South Korea: South Korea staged large military training and disclosed that it has a new cruise missile capable of hitting any target in North Korea.
"The cruise missile being unveiled today is a precision-guided weapon that can identify and strike the window of the office of North Korea's leadership," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters."
Comment: As they said on the 13th, the South Koreans wasted no time demonstrating that they are not technologically behind the North in weapons design and development. That is probably also true of nuclear weapons development. South Korea is not known to have an active weapons program, but it operates 23 nuclear reactors at four power generating stations that produce about 30% of its electricity requirement. It also exports reactors. It certainly has the know-how or can find it quickly, should it need it.
As for the Hyunmoo, South Korean authorities first disclosed the existence of the Hyunmoo (Eagle) III series of cruise missiles in April 2012, after the failure of the first North Korean satellite launch in the Kim Jong Un era. Today they showed its versatility, with film clips of launches from a surface ship and a submarine.
Last April the South Korean defense sources indicated it had a range of 930 miles, which is more than enough to reach any installation in North Korea and some in China. The Hyunmoo III C reportedly has a range of 1,500 miles.
The claims of accuracy are not exaggerated. Some news reporters have called it a ballistic missile. South Korea has short-range ballistic missiles, but what it showed today is a cruise missile, "similar to the US Tomahawk," according to one description.
North Korea: The communist Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a commentary on Thursday that proclaimed, "'We no longer hide but publicly declare: If the imperialists have nuclear weapons, we must have them, and if they have intercontinental ballistic missiles, we must have them, too."
Around 100,000 North Koreans took part in a rally in Pyongyang on Thursday to celebrate the nuclear detonation. Kim Jong Un did not attend.
Comment: The late Kim Chong-il was reluctant to allow North Korean news outlets to mention the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He seemed to operate in the old Soviet security mindset in which strategic systems were never considered an appropriate topic for public discussion.
The more open mention of strategic systems is almost certainly traceable to Kim Jong Un and his Swiss education.
Iran-Lebanon-Syria: A senior commander of Iran's Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Hassan Shateri, was assassinated on Tuesday. Iranian state media reported only that he was killed outside Iran. Lebanese outlets reported he was killed in Syria, while heading back to Lebanon.
Iranian news reported that Major General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps visited Shateri's family to express his condolences.
Comment: This is the first Iranian general killed in Syria. An Iranian website and a spokesman for the Guard Corps, separately, accused supporters of Israel of the assassination. The Quds Force is the arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps that operates outside Iran. Shateri supposedly was based in Lebanon to help "rebuild Lebanon," according to one web posting.
Mali: Special comment. Western news reporters have discovered in Timbuktu confidential guidance documents that the fleeing jihadists failed to destroy.
On the 13th The Telegraph reported that one of its reporters had discovered some confidential documents in the building used by the jihadists in Timbuktu as their command post. One was an account of a meeting in March 2012, but only the first page survived.
According to The Telegraph, the one page document confirmed that al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had decided to take command and control of all operations in the Sahara. The Telegraph reporter observed that al Qaida seemed to be very bureaucratic.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on 15 February that one of its reporters discovered ten pages of a longer guidance document in the same building. It was written by the emir of al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalik Droukdel, as a critique of the northern Mali operations as of the middle of 2012. It also makes clear AQIM's long term strategic goals.
It states that the objective of the invasion was to develop Mali as a base, but to hide that goal by working with local dissident to make it appear that a local uprising was taking place. He berated the jihadists in Mali for alienating local groups, such as the Touaregs, and for moving too quickly in implementing Sharia, specifically the whipping of women, and erred in destroying ancient monuments in Timbuktu.
Droukdel also warned his lieutenants to expect military intervention that would dislodge the jihadists. "The great powers with hegemony over the international situation, despite their weakness and their retreat caused by military exhaustion and the financial crisis, still have many cards to play that enable them to prevent the creation of an Islamic state in Azawad (northern Mali) ruled by the jihadis and Islamists."
"And so, it is very probable, perhaps certain, that a military intervention will occur, whether directly or indirectly, or that a complete economic, political and military blockade will be imposed along with multiple pressures, which in the end will either force us to retreat to our rear bases or will provoke the people against us ..."
"Taking into account this important factor, we must not go too far or take risks in our decisions or imagine that this project is a stable Islamic state."
Most importantly, Droukdel advised local AQIM leaders to make short term concessions and even withdraw in the face of intervention, but assures them that AQIM plans to operate in the region for the long term. The region includes Mali's neighbors.
The guidance is clear and sophisticated. The criticism of the jihadists who invaded northern Mali is stern - they botched the job, particularly cooperation with the Touaregs last May and the failure to cultivate support among the people in northern Mali. They moved too fast and put the entire operation in jeopardy, according to Droukdel.
The full AP account is worth reading for its insight into jihadist thinking, plans and operations. AQIM has opened a new front. It compares its strategy to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan in that it also is prepared to wait out the French and the African forces.
AQIM cannot beat the French, especially the French Air Force, but its forces seem much more organized and dedicated than the African soldiers who will fill in after the French combat forces depart.
AQIM is determined to spread through the region, but seems to fear most resistance and rejection by the local populations in the villages and towns, such as Timbuktu. That should prove advantageous to the established governments, but they have to overcome centuries of tribal and ethnic hostility to take advantage of it. Prospects are not good and AQIM is not leaving.
End of NightWatch ###
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