Night Watch

North Korea-UN: Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon warned the UN General Assembly on 30 September that hostile US policies were risking "thermonuclear war" on the peninsula. Pak accused the US of wanting to eliminate North Korea by military force.

Comment: Pak is an able diplomat and a loyal communist to have delivered the silly speech he delivered at the UN. North Korea is the perpetual victim otherwise the hardships its population endures make no sense.

The population is a victim only of the ineptitude of the Kim family and itsretainers that insist on governing despite 60 years of overwhelming evidence of their incompetence as governors.

No threat of a thermonuclear war exists at this time. The North's propagandists apparently are uncomfortable that Iran is the focus of international concern and not the North. That explains their reversion to the tired exaggerated formulations about the imminent danger of war. North Korea has no leverage for extorting aid from the US or South Korean when the world looks elsewhere.

China dominates North Korea by dint of its economic investments and aid, relative to North Korea's poverty. The new Kim offspring seems to understand that North Korea is the only poor state in East Asia, a condition he apparently intends to try to change. He does not yet appreciate this will take a generation. Meanwhile, the UN must resign itself to listening to the same tired old tantrums.

A thermonuclear war on the Korean peninsula would kill hundreds of thousands of people but, in the end, would result in the erasure of North Korea as a geo-political memory and would return the North Korean people to the stone age. The North's leaders know this.

Georgia: President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded Tuesday that his party had lost Georgia's parliamentary election and his opponent had the right to become prime minister. The final vote has not yet been published.

This marks the first time that the outcome of elections effected a change of government. Saakashvili came to power in the Rose Revolution in 2003. His concession statement ensures a legacy as a leader who respected democracy, though he governed as an autocrat.

Saakashvili will remain President until his second and last term ends in October 2013. After that the presidential form of government will cease and convert to a true parliamentary government, with executive authority vested in the prime minister instead of the president.

The new Georgian government will be led by eccentric billionaire businessman and philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia. Until recently he was little known to the 4.5 million Georgians. His policy statements are a hash of vague references. He promised to pursue Saakashvili's policies of making Georgia part of Europe and a member of NATO, while enhancing trade and diplomatic ties with Russia. Ivanishvili said Georgia's intentions to join NATO should not hamper the country's relationship with Russia.

Russian President Putin congratulated Ivanishvili on his success.

The US congratulated Georgia on the electoral process. The process is more important than an outcome that favors US interests, according to Secretary of State Clinton's message to Saakashvili before the election and advising him to not rig it.

Comment: The choice in the elections was between a pro-western set of policies and a pro-Russian set of policies. Saakashvili's pro-Western policies promoted prosperity for the elite, but not for others; did not result in NATO membership and did not obtain NATO support in the 2008 war with Russia over secession by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which now host Russian troops. The electorate, in a free election, rejected his party and what it stands for.

NightWatch judges that the election of Ivanishvili represents a judgment against Saakashvili's strongly pro-Western polices and the final victory of Russia in stopping NATO's policy of eastward expansion, despite Ivanishvili's public remarks. Georgia will now join the Ukraine as marking the eastern boundary of NATO and the western edge of Russia's sphere of influence.

Ivanishvili, as a Georgian, will not be a compliant proxy for Russian, but he is not US educated and owes more to Russia than Saakashvilii did. President Putin welcomed the change.

Saakashvili sent US-trained, Georgian battalions to Afghanistan to work with NATO forces. That kind of cooperation and support is unlikely under Ivanishvili. It also is not clear that he will resist the temptation to act as an autocrat by interpreting his electoral victory as a mandate to rule, as did Saakashvili. This is a study in democracy.

Iraq-Turkey: The Iraqi Cabinet has decided to dissolve a treaty that authorizes the Turkish armed forces to operate in Iraq. According to a senior Iraqi military official, the move is intended to end Turkey's military presence in the north, where the Turkish militant group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), maintains bases.

Comment: The treaty dates to 1995, when Saddam Hussain's government authorized the deployment of Turkish forces to control and suppress the socialist PKK. At some times the Turkish contingent was the equivalent of an army division and never less than a regiment.

The treaty was a means of distributing the costs of regional security. Neither the Turks nor the Iraqi Sunni Arabs like the Kurds. A Turkish military enclave in northern Iraq to control the Kurdish communist insurgents was cheaper than stationing Iraqi Arab soldiers to control the Kurds.

The reasons for terminating the treaty are not clear, but the timing of the action suggests it is a ripple effect from the Syrian uprising. Turkey is a primary backer of the Sunni rebels; tolerates the secessionist impulses of the Syrian Kurds against the government in Damascus; and opposes Baghdad's support of Iran and Syria.

The government in Iraq evidently has decided to take action to stop Turkish meddling with Iraqi Kurds -- such as by encouraging greater autonomy. Turkish actions with the Iraqi Kurds are aimed at intimidating the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad to halt its support for the Syrian government.

Moreover, the Iraqi Arabs viscerally dislike the Turks who once ruled Iraq as a province of the Ottoman Empire.

Venezuela: Update. Presidential elections will be held on 7 October. President Chavez faces significant opposition. More to follow.

End of NightWatch for 2 October.

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