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NightWatch 20110727

NightWatch

For the Night of 27 July 2011

Japan: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on 27 July that North Korea must take "concrete action" to honor its promise to relinquish its nuclear programs, which he said he felt had not been shown, Kyodo reported.

Comment: As stated before, Japan's conditions for talks with North Korea have not changed.

North Korea-US: Update. The US has described the new talks with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan as "exploratory talks" to determine whether the North is serious about ending its nuclear weapons program.

Comment: The terminology changes but the circumstances repeat. These talks about talks are identical to numerous negotiating situations during the Bush, Clinton and Bush administrations. The normal scenario is that after the US determines the North has nothing new to offer but expects a lot just for arriving at the venue, the talks will break down and the North will blame the US for being "insincere."

The scenario has several variations that can drag it out over time. Nevertheless, the North has done nothing to earn another hearing by the US, any aid or much sympathy for self-inflicted wounds by the inept leadership on the populace. The leaders have shown no indications they ever will terminate the nuclear weapons programs or even learn how to manage an economy marginally well.

There might result some expressions of best intentions to continue talking for the sake of talking, but the North's leaders will not give up the nuclear weapons. The Six Party states appear to have run out of new ideas.

Lesson for analysts: Talking is always better than shooting, provided no one is shooting and everyone promises not to shoot. That is the problem with North Korean negotiations. Talking never means the North will not shoot and it has never promised not to shoot. Diplomacy is no safeguard against attack in a state of war.

India-Pakistan: Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met Indian Prime Minister Singh in New Delhi on 27 July and conveyed a message of goodwill from Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani. On behalf of Gilani, Khar extended an invitation to Singh to visit Pakistan, which he accepted.

The two leaders discussed bilateral relations in the meeting, where Pakistani High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and Additional Secretary Sajjad Kamran were also present. They agreed to work to reduce the time for processing travel permits across the Line of Control from 90 to 45 days and to facilitate permits. These are token gestures. The South Asian media focused on the importance of creating relationships, not on diplomatic accomplishments.

Comment: South Asian press coverage was more temperate than the New York Times, which exaggerated the proclamation of a new era in relations. Those words are diplomatic boilerplate that signifies merely that new people are working the problem and they got along in their first meeting. The public show in New Delhi went off without incident.

Afghanistan: The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death of Kandahar City Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, according to a telephone message from the group's spokesman. Other senior officials were also killed in the attack at the Kandahar municipal building when the attacker blew up explosives in his turban.

Comment: Hamidi's death is a great loss to Afghanistan. He was as close to incorruptible as any official in Afghanistan and should have had better protection.

Yemen: Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said President Saleh will step down only if defeated in an election and that a civil war would result if the opposition forces him out of office. Al-Qirbi said, "President Saleh made this very clear. He repeatedly said he is ready to transfer power anytime, but through early elections, through the ballot box and by adhering to the constitution."

Comment: Saleh's commitment to elections is unchanged and rather admirable. All the other political maneuvers, including those backed by the UN representative, do not signify.

Syria-al Qaida: Al-Qaida's new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri praised anti-regime protestors in Syria in a video released Wednesday claiming the United States is seeking regime change in Damascus, US-based monitors said. Calling the pro-democracy activists 'mujahideen,' or holy warriors, Zawahiri hailed their efforts in "teaching lessons to the aggressor, the oppressor, the traitor, the disloyal, and standing up against his oppression" in a video the SITE Intelligence Group said was posted on extremist online forums.

Comment: For perhaps the only time on record, The US and al Qaida apparently are supporting the same policy end state for Syria: regime change. That bizarre coincidence cannot be good for Israeli security or regional stability.

Zawahari sees the conflict as a Sunni fundamentalist vs. Alawite struggle, not as a movement for plural political rights, women's rights and liberal freedoms against a repressive regime.

Egypt: Field Marshal Tantawi accused 'foreign' groups of pushing some Egyptians into 'inappropriate action,' as his explanation for increased tension between the military and activists who still seek reforms. Tantawi said in an address to officers that the 'foreign parties feed and create specific projects executed by some people domestically,' the official MENA news agency reported.

Comment: In today's speech Tantawi presented the army's justification for not handing control of the country to an elected government. The foreign subversion theme will be repeated often in coming months. Every time it is repeated it will mean that the army still perceives the situation unsafe for transferring authority to an elected government. The foreign subversion theme always means continued army rule.

Tunisia: Update. The state of emergency in Tunisia will be extended indefinitely, Interim President Fouad Mebazaa said, National Tunisian TV reported 27 July. The current state of emergency was due to end at the end of July.

Comment: The state of emergency means limited political freedoms, as during Ben Ali's regime. There is no revolution in Tunisia.

End of NightWatch for 27 July.

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