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NightWatch 20141209

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For the night of 9 December 2014

China-Hong Kong: The Hong Kong High Court issued an order authorizing the removal of barricades, tents and other obstructions from the Admiralty district of Hong Kong. The order was published in local newspapers on 9 December. The pro-democracy activists have until Thursday morning to leave the protest camp site.

Workers will dismantle the protest camp starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday. About 3,000 police officers are to be deployed for the operation, according to unidentified police sources.

Comment: The court order sets the stage for a final confrontation between pro-democracy activists and the Chinese authorities in Hong Kong. The numbers of activists have declined and the steam has gone out of the movement for now. Nevertheless, for 73 days the activists blocked traffic in Admiralty district, which contains government offices and the main central business district.

Ripple effects on Taiwan. While the activists failed to budge the Communists to institute a more democratic process for selecting the Hong Kong chief executive, their protests strongly influenced local elections on Taiwan.

On 29 November, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) sustained a major defeat in the 11,130 elections for Municipal Mayors, Municipal Councilors, Chiefs of indigenous districts in municipalities, Councilors of indigenous districts in municipalities, County Magistrates (City Mayors), County (City) Councilors, Township Chiefs, Township Councilors and chiefs of village (borough) in 6 municipalities and 16 counties (cities)local and regional assembly elections.

Some political analysts called the losses historic. . For example, the KMT lost the mayoral election for Taipei City for the first time in 16 years. The KMT won six of the 22 mayoral and county magistrate seats. Prior to the election it held 14 of the 22 seats. .The youth turnout was unprecedentedly high, spurred by the pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Taiwan analysts ascribed the sweeping KMT defeat to a backlash against any party, such as the KMT, that favors improved ties to the Chinese government in Beijing. Independents and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were the chief beneficiaries of the backlash. The DPP favors independence for Taiwan and opposes closer ties to the mainland. One insightful analysis judged the vote was not pro-DPP as much as anti-KMT.

The vibrancy of Taiwan's democracy starkly contrasts with the rigidity of the Communists. The Taiwan voters put China and the KMT on notice about the limits of their tolerance for policies promoting closer integration between Taiwan and China. Perhaps most importantly, the pro-independence DPP now is in a strong position to win Taiwan's presidential election in 2016.

The long term impact of the Hong Kong activist movement is likely to be manifest in increased tension across the Taiwan Strait in the future, more than in political changes in Hong Kong. Taiwan voters now have vivid and fresh images of life under the Communists and they don't like them.

Ukraine: Update. Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine observed a Day of Silence today. During most of the day, no attacks were reported. Towards evening, Ukraine reported 13 violations by separatist fighting groups.

Nigeria: The Defense ministry announced on 9 December that the Nigerian army killed 27 Boko Haram fighters in separate operations in three northeastern states.

The most significant operation occurred in the forests that overlap Bauchi, Borno and Adamawa States. Soldiers clashed with the insurgents in the Balmo, Lame and Hildi forests in Borno State, the ministry said in a statement that did not specify the date or location of the clashes. Motorcycles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and bows and arrows were recovered from the fleeing terrorists, according to the defense ministry.

Soldiers killed 20 terrorists in the forest fighting. Six soldiers were injured.

Nigerian troops also captured documents containing a list of communities about to be attacked and sketches of the towns from fleeing terrorists in Adamawa State. Special Forces killed seven terrorists.

The ministry said it recently recaptured several towns in and near Adamawa which had been under control of Boko Haram.

Comment: The two successful operations took place at least a week ago and probably longer because it takes time to process captured intelligence. Nonetheless, the capture of a Boko Haram village target list is potentially the most important seizure of the year. That list is strong evidence that Boko Haram plans its operations with premeditation, deliberation and malice. The attacks are not random, but the Nigerians have not disclosed Boko Haram's criteria for target selection.

Nigeria-Russia: An unidentified senior military officer told the press, "Nigeria has officially reached an arms deal with Russian authorities." According to the officer, a high-level Nigerian delegation led by the air force chief and national security adviser travelled to Russia last week to negotiate the deal.

"Our team returned to Nigeria on Thursday after a four-day trip," he said. "Russia has now agreed to supply us with arms….Henceforth, we are hopeful of getting arms from Russia."

Russia has not confirmed any arms sales as yet.

Comment: At this point, the Nigerians appear to be exaggerating an agreement in principle, rather than an actual agreement. The Nigerians want fixed and rotary wing combat aircraft which the US will not sell. The Nigeria press coverage of an agreement in principle looks like an amateurish attempt to goad to the US into a bidding competition with the Russians, except the Russians do not appear to have made a bid or an offer.

Regardless of the political maneuvering, the Nigerians know they need a tactical military edge in order to beat Boko Haram. Thus, the attempt to shift to Russia as a source of combat aircraft is not just a change in an arms source. Rather, it signals a new tactical emphasis, at least in theory.

The Nigerian military has observed that Boko Haram has no air defense systems. Its fighters and convoys are completely defenseless against attacks by helicopter gunships and ground attack aircraft. Nigeria also apparently judges that air power can compensate for a lack of ground forces and competent capabilities.

End of NightWatch for 9 December.

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