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NightWatch 20110919

NightWatch

For the night of 19 September 2011

South Korea-North Korea: The South Korean news service Yonhap reported that the chief nuclear negotiators of South and North Korea will meet in Beijing on Wednesday this week to hold inter-Korean talks on the North's nuclear weapons programs, a senior government official said Sunday. This will be the second bilateral diplomatic meeting this year between South Korea's Wi So'ng-rak and Ri Yong-ho of North Korea.

Comment: The meeting will be meeting to discuss additional meetings - talks to talk about talks. . The South has abandoned its conditions for reparations for the destruction and loss of life from North Korean provocations last year. South Korea has caved to US pressure that process - talking about talks,  is as important as principle and substance -- achieving results in talks.

The North won again. It has swindled South Korea and the US into pandering for negotiations, whereas the North will not have to pay for its damages caused by its provocations nor agree to any of the US conditions for talks, including ending its nuclear program. The Allies continue to reward bad North Korean behavior, giving it no incentive to alter its tactics of attacking the South Koreans then asking for talks without conditions.

This US policy will never alter North Korean behavior. The North Koreans understand the current administration's willingness to settle for process and call it substance. The next North Korean step is to demand to be rewarded for participating in the process. These are the same tactics the North Koreans used with the Bush #43 administration. They lead to the US rewarding the North for reneging on its promises. Thus far, only Japan is willing to call the North's bluff.

Pakistan: In Karachi, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide vehicle bombing attack. At least 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives were used in the attack.

A blast at a music store in Peshawar has killed four and injured 25 others. The cause of the blast has not yet been determined, but some reports suggested that it was a suicide blast.

Comment: Even with Army management of the Pakistan Rangers, the security situation in Karachi continues to deteriorate. Destruction of music stores in Peshawar by Islamists is so common that the wonder is that any remain. Pakistan is arguably the most unstable of the eight unstable states in the world.

Iran-US: The attorney for the two American backpackers in custody in Iran said that they have not been released because the judge whose signature is necessary for the release of his clients is on vacation. Said judge has not yet been able to complete the documents regarding the $1 million bail for their release. Another judge working on the case signed the documents on Saturday.

Comment: Every court system in the world assigns backup judges in the event the primary judge dies or becomes incapacitated. This is another misguided, but deliberate affront. Once again the Iranian government looks peevish and incompetent.

Yemen: Update. At least 23 people died in clashes between Yemeni government forces and anti-regime protesters in Sanaa on 19 September. Thousands of protesters armed with sticks took over a Presidential Guard camp while others headed to the Presidential Guard headquarters. Sniper fire, explosions, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades were reported at an intersection south of the protesters' camp.

Forces loyal to defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar fired artillery at government forces' positions nearby. Al Jazeera reported planes flying over Sanaa followed by sounds of explosions in al-Ahmar's 1st Armored Division camp. Witnesses reported one protester killed and 15 injured in similar clashes in the city of Taiz and three protesters injured in Aden.

Comment: The fighting on the 19th was the most intense in the past few weeks. It showed that the rebels remain unable to overthrow the Saleh government, despite the support of units that defected to the opposition.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: For the record. Yemeni fighters claimed that a convoy of Saudi tanks crossed into Yemen to assist the Saleh government in suppressing anti-government protests. On Sunday, the Yemen Post quoted Saudi officials as saying that Riyadh would send weapons and armored vehicles into Yemen to quell the ongoing popular revolution. Over the weekend, the Saudi King had a meeting and discussion with Yemen's President Saleh.

Comment: No other sources have reported the Saudi commitment of armored forces, which is highly doubtful. The Saudi monarchy has never had good relations with the Yemeni democracy.

Palestinian Authority-France: French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe will offer Palestinian President Abbas a compromise plan allowing the Palestinian Authority to gain non-full U.N. member status amid a promise for the Middle East Quartet to increase efforts to revive stalled peace negotiations, al-Hayat reported. Juppe said France and other UN members will vote for non-full member status under the compromise plan.

Abbas said that if the bid was successful, the Palestinian Authority will discuss the specific details of a Palestinian state within negotiations with the Israeli leadership.

Comment: The implications of UN recognition of Palestinian statehood and full membership would be significant. Most immediately, it would negate any justification for the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Secondly, it would create a new juridical entity upon whom previous accords with Israel might not be binding. Finally, such a state would be under no obligation to recognize the state of Israel, as a condition of its political existence.

Libya: For the record. The National Transitional Council (NTC) will announce the formation of an interim Cabinet headed by current NTC foreign affairs chief Mahmoud Jibril on 21 September, an NTC official said. Jibril was named the government's interim prime minister. The new government will include 22 ministries, RIA Novosti reported.

Comment: The apparent purpose of the cabinet change is to represent all interests more fairly. The composition of the cabinet should provide some insight as to whether the new regime is pro-western and secular.

End of NightWatch for 19 September.

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