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NightWatch 20100505


For the Night of 5 May 2010

Pakistan: The Pakistani government is considering extending the tenure period of Chief of Army Staff General Kayani by five years, the Tribune reported 5 May, citing unnamed Defence sources. Other options being considered are giving a one year extension to Kayani or introducing the position of Chief of Defense Staff, as a device for keeping Kayani on active duty. The sources said the Ministry of Defence has not yet forwarded a summary to the prime minister.

Comment: The civilian government under Prime Minister Gilani owes a great deal to General Kayani who has backed the restoration of elected civilian government; put the Army back in barracks politically, and focused on restoring the military capabilities that President General Musharraf allowed to lapse for almost a decade. Clear thinking leadership in the Pakistan Army should denounce Musharraf for his almost criminal neglect of the forces.

Kayani is scheduled to leave service this summer. An extension of his service also would extend the compact he has crafted between the Army and the civilian government, giving the latter more time to consolidate and establish itself after years of Musharraf's abuses. This tentatively is tonight's good news.

Afghanistan: Afghan Islamic Press quoted Nimruz Province governor Gholam Dastagir Azad that Taliban suicide bombers attacked the provincial governor's office, the provincial council, the directorate of courts and the house of the deputy provincial governor in the provincial capital, Zaranj, in far western Afghanistan on the border with Iran. He said nine suicide bombers participated in the attack, eight of whom detonated themselves after putting up some resistance, while the ninth was shot dead by the police.

Azad said a female member of the provincial council, five police officers and a civilian were killed in the attack and at least five police officers were wounded, while another security official said ten police officers were wounded.

Comment: Today's attack was a major effort in a remote area. In the past three years, Zaranj has experienced an average of one to three attacks per week, all of which have been inconsequential. The exception was in October 2009 when Taliban surged to 32 attacks, one a day, also inconsequential.

There is no obvious reason for the Taliban to try to overrun Zaranj, except to seize control of the smuggling route through Iran and to prove that Coalition pressure on Helmand Province was inconsequential to Taliban capabilities. The attacks failed rather pathetically. The cabal of Afghan and Iranian interests that control the buffer zone along the Iran border, which includes Zaranj, are not receptive to Pashtun interlopers from outside the region and are capable of defending their interests. Afghanistan is complicated.

Iraq: An agreement signed by prime minister al-Maliki's State of Law (SoL) coalition and al-Hakim's National Iraqi Alliance would leave the final decision for settling disputes to a small group of Shiite clerics led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, The Associated Press reported, citing an anonymous leading member of the SoL coalition who signed the agreement. Shiite politician Karim al-Yaquobi also attended the signing and confirmed the agreement's contents.

Comment: if this report is accurate, the Shiite clerisy would become the court of last resort for settling political disputes. So much for secular, modern representative government. Sistani has the respect of all Muslims, but political decisions by any Shiite cleric effectively disenfranchise the Sunnis.

Lebanon-UN: For the record. There is no evidence that Syria shipped Scud short-range ballistic missiles to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, according to U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) head General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, local daily An Nahar reported. Asarta Cuevas said that due to their size, it is difficult to hide Scuds, and that he is certain no Scuds have been shipped to Hezbollah because they would have been spotted.

At least someone thought to ask UNIFIL whether it had observed any unusual equipment movements. Most of the time, no one bothers. Presently under the command of a Spanish general officer, UNIFIL has 11,500 uniformed personnel in Lebanon, according to its home page. If the Syrians gave SCUDS to Hezbollah, someone in UNIFIL should know.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-Israel: The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog is asking for international input on how to persuade Israel to join the Nonproliferation Treaty.

In a letter made available Wednesday, Yukiya Amano asked foreign ministers of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 151 member states to share views on how to implement a resolution demanding that Israel "accede to the" Nonproliferation Treaty and throw its nuclear facilities open to IAEA oversight.

The letter was shared with The Associated Press amid renewed Arab criticism of Israel during an international conference at U.N. headquarters in New York. Islamic nations used the second day of the nonproliferation meeting Tuesday to call for a nuclear-free Middle East, while criticizing Israel for not divulging its nuclear capabilities and refusing to sign the nonproliferation treaty.

Comment: The most significant comment in the press item is the assertion that "The U.S. has cautiously supported the idea while saying that implementing it must wait for progress in the Middle East peace process." This is the second statement this week indicating the US has put some distance between its policies and those of Israel, but both appear to be small concessions aimed at building support for sanctions against Iran.

Nigeria: For the record. Agence France-Presse broadcast a statement by the office of the president that President Umaru Yar'Adua died today.

Mexico-US: "In light of the profound concern in the Mexican community and the major uncertainty about the potential implications of SB 1070, the five consuls, pursuant to instructions from President Felipe Calderon, will step up their efforts to provide our fellow citizens with all of the timely information and legal advice they need concerning the impact of this law and their rights."

"The consuls were told that the Foreign Secretariat has allocated additional funding for the legal support services that are provided to Mexican citizens in Arizona, thus doubling this month's appropriations for the consular network in the state."

Comment: An increase in appropriations for consular work would normally be for people legally in a country. In this case, it is for people the government of Mexico claims as "our fellow citizens" and knows are illegal aliens in the US. The US does not recognize double citizenship. If the folks are Mexican citizens as Mexico claims they should have documents.

The statements by the Calderon government rightfully assert sovereignty over Mexican citizens, but with the intent to help them circumvent American federal and state law. The US administration, for its part, is aiding and abetting the Mexican government in helping Mexicans defy US law, so it seems.

In short, this is the definition of power sharing … and it is in Arizona. Why would the US government - the elected representatives of the people -- tolerate a foreign power acting in such a fashion within the borders of the United States? What would be the source of authority for a US administration to permit power sharing with Mexico while using the armed forces to defend Iraq and Afghanistan? Something is wrong in law and logic.

End of NightWatch for 5 May.

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