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NightWatch 20111216


For the night of 16 December 2011

South Korea-Iran: South Korea imposed sanctions on Iran that limit financial interactions with 99 Iranian groups and six individuals, Yonhap reported on 16 December. South Korea's central bank must give its approval to those on the sanctions list before any foreign currency transactions. The South Korean Finance Ministry said it plans to ask domestic companies to be cautious in entering deals involving petrochemicals products from Iran.

Comment: This action potentially could have large consequences for South Korea's economy because the largest South Korean import from Iran is oil and petroleum products. South Korea, however, did not impose sanctions on the oil industry probably because they would undermine the stability of the South's economy.

On balance, the South appears to have taken action to deflect US pressure to tighten sanctions on Iran, but without doing damage to the South's economy. That would be the Asian way.

India-Russia: During Indian Prime Minister Singh's visit to Moscow on Friday, 16 December, Russia announced that it has agreed to sell India 42 fighter Su-30 MKI Flanker multirole fighter jets, but the two nations failed to strike a deal on a controversial nuclear power plant. Indian Prime Minister Singh said that New Delhi will fit the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets with additional Indian-produced electronics.

Russia also announced that it will complete by the end of the year the transfer to India of an Akula II- class nuclear powered attack submarine, under a 10-year lease. The delivery will make India the sixth country to operate a nuclear-powered submarine, along with France, China, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Comment: The submarine will be rechristened as 'INS Chakra' . Its arrival would mark the Indian Navy's return to nuclear propulsion. India last leased a Soviet Charlie-class attack submarine for three years in 1987. India intends to use the Akula II to assist in its development of nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of launching ballistic missiles from underwater, to help complete its nuclear triad.

Pakistan: According to Pakistan's Dawn news service, both Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha acknowledged the memo allegedly sent from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to former US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and expressed satisfaction with the evidence provided by American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

In separate replies filed with the Supreme Court, Kayani and Pasha called for a thorough investigation into the memorandum, which they blamed on former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, saying the issue impacts national security. Kayani said there may be a need to examine the facts and circumstances leading to the conception and issuance of the memo.

Comment: The memo at issue conveys President Zardari's concern that the Pakistan Army intends to overthrow the elected civilian government in a coup d'etat and request US assistance in preventing it. The apparent significance of the testimony is that the Pakistani generals attested to the authenticity of the memo.

The significance of their call for an investigation is that it poses a direct challenge to the civilian government, implying disloyalty. Thus far the Zardari government has let former ambassador Haqqani serve as scapegoat for the memo, which the government has never acknowledged as authentic.

Chief Justice Chaudhry will not likely let the issue rest without the thorough investigation the Army has requested.

Today's developments tend to confirm that a major political power struggle is in progress between the Pakistan Army leadership and the elected civilian government. The Army is attempting to make the Supreme Court of Pakistan its ally in its struggle against the government. All parties know that Ambassador Haqqani, a well-respected professional diplomat, did not act on his own authority in sending the memo.

If some government leaders are found to have committed treason, acts of disloyalty or related lesser crimes, the Army would be justified in seizing political power.

Sherry Rehman, a member of the inner-most circle of confidantes of the late Benazir Bhutto and well-known in the US, has been named as Haqqani's replacement. Zardari's choice of Rehman indicates he wants a proven loyalist to the Bhutto clan with access to the power brokers of the US, vice a foreign ministry professional, as his representative in Washington.

Egypt: Military police fired shots into the air early on 16 December to disperse around 300 protesters who set cars on fire and threw stones at police in Cairo, witnesses and a security source said.

The protesters mobilized on rumors and images posted online that appear to show an activist badly beaten after his arrest, witnesses said. According to a doctor at a field hospital established to treat injured protesters, the rumor is that the activist was beaten badly and was in the hospital.

Comment: This was a minor dust-up, but it is a portent of more violence to come. The armed forces council has set in motion an electoral process that is inconsistent with and opposed to military control. It has acknowledged the sovereignty of the people in allowing elections, but then repudiated its authority by appointing a new government and declaring that it will not allow the new parliament to draft the new constitution, as it promised earlier.

The Egyptian generals are concerned, if not terrified, that they have unleashed the political power of the Islamists, and have no idea what to do about it.

End of NightWatch for 16 December.

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