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NightWatch 20100810

NightWatch

For the Night of 10 August 2010

North Korea-UN Command: Update. The United Nations Command (UNC) and North Korea ended their fourth round of talks today, 10 August, but made no progress in making arrangements for general-level talks, Yonhap reported. Colonels from the two sides met for about two hours at Panmunjom, during which the two sides restated their positions. A new date was not proposed for follow-up talks, the UNC official said.

Comment: The North denies sinking the South Korean corvette Cheonan and demands to conduct its own investigation of the ship. The South insists North Korean forces sank the ship and wants an apology among other symbols indicating culpability.

NightWatch still judges the North should be permitted to conduct its investigation, preferably as a member of an international team with Chinese and Russian experts. Failure to allow this raises justifiable suspicions that the Allied investigation will not withstand a challenge.

Note to new analysts: Analysts and their supervisors need to remember that every judgment must withstand the three tests of the scientific method:

Auditability -- the evidentiary path must be transparent and traceable by independent, unbiased analysts.

Replicability - the findings can be capable of being replicated from the evidence by independent, unbiased analysts, even if they disagree with the findings.

Irrefutability - no evidence must exist that absolutely refutes and negates the findings, such as physical impossibility or independent admissions of causality that were not addressed.

If the Allied findings meet the criteria of the scientific method, there is nothing to fear from a biased North Korean set of findings and a lot to be gained.

Afghanistan: For the record. The Taliban publicly flogged and then executed a pregnant Afghan widow by firing three shots into her head for committing adultery, police said. Bibi Sanubar, 35, was kept in captivity for three days before she was shot dead Sunday in a public trial by a local Taliban commander in rural Badghis Province. The Taliban accused Sanubar of having an "illicit affair" that left her pregnant.

She was first punished with 200 lashes in public before being shot, Deputy Provincial Police Chief Ghulam Mohammad Sayeedi told Agence France-Presse. "She was shot in the head in public while she was still pregnant," Sayeedi said.

The man authorities say had an affair with Sanubar was not punished.

Comment: This anecdote has not been corroborated by other sources, but it matches the behavior of the Taliban when in power and conforms to Sharia punishment for adultery by a woman.

During the spring and summer offensive, the Taliban have attempted to re-cast their image as nationalists, defenders of Afghanistan, instead of religious warrior zealots. In this endeavor, they have played down their strict fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia and their brutish application of its punishments. Somehow women always die, ignominiously, but men usually escape blame.

Regardless of the propaganda guidance emerging from the leadership in Pakistan, the local leaders inside Afghanistan know what is expected of them. The anecdote reported today, if true, would be a double homicide and is mainstream Islamic zealot behavior, whether in Badghis Province, Afghanistan, or the Swat Valley, Pakistan.

Israel-Lebanon: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) notified the Lebanese chief of staff and senior U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) officials that it has changed its approach to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), Ynet reported 10 August. Brigadier General Yossi Heiman said IDF soldiers operating near the Lebanese border have been ordered to respond more severely to aggression.

The orders are temporary and will be lifted when Israel is certain that the LAF is not a threat to IDF, according to the report. IDF will hold Beirut responsible if the LAF is influenced by or assists Hezbollah, and will react forcefully against the LAF and Lebanese infrastructure in the event of such cooperation.

Comment: Today Iran promised to respond to any Lebanese request for military assistance, in the event the US faltered. The US responded with an illogical statement about Lebanese sovereignty.

The events of the past month, especially the visit by Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Asad, indicate a new power struggle for Lebanese allegiance - always a transient commodity. For now the Saudis have suborned the Syrians on Lebanon and the two in tandem appear to have won, or bought, the temporary allegiance of the Lebanese government at the expense of Iran.

The border clash last week has meaning as a manifestation of a Lebanese government action to protect the border. The significance is that the Lebanese Army did not cede to Hezbollah responsibility for border protection, as occurred in the war in 2006.

The Saudis and Syrians, working with the government in Beirut, are restraining Iranian influence and reining Hezbollah, Iran's Shiite proxy in Lebanon.

Iran's overtures appear aimed to fighting back to retain influence, and thus a "front" against Israel. If Iran does not lead the Islamic nations in confronting Israel, it becomes an outsider. As a Persian state, it is an outsider to Arab affairs and King Abdullah has just outmaneuvered the Shiite ayatollahs masterfully to make that point.

There will be other rounds in this power struggle, but for now it appears the Arabs have united behind King Abdullah and are blocking the Iranians in Lebanon. If this interpretation holds, the next Saudi target will be Hamas, which is a Sunni Arab movement that has Iranian backing.

End of NightWatch for 10 August.

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