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NightWatch 20111005

NightWatch

For the night of 5 October 2011

Afghanistan: The National Directorate of Security thwarted a plan to assassinate President Karzai, agency officials said at news conference on 5 October. Officials arrested five people linked to the Haqqani network and al Qaida, they said. They also arrested one of Karzai's bodyguards, who was recruited by the Haqqani members to kill Karzai, the officials said.

Comment: A persistent theme in high profile assassinations is the role of insiders in aiding, abetting or executing the murder. The personnel vetting systems for installation and personal body guards are incompetent; the results speak for themselves, not just in Afghanistan but in Pakistan and India too. National leaders have been killed by the bodyguards in all three states, but most often and most recently in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan-India: On 5 October, Afghan President Karzai told the press that the new agreement with India will not harm Pakistan. Speaking on a two-day visit to New Delhi, Karzai said the new Afghan-Indian strategic partnership is not directed against any country but meant to support Afghanistan. Karzai said Pakistan is Afghanistan's twin brother and India is a great friend.

Comment: The openly proclaimed Afghanistan-Indian strategic partnership arguably is the most significant strategic development in Afghanistan since 2006. Despite Karzai's public blandishments, India and Afghanistan have agreed that Pakistan must be contained. Expect steadily increased tension in South Asia, starting with increased activism by proxies and clandestine services.

Iraq: Iraqi politicians are discussing a deal to extend a NATO training mission that would allow US troops to stay in Iraq as trainers beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline. The US position is that US military trainers would remain under NATO/US - not Iraqi --legal jurisdiction, covering routine crimes soldiers commit that include theft, public misconduct, outrages against Islam, rape and the like. Lawmakers will read the draft a second time before they vote on it

However, political leaders announced late Tuesday that they had agreed on the need to keep American military trainers in Iraq next year, but they declared that any remaining troops should not be granted immunity from Iraqi law, a point the United States has said would be a deal breaker.

The meeting of Iraq's political leadership was attended by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; President Jalal Talabani; Maliki's chief rival, Ayad Allawi; and several other high-ranking officials. Ali al-Dabbagh, the government spokesman, issued a statement saying the leaders had agreed that there was "no need to grant immunity to trainers."

An official from the US Embassy in Iraq said the US government is reviewing the statement and "appreciates the democratic spirit displayed by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject."  So.... they dealt the US a major policy setback, but the US is pleased they did it by voting. Hunh? 

Comment: This is a deal breaker because US soldiers do not know and often do not respect Iraqi laws and customs that have the force of law. Moreover, the members of a US training contingent subject to Iraqi criminal law would be targets for a range of compromising activities, entrapment and extortion rings.

Some analysts assess that the issue is not yet settled and will most likely be subject to further behind-the-scenes negotiations in the coming weeks. No US soldiers should remain in Iraq for any reason unless they have US legal protection.

The intriguing aspect of today's announcement is that the Iraqi leaders at the meeting know full well the strength of the US position on this issue. Readers could conclude that the message behind the Iraqi decision is that Iraqi political leaders really do not want the US military training mission.

Governments that genuinely want US military training missions -- such as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and other US allies -- make it easy for the mission to stay and perform its work, fully aware of human weaknesses. Iraq is not doing that, which indicates the leadership does not want US soldiers in Iraq in 2012.

Syria-UN: Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow's veto was due to a difference in approaches between Russia and the European members of the 15-member council. Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said that China opposed interference in Syria's internal affairs.

Nine countries voted in favor of the resolution drafted by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, and four -- South Africa, Lebanon, Brazil and India -- abstained. The resolution's sponsors had earlier removed the word "sanctions" from the measure in an effort to avoid a veto from other members of the council.

Comment: Apparently Syria is not as isolated as some diplomats crowed. The US position supporting the Sunni Islamists, labeling them "democratic activists," seems contrary to the US interest in protecting the human rights of minorities.

Egypt: The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party will not abandon its central slogan "Islam is the solution," party Secretary-General Mohamed Saad el-Katatni said on 5 October. The slogan is constitutional, legal and comprehensive, and the party is studying the usage of sub-slogans to further its cause, he said.

Comment: Somewhere the Brotherhood's plan to create a political party with mass appeal that was less closely associated with the Brotherhood seems to have gotten lost. The Brothers have dropped the pretense and are organized to win an election that is not manipulated.

Egyptian youth movements are planning a protest on 7 October in Cairo's Tahrir Square with a slogan that thanks the military for its assistance but requests that the ruling military forces return to their barracks. According to the movements' statement, the military must recognize that it is not a representative of the revolution and it should handle its own affairs and allow the protesters to handle their own as well.

Members of the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP) who are loyal to former President Hosni Mubarak threatened to occupy parts of Egypt if the ruling military council bans them from political life. NDP members met in the southern city of Qena late on 5 October to discuss a response to the reported ban. Egyptian Citizen party head Salah Hasaballah said around 15,000 people will sign a petition to the military council opposing the ban and around that number are expected to attend a rally in Qena to protest the ban.

Comment: Cumulatively, the three anecdotes above reinforce the assessment that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is over its head and has lost its way.

Greece: Police tear-gassed protestors in central Athens on 5 October as public sector staff and students went on strike to protest austerity cuts, shutting down courts, schools and transport including flights. The job action was called in response to new taxes, wage cuts and layoffs imposed by the government, which is trying to avert a default on its debt payments.

The protests were organized by the two main Greek unions, ADEDY (Civil Servants' Confederation) and GSEE (Greek General Confederation of Labor). They plan a general strike on 19 October.

Comment: In Greece, fiscal policy has become an internal security issue. This is a condition that leads to authoritarian government to restore order, in other words, it portends the end of democracy.

Portugal: For the record. If Portugal's economy fails to grow, the country may need a second bailout, President Anibal Cavaco Silva said on 5 October. He said that if economic problems are only temporarily solved, Portugal may again need outside aid. 

Comment: Portugal will need more outside aid. By definition, outside aid is always a temporary solution. 

UK-NATO: Britain should oppose further European military integration and NATO should remain Europe's primary military presence, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said during a Conservative Party conference in Manchester, England, on 5 October.

The planned EU military headquarters is "nonsense," Fox said. It would not be smart to divert from NATO when resources are scarce, and Britain does not need more EU bureaucracy, he said. NATO must maintain European defense primacy because that keeps the United States in Europe, Fox said, adding that the U.S. presence is a necessity.

Comment: Fox's remarks convey the British appreciation that NATO's Libyan operations were not sustainable without massive and comprehensive US support in all phases of the combat operations.

End of NightWatch for 5 October.

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