For the night of 25 December 2013
North Korea: Update. A report from a North Korean source to a Japanese news outlet says that Kim Jong Un did not expect his uncle to be shot immediately and is despondent because he is responsible for his uncle's death.
Comment: There is no way to know whether any of these reports are true or false. They could easily be part of a propaganda campaign to make Kim look remorseful and thus not a monster, at a time when the Party propaganda department is trying to project an image of normality. Alternatively, the reports could be a manifestation of crumbling support for an inexperienced, undisciplined leader. There are other plausible explanations.
NightWatch credits the reports about Kim's mental state to the extent that they help explain sudden, inconsistent policy shifts and actions. They also help prevent premature cognitive closure about this dangerous security problem.
Thailand: Anti-government protestors marching in Bangkok clashed with police on 26 December. They rejected a government offer of political reform in advance of elections in February. As a result the government extended special security measures for two more months.
Comment: The government has not stepped down as the demonstrators want, but has offered reforms and new elections. The demonstrators are boycotting the elections because they want a "people's council" to replace the government. The clashes arose from protestor interference with candidate registration for the elections.
In new elections, the incumbent government is certain to be returned to office. That explains why the opposition wants a vaguely defined alternative government structure. There are no good guys in this dispute; there will be more clashes.
Pakistan: A bomb scare delayed the first hearing in a high treason case against former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf on 24 December. The hearing is now set for 1 January.
The government has charged Musharraf with abrogating, subverting, suspending, holding in abeyance and attempting to conspire against the 1973 Constitution by declaring an emergency and overthrowing the superior judiciary in November 2007.
Comment: The charges are significant for their omissions. They do not include Musharraf's coup d'état in 1999 when he overthrew Prime Minister Sharif's last government. The charges stem from Musharraf's attack on the Supreme Court of Pakistan. They were laid on under the direction of the now-retired Chief Justice Chaudhry in early December. Chaudhry also appointed the three-judge panel that will hear the case.
Another omission is that none of Musharraf's aides or ministers has been charged. The laws on treason are explicit that any accomplices may be liable as well.
The narrowness of the charges means that other senior Pakistan Army generals and politicians will not be charged. Thus, a primary purpose of this trial is to preserve the inviolability of the judiciary, more than the political system. In other words, in this case the Court is silent about coups against politicians, but wants justice for attacks on the judges, who included Chaudhry.
Egypt: On 24 December, a powerful truck bomb detonated at a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, 70 miles north of Cairo. It killed at least 13 people and injured 130.
It was Egypt's deadliest bombing since the ouster of former president Mursi in July. Angry Egyptians blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack and called for death to the Brotherhood.
In response, the Egyptian prime minister declared the Muslim Brotherhood a 'terrorist' organization. Cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki blamed the Brotherhood, saying it has revealed its 'ugly face as a terrorist organization shedding blood and messing with Egypt's security.'
Comment: Egypt experts suspect the actual culprits are a jihadi group based in the Sinai Peninsula. A group known as Ansar Jerusalem has been responsible for most of the more than 260 attacks in Sinai and for multiple attacks west of the Suez Canal since 3 July.
The government is using the bombing to help justify the suppression of the Brotherhood, as under the Mubarak government. That goal is now close to achieved.
South Sudan: Update. The government in Juba announced that a force of government soldiers recaptured Bor, the capital of Jonglei state on 25 December. The government also plans to recapture Bentiu in Unity state.
The UN Secretary General called for an increase in the peacekeeping force from 7,600 to 13,000.
Comment: Outside pressure is building for talks, which President Kiir and former vice president Machar both say they want. Neither is calling for escalation or secession. An ethnic civil war does not seem imminent, based on the limited reports available. However, more clashes are likely.
Central African Republic: Update. Dozens of Muslim men marched in Bangui on 24 December to demand the departure of French troops. The marchers accused the French of siding with the Christians.
News services reported an exchange of fire involving Chadian peace keepers in Bangui and Burundian peace keepers and demonstrators on the 24th. The Burundians said the Chadians fired on Burundian soldiers. Three Chadians were injured in the shooting. The head of the 3,500-man peacekeeping unit said the 850-man Chadian component will be withdrawn from Bangui and redeployed in the north.
Comment: The sectarian militias do not appear intimidated by the French and African peacekeepers. That is a portent of and condition for more clashes.
End of NightWatch for 25 December.
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