Night Watch

North Korea-US: Robert King, the US envoy on human rights in North Korea, told reporters he would meet in Beijing with a counterpart from Pyongyang to discuss how the 240,000 metric tons of food aid will be delivered to the most needy in the communist state. He said on 7 March that ensuring food aid reaches the most vulnerable populations was "complicated."

King said the food aid would target "a million or more" people, mainly children, pregnant women and the elderly. "We need to make sure that we have the right procedures in place to make sure that the assistance reaches those we are trying to help," he said.

Comment: Food aid seems to have jumped to the head of the negotiations, which implies assurances were given of prompt delivery. That means the nuclear suspension probably was bought by promises of food aid.

The notion of diversion of this "food" to the military is misleading. Koreans prefer rice over the ingredients that go into UN approved food aid, which is edible and nutritious, just tastes lousy by most accounts. The US food aid need not be diverted to help the army. Food substitution for children, pregnant women and the elderly reduces pressure on the government to cut army rations in order to feed these three population groups. North Korea is the most militarized small state in the world. Any actions that help the civilian population help the army as well.

Israel-Iran-Hamas: A member of Hamas' political bureau in Gaza City said that Hamas will not be a part of a war between Israel and Iran. The member said the group would not launch rockets into Israel at Tehran's request in response to a strike on its nuclear sites.

Comment: This confirms the report of a strategic shift in favor of Sunni Arab causes. Last week Hamas announced it would support the Sunni opposition in Syria. Today's announcement is consistent with that position. This is tonight's good news because it means Israel will not have to fight on three fronts - Gaza, southern Lebanon and against Syria-Iran.

This is a setback for Iran.

Kenya-Somalia: For the record. In a press conference in Nairobi on 3 March, the Kenyan military spokesman, Colonel Cyrus Oguna, said Kenya's Operation Linda Nchi would come to an end on 31 October 2012. This is also the same date the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) expires.

Colonel Oguna said Kenyan troops would join Amisom and operate under its command. He also said that Kenyan troops would remain in Somalia until the situation in southern Somalia improves. The spokesman said the mission of his country's forces in Somalia would be to create peace.

Comment: Kenyan forces are terminating their unilateral operation by merging into the Amisom coalition. They are not departing Somalia.

Libya: Political and tribal leaders in eastern Libya, known as Cyrenaica, declared their region semi-autonomous during a 6 March meeting near Benghazi which more than 2,000 people attended. The move's supporters said that the region has been neglected for decades and that local people should decide on local matters.

Comment: Underlying the civil war against Qadhafi was a more ancient conflict between Tripolitania in the west and Cyrenaica in the east. The kings of Libya and Qadhafi kept regional tension more or less in check through bribes and brutality. Libya could fracture if negotiations over a federal structure fail.

End of NightWatch.

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Night Watch

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