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NightWatch 20150323

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For the night of 23 March 2015

North Korea-South Korea: The North Korean leadership has reacted strongly to the threat by South Korean activists to float leaflets and DVDs of the video, The Interview, by balloon into North Korea this week.

On 23 March, North Korean media published, "The Korean People's Army (KPA) Frontline Units ' Open Notice: "The Reckless Act of Flying Leaflets Maligning the Dignity of Our Supreme Leadership and Our System Will Be Mercilessly Punished."

"Our army has already made it clear solemnly at home and abroad that there will be absolutely no tolerance of any act of psychological warfare including the flying of anti-Republic leaflets."

"…As recently as a few days ago, groups of the living dead belonging to ultra-rightist conservative organizations like Fighters for Free North Korea announced that they would fly 500,000 anti-Republic leaflets and several thousand DVDs attached to balloons to our areas around 26 March, which marks the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the Cheonan (note: a South Korean patrol ship sunk by North Korea in 2010) sinking incident with even some human rights foundation of the United States getting involved."

The frontline units reportedly are so incensed that they promise to use, "All the firepower strike means under the KPA frontline units will enter into indiscriminate balloon extermination operations with no prior warnings."

They also vowed that if the first shots don't destroy the balloons, they will try again and again. If that does not work, they advise South Koreans who farm in the Demilitarized Zone to evacuate. The Frontline units said that South Korea has no one to blame, but itself in the event things get out of hand.

Comment: The Frontline Units have no authority to do anything, especially create their own propaganda messages to be carried by national media. The leadership conveyed its warning via the Frontline Units for dramatic impact, such as it is.

The North Koreans have threatened to shell the launch sites for the balloon. The threat of shooting balloons that carry "The Interview" is serious. They will resist a balloon invasion by force. That means news outlets will report North Korean gunfire over the Demilitarized Zone. Much patriotic fervor and ammunition are likely to be dedicated to bursting balloons.

The South Korean activists are rethinking their balloon launch strategy, at last report.

Pakistan: Pakistan celebrated National Day on 23 March with the first military parade since Musharraf was Pakistan's president in 2008. Most of the three-hour parade featured military displays of one or another kind. Civilian floats included animatronic dinosaurs and representations for each of the regions of Pakistan.

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif received enthusiastic applause. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (the two are not related) received muted applause.

Comment: The significance of the parade is that it means that the Pakistan Army is back. Seven years ago internal security was so poor that the Army dared not risk a parade. The Pakistan Army has redeemed its honor and restored its popular image since the embarrassments of the Musharraf era and of the US raid that killed bin Laden in 2011.

The Army also is back as an active political force. In the past two years, the Army has traded its fight against recalcitrant tribes and Islamic terrorists for greater authority in policing internal security. Prime Minister Sharif ceded to the Army the right to try in military courts civilians suspected of terrorist acts. That means the Army has once again adopted the role of parens patriae over the electorate..

The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, General (ret'd) V.K. Singh., represented the Indian government at the parade. He tweeted, "#DISGUSTED", and left early. Minister of State Singh's disgust is because the justification for Pakistan's missile force, modern fighter jets and other equipment is to enable it to fight India, not Islamic militants. Singh is a former Chief of Army Staff in India.

Yemen: Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi asked the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to intervene militarily against the Houthi rebels, according to Hadi's Foreign Minister Riad Yassin.

In a press interview, Yassin warned, "Yemeni authorities are working with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UN Security Council to put an end to the Houthi expansion." He said that President Hadi asked the United Nations and the GCC's Peninsula Shield Force to "intervene to face the Houthis."

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saudi al-Faisal said, "The Houthi coup threatens the security and stability of Yemen, the region and the world….If the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures for this crisis to protect the region."

According to press commentary, the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain - warned earlier this year that they would act to protect the Arabian Peninsula's security and described the Houthi takeover of parts of Yemen as a "terrorist" act.

Comment: The Peninsula Shield Force intervened in Bahrain to put down civilian demonstrations. It is not known to have tested its capabilities against armed opponents. This force is not likely to be used in Yemen.

Hadi's appeal for intervention by the GCC is an admission that his regime will not survive without outside military help. However, there does not appear to be enough time for outside intervention to make a difference.

Yemen-Iran: Update. Knowledgeable sources doubt that an Iranian ship carrying arms arrived in northwest Yemen last week. At this time they attribute the reported arms shipment to anti-Iranian propaganda. Thanks to Feedback.

Russia: Update. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the large-scale military exercise ended in Russia's European zone on Saturday. It involved a snap inspection of the Northern Fleet, the Western Military District and the Airborne Forces.

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End of NightWatch for 23 March.

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