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NightWatch 20101111


For the Night of 10 November 2010

Fallout from the President's Trip: Comment: In Asia the President's trip has dominated mainstream news reporting. Whenever the US asserts itself in this fashion, the rest of the world tends to duck. After the international spotlight moves on, the fallout begins.

For example, the Indian Air Force apparently has gagged, metaphorically, at the price Boeing is asking for the C-17 transports that the US is willing to sell. The Indians always balk at price and support packages, as the Russians know well. The Indian Air Force reaction suggests an invitation to other bids.

India also has pushed back on two important political issues. India today indicated it will make no change to its policy of supporting any country's right to peaceful nuclear programs, including Iran's. It also refused to support criticism of Burma over human rights abuses and lack of political freedoms. India said, in brief, it knows best how to handle its neighbors.

Pakistani commentators and officials have voiced serious concern about the US support for India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. President Zardari left on a three-day official visit to China on 11 November to attend the inauguration of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou. He is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart President Hu and other top officials during his stay. Stopping Indian membership in the UN Security Council is likely to be an important agenda item, according to Pakistani analysts.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said today, "China thinks highly of India's position in international affairs, understands and supports India's desire to play a bigger role in the United Nations, and stands ready to maintain contact and consultations with other UN member nations, including India, on the issue of reforming the United Nations and its Security Council."

China's characterization of India's position - not role - in international affairs and the use of the words "understands and supports" are patronizing. The implication is that China is in no way prepared to back Indian permanent membership in the UN.

There will be more.

Iraq: Eight months after the general elections, Iraqi politicians appear to have broken the deadlock to forming a new government. Prime Minister al Maliki will serve a second term and form a government. The secular group lead by former prime minister Iyad Allawi which represents Sunni Arab interests will hold the position of speaker of the parliament and the leadership of National Council for Strategic Policies.

Comment: Parliament is scheduled to convene on Thursday, 11 November, which should provide the venue for announcing the new political arrangement, if the press reports are accurate.

Some commentators and officials have asserted that the formation of a government will help reduce the recent surge in sectarian violence. None have explained how that is likely to occur, especially since the Sunni-backed party won a plurality in the March elections, but obtained no strong power position in the new political arrangement. This story is incomplete.

The parcel bombing attempts: Update. US authorities reportedly have concluded that Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, i.e., in Yemen, was not responsible for the 3 September crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai. According to the Associated Press, the entity made a false claim to enlarge its image as a threat. It is considered responsible for the attempted bombings in October.

British police released a forensic assessment on 10 November that found the aircraft intercepted at Midlands probably could have detonated over the eastern US seaboard, had the bomb not been found.

The contrail incident: Update. There is no evidence to suggest the contrail seen off the coast of Los Angeles was caused by anything other than an aircraft, a Pentagon spokesman said on 10 November. That is the finding of a two-day review of the video of the plume, FAA radar coverage and data from defense missile launch detection systems.

The FAA said it recorded no fast-moving unidentified objects in the area; while commercial aircraft were in the area, none of the airliners reported anything unusual. All facts point to an aircraft condensation trial, the spokesman said.

Comment: This news item generated substantial feedback. A consistent concern was whether countries that are developing submarine forces capable of launching ballistic missiles might feel an impulse at some point under some conditions in the future to demonstrate their strategic reach.

Another point was that had there been an SLBM launch against the US and the first indication was a missile contrail, a US city or other target would have already been hit.

End of NightWatch for 10 November.

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