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Russia-China-North Korea: In a joint news conference in Moscow, the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers affirmed today that they would oppose foreign military intervention in North Korea. Any action against North Korea had to be agreed at the UN.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said any action should be directed towards peace on the Korean peninsula.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that China and Russia agreed it was vitally important not to allow the situation to be used as a pretext for military intervention.

Comment: These are interesting and significant remarks because only the South Korean military leadership has made any public suggestion about using military force against North Korea. The Chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff made the comment that South Korea might conduct a pre-emptive attack if it appeared North Korea was preparing to use a nuclear weapon during a crisis.

No news sources have reported that any country is considering military intervention against North Korea.

That means the message in the Russian and Chinese joint statements is targeted at North Korea. The apparent implication is that  North Korea can expect no diplomatic or political assistance from them to soften UN sanctions. If that implication is accurate, as it seems to be, North Korea is being cut off from it historic and primary benefactors.  

They allow only one expection.  They will not permit North Korea to be attacked by foreign military forces. Aside from that, they apparently have decided they will not save North Korea from internal economic collapse under the weight of sanctions and its own mismanagement. Additionally, they apparently will not intervene to save the North Korean regime from an uprising or a military coup.

Possibly foreshadowing the latest Chinese position, in the week after the North Korean nuclear detonation, an editorial in a state news outlet opined, in paraphrase, that trouble in North Korea did not mean the end of the world for China.

India: Authorities reported on 22 February that 16 people have died and 100 were injured by the two bomb attacks in Hyderabad in southern India on 21 February. Multiple news services reported rising indignation over the government's failure to prevent the attacks because three days before the Hyderabad bombing national intelligence sources warned local authorities about threats of terrorist attacks in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Coimbatore, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Comment: A Muslim extremist group, known as the Indian Mujahedin, appears to be the primary suspect in the attacks. A signed Times of India article describes the Indian Mujahedin as a proxy for Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Taiba which the author insists is supported by Pakistani intelligence.The alleged aim is to make it appear that Islamic terrorism in India is home grown, instead of Pakistani instigated and financed.

Of note, the Hyderabad attacks do not appear to be failures of substantive intelligence warning, but, rather, failures either of intelligence persuasion or of appropriate reflexive executive responses to intelligence warning.

NightWatch has observed over the years that Indian national intelligence is reported to have provided local authorities several days of warning before attacks on multiple occasions. Thus, intelligence warning appears to be at least timely, though there is no way to evaluate the actionability of the content or its detail.

On the other hand, Indian local authorities seem unwilling to implement increased vigilance measures or might not know what actions to direct after they have been warned.

Egypt: Update. The political opposition attacked President Mursi on Friday for calling elections during the national crisis. There were scattered protests in Alexandria and Port Said, while a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square was muted because of a sandstorm.

The Coptic Christians protested that one phase of the voting schedule coincided with the Copts' celebration of Easter, thus disenfranchising the Christian minority. TV press said the government would adjust the voting schedule today, but that did not occur.

Former UN nuclear agency head Mohamed El Barradei, who is a prominent secular opposition leader, said that the way in which Mursi announced the elections without reaching a national consensus "would further inflame the situation.

Comment: The demonstrators had widely varying demands. Some called on Mursi to step down while others urged the armed forces to return to power. Their fractiousness remains a major weakness.

Understandably, the Muslim Brotherhood and most Islamist parties praised the election announcement. They will dominate any Egyptian election.

Tunisia: The ruling Ennadha-led coalition has chosen a new prime minister and asked him to form a new government. He is the interior minister, Ali Larayedh, whom the press reported to be a hardliner, meaning unlikely to listen to secular opposition demands.

Comment: The Ennadha leadership evidently sees no need for a new mandate and is determined to remain in office. That creates a compression scenario which leads ineluctably to more and more violent protests.

Mali:  Fighting continued near Kidal in eastern Mali. The clash between Chadian forces and the Islamists took place on the 22nd in the mountainous Ifoghas region, Chad's military command announced.

"The Chadian army destroyed five vehicles and killed 65 jihadists," it said in a statement. Thirteen Chadian soldiers were killed and five wounded.

Three civilians were killed and several were injured by two car bombs in the town of Tessalit, also in the Ifoghas region.

A third report said the jihadists fired two rockets at military targets in Gao on the 21st.

Comment: Chad has 1,800 soldiers in Mali, in the Kidal area. If Algeria cannot be persuaded to assist the French and the Malian forces along the border, the jihadists will survive.

The rocket attack did no apparent damage, but this is the first report in open sources that the jihadists used an indirect fire weapon in an attack.

Niger-US-France-Mali: President Obama told Congress on Friday he had dispatched 40 more US air force personnel to Niger this week, bringing the total US military presence there to 100. They are armed for self-defense and security of the drone facility.

The military personnel have been deployed to support the intervention in neighboring Mali. In Niger, they reportedly will set up and operate a drone base to improve intelligence support to the French, African and other national soldiers operating in Mali. One source said the drones have already begun flying missions from a base in or near Niamey, Niger's capital.

Comment: The French appear to have mis-assessed the situation, judging from the captured al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) documents that lay out a long term expansion program into Mali, similar to the Taliban strategy in Afghanistan.

The French and Africans clearly need intelligence support - accurate and predictive strategic and operational analysis as much as tactical intelligence. Drone operations from Niger, however, risk widening the conflict and elevating Niger's importance as the next target for AQIM subversion, if not outright expansion.

End of NightWatch ###

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