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NightWatch 20111013

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For the night of 13 October 2011

North Korea- West Coast-South Korea: A South Korean government source said the North Korean military moved combat aircraft to bases near the Northern Limit Line, off the west coast, and mobile ground-to-air missiles and missile launchers near South Korean-held Baeknyeong Island. Similar measures were precursors to and indicators of the November 2010 shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island.

The South Korean press reported these actions as a sign that Pyongyang is planning a military provocation while South Korean President Lee Myung Bak is visiting the United States. A source quoted Lee as saying that a North Korean provocation during the Seoul-Washington summit would be an international issue and that the South Korean military has been instructed to respond strongly to any action.

Comment: Open source materials are inadequate for tactical warning, but South Korean press leaks tend to be accurate in their details. The actions described are indicators of joint live fire exercises, which are indistinguishable from attack indicators.

The South Koreans understand the significance of indicators analysis and have practiced strong responses during the past year. They will shoot back, for certain, and might shoot first, if they received tactical warning a North Korean attack is imminent. Ammunition boxes or trucks with ammunition boxes in them are key indicators.

India: Police foiled a planned attack in New Delhi on 13 October, seizing a car filled with more than 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of explosives intended to disrupt the Hindu festival of Diwali in late October. The car, located in Ambala, in Haryana State of northern India, contained five detonators and two timers, police said. Intelligence indicated that the materials were provided by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group and were to be triggered by a Sikh separatist outfit, police said.

Comment: Although the details are few, two are noteworthy: the involvement of the Pakistani intelligence proxy, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the reference to the Sikh separatists. Earlier this week Indian authorities told the media that they had evidence that Pakistani intelligence was stirring up the Sikh separatist movements again. The Indians are building a public case for retaliation, should they need to use it.

Saudi Arabia-Iran: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia will have a "measured response" to Iran's alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States and will hold Iran accountable for any action Iran takes against Saudi Arabia. Reuters reported. Prince Saud Al-Faisal said all indications point to Iran's involvement but he did not specify details. He added that Iran tries to create situations to interfere in Arab affairs, and he mentioned a similar foiled plot in Kuwait.

Comment: The Foreign Minister's reference to Iranian interference in Arab affairs arises from deep-seated Arab distrust of the Iranians but seems to have no direct relationship to the so-called assassination plot, as it has been reported in the US.

Israel: Update. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be taken from the Gaza Strip's Rafah border crossing to Egypt and then flown to Israel by 19 October, according to an unnamed senior Palestinian official. Israeli media also reported that Shalit would return 18-19 October. The Palestinian source said the first group of 450 Palestinian prisoners will be released on 18 October, with Shalit's release to follow.

Greece: Update. State power company employees occupied a power company facility on 13 October to keep electricity bills, including a new property tax, from being issued. Many Greeks said they cannot pay the new tax, and the government has said it will cut power to those who fail to pay. The GENOP-DEH union said it would not allow electricity to be used to blackmail citizens.

Comment: The Greek union is telling Greeks that requiring them to pay for the utilities they use is blackmail. They took over the power station, while the tax collectors and customs workers are declining to collect the money needed to keep the state power company working. At this rate no one on the government payroll will get paid or have power.

Spain: Standard and Poor's downgraded long-term Spanish debt. Their analyst wrote that the lowering of Spain's long-term rating reflects our view of:

"Spain's uncertain growth prospects in light of the private sector's need to access fresh external financing to roll over high levels of external debt amid rising funding costs and a challenging external environment;

the likelihood of a continuing deterioration in financial system asset quality as reflected in the recent revision of our Banking Industry Credit Risk Assessment score for Spain to group 4 from group 3 (see "Spain Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment Revised To Group 4 From Group 3 On Heightened Economic Risk ", published Oct. 11, 2011); and,

the incomplete state of labor market reform, which we believe contributes to structurally high unemployment and which will likely remain a drag on economic recovery."

Comment: The downgrade was not severe, but it shows that the Standard and Poors analyst has no confidence in Spain's prospects for growth.

Special comment: The public information about the so-called Iran-backed terrorist plot is getting weaker. in Texas reported that the Iranian -American sleeper agent and used car salesman was caught trying to flee to Mexico. On a US notice, Mexico returned him to the US for arrest. It is odd that a key actor is caught heading for Mexico at the time he is supposed to be part of an imminent and serious threat.

Former Secretary Cherthoff described the plot as amateurish and out of character for the Iranians, especially the Quds Force. He or someone might have provided more details because the report makes the threat look conceptual, more than operational. The US Attorney's office has requested more time to build the case and arrest others, if they exist.

End of NightWatch for 13 October.

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