For the night of 26 August 2013
China-North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcast on 26 August the arrival in Pyongyang of Chinese special envoy Wu Dawei and his party. Wu was met at the airport by "functionaries from relevant sectors and the PRC charge d'affaires to the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK)/
An unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing told South Korean press that the visit by Wu to Pyongyang is seen as a follow-up measure after last month's visit by Chinese Vice President Li. During the visit, Wu is expected to call for North Korea to denuclearize, while making efforts to lead the North to resume the six-party talks.
Comment: The Chinese strategy for reconvening the Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program is not clear. In every recent meeting, however, the Chinese have insisted on resumption of the talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
At the same time, North Korea has touted its Party Line of simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy. On 25 August, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the North's so-called "military first" policy, Kim Jong Un delivered a speech extolling the policy and restating how important military first is to the simultaneous development Party Line.
The policy is attributed to Kim Il-sung. However, the North's propagandists conveniently ignore that in December 1993 Kim Il-sung abandoned the military first policy and proclaimed that the economic welfare of the people was the highest national priority for the first time in North Korean history.
He announced that production for military purposes was the fourth and last priority. He abandoned the North's seven-year plan as a failure and began the movement towards a free market economy, just to feed the Korean people. Six months later he was dead, some say by the hand of his son, Kim Chong-il, though that has not been proven.
Kim Jong Un's comments about "military first' as a steadfast Kim Il-sung policy misrepresents the old man's desperate efforts to find a way to make North Korea as prosperous as the South. Those comments are a total lie. They showcase, however, that North Korea has become a praetorian state. Kim Jong Un is a ward of the Korean People's Army. As long as that condition endures, the North will never abandon its nuclear weapons program, regardless of Chinese directions.
Afghanistan-Pakistan: President Karzai flew to Islamabad to hold meetings with the new government in Islamabad. Karzai is seeking Pakistani assistance in facilitating talks with the Afghan Taliban.
Comment: Karzai's instincts are accurate in focusing on Pakistan. Without Quetta and continuous Pakistani official protection, the Afghan Taliban leadership would have had no place from which to operate. Pakistan has placed no restrictions on Mullah Omar except to focus on undermining US and NATO operations in Afghanistan and leave Pakistan alone. Omar and the Pakistani government have both been faithful to the agreement.
President Karzai's visit is nearly a last ditch effort to get help from Pakistan by reaching out to the new government in Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cannot control the Pakistani Taliban and has made no policy statements about controlling the Afghan Taliban leaders. They have lived with impunity, comfort and freedom of movement and communications in Quetta since 2001. Nawaz Sharif has shown no inclination to change Pakistan's permissive policy towards the Afghan Taliban leaders.
A direct appeal to a new prime minister after years of frustration in dealing with the former government is worth a try. Nevertheless, the prospects for greater cooperation are vanishingly small. After 12 years, the conclusion is inescapable that Pakistani intelligence and security agencies never have had any intention of arresting or restraining Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura advisers. They have enjoyed more and more effective protection than Osama bin Laden.
Thus, Pakistani policy has ensured that NATO forces would win every battle, but ultimately lose the war when the Afghan Taliban returned to power in Kabul. That is the only outcome that would guarantee that Afghanistan would remain pro-Pakistan in the larger strategic struggle between China with its proxies - Pakistan and the next Afghan government - and India, standing alone. Under any other outcome, Afghanistan would remain neutral or pro-India. Pakistan, including the Nawaz Sharif government, will not tolerate either other outcome.
Syria: Update. UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Monday. "I just spoke to my Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, Ms. Angela Kane, who is now in Damascus to oversee the investigation. The first day of investigation was carried out by Dr. Sellstrom and his team," said Ban in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
"What I am told at this time is that their vehicle was attacked by an unknown sniper, but despite such very difficult circumstances, our team returned to Damascus and replaced their car and proceeded to a suburb of Damascus to carry on their investigation."
According to the statement, during their first day of investigation, the UN experts "visited two hospitals," "interviewed witnesses, survivors and doctors" and also "collected some samples" at the site of the latest alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in the suburbs of Damascus.
Special comment. The question whether Syria used some form of chemical weapons against the opposition has moved beyond the domain of intelligence judgment into the domain of forensic science. Stentorian statements about blame before the facts are adduced are imprudent except as political theater. Now is the time for proof, not for bombast. It is time for patience while science does its work.
Inferences of guilt derived from judgments about how Syrian leaders should behave if they wanted to prove they did not execute a chemical attack indulge the most basic and persistent reason for US intelligence analytical failures: mirror imaging, i.e., the notion that Syrian leaders would act the way Americans might act under similar circumstances. Arabs seldom behave the way Americans behave.
The initial burden of proving an accusation always is on the party that makes the accusation. In this instance it is the Syrian opposition, whose evidence to date in the public domain falls short of establishing a prime facie case that a weapon of mass destruction was used. Something happened, but what remains to be determined.
The mainstream press has insisted that the Syrian government must prove it did not execute a chemical attack. However, elementary evidence law courses all over the world teach that it is impossible to prove a negative. Everyone knows that! Somehow the mainstream press persists in getting this entirely wrong.
The open source evidence and Feedback from Brilliant, Genuine experts on chemical warfare and its effects reinforce the NightWatch judgment that Readers should retain healthy skepticism about what took place east of Damascus on 21 August and who was responsible.
Expert feedback asserts without qualification that neurotoxins, such as Sarin, are not evident, despite the bombastic allegations of the Syrian opposition on 26 August. Feedback from experts also indicates that crowd control agents would explain the symptoms, casualties and other evidence in the public domain.
Egypt: Update. On 26 August, two persons were killed and another was injured in clashes in the al Nakhi area of Central Sinai. The injured person was taken to Suez General Hospital.
Comment: The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition in Cairo and other cities west of the Suez Canal has produced a symmetrical decline in insurgent activity east of the Canal. Recent clashes are difficult to distinguish from criminal behavior.
Cairo was quiet today.
Tunisia: Tunisia's political opposition held a rally on Saturday night near the National Constituent Assembly building to press their demand for dissolution of the government and the Assembly, the elected body tasked with writing the country's post-revolution constitution.
That rally marked the start of a weeklong circuit protest of the major towns in Tunisia. The protests movement is called "Rahil" or "departure week." Its aim is to build pressure on the Islamist-led government to resign.
Comment: Tunisians are fed up with the Islamists who supposedly have worked for more than a year, but failed to produce a draft new constitution and failed to keep other economic and political promises. Tunisia is heading for a change of government.
End of NightWatch for 26 August.
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