North Korea-US: The Foreign Ministry announced today that the agreement North Korea made with the United States to suspend its nuclear weapons tests and to allow international nuclear inspectors entry into the country is no longer binding, according to a report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"As the US violated the 29 February DPRK-US agreement through its undisguised hostile acts, we will no longer be bound to it. We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement….The US will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences. Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us."
Comment: The Foreign Ministry announcement is eloquent testimony that nothing much has changed with Kim Jong-un's elevation to leadership. The statement quoted above is a classic example of the North's all pervasive victim narrative.
Although North Korea started the Korean War, ever since it got beaten its propagandists have advanced the narrative that North Korea is a victim of injustice and perfidy by the UN, US and the Allies. The victim narrative justifies the North's failure to honor its commitments by wrapping itself in self-righteousness, false legality and blaming outsiders for ill will, lack of sincerity, violations of dignity, hostile acts and so on. In this narcissistic narrative only North Korea is honorable and upright.
The repertoire of wrongs has been canned for decades. The triteness of the lexicon is a strong sign of continuity. The victim narrative is essential in keeping an abused population docile and loyal to an undeserving leadership.
Now that the North has established that it has been wronged, it is free from any past agreements and thus can detonate a nuclear device, for example, when and as it chooses. If a device is not detonated, it almost certainly means the scientists failed again, rather than some act of responsible self-restraint by the ruling cabal.
Afghanistan: Comment: On the 16th, US and NATO officials praised the Afghan commandos for leading the counterattack against the small group of anti-government fighters who assaulted Kabul on Sunday. However, some seemed to undermine the significance of the Afghan achievement by minimizing the significance of the assault itself, calling it the last gasp of the anti-government forces. Evidently, the Afghans fought well against a weak force and the sensational set of attacks actually signifies an improving security situation. Hmmm.
Thus, Readers might be confused on the 17th by multiple press services reports that the NATO command plans a large offensive to improve security in Kabul in May.
NightWatch has written that violent instability is centripetal. It moves from the border marches and other peripheries to the center of power, the capital. Victory for the anti-government forces means seizing and holding the capital. Victory for the government forces means holding a secure center and expanding a secure perimeter outward to the national borders.
A government that cannot maintain a secure center of power, the capital, cannot survive. It does not matter whether it falls to the Taliban or the Haqqanis. It will fall. Thus, attacks in the capital are always signs of weakness at the center. The only question is how weak.
For example, the Syrian government understands this phenomenology, which is why there have been less than a handful of attacks in Damascus during a year of violent instability. Damascus has experienced no 18-hour battles. The occasional attacks do not signify significant weakness. The Syrian center is holding.
Syria is not Afghanistan and the two fights are quite different, but the importance of security at the center is the same. This week's outbreak of fighting in Kabul means one thing: Kabul is not secure even with NATO forces. If the center is not secure, nowhere else matters.
Afghanistan-Australia: Update. Australia will withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan in 2013, a year earlier than expected, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on 17 April. Gillard will present a timetable at a NATO summit in Chicago in May. She said that in Chicago, mid-2013 will be recognized as a key moment in the international strategy.
Comment: Australia has about 1,500 military personnel in Afghanistan. Australia is not walking away from Afghanistan, but plans to support development projects and provide other forms of aid instead of supplying combat forces. This is an update. Australia's plan for an early departure is not new.
Jordan: For the record. The lower house of Jordan's Parliament on 17 April voted to add an item to the country's law governing political parties that would forbid the establishment of any party based on religion. This means it would outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a volatile issue and warrants increased vigilance, depending on whether this bill becomes a statute.
Egypt: The Supreme Presidential Election Commission (SPEC), headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court - by reputation a staunch Mubarak supporter - has rejected the appeals by the three front-runners for the presidency. In doing so, the Commission upheld its own earlier decision to disqualify them and seven other candidates.
Expecting the disqualifications to be upheld, the Muslim Brotherhood fielded a second presidential candidate from within its own ranks - Freedom and Justice Party head Mohamed Mursi. He appears to be someone to watch.
The SPEC is expected to announce its final list of approved candidates on 26 April. Presidential elections will take place on 23 and 24 May, with a runoff round - if necessary - slated for 16 and 17 June. Egypt's new president will be sworn in office on 21 June.
Comment: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) wrote the laws that govern the transition to elected government in such a way that the SPEC is judge, jury, executioner and appeals court for its own decisions. Its decisions are final, which means they have the full backing of the SCAF which appointed the commission members. The law explicitly denies any jurisdiction or authority to the Egyptian judicial system. This is a rigged system to protect the SCAF generals.
In the NightWatch hypothesis, the generals apparently found the Salafists, the Brotherhood and the Mubarak old guard equally threatening and unacceptable as President. Their hostility to the Islamists is understandable.
More curious is that they also apparently opposed retired General Suleiman, the former vice president. The generals are all Mubarak appointees who showed their gratitude for his sponsorship by overthrowing Mubarak … forcing him to resign … last year. They evidently feared Suleiman would exact vengeance.
The court of public opinion can overrule the SPEC and choose to dump the entire political mess that the Egyptian armed forces leadership and the established political elites have created. Today's ruling risks arousing political passions and inciting more street demonstrations.
The political outlook continues to point towards greater instability and away from what could have been a smooth transition from military rule. It now appears that the armed forces leadership has no intention of surrendering political power, but will try to govern through an elected civilian president/puppet.
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