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NightWatch 20110731

NightWatch

For the Night of 31 July 2011

Administrative and religious note: For most Muslims, Ramadan begins on 1 August.

Norrh Korea-US: The talks between North Korea and the US in New York this week were described as a positive "first step" toward more discussions, a South Korean official said Sunday.

The official said the meeting between North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and Stephen Bosworth, the US special representative for North Korea policy, was "an extension" of an earlier inter-Korean meeting during a regional security forum in Indonesia.

"I believe the mood (in New York) overall was positive," the official said. "This meeting wasn't so groundbreaking that it will solve problems, but it was a first step toward more discussions between North Korea and the US."

Comment: Apparently the "talks about having more talks" were positive, but they offer no prospect of accomplishing anything substantive. The reference to "first steps" is always the indicator that the North considers such talks to be probes for prospect for bribes and incentives that would be offered in the next round. If there are no prospects for bribes and concessions, the North will not pursue "next steps."

The Allies have had many "first steps" in the past 60 years, all of which have begun with optimism, but ended with no substantive results. The North is applying shop-worn tactics that worked with past US administrations.

American diplomats by now should have recognized the amazing consistency in North Korean diplomatic behavior, in season and out of season. There are no mysteries because the North has too few American handlers to be creative in policy.

China: Navy. The Chinese navy needs at least three aircraft carriers to defend its maritime interests as its neighbors develop their own capabilities, according to General Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with China's Academy of Military Sciences.

Luo said China has no plan for aggression and China's first carrier would be used for training and research, he stated.

Comment: The stated goal of having a three carrier force precisely matches what Chinese strategists have stated for more than a decade.

The irony is that while China develops carriers, its nearest opponents - South Korea and Japan - will be developing lower cost ships, submarines and missiles with the capabilities for destroying carriers. China's pursuit of aircraft carriers indicates that the leadership judges that a powerful aircraft carrier force reinforces the Chinese strategic definition of a great power. Thus, this is a political, not a sound military, judgment.

China: Security. For the record. Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, has left at least 15 people dead, according to a BBC report on 31 July. On 30 July, two men killed a truck driver then drove his truck into pedestrians and attacked them with knives, killing six more. One of the attackers died during the incident and the other was captured. A local official said that the attackers were Uighurs.

On 31 July, an explosion killed three people and police shot and killed four suspects, Xinhua reported.

The entire city of Kashgar, Xinjiang, is under martial law, and authorities have arrested at least 100 Uighurs, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress said.

It could not be confirmed whether martial law was ordered. The spokesman said that there is no way to protest peacefully the Chinese suppression and the policy of calculated resettlement in Kashgar.

Comment: The Uighurs in Xinjiang Province lack the capability to secede from Han China, but that is the ultimate threat they pose over the long term. One of the great ironies of China is that the wealth of the ancient empire resided in barbarian lands, such as Xinjiang.

Pakistan-US: For the record. The Pakistani government has placed limitations on travel by U.S. diplomats. The Foreign Ministry denied that the restrictions were specific to American diplomats, but applied to all diplomats residing in Islamabad and has not rescinded them.

Comment: This is a continuation of the government's retaliation for having been embarrassed by the 2 May killing of bin Laden as well as several more recent US diplomatic gaffs. The public announcement is for public consumption, to show that the government is tough on Americans.

Afghanistan: US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Mullen said that the US military is waiting to see whether some Taliban leaders take a break during August for Ramadan, Reuters reported, and return to Pakistan.

Comment: Nothing about Ramadan requires holy warriors to stand down from operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Quite the contrary, it is a time for Muslims to demonstrate devotion in ways that are totally unlike the Lenten season in Christian observance. For example an anti-government combat surge would be consistent with Ramadan observance.

Secondly, other comments suggest the Admiral is unaware that most Afghan anti-government fighters live where they fight. They do not withdraw to Pakistan, as if they were invaders. They consider themselves freedom fighters. The overwhelming majority of Afghan fighters fight where they live. After ten years of fighting, such comments by senior American officers are bewildering if not astonishing.

Iran: The trial for three US hikers, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, that were arrested for espionage has ended and a verdict will be issued within a week, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said 31 July. The suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Most commentators expect the two men to be released this week.

Syria: Security. At least 121 people were killed and hundreds more wounded when Syrian security forces cracked down on protests in Hama and other cities on 31 July.

In Hama, tanks entered the city from four directions and shot machine guns and overran roadblocks, residents said, adding that snipers had climbed onto roofs and electricity had been cut off to eastern neighborhoods. A doctor said that there were 51 wounded at Badr hospital and that tanks had At least 42 people were injured on July 31 in Damascus when Syrian security forces threw explosive devices containing nails at protesters in the suburb of Harasta, Reuters reported, citing unnamed residents.

Comments: Readers should be aware that anti-Asad activists outside Syria insist the government's actions are signs of desperation. Western media give these spokesmen a media platform. However, the facts since February confirm that Sunni activists hate the Alawite government, but that Sunni business enterprises continue to support and pay for the continuing Alawite crackdown against the opposition.

Libya: Update. Libyan rebel forces have overrun the base of the al-Nidaa Brigade, a group that ostensibly sided with the rebels but proved to work for and take direction from Qadhafi. Four people were killed and six others wounded in the clash.

Comment: Today's suppression operations and the murder of General Younis are strong evidence that the rebel government is clueless about the nature and composition of its forces, The al-Nidaa Brigade is one of several pro-Qadhafi fighting groups that covertly has waged terrorist war against the rebels from within.

End of NightWatch for 31 July.

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