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NightWatch 20091222


For the Night of 22 December 2009

Japan-US: Update. According to a statement by Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, the deadline for Japan to resolve where to relocate the US Futenma Air Station is 10 May 2010.

Vietnam-Iran: Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for Iran and his nation to negotiate a free trade agreement as soon as possible, as he received Iranian Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazafari in Hanoi on 22 December, VOV News reported.

The point worth noting is that Iran continues to open new contacts despite sanctions.

India-Pakistan: Indian and Pakistani border guards exchanged fires in Ramgarh sector which is along the settled part of the Kashmir border, south of the Line of Control, IANS reported 22 December. According to the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), Pakistani border guards opened fire on Indian positions and the Indians retaliated. Indian Army units also were alerted but the incident did not escalate.

These incidents usually mean the Pakistanis are providing covering fire for militant or terrorist infiltrators into India's Jammu and Kashmir State. Infiltration of fighters and winter supplies in the higher elevations of the Line of Control began last month. Infiltration in the lower elevations where the international border is settled is still possible this late in the year.

Afghanistan: Today the Taliban claimed to control 80% of Afghanistan in a web posting. That is baloney.

The NightWatch data base shows they dominate the countryside in 14 of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, meaning they have permanent fighting units in those core provinces and active shadow governments.

Anti-government fighters stage attacks in about half the 400 districts, but about 75% of those are in the core provinces. They hold no district or provincial centers.

The lackluster fighting reported in December indicates the Taliban and other anti-government groups appear to have settled in for the winter. There is no surge in attacks; no high winter profile, at least as of 22 December.

The anti-government groups do like to talk. The fighting data contradict today's boast.

Iran-Iraq: An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman described the recent "border incident" with Iraq as a misunderstanding and said experts from both nations should look at border demarcation issues, Reuters reported.

The Associated Press reported the Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers spoke over the weekend and agreed to re-establish a long-standing joint border committee, said Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. He said it was critical that the committee immediately get down to work.

This episode does not seem to represent some form of strategic challenge to the US, but it might be a stratagem to link Iran and Iraq more closely in oil policy by means of border demarcation talks.

Turkey: Two Turkish military officers were detained on charges of plotting to assassinate State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, Today's Zaman reported 22 December. The officers were held during a police operation in an Ankara district predominantly inhabited by parliamentary deputies.

The two probably were not acting alone, assuming the charges are not contrived by the government to embarrass the armed forces. Thus, after custodial interrogation more details are certain to be reported in the public media.

The significance of the arrests is that they are a reminder of the Islamist Erdogan government's determination to end the secular legacy of Ataturk and to humiliate the armed forces, its primary defender. The battle between secular and Islamist interests continues.

End of NightWatch for 22 December.

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