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NightWatch 20110520


For the Night of 20 May 2011

North Korea-China: South Korea's Yonhap reported that Kim Chong-il, arrived in Tumen, Jilin province, China, early on 20 May, evidenced by tightened security along the rail line.

Comment: If confirmed, this would be Kim's third visit to China this year. He seems to be healthy enough to travel. One South Korean news service speculated that Kim will not be making a state visit. He might be inspecting the profitability of Chinese-North Korean joint ventures in Tumen. Kim is looking for another handout from China. Economic conditions in North Korea have become desperate outside Pyongyang.

North Korea-US: A US delegation, led by special envoy Robert King, will visit Pyongyang from 24 to 28 May to discuss the possibility of food aid as well as human rights issues, the US State Department said on 20 May. A "food assessment team" will be part of the delegation.

Comment: Readers will recall that China's three-step process leading up to Six Party Talks began with improved North-South ties; followed by improved North Korean-US ties, then concluded by Six Party Talks. The North-South ties are going nowhere because South Korean President Lee re-appointed a hardliner as the Minister of Unification. Nevertheless, the US has moved to the head of the process, apparently for humanitarian reasons.

India-Pakistan-China: For the record. Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said on 20 May that his country views with "serious concern" increasing defense ties between China and Pakistan, and said India will step up its capabilities in response, Press Trust of India reported.

Comment: Gilani's and Wen's statement on security is good for Indian defence in the short term.

Pakistan: An improvised explosive device attack against a two-vehicle US government motorcade on 20 May in Peshawar, western Pakistan, killed one Pakistani and injured 10 others, the Islamabad government said. A suicide bomber executed the attack, according to the US Embassy. No Americans were injured, though a vehicle was damaged. The Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility.

Comment: This is one of several directions in which the Pakistani Taliban are moving to avenge the death of Usama bin Laden.

Pakistan-US: Pakistan's Punjab Province government has canceled 18 memoranda of understanding with the United States, The Nation reported 20 May, according to the province's law minister, Rana Sanaullah. Speaking on 19 May, he said the federal government should reject foreign aid, as the province has done, and adopt a policy of self-reliance. He said Punjab's ban on aid only applies to the United States and not China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Turkey.

Comment: This is the first wave of a growing anti-American backlash. Pakistanis in the Army and civilians blame the US for driving bin Laden into Pakistan in the first place.

Americans in Pakistan must expect that Pakistani security forces will not protect them competently, will not respond in a timely fashion to requests for help and that emergency services will not arrive on time.

That is precisely the pattern of Pakistani official behavior when Pakistani rioters burned down the US Embassy in Islamabad after an Arab shooting crisis in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that was blamed on the US. NightWatch was on duty that night in 1979. Pakistan Army troops are credited with having saved 100 US officials from the US Embassy, but that was after they and the police stood by and did nothing as the US Embassy burned and as a US Marine and another US official burned to death inside it. The British Embassy did more to rescue the 100 Americans than the Pakistanis.

The backlash against the "humiliation" of Pakistan is just beginning. The Tehrik-e-Taliban attack and the action of the Punjab provincial government are different manifestations of the same backlash, reminiscent of 1979. The American civilian community and US military personnel in Pakistan need to maintain special alert for the next few months. A drawdown of nonessential personnel - especially families with children -- would be timely.

A period of re-evaluation and transition to a significantly modified and realigned Pakistani foreign policy is beginning. It will be much more hostile to the US.

Afghanistan: Special Comment: Continuing analysis of the fighting data reported in open sources in May 2011 since the death of bin Laden show no clear impact of that death on the Pashtun insurgency insurrection in Afghanistan … either to increase attacks in outrage or to decrease them in mourning. Bin Laden and Al Qaida do not seem to have mattered much to the Afghan Taliban fight.

Yemen: President Saleh called for early presidential elections and said his supporters would resist the "coup movement" in Yemen. Speaking to a group of thousands of supporters, Saleh said he wanted to hold early elections to avoid bloodshed. During his speech, thousands of opponents gathered on Al-Siteen Street in Sanaa as well as in the city of Taiz to call for his resignation.

Comment: Saleh will not resign on 22 May, as reported earlier.

Syria: The latest death toll is at least 32 people killed across Syria on 20 May by security forces who were authorized to use live ammunition and tear gas to disperse antigovernment protesters. Thirteen people were killed in the city of Maarat al-Numan; six in Daraya and Barza, near Damascus; four in Latakia, Hama and Deir al-Zor; and two in Sanamein, near Daraa.

Comment: This scene is likely to be repeated every Friday. Nevertheless, the number of cities and the size of the crowds are diminishing. The crackdown still seems to be winning. There is no revolution in Syria.

Egypt: The leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, has abandoned the slogan "Islam is the solution" in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The party adopted the slogan "Freedom is the solution and justice is the application" because the party is different from the group, the party leader said.

Comment: This is a political shell game. Not only is the Brotherhood engaging in a monstrous deception, it is telling the Egyptian voters that it is doing so and they are swallowing the deception.

Algeria-Mali-Mauritania-Niger: The four nations have agreed to establish a joint force of up to 85,000 soldiers to secure their shared Sahara-Sahel desert zone, Malian Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said while speaking at a regional security meeting on 20 May. Maiga said the force will be operational within 18 months and will patrol the zone in order to fight organized transnational crime.

Comment: France is the facilitator and enabler of this arrangement, which has been working with increasing effectiveness during the past two years. This is tonight's good news, but France has had an important role in making it happen. The surprise is the size of the planned joint force.

End of NightWatch for 20 May.

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