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NightWatch 20130423

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NightWatch

For the night of 23 April 2013

Japan-China: On 23 April Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to "expel by force" any Chinese landing on the islands in the East China Sea, and promised "decisive action."

"We would never allow a landing," Abe told parliament in response to questions from lawmakers, adding: "It would be natural for us to expel by force if (the Chinese) were to make a landing," he said.

Comment: This is the strongest statement the government has made about Japan's determination to defend its claim to the Senkaku Islands against the Chinese.

The presence of a contingent of eight Chinese civilian government ships within the territorial sea of the islands all day on 23 April appears to have prompted Abe's statement. Japanese media reported that the eight-ship incursion is the largest this year.

This dispute is escalating. Intrusions by Chinese government ships, not navy ships, have increased in frequency and size since the reorganization of the civilian maritime agencies in early March. President Xi's speech to the National People's Congress and the recent Defense White Paper leave no doubt about the Chinese leadership's determination to recover the islands, at some point.

Chinese intrusions appear intentionally designed to probe Japan's military response capabilities as well as the attitude of the Japanese population towards a confrontation with China, while asserting China's claim. China is arousing Japanese nationalism. With neither side backing down, clashes and tests of political and military resolve are unavoidable.

Pakistan: Former president Musharraf appeared before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi on 23 April in connection with accusations of complicity in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. The court attached his property in 2011 to ensure he would appear eventually to answer the charge. When Musharraf appeared the court lifted the attachment and Musharraf promised to cooperate.

Meanwhile in Islamabad, the High Court resumed a hearing on how Musharraf escaped from the Court on 18 April when he was supposed to have been taken into custody and who helped. At least one Deputy Superintendent of Police has been suspended. 

Comment: It looks like and local Pakistani observers have remarked that Musharraf is likely to beat the charge against him in the Anti-Terorrism Court. With the interim government's refusal to prosecute him for treason, the remaining actions appear to be those before the Islamabad High Court over his imprisonment of judges.

Odds are improving that he will not go to prison because the judges have an ethical conflict of interest from having been imprisoned by him, at least that is what his attorneys are already saying. Pakistani newspapers are running polls on whether Musharraf will ever serve a day in prison.

Iraq: Internal security deteriorated on 23 April after Iraqi security forces raided a Sunni protest camp in al Hawijah. Clashes between security forces and Sunni gunmen killed 42 people and wounded more than 100.

The al-Maliki government claims the camp was a meeting of Baathists still loyal to Saddam Hussein and al Qaida and was harboring gunmen who attacked a government checkpoint last Friday. The Sunni tribal leaders said they are protesting the al Maliki government's actions to marginalize Sunnis.

As a result of the massacre, Sunni tribal sheikhs called for Sunnis to take up arms and embark on jihad. The Sunni-majority governates of Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin went on a general strike, closing schools and stores. Clashes with security forces occurred in multiple cities in the Sunni governates. Authorities imposed curfews. Sunni lawmakers walked out of parliament and resigned from the cabinet.

Late in the day, tribal, religious and government leaders managed to calm the situation. The government promised to compensate victims, provide medical treatment for the wounded and to hold accountable military leaders for any abuses of authority. Al Maliki created an investigation team composed almost entirely of Shiites.

Comment: The calm is temporary and more clashes are certain. Sectarian relations have been strained for years, but Sunni protests against corruption, discrimination and disenfranchisement have been steady since December.

Hostility deepened and violence increased after al Maliki's cabinet declared that Anbar and Nineveh governates were too insecure to hold provincial elections, which occurred in the other nine governates last Saturday. They were the first elections since parliamentary elections in March 2010 and the first since the departure of US soldiers in December 2011. Turnout was low and returns have not been announced.

Today the government announced elections in the two Sunni governates will be held in July. This is a panic reaction to the anti-government violence.

Iraq is slowly but steadily moving towards another Sunni uprising, as an extension of the Syrian uprising.

An important issue that has not been covered in the press is whether Saudi Arabia and Qatar are arming and financing the Iraqi Sunnis as they are the Syrian Sunnis, using both as proxies for dealing Iran a strategic setback for its meddling in Arab lands.

End of NightWatch for 23 April.

NightWatch is brought to you by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.

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