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NightWatch 20110711

NightWatch

For the Night of 11 July 2011

Japan: Update. An 8 July poll found that the popular approval rating for the Kan government has dropped from 25% to 16%. The Liberal Democratic Party's rate is 23% and the Democratic Party of Japan - the government coalition leader - stands at 13%. The Japanese electorate has no confidence in any major party… the choice of "none" received 46%.  More than 80% of those polls want Kan's government to resign by the end of the year.

Iraq-United States: For the record. An Iraqi lawmaker denounced a secret visit to Iraq by US Defense Secretary Panetta, accusing the United States of treating Iraq as an occupied country or as one of its states where its senior officials can travel as they please. Actions are moving toward a signed "memo of understanding," rather than an agreement voted on by the Iraqi parliament, the lawmaker stated.

Secretary Panetta said more weapons from Iran are flowing into Iraq and they have hurt US military efforts there. Panetta said US troops need to help ensure that Iraqi forces can stop the flow of the weapons and prevent Shiite militants from using them.

He said if Iraq wants to propose an extension of U.S. military presence in the country, Baghdad must make a formal request -- which the United States would obviously consider. Speaking in Baghdad following a visit to Afghanistan, Panetta said he believes NATO forces are on the right path in Afghanistan.

Comment: As reported, Secretary Panetta's actions and remarks are perplexing.  For example, even in South Korea and Japan, the US must comply with national clearance requirements for a visit by the Secretary of Defense or any official, but apparently not in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This exposes an inconsistency in the US nation-building strategy because the US denies that it is sovereign in those countries. 

Additionally, the responsibility for stopping Iranian arms flows into Iraq has long since passed from the US to the Iraqis. The primary  task of a stay behind force is to keep the main  forces safe during the withdrawal and this is not happening. Retrograde actions always are the most dangerous and costly of all operations.

Curious that the US press has not mentioned the status of American official civilians in Iraq. In 2006, they numbered more than 30,000 people in a walled town at Balad.

In less than two weeks, the issue of a continuing US military presence in Iraq has changed. Instead of the US trying to induce a favorable Iraqi decision to prolong a US military force in Iraq, the US is now playing hard to get. That is the only way to understand Panetta's comment that the US will consider an Iraqi request. The Secretary's statements misrepresent the issue. The al Maliki government and its Iranian backers don't want the US forces to extend their stay. No request is likely.

Shiite Arab leader Muqtada al-Sadr said he will not reactivate the Shiite Mehdi Army even if US troops remain in Iraq. Al-Sadr said he will limit military action to the elite unit "Promised Day Brigade" militia to oppose US forces in Iraq after the scheduled 2011 withdrawal.

He said he will freeze the Mehdi Army's activities because of the criminal acts and the potential for criminal acts committed by people claiming to be members of the Mehdi Army.

Comment: Any US soldiers in Iraq on 1 January 2012 will be potential targets.

Syria: Several hundred protesters gathered outside the US and French embassies in Damascus during a two-pronged protest on 11 July. Loyalists of Syrian President Bashar al Asad entered the US Embassy during the demonstrations, but were forced back by Marine guards and Syrian police.

Guards at the French Embassy fired live ammunition to stop al Assd loyalists from entering the compound.

The US State Department plans to call in the Syrian ambassador in Washington to complain about the attack on the embassy in Damascus.

Comment: The Asad government would like the US and French diplomatic missions to evacuate. Some sources

Libya: In Baghdad, Defense Secretary Panetta told the troops there that within the next 90 days NATO allies could exhaust their capabilities and that the United States is going to be looked at to help fill the void.

Comment: It is difficult to understand the merit of making such a statement to US soldiers in Baghdad. The message to Qadhafi is hold on through the summer and the NATO campaign will collapse.

End of NightWatch for 11 July.

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