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NightWatch 20130612

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 June 2013

North Korea: Today North Korean officials did not answer repeated South Korean calls on the recently restored liaison phone line at Panmunjom. South Korea officials said it was related to the cancellation of the 13 June high-level meeting.

In North Korea, the party daily Rodong Sinmun published a criticism of South Korean behavior but invited South Korea to cooperate in an event to commemorate the 1972 and 2000 joint statements. "It would be able to foster an atmosphere conducive to North-South dialogue, and actively encourage improved relations. If the South Korean government truly hopes for North-South dialogue and trust, they must first throw away the knife they are cradling in their hearts and stop all actions that incite their counterparts."

Comment:  North Korea has not broadcast the cancellation of the talks to its own population. That probably explains its extension of another invitation to cooperate in its domestic propaganda. The difference in this offer is a lack of mutuality. The imagery posits South Korea going to North Korea and following the North Korean lead in arranging commemorations of past periods of better relations. The North's leaders want South Korea to pay homage to North Korean leadership and to pay… foot the bills for a joint commemoration event held in Pyongyang.

The Rodong Sinmun article is a transparent setup. The North's leaders know the offer would not be accepted. Thus, they have crafted a justification to inform the population not to expect South Koreans or jobs at Kaesong.

South Korea prudently is ignoring the North's propaganda and is concentrating on President Park's forthcoming state visit to Beijing

Iran: Comment: Presidential elections will be held on Friday, 14 June. President Ahmadi-Nejad cannot succeed himself for a third term. The candidate he and his supporters back is lagging, mainly because of Ahmadi-Nejad's failure in domestic policy.

Most of the candidates are clerics. Their differences are primarily about domestic policy issues, especially the economy. A candidate described as "moderate" is the cleric Hassan Rowhani. He has the support of past so-called reformers and reportedly is narrowly leading hard line candidates Saeed Jalili, Iran's leading nuclear negotiator, and Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, the major of Tehran.

They have had televised debates that have been frank about domestic policy issues. Last Friday's debate about nuclear policy was instructive. No candidate seeks to terminate the nuclear program. Their differences centered on the best approach to international sanctions. They all want them lifted but disagree as to whether it's better to try to negotiate with the West to end them or to make no concessions, tough it out and thereby frustrate or defeat them … and the US.

The BBC pointed out prudently that policy is not set by the Iranian President. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his advisors set or steer policy which the President executes. The election is not about changing the system, but about making it work better.

Turkey: Update. Prime Minister Erdogan met some of the protestors, but the press published no details. A hard line protest group, Taksim Solidarity, said the people Erdogan met were not representative of the protests. Most press accounts related a familiar pattern of a small protest turnout during the day, but a larger turnout in the evening after work.

A deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the party and the prime minister are considering holding a referendum on the future of Taksim Square. Details about the referendum were not published, but AKP officials would not raise the proposal if they had any doubt about an outcome favorable to the government.

Hard line protestors denounced the referendum idea. The crackdown continues.

Lebanon-Syria: A Syrian military helicopter violated Lebanese airspace and fired three missiles at Arsal, a border town in northern Lebanon, Lebanese security officials said. One person was injured in the attack. The Lebanese army reportedly took necessary defensive measures to respond to any future violation.

Comment: Neither country has explained the incident, but presumablly the Syrians were firing on Syrian rebels. After the rebel defeat at Qusayr, a surge in limited clashes has occurred along the Syrian borders with Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, where the rebels fled. The rebels have a strong interest in widening the conflict, especially after Hizballah joined the fight. Clashes will continue.

End of NightWatch for 12 June.

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