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NightWatch 20101001


For the Night of 1 October 2010

The Senkakus Dispute

Japan: Foreign Minister Maehara said on 1 October that Japan is ready to discuss with China measures to prevent maritime collisions in the East China Sea from recurring, Kyodo reported. He said it is not productive for the world's second and third largest economies to fight each other and should, instead, strive to establish a win-win relationship free of tensions and confrontations. Maehara indicated that Japan would work with Southeast Asian countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea over their maritime tensions with Beijing.

China: Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on 1 October that his country has called for concerted efforts from Japan to maintain relations between the two countries, Xinhua reported. He said that China has always attached importance to developing bilateral ties with Japan and hopes the two countries can work together to maintain relations.

Comment: Leaders in both countries are negotiating in public the terms for ending the confrontation and moving beyond the dispute. However, nothing is settled. The two are kicking this can down the road, after having taken the measure of each other's leaders. For now, economics prevailed, b but Japan's concession in releasing the ship captain gives China the political victory because Japan blinked first.

South Korea-North Korea: Update. After weeks of deadlock, delegates agreed to resume reunions of families separated by the Korean War between 30 October and 5 November. The family reunions will take place at the Mount Kumgang joint mountain resort area in North Korea, a South Korean official said

Note to new analysts: When two states agree about an issue, but cannot reach an agreement, experience, prudence and good judgment commend that you track the money. The informational signpost that the issue was money is mention of the "joint mountain resort" - Mount Kumgang which is operated by South Korea at a profit for North Korea.

South Korea caved to North Korean demands because the social pressure for resuming reunions in South Korea is irresistible; more powerful than all other considerations, especially a bit more cash.

Pakistan: Update. NATO supplies from Pakistan to Afghanistan were blocked for a second day at the Torkham border crossing near Peshawar, according to a Pakistani official. A Peshawar security official confirmed the suspended convoys and said orders to restore NATO supplies were not yet received.

Comment: Readers will recall the suspension of NATO convoys was a reaction to a NATO/US armed helicopter attack on a Frontier Corps outpost that killed three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers.

A point that has gotten lost in the voluminous media commentary is that this is the first time Pakistan has reacted so strongly to the daily violations of its sovereignty. Attacks of this kind have occurred inadvertently and occasionally during the past six or so years.

Sometimes the Pakistani border outposts invited retaliation because they fired mortars in support of the Taliban. Other times, NATO/US forces misidentified the target and hit Pakistani security personnel by mistake, often as they were providing covering fire for infiltrating or exfiltrating Afghan militant groups. Still other times, intermingling made it impossible to separate the Pakistani security personnel from the militants they supplied with food, ammunition and weapons.

Such incidents normally have been handled through meetings along the border, intelligence exchanges, jointly manned centers and flag-officer talks. Something has changed.

Working backwards, the start of the public revelations in Woodward's book coincides with a change in attitude and style in Pakistan, the Taliban and NATO forces, at least based on open source materials.

NATO has been acting with greater haste and more disregard of the border in crossing into Pakistani national territory more frequently. The Pakistanis have been less cooperative, culminating in the border closure at Torkham. They also have been more supportive of militant operations in Kashmir, against India.

Finally, some Afghan Taliban have indulged the ruse of reconciliation, while actually waiting for the US to execute its "exit strategy." Waiting out the Christians or other foreign invaders has always been the Taliban strategy since 2001; just as IEDs have been the favored Taliban tactic to make Afghanistan inhospitable to foreign invaders and encourage them to leave.

The tempo of action seems to have quickened in the direction of an American exit.

Special NightWatch Comment: Mirror imaging is a serious analytical flaw. If things are not done their way, analysts are prone to consider them inferior or wrong. It manifests a dangerous, potentially lethal cultural bias.

This week US officers were quoted in international press, yet again, as accusing the Taliban of cowardice because they use improvised explosive devices and don't come out and fight like men. An odd taunt.

In the past nine years of fighting, the Taliban -- who go to war wearing robes, sandals and turbans and fight mainly with assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and IEDS -- never accuse US soldiers of cowardice for wearing ceramic armor; riding in tanks and armored fighting vehicles; fighting from forts; using the most advanced artillery invented, helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft; relying on advanced communications, satellites, armed drones; and rotating out after a tour in the field.

The officers might drop the name calling and try to understand what motivates pre-modern men so ill equipped to continue to fight the most advanced military forces in the history of the world for nearly a decade.

A new poll of the Pakistani tribal areas confirms almost every past poll taken in the last nine years. The locals hate the drones and hate the US worse than they hate the Pakistani fundamentalists. They blame their own sense of insecurity on the US, not the Pakistani Taliban.

Only 16 percent of respondents to the poll sponsored by the drone-watchers at the New America Foundation said the drone attacks "accurately target militants." Three times that number said the drones "largely kill civilians."

A plurality of respondents in the tribal areas said that the U.S. is primarily responsible for violence in the region. Nearly 90 percent want the U.S. to stop pursuing militants and nearly 60 percent are fine with suicide bombings directed at the Americans.

As for views on al Qaida, over 75% of respondents strongly disapproved of al Qaeda; more than 66% disapproved of the Pakistani Taliban, and 60% disapproved of the Afghan Taliban. Almost 70 % said they want the army to confront al Qaida and the Taliban in the region; 79% said they wouldn't mind if the tribal area were run by the Pakistan Army, instead of by the "agent" system held over from colonial times.

Comment: In the past ten years, no Islamic teacher or renown in Pakistan has judged attacks against US forces and personnel as un-Islamic. Samples of Friday sermons show that Pakistani imams encourage such attacks.

Conventions of Islamic scholars regularly have met and judged suicide attacks as un-Islamic, but the steady increase in such attacks attests to the emptiness of their guidance. They have limited influence and maintain it by inciting anti-US sentiment and blame for Pakistan's culture of violence.

The international media has reported extensively the findings of the new poll. What they have not reported is that the results are important because they show no change in Pakistani tribal attitudes after nearly ten years of engagement.

All the US visits, aid and talks have made no difference in reducing the hostile environment in which Pakistani security forces must operate. That hostility is blamed on and directed at the US. This is a significant policy failure because it means the tribal population has become hostile.

The US apparently has no tools or techniques for reducing the hostility. In the border marches of Pakistan, half a generation of tribal youths has grown to adulthood wary of US drone attacks and commando raids. The Pakistan government's primary technique for deflecting blame is to blame the US.

Mali-France: Update. France requested assistance from Mail in freeing seven hostages, five of them French nationals, who were kidnapped in Niger in mid-September by al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. French and allied intelligence indicates they were moved to Mali, according to a report by Agence France-Presse, which cited an unidentified source in the Malian president's office.

Comment: The press release is a concession to national pride for Malian popular consumption. All Sahelian west African states, including Mali, already work closely with France. The press item indicates joint rescue planning continues and that is tonight's good news. A rescue is coming.

Ecuador: The country remains under a state of siege or emergency under military administration.

Comment: US-trained and English-fluent President Correa has embellished somewhat the significance of his rescue by army commandos yesterday by accusing the police of attempting a coup. Correa is milking the crisis as a victim. He was in danger from an escalating street encounter that he provoked. The street encounter escalated and got out of control, but it was never a coup.

Correa's naïve, macho confrontation with the police in the street made matters worse and is responsible for at least three deaths and 50 people injured.

A coup has six distinctive features, five of which were present in yesterday's events. Correa brought on the attacks by daring the police to shoot him, baring his chest.

The police constituted a disaffected group that had guns, a gripe, mobility and an opportunity. They had no plan, otherwise Correa would be dead. For a coup to be even attempted, someone acting in authority must have a plan, such as designating a group of folks to kill the president or lock him up in jail. There was no sign of a plan. The police had Quito in their hands, but there was no one in charge of the mutiny. This was not a coup attempt.

Mexico: For the record. A municipal police officer was killed and two others were injured in a firefight at a police station in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, DPA reported 1 October. The officers were inside a patrol car parked outside the station in central Juarez when they were attacked. All three were injured, but one died later in the hospital. Unidentified gunmen in two vehicles reportedly fired more than 100 rounds at the police, Milenio reported.

End of NightWatch for 1 October.

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