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NightWatch 20130502

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NightWatch

For the night of 2 May 2013

South Korea-US: President Park Geun-hye with a 51-member delegation of business leaders will begin a six-day visit to the US on Sunday to strengthen bilateral ties.

Comment: During President Park's visit, US and Republic of Korea forces will remain on alert against a North Korean armed provocation, missile launch or nuclear test. According to some press sources, North Korea continues to move missiles around and the nuclear test site remains active.

Civilian activities in North Korea appear normal except for the virtual absence of diplomatic activity. The Korean Central News Agency dutifully reports both the arrival of foreign delegations and the departure of North Korean delegations. Normally one or two delegations per week arrive in or depart from Pyongyang. KCNA daily reports have reported no delegations of either kind since 25 April.

The diplomatic activity is a weak indicator because the interval is only a week, but it still means that conditions in North Korea are not entirely normal.

Iraq: Update. The UN mission in Iraq released its figures on violence in Iraq during the month of April. The UN reported April 2013 was the deadliest month in nearly five years, since June 2008. "A total of 712 people were killed and another 1,633 were wounded in acts of terrorism and acts of violence," according to the UN statement.

"Baghdad was the worst-affected governorate, with a total of 697 civilian casualties (211 killed, 486 injured), followed by Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Nineveh and Anbar."

Iraq's Interior Ministry puts the total death toll for April at 245 people.

Comment: The UN figures are significantly higher than those reported by Agence France-Presse, but both agree that a significant deterioration of internal security is continuing. They also agree that the spike in casualties began after the 23 April government raid. Some Iraqi politicians said that the civil war has already begun.

Syria: Comment: Israeli and Western news outlets report the Syrian government is rebounding and the army is on the offensive. The clearest sign of greater vigor is President Asad's public appearance at a power station in Damascus. This is his first public appearance since January, but he gave two televised interviews in April.

While Asad activities are confidence builders, the army's continuing offensive against rebel-held sections of the city of Homs is a more tangible manifestation of resurgence. The operation, thus far, has succeeded in taking back parts of Homs that had been held by rebels for a year.

Hezbollah is providing flank support by attacking opposition fighters on the border town of Qusayr, which is located along the route between Damascus and the Alawite core region to the north. Syria forces also are fighting in the port town of Baniyas.

A reasonably successful offensive in this region would secure the western and most productive parts of Syria for the regime and essentially fragment the country. It also would ensure that attempts to provide western arms to the rebels via the Mediterranean ports would be subject to capture by Syrian and Hezbollah forces.

Syrian leaders appear to be trying to improve their political and military positions before the US leadership makes up its mind about increased intervention.  They are also taking advantage of continuing disunity and fractiousness among the rebel groups.  The Times of Israel  judged that the decline in opposition fortunes began when the rebel al Nusrah Front announced its allegiance to al Qaida. 

Pakistan: The Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said that the Pakistan Army is deploying 70,000 troops for election-related duties including provision of security and maintenance of law and order.

He said the Armed Forces have been called upon to act in aid of the civil power under Article-245 of the Constitution.

The Director-General ISPR said responsibilities assigned to the Army include provision of security for printing presses where ballot papers are being printed; safe transportation of ballot papers and election material to Returning Officers and Polling Stations and maintenance of law and order.

He said deployment of soldiers in Baluchistan Province would be completed by tonight, while deployment in Sindh Province, including Karachi, would begin on Friday.

Movement of troops for deployment in Punjab Province would begin on Friday and deployments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province already have begun.

Major General Asim Bajwa said police and para-military forces would guard polling stations on the polling day while Quick Response Force of Pakistan Army would remain on standby for assistance

Comment: Election day is 11 May. The Army deployments in support of civil authority attest that Chief of Army Staff General Kayani is true to his word.

End of NightWatch for 2 May.

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