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NightWatch 20100610

NightWatch

For the Night of 10 June 2010

Japan-South Korea: Update. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak reaffirmed that the two countries will continue to cooperate closely on the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship and work toward the resumption of bilateral talks to seal a free trade agreement, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, as reported by The Associated Press on 10 June. The two heads of government also agreed to work closely with the US.

South Korea-Israel: South Korean President Lee asked his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres to step up efforts for peace in the Middle East, Yonhap reported 10 June. Lee told Peres that the countries must make efforts for the co-prosperity of mankind through peace and stability. The leaders reportedly did not directly mention the flotilla incident, but the South Korean president's comments were an indirect expression of his opinion about it.

Peres said he read the Cheonan report by a multinational probe team pinpointing North Korea as the culprit. The leaders agreed to bolster substantial cooperation in renewable energy and cutting-edge technology sectors.

Comment: South Korea is taking advantage of Israel's trouble to solicit its support against North Korea in the United Nations.

China-North Korea: Update. China demanded that North Korea "severely punish" the border guards who shot dead three Chinese nationals and wounded another last week, Xinhua reported 10 June. China attaches great importance to the incident and immediately sent representatives to Pyongyang, the Liaoning provincial government said in a statement. China demands that North Korea thoroughly investigate the incident, severely punish those responsible for it, and properly deal with issues arising from it, the statement said.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization

China-Russia: Russia and China effectively blocked Iran's entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), even as the regional bloc mulls opening its doors to new members, Press Trust of India reported 10 June. Ahead of the two-day SCO summit that opens in Tashkent, diplomats from Russia and China blocked Tajikistan's request for inviting Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad, who was to bid publicly for admission to the six-member grouping, Kommersant daily reported.

Pakistan: President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Uzbekistan to be an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Tashkent, Uzbek National News reported 10 June.

Comment: Iran did something that riled Russia and China. Most reports indicate it was the construction of a secret nuclear plant at Qom that persuaded its erstwhile allies to agree to mild punishment by voting for UN sanctions.

China-US-Israel: Israel should join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state, Xinhua reported 10 June, citing China Atomic Energy Authority Chairman and Chinese Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency Director Chen Qiufa. Qiufa said Israel's nuclear facilities should be placed under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Comment: The statement will have no effect on Israel, but it is rare for China to speak out so. Apparently the Chinese think their vote for sanctions on Iran, a Chinese client, entitles them to speak against Israel, the US client. This seems to be part of the bargain the US arranged to get China to support sanctions against Iran.

Afghanistan: Feedback: A brilliant and perceptive Reader pointed out that Afghans are outraged by Taliban atrocities, which explains why the Taliban rarely claim responsibility for their savagery against innocents. However, they are afraid of additional attacks if they denounce the Taliban.

The Afghans killed at the wedding ceremony yesterday were members of a village that is anti-Taliban, has cooperated with US program to build local militias and whose leaders have cooperated with the US. For those reasons, that village and that family were attacked.

The US and NATO evidently are unable to provide effective protection for friendly villages; might not even know how many and which villages are friendly. Yet, village elders said the village would continue to resist the Taliban, indicating their appreciation and expectation that the village will be attacked again.

NATO denounced the attack, but no news services reported US or other aid teams rushing to Arghandab to provide immediate direct assistance to the survivors, our allies. Terror effects remain dominant, unless countered and neutralized.

If the US cannot protect its local allies when it has an army in the field, what will happen to them after July 2011?

Afghanistan-UK: British Prime Minister David Cameron said Afghanistan was his No. 1 foreign policy concern, although sending more British troops to the country was "not remotely" on the agenda, The Guardian reported 10 June. Cameron said that he wanted a "very clear focus" on Britain's national security interests, which meant stopping the return of al Qaida, and he wanted to be able to hand power over to the Afghans.

Comment: Cameron already has been badly briefed because al Qaida is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Some US leaders make the same mistake. As for handing over power, one way or the other, it will be to the Afghans.

Russia-Iran: Russia and Iran will be able to cooperate in oil, transport, space and energy because U.N. Security Council sanctions do not extend to those areas, Mikhail Margelov said, who is head of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, Itar-Tass reported 10 June. Margelov said Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad "is known for eccentric expressions." He said Ahmadi-Nejad should not have been careless with allies, who are not many, in his words. "The attempts of the Iranian leadership to maneuver with the nuclear program were the last straw for the world community," he added.

Comment: This reinforces the comment above that the Iranians got too smug and complacent. It is difficult to accept that the Russians would tolerate yet another nuclear armed country on their border, but they seem willing to make an exception for Iran. Russian policy towards Iran and North Korea always has seemed more driven by a desire to spoil US designs over tending to Russian national security interests. It is still not clear what the Russians got from the US for their UN vote.

Russia-UN: The U.N. resolution has no direct effect on Russia, yet some countries may unilaterally tighten sanctions, according to the head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov, Interfax reported June 10. Eight items have been added to the list of armaments liable for sanctions. However, there are no defensive systems, such as S-300 missiles, on the list, he said, noting that Russia could fulfill its commitments in the delivery of S-300s to Iran as well as continue the Bushehr plant project in the sphere of peaceful atomic energy.

Comment: Earlier an unidentified source claimed Russia had agreed to freeze the sale of the S-300. It does not need to because such "defensive" systems are not banned by the UN registry of conventional arms, referenced in the resolution. Still the US evidently thinks Russia has agreed to not complete the sale because the US thanked Russia today for its restraint. Hmmm…

Iraq: The al-Iraqiya List, which won the most seats in the 7 March parliamentary elections, has begun forming the next Iraqi government, Asharq Al-Aswat reported, citing an al-Iraqiya source. The source said the coalition is holding talks with all major blocs as well as internally and that the next government will be a "national partnership" to include members of the State of Law coalition.

However, the State of Law coalition apparently has other designs. It announced that it and the Iraqi National Alliance will form the largest parliamentary bloc called the National Alliance, Hasan al-Sunayd, a member of the State of Law coalition, said, Al-Iraqiyah TV reported 9 June. The new bloc claims the choice of prime minister has been narrowed down to either Prime Minister al-Maliki or Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, UPI reported.

Stay tuned. In the parliamentary democracy that the US established in Iraq, party maneuvering can nullify the outcome of an election. In this instance pro-Iranian groups would seem now to be entitled to challenge al Iraqiya's right to form the new government.

It has always been obvious to old hands that parliamentary democracy would lead to Shiite, pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, for the first time in its history. This is a study in democracy.

NightWatch Comment: The UN Resolution on Iran has created instability in the community of nations, manifest in the amount of bilateral and multilateral consultations. Despite what many security affairs analysts disparage as a toothless resolution, the extent of consultations and the odd pairing of interlocutors indicates some national leaders are concerned that something significant has happened. They are trying to determine whether that is the case, and, if so, what it signifies.

End of NightWatch for 10 June.

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