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NightWatch 20110419

NightWatch

For the Night of 19 April 2011

China-Six Party Talks: Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing, "The situation on the Korean Peninsula recently has shown signs of easing and relevant parties are gradually conducting interactions. We hope all parties involved can take advantage of the current opportunities, have contact and dialogue in all forms and create conditions for resuming the six-party talks at an early date."

Hong made the remarks when asked to comment on the U.S. State Department statement that a successful inter-Korea rapprochement was an essential first step to restart the six-party talks.

A flurry of diplomatic activities has been going on recently, involving the U.S., China, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
-US Secretary of State Clinton arrived in Seoul late Saturday for talks with ROK officials.

-China has contacted North and South Korea concerning six-party talks.

-South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said during his China trip that the six-party talks were "an important mechanism to realize peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia" and urged relevant parties to make the talks substantial, if they resumed.
-North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan visited China last week at the invitation of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, and held talks with several senior diplomats, including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Comment: The Chinese and US statements expose a difference in diplomatic tactics. The Chinese judge the timing is favorable for moving ahead with six-party talks with no stated conditions. That is the North Korean view.

The US statement indicates the US judges that the two Koreas need to settle unresolved grievances before multi-party talks can resume. Specifically, North Korea must make amends for the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship and the shelling of a South Korean island last year.

Tension appears to have eased, most likely because economic conditions in the North are not improving. The North's diplomats are almost begging for aid. The target year for a prosperous North Korea is 2012. The North will do well to fend off widespread malnutrition in 2012.

The six-party talks, involving China, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan, began in 2003. Six rounds of talks were held before they stalled in December 2008.


Iran: For the record. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Iran would ensure the security of embassies and diplomats in Tehran. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the Iranian government is sensitive to tension in that country, but it should not "undermine the diplomatic missions."

Comment: This statement responds to Saudi Arabia's threat yesterday to take unspecified actions against Iran if its diplomats could not be protected. Iranian demonstrators stage protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran the deployment of the Peninsula Shield Force to Bahrain.

Yemen: A government delegation presented a new initiative for a power transfer during a meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers in Abu Dhabi, a Yemen government official said on 19 April. The initiative included President Saleh's "desire" to step down and transfer power peacefully and proposed a timetable for the transfer. It also included immunity for Saleh and his family members from persecution after the abdication.

A spokesman for the Yemeni opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties, said they were sticking to the GCC plan dated 3 April. The Joint Meeting Parties want Saleh's immunity limited at most and prefer that he be brought to trial for corruption and other crimes.

Security. At least 80 people, including 30 soldiers, were wounded during marches led by the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) in Sanaa on 19 April, state-owned Saba News reported, citing an unnamed official source at the Ministry of Interior. The source said JMP members had also kidnapped 10 loyalist soldiers.

Comment: Yemen is in a de facto power sharing arrangement in that up to six provinces are no longer under government control and the 1st armored brigade of the army is in rebellion in the capital, Sanaa.

In the Libyan and Yemen situations, power sharing is a de facto result of an indecisive contest of military power by two military forces in rough equilibrium, without negotiations. In Libya and Yemen the national territory is partitioned, but both sides claim the right to rule the entire national territory. That means that the state is fragmented but not with the goal of secession. De facto partitioning is the result of the inability of either side to win a clear cut military victory.

In de facto power sharing situations, achieved by force of arms, the fighting does not stop because efforts to break the stalemate do not stop until supplies and forces are exhausted. In negotiated arrangements, power sharing is usually a period of buildup of strength that is often free from violence. Parties to the sharing of power build strength to attempt a breakout. The breakout is violent, however.

The immediate issue in Yemen is how Saleh will leave office and how soon. The Yemen negotiations and Saleh himself has indicated that his time is over. Saleh is bargaining for his life, literally.

Libya differs from Yemen in that no significant negotiations with the opposition appear to be taking place. That indicates Qadhafi's position is much stronger than Saleh's. Qadhafi and sons are very much a working enterprise.

Another variation of the normal pattern of internal breakdown is the intervention of outside parties. In Yemen, the GCC members are acting to mediate a soft landing for the Saleh regime that does not advance the interests of al Qaida or secessionists. Outside parties have taken sides but are not engaged in the fighting.

In Libya, the NATO and coalition forces have prevented the normal process of breakout. Qadhafi's loyalists should have reconquered Cyrenaica, but for the air support. The air intervention disrupted the normal progression of events and more or less turned the clock back to the pre-World War II era before there was a Libyan state.

In 1920 the British recognized King Idris of the Senussi Muslim order as emir of Cyrenaica. In 1922 the Italians confirmed him as the emir of Tripolitania. The war drove Idris into exile.

After World War II, the British confirmed him as emir of both Libyan principalities. The French ceded the Fezzan region of southwest Libya to the Kingdom of Libya after French military control ceased in 1951. Idris negotiated Libyan independence from the British in 1951, creating the first Libyan federated state with Idris as its first and only King. Libya became a unitary kingdom in 1963 and was pro-British and pro-West until Qadhafi overthrew Idris in 1969.

The history helps explain the British and French interest in supporting the anti-Qadhafi forces. It also illustrates that a unitary Libyan state is a quite recent development.

Syria: The Syrian government passed a bill on 19 April lifting the 50-year old emergency law, according to the state news agency. Syrian President Bashar al Asad must sign the legislation for it to take effect, but the signature is considered a formality.

Comment: This measure responds literally and narrowly to a chief demand of the protestors, but in no way guarantees their liberty or civic freedoms. The government has warned them not to expect much else.

Security. On 19 April Syrian security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators in Homs, activists said. Witnesses said shops, markets and schools in Homs were all closed by midday. Security personnel, including the Syrian president's irregular "shabbiha" militia, chased people off the streets. Another witness told the media that 25 people were in the hospital with injuries.

Protestors in Homs have begun a three-day general strike to protest the government crackdown. The strike was announced from the Grand Mosque in Homs, a witness said. According to eyewitnesses, hundreds of security agents have taken up positions in the central square and are sealing the area off, despite the efforts of about 100 protesters trying to enter. A witness said the roads to the square have been blocked with fire trucks.

Comment: The lifting of the emergency law has no application to the Homs situation because the Interior Ministry labeled the Homs situation an armed mutiny, after armed protestors killed several military officers this week. Expect more bloodshed

Libya: For the record. The rebel leadership in Misrata called for urgent intervention of foreign ground forces to protect the city and its citizens from government troops. A member of the city's leadership committee said the rebels want U.N. or NATO troops on the ground, noting that such a deployment would be considered an act of protection rather than colonialism.

Comment: The call for Western ground troops is a strong indication that the rebel situation in Misrata must be close to collapse.

End of NightWatch for 19 April.

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