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NightWatch 20110901


For the Night of 1 September 2011

Philippines-China: President Benigno Aquino III said his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao saw the contentious issue of the disputed islands in the South China Sea moving "towards a positive end."

Aquino said that although there was no agreement on a specific approach, both sides agreed the issue should be resolved by peaceful means. He said that the possibility of a joint oil exploration in the sea would have to be discussed in the lower levels and that China's official development assistance to the Philippines would continue.

Comment: If the Philippine leaders believe Chinese reassurances without a written agreement, then they are foolish, as a matter of international law, and not paying attention to Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, as a matter of strategic threat. Chinese President Hu blew off Aquino.

Chinese communist leaders consider the Philippines one of China's tributary states, as in the era of the emperors. President Aquino received the reception and treatment historically due a tributary -- fine dining, high-level audiences and the bum's rush.

Pakistan: Pakistani military officials want a detailed memorandum of understanding with the United States that addresses the number of CIA operatives in Pakistan; notification before US unmanned aerial vehicle attacks; intelligence gathered; and Pakistan's role if al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is found in Pakistan, The Associated Press reported on 1 September.

A US official said a broad statement of common interests is possible, but that a detailed agreement will not be signed.

Comment: The Associated Press report is the first indirect evidence that the diplomatic crisis with the US reported last week is taking place as reported. The US official's statement looks deliberately calculated to aggravate the crisis, but probably is just ignorant.

US officials continue to speak as if the US has not begun withdrawing already from South Asia, again. They look foolish because everyone in South Asia knows the US has begun the end game. That's why Karzai has consulted with the Iranians, Tajiks and Pakistani leaders this week.

Yemen: Activists have promised a million-man march on 2 September in favor of a change of government. From Saudi Arabia, President Saleh has promised new elections, which are due within the next year with or without his promise.

Comment: The cell phone activists have shown repeatedly that they can stimulate flash mobs, but not much more. Their shallowness is tedious. The old time political and tribal factions invariably emerge to take over after the mobs have spent themselves. However, they have not brought down the Saleh government or even forced him to change his insistence on elections as the mechanism for government change.

Libya: Comment: The restoration of the Libyan state promises to be untidy. Qadhafi managed to find a radio station or two that would broadcast his latest delusional ramblings. He has promised a long guerilla war. He said the armed tribes outnumber the rebel forces. NATO is on the verge of collapse.

The irony is that Qadhafi is a man who overthrew his legitimate king, ruled brutishly without popular consent for four decades and tried to install his own family dynasty, but cannot now accept that Libyans might not want him around. The Libyans never invited him and his army buddies to overthrow the king and he never consulted the Libyans about whether they wanted him as their ruler. Still, he accuses Libyans of ingratitude and betrayal. The Saddam Hussein family behaved similarly.

Note to new analysts: Dictators never recognize when it is time to leave. They also never appreciate how shallow are the roots of their popular support. The pattern repeats with tiresome predictability.

For the record. Qadhafi's son Saadi has now denied rumors that he contacted Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj to discuss his defection and surrender, Al Arabiya reported. Saadi said he contacted Belhaj because he has been authorized to negotiate with him and the rebel National Transitional Council to reach a settlement.

Saadi said Belhaj asked him to come to Tripoli for negotiations, which Saadi later heard characterized in the media as the rebels bringing Saadi to trial in the capital. Saadi said he hopes to save Libya by finding an exit to the crisis and ending the violence, adding that there is a sincere will to do so. … Right.

Tripoli. Abdulhakim Belhaj, the key rebel military commander who led the final and successful attack on Tripoli told an interviewer that he was captured by the CIA in 2004 and tortured in custody. The self-described Islamist is now a key NATO ally but insists he still hopes to take legal action for his abuse at the hands of the CIA.

Comment: This development makes leading from the rear look prudent instead of craven. One faction in Tripoli will not be pro-US.

Libyan Rebels- African Union: The African Union is not yet ready to recognize the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya's new government, according to the head of the Union's executive arm, after talks in Paris.

Jean Ping said, "No, things don't work like that. The NTC has given us assurances about the African workers in Libya. We're waiting to see.

Comment: One byproduct of the rebel victory will be a reorientation of Libya away from Sub-Saharan Africa and back towards the Arab states. The more or less stable Arab leaders rejected Qadhafi as a crazy man, so he attempted to meddle in and gain support from dictators in Sub-Saharan Africa where he somehow seemed to resonate, facilitated by lavish expenditures and grand schemes.

Sub-Saharan Africans were more welcome in Libya than in all other Arab states and many pro-Qadhafi fighters were black African mercenaries. Those programs will now end. That prospect worries the African Union, plus the cutoff of Libyan subsidies.

End of NightWatch for 1 September.

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