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NightWatch 20100707

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For the Night of 7 July 2010

Russia-South Korea: RIA Novosti reported on 7 July that Russian and South Korean coast guards will hold joint anti-piracy and anti-terrorism drills from July 7-9 in the Sea of Japan, according to a Russian Federal Security Service border guard spokesman. Two Russian and three South Korean ships and two ship-based helicopters -- one Russian and one South Korean -- will take part in the exercise, as will several motor boats and commando groups, the spokesman said. In addition to hostage rescue, border guards will participate in drills designed to combat smugglers, free seized vessels and extinguish fires, the spokesman said.

This is a sound political use of the coast guard. Curiously, there have been no reports in open sources of similar exercises with the North Koreans. Russia is and is acting as a Northeast Asian power and can learn a lot from the South Koreans.

India: Minister of State for Defense M. M. Pallam Raju on 7 July said India is concerned about China's plans to build a rail link with Pakistan through the Karakoram mountain range, The Times of India reported. He said India is planning to take countermeasures against the proposed link.

Comment: This is one of four strategically significant rail projects in Asia. All are important in the UN master plan for Asian railroads, but several stand out.

The first is the Chinese project to build a railroad line in Afghanistan that runs southward from the Oxus River to China's Aynak Copper Mine in Logar Province. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, copper deposit in the world. Eventually it could become the leading edge of mineral extraction projects that could transform Afghanistan a generation from now, if security conditions permit.

The second project is the Iranian railroad to Herat, in western Afghanistan. This is moving ahead slowly, but follows a hard road already built by the Iranians. It will tie relatively quiet Herat and western Afghanistan to the economic market area of Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, when completed.

The third rail project with strategic significance is in North Korea, which has two sub-projects that can complete the link of Europe by rail to Japan. Completion of these long delayed spurs depend on whether whoever runs anything in North Korea ever gets a sound grip on their own economic best interests and permit upgrades to the Chinese and to the Russian spurs that run across the Demilitarized Zone and link to the South Korean rail systems that terminate at Pusan. A ferry ride across the Tsushima Strait links to Japan railroads and Tokyo. London to Tokyo by rail is in sight, if the North Koreans would only decide to become prosperous.

The latest project is that announced for Pakistan. In the 1971 general war with India, only Chinese truck convoys through the Karakoram Mountains via the Khunjerab Pass kept Pakistan in the war for the two weeks it actually fought before suing for peace and losing East Pakistan.

The Khunjerab Pass is the highest elevation paved international border at 15,400 ft above sea level. The railroad would presumably follow the Karakoram Highway, which is the highest paved road in the world.

A rail link through those mountains and that pass would link Xinjiang, China, to Karachi and Gwadar - the Chinese built port in southwestern Pakistan on the Indian Ocean -- via the Pakistani rail system. The throughput capacity would be exponentially larger than that achievable by truck convoys.

This railroad will create a new market system. No wonder India is concerned, economically and militarily. Pakistan really would become an extension of the new Chinese economic empire. All China needs to do is to complete railroads through Burma and link the Afghanistan line to Iran and it will have an Asian rail empire, within a generation, all the way to the English Channel without using the Trans-Siberian.

India-Jammu and Kashmir State: Indian Army contingents moved into the streets of Srinagar on Wednesday, in the aftermath of local disturbances on 6 July in Srinagar, according to multiple South Asian news outlets. The government in New Delhi insisted they had been called for "deterrent" purposes and only to reduce tensions. Reports from Srinagar said 17 "columns" of the Srinagar-based 15th Army Corps had been deployed in the city alone. Soldiers in armored and machine gun-mounted vehicles drove through various localities in Srinagar.

Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir State also launched a major crackdown on militant leaders and activists. Union Home Secretary GK Pillai and the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO = J3 in the US) rushed to Srinagar on Wednesday morning to hold meetings with officials and army commanders.

After the troubled incidents of Tuesday, the state government had requisitioned the Army to help police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops in enforcing a curfew in the city. Despite the Army's presence, the state-wide curfew was defied at several important towns, including Baramulla, Sopore, Pattan, Chadoora, Machua and Anantnag.

The latest tension resulted from the shooting deaths on Monday of two Kashmiri youths by paramilitary police in hot pursuit of the youths. Public demonstrations followed on Tuesday in which police killed two demonstrators.

Indian security forces are notorious for over-reacting to minor provocations with predictable results - large protests. For a change, these wounds to civil order are self-inflicted, instead of instigated by Pakistani-based provocateurs. Regardless of the reasons for the civil unrest, Indian authorities know that security has to be restored before anything else of value might be accomplished. They always use overwhelming force to ensure law and order are restored.

Note to Readers: The New York Times coverage of this tragedy asserts in passing that India and Pakistan "claim" the Kashmir Valley. That is a factual error. The Srinagar Valley of Kashmir is part of India. The Indian Constitution lists Jammu and Kashmir State as a state integral to India's national territory. A constitutional amendment would be required to sever any part of Jammu and Kashmir State from the Indian federation. That is not a claim; it is ownership.

Pakistan does not claim Kashmir as part of Pakistan, but insists Kashmiris have the right of self-determination -- to remain with India or to join the Pakistani proxy state, known as Azad (Free) Kashmir or create an independent Islamic state of Kashmir.

Kashmiris want an independent state, not membership in a Pakistani federal system. Pakistan no more desires an independent, potentially radical, Islamic Kashmir State than it seeks to allow the Pashtun tribal territories in the west to become independent.

India and Pakistan agree that another independent state in South Asia is a non-starter. The New York Times article's embedded editorializing is superficial and ill-informed.

China-Pakistan: "China is a friend and a strategic partner, committed to the promotion of stability and economic progress of Pakistan" is how Chinese President Hu Jintao summed up the strategic relations in talks today in Islamabad.

Pakistani President Zardari responded by saying, "It is our belief that Pakistan can act as a force multiplier for China (emphasis added) and we will continue to work towards this end." The president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the two leaders discussed a host of issues relating to strategic partnership, reviewing the steps taken thus far and also charting a future course of action.

Comment: It is difficult to imagine any more provocative remarks that Zardari might have made. Pakistan as a force multiplier for China precisely defines the primary strategic threat India perceives from Pakistan. The next conflict in South Asia will pit India against China with Pakistan acting as a Chinese force multiplier that forces India to fight on two fronts.

Iran-Russia: Iran's Mehr news agency reported that Russian ships are participating this week in the first-ever joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea. A senior Iranian ports authority official was quoted as stating that the drill was aimed at preventing pollution and improving search and rescue operations coordination between the two nations.

Called the "Regional Collaboration for a Secure and Clean Caspian," the two-day drill reportedly combines military objectives with environmental goals and involves an estimated 30 vessels.

Comment: Once again, this kind of cooperation should be a normal activity for the riparian states on the Caspian Sea, but it is not. The timing indicates Russia is sending a message that is considers itself only bound by the letter of the UN sanctions resolution against Iran. The government in Moscow considers the resolution no impediment to continuing existing and starting new areas of cooperation with Iran.

Turkey: The Constitutional Court annulled key parts of a package of government-backed constitutional reforms. The court annulled changes that would curb the power of the judiciary and the army. It rejected, however, an opposition proposal to scrap all of the reform measures.

The package leaves a powerful judiciary in place, which is likely to remain assertive in its defense of Turkey's secular system against perceived threats from elected politicians. The remaining reforms, which include stronger civil liberties and increasing civilian oversight of the military, will now be put to national vote in September.

The ruling AKP claimed the reforms are necessary if Turkey is to join the EU. It accused the Constitutional Court of exceeding its authority. The nationalist opposition and senior judges are against measures they say would threaten the independence of the courts.

Turkey's highest courts - which see themselves as guardians of the secular values of the political system established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - repeatedly have clashed with the AKP over the issue of secular values.

The dilemma for the AKP is unsettling. Acceptance of the primacy of the Constitutional Court means the Islamists will never succeed in their program to suborn the secular constitution and convert Turkey into an Islamic state. Their alternative is to overthrow the Court by extra-constitutional means. NightWatch predicts the latter course will emerge as the most appealing and feasible. The timing is not yet apparent.

Turkey-Iraq: Interior Minister Besir Atalay signed a major military operation into effect in northern Iraq to eradicate camps of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has stepped up its attacks on Turkish military outposts, killing dozens of Turkish soldiers, Anatolia news agency reported 7 July.

Atalay said PKK camps in north Iraq are unacceptable.

Earlier today, Ankara put forth three options to the United States and Iraq's Kurdish regional administration leader Massoud Barzani regarding the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Milliyet reported.

The three options are:

- Iraq must render the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq ineffective;

- the United States, Barzani and Turkey will render the PKK ineffective with joint operations; or,

- Turkey will eliminate them in collaboration with Barzani.

Chief of General Staff General Ilker Basbug suggested that a failure to cooperate would result in the same military-backed pressure that Syria experienced in the 1990s regarding the presence of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Expect another Turkish incursion into northern Iraq this summer and fall. Hmm … two US allies possibly fighting each other. Not according to plan.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu said 7 July that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has the potential to spark renewed hostilities on Israel's eastern border, and that any potential peace deal with the Palestinians must allow Israel to make security arrangements to defend against an attack from the east, Haaretz reported.

Speaking after a meeting in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, Netanyahu said any final status agreement with the Palestinians must take renewed hostilities on Israel's eastern border into account.

Comment: This is vintage Netanyahu, trying to snare the US into making a commitment to defend Israel from imaginary threats in order to complicate and log-roll final status talks with the Palestinians.

The Israelis must know that the far more likely evolution of security developments is that Iraq will become the battle ground of a chronic insurgency. In this insurgency the Sunni Arab states will finance and support Iraqi Sunni Arabs against Iraq Shiite Arabs and against the Iranian-supported Shiite-dominated Arab government in Baghdad. The aim of this insurgency will be to forever prevent the further spread of apostasy and heresy and to prevent the consolidation of a second Shiite heretic regime.

The Saudis, Kuwaitis and others are always willing to finance the Iraqi Arabs in dying for the faith.

The US military withdrawal from Iraq, thus, is more likely to result in greater security for Israel than the US military presence in Iraq. In this NightWatch scenario, the Arab and Persian Muslims and their proxies will solve Iraq's security problem in a way that suits their interests, which might include creating a chronic insurgency and smoldering instability in Iraq.

It will not be good for the Kurds, though. No Arabs or Persians will long tolerate a Kurdish autonomous region after the US military departs.

Mexico-Hezbollah: For the record. A Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Seyassah, reported on Tuesday that Mexico foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to establish a network in Mexico.

According to the report, Hezbollah operatives employed Mexican nationals with family ties to Lebanon to set up the network whose purpose was to target Israel and the West. Mexican police mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there. Nasr was living in Tijuana, Mexico at the time of his arrest, the report said.

End of NightWatch for 7 July.

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