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NightWatch 20100311


For the Night of 11 March 2010

Thailand: Prime Minister Abhisit said today that Thailand will overcome political volatility through security measures, and that he will not allow a coup under any circumstances, according to an account in The Nation. Abhisit said he would resign to prevent a coup if necessary, and that while the government will uphold the right to peaceful assemblies, it will use security measures to deter demonstrators from crossing legal limits.

The context of Abhisit's remarks is that ousted prime minister Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters are planning a series of large anti-government protests this weekend.

The Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief General Anupong Paojinda said Thursday that the military will not stage a coup during the current period of civil unrest, Bangkok Post reported March 11. Paojinda said navy commander Adm. Kamthorn Pumhiran and Air Chief Marshall Itthaporn Subhawong concurred and that the military would try to keep the peace in the country. He also warned civilians not to wear military uniforms, as they could be arrested.

Thaksin is provoking another round of almost pointless internal discord which does not benefit him because he is an outlaw in Thailand. His base of support in rural Thailand has no practical chance of regaining power against the urban and monarchist elite in Bangkok, unless the armed forces side with them against the government. Today's statement by General Anupong ensures that will not happen. Most Thais seem to get the message.

India-Afghanistan: For the record. An External Affairs Ministry spokesman today clarified that India's commitment to development partnership with Afghanistan remains "undiluted." He refuted reports that India planned to scale-down its presence in Afghanistan, according to The Hindu.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash dismissed reports that New Delhi was issuing an advisory to its citizens in Afghanistan to return home, stating that such reports were baseless and factually incorrect. He confirmed India's commitment to its development partnership with Afghanistan.

Pakistan: A shuffling of general officers was announced by Dawn News today. According to the news service, 29 brigadiers were promoted to major general and at least seven major generals are to be promoted to lieutenant general in the coming weeks.

Among those to be gradually replaced by the incoming officers are Special Plans Division chief Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Mohammad Masoud Aslam. Special Plans controls nuclear forces.

Four lieutenant generals are currently on extension, and more extensions are likely in the next few days. Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani presided over the 10 March meeting where the decisions were made. Kayani faces mandatory retirement this summer. He has not served long enough to fill the general officer ranks with his own men, as his predecessor, Musharraf, did.

The promotions are cyclical and routine. In the end, efforts to perpetuate policy through the power of promotions seem to fail in Pakistan. Kayani's successor will be loyal to the Pakistan Army, that is about all that may be trusted. How he interprets that trust may not resemble Kayani's policies any more than his resembled Musharraf's, especially his policy of protecting the Afghan Taliban leaders.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: Update. Afghan President Karzai is visiting Pakistan and wants the Islamabad government to hand over captured Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Berader. He also insisted Afghanistan is dedicated to pursuing peace talks with the militants despite lukewarm enthusiasm from the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

Karzai said his government is pursuing a fundamentally changed policy approach together with Pakistan, working toward stability in both countries. He said his government had contacts within the Taliban leadership "as high as you wish to go" but would not say whether that included Mullah Omar. He reiterated his willingness to talk to Omar "Afghan to Afghan."

Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani said he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed the turning over of senior Taliban leaders such as Mullah Berader. Gilani said he has not made a decision on the issue, and that once legal experts have studied it, Afghanistan will be notified.

Karzai had to ask and Gilani had to dissemble. Pakistan will share Berader's disclosures but will not share Berader until after he is done talking.

Iraq: For the record. Iraq has postponed the release of preliminary election results, DPA reported. The results, initially set to be announced on the morning of 11 March, will be released within the coming days, according to a spokesman for the Independent High Electoral Commission. No reason was given for the delay

Al Hayat wrote that the next Iraqi government will not have a presidency council, according to a senior official for the al Maliki's State of Law bloc. Ali al-Adeeb, who is with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bloc, said there will only be a president without the right of veto.

Meanwhile, Iraqi al-Iraqiya list, headed by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has declared there was "massive fraud" in Iraq's national elections, Reuters reported.

Two points are significant. The presidency council embodied the American idea of national unity at the top. The elections have given the Shia the justification and mandate to discard that alien transplant. Presidency councils always are transitional arrangements; are always temporary; and always fail. The USSR was notorious for establishing troikas until the real strong man emerged. The same was true in the Balkans, except the outcome was fragmentation of the state of Yugoslavia which not longer exists.

Nothing in US political experience and history qualified any Americans to create a troika arrangement for Iraq, or any country. Nothing in the history of the Middle East and South and East Asia commends such an arrangement. Thus, it is no surprise that the Shia will no longer tolerate it, in their next government in Baghdad.

The surprise is that the Sunnis appear to have failed to break the Shia determination to retain power without an alliance with the Sunnis. Shia fractiousness always has been their greatest weakness. The Shia remain fractious, but not in ways that benefit the Sunnis. One might speculate that low-profile Iranian influence and advice has broken the historic pattern of Shiite fragmentation that enabled the Sunni minority to govern Iraq under Saddam.

US-Venezuela: Strange. U.S. Southern Command Commander General Douglas Fraser, speaking at a Senate hearing today, said he has not seen any connections between Venezuela's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Spanish Basque separatist group ETA, Agence France-Presse reported. Fraser said he was aware of only "old evidence" of a connection between the Venezuelan government and the militant groups, but he added, "I don't see that evidence. I can't tell you specifically whether that continues or not."

Links between the Chavez administration and the Basque ETA movement are based on information contained in the FARC laptops seized by Colombian authorities in 2008.

US NATO ally Spain made the accusation of Venezuela meddling in Spanish security affairs on 1 March, based on those lap top files. Spanish judge on Monday formally accused the Venezuelan government of illicit cooperation with internationally designated terrorist groups the ETA and the FARC.

The judge, Eloy Velasco, delivered the allegations in a 26 page indictment, charging seven members of the FARC and six members of the Basque separatist group the ETA, with terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, and numerous other offenses, reported El Mundo.

The evidence of Chavez' meddling with the FARC, likewise, is less than two years old and was recorded on FARC lap tops seized in 2008. FARC leaders and Chavez agents discussed the amounts.

The evidence is fresh enough for an indictment in a Spanish Court this month and made front page news in Colombia. Whoever coached the General did him a disservice, assuming the press accounts of his testimony are reasonably accurate. Chavez is an international meddler who has failed in his own country but makes bold to give advice to others.

End of NightWatch for 11 March.

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