For the night of 28 January 2015
North Korea: In a statement on 28 January, the Russian government confirmed that North Korea has accepted the invitation to visit Moscow for the celebrations on 9 May, marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Germany in World War II. The Russian statement said that the leader of North Korea would attend. The statement indicated that, "roughly 20 state leaders have confirmed their attendance, and North Korea's leader is one of them."
Comment: The Russian announcement suggests that Kim Jong Un will not be the North Korean representative. The ceremonial head of the state in North Korea is the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam. He represents North Korea at official functions where protocol requires a head of state equivalent.
The problem with the Moscow venue is that Kim Jong Un would not receive the attention that his handlers judge he deserves. For example, President Park of South Korea also received an invitation. At least 20 other heads of state will attend.
Nevertheless, North Korean representation is important for North Korea's relationship with Russia. A Kim Jong Un appearance in Moscow would be his first outside North Korea.
Syria: Today, the US State Department spokesperson congratulated the Kurds on recovering Kobani from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The US promised continued air protection and humanitarian aid. The Kurds celebrated, though the town is a bombed out wreck.
Turkey's reaction. President Erdogan criticized the Kurds for celebrating, according to Turkish media. He said, "Now, they (Kurds) are dancing. What happened? ISIL/ISIS was ousted from there. Okay. But who will repair the places that were bombarded? Who will repair those demolished places? No one thinks of the future. Will the 200,000 who left be able to return?" Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Today's Zaman daily.
"When it is about Kobani, the whole world stands up and cooperates. Those who fled Kobani came to us -- 200,000 people. We tell them about Aleppo, nobody listens; 1.2 million people live there. There is economy, history and culture (there). Why aren't you interested?" he asked rhetorically.
Comment: The US State Department's remarks are the signal that the US national security community has concluded that Kobani is now under Syrian Kurdish control. The Kurds won this battle with US air support and with help from Turkish and Iraqi Kurds. This is a watershed event in the modern history of the Kurds.
The Turks did not want the Kurds to succeed. Kobani made the Syrian Kurds an international cause. The last thing the Turks wanted was coordination and communications among all the Kurds. The Kurds were denied statehood after World War I to inhibit such developments.
The emergence and evolution of transnational Kurdish relationships, forged by the battle for Kobani, will be important for US intelligence to monitor as the fight against ISIL continues. A renewed push for an independent Kurdish state should be expected.
The answer to Erdogan's sour grapes, whining questions is the United States of America and its allies. Kobani will be rebuilt-the Kurds are industrious. The Kurdish refugees in Turkey will be quick to return to Syria, leaving behind the grudging and stingy comforts of the refugee camps Erdogan belatedly established in Turkey.
Ironically, the physical damage in Kobani and the refugee burdens on Turkey could have been much less had Erdogan approved Turkey's participation in the Allied campaign against ISIL. Erdogan sympathizes with ISIL because it is devout and takfiri (i.e., criticizes other Muslims for not being devout), plus it is anti-Asad.
Kurdish success at Kobani does not fit in Erdogan's vision of a Sunni-dominated region governed by Sharia and led by Turks. His vision is a fantasy because no Arabs, Kurds or Persians want a return of the Turks.
Lebanon: Radical Lebanese Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir may soon become an "emir" for ISIL's branch in Lebanon.
According to Lebanese press, the ISIL militants have begun planning not just for security, but also for military operations in Lebanon. ISIL in Lebanon reportedly has requested support from northern Syria.
Comment: Al-Assir is a firebrand preacher who is wanted for murder in Lebanon. He came to prominence when the US began backing Sunni rebels against the al-Asad regime in Syria in 2013. .Prior to that he was considered an extremist eccentric, who was trying to find a mosque to support him.
The imams and emirs tend to avoid the kinds of lethal situations that they urge their listeners to embrace. Rather, they are the purveyors of the promises of martyrdom, rather than the realities of martyrdom.
The significance of this item is that it is evidence that ISIL intends to open a new combat front in Lebanon. One purpose of this initiative would be to draw Hizballah forces out of Syria and back to Lebanon. Thus far, the threat of a new ISIL front is propaganda, but that often is a leading edge of combat forces.
Israel-Hizballah-Syria: The Israeli army reported on 28 January that two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a Hizballah attack near Mount. Dov / the Shebaa Farms. Hizballah fired five anti-tank missiles at Israeli military vehicles in the Shebaa Farms area, killing an officer and a soldier. The Israeli message said that the armed forces hold Hizballah responsible for the attacks in northern Israel.
A Spanish soldier who was a member of the UN mission, UNIFIL, also was killed.
The Israeli army declared the Golan Heights and its northern frontier a closed military zone. For a time, Israel evacuated the ski resort on Mount Hermon.
Comment: Today's action is the latest in a series of exchanges that began 10 days ago.
On 18 January, an Israeli air attack killed six Hizballah fighters on the Golan Heights, including an Iranian Revolutionary Guard General, Mohammad al Allahdadi. These people supposedly were fighting on behalf of the Ba'athist government in Damascus, Syria. Iran and Hizballah vowed revenge for the deaths and began by firing rockets. Israel responded by firing artillery and rockets.
The Israeli operations are almost counterintuitive. They damage Hizballah and Syrian government forces that are more friendly to Israel than ISIL and other forces dedicated to overthrowing the Ba'athists in Damascus.
Israeli leaders, however, trusts that Israel has no friends in the Syrian civil war, whether pro-Iranian forces or Sunni Islamic terrorists win. There is no good end-state for Israel.
Iranian generals and Hizballah fighters on the Golan Heights, almost by definition, signify that Iran is looking at objectives far beyond the current fighting in Syria. Those objectives include attacks against Israel.
Israeli actions signify that Israel also is looking beyond the current situation to discern the nature of the threat in the middle years. Meanwhile, it is sending the signal that Hizballah and Iran remain tactical and strategic enemies.
At a ceremony in southern Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "At this moment, the IDF is responding to events in the north. To everyone who is trying to challenge us at the northern border, I recommend that they look (at) what happened not far away, in Gaza: Hamas took its hardest hit since its formation. And the IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts."
Gaza: Today the UN humanitarian mission in the Gaza Strip announced that it had run out of funds for reconstruction. Naturally, this prompted violent demonstrations by Palestinians, protesting the end of their entitlements. The protestors stormed the UN compound, but the UN workers had evacuated.
The UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said he was "outraged by the assault" on the UN compound. "During a pre-announced demonstration, of which Hamas was well aware, a number of protesters climbed the perimeter wall and entered the compound causing damage to United Nations premises and property," he said. "Due to precautionary measures taken, United Nations personnel working in the compound were fortunately unharmed."
"Pending a full transfer of security responsibilities to the legitimate Palestinian Authority, we continue to hold Hamas fully responsible for the security and safety of all United Nations personnel and operations in Gaza," Serry said. "As this serious incident took place in the context of increasing incitement against the United Nations in Gaza, the Special Coordinator is conducting an urgent review of operations in Gaza."
Comment: Hamas never runs out of money for arms, but always blames the UN for shortages of relief, construction and humanitarian assistance.
The anti-UN protests are misguided because the Arab states are the real tightwads. Support for the Palestinians is a clarion call for oil-rich Arab states. Last summer they promised US $ billions to rebuild Gaza after the Israeli offensive. They invariably renege on their commitments, as they have for half a century. The Gaza protestors should direct their ire against the Arab states, not the UN, but that never seems to happen.
Mali: Update. On 28 January, a suicide bomb attack near Tabancort killed at least nine people. "The suicide bombers walked out of Tabancort/Tabankort last night and they detonated when they reached an MNLA battalion," said Mossa Ag Attaher, spokesman for the main Touareg rebel group, MNLA. He claimed that 12 people died.
The UN launched air strikes to push back MNLA Touareg fighters, who launched the assault to capture Tabancort.
Comment: It is difficult to piece together what is happening at Tabancort. Apparently, the Touaregs are attempting to remove a pro-Bamako militia - Gatia -- that uses the town as its base. Gatia is a French acronym for Imghad and Allies Touareg Self-Defence Group. More on this later.
This is the first suicide bombing attributed to a pro-government militia. It implies that some Islamic fundamentalists are cooperating with pro-government militias in the fight against Touareg separatists. The UN mission in Mali appears to be failing.
End of NightWatch for 28 January 2015.
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