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NightWatch 20100214


For the Night of 14 February 2010

Burma: The government released Tin Oo, the deputy to Aung San Suu Kyi, as leader of the political opposition. The terms of the release were not published. The government is not yet ready to release Suu Kyi, but is taking a few steps to try to shape the perception of a more open political environment … without the substance. Nevertheless, the release of Tin Oo is good news.

India: Security. On 13 February unidentified terrorist bombed a German bakery in the town of Pune, near Mumbai. The detonation killed nine and injured 35. It was the first terrorist bombing since the Mumbai attacks on 26 November 2008.

India's Home Ministry said the bomb used ammonium nitrate and RDX. Ammonium nitrate is commonly used in improvised explosive devices used by Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, including the LeT. The police have made no accusations of responsibility and made no arrests. The press already has speculated that bombing was the work of Pakistani based terrorists or their sympathizers the Indian Mujahedin, both have been associated with the 2008 attack in Mumbai.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna hinted to reporters that the motive of the bombers was to disrupt the impending dialogue with Pakistan. "We are well aware that the dark forces of terrorism are against peace and amity between nations," he said. The Foreign Secretaries - senior civil servants - are scheduled to meet on 25 February, according to The Hindu.

The Hindu reported statements by unidentified highly placed sources that India has no intention of allowing terrorists to dictate the scope and schedule of diplomatic interaction with Pakistan and will not let the bombing derail the meeting of the foreign secretaries. With investigations into the attack still under way, officials said on Sunday there would be no "knee-jerk reaction."

Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani denounced the attack.

Comment: Indian authorities have been issuing warnings of new attacks for more than a month. The Home Minister denied the attack represented an intelligence failure because Indian security officials have been expecting another sensational attack. Nevertheless, the security apparatus remains unable to be more precise about specific targets and the precise timing to support preventive actions.

Pakistan: Politics. A three-member special bench of the Supreme Court on Saturday suspended presidential orders to elevate Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif to the Supreme Court (SC) and appoint Justice Saqib Nisar the acting chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The action by the Chief Justice of Pakistan is related to the continuing constitutional dispute in which the President might be disqualified retroactively from holding office and the Prime Minister's reluctance to enforce the Court's order. This is the second time this month that the Chief Justice has cited constitutional problems.

The significance is that the serious and outstanding constitutional issues undermine the stability and effectiveness of Pakistan's civilian government. These unresolved constitutional issues threaten to erupt in another large protest movement by the legal profession, but the timing is not clear.

Afghanistan: Comment: Light resistance and lots of bombs and mines seem to dominate the reporting from the first two days of the offensive in Helmand. One British commentary said the outcome of the attack to take back Marjah was never in doubt and is just the start of a long, tedious fight to hold it.

Russia-Iran: Update. A senior Russian defense official said on 14 February that there is no reason to delay the sale of the S-300 strategic air defense system to Iran, and that the deal is not restricted by any international sanctions because the S-300 is an exclusively defensive weapon, according to a report by Interfax news agency.

Vladimir Nazarov, deputy secretary of Russia's National Security Council made the statement as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive in Moscow for a three-day visit. Nazarov said the deal for the weapons had already been signed, but deliveries have not started. He also said that a military strike against Iran would have negative consequences for the entire world, including Russia, and that the dispute over Iran's nuclear program must be resolved through diplomacy.

Comment: The S-300 is more than a year overdue for delivery. Today's statement is the latest high-level public confirmation that the contract or contracts have been signed, but deliveries have not started.

Nazarov's statement lowers expectations from Netanyahu's visit by undermining hopes that the Russians were becoming more supportive of tighter sanctions on Iran. After Iran announced its success in enriching uranium to 20%, some Russians reacted by implying that Russia was running out of patience with Iran's behavior. Nazarav's statement seems to represent the more authentic and authoritative position that a large arms sale is more urgent than non-proliferation, at Iran's present stage of nuclear production.

Ukraine: Update. Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych has been declared the official winner of Ukraine's 7 February runoff presidential election, Today's Zaman reported, citing a statement from Ukraine's Central Election Commission. The final results said Yanukovych defeated current Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko by a margin of 3.48 percentage points.

End of NightWatch for 14 February.

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