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NightWatch 20110921

NightWatch

For the night of 21 September 2011

South Korea-North Korea: South and North Korean envoys met for three hours in Beijing on 21 September, but failed to agree on terms of re-starting stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear programs, both sides said.

South Korea's Wi So'ng-rak told reporters, "We discussed the nuclear problem in general, and a meeting such as this is part of the efforts to restart the six-party talks. We will keep putting in these efforts." North Korean envoy Ri also described the talks as a "constructive and useful" dialogue, but restated the North's demand for the resumption of the six-party talks without pre-conditions.

According to South Korean officials, the sticking point was South Korea's demand for North Korea to take some preemptive measures to back up its denuclearization pledge before resuming the six-party talks. Actions North Korea was advised to take included a halt to its uranium enrichment program, re-entry of UN nuclear inspectors and a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests, they said.

Comment: The last bilateral meeting was in July. They envoys did not indicate whether or when another meeting would take place.

Afghanistan: Media reports stating that the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Afghan High Peace Council chairman and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani are baseless, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said 21 September.

The Taliban's information regarding the attack is not complete, and they cannot say anything on the issue, Mujahid said. The Taliban demanded that Reuters investigate the report that said the Taliban took responsibility for Rabbani's death and demanded the agency provide an explanation. Mujahid added that Reuters has falsely attributed quotes to the Taliban on several occasions in the past.

Comment: The tone and content of the Taliban denial are good indicators that fighters associated with Mullah Omar did not kill Rabbani. The groups with the best access to Kabul are those of Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Haqqani is less likely because in the past week his group associated itself with Omar's leadership in talks.

That leaves Hekmatyar. He was prime minister when Rabbani was president in 1996. His career is littered with the murders of rivals, even during the fight against the Soviets.

Iran: For the record. On 21 September, the judiciary released the two US nationals arrested and jailed for two years for illegal entry into Iran. "Omani government has provided the bail set by the court and my clients will be released in hours," the three Americans' lawyer Masoud Shafiei told ISNA earlier today.

The backpackers arrived safely in Oman.

Special Comment: No doubt Iran's leaders preened themselves over their cleverness in having kept two American kids in jail for two years for trespassing. Of course, in modern countries with up-to-date judicial systems, trespassing usually results in a fine or repatriation, at least on the US border with Mexico.

Iran's idea of justice is an 8-year sentence for walking on the wrong side of its border. Its idea of clemency is that a convict can override Iran's idea of justice with a sufficient bribe, in this case $500,000 per capita. The judicial system has not changed much since the days of the Shah, in this respect at least. The Iranian ayatollahs thus put themselves in the North Korean Kim Chong-il class of communists: both put a price on any and every thing over ideology or theology, provided the regime survives.

The Iranian and North Korean peoples deserve better governments than they have. When they get tired of them, they will make a change.

Yemen: Forces loyal to President Saleh resumed mortar fire on 21 September, breaking the ceasefire negotiated on the 20th. Troops fired on a large funeral procession and also shelled buildings.

Comment: A Gulf Cooperation Council mediator left Sanaa without having made progress towards a political solution that might end the fighting.

Palestinian Authority: Fatah called for local and international Palestinians to gather in city and government centers as well as in refugee camps to announce their support for the Palestinian U.N. statehood bid, Wafa reported. In a statement, Fatah called upon the Palestinians to speak with one voice expressing support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a Palestinian state established on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Comment: With this move, the architecture of American policy in the Middle East has collapsed. America's friends are now Israel and the Arab monarchies. The regional system has come unhinged and that means unstable.

Egypt: The chairman of the military judiciary authority Major General Adil al-Mursi has denied news appearing in a national newspaper on 21 September that the state of emergency has been lifted. The state of emergency will last until 30 June, 2012 in line with laws and regulations, Mursi stressed.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has not issued any decrees to declare or extend a state of emergency, already in place since 1981, Mursi said. Presidential decree No. 126 for 2010 had extended the state of emergency for two more years starting 1 June, 2010, he noted. It became law after the People's Assembly approved it, Mursi said.

Comment: The military judiciary's clarification reinforces the conclusion that no revolution has occurred in Egypt. That will begin to take place once general elections are held. The Supreme Council is postponing them as long as possible so that moderate Muslim or secular parties can organize and campaign credibly against the Islamists who are well organized already.

Libya: For the record. Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said the first formal government after the fall of Qadhafi's regime will be named by 1 October. Jibril said most preliminary work has been accomplished but questions remain about the number of ministries and their locations, adding that some ministries could be based in both Tripoli and Benghazi.

Comment: The emergence of an organized government of any kind represents a revolution in Libya's heretofore family-run patrimonial political system.

End of NightWatch for 21 September.

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