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NightWatch 20100607


For the Night of 7 June 2010

North Korea: Today, 7 June, the Supreme People's Assembly convened its rare early summer session. Kim Chong-il attended in person, according to Yonhap.

The North Korean Central Broadcasting Station announced that Deputy Kim Yong Il was recalled as cabinet Premier and Deputy Choe Yong Rim was elected to the position, according to the Korean Workers' Party (KWP) Central Committee Political Bureau's proposal that was discussed at the Supreme People's Assembly, i.e., Choe replaced Kim Yong-il as Premier and Head of Government.

In addition, in accordance with a proposal by North Korean leader Kim Chong-il, KWP general secretary and National Defense Commission (NDC) chairman, Deputy Jang Song Thaek (Chang Song-taek) was elected as NDC vice chairman. Chang is Kim's brother-in -law.

Comment: Kim Yong-il, as head of the cabinet, today paid his dues for the destructive currency reform last year. The head of the currency reform already committed suicide. The Premier is the second high level victim of that misguided policy. Plus, Choe Yong rim gave a rabble rousing speech on 30 May denouncing South Korea for accusing the North of sinking the patrol ship Cheonan, which apparently the leadership approved.

The more important news is about the succession. Kim Chong-il's presence means that whatever happened or was enacted carried the approval of the Kim family. Chang's and Choe's promotions are the first recent changes indicating the succession process is advancing apace, if not ahead of schedule, with Kim's approval. Previously the target was several years from now, but today's events suggest it has been accelerated.

The promotion of Chang Song-taek makes him the fourth Vice Chairman of the North's most powerful decision-making organization, the National Defense Commission. Chang has been identified as the mentor of the third son, heir apparent and his own nephew, Kim Jong-un.

Uncle Chang's obvious portfolio is management of the succession. His promotion gives him a significant increase in clout to do what Kim Chong-il wants, for as long as Kim Chong-il remains compos mentis. Chang is a wily guy who, unlike his brother-in-law Kim Chong-il, has traveled widely outside the country and may even have discreet contacts with the South Korean government. That is unusual for senior Korean communist officials.

He has not behaved like a doctrinaire North Korean communist. His recent rise potentially is good for stability, but his lack of clout with the Corps Commanders of the Korean People's Army is a significant liability. He now is legitimately in a position to succeed Kim Chong-il as regent, should Kim become incapacitated again. This has to be a result of the influence of Kim's sister, Kim Kyong-hui, Chang's wife. The family is closing ranks.

The promotion of Choe Yong-rim , a member of the Politburo, also seems connected to the succession, according to Yonhap analysts. Choe apparently is supporting the youth Kim Jong-un in a large scale construction project in the name and under the sponsorship of Kim Jong-un youth.

The Israel-Muslim Aid Agency Confrontation

Iran: Red Crescent director for international affairs Adib-zadeh told IRNA news agency that Iran will send two aid ships to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade. The decision to send two aid ships was made after a meeting with Iran's Foreign Ministry, Al Arabiya reported 7 June.

The ships will be sent to Gaza by the end of the week with one ship carrying donations and the other carrying relief workers, Adib-zadeh stated. He said the initial plan was to send the ships through an intermediary country, but the society decided to send them directly. He added that the aid would consist of foodstuffs and medicines.

Turkey-Palestinian Authority: Turkish President Abdullah Gul told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a bilateral meeting in Turkey that the best response to Israel would be to find a compromise between the two Palestinian factions, CNNTurk reported 7 June.

HAMAS: Hamas rejected the offer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to escort ships to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, saying they do not want further tensions in the region, Al Sharq Al Awsat reported 7 June. HAMAS lawmaker Jamal al Khzri said the organization does not want any military intervention that could lead to further tension in the region or involve civil authorities to come to Gaza via military activities.

The significance of this statement is that it indicates the Arab leaders of HAMAS want to avoid open association with the Persian Shiite ayatollahs of Iran.

Pulling all the threads together, religion - Islam - seems much less important than race and politics. The Ottomans in Turkey and the Persians in Iran are acting on the periphery of what the Saudi King has declared is an Arab problem.

The Turks are bit layers. The Persians build no lasting influence beyond the arms and finances they provide. The behavior of Arab state leaders shows they expect the Gaza Palestinians to bear the consequences of their overt support for HAMAS.

Egypt-Palestinian Authority-HAMAS: An unnamed Egyptian security official said the Egyptian government will keep the Rafah Border Crossing to the Gaza Strip open indefinitely, saying the border closure failed to achieve the desired goals, Agence France-Presse reported 7 June. The announcement came shortly after a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Egypt opened the Rafah Crossing on 1 June, the day after the 31 May Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla.

Turkey-Israel: The Turkish armed forces have outlined a three-stage plan for relations with Israel, Sabah reported 7 June.

- In the short term, Turkey will not invite Israel to participate in military exercises, beginning with the Anatolian Eagle military exercise.

- Defense industry projects will be reconsidered in the medium term, and a joint modernization project for M-60 tanks in Third World countries has been suspended.

- Lastly, in the long term, Turkey will review nine military cooperation agreements with Israel; Israeli ships will have restricted access to Turkish naval bases and agreements that allow guest cadets and officers to train in Turkey will be revised.

Comment: The military outline looks rather bland, as if the armed forces went through the motions of planning counter measures without having made a commitment. Prior to today's statement, open sources had not confirmed that Israeli ships had access to Turkish naval bases

Israel-Turkey: Dozens of Israelis are organizing a flotilla to sail to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to protest Turkish rule over the area, Voice of Israel Network B reported 7 June. The operation was launched on Facebook by Pinhas Har-Zahav, a member of Meretz. It is due to leave the weekend of June 14 or later that week and will last for 24-48 hours. Violent events are not foreseen and organizers do not plan to resist if they are not allowed to enter the region's territorial waters.

This operation looks phony, but emphasizes that Israel has options.

End of NightWatch for 7 June .

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