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NightWatch 20111019


For the night of 19 October 2011

North Korea-US: Update. North Korea and the US are talking again. First, delegates are holding talks on restarting the program to recover the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War, after a six-year halt.

Co-operation on the issue stalled in 2005 amid escalating tension over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. North Korea said last month it would restart talks, and officials are now meeting in Bangkok this week

Geneva is the second talks venue. US and North Korean emissaries agreed to hold a second session of preliminary nuclear talks on 24 and 25 October to discuss resuming the stalled six-party nuclear talks. The US State Department announced that Glyn Davies will replace Stephen Bosworth as the head of the US delegation to the negotiations.

Comment: The replacement of the head of a delegation is an international diplomatic indicator that a new approach, roadmap or proposal will be presented. Open source reporting contains no insights about that. The US believes it has something new to present.

Turkey-Iraq: Turkish ground forces, supported by tactical combat aircraft, invaded northern Iraq on 19 October in retaliation for coordinated Kurdish rebel attacks on the 18th that killed 24 Turkish soldiers and wounded 18 others.

The security situation has been deteriorating since Turkey decided to crack down on seditious Kurdish politicians. Hundreds have been arrested in major cities, according to a rebel press release. The rebels launched the attacks on Wednesday after "friends were killed in air strikes" in border towns''

Prime Minister Erdogan canceled a visit to Kazakhstan and held a nationally televised news conference to announce that Turkey had launched the "hot pursuit" operation. Turkey's Chief of the General Staff and the interior and defense ministers flew to the border area to oversee the offensive, which is the first since 2008 and has penetrated at least 4 kilometers into Iraq.

Wednesday's offensive began hours after the rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast, executed simultaneous attacks on military outposts and police stations near the border towns of Cukurca and Yuksekova.

Comment: With the departure of American troops, the Kurds will have lost their only protector. Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran all have Kurdish populations and all are hostile to them. In Iraq, only the US presence prevented the Sunnis and Shia from uniting against the Kurds. The Kurds have enjoyed eight good years, but the ancient ethnic and religious poisons are rising again.

Afghanistan-France: For the record. The first 200 French soldiers left Afghanistan on Wednesday, starting troop withdrawals announced three months ago by Paris as part of NATO plans to wind down its combat mission by 2014.

A quarter of France's 4,000 troops will withdraw from Afghanistan before the end of 2012, ahead of a full drawdown of NATO's combat mission scheduled for 2014.

The departures are supposedly in support of the national transition process that began in seven areas of the country in July, meant to hand responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. France lost 17 soldiers between 1 June 1 and 7 September, bringing to 75 the number killed as part of military operations in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power.

On July 13, the day after Sarkozy visited Afghanistan to announce the troop withdrawals, five French soldiers died in a suicide strike, the deadliest attack since an ambush killed 10 French soldiers in 2008.

Comment: After President Sarkozy announced the troop withdrawals and after the losses in July and August, the French initiated a slowdown of operations, according to French officers, to prevent further casualties. One officer said, "We've backed off."

The French have been responsible for a key region the covers the eastern approaches to Kabul from Pakistan. A slowdown in French operations would help explain the increased aggressiveness of suicide bombers associated with the Haqqani syndicate who must transit the French sector to reach their targets in Kabul.

Iran-US: Too good to omit. The US allegation that Iran plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington is an attempt to initiate talks with Iran, but hostile American behavior toward Iran has eliminated the chance for an amicable relationship, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Seyyed Masoud Jazayeri said on 19 October, according to Mehr news agency reported. Iran will only hold talks with a new United States, Jazayeri said.

Comment: Jayazeri's interpretation is the most bizarre from any source. He did not clarify his definition of "a new United States." Iran has squandered the best opportunity since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini for improved contacts with the US.

Palestinian Authority: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will present an offer to hold general elections to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, an unnamed senior official from the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said on 19 October.

Comment: The details are not known, but polls have shown that Hamas would beat Abbas' Fatah in a general election. Hamas success in arranging the prisoner exchange this week has given the organization heroic stature among Palestinians.

If Abbas is serious, the Palestinian Authority or a new Palestinian state would become more radicalized and officially ant-Israel under Hamas leadership. The success of the Hamas leadership in the prisoner exchange portends the decline of so-called Palestinians moderates, meaning those willing to work with Israel.

UN-Palestinian Authority: Update. The UN Security Council will hold a final meeting on or around 11 November to decide the next step for the Palestinian statehood bid, UN diplomats said on 19 October.

Somalia-al Shabaab-France: Marie Dedieu, the wheel-chair confined Frenchwoman whose kidnapping on 1 October by al Shabaab helped spark Kenya's cross-border attacks into Somalia, died on 19 October, according to a French Foreign Ministry statement.

Correction: NightWatch should have attributed the misquote on 18 October to T.S. Eliot vice eecummings. Senior moment.

End of NightWatch for 19 October.

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