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NightWatch 20110927

NightWatch

For the night of 27 September 2011

China: For the record. Engineers are conducting the final preparations prior to launching China's first space laboratory module at the end of this week from a launch center in northwest China.

The unmanned Tiangong-1 (trans. Heavenly Palace 1) module was originally scheduled to be launched into low Earth orbit as early as 27 September. A weather forecast showing the arrival of a cold air mass at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center prompted engineers to reschedule for 29 or 30 September, pending good weather and a smooth countdown.

According to Chinese engineers, the Tiangong-1 will remain in orbit for two years during which China's Shenzhou-8, -9 and -10 spacecraft will dock with it. The primary purpose of the 8.5-ton Tiangong 1 module is enable China to practice autonomous rendezvous and docking protocols aboard a second unmanned spacecraft (due to launch later this year) in preparation for a manned space base around 2020.

Pakistan-China: On 27 September, Prime Minister Gilani had discussions with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Meng Jianzhu in Islamabad. In a deliberate swipe at the US, Gilani told Meng, "Your friends are our friends, your enemies are our enemies and your security is our security." The Prime Minister thanked China for extending support to Pakistan when it needs it the most. HE said, "We will cooperate with you to the extent you want us to cooperate"…a promise Pakistan has never made to the US.

Not to be outdone, Meng told Gilani that the Chinese Foreign Ministry will issue a statement supporting Pakistan's efforts to uphold its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Meng also held meetings with President Zardari and Pakistani military chiefs. The Pakistani military said talks focused on the "emerging geo-strategic situation" in the region and said Meng "appreciated" the role played by Pakistan's armed forces "in the fight against terror".

What Meng actually said was "We will work together to contribute to national security and regional stability." Pakistan promised China maximum support in fighting Muslim separatists.

Comment: This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two. Gilani made promises to the Chinese that exceed commitments made to the US. He also affirmed that Pakistan would fight on China's side should war breakout between China and India. The Indians already are aware of this and have been preparing plans for fighting on three fronts in a future war with China.  

The irony is that Pakistan Army and intelligence officials have trained and supported Muslim Uighur insurgents in western China, the same as they have supported and trained Pashtuns in Afghanistan. The civilian government is ignorant about both operations. The test of Pakistan's sincerity will be clean-up operations in Pakistani Kashmir, where the training takes place.  Readers should expect no such operations because the Pakistanis are dissembling to the Chinese, just as they did to Admiral Mullen.

Pakistan-US: Prime Minister Gilani warned the United States on Tuesday to stop accusing it of playing a double game with militants, and said Washington must correct a perceived tilt towards arch-foe India. "The negative messaging, naturally that is disturbing my people," Gilani said in an interview. "If there is messaging that is not appropriate to our friendship, then naturally it is extremely difficult to convince my public. Therefore they should be sending positive messages."

Asked for his view on why the United States had suddenly ratcheted up its criticism of Pakistan, he implied that it reflected frustration with the war in Afghanistan ahead of a withdrawal of US troops from the country in 2014. "Certainly they expected more results from Afghanistan, which they have not been able to achieve as yet," he said. "They have not achieved what they visualized."

Rejecting allegations that Islamabad was behind any violence across its border, he said: "It is in the interest of Pakistan to have a stable Afghanistan". Gilani said. Washington should provide the "political space" for his government to convince a skeptical Pakistani public of the value of a relationship with the United States.

Gilani also said any unilateral military action by the United States to hunt down militants of the Haqqani network inside Pakistan would be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. He offered no indications of any steps Pakistan might take to ease tension with the US or to retaliate for future border violations.

Special Comment: Almost certainly with senior Pakistani military advice, Gilani has concluded that US Admiral Mullen's denunciation of Pakistan is a precursor to incursions and raids by US soldiers into the Pakistani tribal agencies. That would be a prudent interpretation and that expectation runs through most Pakistani commentaries on Mullen's testimony last week.

Today's statements indicate Gilani has confided Pakistan's concerns to the Chinese and has obtained their political backing against the US in such an eventuality, perhaps more. Pakistan sought Chinese political backing in denouncing the expected raids by US ground forces.

It is a skillful pre-emptive and deterrent political shot at the US just when tension in US-Chinese relations has increased over the F-16 upgrade deal for Taiwan. The Chinese are consolidating their position along their borders, while the US position is crumbling in south and east Asia. Even the Indians put distance between themselves and the US today by reaffirming strategic ties with Russia. India also sees the US entering the end game in South Asia and is making preparations for that inevitability and its consequences for the region.

A few of Gilani's statements merit additional comment. US Intelligence leaks to news organizations indicate the US intercepted cell-phone conversations between Haqqani fighters and Pakistan Army officers working in Inter-Services Intelligence during the Haqqani attacks two weeks ago on the US Embassy, and other facilities in Kabul. The intercepts apparently show that Pakistan Army officers were at least advising the attackers during the attacks.

The Pakistani civilian leadership statements show it remains uninformed and thus in a position of genuine but culpable deniability. The civilians do not know; are not informed about; don't want to know the truth and can thus deny it. Secondly, Gilani knows better, but he continues to parrot the Pakistan Army's line that whatever helps India is bad for Pakistan. In doing so, he discloses that Pakistan's begrudging, stinting and crabbed cooperation with the US in Afghanistan always has been engineered to help Pakistan fight India.

Finally, the US expectation that a civilian elected government would be more enlightened than Musharraf's military usurper government is disproven, once again. The civilians are pawns of the Pakistan Army and its allies, the Sunni Muslim authorities. Gilani, Zardari and company risk assassination in contradicting the Army and the imams, as happened to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter, Benazir.

Pakistan is not a progressive modern state. Its leaders and people are less modern in mindset today than they were in 1971, when NightWatch began to study Pakistan.

Iran: Navy Commander Admiral Sayyari told the press on 27 September, "Just like the global hegemony that is present near our marine borders, we also plan to establish a strong presence near US marine borders," The US has deployed several fleets in the Persian Gulf.

He said that the deployment of Iranian naval "fleets" (sic) in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea as well as the presence of its submarines in the Red Sea marked an honor for the Iranian nation and other Muslim countries.

Admiral Sayyari reminded that the Navy started deployment in the far seas following an order by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. The Supreme Leader had ordered the Navy to be turned into a "strategic force. "

He cited the continued deployment of Iranian warships and submarines in international waters and the high-seas, and reiterated that the Navy would "continue its presence in the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, South of the Indian Ocean and the high seas".

"And now the Navy plans to widen its presence in the high seas in a bid to protect the country's interests and provide security for the country's shipping lines." Sayyari had also earlier this year announced that the Navy plans to deploy fleets of warships in the Atlantic Ocean. "In case of a final approval, the Army's naval fleet will be dispatched to the Atlantic Ocean," Sayyari said.

Comment: Iranian news commentary showed that the context of the Admiral's remarks is its plan to deploy a 16th naval contingent to support international anti-piracy operations. The Iranian Navy has been supporting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008.

Iran has no capability to support ships on patrol in the western Atlantic. The English interpretation of the Admiral's statement makes Iran look ridiculous, except that it provided no time frame for such deployments. The Admiral only stated that if ordered to deploy to the Atlantic, the navy would … or would try… some time.

The navy's reach exceeds its grasp for now, but that makes the reach a long range naval goal. Operating from bases in Venezuela, Iran's ally, the Iranian Navy eventually could maintain ships and submarines and sustain patrols in the Caribbean and beyond.

Saudi Arabia: A Saudi court has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for challenging a ban on women driving in the conservative Muslim kingdom, Amnesty International reported. The sentence was reported two days after Saudi King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections.

Special Comment: Contradictions and silliness seem typical of the government reactions to Arab uprisings. The first Arab male activists and the Saudi women who want to drive sought practical solutions to practical problems, all related to survival. In short order, the Arab men who wanted food were given voting rights and political reforms instead.

The Saudi woman was arrested for driving, but had been granted the future right to run for office, get elected and pass laws. Wonder what would happen if a future Saudi town council, dominated by women, passed an ordinance that allowed women to drive? Would a man be required to drive and escort a city council member to her office?

Note to new analysts: It is important to be sensitive to the congruence between what public protestors are demanding and what the government is willing to supply. If there is congruence, protests will end, meaning demands for food will be met by supplies of food. If there is no congruence, or a discontinuity - demands for food are met by promises of political reform -- food riots will recur and get worse.

In Egypt and Tunisia, the underlying issues were economic -- high bread and gasoline prices with low availability plus high unemployment, up to 30%. The government responses ignored those demands and offered political reforms instead, which are always easier to do quickly and a lot less expensive to iimplement than providing cheaper bread or gasoline.

Such a discontinuity is not unusual, but it always means that unrest will persist, for several reasons. First, political reforms are irrelevant to and do not satisfy economic needs. The original reasons for the discontent still have not been addressed in Tunisia or Egypt and could have been satisfied rather easily, without overthrowing the leadership. The Arab uprising arose from a series of economic complaints that were completely bungled by the governments.

Second, only established organizations benefit from political reforms, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In Egypt, they would instigate a Muslim revolution, but the people would still not get fed or get jobs!! That is the irony of the misguided and confused Tunisian and Egyptian government responses to the initial uprisings. Those governments are the primary agents of their own downfall in the coming months.

Turkey-Syria-Iran: Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said on 27 September that the key to the situation for the Syrian regime lies with Iran and that Turkey will no longer allow weapons to be sent to Damascus through its territory.

Comment: Erdogan is gambling on the inevitable success of the Syrian opposition, which indicates he perceives them to be sympathetic to his own Islamist credentials. That is not a good prospect for Syria, Israel, Iran or the Turkish Kurds or Iraqi Kurds. Turkey is making a run at Middle Eastern leadership based on an Ottoman imperial heritage. Arabs will not support the successors to the Ottoman Turks.

Egypt: Nominations for the People's Assembly and Shura Council elections will begin on 12 October, Egyptian officials said on 27 September.

Elections for the People's Assembly, the lower house of the legislature, will be held in three stages beginning 28 November and ending 10 January 2012.

Elections for the Shura Council, the upper house, also will be held in three stages beginning 29 January 2012 and ending 11 March.

The first session of the People's Assembly is set for 17 March 2012, and the first session of the Shura Council will be held 24 March.

Comment: With the announcement of this schedule, the Supreme Armed Forces Council has laid out the path towards an Islamist, Sharia-based, revolution through the democratic process of elections, by the summer of 2012.

Libya: Official sources at Algiers international airport have confirmed that the eight Libyans who left Algiers two days ago for Cairo are al-Qadhafi's in-laws and family relatives. They included two men as well as diplomats who worked for the Libyan embassy in Algiers.

Tunisia: Former Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who was arrested near Tunisia's border with Algeria and sentenced to six months in jail for crossing the border without permission was released 27 September by a Tunisian appeals court.

Comment: The American backpackers were sentenced to eight years in jail in Iran for the same crime and served two years. However, in the case of the Qadhafis and their acolytes even the neighbors want them out of the neighborhood as fast as possible.

End of NightWatch for 27 September.

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