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NightWatch 20091125


For the Night of 25 November 2009

Philippines: Update and correction. The massacre in Maguindanao Province on Mindanao Island was perpetrated by a Muslim clan, not by Christian political organizations. Maguindanao Province is part of the autonomous region for the Moros. The massacre was apparently related to a political battle against a rival clan.

The Christian Science Monitor ran an excellent description of the action.

Many Filipinos are pointing to the massacre of 46 unarmed people in the southern Philippines province of Maguindanao Monday as evidence of the deadly influence of a dynastic clan that has been nurtured by the central government for almost 20 years. Nothing is yet proven, but survivors of the attack, national politicians, and police officials all say the likely perpetrators were loyalists of Andal Ampatuan, a former provincial governor who has used his private army to control politics in the province for a decade. Mr. Ampatuan was term-limited out of the governorship this year. In his three election campaigns, no local politician dared to run against him.

His son, Andal Jr., was gearing up for a similarly unopposed run to replace his father. But Ismael Mangudadatu, a former ally of the Ampatuans, had other ideas. On Monday morning, he dispatched a convoy of cars (mostly women and journalists, on the theory that would afford some protection against attack) to file papers in the provincial capital Shariff Aguak to run against the younger Ampatuan. Mr. Mangudadatu remained at home.

The people in the convoy never made it. Instead, they were waylaid when they came to Ampatuan (the clan's stronghold), dragged from their cars, and summarily executed. Survivors alleged to reporters in the Philippines that Andal Jr. led the gunmen.

Many of the victims were buried in mass graves that survivors said appeared to have been dug before the assault. Among the dead were Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn, and two of his sisters. At least 12 of the victims were Filipino journalists. The provincial police chief was sacked and a government spokesman said local police officers also appeared to be present during the murders.

This massacre was about provincial politics. The NightWatch comments are unchanged. Philippine politicians have always understood the concept of patronage, but not the concept of accountability, unless they lost the election. This is a study in democracy; one kind of democracy does not fit all.

India-Pakistan; A Pakistani court today charged seven men with complicity in the Mumbai bombings exactly one year ago. The men pleaded not guilty to the charges. A year ago, LeT terrorists killed 166 people in the attacks in Mumbai, India.

The timing of the indictments today suggests the announcement was intended to take some of the luster off Indian Prime Minister Singh's visit to Washington, D.C., during which he urged Pakistan to do more to suppress terrorism.

Afghanistan: Update. Afghan Taliban's leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on 25 November rejected President Karzai's call for talks, saying the nation's people will not agree to negotiations that prolong and legitimize the presence of foreign troops, AFP reported. Omar released his statement ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Omar's rejection was a foregone conclusion. The key point is that other anti-government group leaders do not follow Omar. The negotiations with the leaders of splinter groups will help define the numbers of followers who comply with Omar's directives. Karzai is an elected leader. Omar is pretty much self appointed. Omar has no interest in sharing power with Karzai on a personal basis, but the struggle continues to move in that direction.

The expected announcement of US and European NATO reinforcements for Afghanistan are a devastating blow to the Quetta Shura. They gambled heavily on disrupting elections and on the psychological impact of increased NATO casualties. They lost on both accounts.

Afghanistan-US: U.S. forces will be out of Afghanistan by 2017, the White House announced today, Reuters reported. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it is important for people to understand that "our time there will be limited." U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to explain to the U.S. public next week his reasoning for expanding the war effort.

The key point in the above note is that it signifies Obama expects to be a two term president.

Iran: Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said today that U.S. and Israeli pressure on Russia was preventing Moscow from delivering advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran, Reuters reported, citing Iranian state-run Mehr News Agency. Jafari said Russia itself would have no issue with delivering the system, if not for the U.S. and Israeli pressure.

The Iranian blame game today has focused on US and Israeli interference as responsible for Iran's outmoded air defense posture. Earlier in the month, the blame game focused solely on the Russians. Were the Iranians willing to pay enough and on time, they could probably get the S-300 any time they chose.

Turkey: Analytical opinions about the intentions of the Erdogan government range from the view that Erdogan is pursuing a neo-Ottoman foreign policy in Europe and the Middle East to the view that Erdogan is abandoning NATO and identifying Turkey as an Islamist state. At a minimum, Turkey represents a challenge for NATO unity because it supports Iran's nuclear policy.

Turkey's policies are so divergent from those of a European power that they raise the possibility that Turkey will drift out of NATO entirely in time.

Watch this space for more.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Saudi Arabia said reports that its military had entered Yemen to hit Shiite al-Huthi rebels were untrue and that Saudi King Abdallah specifically ordered his armed forces to only remove al-Huthis from Saudi soil, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, citing an unnamed senior Saudi Defense Ministry official.

The Saudi press reported that Saudi troops continued their fight at the Yemeni Saada Province border which is adjacent to Saudi Arabia's Jizan Province and that tunnels and arms caches have been discovered. Some 902 Yemenis, including a few Somalis and Ethiopians, reportedly have been arrested by Saudi troops in recent days as they attempted to cross the Yemen border.

If the King gave an order the Saudi National Guard complied. News services have not identified the commander of the Saudi operations. He is a man to watch.

Yemen: Yemeni authorities ordered a hospital in Sanaa run by the Iranian Red Crescent closed because of the lack of transparency in its accounts, AFP reported, citing a statement today from the Yemeni Interior Ministry. Yemeni security forces sealed the hospital off on 13 October when members of the hospital staff were suspected of aiding Zaidi Shiite rebels in Yemen's north. The al Huthi tribe are Zaidi Shiites.

Venezuela-Iran: For the record. Iranian President Ahmadi-nejad arrived in Caracas today to meet Venezuelan President Chavez, AFP reported. Ahmadi-nejad is on a business trip, with 200 Iranian businessmen as part of his entourage. Iran has friends and business partners in South America, including Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Honduras: Unknown attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Honduran Supreme Court building in Tegucigalpa, La Prensa reported today. Police sources reported minor damage to the building. Another explosive device detonated near a building owned by local television station Channel 10. No injuries were reported at either location.

Presidential elections are four days away. The pro-Zelaya thugs are the primary suspects.

End of NightWatch for 25 November.

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