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NightWatch 20100825

NightWatch

For the Night of 25 August 2010

North Korea: South Korean National Defense Ministry sources divulged that the North Koreans have staged a buildup of military units near Pyongyang since mid-July. "Preparation for a massive national event is under way" in North Korea and the move presumably is related to the third ever Workers' Party plenum in September and the 65th anniversary of the party's founding on 10 October, according to a report submitted to a parliamentary committee today.

Comment: North Korean military choreographers routinely require 90 to 120 days to prepare for a major military demonstration. The mid-July start of preparations is consistent with past preparations for a large scale parade on 10 October. The anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party usually features a parade.

The Workers' Party plenary meeting in September will not be the occasion for a large parade because these meetings are infrequent and North Korean parades celebrate great events in the past. The South Korean reports suggest the October celebration will be unusually large, implying it might have some connection to a succession event decided at the September meeting.

Barring some unforeseeable, intervening development, the North is preparing to celebrate the leadership apprenticeship of another Kim family member, from the third generation of the Kim Il-sung family.

North Korea-US: Former US President Carter arrived in Pyongyang on a private jet on 25 August. His mission is to retrieve a misguided Asian- US citizen who illegally entered North Korea, was captured and convicted and is now is failing health. Carter was greeted and welcomed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Kwan who speaks good English.

Comment: The greeting on the tarmac at Sunan International Airport was a positive sign; not great, but not bad. The North's leaders showed they want to talk to a US elder statesman.

Iraq: Insurgents conducted at least 34 coordinated attacks in 16 cities 0n 25 August. The bombings and other attacks killed 77 people and wounded nearly 400 more. Baghdad experienced five attacks.

Comment: The attacks showed the breadth of the insurgents' operational area. They appear to be the work of a single group, apparently Sunni Arabs or secular Arabs.

The attacks also establish a baseline of the insurgents' ability to coordinate attacks over space and time. This was not a trivial display of the capability to coordinate attacks over long distances. They appear to be a test of the feasibility of taking the next escalation step in the insurgency.

Some outside entity is funding a new, most likely Sunni Arab, insurgency and has afforded its leadership the command and control capability for today's attacks. Look to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt: The Minister for Military Production told the press on 25 August that Iran's military capabilities do not represent any threat to Israel, but represent a definite threat to Arab countries because Iran continues to interfere in Arab region affairs,.

Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would pose a great danger to itself and the Middle East because it will force European countries to stop Iran's military expansion. In ridicule, the Minister said Iran has never fired a single shot at Israel since 1948, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militia did not use a single rocket against Israel in the recent Israeli war against Gaza.

Comment:  The significance of the statement is that it seems to be the opening round of another Arab effort to undermine and negate Iranian propaganda about its weapons and nuclear progress. The two dominant themes are that Iranian weapons are a danger to Iran's own population and that Iran has talked much and loudly about  supporting Palestinian issues, but has taken no risks.

The Egyptian critique works because it is accurate on both accounts.

Somalia: Update. Al Shabaab fighters pushed toward the presidential palace in Mogadishu late 24 August, but encountered heavy shelling by government troops, according to an army officer. Mogadishu residents reported hearing automatic gunfire and mortars early on 25 August. The coordinator of the ambulance service said at least 83 people have died in the last three days, including victims at a hotel explosion, with 163 wounded.

Comment: al Shabaab and associated Somali clans are making a push to capture the presidential palace before African Union reinforcements arrive.

Mauritania: Mauritanian soldiers on guard duty at a military barracks in the town of Nema killed a would-be suicide bomber before he could enter the compound. Nema is 1,200km southeast of Nouakchott, the capital, near the frontier with Mali.

Comment: Al Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb has sustained several setbacks, most notably the loss of six fighters to a joint French-Mauritanian team last month in a failed attempt to rescue a French citizen held captive. Today's attack is retaliatory, poorly executed and failed.

This small group of north African miscreants has succeeded in riling the French. President Sarkozy again made clear today that France is firmly in the fight against terrorists, to win. For now, France is collaborating with its West African allies. Should France decide to commit regiments of the Foreign Legion, then al Aqaida in the western Sahara will face the prospect of complete savage annihilation.

Apparently the threat posed by al Qaida in northwest Africa is not sufficiently serious to prompt the commitment of the Foreign Legion. Lucky for the al Qaida boys and the local population in general.

End of NightWatch for 25 August.

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