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NightWatch 20091229

NightWatch

For the Night of 29 December 2009

China-Belarus: Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov announced that China is ready to grant a $5.7 billion loan to Belarus, BelTA reported 29 December. Kobyakov said Chinese partners offered Belarus the loan that is a potential investment in fixed capital. He said the agreement was signed in China last week.

Belarus is a prickly ally of Russia, despite close defense links. Still, this looks a little like Chinese poaching in Russia's sphere of influence. If so, that would mean the self-proclaimed Russian sphere is under attack from the east and the west. Economics is always politics.

Japan-India: Leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral security cooperation, deciding to hold regular vice ministerial-level dialogues between their foreign policy and defense officials, Kyodo reported yesterday. After talks in New Delhi, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a joint statement mapping out action plans for cooperation.

Under the agreement, the two countries will hold maritime security dialogues to secure the safe passage of commercial ships in the Indian Ocean, in addition to holding "two-plus-two" talks involving security-related officials.

Japan and India are not competitors and share a common enemy, which is China.

Pakistan: Update. Rioting followed Monday's bombing of Shiite Muslims in procession during Ashura in Karachi and resulted in a rampage of retaliation in which 2,000 to 3,000 shops were burned in Bolton Market, according to the Daily Times. The final casualty toll is 42 people killed and 83 injured.

Iran: Today, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mahmanparast stated that the deadly anti-government protests and clashes in Tehran were the work of a "tiny minority," and he accused outside countries, including the U.S. and Britain, of "miscalculating" by siding with the protesters, according to international news services.

Mahmanparast said some Western countries support this sort of activity that intervenes in Iran's internal affairs. He added that Iran strongly condemns the action and the British ambassador will be summoned. Mahmanparast gave no further details; there was no immediate reaction from the U.K.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani called on authorities to mete out the harshest punishment to those who "insulted religious values" on Ashura Day, IRNA reported. Larijani urged Interior and Intelligence Ministry officials as well as those in Iran's judiciary system to arrest "offenders of the religion" and mete out the harshest punishments to "anti-revolutionary" figures with no mercy. He commissioned the Majlis judicial and national security commissions to make efforts to "restore nation's rights." Larijani said Majlis will draw a line between the anti-revolutionary figures and the so-called leftist political currents.

Comment: Blaming outside influences is a standard practice of unpopular regimes to shore up internal support and to divert attention from the misdeeds of the leaders by manufacturing a threat. It is so trite, it is banal. Ali Larijani is an experienced nuclear negotiator and public servant with extensive travels in the modern world. His hard line denunciations explode the myth that some analysts held that he would be an agent for moderation and modernization.

Authorities called the protestors the "enemies of god." It is a dangerous intimidation tactic for a regime to wrap itself in the mantle of the divine because it polarizes society and mixes faith and politics in an unhealthy way. For example, Ahmadi-Nejad's economic malfeasance can hardly be attributed to Allah, but that is the religious implication of today's accusation. A leadership that claims divine right to rule by definition does not believe elections have value or that opposition to divine rule can be tolerated. It also ascribes the consequences of human blunders to the will of god and lack of faith, for hunger and gasoline shortages.

This claim exposes a power grab by the regime leaders who appear intent on disenfranchising the opposition. A next step would be to do away with elections altogether, because they are already meaningless and the revolution is under threat. The opposition has no alternative but to pursue the overthrow of such a regime to prove who really has the divine right.

Divine right is a medieval concept in Western history that was the undoing of the Holy Roman Empire, where no one took it very seriously most of the time. The present leadership is moving Iran backwards in political time, from an Islamic republic towards a religious despotism of the clerics. It will self-destruct in time because the population is too educated and has too many modern expectations. Hypocrisy will be the undoing of the clerisy of the ayatollahs.

The over reaction continued today with the house arrest of one opposition ayatollah and of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Iran is undergoing a religious coup in slow motion.

Yemen: Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said on 29 December that there may be as many as 300 al Qaida militants in Yemen, Reuters reported, citing an interview al-Qirbi gave to the BBC. Al-Qirbi said the number is an estimate, and that he does not have hard figures on the number of operatives. He asked for more US aid.

Special comment. Yesterday on Hardball, Pat Buchanan made a provocative comment. In paraphrase, he said the attempted aircraft bombing on Christmas proved the irrelevance of the war in Afghanistan to defending US national security.

Limited data in the public domain indicates Buchanan was misinformed. The buildup of international Islamic terrorism infrastructure in Yemen is a direct consequence of the fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Saudi crackdown. Terrorists fled to Yemen, where the government is weak; the population is poor; and there are ungoverned spaces.

In Living Systems theory, infestations of the world body politic always seek benign hosts, in this case Yemen, with southern Somalia as a close second. The US has opened a new front in the war against Islamic terrorists, but in a supporting role strengthening the Saleh government, thus far.

As for intelligence, all the operational successes to date, praiseworthy as they might be, resulted in no warning of the Christmas attempt. Intelligence transformation based on "need to share" looks like the same kind of intelligence failure exposed in the 9/11 report.

Director of Central Intelligence, William Casey told his National Intelligence Officer for Warning, David McManis, that he expected no surprises. Intelligence warning, he said, must be a seamless web covering all time horizons and all threats. Nearly 30 years later, there seems to be no working warning system and no memory of how to make one work.

End of NightWatch for 29 December.

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