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NightWatch 20121127

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For the night of 27 November 2012

North Korea: Leader Kim Jong-un is cracking down on anti-government activities, according to a report published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). In his name, security authorities received orders for a mass flushing out of "dissidents."

The regime convened a large-scale meeting on Friday, 23 November, in Pyongyang attended by leaders of local police offices to discuss how to hunt down any people threatening national security.

Kim sent a message to the meeting that read, "We must find all of the notorious dissidents, who are hiding a knife behind their backs and waiting for the right timing to trigger a riot, and flatten all of them mercilessly," KCNA reported.

Kim ordered enhanced security near giant statues of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Chong-il astride horses. Kim Jong-un told the heads of his internal security agencies to find and eliminate rebellious people.

He also convened a meeting of judges and prosecutors in Pyongyang on Monday, KCNA reported. Kim sent them a letter, delivered by his secretary, entitled, "How to improve the judiciary and the prosecution."

"Through improving the judiciary and the prosecution, we can eradicate all crimes and illegal acts and stand the revolutionary order upright in order to push forward with a strong, prosperous nation," Kim said. "They should strictly deal with anti-state criminals who have bad backgrounds but don't show it outwardly."

During visits to the Ministry of State Security in October and in November, Kim directed that the ministry "should protect people from enemy strategies and mercilessly crack down on traitors who have wrong dreams without hesitation."

Comment: Despite executions of military officers appointed by his father and the continuing purge of officials suspected of disloyalty, Kim Jong-un's regime is not stable. This is the most extensive crackdown in at least 20 years and is an admission that the leadership transition is not complete or accepted.

As for defacing statues and pictures of the leaders, that is a time-honored North Korean tradition, despite severe punishments for those who get caught. North Koreans draw mustaches on the pictures. A long range missile launch or space launch would be a useful diversion from the internal upheaval Kim has instigated.

Those who hoped that a Swiss-educated North Korean leader would be any less Korean must be disappointed. What began as a purge of top leaders suspected of disloyalty to Kim now is being extended to the population at large.

Saudi Arabia: For the record. The state news agency official denied internet reports that King Abdullah is clinically dead and has been for two days, after back surgery.

Comment: An appearance by the King would put to rest the rumors.

Egypt: More than 200,000 people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest president Mursi's assertion of near absolute power for a fifth day. They chanted the same chants used against Mubarak, but now turned against Egypt's first freely elected leader.

"The people want to bring down the regime," and "erhal, erhal" - Arabic for "leave, leave," rang across the square.

Protesters stormed offices of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in three cities on 27 November, according to witnesses.  The Muslim Brotherhood called on the army to secure the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Moqattam, a Cairo suburb, a Brotherhood member of Egypt's Shura Council said.

Comment: Just when political conditions appeared to be settling so as to attract foreign aid and investment, Mursi overreached. His offers of compromise in a meeting with the judiciary were grants of the sovereign that could be withdrawn at his discretion. There are no checks and balances because Mursi claims he is the law.

His instinctive reaction to opposition has been to apply the identical measures that brought down Mubarak. The secular interests who oppose him are getting a do-over. A confrontation with the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood is unavoidable and will be violent.

Were Mursi committed to democracy, the first thing he might have done is convene the parliament.He could do that without assuming supreme authority. Instead he has acted to protect a group of men that is drafting an Islamist constitution.

There is irony in the Brotherhood's appeal to the Egyptian Army for protection, after the incompetent interim administration of the Army generals and years of security force persecution of the Brotherhood.

If Mursi does not compromise, he will be in serious danger of being overthrown. If he does back down, he will lose public respect and influence. 

End of NightWatch for 27 November.

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