For the night of 17 September 2012
China-Japan: About 1,000 fishing boats have been mobilized by China to sail to the Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain controlled by Japan. Anti-Japanese protests continued in China for the seventh day.
Protests over the Senkaku/Diaoyu island ownership dispute prompted Japanese firms in China to shut down factories and to urge Japanese employees to stay home. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the government would offer protection to Japanese companies and its citizens.
Comment: Chinese behavior in the past week and continuing this week points to a national-level decision to consolidate Chinese island claims at the UN and to assert aggressively Chinese claims of ownership at sea, challenging Japan's claims.
A brilliant and knowledgeable Reader suggested the timing of the latest surge in Chinese aggressiveness is related to China's action last week to anchor its international legal position before the US can execute its strategic tilt towards Asia.
Indonesia: For the record. Demonstrations resumed on 17 September in Jakarta. Videos showed street encounters between demonstrators and police, but no serious threat to US diplomatic facilities.
Afghanistan: Multiple sources reported multiple demonstrations in Kabul on 17 September.
Comment: Insults against Islam reported by the international media and relayed by cell phones are triggers for anti-foreign outbursts in Afghanistan. Afghan complaints are that the benefits of ridding the country of the Taliban have not been shared fairly. Pashtuns, for example, are the largest tribe in Afghanistan, but have the least say in national policy-making because they supported Mullah Omar's regime. Moreover, American and non-Muslim soldiers and their drones almost daily kill Afghan and Pakistani Muslims, tending to undermine "hearts and minds" and Muslim outreach strategies.
Attack on Camp Bastion: The Taliban strike on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province destroyed more than $150 million worth of planes and equipment, Western officials said on 16 September. Military officials said the insurgents destroyed six AV-8B Harrier jets and three refueling stations. Two other Harrier aircraft and six soft-skin aircraft hangars were significantly damaged in the attack.
Comment: An investigation of this security breach is in progress. As with other similar attacks, the success of this attack almost certainly indicates the attackers had extensive intelligence provided by insiders and inside assistance in penetrating the bases at the time of attack
British Prince Harry was at Camp Bastion at the time of the attack, but was moved to a safe location. His presence might explain the timing of the attack, but there is no reporting to support that hypothesis at this time.
Lebanon: Update. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared in public on the 17th, to lead and encourage anti-US demonstrations in Beirut.
Egypt-Syria: Update. On 17 September, representatives from Egypt, Turkey and Iran attended the first so-called quartet meeting in Cairo to discuss the Syrian crisis. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister did not attend because of "health reasons." Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saudi officials would join future meetings.
Comment: Details of the meeting have not been reported. Without the Saudis, little of substance is likely to have transpired. The Saudi Kingdom appears to have had second thoughts about participation because that would have acknowledged an Egyptian role in a crisis that does not involve Egypt.
Mali: Update. In northern Mali, Islamists desecrated another Muslim shrine over the weekend. 'The Islamists on Saturday destroyed the mausoleum of Cheik El-Kebir, 330 kilometers from Gao,' a local politician told the western media.
Feedback: A brilliant and perceptive Reader reported that the Internet photos of the late Ambassador Stevens showed his corpse as it was being taken to the hospital by Libyans.
Another brilliant Reader forwarded an official USMC statement that the Marines at the Cairo Embassy had live ammunition. This statement referred all other inquiries to the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. That Bureau said the Marines had access to live ammunition.
The Marine Corps statement also said, "The Ambassador and Regional Security Officer have been completely and appropriately engaged with the security situation."
End of NightWatch for 17 September.
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