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NightWatch 20130714

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NightWatch

For the night of 14 July 2013

South Korea - North Korea: During this Watch, on 15 July the third round of talks on resuming operations at Kaesong began.

Last week, teams of three South Korean businessmen and technicians inventoried finished goods and raw materials and made preparations to return them to South Korea.

On Saturday, North Korea announced that it had shelved its proposals for talks on uniting divided families and on tours to the Mount Kumgang resort. It agreed to vest the future of North-South relations in the success of the Kaesong talks.

Comment: Despite the dire tone of the North's statement on Saturday, some form of talks will continue.

The North's Permanent Representative to the UN said on the 14th that the UN Command in South Korea was a major obstacle to peace in Asia. The UN ambassador's statement was preposterous and inconsistent with the Saturday statement about Kaesong.

The North's foreign policy is in disarray. It is blustering, but beyond the bluster it is settling for the best deal it can get without losing face.

Pakistan-Syria: Pakistani Taliban claim they sent a delegation to Syria to set up a base and to assess "the needs of the jihad", a Taliban official told the press. He said that the base was set up by at least 12 experts in warfare and information technology who are ex-Afghan fighters of Middle Eastern origin who have moved to Syria in recent years.

Mohammad Amin, a senior Taliban operative and "coordinator of the Syrian base", said that the cell to monitor "the jihad" in Syria was set up six months ago. He said that the cell has the approval of militant factions both within and outside of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella organization of Pakistani Pashtun tribal Islamist groups.

"They were facilitated by our friends in Syria who have previously been fighting in Afghanistan," Mr Amin said.

Their job is to "assess the needs of the Jihad in Syria, and to work out joint operations with our Syrian friends".

"There are dozens of Pakistani hopefuls in line to join the fighting against the Syrian army, but the advice we are getting at the moment is that there's already enough manpower in Syria."

Comment: One of the major disasters of al Qaida's fight in Iraq and its base in Pakistan is that it facilitated the proliferation of know-how for building and using roadside bombs far outside Iraq, including to Pakistan and to Yemen.

The significance of the Pakistani Taliban announcement is that another episode of proliferation is occurring. The dimensions are not clear, but the Pakistani Taliban are drawn to sources of money, weapons and ammunition. Those are the only reasons they would send fighters to Syria.

Arab jihadists disdain Pashtuns as backward and ignorant. The only reason Pakistani Taliban would make contact with the Syrian jihadists is for whatever they think they can get out of the connection.

Iraq: The low level sectarian civil war continues. On Friday, 84 people were killed and 77 wounded in attacks in 12 towns. Most of them were shooting intermixed with a few bombings.

On Saturday, 46 people were killed and 106 were injured in 17 towns. Most of the attacks were bombings, with a few shootings and clashes.

On Sunday, 77 people were killed and 223 injured by bombings and shootings in 18 towns.

Comment: All of the incidents above were sectarian. These periodic reports do not include local crimes.

Turkey: The parliament amended the law governing the mission of the armed forces to external defense, only. The original law gave the military responsibility of preserving the Republic of Turkey, a clause previously used as a justification for coups.

The amended law redefines the military's responsibility as "defending the Turkish nation against external threats and dangers, and maintaining and strengthening military powers to ensure deterrence."

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) proposed the amendment following a wave of anti-government protests in June.

The demonstrators say the prime minister is being increasing authoritarian. He has accused his critics of conspiring against his democratically-elected government.

Comment: The parliament's action to redefine the mission of the armed forces is a ripple effect from the recent demonstrations in Istanbul and the military ouster of the Mursi regime in Egypt. The Erdogan government and the Islamist Justice and Development Party want to deprive the armed forces of any legal justification for overthrowing the Turkish government.

The Egyptian, the US and many other armed forces have the mission of preserving the constitutional order as well as national defense.

Syria: Comment: The Asad government has a new ally. It is the secular opposition forces. They are clashing with the jihadists who are the most effective groups fighting the Asad government. The jihadists are being blamed for the assassination of a senior leader of the Free Syrian Army over the weekend.

Egypt: Update. Egypt's public prosecutor has frozen the assets of 14 Islamist leaders, according to judicial sources. The Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat al-Shater are reported to be among them.

Badie and other Brotherhood figures are already the subject of arrest warrants for their involvement in last Monday's killings.

Egypt's new interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi has begun appointing people to senior cabinet posts. Ahmed Galal, a liberal economist with a doctorate from Boston University, is to be finance minister. Nabil Fahmy, a former ambassador to the US, was named foreign minister,

Interim President Mansour gave the oath of office to Mohamed el-Baradei as Vice President.

Comment: The cabinet appointees in the new administration represent a mix of viewpoints, as the Army promised, but key portfolios appear to be going to US- or Western-trained experts. The West is where a steady supply of aid and, more importantly, investment required to bail out the collapsing economy must originate.

End of NightWatch for 14 July.

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