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NightWatch 20110914


For the Night of 13 September 2011

Japan: The coast guard discovered three men, three women and three children claiming to be from North Korea in an unidentified wooden boat off Japan's western coast near the Noto Peninsula, AP reported 13 September.

Comment: The only time North Korean civilians have fled the country by boat is during periods when the conditions of survival have become unbearable, as during the 1995-1996 flood and famine. The risk of getting caught taking a boat is high and the punishment is capital. Conditions are dire if families are taking to the sea

North Korea-Russia: For the record. North Korea and Russia are set to hold their first joint military exercise as early as this year, Asahi reported on 13 September. Members of the two neighbors' navies and air forces will take part in a joint rescue exercise at sea, following an agreement reached last month by North Korean leader Kim Chong-il and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Comment: Only the involvement of military assets makes this a military exercise. Nevertheless it remains a mystery that neither China nor Russia hold real joint military exercises with North Korea. Apparently they do not intend to ever let North Korea drag them into a war not of their choosing because of defense alliances.

Afghanistan: Special comment: The details of the five-hour complex attack in Kabul have been reported all day. An extremely knowledgeable, well-informed and brilliant Reader provided feedback that most of the news coverage is factually wrong, but NightWatch will provide more details as its sources clarify them.

Particularly misleading among the media comments are those that posit that the Taliban sent a signal or that the attack is part of the propaganda struggle. Those comments trivialize the Taliban achievement of destroying the security bubble associated with the most sensitive Coalition buildings in Kabul.

The media comments are comparable to describing the 1968 Tet offensive in South Vietnam as a tactical failure. That statement is accurate, but it is simply irrelevant. The Tet offensive in South Vietnam won the political and psychological war. It was a strategic victory, enabled by the military sacrifices..

Three major Taliban attacks have taken place in Kabul this summer. To characterize them as part of a public relations contest or signal-sending is to miss the point entirely. One such attack is a perhaps good fortune. A second might have been a coincidence, but three is a strategic trend.

Violent instability is always centripetal - it seeks the center of power. The images of the Coalition and Afghan forces fighting to defend themselves in Kabul mean the insurgency has reached the center of power. The small casualty count only means that the Taliban cannot yet seize power in Kabul. But if the Coalition were winning, these attacks should never have taken place at all. Kabul of all places should be kept secure, if the lessons of Tet 1968 had been learned.

The attacks signify that the Taliban have crossed a strategic threshold. The Afghans know the Coalition cannot guarantee their protection because the Coalition cannot be confident of its ability to protect its own soldiers and complexes. It does no lasting good to keep Helmand Province secure for a while, but repeatedly suffer these kinds of attacks in Kabul.

Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said U.S. hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested and sentenced to prison on espionage charges, will be released on humanitarian grounds after a $500,000 bail is paid for each. Ahmadi-Nejad said the two Americans will be released "in two days" in an interview broadcast on 13 September.

Comment: This has been coming since before Ramadan. As usual, the only issues in securing the release of the two backpackers were Iranian bragging rights and the price of the ransom. Ahmadi-Nejad looks like a bazaari, a haggling shopkeeper, not a national statesman. The world now has further confirmation that the price of a pardon for American backpackers in Iran is $500,000

Syria: President Bashar al Asad named his brother-in-law General Assef Shawkat as deputy defense minister, according to a report in Al-Akhbar. Bashar is converting his government into a family affair.

Syria-Iran: The Syrian government is ready to implement some of the peaceful demands of its people within the framework of Syria's national interests and government, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said. Mehmanparast said Iran reiterates its position that all regional countries should pay attention to their people's demands as long as these demands are raised peacefully. He added that these demands should not be treated with violence and repression if they are raised peacefully.

Comment: Iran continues to support  and front for the Asad regime.

End of NightWatch for 13 September.

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