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NightWatch 20100601

NightWatch

For the Night of 1 June 2010

Japan: Prime Minister Hatoyama announced his resignation during this Watch. "I'm going to step down," Hatoyama declared in a live broadcast on Japanese television NHK, while addressing party members of both the upper and lower houses of the Diet.

"I have had many shortcomings, I have been allowed to lead all of you for the past eight months to today. I am extremely grateful for having been given this opportunity," he said.

Hatoyama made more promises than he could keep, including clean government and Okinawa. The failure to remove the US Marines from Futenma destroyed his support and forced his resignation. It is ironic that North Korean and US pressure worked together to bring down the government of a US ally.

The Democratic Party of Japan is expected to nominate a new prime minister on Friday. He is not likely to be friendlier to the US than Hatoyama proved to be, to his political undoing. Stay tuned.

South Korea-North Korea: Restricted cash inflow into North Korea will lower the possibility of nuclear weapons development and deter belligerent behavior, according to South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan in a BBC interview, Yonhap reported 1 June.

Yu said using military force is the last resort in responding to the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan that killed 46 sailors. North Korean provocations should be dealt with through international cooperation, Yu said, and Seoul will hold North Korea accountable for its wrongdoing through all peaceful means and let it know that provocations come with a price.

Comment: North Korea's economy is fragile, making it vulnerable to economic warfare. Foreign Minister Yu's remarks about reducing the possibility of weapons development and belligerent behavior do not do the man justice - they are silly, but he is on the right track for the wrong reasons. The underlying facts are that the North can be more easily defeated by economic subversion than by military threats, for which it has prepared for the last 60 years.

Pakistan: Senior al Qaida leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the group's highest commander in Afghanistan and a close aide to Osama bin Laden, has been killed, according to a message posted to an Islamist website by the group and reported by Islamist monitoring group SITE, Agence France-Presse reported 31 May. The statement said al-Yazid was killed with his wife, three daughters, granddaughter and other men, women and children, but did not say how he was killed.

Al-Yazid, aka Sheikh Said, was an Egyptian national, a founding member of al Qaeda and the group's former treasurer. An unnamed U.S. official said there is strong reason to believe he has been killed.

Comment: The irony is that Pakistani leaders officially deny that al Qaida leaders are in Pakistan. Based on Pakistani official statements, this killing simply is impossible.

Pakistan-Israel: Anti-Israel groups across Pakistan continued to protest for the second day, the most intense of which is being carried out in Karachi by pro-Iranian student group Imamia Students Organization (ISO), Aaj TV reported 1 June.

Clashes between the ISO and law enforcement personnel erupted as the group took to the streets in an effort to make its way to the Governor's House and U.S. Consulate. Police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The protests are in response to three Pakistani nationals taken into custody by Israel.

Comment: This behavior is typical of some classes of Pakistanis - the same who burned down the US Embassy in Islamabad in 1979. Pro-Iranian demonstrators are advancing Iran's claim to be the only authentic protector of Muslims. Israeli diplomatic missions should be in a defensive crouch all over the world.

Iraq: The Supreme Court has ratified the results of the 7 March elections with al-Iraqiya List as the winner, The Associated Press reported 1 June. The ratification empowers the president to summon parliament to hold its first session, possibly on 3 or 4 June, AKnews reported.

Al-Iraqiya List's Hassan al-Alawi will chair the first session. The oath will be taken in the presence of a Supreme Judicial Council representative, and members of the council may nominate for the council's president and its deputies. The posts of the president and prime minister will not be discussed, the expert said.

Comment: The ratification entitles al Iraqiya List -- a secular pro-US party supported by Sunnis - to be the first party to try to form a coalition government. The ratification is a setback to pro-Iranian parties, including that led by prime minister al Maliki.

Turkey-Israel: For the record. Turkish Defense Minister Gonul said the current crisis with Israel should not delay the delivery of four remotely piloted aircraft (drones), Anatolia news agency reported June 1. Gonul said he expects the drones to be delivered in June or July.

Evidently, the Turks think the plight of the Palestinians is not worth sacrificing one Israeli-supplied remotely piloted aircraft.

Israel-Hamas: Comment: A few myths need to be dispelled that mainstream news commentators have overlooked. First is that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that requires a sealift. Knowledgeable and objective analysts have reported no such crisis exists.

That means the attempted sealift was a deliberate confrontation, a provocation and a test of Israeli nerve. Thus, the second myth is that this was an innocent, altruistic effort to help suffering Palestinians. This was a setup, as one Brilliant and Well-informed Reader noted in Feedback.

The third myth is that Israel would be swayed by international outrage. Quarantine is meaningless if not enforced and conciliatory gestures invite escalating provocations because Hamas has promised nothing to Israel. Israel did what it said it would do - escort the ships to Ashdod, which is where they are.

A point that has gotten lost is that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. That marmoreal policy position is existential to Hamas and invites contempt even from fellow Arabs.

Hamas never reciprocates acts of generosity by any one, which explains region-wide contempt for Hamas. On the other hand, Hamas does respond to force and intimidation. Israeli asymmetric strikes in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza are the only proven approach for persuading Hamas to stop the rocket attacks.

Hamas may be enjoying Israeli discomfit over the bad publicity, but it lost four ships through its own folly. If there were a genuine humanitarian crisis, then Hamas trifled with the plight of its people and should be exposed as irresponsible. Ship captains on genuine missions of mercy are more than willing to prove the innocence of their cargos in order to complete their missions.

Behavior demonstrating innocent passage is common in all war zones, where humanitarian relief is an urgent need. That is not this case. The humanitarian mission seems unimportant and insignificant, a deception. The behavior of the people on the ships justifies a strong suspicion by any maritime security force in the world that the ships carried contraband and required inspection. That is the law of the sea.

So why has the mainstream media not questioned the motives and behavior of the people on the ships?

This incident at sea was theater; badly directed and poorly performed, but scarfed down by a gullible, uncritical media. Readers may be certain no Arab or Muslim navies will sortie to support the Palestinians in Gaza and their supporters in a subsequent provocation. Plus, this incident will be considered trivial should North Korea start a fight, launch a ballistic missile or detonate a nuclear device.

Israel-Egypt-Gaza: Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing separating the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip and will keep it open for three days to allow aid through. The Rafah crossing was also opened last for four days. According to the source, the Egyptian decision to reopen the crossing was done in cooperation with Israel.

Egypt and Israel work together to make relief shipments by sea superfluous or suspect.

End of NightWatch for 1 June.

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