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NightWatch 20110616

NightWatch

For the Night of 16 June 2011

China: Crowds continued to gather on 16 June in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province in eastern China, after unrest broke out on 14 June after a village chief was beaten by gas station employees who tried to negotiate an increase in land compensation fees, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported. The center said the incident catalyzed resentment over land seizures and thousands of villagers converged on the site, despite the presence of Chinese security forces.

Comment: Riots over land seizures by communist party officials have become a regular feature of China's internal security situation in the core Han Chinese provinces, such as Zhejiang.

Disputes over land ownership are among the four fundamental contradictions in modern China. The communists promised but failed to correct the imbalance between owners and producers. The irony of this contradiction is that the Maoist revolution supposedly ended it in the 1950s with massive expropriation and executions of land owners and redistribution of their land to peasant communes and state farms. That experiment failed dismally.

A half century later, the communist officials have replaced the landlords, while the workers of the land remain disenfranchised and angry over fees. A major difference is that modern telecommunications technology has made the workers more prone to self-help action.

China-South China Sea: China deployed one of its largest civilian maritime law enforcement ships, the Haixun-31, to the South China Sea to defend its "rights and sovereignty," official media reported on 16 June.

The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration's ship left south China on 15 June enroute Singapore, passing the Paracel and Spratly islands along the way. The Haixun-31 will monitor shipping, conduct surveys, inspect oil wells and "protect maritime security," Beijing Daily reported. It also reported the ship would inspect foreign ships anchored or operating in Chinese-claimed waters.

Takung Pao newspaper said the ship would "protect national maritime rights and sovereignty," and the International Herald Leader, a Chinese weekly newspaper, said Beijing could not allow other nations to seize oil and natural gas resources in the South China Sea.

Comment: Once again Chinese media published reports that contradict reassurances by the Foreign Ministry about peaceful resolution of disputes. The deployment of Haixun-31 is a deliberate provocation to other Southeast Asian states. It also exposes the continuing and expanding lack of coordination between the foreign ministry and the ministries responsible for state security.

Pakistan: Some 250 militants staged a cross-border raid from Afghanistan into a pro-government Pakistani village on Thursday, security officials and residents said. An intelligence official said six civilians were killed after militants opened fire. Two women were wounded, said government official Shah Naseem.

"They came from mountains where we don't have any security posts," said another government official. "Villagers told us that militants also used rocket-propelled grenades to target houses."

A spokesman for Pakistani paramilitary forces confirmed the attack but did not provide details.

Comment: Feedback from Brilliant Readers report that such attacks are executed by anti-Pakistan groups that operate on both sides of the Durand Line which separates Afghanistan and Pakistan. This attack appears to be punitive against the village for forming a lashkar to fight the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaida, as the government announced earlier this week.

As assessed, the lashkars have no ability to stand against an organized force.

Pakistan-al Qaida: An online announcement that Ayman al-Zawahiri, longtime deputy to bin Laden, is the new al Qaida leader is authentic, a U.S. counterterrorism official said on 16 June.

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A Pakistani Taliban spokesman said the movement supports Ayman al-Zawahiri as the new leader of al Qaida and vowed to conduct attacks against the West. A senior Pakistani Taliban commander, Omar Khalid Khorasani, recently told Reuters that al-Zawahiri was the group's "chief and supreme leader."

Comment: Earlier reports suggested an operational field commander would replace bin Laden. Today's report tends to confirm that the Egyptian, or non-Saudi, faction now is in charge of al Qaida. The significance of this is a shift in targeting strategy. Zawahiri wants to punish apostate Islamic states before attacking the West again. Pakistan's government tops his list of targets, according to his comments 18 months ago.

Israel: On 19 June the Defense Forces will begin a nationwide civil defense exercise, called Turning Point 5, that will include the largest simulation of missile interceptions ever held by the air force, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The exercise will involve all the air force's missile defense systems -- David's Sling, Iron Dome and Arrow. Hundreds of "missiles" will be fired, in simulation, into Israel from Iran, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.

The week-long drill will test the responses of the Home Front Command, the Israel Police, the Defense Ministry's National Emergency Administration and other emergency services to a large scale missile attack. Eighty municipalities and local authorities will participate.

Comment: This will be a high cost war preparation precisely because it involves large distortions to normality by civil sectors of the economy. These are not opportunity costs. I

In considering civil defense drills in Israel, there are only two scenarios: Israel attacks and prepares the home front for retaliation or Israel expects to be attacked. The confusion and disarray in Arab states tends to rule out the existence of any threat from Arab or Muslim states that would justify a civil defense exercise of this size and cost.

A national civil defense exercise in preparation for an Israeli attack is never held close to the time of an attack. This exercise does not mean that Israel has decided to attack anyone, such as Iran, but it means that it might and Israel has begun taking the appropriate long term, prudent preparations and precautions. High civilian costs of military-related activities are always a hallmark of real war preparations.

Egypt: The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces issued a decree with a law that criminalizes any protest or activity that hampers the work of public or private institutions, state-run Channel 1 TV reported on 16 June. Punitive measures would apply to "agitators" through words, writings or any other public means.

The law also criminalizes the use of force during such protests "that leads to sabotaging any productive facility, harming national unity, undermining public order or harming public or private funds and property."

Comment: This "law" is the military government's response to the police protests reported on 15 June. The language indicates it is intended to constrain the policemen escalating their protest demonstrations.

Libya: Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said the government was prepared to negotiate with the opposition on the condition that Qadhafi remain as the symbolic leader, state-run Al-Jamahiriyah TV reported. Qadhafi and Libya's territorial integrity are non-negotiable, al-Mahmoudi said. He also opined that the Libyan people would not accept negotiations with former government officials who now hold key positions in the opposition and made political mistakes in inviting NATO to carry out military operations in the country.

Comment: The comments above show that Qadhafi is not ready to negotiate in any sense that would dilute his authority. Qadhafi was a constitutional usurper who overthrew the King to whom he swore loyalty. He and his family have no legitimate claim to be the rulers of Libya, less than the opposition in Benghazi. His hubris and transparency is manifest in every peace overture to outside parties, including the African Union. He wants to end the fighting only on his terms.

Latvia: The Parliament recognized Russia's occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, according to Rustavi2. Latvia's parliamentary committee for foreign affairs also urged Russia and international organizations to fulfill the six-point cease-fire agreement with Georgia.

Comment: With this move, Latvia has broken ranks with most of its NATO allies.

Czech Republic - NATO: The Czech Republic has announced it is withdrawing from plans to take part in the US missile defense program because of its frustration from its diminished role in the system.

The initiative was conceived as a deterrent against a potential missile threat from Iran but has drawn strong opposition from Moscow. The Bush administration had initially proposed stationing 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. But in September 2009, the Obama administration scrapped the plans and proposed a revamped program with an unspecified role for the Czechs.

Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra said the conditions offered by the US were not good enough. ''Our ideas about the future co-operation are more colorful than just a room or two with some screens there,'' he said.

Comment: NATO and the US have a serious problem in Eastern Europe. The problem is Russia does not acknowledge the permanence of NATO's expansion into the Russian sphere of influence. Russian President Medvedev announced two years ago that Russia has a sphere of influence beyond its borders and that treaties can be undone.

With forces committed in Afghanistan and Libya, NATO has no capability to defend its Eastern European members in the event of a crisis. Nevertheless, they fall within NATO's guarantee that an attack against one is an attack against all members. That is the legal basis for the NATO support of US operations in Afghanistan - the 9/11 attack was approved by bin Laden in Afghanistan and the US demanded that NATO members honor their treaty obligation.

Poland, the Baltic States and now the Czech Republic sense a growing threat from Russia but are not sensing NATO and US sensitivity to their sense of alarm. As a result they are becoming less cooperative with the US, are experimenting with their own multi-lateral defensive arrangements outside of NATO and they reject an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan. Their defense resources are needed at home to guard against an increasingly assertive Russia.

End of NightWatch for 16 June.

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