For the night of 29 September 2014
China-Hong Kong: Protestors in Hong Kong continue to defy authorities. Their numbers grew after attempts by police to disperse them with baton charges and tear gas on Monday morning. News services published images of tens of thousands of students and political activists blocking central Hong Kong.
The protestors want a free and open process for selecting candidates who will run for the position of chief executive in the semi-autonomous territory. Chinese authorities in Beijing approve the field of candidates before allowing them to campaign for the office. The next election is in 2017.
Comment: Twenty-five years have passed since the Tianmen Square massacre in June 1989. That period is time enough for a new generation of activists to reach maturity believing they can achieve what their forbears could not using the same tactics.
The only revolution Chinese authorities recognize is that which occurred in 1949. The so-called "umbrella revolution" in Hong Kong has no chance of liberalizing the local political system. Every political action China has taken in Hong Kong since 1997 has moved in the opposition direction.
Hong Kong today is not like Tianmen Square 25 years ago. However, President Xi's administration is at least as intolerant of dissent as his predecessors in 1989, more prone to treat it as a manifestation of local official corruption, and much more creative in finding solutions to suppress it. He is not likely to send in tanks, but he will end the protests.
Xi will keep a weather eye out for threats to China's economy and Asian markets, caused by the disruptions in Hong Kong. One of the first things he will do is clean out those responsible for letting the situation get out of control this far. At an appropriate time, Chinese security agents will make the leaders of the movement disappear.
For those analysts who are familiar with the three-phase cycle of violent internal instability (underestimation, overreaction and concession), one full cycle has just been completed, indicated by the police charge on Sunday (overreaction) and the pull back on Monday (concession) that has allowed the protest to swell.
Afghanistan: Update. On Monday, 29 September, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in as President of Afghanistan. He said he wanted peace talks with the Taliban and that he would sign the status of forces agreements with the US and NATO on 30 September. They will authorize about 10,000 Coalition troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
He appointed Abdullah Abdullah as the government's chief executive officer, as prescribed in the power-sharing agreement, and shared the rostrum with him.
Taliban fighters welcomed the new President with a series of attacks in Kabul on Sunday.
Comment: The new Afghan leaders are taking lessons from the collapse of security in Iraq and appear determined to avoid the same mistakes, by expelling all foreign troops. Ghani and Abdullah both seemed to recognize that Afghan forces are not capable of maintaining security without foreign military support, especially air support.
The attacks in Kabul were unfortunate, but consistent with known Taliban capabilities. They pose no threat to the government as long as foreign forces remain as the resource of last resort to keep it in power. That condition intimidates the Taliban and bolsters the Afghans.
After President Ghani signs the agreements, the Kabul government will stand a better chance of survival than it might otherwise.
Iraq: Iraqi ground forces, backed by air strikes, claim to have halted an offensive move by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 25 miles southwest of Baghdad. A combination of ground forces and air strikes managed to block the ISIL advance at Amiriyah Fallujah.
Comment: The story behind the news is that this ISIL operation indicates that the Islamists remain determined to attack Baghdad and moved to consolidate their position southwest of the town and closer to it. The Iraqis might have stopped ISIL, or more likely, ISIL just stopped for the day.
A US military spokesman said in a statement that among the ISIL sites and equipment struck on Sunday and Monday were an armored vehicle, an anti-aircraft artillery transport vehicle and an airfield in northwest Syria near Aleppo. A local witness said the raids also hit an empty school and an abandoned military base that ISIL left about four months ago.
Comment: Assuming the Central Command's statement carried the highlights of the past two days of air attacks, it looks like the Coalition is running out of targets. The usual indicator of that condition is tank plinking, which is what the US statement said occurred. .
Turkey-Syria: On Monday Turkey deployed tanks and armored vehicles to reinforce a section of the Syrian border. The armor moved to the town of Mursitpinar, which lies across from the Kurdish town of Kobani after two shells from Syria hit Turkish villages.
Comment: Air strikes may have slowed, but have not stopped the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant towards Kobani.
The movement of Turkish armor is intended to bar refugees from entering and prevent Turkish Kurds from reinforcing Kobani. They also afford the Turks the equipment to fire on the Kurdish positions. ISIL and the Turks appear to agree on the need to suppress the Syrian Kurds. Kurdish resistance in Kobani is an impediment to Turkey's plan to create a buffer zone inside Syria.
Israel: Comment: Prime Minister Netanyahu engaged in demagoguery at the UN and made no friends. Mainstream news commentators labeled him Islamophobic. They did not mention that during this year leaders from the following have called for the destruction of Israel.
The al-Nusra Front in Syria
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Ahrar al Sham in Syria
Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Destruction of Israel is one issue on which Sunni Muslim jihadists and Shiite leaders seem to find common ground.
End of NightWatch for 29 September.
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