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NightWatch 20100310

NightWatch

For the Night of 10 March 2010

North Korea: Yonhap news service published a montage of eight photos of Kim Chong-il at his public appearances in the past year. The Yonhap finding is that changes in the color of his hands and fingernails indicate kidney failure and that he is on dialysis.

NightWatch has consulted with medical professionals who confirm that changes in hand skin tone and fingernail coloring indicate kidney failure. Kidney failure means Kim would have good periods after dialysis and very bad periods as the time neared for his next dialysis.

What Yonhap failed to notice is that four, and possibly five, of the men in the montage have distinctly different hair lines, face and head shapes and spacing between the eyes. The kidney failure diagnosis is attenuated by the much more obvious fact that the men in the pictures are not the same man.

When he was President, Kim Il-sung notoriously used many body doubles. Yonhap has proven that Kim Chong-il does the same, with at least four alter egos. That also would explain differences in skin tone and fingernail color. Body doubles or not, the hand and nail coloring is not consistent. Further, either way, that indicates Kim is not healthy and is not as much in control as he was in the mid-1990s.

Burma: The United States will not recognize the outcome of the Burmese elections, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said 10 March because of "… the tenor of the election laws…"

Crowley referred to the new election laws that ban the country's leading democratic activist and some 2,000 political prisoners from participating in the as yet unscheduled elections. He said, "there's no hope that this election will be credible." It took two tries, but State's comment did get tougher.

Assistant Secretary Campbell described the laws as "disappointing?" US diplomats could use a few lessons in vocabulary for recognizing and describing farcical political obscenity.

India: External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said 10 March that any allegation by Pakistan that India was involved in the recent Lahore attack is a "falsehood," Geo TV reported.

Krishna asserted that terrorist attacks in Pakistan might have to do with Pakistan's "selective" approach to fighting terrorism. He added, "When we take a firm stand against terror, not on a selective basis but across the board, then I am sure that Pakistan will be happier and India will be peaceful."

Krishna was referring to Pakistan's leniency towards the LeT terrorists who perpetrated the Mumbai bombings, the Pune attack and the attack against the Indian Parliament in 2001.

India-Afghanistan: India is studying whether to cut back operations in Afghanistan after attacks on Indian nationals there, Press Trust of India reported. New Delhi is also reportedly looking at keeping Indians together on projects to ensure their safety. Cumulatively, the open source reporting shows that Indian road construction and other projects are targeted regularly for, primarily, attacks against convoys and site bombings.

The Haqqani family, long time agents of Pakistani and, earlier, US intelligence, seems to have an affinity for attacking the Indians working for Afghanistan. Aside from force protection issues, India also has an interest in allaying Pakistani fears about Indian intentions in Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistani suppression of anti-Indian terrorists. The data is not yet sufficient to support an assessment.

Pakistan-India: Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan extended an offer to the Afghan government to train its national army, adding that India is meddling into affairs of Pakistan through Afghanistan, Geo News reported. Basit said there are differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but both countries are gradually improving ties. He added that India is exploiting Afghans "to put into practice its nefarious designs against Pakistan."

The language in italics is fairly symptomatic of Pakistani paranoia about India, which occasionally is well grounded, but most often is exaggerated. Afghanistan welcomes assistance from both Pakistan and India … as well as Iran … but some Pakistani cannot abide Iranian or Indian involvement in what they consider Pakistan's strategic rear. It is usual for a Foreign Ministry spokesman to be so candid about Pakistani anxieties.

Afghanistan-Iran: During his trip to Afghanistan, Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad said the United States is "playing a double game," The Associated Press reported 10 March. He said the United States "created the terrorists" and now they are fighting them. Ahmadi-Nejad criticized foreign forces and the amount of money being spent on troops, money that he said would have been better spent on irrigation and other development projects.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Iran was a "brother nation" that is assisting Afghanistan with reconstruction projects, improving education and helping provide electricity. One news service reported Iranian aid at $240 million this year.

Comment: Iranian policy towards Afghanistan is conflicted and contradictory. It must maintain a friendly buffer zone along the eastern border, while maintaining good relations with the government in Kabul without seeming to cooperate with US interests in the region. The result is a somewhat confusing and potentially self defeating set of tactical policy actions that do not make Iran more secure.

The Revolutionary Guards support some Taliban groups in the border region to watch and harass suspected US-sponsored anti-Iranian activities, operating from bases in western Afghanistan. Officially, Tehran genuinely wants a stable government in Kabul because stability in Kabul shortens the US presence. It has invested significantly in its commitment to a stable Sunni government, while supporting Taliban groups in the border marches, because they are anti-American.

Editorial Comment: Ahmadi-Nejad is as uncouth a national leader as has emerged in the past 60 years. His comments are senseless and invariably baseless in facts. He lacks any sense of judgment. His timing and substance are not only off, but wrong so that he is a world class embarrassment to a great country, by any international standard.

In short, he is a predictable, ill-mannered bore. His vituperations are not backed up by the decisions and actions of his country - that is the important and good news. What Iran does is much more diagnostic than what Ahmadi-Nejad says.

Iraq: Update. The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq said the preliminary results of the elections will be announced the morning of 11 March, Aswat al-Iraq reported 10 March.. It is important that all parties accept the results that are not yet final, he said, and must take into consideration that the counting is an honest process. Hunh…?

Turkey-Saudi Arabia: On 9 March, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan received the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Saudi Arabia, according to Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency today.

The King Faisal International Prize is presented to scientists and others who make contributions to Islam and a positive difference in the world. At the award ceremony, Erdogan said Turkey has strived to establish peace, stability and security in the region and the world.

Comment: To recap the action, the Saudis gave the supposed leader of a secular state - Turkey -- an award for his service to Islam. That would seem to clinch the argument in Turkey's constitutional court about Erdogan's service to Turkey's secular constitution and history. The Saudis openly encouraged Erdogan's erosion of the legacy of Ataturk.

STRATFOR's thesis is the Saudis are looking to Turkey to act as an ally in restraining Iranian pretensions to regional hegemony. The Turks have their own leadership aspirations which involve pursuing a neo-Ottoman strategy that joins Sunnis and Shias under enlightened, of course, Turkish leadership.

Even if the Turks do not cooperate much with the Saudis, the Turkish-Persian rivalry for regional dominance is rooted in thousands of years of history. The Arabs are clever enough to revive that old dispute while sitting on the sidelines. Erdogan and the Iranian Ayatollahs are arrogant enough to fall for the bait.

Saudi Arabia-US: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi King Abdallah, Reuters reported 10 March. Gates reportedly discussed the stabilization of Yemen, U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and the US proposal that Saudi Arabia engage with Iraq ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from the country.

Gates also is expected to update Abdallah on the status of U.S. policy toward Iran, including a strategic shift from the "engagement track" to the "pressure track." Other topics were to include ways to improve the Saudi air and missile defenses and Saudi support for UN sanctions on Iran. The United States hopes that "the Saudis will use whatever influence they have, which is considerable, in this region and throughout the world to try to help us," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

A point missed in mainstream US news reporting is that the administration has reacted strongly negatively to Iran's rejection of more cooperative relations, offered in the first year of the administration. The administration is learning, but appears to have squandered any leverage it might have had earlier. No important and powerful states support more sanctions on Iran.

End of NightWatch for 10 March.

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