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NightWatch 20100119


For the Night of 19 January 2010

India-Pakistan: For the record. Pakistani troops fired at an Indian border post in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir State for over an hour with no reports of casualties, Indian media reported on 19 January. An Indian Army spokesman told the press that Pakistani troops from Kaddu post used machine guns and rockets to fire at Kranti post on the Indian side, adding that the firing was unprovoked. The officer said the Indian side had yet to ascertain the reason for the firing but stated that the matter would be taken up with Pakistan "in a serious way."

Pakistan formally protested to India over the incident which resulted in the death of one Pakistani soldier, Reuters reported. Islamabad has demanded an urgent flag meeting between the Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force.

A slight increase in tension has occurred along the Line of Control and the international border, but its implications are not year clear. Neither side is escalating the occasional firefights and that is tonight's good news.

Iran: Update. US intelligence agencies now believe that Iran did not halt work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003, as had been stated in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, The Washington Times reported 19 January, citing an unnamed senior U.S. military officer. The officer said analysts are now trying to determine whether Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given the order to produce a nuclear weapon. The officer also said that Iran is not currently capable of building a nuclear weapon, but Tehran's program is advanced and moving toward the point where one could be built.

The NightWatch hypothesis always has been that work was suspended in 2003 to minimize the likelihood of an American air attack, as a sidebar to the attack against Saddam. NightWatch never has judged the program to have been stopped. The 2007 NIE was flawed in concept, method and analysis.

Iraq: Reuters reported today remarks by an Iraqi government official that approximately 50,000 former Sunni Arab insurgents now have jobs in the government. The government plans to absorb the rest by the middle of 2010. According to the official, some 15,000 Sons of Iraq serve in the security forces and 33,000 serve in other governmental roles. There are 96,000 Sahwa members.

The significance of this statement is that the official estimate of Sunni Arab insurgents before 2006 never approached 50,000, not to mention 96,000. At those figures, the portion of US forces designated for combat always were outnumbered significantly.

There is no comparable development in Afghanistan that makes this Iraq experience relevant to the Afghan fight.

Turkey-Israel: Turkey and Israel no longer have the same strategic closeness as in the past, although some common strategic issues continue, Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said today and Ynet reported. Speaking to members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yadlin said Turkey no longer needs strategic closeness with Israel. Turkey is moving from a secular approach to what he called a "radical direction," an apparent reference to Turkey's outreach to Islamic states, including Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

Russia: For the record. Russia had its first population increase since 1995 and after a decline in that statistic, Reuters reported, citing official sources. In 2009, the population grew by 15,000-25,000, to more than 141.9 million, said Russian Health Minister Tatyana Golikova at a Kremlin meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

The rate of increase is modest and not identified by race or region. The demographics of the Russian population are that ethnic Russians will become a minority in their own state, possibly as soon as mid-century,

Sudan: President Omar al Bashir said today that his government would accept secession by the southern Sudanese, provided the southerners voted for independence in a referendum next year.

Speaking at a ceremony marking five years since the end of the north-south war, he said his Northern Congress Party did not want the south to secede, but said the party would be the first to welcome such a decision. This is an unusually conciliatory tone considering that much of Sudan's oil wealth is in southern Sudan.

In response the president of Southern Sudan, Salva Kirri, said "The north and south will continue to be economically and politically connected whatever the choice of the people of Southern Sudan.,"

Comment: it is difficult to accept Bashir's promises at face value and the date for a referendum has not yet been announced.

End of NightWatch for 19 January.

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