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NightWatch 20111027

NightWatch

For the night of 27 October 2011

Russia-North Korea-South Korea: Delegates from the three countries began talks on 27 October in Moscow about resuming six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and South Korean nuclear negotiator Lim Sung Nam met on 27 October. Borodavkin, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye Gwan will meet on 28 October.

Comment: The US-North Korean bilateral connection is not the only connection. The North is trying to play all ends against the middle. The Russians have been encouraged by Kim Chong-il's recent endorsement of several Russian development schemes, but they are bit players on nuclear issues.

The bottom line is that the North's behavior shows it has no intention of engaging in serious nuclear talks. Rather, it is making overtures to whoever offers to make the largest donation to the Kim Il-sung birthday fund.

Iraq: An adviser to Prime Minister al-Maliki said that the Iraqi government will halt the national reconciliation process after US forces depart. Groups that have not laid down weapons and joined the reconciliation process by the end of the year will be illegal, the advisor stated.

Comment: The adviser's comment makes clear his statement appears aimed at holdout armed groups. As reported, however, it suggests that the reconciliation program for rehabilitating Sunni Baathists has been a concession to the US that will no longer need to be honored.

Saudi Arabia: Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz was named the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia on 27 October, following the death on 22 October of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz. Naif would become king upon the death of his brother King Abdullah. Naif was also named prime minister and will continue as interior minister.

Comment: Most commentators assess that Naif is pro-US, but prone to a strict interpretation and application of Islamic observances.

Kenya-Somalia: Update. In their first direct clash, about 45 al-Shabaab militants attacked Kenyan troops en route to reinforce forward positions in the southern Somali town of Qoqani on the 27th, according to a Kenyan military statement.

Nine al-Shabaab fighters were killed and others were injured. Two Kenyan troops were injured, one critically. Kenyan forces also conducted an airstrike on an al-Shabaab training camp, captured the town of Busar and advanced on the towns of Burahache and Burgavo, according to the Kenyan statement.

Kenyan authorities denied that al-Shabaab was responsible for the grenade throwing attacks in Nairobi earlier this week. Police learned the attacks were the work of two loners who sympathized with, but had no connection with al-Shabaab.

Israel-Gaza Strip: For the record. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted three centers of militant activity in the Gaza Strip as well as a weapons storage site in the south early on 27 October. The IDF said the attacks hit their targets precisely and all planes returned safely to base. The IDF strikes were in retaliation for three Grad rockets that exploded in Ashdod.

Comment: The prisoner exchange changed nothing. It was, in the end, a prisoner exchange, nothing more.

Libya-UN: For the record. The UN Security Council unanimously voted on 27 October to end international military action in Libya at 11:59 p.m. on 31 October, Libyan time. The vote also terminates the NATO-imposed no-fly zone.

Tunisia: Ennahda party officially was announced as the winner of the elections on 27 October, after having received 41.47 percent of the votes, according to the chairman of the election commission. Ennahda won 90 seats in the 217-member National Constituent Assembly. The Congress for the Republic came in second place, receiving 13.82 percent of the votes and representing 30 seats

Comment: The Islamists have won the right to direct the composition of the next Tunisian constitution and the formation of the interim government and to shape a Tunisian Islamic democracy.

End of NightWatch for 27 October.

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