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NightWatch 20100706

NightWatch

For the Night of 6 July 2010

Japan-India: Kyodo News reported on 6 July that Japan and India agreed to increase cooperation in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, citing the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Meeting in New Delhi, officials from the two states discussed nontraditional security threats and agreed to hold a meeting of the India-Japan Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism soon. The sides also talked about holding joint naval exercises and provided each other with an exposition of defense and security policies.

Comment: This was the first meeting of the "Two-Plus-Two Dialogue," referring to discussions including foreign affairs and defense ministry officials. The Two-Plus-Two Dialogue is the framework which was created by the Prime Ministers of Japan and India at the Annual Summit in New Delhi, December 2009, according to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Prime Ministers at that time also endorsed an Action Plan to advance security cooperation between Japan and India. The "Two-Plus-Two Dialogue" will reconvene in Tokyo in 2011.

The agreement to increase cooperation in anti-piracy operations might result in Indian naval ship visits at the Japanese base under construction in Djibouti which should be ready next year. This dialogue is one of the most promising developments in northeast Asia and is tonight's good news.

North Korea: Update. Today the North rejected a proposal that the North and South Korea discuss the sinking of the Cheonan under the aegis of the UN Truce Commission at Panmunjom. The North repeated its demand to send its own investigation team from the National Defense Commission.

North Korea-China: Trade between North Korea and China in the January-May period increased 18 percent compared to last year, Yonhap reported 6 July. North Korea imported $727.2 million worth of goods from China and exported $256.4 million in the five-month period this year, according to figures recently released by Chinese customs authorities. North Korea imported 29 percent more while exporting 4.9 percent less this year in its trade with China. North Korea imported almost the same amount of crude oil from China in the January-May period as last year, but the costs increased 76 percent.

Comment: The real story is the increased costs of crude and other items. The dollar value of the trade relationship is deceptive because the terms, quantities and inflation rates are not reported. Nevertheless, the figures suggest China has a strangle hold on North Korean external economics, selling more than twice what it buys from the North. That means China is preventing the North from collapsing, even if it means absorbing losses on current account. The North has little ability to pay, except to grant mineral exploitation and other concessions to Chinese companies.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: Afghanistan's Tolo TV cited Pakistani media stating that Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar was arrested in Pakistan, Xinhua reported 6 July. Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi almost immediately rejected the report as "mere Western propaganda," stating that the Taliban chief is free, enjoys sound health and is in full command of his fighters.

The Nation reported that Taliban spokesperson Zabeeh Ullah said the United States is employing propaganda tactics to save face. He stated that Mullah Omar is still in Afghanistan. Pakistani intelligence and police sources also denied the arrest of Mullah Omar.

Comment: This is one of the best psychological warfare anecdotes of the nine-year war. In its effort to refute the claim, Pakistani sources divulged that Pakistan arrested around 100 second rank leaders of Taliban in the past two years. Unnamed sources said the intelligence agencies arrested 64 Taliban leaders in 2009 and 35 in 2010, but not Omar.

Several Taliban leaders were arrested in various cities as the result of joint operations by Pakistani and US intelligence agencies, the sources said.

In the urgency to set the record straight about Omar without looking completely incompetent, Pakistani official sources divulged more details about the numbers arrested than previously. The numbers raise a question how many second rank leaders were killed by drones in the same periods.

Under similar pressure, the Taliban spokesman also provided information about Omar that is damning to Pakistani law enforcement. Omar is most likely in Karachi, not in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: The national security adviser called on the Pakistani government to "take serious measures" against Islamist groups launching attacks on Afghan targets from secure havens inside Pakistan, Agence France-Presse reported 6 July. Rangin Dadfar Spanta said Afghanistan had "tremendous evidence" that Pakistani authorities allowed al Qaida and other organizations to operate on the country's soil and had presented it to Islamabad "many times." It is not a particular secret that the terrorists have sanctuaries and training centers in Pakistan, Spanta stated, adding that they travel to Afghanistan, attack and go back.

Update: Pajhwok news service reported that the Afghan Minister of Defense today denied the Washington Post report that Afghanistan had agreed to allow some of its officers to be trained in Pakistan.

Comment: The denial cannot be considered determinative of the state of relations between Karzai and the Pakistanis. Karzai has been drifting towards the Pakistanis as a counterbalance to his reliance on the US. Today's news from Pakistan about supporting security in Afghanistan is consistent with the trend. Karzai is looking beyond the US presence in his dealings with Pakistan.

Iran: For the record. Iranian religious police are cracking down on male haircuts, in parallel with their ongoing crackdown on female attire. As for the men, "short, neat hair is approved; ponytails are definitely not," according to the BBC. In Iran, personal appearance is politics.

Iraq: Update. The Iraqi army, U.S. forces and the Kurdish Security Forces' tripartite committee agreed on 5 July that the Iraqi Fourth Brigade should pull out from Qaratapa and security should be handed to the police, AKnews reported 6 July, citing Sirwan Shukur, Qaratapa administrator.

The agreement prevents the 5 July confrontation between the army and the peshmergas from escalating, for now.

Turkey-Israel: Update. Israel allowed its team that was training Turkish military officers on Predator unmanned/remotely piloted aircraft to return to Turkey to continue the training program. However, Israeli officials are still in discussions with Turkey as to whether another team can come back to train Turkish officers on the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Today's Zaman reported 6 July.

Israeli military leaders hope military ties to Turkey can continue, bridging the communications gap from a likely severance of diplomatic relations. The outlook is not promising.

End of NightWatch for 6 July.

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