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NightWatch 20100817


For the Night of 17 August 2010

North Korea: On 9 August North Korea flew a remotely piloted aircraft, possibly for surveillance, after it fired a volley of artillery shells near the Yellow Sea border with South Korea, a South Korean military official said on 17 August, according to Agence France-Presse. The seven-meter-wide (23 feet) aircraft flew at a low altitude about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of the Yeonpyeong Island, the official said, adding that it may have been a decoy intended to "excite" South Korea's radars and surveillance aircraft.

Note: Press TV reported this was the first time a North Korean drone aircraft has been spotted in the offshore islands area. Reports from 1996 relate North Korea's effort to obtain remotely piloted aircraft from Europe so as to build an indigenous program.

Open source materials contain little information about the North's program. Today's report implies that it has reached a point of maturity for use and public exposure.

Afghanistan: Update: President Karzai condemned the stoning to death a man and a woman on charges of adultery by the Taliban.

A presidential office statement said today, 17 August, that the president strongly condemned stoning to death a boy and a girl, who planned to marry in the future, by the Taliban in Konduz Province in northern Afghanistan. He said this act was carried out by an illicit group without a just trial and was against humanity and Islam and there is no justification for this.

The statement said that the president had tasked security bodies to detain those who did this and bring them to justice.

Comment: The location is important because the German Provincial Reconstruction Team announced that it was beginning a large counter-insurgency operation in Konduz this month. The timing of this execution implies an act of open defiance by the Taliban in the face of the German combat operation.

Iran: Ali Shadmani, head of the armed forces Department of Operations, outlined three plans that Iran could carry out in the event of an act of aggression from the United States, Iranian news website Tabnak reported 17 August.

First, Shadmani said Iran would take over complete control of the Strait of Hormuz.

Second, he said Iran is closely monitoring U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq and would "paralyze the forces in these bases" and "not let them make any moves."

Third, the last plan Shadmani articulated is to "destroy the peace" in Israel.

Comment: These are a sample of Iranian options for retaliation. All are within Iran's capabilities to at least attempt.

Israel: The chance that the US will take military action against Iran to stop its nuclear program will likely increase after Secretary of Defense Gates steps down in 2011, according to assessments within the Israeli defense establishment, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.

Comment: The remainder of the article discussed Secretary Gates' recent career. The significance of the Post item is the implication that Israel continues to look to the US to take the lead in using military action to destroy or disrupt Iran's nuclear program - a longstanding position - and that Israel will not take action unilaterally well into 2011, if ever.

The Post item could be part of a deception but it is consistent with Israeli behavior. The NightWatch hypothesis, based on past Israeli behavior, is that the US must support at least indirectly any Israeli military action against Iran. Within the time horizon set by Secretary Gates' announcement, Israel also will have assessed the outcome and implications of US mid-term elections in November.

End of NightWatch for 17 August.

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