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NightWatch 20111214

NightWatch

For the night of 14 December 2011

China-Seychelles: China's Xinhua news agency disseminated the following report on 12 December 2011:

"China said on Monday that its naval fleet may seek supplies or recuperate at appropriate harbors in Seychelles or other countries as needed during escort missions.

"It is international practice for naval fleets to resupply at the closest port of a nearby state during long-distance missions, the Ministry of National Defense said in a press release commenting on a recent report stating that China will establish a military base in Seychelles to crack down on piracy.

"Chinese naval fleets have resupplied at harbors in Djibouti, Oman and Yemen since the country sent its first convoy to the Gulf of Aden in 2008, according to the ministry."

"Defense Minister Liang Guanglie paid an official goodwill visit to Seychelles earlier this month. During Liang's visit, the two sides exchanged views on their countries' and armies' cooperation, as well as on the global and regional situation."

"Seychelles appreciates China's efforts to maintain safe navigation on the Indian Ocean, as well as the support it has granted to Seychelles, the ministry said."

"Seychelles also invited China's navy to resupply and recuperate in the country during escort missions, the ministry said."

Comment: India has been the primary protector of the Seychelles since the emergence of the Somali pirates, who have attacked ships and craft in the Seychelles' Exclusive Economic Zone. India has trained most officers in the small defense force and provided equipment, including a naval patrol ship in 2005.

In 2009, the Indian Navy responded to a request for increased anti-piracy patrols by rotating patrol and support ships to the area, as the Somali pirates began to operate farther east into the Indian Ocean. Since January 2011 India has stationed a naval maritime patrol aircraft in the Seychelles. India has played down the suggestion that the Chinese threat is increasing or that China is encircling India.

Recent press reports indicate that the US operates a drone base in the Seychelles, providing indirect defense cover for this rich island nation and supporting US forces in Africa..

The Xinhua announcement depicts the Chinese as reluctantly responding to an unsolicited offer. That is for public consumption to allay Indian and US fears that China is again expanding its sphere of influence, which it is. No news service reported what the Chinese gave or promised the Seychelles in return.

China brags that it is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council that does not possess overseas bases. It will not build a base, but access to the Seychelles would facilitate Chinese poaching in India's Ocean as well as support for Chinese anti-piracy operations and security for oil shipments bound for China from African ports.

With the invitation to the Chinese, all major naval powers that operate in the Indian Ocean, except Japan and France, will have access to the island nation. Japan opened its naval base in Djibouti in July.

Pakistan: Prime Minister Gilani told the press that President Zardari sought medical treatment in Dubai because he feared being attacked if he sought treatment in Pakistan. The threat to his life prompted him to go overseas for treatment.

Comment: Gilani's statement is highly unusual because it admits that the President does not trust that Pakistani security agencies can or would protect him. It implies that the rift between the President and security forces has become a chasm. Gilani's involvement means that the elected government itself distrusts the armed and security forces.

Even Musharraf was not safe from assassination attempts by his personal guards, whom extremists had infiltrated.

Zardari is to be discharged from the hospital on the 15th. Press speculation is that he suffered a mild stroke, but that is not confirmed.

Pakistan-US: Prime Minister Gilani's government has decided to renegotiate two agreements on transit of supplies and logistics support for US forces in Afghanistan. The agreements were reached during Musharraf's regime in 2002.

Comment: A two day conference of senior diplomats made the recommendation to renegotiate the arrangements as one of multiple actions to restore Pakistan's dignity following the 26 November drone attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Parliament will make the final determination.

Iran: Parviz Sorouri, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said on 14 December that closing the Strait of Hormuz is one of Iran's options to defend its territory and vowed the waterway will be closed if Iran is attacked. The Iranian military will conduct drills in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz to practice defending Iran, he said.

Comment: Closing the Strait almost would be an act of national suicide for Iran because that is the primary channel for exporting oil, Iran's primary export. The statement resembles North Korean statements whose purpose is to prepare the population for severe hardship when the national leadership fears a conflict and well as to issue a counter-threat. Iran expects a western-imposed oil embargo as part of an enlarged sanctions regime, so it has tried to turn adversity into advantage by issuing the threat.

Iran's Director of Passive Defense Organization Gholam Reza Jalali said Iran will relocate its uranium enrichment facilities to safer locations if needed. Jalali said the United States and Israel would have already attacked Iran's nuclear facilities if they were able, adding that Iran's vulnerability on its nuclear sites is minimal, but the facilities can be relocated if required.

Comment: The significance of this statement is that Jalali did not blame the US or Israel for recent setbacks to strategic programs. The implication is that poor Iranian industrial safety practices are responsible for the destruction of parts of a missile base, for example, not sabotage.

Iran would never admit that poor national security practices resulted in destruction to strategic assets by outside actors. Either way, Iranian security and safety look inept at some of its most sensitive installations.

Egypt: For the record. The second round of parliamentary elections began on 14 December and will continue on the 15th. The government has made no statements about the turnout, but most observers expected Islamist parties to make more gains

Europe: Comment. The European political leaders, led by Germany and France, have used the debt crisis to advance longstanding goals for closer integration, under the mantra that the problems must have a political solution.

The so-called political solution from restructuring will have effects in the future, assuming all the member parliaments promptly approve. The redrawing of the treaty has no effect on a very immediate crisis of paying this and next month's debts. Thus, last week's summit, in hindsight, looks like a diversion to try to raise confidence and it worked for a few days, until investors realized it has no immediate effects on the financial crisis.

End of NightWatch for 14 December.

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