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NightWatch

For the night of 25 February 2015

China: On 24 and 25 February, Chinese state media have extolled President Xi Jinping's expression of his strategy for the next stage of China's development. It is captured in the "Four Comprehensives." One analytical commentary described them as the implementation phase of Xi's "China Dream," promulgated in 2012.

The four comprehensives are:

-comprehensively achieving a moderately prosperous society;

-comprehensively deepening reform;

-comprehensively governing the nation according to the law;

-comprehensively and strictly governing the Party.

Comment: For the sake of clarity in governing a huge population, Chinese leaders regularly articulate their governing philosophy and priorities in slogans that more than a billion people can comprehend and act on. The only recent leader who did not indulge in enumerating the national priorities was Deng Xiaoping, the father of modern Chinese political and economic reform.

For the next few months, Party cadres will be indoctrinating the Party members and the population in general on the local applications of the four comprehensives. This process will be a nationwide, high priority task.

One insightful analysis noted that the four comprehensives represent a compilation of Xi's and the Party's policy statements since 2012, when Xi was elected General Secretary. For example, the point about achieving a moderately prosperous society is integral to Xi's ideas abput the China Dream as" the great revival of the Chinese nation."

Many China watchers will analyze, explicate and parse the four comprehensives in coming weeks. One theme that is sharply outlined is the paramount need for better leadership by the Communist Party and government without corruption. Xi and his advisors identified corruption in the Party and the government as posing the greatest threat to Communist Party rule. Three of the four statements provide evidence that the central leadership continues to hold that conviction.

The guidance is inward focused. Achieving the China Dream requires getting the leadership in order and under discipline, according to this guidance. That implies that the Xi government will continue to place a premium on stability along the borders and in disputed areas.

Xi's government cannot and will not compromise claims to sovereignty anywhere. Nevertheless, the four comprehensives are not a call to assert hegemony. Their achievement requires stability in foreign affairs. Thus, Chinese leaders will continue to seek peaceful solutions to confrontations, whenever they can. They also will intervene in non-military ways to stop adventurism or provocations that could upset regional stability.

Pakistan: Former President Musharraf spoke to the American press about Pakistani policy during his tenure. He admitted that Pakistan supported the Afghan Taliban as a counterweight to India. He said India and Pakistan waged a proxy war in Afghanistan, with Pakistan supporting the Taliban and India supporting the established government.

He used this disclosure as the departure point for asserting that the Afghan government must share power with the Afghan Taliban and that India and Pakistan must keep hands off.

A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said: "We don't need to respond to voices from the wilderness. Such voices just try to occupy news space."

Comment: The facts in Musharraf's revelations are well known. However, no Pakistani president has ever confirmed state policy in this fashion. Facing charges of treason and murder, Musharraf continues to offer advice to people whom he tried to undermine or neutralize when he was president of Pakistan.

Afghanistan-Taliban: Pakistani media sources reported that agents of the Afghanistan government and the Afghan Taliban have been talking. The Afghan Taliban's office in Doha has been revived and the Taliban are now holding initial talks with the Afghan government, with Pakistan acting as facilitator.

A top Pakistani official with access confirmed the resumption of initial contacts between the two parties for the purpose of crafting the rules and the agenda of formal talks. Talks are expected to begin in March 2015.

Another official said Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif had given the green signal for facilitating the resumption of dialogue when he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul earlier this week.

The official also confirmed that the Afghan Taliban have held two rounds of talks with senior officials in Beijing. Chinese officials supposedly briefed the Pakistanis about the talks.

Comment: The number of reports of talks from diverse sources supports the judgment that talks have some preliminary momentum. the meniotn of Beijing as a venue is new information.

A NightWatch hypothesis is that one of the factors prompting the Taliban to engage in talks is the emergence of Afghan Islamists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In this scenario, the Taliban leaders - Mullah Omar and his acolytes -- are afraid of losing control of the anti-government movement.

Russia-Cyprus: On Wednesday in Moscow, the President of Cyprus signed an agreement with Russia that will allow Russian navy ships to make regular port calls. Russian ships already have made stops at the port of Limassol, but the new agreement apparently aims to extend the port access.

Russian President Putin agreed to the deal after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. President Anastasiades said Cyprus and Russia also were discussing the possibility of Russian aircraft using a Cypriot air base near the town of Paphos for humanitarian relief missions.

Putin said that other countries should not be concerned and that the port's main use would be for counter terrorism and anti-piracy.

Comment: The two presidents signed nine agreements, most dealing with finances. Anastasiades sought and received pledges of financial support from Russia. Cyprus is a haven for Russian tycoons to conceal their assets. As a result, Cyprus is one of the most important sources of investment in Russia.

The port access agreement is of interest because it implies that Russian leaders sense the need to upgrade the frequency and extent of Russian naval access. Russian military access to facilities on Cyprus would add depth to the Russian naval base at Latakia, Syria. They could serve as evacuation sites for Russians in Syria, should that need arise, or as a staging and support points for other activities in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Ukraine: Today, 25 February, was the first day in which no Ukrainian or rebel soldiers died from fighting in eastern Ukraine. News reporters said the eastern Ukraine rebels continued to withdraw their heavy weapons. The Ukrainian government in Kyiv said it was too soon to reciprocate.

A posting to the Web by the press center of the Ukrainian "Antiterrorist Operation" reported that "the enemy" is massing troops near Mariupol and "continuing provocations against Ukrainian troops." The press center reported four rebel ceasefire violations in the prior 24 hours.

The daily map shows a significant reduction in clashes, but continued fighting east of Mariupol.

Libya: For the record. The internationally recognized parliament sitting in Tobruk appointed General Hifter as head of the Libyan armed forces.

Comment: Libyan experts judge that Hifter incrementally is overshadowing the elected government. Some have written that Hifter considers himself the Libyan version of Egyptian President al-Sisi, when al-Sisi was still a field marshal and overthrew the Mursi regime. The analogy is distorted, but it apparently suits General Hifter.

Nigeria-Chad-Boko Haram: On 24 February, Chadian soldiers killed 207 Boko Haram militants in fighting near Gambaru, according to a Chadian army statement. One Chadian soldier was killed and another nine were wounded in the clashes.

Comment: Gambaru is the first Nigerian town the Chadians entered on 3 February to rid it of Boko Haram terrorists. Apparently Boko Haram has been trying to take it back and to defeat the Chadians. Against the Chadians, Boko Haram has lost at least 300 fighters in clashes around Gambaru.

The Chadians are demonstrating that Boko Haram is no match against disciplined, trained and equipped regular army soldiers. That is one of the lessons taught in the Flintlock series of multi-national US-led military exercises. Flintlock 2015 is in progress this week in Chad.

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End of NightWatch for 25 February.

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