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NightWatch 20130801

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NightWatch

For the night of 1 August 2013

North Korea - South Korea: Update. North Korea has not responded to South Korea's final offer of talks about normalizing operations at Kaesong.

In other developments, the president of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, has departed for Tehran to attend the inauguration of the new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

Comment: The Iranian relationship remains strong, based on weapons sales and history. In mid-July news services reported that North Korea was working with Iran to revive the oil import trade so as to reduce North Korea's almost exclusive reliance on oil imports from China. More than 20 years ago, North Korea routinely imported more than a million tons of crude per year from Iran and Libya.

India-Pakistan: Indian Foreign Secretary Ms. Sujatha Singh said, "There is a new government in Pakistan now. We will be picking up the threads from where we left off with the old government," Singh, the top official in the ministry, told reporters in New Delhi on her first day in the job.

Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif said on 1 August, "We will boost trade; we will boost business and will boost investment with India. We will also try our best to solve all longstanding issues with India, including Kashmir."

Comment: The exchanges about talks represent public diplomacy which is aimed at evaluating public reaction in India and Pakistan to the prospect of official talks. So far so good.

Syria: The opposition is losing and knows it. Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba said Wednesday that the rebels will not take part in peace talks until they regain "the upper hand on the battlefield." Jarba said the rebels were "regrouping after a series of setbacks and predicted they would regain ground" in a "few weeks."

He also said, "We will not go to any negotiations until the Free Army and revolutionary forces are strong on the ground and cohesive as they were eight months ago."

Comment: The only time the loser agrees to talks is when it is trying to prevent destruction. Jarba's remarks indicate he judges the opposition still has a chance. He and his cohorts are not yet desperate, but the statements indicate they know they are not winning.

Iran-Gaza Strip: Iran's aid to Gazans during the month of Ramadan has been distributed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), not Hamas, according to news reports. Iran reportedly has "suspended millions of dollars in monthly aid to Hamas because the group did not stand by" Syrian President Bashar al-Asad during the nation's war with rebels. PIJ's leadership "did not leave its base in Damascus and has kept up relations" with Asad's government.

Comment: PIJ is more hostile to Israel than Hamas. Iran stands by its allies and proxies. Thus, this is not a positive development for Israel, but it might generate in-fighting between Hamas and PIJ over control of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt: On 1 August the Social Solidarity Minister Ahmad al-Bura'i denied media reports that claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood will be dissolved within hours.

In exclusive statements to MENA, Al-Bura'i said that the ministry is still considering whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be dissolved, according to its obedience to the law..

The Muslim Brotherhood leaders at Rabi'ah al-Adawiyah in northeastern Cairo demanded for the second time to form a war council. The spokesman said that there will not be no longer peaceful demonstrations.

Large demonstrations are expected on 2 August.

Comment: The ministry statement admits that the government is considering outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood. For now that does not appear likely because the Brotherhood's protests legitimate the military-backed government.

Through this Watch,  Egyptian government forces have not moved against the pro-Mursi sit-ins in northeastern Cairo. The Brotherhood member's call for a war council plays into the hands of the security forces. That is probably why most Brotherhood leaders have not supported that call.

End of NightWatch for 1 August.

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