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NightWatch 20140627

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For the night of 27 June 2014

North Korea: Update. Rodong Sinmun, the Workers' Party Daily, today reported Kim Jong Un watched the yesterday afternoon's missile test in Gangwon Province. It reported that that Kim personally commanded the testing of the "cutting-edge, ultra-precision tactical guided missiles."

"The successful test-firing came at a time when the US, the South Korean puppet regime and their allied forces are getting extremely reckless in their moves to isolate and stifle North Korea." The article said that the tests "greatly encouraged the service personnel and people" of North Korea.

Comment: The newspaper article clarifies that the North tested missiles, not rockets. Kim's presence means that this was an important event.

Afghanistan: The election commission announced that the preliminary results of the run-off election on 14 June will be made public on 2 July. It also said no elections will be repeated.

During this Watch, sources in Kabul reported eight demonstrations by up to 27,000 people, protesting the election commission's announcement. As yet no violence has been reported.

Comment: The announcement contained no reference to ballot box stuffing. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's organization continues to refuse to cooperate with the election commission. Abdullah apparently expects to lose the election because of the voter fraud.

Iraq: Security. A Sunni Arab spokesman, who identified his group as the revolutionary tribes, said they still intend to attack Baghdad and denied they are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The major battle reported in open sources occurred at Tikrit, a continuation of the attack begun yesterday. News sources reported that ISIL fighters fled Tikrit because of Iraqi helicopter attacks. They fled northward towards Baiji and Kirkuk.

Syrian air force fighter jets again overflew border areas in western Anbar Governate, but no sources reported air strikes.

Politics. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called on Iraqi political blocs to agree on a premier, parliament speaker and a president by Tuesday when the parliament convenes.

Comment: This is the second time since 10 June that Sistani has departed from his "quietist" Shiite practices to deliver advice to the political leadership. The background to his remark is that Iraqi political leaders have sometimes taken weeks or months to agree on the top three political positions. Sistani's message is that the security situation in Iraq cannot afford a political stalemate. He did not call for a new government or for anyone to be replaced.

Iraq-Russia: A Russian business news service reported that Iraq will receive 18 fighter jets from Russia. According to the report, the deal could be worth $500 million. It includes between eight and 12 Su-27SM fighters from the Russian Air Force and six Su-30K fighters owned by the Irkut Corporation of Russia, but stored in Belarus.

Comment: The news report contained no information on the actual cost of the agreement; the conditions and terms of the aircraft transfer, logistics arrangements and the timing of their delivery. Saddam Hussein's air force was almost entirely Soviet-supplied, but had no SU-27s or later model fighters. However, Russia probably has a pool of retired or discharged pilots and technicians who would be willing to work for the Iraqi government for a price.

Syria: The leaders of Syria's political opposition on 26 June disbanded the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army over corruption allegations.

Comment: The so-called moderate Syrian opposition essentially has collapsed. Reports from Syria indicate the position of the moderates has been taken by the al-Qaida endorsed al-Nusrah Front because it is less rigid and brutal than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). One credible source claimed that any items supplied by the US to the Free Syrian Army go directly to ISIL.

European Union (EU): At a summit of the EU heads of government on 27 June, the EU signed wide-ranging trade and political agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

Ukraine-EU: Ukraine's President Poroshenko called the agreement a "historic" trade pact and said this was the most important day in Ukraine since independence in 1991.

                 Moldova-EU: Prime Minister Leanca said, "Europe is the clearest and most telling image of the life that we wish for us and that we will have; a better life, a dignified life and a life lived in peace….When initialing the association agreement in Vilnius on 29 November 2013, I told you that I ensured our path towards the European Union. Today I promise you that we will go till the end on this path and that we will return home, in Europe."

Georgia-EU: Georgian Prime Minister Gharibashvili addressed and congratulated his fellow citizens. "Today, Georgia is making a huge step towards free Europe. I congratulate all Georgia and every citizen of Georgia on this day. Today is a historic day: 27 June is a day that we will all remember as historic."

Comment: The agreements will come into force after the parliaments of the EU and Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia ratify the agreement in July.

As indicated in some of the remarks above, this process has been evolving since last November. That is when Ukrainian president Yanukovych balked at signing the association agreement, mostly because of the terms set by the EU. The Ukraine crisis ensued.

The conditions for association were not featured in today's celebrations, but several leaders stressed that much hard work was ahead for their nations.

It is worth observing that the attraction of the West remains powerful in eastern Europe, compared to that of Russia, despite the economic crises of the past six years.

Russia: The signing of association agreements with the EU by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is a sovereign right of these countries, but Russia will take protective measures if the implementation of these documents has a negative impact on the Russian market, Russian president's press secretary Dmitriy Peskov has told RIA Novosti.

"The president has already said on more than one occasion that everything will depend on how these documents come into force, are ratified and implemented. These are not documents that matter, but the possibility of an impact on our markets, and if this impact is negative, measures will be taken," Peskov said.

He stressed that this is "an absolutely sovereign right of Ukraine and Georgia".

Comment: This was a conditional warning. Ostensibly the association agreements would appear to represent a strategic setback for Russia because of the continuing unraveling of the Soviet Union, not just as a political and security structure, but as a continental market area. These association agreements indicate the process of restructuring that market area is continuing.

That means the countries including Russia are traveling new economic terrain. The Russian leaders have not denounced the new agreements. Instead, they have taken a cautious approach because the new arrangements could work to Russia's benefit over time.

Europe has now penetrated the Russian sphere of influence more deeply than at any time since the overthrow of the Czars. When Medvedev was prime minister, he promised to defend the borders of the Russian sphere of influence. Putin has failed to keep that promise, sensationally. There probably would be consequences for him within the leadership, if Russia experiences a negative impact from the new associations. If everyone gets rich, he will be a hero.

Putin and his acolytes probably are relieved that they engineered Crimea's accession to the Russian Federation before 27 June.

NightWatch Special Administrative Announcement. Changes are coming to NightWatch, because of increased publication expenses and because it is time. We are excited about the opportunity to review our publication for the purpose of making improvements that will continue to add value for our Brilliant Readers. Since we are at a decision point, we judge it essential to ask our Readers about the publication and to invite you to provide your ideas and suggestions for improving it. We are preparing a brief survey which we will distribute as a Special Edition soon. Your responses will help shape the future of NightWatch. More to follow.

End of NightWatch for 27 June.

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