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NightWatch 20091218


For the Night of 18 December 2009

North Korea-US: The Korean Central Broadcasting System announced in Korean that "The president of the United States of America sent a personal letter to great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho'ng-il).

That fact was not broadcast in English by any North Korean outlet. The significance is that the US President's letter was announced as if it was a missive from a tributary state, paying respects. North Korean media is filled with "tributes" from foreigners, but not from a US President, though other presidents have sent messages.

Pakistan: A judge in an anti-corruption court in Karachi issued an arrest warrant summoning Minister of Interior Rehman Malik to appear today. Interior Minister Rehman Malik summoned to appear before a judge in Karachi anti-corruption court.

The Supreme Court (SC) on yesterday served a contempt-of-court notice on Interior Minister Rehman Malik for transferring Federal Investigation Agency Director General Tariq Khosa - who was heading an investigation into a case concerning alleged irregularities amounting to Rs 22 billion on court orders at the time of reassignment - and summoned him to court.

Meanwhile, the travel ban against Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar was lifted by order of the Prime Minister. It seems Mukhtar is not facing any current corruption charges. The FIA officers were using an old list. Hmmm… somehow the appearance of Mukhtar's name on an old list does not put a better best face on the issue.

Nevertheless Mukhtar is on his way to China. The Prime Minister suspended the top civil servant in the Ministry of interior, FIA Director General Khosa and two FIA inspectors and ordered an investigation into the Mukhtar incident. The Prime Minister and President have directed that no cabinet ministers can resign, despite potential liability before anti-corruption courts.

Iraq-Iran: A squad of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps soldiers occupied an oil well, located 500m inside Iraq. This incident was headline news all day 18 December, but a US military spokesman said this kind of incident occurs regularly because the border is not settled in places.

The seizure looks like a locally ordered action rather than an attempt by Iranian leaders to create a crisis with Iraq. The sequence of initial denial followed by confirmation bespeaks confusion and lack of information in Tehran which best fits a local action not cleared at the center.

It has escalated, however, and gotten the attention of the Iraqi parliament and the US and the international media. The Iraqis have demanded the Iranians depart but want a peaceful settlement, all of which are likely.

Yemen-US-al Qaida: Yemeni casualty reports are that the US missile attack in Abyan Province killed one senior al Qaida leader and suicide bombing planner plus a dozen of his followers, but the commander of al Qaida in Yemen escaped. Four al Qaida are wounded and in custody from the US missile attack on the training camp in Aden Province.

The attacks might give pause to the terrorist web posters and cause some analysts to rethink their assessment of the strength and determination of the US Administration. The NightWatch view remains that what comes next will be the true measure of the Administration, now that the year of attempted reconciliation initiatives is ending with little to show for it.

If the missile attacks are any indication, North Korea, Iran and others need to pay closer attention and not close the ledger just yet.

Mali-Mauritania-Algeria: Update. Several intermediaries have established contact with members of Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group that continues to hold captive one Frenchman and three Spaniards, since late November, Agence France-Presse reported. The men are thought to be held in the Algerian-Mali border region.

A Malian security official said that the establishment of contact is following a well established "scenario" that leads to transmission of demands and ultimately freedom or death for the hostages. The freeing of detained Islamic fundamentalists is often one of such demands.

End of NightWatch for 18 December.

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