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NightWatch 20141230

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NightWatch

For the night of 30 December 2014

North Korea: North Korea has begun the expected crackdown to prevent the movie "The Interview" from polluting the "people's paradise." A three-star general heads up a border task force to keep the movie out. Task force members are going house to house searching for copies of the movie.

Comment: Ownership or viewing of the film are criminal offenses, most likely capital offenses, in North Korea.

Iraq: Government forces and allied Shia militia recaptured the town of Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad. One army source claimed almost 300 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were killed in the battle.

Iraqi sources state that ISIL fighters seized the northern half of Dhuluiya in June and surrounded the southern half after a local Sunni tribe refused to swear allegiance. This created a potentially significant threat to Baghdad on the east bank of the Tigris River.

Since then, government forces supported by Coalition air strikes helped the ground forces gradually push back the jihadists north and west of the town. The operation to break ISIL's control of Dhuluiya began on Sunday with air raids by Iraqi helicopter and fighter jets, police and locals said.

Comment: Iraqi government and Shiite militia sources confirm that Dhuluiya is now in government control, after six months of fighting. Assuming the accuracy of those reports, control of Dhuluiya protects Baghdad from attack down the eastern bank of the Tigris. It also rolls back the area that ISIL claims to control.

Bit by bit, government forces and their allies, including Iranian and US tactical advisers, Coalition air support and Shiite Arab militiamen, are starting to take advantage of ISIL's tactical overextension to take back key towns and territory.

Outside aid is a force multiplier, particularly tactical air support. ISIL has no comparable force multipliers. That means the Iraqis and their allies should be able to build momentum to recover more territory along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Recovering Ramadi and al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, might prove more challenging.

Moldova: West of Ukraine, Moldova is emerging as another potential flashpoint between Russia and the US. In a recent editorial, an anti-Russian, pro-NATO Moldovan scholar wrote about Moldovan politics.

"Negotiations for the formation of a future ruling coalition are difficult and complicated. Just like in the Russian fairy tales -- as the press notices emphatically -- if we go to the right we are going to have a "fussy alliance", full of conflicts and rivalries: an alliance that is not going to forget the betrayals and failures of the old Alliance for European Integration"

"If we go to the left, we will have a "monstrous coalition", with (Communist Party Chairman) Vladimir Voronin as the savior of the European integration. For this reason, we are neither here nor there: The planned ruling coalition is still in the making, while the West is waiting in bewilderment and the Moldovans are increasingly irritated…."

"On Tuesday, 23 December 2014, the Kyiv Supreme Rada (parliament) voted overwhelmingly in favor of dropping Ukraine's non-aligned status, thus opening the country's path toward NATO membership."

"Attacked in a barbaric way by Russia, who kidnapped Crimea and set Donbas on fire, Ukraine wants to make sure it is sheltered and protected. At the same time, it responds to great expectations coming from the internal public opinion."

"Poroshenko's proposal was accepted by everyone, even the pro-Russian "Opposition Bloc". There were only eight votes against it in total. This pro-West and anti-Putin trend in the Ukrainian Parliament would have been almost unbelievable and unimaginable a few months ago."

"The change of heart of the Ukrainian parliament and of the Ukrainian people is due exclusively to Putin's stupid and aggressive policy. As many have said, Ukraine has gone through a rapid process of crystallization of its national consciousness. Our neighbors do not read a "how to manual"; they are faced with a cruel lesson paid in blood…."

"Now, after the vote in the Ukrainian Rada, Prime Minister Medvedev and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow were quick to condemn Kyiv's impertinence…."

"Against this new geopolitical landscape, Moldova is caught up in some old arrangements and protracted negotiations regarding the distribution of responsibilities and benefits related to Moldova's European course….Sandwiched between two countries with clear European and North Atlantic preferences, Moldova will look rather ridiculous and bizarre, clinging on to our imaginary neutrality."

"However, things do change every now and again and sometimes even enemies can help you overcome internal barriers, as it happened in Kyiv. What today seems to be a completely unsolvable problem, tomorrow might become a real national debate on Moldova's NATO membership. For us, this will be the equivalent of crossing the Rubicon River."

Comment: Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused the US of attempting to accomplish in Moldova the kind of pro-NATO political changes that it engineered in Ukraine. Lavrov was warning the US against political meddling.

The political editorial, in a round-about fashion, makes the point that Moldova's neutrality is meaningless now that Ukrainian President Poroshenko signed the law that ends Ukrainian neutrality. Russian aggressive behavior and meddling forced the Ukrainian political leadership to tilt towards NATO, the author argues.

Despite the desires of some Moldovan politicians, the author contends that Moldova almost has no choice but to side with NATO to keep it from falling under Russian domination. Transnistria is pro-Russia and hosts a Russian combined arms regiment. Although part of Ukraine, Bessarabia also is pro-Russia. The Russians have served notice that they will oppose US meddling in Moldovan politics. Conditions are set for confrontation in 2015.

End of NightWatch for 30 December.

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