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NightWatch 20131204

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For the night of 4 December 2013

North Korea: Update. One South Korean news source reported the Kim's uncle Jang Sung taek is alive and well but provided no additional details.

Multiple other independent source, however, reported Jang has been purged over a dispute about the pace and scope of economic development plus disrespect of Kim Jong Un.

According to usually reliable defector sources, Jang advocated a fast and expansive pace of development similar to that of China. Kim and his chief advisors want a slower, limited pace of development.

Jang reportedly presented his ideas to the Chinese without authorization by his nephew, Kim Jong Un.

Jang has been a consistent influence for modernization and moderation. He also is a proven crook who had been demoted at least twice for corruption by his brother-in-law Kim Chong-il. His status remains unclear, but if he is out of power, Kim Jong Un has come under the influence of hard-line communists for now. That means North Korea will never take advantage of its resources and potential.

As stated before, Jang's demotion would mean the leadership is unstable because the Kim family is fragmented. Since the 1950's the unity of the Kim family has been the bedrock of North Korean leadership. Members of Kim Il-sung's extended family and that of his mistresses hold positions of authority throughout the government and the Party.

Action to punish a prominent and elder family member would be un-Confucian and unprecedented. Thus this story remains open. More to follow.

Russia: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the accord with Iran to curb its nuclear program means a planned NATO anti-missile system in Europe is no longer necessary.

Now, if the agreement with Iran "is fully implemented... then there will no reasons to create a missile defense system in Europe," Lavrov said.

Comment: Lavrov has revealed at least a portion of Russia's strategic goals in supporting the Iran agreement. The US justified construction of anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe based on the threat of a nuclear ballistic missile attack against NATO and the US.

The Russians always claimed the anti-ballistic missile system was aimed at Russia, not Iran. That explains Lavrov's statement today, as putting the US to its proof. It means that if there is a final agreement with Iran, the Russians intend to use that to neutralize other US strategic initiatives. This is called judo diplomacy.

Syria: Top Syrian rebel General Salim Idriss denied on Wednesday reports that he would join arms with government forces to fight al-Qaida groups.

In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel Idriss denied an earlier report by UK's The Times quoting him as saying that he was ready to fight side by side with regime forces against radical groups.

Comment: As yet no facts have been established. The sequence of events suggests Idriss made the statement which The Times reported , but was upbraided by his Arab or Western backers, forcing him to recant.

This is a tempest in a teapot and almost entirely about public perceptions. Idriss appears acutely aware that the jihadists will kill him and his fighters in a heartbeat without remorse. His only hope for survival is the Syrian Arab Army, Hizballah and the Iraqi Shiite militias in Syria. The Free Syrian Army has no other hope

of survival, regardless of the public statements.

Lebanon: For the record. A Sunni fighting group claimed responsibility for the murder of Hizballah leader Hassan al-Laqis early on Wednesday morning.

Comment: Hizballah accused Israel of the murder, which Israel denied. The Syrian fight has come to Lebanon.

End of NightWatch for 4 December.

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