in Beijing also reported China suspended its dispatches of high-ranking government officials and delegations to North Korea.

Asahi is the only news service to publish this report. For years, China has pushed the three requests with no success. If Wang spoke sternly to Chang as Asahi reported, that suggests the Chinese judge the pending leadership succession transition presents a good opportunity to renew these longstanding demands.

Correction and clarification: Two North Korean leaders have the name Kim Yong il. One is the Premier; the other is the Secretary of the International Department. Thanks to feedback from a brilliant and discerning Reader, we finally obtained pictures to compare them. The International Department head is in Beijing, which would explain China's statement above. Wang Jiarui is the Chinese counterpart to Kim Yong il, who now appears to have been providing support to Chang Song taek.

China-US: Update. US officials said China postponed several high-level exchanges between US and Chinese military leaders since Washington announced a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan, Reuters reported. China postponed planned visits to the United States by its chief of the General Staff, as well as by one of its top regional military commanders, Pentagon officials said. A planned visit to China by the commander of the US Pacific Command was postponed, but nothing has been formally canceled.

India-Pakistan: Pakistan's foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, cautioned against raising expectations too high before talks with his Indian counterpart, Secretary of External Affairs Nirupama Rao. The federal cabinet earlier briefed the agenda for the upcoming Pak-India talks to be held in New Delhi tomorrow, 25 February.

Pakistan is expected to raise the core issues of Kashmir, water, and trade. India says it will restrict talks to the issue of terrorism only. These talks are a small first step, but Pakistan's refusal to listen to Indian concerns about the terrorist threat to Indian cities from Pakistan-based terrorists ensures little progress will be made beyond modestly improving the atmosphere for conducting diplomacy. These talks appear to be aimed primarily at shaping atmospherics, not about reaching substantive agreements.

Pakistan: Special note. The second part of yesterday's PBS show Frontline concerned the condition of the public school system in Pakistan. It has collapsed in nearly every respect.

The video report noted that nearly half of the 65 million school age kids in Pakistan do not attend public schools. It did not follow-up that datum to report that a large percentage of the children not in public school learn to read and write in religious schools associated with mosque. The madrasah teaches boys and girls to read, write and recite the Quran, among other basics. In many regions and cities of Pakistan, attendance at the madrasah is the only path to semi-literacy for the children of the poor.

The collapse of the public school system has been the subject of editorials and studies for decades. The video report was not newsworthy on that account. It was significant that the overcrowded, open air school that was the subject of the video is in Lahore, one of the largest cities of Pakistan. The visual setting looked like a remote tribal village, not part of a large urban center.

Of great interest were the reporter's brief interviews with a pre-teen Pakistani girl who attended the open air school in Lahore. The girl believed in education and said she wanted to be a teacher. Concerning the US, she said her teacher told her to hate America.

The vast majority of Pakistanis outside the political elite hate the US. The polling data of the past decade is consistent and unambiguous. A question that has been dodged invariably is who formulates the anti-US attitudes, irrespective of the tens of millions in aid sent to Pakistan. This video showed the face of the man who taught the young Pakistani girl to hate the US. It was her class teacher.

This is a profound discovery because it means that anti-US attitudes are being instilled at very young ages and reinforced through the duration of primary school education. In short, Pakistani kids grow up learning to hate Americans because that is what they are taught in public school. In the madrasahs, they are taught not only to hate Americans but how to fight American soldi4ers … and to die by suicide-murder bombings.

No agency in Pakistan or elsewhere views primary school teachers as agents of subversion. The Pakistani government is unwilling or unable to restrain the anti-American political bias of teachers in its failed school system. There is no tradition of protecting children from adult prejudices.

The Frontline video was stark, but, on balance, it understated the education problems in Pakistan by not addressing the insidious, seditious and subversive ideas nearly half the children of Pakistan receive in the madrasahs.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: Security. Pakistani officials said they have arrested seven of the 15 members of the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban's senior leadership council, the Christian Science Monitor reported today. Officials said that in addition to the previously reported arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Maulavi Abdul Kabir and Mullah Muhammad Younis, arrests were made of Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement's military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf.

If accurate the Pakistan-based leadership of the Afghan Taliban movement has been effectively decapitated. The remainder must be relocating daily to prevent capture. That reinforces the hypothesis that Pakistan has decided to reassert and protect its national security interest in Afghanistan by way of influencing power sharing negotiations.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: Afghanistan's Pajhwok news agency reported today that Pakistani officials have assured they would hand over the seized Taliban leaders, including Taliban deputy Mullah Berader, to the Afghan government after the latter demanded their custody.

Mullah Abdol Ghani Beradar, deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, and Mullah Abdossalam were arrested by security forces from Karachi and Faisalabad in Pakistan. An official of the Interior Ministry in Pakistan, who did not want to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News that Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar visited Pakistan and discussed the issue with his Pakistani counterpart.

He said Atmar demanded the Pakistani officials hand over the arrested Taliban leaders to the Afghan government. He said the Pakistani authorities had assured they would soon transfer the detainees into the custody of Afghan authorities, after Pakistan completes its interrogations.

Atmar is visiting Pakistan to attend a tripartite meeting among officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Muller is also visiting Pakistan.

When contacted for comments, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry Zmaray Bashari said it would be premature to mention that the arrested Taliban leaders would be handed over to Afghanistan in the near future.

Comment: Discussions today with Brilliant and Knowledgeable Readers theorized that if Pakistan hands

Berader to the Afghans that would suggest a trade for value. Pakistan would expect to be consulted, if not included, in power sharing talks. Berader, in this scenario, is acting as the emissary of Mullah Omar, but his transfer to Afghan custody is the perfect cover story for his acting as the go-between, with Pakistani assistance, to be sure.

Iran-Russia: For the record. The S-300 air defense systems contract with Iran will be honored after some problems are resolved, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reported Interfax. Lavrov did not further explain.

Latin America-Rio Group: The members of the Rio Group at their summit in Cancun, Mexico, adopted a proposal to form a new body of all Latin American and Caribbean countries but not including the US and Canada. Colombia appears to have been the lone demurrer to the proposal to exclude the US and Canada.

The proposal was presented by Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "We have decided to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States as our own regional forum," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said during the last session of the summit. Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza applauded the initiative and stated that this body would have functions different from those of the Organization of American States

Leaders are expected to decide the grouping's organizational structure and official name at a summit next year in Caracas, Venezuela.

Without US financial support for a new organization, its long term prospects are dubious. Nevertheless, the significance of the agreement is that it manifests regional hostility to US political intervention and dominance. They want US money but without strings, of course. Having vented against the US, most will talk collectively, but will deal with the US in their individual, national self interest.

The leaders left feeling good about their stand against the US, despite the increased risk of economic suicide. After the summit, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez arrived in Havana to visit Fidel Castro, according to Venezuelan media.

End of NightWatch for 24 February.

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