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NightWatch 20110714


For the Night of 14 July 2011

China-Vietnam-South China Sea: Chinese soldiers punched and kicked the Vietnamese captain of a fishing boat and threatened nine other crew members in a 5 July incident in the South China Sea, a border official in Vietnam's central Quang Ngai Province told the press on 14 July.

A Chinese navy ship chased the fishermen out of disputed waters before deploying a speedboat carrying 10 soldiers armed with automatic rifles and batons. The soldiers boarded the fishing boat near the contested Paracel Islands and confiscated one ton of fish from the crew.

Comment: The incident is important in illustrating the continuing disconnect between what the Chinese maritime security forces do and what the Chinese foreign ministry says. This is an example of China's policy of peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea. Ignore the Chinese words; trust the Chinese behavior.

Thailand: The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday filed a lawsuit pleading that the general elections were fraudulent and must be declared invalid. PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang, a retired army major general, said that the election had been carried out in violation of the constitution because some 2 million voters, including himself, were denied their voting rights.

The voters had registered to cast their votes outside their constituencies in the last election and they did not inform authorities to send their names back to their original constituencies. As a result, they were not allowed to cast their ballots when they showed up to vote on 3 July at their original constituencies, according to Section 97 of the election law.

The court has set 20 July as the date to hear the lawsuit.

In addition to Chamlong's move, PAD lawyer Suwat Apaipak announced yesterday the group would file two more lawsuits against poll officials next week for allegedly violating election law and the constitution on 3 July.

Comment: PAD is anti-Thaksin and pro-monarchy. The lawsuits indicate that powerful political interests in Bangkok are not comfortable with the electoral result which put the Phuea Thai Party, led by the Thaksin family, back in office. Thai elections are not complete until the court challenges are exhausted. Those have just begun.

India: On 14 July, K. Advani, the leader of the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP which is now in opposition, said the repeated attacks on Mumbai should be viewed as a "policy failure" and not as an intelligence failure, and demanded that the Congress Party-led coalition government adopt a policy of "zero tolerance" towards terrorism.

"This repeated attack on Bombay should be viewed essentially as a policy failure. It is not an intelligence failure," according to Advani, who was visiting the victims of the serial blasts and later spoke to reporters. "Even if it is the Indian Mujahideen, they get sustenance from Pakistan."

Advani also called on the New Delhi government to have the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, declared as a terrorist organization even though it is part of the Pakistani government.

"The last attack on Mumbai is proved to have been engineered by the ISI... the ISI is not a non-state actor but is part of the establishment," said Advani. He demanded that the government make efforts to "have ISI declared as a terrorist organization."

Comment: For the past five years, NightWatch has warned that covert official support to terrorism is an instrument of Pakistani state policy in Afghanistan, Kashmir, India and non-Asian centers of the Pakistani diaspora. the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate is the executive agent of this domain of Pakistani national security policy and has been for more than 60 years.

Advani is stating an obvious truth about likely Pakistani involvement. His comments about a failure of policy showcase the differences between the Congress-led government today compared to the BJP government under Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2004. India's Vajpayee, the arch-Hindu nationalist, and Pakistan's General Musharraf, the arch-Hindu hater, achieved a longer lasting period of accord than any of their predecessors. In other words, being tough with Pakistan achieved more positive results than being conciliatory.

As for taking a hard line on terrorism, India is probably the only true democracy that has the capabilities, resources and manpower to sustain a nationwide crackdown on potential terrorists. Under Prime Minister Singh, those assets have not been brought to bear in Mumbai on the west coast or in the east coast regions afflicted with Naxalite (Maoist) insurgency.

Two major attacks have now taken place in Mumbai during Prime Minister Singh's terms of office. The second attack is not forgivable and will be registered in the next elections in 2014.

Pakistan: Karachi Update: On Thursday, the Islamabad government ordered additional paramilitary policemen to Karachi to control renewed political violence in which 12 people were killed.

"We have dispatched 500 FC (Frontier Constabulary) troops in Karachi," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad. Five days ago Malik claimed that the government had restored order in Karachi, where a week of unrest killed 95 people.

The overnight violence was a reaction to statements by Sindh Province minister Zulfiqar Mirza, from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, that denounced its former coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and its exiled leader Altaf Hussain. The MQM last month quit the PPP-led coalitions that govern the country and the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital.

Comment: Politically motivated shootings, riots and other forms of violence are part of democracy in Karachi. At least 1,500 Frontier Constabulary paramilitary police are now backing  the Karachi police force and the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force. All appear to be failing to control the political violence.

These killings are not the work of the Pakistani Taliban, but of Sindhi political groups that live in Karachi. This is a study in democracy.

Pakistan-Iran: Pakistani President Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik will travel to Tehran on 16 July to meet Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, according to Iran's ambassador to Pakistan, an Iranian news agency reported on the 14th.

Comment: This is more fallout from the killing of bin Laden. Pakistan is reaching out even to Iran to reduce dependence on the US. What is not clear is whether the Pakistani leadership understands that in reaching out to Iran it is reaching out to yet another Chinese proxy for some purposes.

What they do seem to understand is that in reaching out to Iran they are reaching out to a viscerally anti-US leadership. The message Zardari is sending is Pakistan has options that are not congenial to US interests.

Theoretically, Iran and Pakistan could carve up southern Afghanistan into spheres of influence, after 2014, if they could ever overcome their mutual suspicions. They could leave northern Afghanistan to the Chinese who are exploiting its mineral deposits, protected by NATO forces.

Afghanistan: Kandahar provincial officials say that a suicide blast killed 5 and injured 20 people at the Red Mosque where the post-burial rituals of Ahmad Wali Karzai were taking place.

Comment: The Taliban almost certainly did not kill Wali Karzai, but they have acted to exploit the murder. The lack of security for the funeral rites is criminal negligence. The suicide bomber carried the explosives in his turban, according to one news source.

Iraq: The Promised Day Brigade, which is the only active formation of the Al-Mahdi Army, on Thursday claimed carrying out nine attacks with mortar shells and Katyusha rockets against US camps in a number of Iraqi governorates. The brigade said that the attacks resulted in killing or wounding a number of US soldiers.

A statement issued by the brigade, a copy of which Al-Sumariyah News received, said that in the period from 4th to 10th July, the Promised Day Brigade carried out a number attacks with mortar shells and Katyusha rockets that targeted US camps in the Baghdad, Maysan, Al-Diwaniyah, and Diyala Governorates as well as attacks with explosive charges that targeted US columns.

Comment: This is the military formation that Muqtada al-Sadr said last week would maintain military pressure against the US forces until they departed. Sadr said he would not activate the rest of his Army.

He has done what he said he would do. There will be more attacks.

Egypt: A call for a demonstration in Cairo's Roxy Square parallel to that in Tahrir Square on 15 July appeared on Facebook on the 14th. The event will involve a march to the headquarters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as a protest of the continued sit-in in Tahrir. A statement released by the Sawasiya Legal Center said that the sit-in at Tahrir Square "imposes the demands of a (minority) that does not represent the majority of the Egyptian people."

Comment: The counter-demonstrators are not pro-government scabs, by all appearances. Their message that Egypt has had enough of political activism is congruent with most reporting of local attitudes and with the continuing breakdown of the economy.

Special comment: Zogby International has published its latest poll of Arab attitudes towards the US. The survey covered local Arab attitudes in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

It found that US policy and actions under the Obama administration have worsened US relations with Arab states, despite Obama's promise in Egypt about reaching out to Arabs. Arab attitudes towards Obama now are less favorable than they were towards George W. Bush at the end of his administration, according to this poll. The key findings are quoted below.

"After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran's favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).

• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.

• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama's favorable ratings across the Arab World are 10% or less.

• Obama's performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.

• The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.

• The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.

• A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.

Comment: Relative to the energy and resources devoted to improving US ties to the Arab world, this poll shows almost no return on investment, compounded by Israeli hostility to the US administration. The US and Iran were rated as equal threats to Arab security.

One message seems to be that the US wastes its time and energy trying to nurture Arab support for US national security interests, such as containing Iranian nuclear programs and preventing nuclear weapons proliferation by other Arab states. The presence of US -- i.e., non-Muslim -- military forces in Arab and Muslim lands overrides almost all other considerations.

A second message is that the Arab populace does not consider the US a trustworthy broker in peace and security talks. Trust appears to be at an all-time low.

End of NightWatch for 14 July.

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