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NightWatch 20110912


For the Night of 12 September 2011

North Korea-US: A US defense official denied on Saturday that a military reconnaissance plane was forced to make an emergency landing in March because of North Korean GPS jamming, as reported by a South Korean newspaper. "We have no indication that any aircraft at the time of, or in the vicinity of, this alleged incident was forced to land on an emergency basis," the defense official said.

Comment: The Chosun Ilbo article also claimed that South Korean air and naval assets experienced electronic interference with navigation systems. It is not clear that the North Koreans have the capability to interfere with GPS so that it would not also jeopardize civil aircraft. Laser blinding is much more practical. It would not be in US interest to admit grounding by electronic interference, if it occurred.

Pakistan: In Karachi on 11 September, Pakistan Rangers arrested over 200 suspects during a 12 hour operation against assassins and extortionists. Two suspected "target killers" and eight most wanted criminals have been arrested during the operation.

Comment: This is the type of sweep operation that Chief of Army Staff General Kayani advocated and ordered a week ago. It suggests the Pakistan Army is exerting stronger influence over, if not actually directing, paramilitary police operations in Karachi. Thery appear to be more effective than those directed by the Ministry of the Interior.

Afghanistan-Qatar: The United States supports Taliban plans to open political headquarters in Doha, Qatar, by the end of 2011 to spur U.S.-Taliban peace talks and begin negotiations, The Times reported. Qatar offered to host the political office after the US insisted it not be located in Pakistan. The Taliban want assurances that their Doha representatives will not be harassed or arrested.

"It will be an address where they have a political office," said one Western diplomatic source. "It will not be an embassy or a consulate but a residence where they can be treated like a political party." The move has been devised so that the West can begin formal peace talks with the Taliban.

Comment: The US has declined to comment on the report, but such a development would be consistent with recent political reporting about contacts, which Mullah Omar confirmed in his Eid-ul-Fitr greeting on 31 August. It would be an indicator of movement towards political power sharing between the Kabul government and its backers and the Taliban. When the Taliban was in power, only the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan recognized it.

The Coalition has insufficient coercive power to end the Pashtun uprising, so it has little choice but to cede some legitimacy and political authority to the Taliban to try to complement force with talks, which is what occurs in power sharing. Regardless of intentions and motives by political leaders, the opening of talks in Qatar would represent an admission that peace cannot be restored in Afghanistan without the Taliban's cooperation.

Turkey-Gaza Strip: Update. The Turkish Southern Naval Area Command is preparing to deploy three frigates into the eastern Mediterranean Sea under the scope of the "Freedom of Passage in the Eastern Mediterranean" enforcement guidelines, Sabah reported on 12 September. The three frigates will provide protection for civilian vessels carrying aid to Gaza.

Comment: This is another deliberate step to escalate the crisis between Turkey and Israel and could lead to a naval confrontation.

Palestinian Authority-UN: President Mahmoud Abbas will give an address on 16 September to inform Palestinians that a UN membership bid will be submitted to the U.N. Security Council despite U.S. opposition, a Palestine Liberation Organization official said on 12 September. The address will include details of the plan to obtain state recognition.


US: President Obama repeated on 12 September that the US would use its veto to stop the motion for full Palestinian statehood if it reaches the Security Council next week at the opening of the UN General Assembly. He called the proposal a "distraction" that would not solve problems that can only be addressed through negotiations.

Qatar: The Qatari government publicly stated its support for Palestinian admission to full UN membership on 12 September. Qatar was elected President of the General Assembly in June.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal warned, "The United States must back a Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood or risk becoming 'toxic' in the Arab world and forcing a split with ally Saudi Arabia. If Washington imposes its veto when the Palestinians seek to become the 194th member state of the United Nations then 'Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has,' former Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Arab League: The Arab League announced its support for Palestinian full membership in the UN in May.

Egypt:  A member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said Monday the military will expand a state of emergency because of a "breach in public security" after protestors stormed Israel's embassy and clashed with police, state news agency MENA reported. The ruling military council issued a decree to widen the scope of the emergency law -- restricted in 2010 by ousted president Hosni Mubarak to narcotics and terrorism cases -- to target labor strikes and the "spread of false rumors."

Comment: This action indicates that the increased political power of the Islamists continues to force the armed forces council to backtrack on political reform. The end of the state of emergency was one of the main demands of the demonstrators last February.

Libya: The head of the Transitional National Council [NTC] Executive Bureau, Mahmud Jibril, said in a news conference on 11 September that a new, more representative transitional government in Libya will be formed within a week to 10 days. Jibril talked about two governments, one to be formed after the liberation of all Libyan territory, and the second to be formed soon in order to implement the decisions of the National Transitional Council, adding that "we are still in the stage of liberating Libya."

Comment: According to some analysts, the pro-democracy reform leadership of the initial uprising has been replaced by a struggle between defectors from the Qadhafi regime and Islamic extremists, including pro-al Qaida sympathizers. The defectors seek to suppress the Islamists and set up a strong man regime without the excesses of the Qadhafi family. The Islamists want to create a government based on Sharia. Meanwhile, pro-Qadhafi loyalists continue to hold out in three locations.

On 12 September the NATO Secretary General warned about the infiltration of the new regime by the extremists. Mahmud Jibril promised the new government would follow the road of "moderate Islamic rule." Jibril made a pledge he might not be in power long enough to keep.

Libya-China: China has recognized the National Transitional Council as Libya's ruling body, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 12 September. The spokesman said China respects the choice of the Libyan people and hopes all signed treaties and agreements between the two countries will continue to be enforced.

Comment: China has become cautious in extending recognition to regimes that come to power by force. The extent of its economic commitments and exposure appears to drive this caution. China tends to wait until a new regime appears to be in control of the main assets of the state and declares its intention to honor the agreements of its predecessor.

The transitional government apparently has satisfied China's terms. China suspended investments in Libya in May and in August urged the transitional government to protect Chinese investments. China imported about 3 per cent of its crude from Libya before the fighting. About 75 Chinese companies operated in Libya before the war, involving about 36,000 staff working on 50 projects, according to press reports. Many of the firms were engaged in building roads, buildings and infrastructure.

Libya-Niger: Update. The Nigerien government confirmed it has detained Gadhafi's son Saadi and is deciding what to do with him, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on 12 September. Niger continues to prepare for a larger influx of armed and angry refugees from Libya.

End of NightWatch for 12 September.

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