For the night of 5 January 2014
North Korea: Comment. Last week a marginally reputable Chinese news outlet reported that Kim Jong Un and senior communist Party members watched as 120 starved dogs ate alive his uncle Chang Sung-taek and four aides.
North Korean security services have a well-deserved reputation for brutality since before the Korean War. This story has been reported separately by no reputable sources and no North Korean defector outlets.
The premise that the government held 120 dogs for any reason other than food is a stretch. NightWatch does not credit this story.
Bangladesh: General elections occurred on 5 January, but the main opposition party boycotted them or staged violent protests. At least 16 people died in violent clashes. Turnout was low. Hundreds of seats were not contested because of an effective opposition boycott. As a result the ruling Awami League apparently won 232 of 300 seats up for election. The opposition called the vote a farce.
Comment and question for Readers: When the opposition boycotts the election; turnout is low and the outcome is fore-ordained has a valid exercise of democracy occurred? If the purpose of a vote is to ascertain the will of the people, then the aforementioned conditions provide no basis for making such a determination.
On the other hand, if the purpose is to stay in power, a low turnout by loyal voters suffices to return the incumbent party to office. As one American politician said recently, win the election. That is precisely what is taking place in Thailand as well.
Pakistan: The Special Court will resume the hearing into the treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf, on 6 January. However, a lawyer representing Musharraf said on Sunday the former army chief would not be able to make a scheduled appearance at his treason trial today because of his illness.
Comment: Musharraf is in intensive care for his heart condition. This appears to be his ticket out of Pakistan to an overseas hospital, where he will make a miraculous recovery. Aware of that prospect, the government has not yet lifted his travel ban.
Iraq: Sunni fighters associated with al Qaida seized most of Fallujah, just west of Bagdad, in Anbar Province. New services reported the capture of 75 soldiers from Iraq's 53rd Brigade. The army has responded with shelling and reportedly plans operations to retake the town, with the cooperation of some local Sunni tribesmen.
Comment: The security situation has again devolved into civil war, at least on a limited basis. More than 10,000 people were killed last year. Several hundred have been killed in Anbar Province since 1 January.
Several issues are unclear. First is who is fighting whom. In 2006, Sunni tribes defeated al Qaida interlopers which created conditions for stability. This time some tribes appear to be supporting the Islamist fighters in their resistance against a Shiite-led government, while others are fighting to rid Fallujah of the extremists. The Sunni tribes fighting against al Qaida's affiliates are not fighting for the government because government forces have fled.
The second key issue is who is providing the financing and arms to the al-Qaida affiliates. NightWatch warned two years ago that Sunni Arab powers in the Gulf would create a perpetual insurgency in Anbar Province and other Sunni Arab regions in order to hobble Iran and its proxy in Baghdad. The mechanism was not clear at that time, but the intention was clear.
The intention of some Sunni Arab states and interests is to bleed Iran by draining its resources to try to keep Iraq stable. Iraq and now Syria are battle grounds in the same strategy. There will be much worse fighting to come.
South Sudan-Sudan: Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir will visit South Sudan on 6 January. Radio Omdurman broadcast on Sunday, "President Bashir will go tomorrow to Juba to meet President Salva Kiir and discuss the crisis in the South."
Earlier, the foreign ministry spokesman in Khartoum reaffirmed Sudan's wish to see "a continuation of the political process aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan". Bashir also underlined Sudan's willingness "to offer everything in its power to ensure success of the initiative by IGAD", the East African regional bloc brokering the talks.
The chief negotiators for South Sudan's government and rebels held another face-to-face meeting in Addis Ababa on Sunday in preparation for the start of formal truce talks, officials said.
Comment: This appears to be the first time that the Sudanese government in Khartoum has made a public statement about the fighting in South Sudan. The good news is that Bashir is dealing with Salva Kiir, instead of the rebels.
End of NightWatch for 5 January.
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