Night Watch

North Korea: For the record. International astronomers and space watchers report that the North Korean satellite is in orbit, but continues to tumble. Other than North Korean assertions that it is a weather satellite, its purpose is unconfirmed because the satellite does not appear to be functioning.

Comment: Several commentators today remarked that North Korea has no delivery system for delivering a nuclear warhead. It's not clear what planet these people are on, but the No Dong is Pakistan's Ghauri is Iran's Shahab -3. All are nuclear capable.

In addition, North Korea re-engineered the Soviet SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile, put it on a truck launcher, fielded it in North Korea and sold a firing unit to Iran. It is the most tested nuclear-capable missile developed by the Soviets. It has only carried nuclear warheads.

North Korea has more than one nuclear warhead delivery system and prudence commends that analysts accept it has those delivery systems because it has nuclear payloads for them to deliver.

Syria: Comment: Today Patrick Cockburn, of the Guardian, reported he spent his eighth day in Damascus, which included a 160 kms side trip to Homs. He provided his observations that Damascus carries on. The sounds of fighting are occasionally heard, as after an air strike, but city life continues in Homs as well as in Damascus. His conclusion is the Asad regime is nowhere near collapse at this time.

Separately, news services reported that the Vice President of Syria flew to Aleppo on 18 December, the scene of so much recent fighting. He delivered relief supplies.

Cockburn is anti-war and anti- any power that wages it. Thus his report is biased. But his theme resonates with NightWatch that most English language reporting on Syria is distorted and slanted to support the Western, Qatari and Saudi narrative that the Syrian opposition is winning. That is not as clear to Cockburn or to NightWatch as the news services report.

The opposition has made some gains, but the details are so sparse as to defeat accurate and reasonably precise measurement.

Cockburn's point is that the English language press is cheer leading for an outcome whose consequences are almost unimaginable slaughter. The Western press has vilified the government and idolized the rebels, some of whom are prone to behead anyone who disagrees with them.

Despite Cockburn's reporting, which is careful and detailed, the end game is nevertheless a fight for Damascus. That fight has drawn closer, but Cockburn provides reassurance that the end is not imminent. The proof is that he could hire a vehicle to drive to Homs and that the Vice President can fly to Aleppo.

His report is a reminder to be on guard against the strong anti-government bias in Western media.  Most of what is reported is at best partially accurate. Asad is not the bad guy as western governments depict and the Syrian opposition is far from the good guys. There are no good guys in this fight.

Russian naval activity is the best recent indicator that the end is in sight. Not immediately, but in the foreseeable future, early 2013.

Russia-Syria: A Russian navy task group of five ships has departed the Baltic for Tartus, Syria. The task group includes a destroyer, a tugboat, a tanker and two large amphibious ships.

The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the ships will rotate with those that have been in the area since November. The ministry did not say whether the navy ships are intended for an evacuation.

Comment: The Russians are taking prudent precautions.

Tunisia: Angry protesters hurled rocks at the Tunisian president and parliamentary speaker in Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the revolution that begot the Arab Spring in December 2010.

The incident began after a speech by President Moncef Marzouki in Sidi Bouzid, where celebrations were taking place to mark the anniversary of the revolution. When the president took to the podium on Monday, many in the crowd of around 5,000 started shouting "Get out! Get out!" - one of the rallying cries of the revolution that toppled the regime of Zine El Abedine Ben Ali

Marzouki promised economic progress within six months to the people of Sidi Bouzid, where poverty and unemployment were key factors behind the uprising that began there on 17 December 17, 2010, after Muhammad Bouazizi a street vendor set himself on fire in protest of police harassment.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the parliamentary speaker, was about to address the crowd when the violence began. Security forces swiftly evacuated the two men to the regional government headquarters.

Comment: The Marzouki government has no resources for alleviating unemployment and poverty in the next six months. His promises are phony.

Thus after two years, the Arab Spring remains a failure in the country in which it originated. It was always and only about jobs and poverty, not political change. The Tunisians got political change-new political faces -- but no jobs and no prosperity.

End of NightWatch for 18 December.

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