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NightWatch 20111129


For the night of 28 November 2011

North Korea-Syria: The German newspaper Die Welt reported North Korea has supplied maraging steel manufacturing technology to Syria and since 2009 has been helping Syria build a new missile factory near Homs. North Korea reportedly is building a turnkey facility and Iran supposedly has helped pay for it.

Comment: This is a specialty steel that may be rolled thinner than other steel without losing strength under high stress, making it highly valuable in the production of missiles and uranium centrifuges, as well as in engine crankshafts and gears in civilian applications. Use of maraging steel lightens the missile airframe, thereby enabling it to carry more fuel to lengthen flight distance or to carry a larger warhead to its original range.

Production and sale of maraging steel are monitored by the Nuclear Supplies Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Its sale is prohibited to Iran by UN sanctions resolutions.

Comment: Die Welt cited "Western security sources," which strongly suggests the Israelis leaked this information. If so, that means the factory has been targeted for destruction by an Israeli air attack.

The link between North Korea's ballistic missile production technology and Syria's Scud forces dates to the 1980s. North Korea built a complete set of Scud facilities for Syria, including a missile assembly plant, before its own were completed, driven by the North's incessant need for hard currency even 30 years ago.

Construction of a new turnkey facility is consistent with the North's practice of selling the technology base in order to make a high-dollar sale. Syria, Iran and Pakistan all benefitted from this sales practice.

Iranian and North Korean cooperation in a third country joint venture would be without precedent, but is plausible because Syria is spending its reserves on military operations to remain in power. What is not clear is whether Iran has purchased some of the production from the Homs plant. That could be the basis for a new defensive alliance.

Heretofore, Pakistan has been considered the arsenal of the Arab Muslims. That could change.

The proliferation of weapons and nuclear technology is proving unpreventable when a country is determined to get it. Syria appears to be determined.

Syria-Arab League: Economic sanctions imposed by the Arab League on Syria have halted attempts to reach a deal ending violence in the country, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said at a 28 November news conference. Al-Moallem said Syria has made every effort to find a way out of the crisis. Economic Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar said the sanctions result from a political decision that sets a dangerous precedent and will harm ordinary people more than the regime.

Syria-European Union (EU): EU nations agreed to impose new financial sanctions aimed at blocking the flow of capital to the Syrian government, an EU official said. The sanctions prohibit long-term financial support for trade, excluding food and medicine, and government loans, both bilateral and via international support. The sanctions also bar European companies from trading Syrian government bonds. Syrian banks will be banned from opening branches in EU countries and investing in European banks. Twelve Syrian nationals and 11 Syrian entities will be added to the list of EU travel bans and EU asset freezes. The new round of sanctions will be approved on 1 December.

Comment: The new sanctions amount to a form of economic warfare against Syria to effect political change. As long as Iran, China and Russia support Syria, Syria might falter but not fall under the burden of the sanctions. Lots of western business people certainly would suffer should banks refuse to honor their credit cards, but the sanctions do not seem to go that far as yet.

The West's and the League's sanctions promote the re-polarization of what is increasingly a global economy. A new polarization centered on Moscow and linked to Beijing serves Russian Prime Minister Putin's agenda.

Egypt: Egyptians prepared for a second day of voting after crowds gathered to cast ballots in Egypt's first free election in more than 30 years. Voters swamped the voting booths despite a two-hour extension for polling. The voters are electing representatives to a parliament whose primary task is to write a new constitution in the next year or so.

Comment: The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party are likely to be the big winners because they are the most organized non-military political group in Egypt. Brotherhood name recognition alone ensures a strong showing.

The Brothers declined to participate in the Cairo protests during the past five days. Brotherhood support for its candidates explains why. The Muslim Brotherhood reportedly fielded more than 30,000 election volunteers in the city of Alexandria alone to shepherd voters. Brotherhood representatives have been reported at every polling station that has reported, better dressed and more disciplined than election officials in several instances.

One Brotherhood spokesman told the press that Egypt will not follow the Turkish model of a capitalist pro-Islamist government. He denounced women without head coverings, adultery and homosexuality in Turkey. He insisted Egypt is a Muslim country that will implement Sharia strictly.

A plurality of voters in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt has elected Islamist parties who publicly advocate "Islamicization" agendas. For these three, and for Turkey, democracy is a station stop on the trolley line to creating an Islamic emirate.

Libya: Tripoli Military Council head Abdel Hakim Belhadj, an al Qaida member, said on 28 November that he will support Libya's interim government even though his supporters were not given top positions. Belhadj is the leader of the western Libyan forces that actually drove Qadhafi from Tripoli.

Belhadj was consulted about the most powerful appointments, but did not submit his name for any cabinet positions. He said he hoped the new government would be allowed to establish stability in Libya because the duty of revolutionaries is to support the interim government and its ministers. The militias have a good relationship with the defense minister and will cooperate, Belhadj added.

He did not set a date to transfer the control of his forces and weapons to the new leaders.

Comment: Libya's new government will be unable to resist the regional impulse, apparent in all its neighbors, towards "Islamicization." The non-urban majority wants it. Democracy provides the political mechanism to get what they want.

EU: Update. The chief economist for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted in an OECD forecast released on 28 November that the eurozone will contract by 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and by 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

According to the forecast, Germany, France and Britain will likely go into recession during the fourth quarter, and Greece and Portugal will not return to growth until 2013. Italy will likely endure a recession throughout 2012 and will shrink by 0.5 percent. The eurozone as a whole will grow by 0.2 percent in 2012 and by 1.4 percent in 2013.

Comment: These forecasts mean that both China and the US will suffer ripple effects.

End of NightWatch for 28 November.

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