Night Watch

China-US: China's position on the South China Sea has been clear and consistent, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said during a press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Xinhua reported. China has sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters, Yang said, adding that overlapping claims should be resolved by the involved countries through dialogue and on the basis of history and international laws.

Clinton also was rebuffed on a variety of issues that included Chinese support for North Korea, support for Iran and support for Syria.

Comment: For some reason, American diplomats and national security experts continue to fail to grasp the significance of China's anti-secession law of 2005. That law makes it a capital offense for any leader to agree to any compromise of Chinese territorial and sea claims. Chinese leaders simply have no authority to make deals without risking their lives.

It means that China cannot tolerate a declaration of independence by Taiwan or a declaration of independence by the Tibetans or the Uighurs in western China. The leaders in Beijing cannot agree to a compromise of Chinese claims to all of the South China Sea.

That explains the Chinese rejection of positions proposed by Secretary Clinton and the diplomatic insult from a cancellation of her audience with China's likely next leader, Xi Jinping. Both China and the US told the press corps the cancellation was not an insult, but everyone knows China dissed the US and got away with it.

Clinton appears not to have been well briefed on the Chinese legal position about sovereignty issues. She had lots of high level meetings and dinners, but the take away message is a total rejection of US compromise suggestions for settling South China Sea ownership claims and a pointed warning against US meddling in issues involving Chinese sovereignty.

To reiterate, Chinese leaders have no flexibility on issues of sovereignty in light of the passage of the 2005 anti-secession law. The Clinton visit was a diplomatic humiliation for the US. Nevertheless, the Chinese have no military capability to match that which the US can bring to bear on the issue of maintaining freedom of the seas.

Special comment: Establishment of a US Marine Corps forward headquarters on Palawan Island, in the western Philippines, as reported by international media today, looks strange, unless it is a ruse to maintain the Marine Corps budget.

The US Navy can never win a conflict over sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea, even with the help of friendly Southeast Asian nations and even if it wins every skirmish at sea.

Geography and time always favor China. The US Navy can maintain freedom of navigation but that has nothing to do with competing sovereignty claims. Those claims are not issues that can be settled by military power, only by lawyers and diplomats.

China will be the hegemon of Asia, regardless of anything the US does. It is only a matter of time. The only alternative is a revolution in China that produces a non-communist government.

Iran: Iran is having trouble exporting its oil, President Ahmadi-Nejad told the press on 4 September.  However, the government is determined to overcome the difficulties resulting from Western economic sanctions. Ahmadi-Nejad said that Iran's adversaries are using psychological warfare against the country. Iranian leadership has previously said the country should not rely so heavily on sales of oil.

Comment: Research continues to find in open source materials some objective measures of the impact of economic sanctions on Iran. By all accounts, they are severe, but the Shiite clerisy considers them a challenge to faith. Sanctions have produced no impact on government decisions about the nuclear program.

Nevertheless, if Ahmadi-Nejad thinks that Iran's adversaries are using psychological warfare against Iran, he completely misunderstands the gravity of the non-military threat that Iran is under. The US and its allies are waging economic and social warfare against Iran to nurture an internal movement that will kick him out of office; boot the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and maybe the Shiite clerisy. The US hopes for a revolution.

This movement is not yet apparent, but Feedback suggests that the US termination of key internet connections, as part of trade restrictions, could be the start a nation-wide youth protest movement against the government.


Syria-Iraq-Iran: Several news outlets reported information from US sources that US Intelligence has confirmed that Iran is airlifting supplies across Iraq to Syria with the permission of the al Maliki government. Vice President Biden supposedly talked by telephone with al Maliki about this issue.

Comment: So… at the time the US is preparing to send F-16 fighters to Iraq as a pledge of the strategic alliance, Iraq's government is allowing Iranian transport aircraft to fly critical supplies to the Syrian regime which the US opposes. Official, direct protests by the US Vice President have been rejected.

There are two implications. The Iranian airlift is the lifeline the Syrian government needs to defeat the opposition. Secondly, based on experiences in Pakistan, any modern US weapons technology transferred to Iraq will end up as a technology transfer to Iran and then China.

Iraq is not a US ally. Al Maliki is a satrap of Iran, more than a friend of the US when it really counts. That is not a positive return on investment.

End of NightWatch for 5 September.

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