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NightWatch 20100324


For the Night of 24 March 2010

Japan: Update. Prime Minister Hatoyama said Wednesday that he has not given up on the option of moving the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa outside of the prefecture. ''We are not in a situation in which we have given up on (moving the base) outside of the prefecture,'' Hatoyama said at a session of the House of Councilors Budget Committee. ''That's included in our options.'' After Futenma's functions are relocated, the facility is supposed to be returned to Japan under an agreement reached by Tokyo and Washington in 2006.

Hatoyama commented on the possibility that the base could still be used in the event of a contingency, ''We must assume contingencies from the standpoint of security."

Local governments have called for the base to be relocated outside of Okinawa Prefecture so as not to destroy the environment or add to the burden on the prefecture, which already hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. They have painted signs on the roofs of buildings beyond the flight line, demanding the Marines stop flying over them.

Note: Hatoyama's statement appear to be posturing for his party because but most reports indicate Japan is likely to accept the 2006 deal, especially if there is some small gesture by the US that would allow Hatoyama to save face.

South Korea-China: The new South Korean Ambassador to China, Yu Woo Ik, met in Beijing with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on 24 March,, state-run People's Daily reported. The men discussed China's stance on Taiwan and Liang said that China is willing to work with South Korea in order to strengthen military and bilateral ties. He stressed the need for a good relationship between the two countries for the development of regional peace and stability.

Comment: This anecdote is a reminder that the two have a security relationship that is independent of South's alliance with the US. The visit has no large substantive significance, but press reports about Chinese and South Korean military ties seem to follow reports about the health of Kim Chong-il and succession, which almost certainly were on the agenda.

China and South Korea would be the first and most immediate nations to bear the burden and cope with the ripple effects of an internal crisis in North Korea.

North Korea: Thanks to feedback for providing an alternate translation of the title that North Korean authorities are using for Kim Jung Eun. NK Daily translated the title as Youth Captain, but others are translating it as Young General. Mid-twenties is young for a general in most armies, especially one that never wore a uniform or fired a weapon.

China: Go Daddy Group Inc., a reseller of Internet domain names, announced on 24 March that it will cease conducting new business in China, The Associated Press reported. The company made the announcement after the Chinese government began demanding identification from the companies' customers. An executive with the company announced the decision at a hearing held by the U.S. Congress regarding Google's decision to redirect its Chinese users to a Hong Kong-based site.

Question for readers: Can a country be dropped from the World Wide Web? We have seen multiple instances whereby national internet police block service, most notably in Iran. How hard is it to send a warning shot across the bow by putting a country in an internet vacuum for half a day say?

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Dr. Saad El-Katatni confirmed 24 March on the group's official English Web site, IkhwanWeb, the group will run in June 2010 parliamentary elections. "Members will nominate candidates to run for 20 percent of the electoral seats," El-Katatni said. Muslim Brotherhood has not decided which circuits will enter the elections.

Comment: Since the start of this century when the Brotherhood decided to participate in electoral politics, it has emerged as the strongest political opposition group in Egypt, despite being officially banned. Its members run as independents. In 1999, the Brothers won 17 of 454 seats as independents in the Peoples Assembly-the lower house of parliament. In the 2005 election, they won 88, or 20 per cent of the seats in the Peoples Assembly.

The June election is for the Shura Council, the upper house of the parliament, which has 264 members, of whom174 are elected and 88 appointed by the President. Any significant showing by the Brothers in the June election would strengthen the hypothesis that in free and fair elections, the Brothers could obtain a share of real power in the legislature.

The election campaign invariably will generate a sharp crackdown on the Brotherhood, including harassment, herding and arrests by the hundreds. Egyptian elections are often described as a farce because Egypt is essentially a one party state, that of President Mubarak's party.

Still there is a problem. While suffrage is universal and mandatory, the voter turnout in 2005 was 10%. That is a level of complacency that provides openings that disciplined and determined zealots can exploit… and did exploit.

Egyptian security services would seem to have the capability to engineer any result Mubarak wanted at that level of turnout. While allowing the Brothers to gain some seats as independents might look like good international politics for the Mubarak government, the expansion of the Brotherhood's bloc should have been a warning. With only ten percent of the registered voters participating, one would expect all voters would have been Mubarak stalwarts. But, they clearly were not. The low turnout and widespread apathy often favors a disciplined hard-core opposition.

Thus, the Brothers are likely to gain seats in the Shura Council in June. If past is prologue, they also will enlarge their bloc in the Peoples Assembly elections this November. Presidential elections are not due until 2011.

They lack power but they have presence and influence. They know how to make political capital from a 10% voter turnout. They are a constant reminder that if the Mubarak regime falters, a sinister, disciplined and viciously anti-American opposition is ready to take advantage.

For those who might have forgotten, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al- Zawahiri, earned his extremist credentials as a member of the Brotherhood. Free and fair elections would risk the ouster of a pro-US Egyptian government that is at peace with Israel. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 24 March.

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