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NightWatch 20110602

NightWatch

For the Night of 2 June 2011

Japan: For the record. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he will step down after Japan makes some recovery from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, adding that he wants to allow the younger generation to take over after he fulfills the role he should play in reconstruction. Kan made the statement before a vote on no-confidence against him in the lower house to a meeting of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. His promise to resign apparently enabled him to avoid the loss of face from a vote of no confidence.

North Korea-China: Comment: The North Korean party daily finally published a bland editorial about Kim Chong-il's visit to China. Long on the history of relations and praise for Kim, it cited no new agreements or initiatives.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: At least 80 people have died in two days of fighting in Upper Dir District, in northwestern Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. On 2 June, hundreds of militants reportedly crossed from Afghanistan to attack a police checkpoint. Authorities reported 27 Pakistani security personnel killed, plus 45 militants and eight civilians.

Comment: The identity of the attackers has not yet been reported and should provide insight about this unusual attack. News services have provided no motive for the attack, though some Pakistani outlets have reported violent clashes between rival claimants in a local land dispute in the area of the attack.

Afghan Taliban fighters, nearly all of whom live in Afghanistan, avoid attacking Pakistani police checkpoints to ensure freedom of movement of finances, ammunition and other supplies, most of which comes from or flows through Pakistan. Thus, this attack is not likely to be the work of fighters loyal to the Quetta-Karachi Shura of Mullah Omar.

The obvious culprits are the Haqqani or the Hekmatyar gangs who are based in Pakistan. Upper Dir District borders the Pakistani tribal agencies, and is a bit north of the main Haqqani base area.

Hekmatyar, however, has been a fixture in Konar Province, Afghanistan, which borders Upper Dir to the west, since the US supported the Afghan Mujahedin against the Soviets. He also likes to meddle in local affairs on both sides of the border.

Occasionally when there are ground attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, Afghan government security forces are involved, but those attacks tend to be brief skirmishes.

For Pakistan, the western border obviously remains embarrassingly porous. This is the third time in a month that armed men from Afghanistan crossed the border into Pakistan without detection or warning. The government delivered a formal protest to Afghanistan over its failure to control the border.

Yemen: Flights to the airport in Sanaa were halted and diverted to Aden airport, an aviation official said on 2 June, because of the continuing fighting, in which more than 40 people have died.

Yemeni air force combat aircraft bombed the Khamr area, a stronghold of the Hashid tribe, parts of which are now in rebellion and have joined the opposition. Thousands of armed tribesmen are reported to be en route Sanaa to support opposition tribal head Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, according to tribal chiefs who spoke to Agence France-Presse. Z

Xinhua quoted an unnamed local official who said fighters from al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula seized a seaport in the southern province of Abyan on 2 June. .

Comment: The two stories showcase the complexity of the security situation. On the one hand, the final fight for the survival of the regime is developing in Sanaa. In outlying areas, however, terrorists are attempting to take advantage of the government's preoccupation with survival to improve their conditions and apparently seize a secure base area.

There are still other security issues involving tribal feuds and Shiite vs. Sunni fights that are constant features of the security backdrop and are uncontrolled because of the government's fight for survival.

Lebanon-Israel: The Lebanese army declared the Fatima Gate and the barbed wire fence along its southern border with Israel as a closed military zone ahead of a 5 June planned rally, Naharnet reported on 2 June. Sunday is Naksa (i.e., setback) Day, referring to the displacement of Palestinians after Israel's triumph during the Six Day War in 1967 in which it captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

According to As Safir newspaper, Palestinian organizers have not decided upon a location, although Al-Khaim detention center was cited as a possible rally point. As Safir reported a location is needed that can ensure protestors' safety as well as achievement of their goals. 1.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered security forces to act with "restraint but determination" to defend Israel if thousands of Arabs try to rush its northern borders the week of 5 June. Netanyahu said Israel has the right to secure and protect its borders.

Comment: Arab political activism appears to have reached Lebanon. Expect clashes along the border with Israel.

End of NightWatch for 2 June.

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