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NightWatch 20110413


For the Night of 13 April 2011

North Korea-US: Update. The US citizen in custody is a Korean-American businessman.  He also is a devout Christian who distributed prohibited Christian materials in North Korea. He has been in custody since November 2010.  The North Korean news agency announced on 13 April that the man, Jung Young-su, has been indicted for crimes against the state.

Pakistan: Two US remotely piloted aerial vehicles launched missile attacks that killed at least six people near the Afghan border in South Waziristan, Pakistan, according to Pakistani intelligence official on 13 April. The attacks targeted a vehicle and a motorcycle in a forested area.

Comment: In an intelligence system officially guided by the Director of National Intelligence's directive and emphasis on integration, a drone attack in Pakistan seemingly should not be approved when the head of Pakistani intelligence is visiting United States intelligence leaders to protest missile attacks by drones. The DNI nor the Director of CIA seem to be in control of the drone attacks.

The strain between the US and Pakistani intelligence is genuine, but not because of the drone attacks. The Pakistanis are putting distance between themselves and the US in order to gauge their vulnerability based on the extent of the drawdown of US forces that is to begin in mid-2011. In that context, the intelligence dispute is a cover for larger strategic concerns.

There are several issues. The threat to Pakistan does not arise from the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has not hunted or pursued the Quetta/Karachi Shura leaders from Afghanistan. They remain allies of Pakistan.

Pakistan has never accepted the US conflation of an AF-Pak enemy. While groups might cooperate, the Afghan Taliban who take guidance from leaders in Pakistan are not hostile to the Pakistan government. The Pakistani Taliban, on the other hand, seek to overthrow the government of Pakistan.

Pakistan Army operations always have been targeted against threats to the stability of Pakistan and not against elements based in Pakistan that threaten the stability of the present regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan's strategic interests in confronting India require access to a friendly Afghanistan, which is not now the case.

The Karzai government is friendlier to India than to Pakistan. Thus, Pakistani intelligence has not and most likely will never cut its connections and support to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, especially if they return to power in Kabul.

Long after US forces depart, Pakistan must survive in a hostile environment. US support has flowed and ebbed in the recent past, but has never been enough to enable Pakistan to defeat India in conventional warfare. China has been the only ally of Pakistan that has provided the strategic advantage that deters India, in the Pakistani view: nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.

The intelligence dispute is a proxy for Pakistan's fundamental distrust of the US as an ally, compared to China. As the time for the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan draws nearer, strain in relations will increase. 

Yemen: Anti-government protests occurred in several cities. Clashes broke out in Sanaa when forces loyal to defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar clashed with pro-government central security police.

In Aden, four people were wounded in clashes between police and protestors. Residents said police fired shots to disperse protestors and that security forces, some in armored vehicles with a water cannon, were deployed throughout the city. The conflict started when police attempted to clear improvised roadblocks.

At least 17 protestors were injured in clashes with police forces and government backers in Yemen's southern province of Ibb. "The two sides clashed near Ibb University as protesters demanding an immediate end to the long time rule of President Saleh defended themselves by throwing stones." At least four protestors were wounded by gunshots and were now in hospital."

About 80 km southeast of Ibb, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Al-Bayda Province on Wednesday, where civil disobedience occurred for the first time, according to a local official. Elsewhere, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the northern provinces of Saada and Al-Hodeida.

Comment: This situation has moved into a de facto power sharing arrangement with Saleh holding the capital but outlying province in open rebellion. Violent internal instability is centripetal when both parties seek to control the entire state. As long as Saleh has sufficient guns to hold Sanaa, his regime will survive.

Syria: Update. Protests occurred in several cities on 13 April. They included the main university in Aleppo and near Baniyas. The government response was uncompromising and harsh. 

Egypt: Mubarak and sons have been detained for 15 days for interrogation about corruption. The detention looks cosmetic, playing to the crowds to avoid a new round of protests.

Politics. The supreme guide of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Mohamed Badie, said his group is capable of winning up to 75 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections in September, MENA reported.

However, the MB will only compete for about one-third of the seats, Badie said. In addition, Badie denied reports that the MB has made a deal with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces regarding the country's political direction. He stressed the armed forces' importance in the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, as well as in the success and sustainability of post-Mubarak Egypt. However, he urged the council to keep its promise to transfer power to the Egyptian people.

Comment: The MB has no need to make a deal with the military. The MB is an integral component of the ancient regime as much as the military. A deal would be unnecessary after the military recognized the legitimacy of the MB. From that point on, the natural course of Egyptian politics will likely bring the MB to power, either as a coalition former or the key bloc in coalition formed by other parties.

Libya: The rebel council on 13 April urged the United Nations to declare the besieged western city of Misrata an "internationally protected zone." The deputy head of the National Transitional Council called for the U.N. Security Council resolutions on protecting civilians to be implemented and said humanitarian corridors should be opened to Misrata and other western cities. The international community must take "all necessary measures," he said.

Comment: The rebel political leadership continues to propose ideas for saving the uprising by enlarging the conflict. Their skills at international political maneuvering far exceed those of the rebel fighters on the battlefield.

France- Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire: French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the French Licorne force in the Ivory Coast will be drawn down from 1,700 to 900, which is the number of French soldiers stationed in Abidjan before the crisis. The Licorne forces will no longer be a significant or permanent presence and will be reduced to units ensuring cooperation, advice, monitoring and training, Longuet said at a National Assembly defense commission.

Comment: A force of 900 French soldiers is far more capable than any combination of potential hostile forces. The message is that France will retain a force capable of protecting French citizens and interests in the Ivory Coast. The French opposed Gbagbo, but do not trust Ouattara, who displayed no ability to control any forces in the end game.

The Ivory Coast civil war has ended much like most civil wars in the post-colonial history of African states in that the winners are hardly any better than the losers. Ouattara is vulnerable to a coup by the fighters who ousted Gbagbo.

End of NightWatch for 13 April.

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