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NightWatch 20140613

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For the night of 13 June 2014

Thailand: Political behavior modification continues. General Prayuth's administration announced today that the curfew was lifted nationwide because there was no violence and to allow football fans to watch World Cup matches.

Prayuth also talked about his plans for normalizing government. He said he expected to appoint an interim government and cabinet in August or September. The formation of the interim government would end the period of direct rule by the Army.

An interim constitution and a new national assembly would be announced in October. The interim government and parliament would govern for about one year.

On economic reform, General Prayuth said that debts owed to all farmers under the rice-pledging program would be cleared on 22 June as promised, and that 80% of 600,000 farmers had received money already. Concerning illegal workers, many from Cambodia, he said that the problem could be resolved in about one year after they are verified by a nationality verification center to be set up. Illegal workers will be deported.

Comment: Prayuth laid out a political tutelage plan that will last at least a year. Good behavior by politicians will keep the plan on track through its successive phases. During this period, Thailand will hold no elections. The interim government and cabinet will be appointed. The process for selecting members of parliament has not been specified.

Prayuth's plan for forming an interim government is similar to the demands of the opposition Democratic Party, which wanted an appointed government of experts to replace former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai government.

His administration also is moving quickly to settle accounts with farmers that were victimized by the rice-buying scheme of the civilian government the Army overthrew. Rice farmers are a core constituency of the Pheu Thai party. Prayuth's plans contain something for every faction.

Illegal immigrants are commodities in Thailand's notorious human trafficking trade. Under the martial law decree, Thai businesses may not employ illegal workers. Cambodian authorities told the press that in the first two weeks of June Thailand repatriated more than 40,000 illegal workers.

Afghanistan: Saturday, 14 June is election day.

Iraq: Situation update. Prime Minister al Maliki traveled to Samara, 95 kms north of Baghdad, carrying the message that the Iraq government and armed forces are fighting back and gradually recapturing the cities overrun by the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Al-Maliki went to Iraq for a security meeting, according to an official statement.

ISIL fighters have not moved against Baghdad, but did outflank al-Maliki by seizing towns near the border with Iran, east of Samarra.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shiite religious leader in Iraq, called on citizens to form militias and fight the Sunni ultra-extremists today. "Citizens who can carry weapons and fight the terrorists in defense of their country, its people and its holy sites should volunteer and join the security forces," the spokesman said.

Comment: Al Maliki is trying to act like a leader in order to stop the panic, but it should stop of its own accord soon. The ISIL attack groups appear to be moving beyond their capability to consolidate gains against a counter-offensive, which is now inevitable. They will be rolled back, eventually, by sheer force of numbers and military power, unless the Sunni tribes go into open rebellion on ISIL's side.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani's call to arms makes sectarian warfare a near certainty. As is his custom, Sistani did not appeal only to Shiite Arabs, but to all citizens of Iraq. Even moderate Sunnis, Christians, Kurds and Turkmens in the past have flocked to his summons or heeded his guidance.

News reports indicate that Shiite volunteers are swamping military intake stations in the Shia heartland near Najaf and Karbala. The last time the Shiite militias went to war, there was a blood-bath of Sunnis.

In terms of supporting Iraq, the US seems to be ceding the dominant influence to Iran. It is significant that al-Maliki turned first to the US for help in responding to the emergency. News sources reported he received a lecture on community relations and good government, while portions of his army were collapsing.

Iran, on the other hand, is helping, though the full extent will become clearer in the coming week. An Iranian official today denied Iran sent revolutionary guards battalions to Iraq, but not that Iranian officers were providing advice or other assistance. Sistani's bodyguards always have included Iranian revolutionary guards. Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force commander, Major General Soleimani, reportedly is advising prime minister al-Maliki about fighting ISIL.

Ukraine: The Kyiv regime boasted that its commandos recovered the southeastern port city of Mariupol early on Friday. In a statement, it said five people were injured and one killed during this morning's special operation.

"Georgievskaya Street has been cleared of terrorists, and yards of nearby private houses are being searched. The special operation continues."

The National Guard and Interior Ministry special units "Dnepr" and "Azov" are engaged in the operation. The National Guard reported that every key stronghold of the militia had been taken under control, an armored reconnaissance vehicle had been blown up, sniper positions had been destroyed, and occupied buildings had been freed.

Kyiv authorities announced that Mariupol is the new capital of Donetsk region, not the city of Donetsk. The Kyiv-appointed government announced it has installed itself in Mariupol.

Comment: Control of the government buildings in Mariupol has changed hands several times and might change again.

As in past operations, the Ukrainian Army did not lead, and perhaps did not participate in, this operation. The National Guard and the two special units are newly formed units that are not subordinate to the defense ministry. Kyiv continues to treat the secession as a police problem, which avoids any requirement for negotiations with the separatists.

Russia. Russia intends to protest officially the presence of a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier (APC) in the Rostov region, opposite southeastern Ukraine. Apparently a Ukrainian security unit attempting to redeploy in southeastern Ukraine decided to drive through Russia in order to reach its new location. The APC broke down and the Ukrainians walked back across the border when Russian Border Guards gathered.

Correction: Ukrainian officials said the three tanks the separatists have are older T-64s, not T-72s as first reported. A separatist source said they were in a Russian warehouse near the border and the crews just drove them to Ukraine.

End of NightWatch for 13 June.

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