Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thank you, Captain Obvious

In one of those moments where she must have thought *it needed to be said*, U.S. Secretary of State H. Clinton announced that "Japan has every right to protect and defend its territory".

No kidding, we do?

Oh, thank you for stating the obvious, Madam Secretary.


What, you want congratulations or something?


Same report (linked above) also includes the usual North Korean grandstanding about how if Japan intercepts the upcoming North Korean missile launch, they (North Korea's Army) "will consider this as the start of Japan's war of re-invasion more than six decades after the Second World War and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means". -- source: KCNA



We get to take over that miserable piece of territory (again) after letting the Kim Il-sung / Kim Jong-il / Kim Next-guy show make it into a shambles for 50+ years?

No, thanks.

Wouldn't want it, wouldn't take it. Even if they paid us.


That's right.

They don't *have* any money.

That's what the whole missiles / bombs / blackmail scam of the North Koreans is about.

Kind of implies that the North Korean definition of "the most powerful military means" is not too fearsome either.

...because it seems pretty clear that if they thought they could get away with destroying Japan, they would have tried it a long time ago.

After Lula?

Having just seen an example of his world view during the recent overseas travels of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, it is something of a refreshing bit of good timing to see that Angus Reid Global Monitor has the latest polling data on Brazil's 2010 Presidential Election. President Lula da Silva is prohibited from seeking a third term, so the field is open for a successor.

There are various electoral scenarios examined, but one thing runs through them all: The Worker's Party (PT), which Lula da Silva represents, is on course for a serious shellacking at the hands of one or another party currently out of power. The *best* scenario for a PT candidate gets only 12% support.

The names to watch from the other parties:

From the opposition Brazilian Party for Social Democracy (PSDB), Jose Serra.

From coalition partner Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Ciro Ferreia Gomes.

There are some also-rans out there as well, as the Angus Reid report observes.

Wiki-p Personal Profiles provided for information only. As always, check the sources.

SADC backs Ravalomanana

The Madagascar drama has continued apace, with protests in Antananarivo backing both the new "government" of Andry Rajoelina and the (self-)exiled "government" of Marc Ravalomanana, and now the South African Development Community (SADC) has weighed in, suspending Madagascar's membership in the organization and demanding the reinstatement of the Ravalomanana administration.

It is pretty clear that the Malagasy High Court ruling recognizing a Rajoelina administration is not gaining much credence in the outside world.

Of course, it helps *his* cause immensely that Ravalomanana is in Swaziland for the meeting while Rajoelina is trying to tamp down the counter-coup factions back in Madagascar.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Weekly N&C for March 30th, 2009

How it is going to go down

On the odd chance that one has been hiding in a cave in the mountains or shipwrecked on an isolate atoll, here is the news item that has been run out on a daily basis for the last couple of weeks: North Korea (the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea; PDRK) is going to launch one or more missiles in a supposed “satellite” launch. (link is to the latest version of the story as of Monday morning, North American time zones).

From the same report, here is a gallery of photographs, with the first few showing the launch site and the main missile in question being assembled. The launch facility is at Musudan-ri, not very far inland from the northern end of East Korea Bay, and previous test launches have been to the east over the Sea of Japan and in one case, onward.

Now, setting aside the blatant fact that if the North Koreans are planning a simultaneous launch of a shorter range missile that rather calls into question the peaceful nature of the supposed “satellite” launch using what is being named a Unha-2 booster… more on that later… the entire process looks to be a simple violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 (and related following material bans). Here is UNSCR 1718 in full, for your review. Items 2, 5, and 7 bear directly on this case.

So that sets the stage fairly clearly: any launch of a missile applicable to ballistic missile technology in any way is a material breach of UNSCR 1718. So, just as U.N. member nations are obliged to interrupt and intercept any attempt at proliferating military technology by North Korea, the legal groundwork is clear for action against any ballistic missile technology test… once said test leaves North Korean territory. It would be problematic for an intervention to occur within North Korean sovereignty, in that lacking specific UNSC authorization (which is not going to happen; Cf. the People’s Republic of China) and requiring a disavowal of the Korean War Armistice (which is also very unlikely to happen), no one wants to restart open hostilities on the Korean peninsula. Regarding that last item, to be sure, no one wants to restart the war but both sides are at about the highest level of readiness possible right now. North Korea is just concluding their Winter Training Cycle for their military, and South Korea (and the Americans there) has also just gone through readiness exercises and is always on high alert in this season even in quiet years.

That leaves us with a pretty obvious scenario, up to a point. The North Koreans will complete their preparations and, sometime between April 4th and 8th, try to put up one or more ballistic missiles out over the Sea of Japan. The rest of the world will be sitting just outside the territorial limit, watching and deciding what to do. That watching will be done with very, very competent “eyes” however, and backed up with a capability that is just now coming into its own.

Prelude to the event:

Let us first dispense with the notion that the Unha-2 booster is anything innocent. What it is, based on intelligence and an observation of the failed launch in the July 5th, 2006, mass launch test, is just a renaming (or very slight modification) of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile. This weapon, if it ever works, is the North Korean “dream weapon” that would provide them with the capability to deliver a 500kg+ warhead to American soil. With only slight modification, this could look like a satellite launcher to deliver roughly a tenth of that payload on-orbit. That possibility is what the Iranian government used to paint a veneer of respectability over their test of the Shahab-3 missile system (under the name Safir-2) on February 2nd, 2009, which placed a 27 kg Omid satellite into what is likely a very short-lived orbit. But the Iranians are not under as binding a ban as the North Koreans are, and they could launch their missile out over indisputably International Waters.

The North Koreans are playing the role of the innocent in all this, to no one’s surprise, and have announced the launch window and downrange debris fields all according to the general practice. If the main missile performs as expected, the first stage will burn out in about 100 seconds and fall away to an expected splash in the Sea of Japan, roughly 100 nm off the west coast of Akita Prefecture, Japan. The second stage would then burn for again roughly 100~120 seconds and fall away after staging into the North Pacific Ocean somewhere in a fairly wide area over 200 nm east of Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The upper stage would then, in a real satellite launch, attempt to burn for another roughly 100 seconds to put the package on Low Earth Orbit, with the third stage burning up after it falls away. How very thoughtful of them to announce the risk zones… on each side of Japan.

In the event of a launch:

So they assemble the missile, fuel it up, and on launch day light the candle…

The Americans know within seconds of the launch. Any reasonable judgment of American surveillance technology says they have a ballistic missile warning satellite parked over North Korea, and there is no doubt that the ignition flash would be spotted (rain or shine). Electronic intelligence aircraft will also likely be orbiting just outside the reach of the North Koreans, looking in.

Presume for now that the missile does not do its Project Vanguard impersonation and go *boom* while still inside the gantry height.

Seconds later, as the missile climbs under full load and thrust on its first stage, it clears the horizon and the sea-based sensors of several nations will pick up this big fat bird. The Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States will all have AEGIS-equipped destroyers in the Sea of Japan to track the launch.

Presume for now that the missile makes it past the ~40 second mark of the flight without going *boom* like the 2006 launch attempt did.

The decision, at that point, is based on what capability and civilian authority has been put in place. The South Koreans (ROK) have little they can do but watch and learn. The United States Navy will have two more ballistic-missile-defense-capable (AEGIS BMD-capable) destroyers at sea to the east, armed with the superbly capable Standard SM-3 interceptor missile. They also have the best practice with the system and will have what is arguably the BMD equivalent of a sitting duck in their sights with the launch warning having gone directly to the ships, a confirmed track from the destroyer in close observation, and a still-unstaged-full-of-liquid-fuel missile in early boost phase to lock on to. But that is where the civilian authority part comes in: according to reports, U.S. Secretary of State H. Clinton has stated that no attempt to shoot down the missile will be made; U.S. Secretary of Defense R. Gates has publicly distained the need to shoot down the missile “unless an errant missile was to threaten Hawaii”.

Presume for now the North Koreans are not conducting a joint missile and warhead test that would “errantly” be headed straight for American soil, and that the Americans are competent enough to make that judgment in a timely enough manner to, if deemed necessary, use either the AEGIS BMD ships or the Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptors at Ft. Greely, Alaska.

What that all means is that the Americans are likely going to be spectators.


The nation of Japan is right under the flight path, and could reasonably argue an airspace violation since the missile would still be under second-stage boost as its territory was over-flown. Japan will be directly between the splash zones of the first and second stage boosters which might not fall in the declared zones and, in the case of a staging failure…

…the missile may well fall (from the example, in pieces) upon Japanese territory.

Here is what Japan brings to the table:

One AEGIS destroyer placed in close observation range of the launch. No SM-3 capability on that ship, but its job is to see, not shoot.

Two AEGIS BMD-capable destroyers placed to the east, both carrying SM-3 interceptors.

Japan has participated in two full-scale BMD exercises with the Americans at their Hawaiian test range, going 1 for 2 on intercepts but having learned almost as much from the miss as from the hit. Lesson one learned: Salvo launch. Put up multiple interceptors. There is no need for economy in a must-hit scenario.

Terminal Defense: Japan has spent a lot of time and money of getting good with the new (to Japan) PAC-3 variant Patriot Air Defense Missile System. The PAC-3 is a greatly altered Patriot surface-to-air missile optimized for terminal interception of ballistic missiles. This is not your Gulf War SCUD-buster; Used against a non-maneuverable warhead or missile assembly entering the system’s ~20 mile (~30 km) defensible radius, this system is a lead-pipe cinch to score a hit-to-kill physical interception. The fragments of both the target and the interceptor then rain down short of the intended target. The design is that the fragments are in such small pieces as to be of little threat. As of today, Japan has deployed several units equipped with the PAC-3 system to be positioned to protect major population centers in Akita and Iwate Prefectures. Here is the latest report from the Yomiuri Newspaper (in Japanese), which includes a picture of one of the PAC-3 vehicles arriving at Komachi Stadium in Akita City. The report also cites a deployment in-place in Iwate Prefecture.

Civilian Authority: The government of Japan has issued an authorization order prior to any possible launch that approves of immediate action by the Self-Defense Forces to destroy “any missile or debris that might endanger Japanese territory” originating from this event. No doubt about it.

So there you have it.

Any launch would be a UNSCR 1718 violation.

If a launch occurs and there is any reasonable chance that Japanese territory would be endangered, the political decision has been made by civilian leaders for Japan to defend itself and its sovereignty.

It is time to stop playing the North Korean Blackmail Game.

It is time to stop tolerating legalese obfuscations and diplomatic incompetence on the part of North Korea’s apologists, too.

Somebody hold our Foster Grants; We have got some work to do, and if you are not going to do it, well then don't get in the way.

End Notes:

All End Notes are embedded in the text as links.

The following are for General Information only. As always with Wiki-p, source everything.

General Information on Musudan-ri, the major North Korean missile test center

General Information (limited) on the supposed Unha-2 SLV

General Information on the Taepodong-2; what they are likely really testing

General Information on the Nodong-2; the biggest ballistic missile in anything like reliable use in the DPRK military

General Information on Iran’s Safir SLV and the Omid satellite

General Information on the AEGIS BMD system, with links from there to the SM-3 interceptor

General Information on the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System

General Information on the Patriot Air Defense System, including the PAC-3

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

There will be no new discussion threads today unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world; Next up will be the Weekly piece come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

There are no other site admin matters to trouble with for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

About that border security problem...

Here is one of those reports that the current chanting mob blaming Mexico's narco-terror and gang warfare on weapons said to originate in the U.S.A. just does not want to talk about very much...
Mexican drug cartels often use grenades in attacks, and many of the weapons are believed to be coming from Central America. But Morales said the grenades found at the camp originated in Mexico. He gave no details.

Blanco said the camp was located on a farm near the border with Mexico. Officials believe more than three dozen recruits were being taught how to ride motorcycles and fire at targets in moving cars.
That would be 500 grenades confiscated, by the way.

Five Hundred.

Not a one of which could have been legally obtained in the U.S.A. by ordinary means.

So yes, there is a border security problem, and yes it goes both ways. Handguns would be a notable example of what Mexico does not want to see coming back south from the United States. But as long as one is going to worry about border security (and one should!), let's continue to show some concern about all of Mexico's borders. Doing more to see to the secure possession of Mexican Army weapons would be of value as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New American plan for the Afghanistan theater of war

By now, one has likely read about the Obama administration's follow-on of 4,000 more troops to add to the already allocated 17,000 troops and "hundreds of civilians" to be sent as re-enforcements to the Afghanistan theater of the war, and the offer of US$1.5 billion (over five years) in aid to Pakistan.

What you might have missed are:

The statement from Senator Carl Levin on the new plan (not all good, not all bad, in his opinion) and the scheduling of a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, April 1st, to call in Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, CentCom CG David Petraeus and USSOCOM commander Admiral Eric Olson to testify.

The statement from Ambassador Said T. Jawad of Afghanistan on the plan and his open request to the NATO allies to do more as well.

The statement from President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on the plan and his measured support for it.

Now we just need a little more talk of "victory" as a goal and things will certainly be moving in the right direction.

A special CompHyp "thank you" to the FOXNews folks for their great work on the Urgent Queue to get these extra details out to reporters and the public. Bravo, folks.

It might have been about money...

...or opportunist vandalism...

...or it might have been a very messy and clumsy bit of data theft.

Do not discount the possibility of it being all three.

Whatever the reason, for the crime of the January attack on Caracas' largest synagogue the State Prosecutors in Venezuela have filed charges against 8 police officers and 3 other persons.

It is fair to note that the government of Hugo Chavez has denounced the attack (that came shortly after Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Israel over Operation Cast Iron in Gaza).

It is also fair to note that both Hezbollah and Iran's Pasdaran (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; IRGC) have a presence in Venezuela, and could put to use a list of the names and addresses of all the members of the synagogue, were it to be in their hands.

Daddy's Girl

It seems that Keiko Fujimori, the most popular single politician in Peru recently and the daughter of disgraced (and arrested) former President Alberto Fujimori, seems to believe that the opinion of the electorate matters more than the ruling of any judge.
"My father's true sentencing will come in the 2011 elections, in which the people will decide if Alberto Fujimori is innocent or not," said Keiko Fujimori, a Peruvian lawmaker who received more votes than any other congressional candidate in the 2006 elections.
She is also voicing again the Fujimori defense of record: that her father did nothing wrong himself, but was manipulated and deceived by Vladimiro Montesinos, her father's administration's Intelligence Chief and political player.

Now, there is no doubt that V. Montesinos is a villain. That's been established and he is cooling his heels in the clink because of it. But it is going to be rather hard to convince anyone of A. Fujimori's innocence in all the dirty matters when his first action upon being warned of a possible arrest was to flee to Japan, abuse the rights of ancestral-Japanese to claim Japanese nationality, and hide out with his fortune under the protection of people who got rich fronting for his Peruvian government in Japan.

To no one's surprise, K. Fujimori is considered a likely candidate for President of Peru in the coming election cycle. She has said that were she to become President, she would pardon her father if (in her mind the unlikely event of) his conviction.

If he can back up those words...

...then *this* is the best news to come out of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) in a very, very long time:
"This government is aware that most of the ongoing disruptions of agricultural production, which are being done in the name of the land reform process, are actually acts of theft," Mr Tsvangirai told a meeting of diplomats, civic society and business leaders, in one of his first public appearances since the death of his wife in a car crash earlier this month.

"Those continuing to undertake these activities will be arrested and face justice in the courts.

"I have tasked the minister of home affairs to ensure that all crimes are acted upon and the perpetrators arrested and charged."
The problem, besides the obvious matter that President R. Mugabe's thugs are the ones doing the land invasions, is that there are currently *two* Home Affairs Ministers in the unity government... one from Mugabe's ZANU-PF; one from Tsvangirai's MDC.

No bets on whether either has real authority over the police, or if both will heed the directions of Prime Minister M. Tsvangirai.

If this does end the invasions, wonderful.

If this becomes a breaking point that shows the world the unity government is a sham to keep Mugabe and Co. in power, good enough.

Either end the invasions (and return those previously stolen properties), or end the sham and let's get back to evicting the really unwelcome resident: R. Mugabe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Somali Pirates Take Two Tankers

While one of these captures made the news earlier today, latest reports are that a Norwegian-owned chemical tanker was taken in addition to the smaller Greek-owned chemical tanker known to have been captured. U.S. Navy 5th Fleet sources confirm both captures.

Anyone care to guess where they were taken?


If you guessed south-east of Somalia, you got it. Not as far off-shore as the recent multiple failed attempts, but still down Seychelles-way rather than in the Gulf of Aden.

IAEA Directorship election undecided

The election to select the replacement for Director General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has failed to give the required 2/3 majority needed to either candidate. The voting will be continued tomorrow.

The two candidates are:

Amano Yukiya (Y. Amano), the current Japanese Ambassador to the Permanent Mission to the International Organizations of the U.N. at Vienna. He has spent the bulk of his career working on non-proliferation issues. Personal Profile from Wiki-p here.


Abdul Samad Minty, the current IAEA Governor for South Africa and a man of shall-we-say a bit of history. Personal Profile from pmg.org here. (PMG is the Parliamentary Monitoring Group of the committees of the South African Parliament, an non-governmental organization.)

There should be no choice here, but given A.S. Minty's lifetime place in various U.N. activities it seems that makes him a viable candidate...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Told You So (March 2009 edition)

Somali pirates hijacked a Seychelles yacht last month.

This author's best guess is that the yachtsmen stumbled upon a pirate group.

Where, exactly, remains unknown as is the fate of the two sailors.

The yacht has been seen under guard anchored of Garacad, Somalia.


EagleSpeak has a bit more on this.

Rajoelina looking less successful

Madagascar's new regime, the Army-appointed government of Andry Rajoelina, may well be short-lived.

The African Union has refused to recognize the change in management; Even though the top court of the land confirmed him as interim President, the Malagasy Constitution sets an age minimum of 40, which Rajoelina at 34 misses by a mile; and now Thousands of supporters of expelled (and apparently self-exiled) former President Marc Ravalomanana have taken to the streets, Ravalomanana has set up shop in Southern Africa and appears to be plotting a return.

He has not been asked by the South African Development Community (SADC) to stand aside, and his holding on to Madagascar's seat on SADC's security troika is one way to gain more outside support.

Expect fireworks at the SADC meeting on Monday.

Thailand Trouble in Twos

In what must be a purely unintended coincidence, the Kingdom of Thailand has found itself with two of its three most troublesome border regions in simultaneous conflicts. With luck like this, one should almost expect the Myanmar (Burma) border to have an incident too.

The contested border area with Cambodia around the Preah Vihear temple site is once again a zone of contention, with Cambodia threatening to use force to remove an 80 man Royal Thai Army force that has crossed onto what Cambodia claims as their territory.

More pressing in its hazard is the massive Royal Thai Army effort to capture an insurgent group and the leader thereof in the southern Patanni (Pattani) region. Forces in action include hundreds of soldiers and police, backed by helicopters, with re-enforcements on the way.

For reference, here are the previous CompHyp Weekly items on

The Preah Vihear Temple conflict, and

The Insurgency in Patanni, Yala, and Narathiwat.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Somali Pirates, Seychelles Area, Redux

Three more piracy attempts to the southeast of Somalia, far out to sea. None succeeded, but once again the pirates that are getting in the plausible attempts are doing so about 500 nautical miles (900+ km) off the coast... well over halfway from mainland Africa to the Seychelles...

Hm, have not we heard something of this before?

Here is the fact sheet from the U.S. State Department's website about the Seychelles. Defense and Coast Guard capabilities are, well, limited:
In 2002, Seychelles had a defense force (Seychelles People's Defense Forces) of about 800 army personnel, including 300 in the presidential protection unit. The army has one infantry battalion and two artillery elements. Paramilitary forces include a national guard consisting of 1,000 people and a coast guard estimated at 250 and divided into two divisions, the naval wing and security or infantry division.

The Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG), which was created in 1992, assumes many of the maritime roles commonly associated with the U.S. Coast Guard. They recently acquired responsibility for search and rescue for vessel incidents as well as environmental protection from the Port and Marine Services Division. SCG has several operational vessels: the Russian-built Fortune, the Italian-built Andromache, the Scorpio, two Indian manufactured vessels, four Motor Life Boats, and the luxury yacht Gemini that also is used as the presidential yacht.

The air wing of the defense force separated from the coast guard in 1997 and does not have any dedicated aircraft, but it sometimes supplies pilots and aircrews to fly search and rescue missions. Their primary duty is to train pilots. The Island Development Corporation (IDC) maintains the pool of aircraft, using them for sources of income by chartering them out. The aircraft inventory includes one Caravan F-406, one Defender, one Cessna 150, and one Beech 1900.
Not much there to try to find a pirate mothership (or two, or more) slipping into Seychelles waters, far from the massive patrols of the world's Naval Forces working off Puntland and in the Gulf of Aden.

Might be worth doing a bit of looking around there, or to help the Seychelles government do the looking.

a most grateful hat/tip to Eagle1, who brought this back to my attention with his timely posting. EagleSpeak remains one of the best reads out there on matters combining History, Law, and Naval matters.

OOOH! More threats!

Forgive me if a look of abject terror is beyond me. Repetition dulls the reaction.

North Korea (officially the People's Democratic Republic of Korea; PDRK) has announced that
...attempts by members of the six-party talks on curbing the North's nuclear ambitions to impose fresh sanctions if it goes ahead with a planned rocket launch would "deprive the six-party talks of any ground to exist or their meaning."
As if the process was going anywhere.

Between the specific unwillingness of North Korea to answer to challenges regarding their kidnappings of Japanese nationals (and maybe now American nationals too) and their general unwillingness to do a single useful thing to advance the negotiations toward the stated goal of de-nuclearization, maybe it would be a very fine thing for the Six-Party talks to take a break.

How about then we shoot down their violation of the ballistic missile test ban...

...then we sanction them further for even trying to lob rockets around...

...and then we check to see if it is worth talking to the North Koreans?

Out goes the old management

And with little more than a statement to the media, Michael Misick, the Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, has resigned. He claims to have done so at the request of the elected Representatives of the local Parliament, and to be making way for a unified government.

It was, as he spoke of intending to do, the honorable thing to do.

May tomorrow be a brighter day for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Grace under fire... not that Grace, though

The government of the Special Autonomous Region of Hong Kong has responded to legal challenges regarding Grace Mugabe's (wife of Zimbabwe's (Rhodesia) President Robert Mugabe) January 15th assault upon a photographer on the streets of Hong Kong:
The Department of Justice in the territory issued a statement saying: “Grace Mugabe is not liable to arrest or detention, and enjoys immunity from prosecution.” These rights come under Chinese regulations on diplomatic immunity and privileges, the department said.
Very well then, following form then consider for a moment that the P.R. Chinese make no mention of "conduct incompatible with diplomatic status". Either they applaud foreign "diplomatic personnel" slugging representatives of the local media, or there is a double standard being applied. That might not matter within the mainland, but if the matter came before Hong Kong courts, it might just be arguable. Maybe.

Far better, but highly unlikely, would be for Hong Kong to revoke any permission for her to enter the region.

Pity, that.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Weekly N&C for March 23rd, 2009

Recognition of Not Recognizing

The tale begins long ago, but now winds its way around the issue of Kosovo.

For the modern Reino de España, the Kingdom of Spain, has chosen differently than most of its fellow European Union members and has refrained from offering recognition to the new country of Kosovo. What makes this seem, at first blush, odd is that Spain has been one of the main contributors to NATO and E.U. military forces employed in the Balkans. First arriving as a part of the earliest ill-starred peacekeeping effort in Bosnia, Spanish Army forces have played an important role in the Stabilization Force there and the KFOR intervention in Kosovo… up to now.

Now (as in happening this last week) Carme Chacón, the Spanish Minister of Defense, has made headlines by announcing a withdrawal of Spanish troops from Kosovo while on a “morale-building” visit to said troops. This came as quite a surprise to the NATO planning staff, as they had received no notice of such withdrawal, pending or otherwise. When the feathers began to fly, the Spanish government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (hereafter referred to as Zapatero, as is his usage) took an all-too-accomodating-sounding position:
"Carme Chacón will meet Nato's secretary-general next week to explain the reasons for the withdrawal and to reach a joint decision on a timetable," Mr Zapatero's spokesman said. "The decision to leave has been made but we can be flexible over the timetable, be it one year, 18 months or eight months."
…which would have all been fine and good had it been mentioned *before* the Defense Minister gave her speech. The report cited above does mention that Ms. Chacón did call NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer prior to the announcement (at some unspecified time) but that none of the NATO staff had received word, nor had U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates or the various diplomatic offices involved received word through regular channels. These are not people who appreciate being surprised by their friends; surprised in a bad way, that is.

So the remarks were made too abruptly, perhaps? The Spanish government reconsidered the tone and the pace? Not hardly. In further remarks today, Ms. Chacón said Spain is sticking to its decision, although in fairness she now included that the withdrawal would be gradual and in coordination with NATO.

The explanation was that it made no sense for Spanish soldiers to help build a state the independence of which Madrid did not recognize. Fair enough.

One should, however, not expect to be treated as a major part of NATO and the E.U. if one insists upon having a foreign policy at odds with the declared goals of both organizations. There is a price to be paid for choosing to act that way, a price in relationships.

So why, on this matter and at this time, does the Zapatero administration chose to take it on the chin in the relationship department? This is not even as obvious a case of (supposed) self-interest as Spain’s abandonment of the Iraq Occupation. In that case, they could at least claim to be making a choice based on the change in government policy that came with the election of Mr. Zapatero’s government. This seems less influenced by any change, and more a case of political opportunism to try and restore some of the flagging domestic popularity of the administration. But that does not cover the most basic of issues here: Why does Spain not recognize Kosovo’s independence?

The answer in a large part can be found in Comunidad Foral de Navarra, or in Basque Nafarroako Foru Erkidegoa, “The Foral Community of Navarre”, where Foral is an antiquated term describing a self-governing area nominally within a Kingdom. The land upon which Navarre now exists as one of the Autonomous Communities within Spain was formerly in-part the Kingdom of Navarre… which, like much of medieval Iberia, was a separate nation… and unlike much of the rest of Iberia, is the homeland of the Basque. Here is a larger map of what the Basque nationalists of modern day consider Euskal Herria (“Basque Country”). Note that the green area is the modern Spanish region of Navarra, the purple area is the adjacent Spanish regions (including one identically named “Basque Country”, or in Spanish “País Vasco”), and the yellow area is what was old Lower Navarre which is now part of France.

The Kingdom of Spain, after all, is the first great example of ‘an Empire of Kingdoms’. From the unification of the thrones of Aragon and Castile in 1469 as the Kingdom of the Spains on to present day, Spain has always been a summation of the nations within it. In some particular cases, it has been a most uneven and fractious summation. Cf. Catalunya for an equally passionate but less violent example.


Oh yes. What makes the case of the Basques measurably different than that of the other nationalities hoping and working toward a U.K.-like devolution of Spain is that since 1959 the most prominent force espousing Basque Independence is the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA; Basque: “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), an armed insurgency of the Marxist-Leninist inclination. Note that I said “most prominent”; there are plenty of perfectly rational Basque Nationalist that play in the political scene, and most of them seek only an improvement to the autonomy in place (via the 1978 Constitution) or reassembled Basque Homeland as a unitary component of some super-state, perhaps most likely a properly confederated European Union. But the ETA plants bombs, shoots people, and dreams of driving the non-indigenous out of “their lands”… which if that sounds all too much like anti-colonialism as applied to Africa, well, it is the same rewriting of the actual history as was done in those cases too and by the same red pen of Soviet influence. While the day of glorious people’s anti-colonial idealist resulting-in-a-socialist-paradise revolution has pretty much gone into the dustbin of history, the ETA is still in business.

So for any one still in doubt as to why Spain thinks that recognizing Kosovo’s Independence is a bad idea, just imagine applying to Spain an extension of the same rules that were applied to Serbia. The two cases are utterly dissimilar in modern day; no Spanish jack-boots have gone into the Basque lands with murder and reprisal in mind since 1987 when the “dirty war” of the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL; "Antiterrorist Liberation Group") paramilitaries was brought to an end. Investigations and trials brought a host of government sponsors of the GAL to justice and no Spanish government has countenanced such since then. But there is that history there, and if the same standards as used in Kosovo were applied by a shall-we-say-less-forgiving external authority (like an altered form of the U.N., perhaps) playing the role of NATO in Kosovo, then Spain could find itself short at least a couple of Pyrenean providences.

So with that in mind, find a way to forgive Spain for its most-impolitic departure from KFOR. They can not, in any good conscience, remain there now that the military phase is past and the matter has become one of nation-building.

Forgive. But do not forget.

Remember that no state can be asked to go against its clear national interest without some pretty serious justification.

Remember that the Ejército de Tierra (Land Army of Spain) can and will fight well, when their government lets them.

If there is one thing, one blessedly simple thing, that could come out of this utterly avoidable political debacle, let it be that the NATO nations doing the fighting and dying in Afghanistan today (and maybe somewhere else tomorrow) use this issue as a diplomatic crowbar to pry off the government shackles that keep the Army (and Navy and Air Force) from making a full contribution to NATO efforts in the Global War on Terror.

They said they can’t contribute any longer in Kosovo, based on principle. Very fine then, let us see them contribute to the fullest in the GWOT, based on principle.

End Notes:

All links embedded in the text.

The following General Information on items referenced in the text above is from Wiki-p. As always with Wikipedia, but especially on subjects of political sensitivity like this, check the sources on all items.

General Information on Reino de España, the Kingdom of Spain

General Information on Comunidad Foral de Navarra, Nafarroako Foru Erkidegoa, the Foral Community of Navarre, Spain

General Information on Euskal Herria, the Basque “national region”

Historical Information on the medieval period Kingdom of Navarre

General Information on the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) militant nationalist group

General Information on the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL) paramilitary group

General Information on the Ejército de Tierra (Land Army of Spain)

General Information on Kosovo Force (KFOR), the NATO-led military intervention in Kosovo

Personality Profile: Carme Chacón Piqueras, Minister of Defense, Spain

Personal Profile: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minster, President of the Government of Spain

This guy...

...either has a particularly bad way of stating that Ballistic Missile Defense depends on multiple sensors, including space-based, and that to utilize the naval SM-3 missile defense system in part depends on an early-warning system built and run by the Americans,...

...or he is a political partisan of the "but we CAN'T!!!" school of want-to-be diplomats. The only fathomable reason for someone competent saying something like this is *if* the Obama administration has refused to support an intercept attempt by Japan's Self-Defense Force.

Sure would have been nice if he had let his name be cited, because this fellow needs a couple of shots of "baka-be-gone". (baka = "fool" in Japanese, but a much harsher term than the English equivalent)

His one cited quotation:
"You cannot shoot down a pistol bullet by a pistol," the senior government source said.
...that, ladies and gentlemen, is a demonstration of a failure to understand the capability. Shooting down a ballistic missile is much harder than shooting a bullet into another bullet, and with the (very expensive) investment in the necessary technology, entirely do-able.

Not a sure thing, but do-able. One we should be prepared to try.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Midday Push

That will be all for new discussion threads today unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world; Next up will be the Weekly piece come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

My thanks to our European readers coming here following search-engine links to various of our topics, and sharing them with friends. I hope this site is of service to you.

There are no other site admin matters to trouble with for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Recognizing Reality

A very, very good speech today from Asou souri (Prime Minister T. Aso of Japan) at the graduation ceremony of the National Defense Academy, as reported in the Yomiuri newspaper (source in Japanese). Here is a summary report from AFP on the same (source in English).

The speech recognized several important factors, including that with the current management in the U.S.A. making noises about Defense cuts in the 10~25% range Japan had best both close ranks with the Americans on Defense Cooperation and see to our own matters of providing for the National Defense. Now, in fairness, Japan has an almost incontestable military advantage right now at sea and in the air, and has the luxury of planning only for defensive operations, but changes over the last decade in the capabilities of potential threats means a continued effort need be maintained.
"For us to assure peace and stability in Japan, it is extremely important to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance as well as to make its own efforts for self defence."
Beautiful words. Let's see if the funding remains in the budget to back them up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kivu and Ituri spiral back to disorder

Two reports pretty much sum up the situation:

The Ugandan-Sudanese-Congolese intervention against the LRA in Ituri, D.R. Congo, is over, but the LRA keeps killing, claims of great success against the LRA bases not withstanding.

The Congolese-Rwandan operation against the FDLR (Hutu Interahamwe from the Rwanda Genocide) is drawing down, and the FDLR is right back to killing despite the presence of MONUC United Nations peacekeepers.



Friday, March 20, 2009

Nowruz No Comment

The Supreme Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran has issued their various messages for the Nowruz ("Persian New Year" on the traditional calendar) and seem to have overlooked what Reuters and other news wires have tried to make sound important.

Yes, what's-his-name, the new guy running the Great Satan government, did issue some sort of message. Big deal. They do that every year.

It was worthy of no comment by any of the leadership.

...and in a perhaps once-in-forever occurance, this author agrees with them:

It was utterly meaningless noise.


Anyone cares to challenge me on that, I'll happily bury you under (open) sources and analysis articles on just *why* it was meaningless.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Sad Remembrance

It is already the 20th here, and the Metropolitan Subway of Toukyou (Tokyo, Japan)has held the 14th Anniversary of the Subway Nerve Gas Terror Attack.

Further reminder that the engine of terrorism is Fanaticism, and that the bravest defenders are those that selflessly first-respond... and that fear can paralyze even the best ambulance / rescue teams when they are up against a mysterious disaster.

It was the second major nerve gas attack perpetrated by AUM Shinrikyo, although that fact was not well understood at the time.

General Information on the Subway Attack from Wiki-p; General Information on the previous attack at Matsumoto. As always, source all Wikipedia citations.

AUM Shinrikyo remains in operation as a "religious" group, under the name Aleph. They are still listed on the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and are under continuous Special Observation by law enforcement agencies in Japan.

Wrong Choice

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has placed a limit on European spending on (infrastructure) projects that will complete after 2010... which basically denies a major funding source for the Nabucco Gas Pipeline project.

Ms. Merkel, it seems, favors the NordStream project.

This actively undermines the declared priorities of the E.U. in their 2008 Energy Policy funding. It also smacks of a "big-country veto" of E.U. decisions.

This is a wrong choice if the declared goal of Europe reducing its dependence on Russian Natural Gas is to be met. NordStream *is a Russian project*, intended to enhance Russian dominance in the Central European market. Nabucco is to be an alternative, drawing on non-Russian Central Asian suppliers.

We've been over this ground before here; NordStream is at best just more risk, and at worst a Putin-Schroeder "get rich" scheme.

This is a choice that should be reversed, and quickly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dependencies are not, by definition, Independent

...nor are they a license for the locals allowed to run the government on a day-to-day basis to loot the treasury.

The Turks and Caicos are a dependency of the United Kingdom. That means, when push comes to shove, the Governor-General is the final arbitrator over sovereign matters. In a reasonable situation, of course, the Governor-General keeps hands off matters of governance... but what happens when the local administration appears to be engaged in blatant malfeasance (like using the national treasury as a personal piggy bank) for which the sovereign obligation resides in the "mother" country?

This has been building for over a month now, with the investigation completed back on February 11th of this year. It is a pretty clear example of kleptocracy by the local administration.


It falls upon Her Majesty's government to intervene.

The local Premier, one Michael Misick, and his cronies are already crying "Colonialism".

That is what being a dependency is. Wilfully remaining in a subject relationship.

At least the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a measured tone about the matter:
The Foreign Office denied any colonial ambitions. “This would not be direct rule, nor would it be indefinite. It would be a smart, targeted, intervention for an interim period by the governor whose responsibilities not only include representing the Crown in the islands, but also the interests of the people of the Turks and Caicos islands.”
Most correct. And if that fails, then Direct Rule would also be correct.

If the people of the Turks and Caicos don't agree, then end the dependency (and the accompanying special benefits).

South Korean investigators targeted in Yemen

The AP has this report as well, but to once again direct your attention to the best English-language source on things Yemeni, here is Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation on the attempt yesterday by a suicidal attacker to bomb the convoy of South Korean investigators as they drove in from the airport. The bomber missed, killing only himself.

Her report is detailed; her explanation of the possible actors in the crime is better. For bonus points, she even notes the role of South Korean investment in Yemen's Liquefied Natural Gas export project.

This attack follows the killing of South Korean tourists last weekend.

al-Bashir scoffs at the ICC

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir once again demonstrates his contempt for the ICC warrant for his arrest, and he did so at a rally in Darfur to add to the insult:
"No ICC or Security Council or any other party will change our path or touch an eyelash in our eye," al-Bashir shouted at the rally in Niyala's nomad Sabadou area. "The president of Sudan is not elected by Britain or America. Sudan is an independent country."
Clearly, no one mentioned to him that the U.S.A. is not party to the International Criminal Court (at least not yet).

The real challenge is coming at the end of the month, when the Arab League is meeting in Qatar, and al-Bashir has stated he intends to attend. The Arab League as a bloc has rejected the ICC warrant, but Qatar is a signatory state to the treaty establishing the ICC.

Anyone want to put a wager on whether Qatar will fulfill its obligation to assist the court and serve the warrant?

I didn't think so.


CORRECTION: while Qatar (like many states) has been party to the ICC negotiations, it is not a signatory nor ratified member of the treaty.


A general assessment of this ICC action and the immediate rejection thereof was made here in The Weekly N&C for March 9th, 2009.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Violating NAFTA is not a win move

The same goes for World Trade Organization rules: If one intends to for all intents and purposes break a trade treaty, then formally renounce it and take the consequences.

Fooling around with trivial reinterpretations of conditions and sub-clauses is just inviting all the troubles of a formal break and engendering bad feelings of ill-treatment and unfairness in the process. Reprisals become politically necessary.

Besides the fact that the supposed reasons for the Obama administration's baiting this response are not provable, it is singularly unwise to turn protectionist in a time of economic recession. Cf. Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

U.N. calls on Myanmar Junta to release detainees

Sadly however the day after Tomas Ojea Quintana, United Nations human rights investigator, published his report and called for the release of the ~2,100 political prisoners held in Myanmar (Burma)...

The Junta responded by arresting five more people linked to the democracy movement and then issued this statement:
Responding to the report, Myanmar's Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva said his country holds no political prisoners. "In fact, these are only individuals who are serving prison terms for breaking the existing laws of Myanmar," said Wunna Maung Lwin.

That could have gone better.

Might help to have something more than moral authority on the side of right in this case.

Viktor Bout's wife testifies

In the extradition hearing in Thailand for "alleged" arms merchant Viktor Bout, his wife has offered only the best words of testimony as to his innocence:
"I believe my husband does honest business," she told the Thai court. "We have been together 17 years. There is no reason for me to believe he has done anything illegal."
Gee, love must really be blind.

Ma'am, some people have a different opinion on that point.

You might want to reconsider that relationship, there.

Philippines Marines close the box on Abu Sayyaf

Since the kidnapping on January 15th of three workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross / Red Crescent (ICRC) by Abu Sayyaf terrorists, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been in hot pursuit. But to pursue *anyone* on Jolo Island is no small task given the terrain and lack of accessibility.

Finally, it looks like the Philippines Marines have closed the box and the Abu Sayyaf forces are reduced to trying to break out rather than just keep running.

Here's hoping a rescue chance comes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Weekly N&C for March 16th, 2009

Just another dead foreigner

It reads like a plot element from a police procedural; a murder, fairly shocking in context, and a mystery of several layers as to why and by whom it was commited.

Here is the original report as carried (in Japanese) by the Yomiuri newspaper. For convenience, here is almost the same report as carried (in English) by Kyoudou (Kyodo) wire service. In summary:

An ambulance service in Aichi Prefecture received a call from a resident that (paraphrased) ‘a car was on fire with someone inside it’ in the early morning hours of the 13th of March (local time) 2009.
A 26-year-old male resident nearby, who called an ambulance, said, "The car's horn sounded at around 1:50 a.m. and continued blaring, and when I looked outside it was engulfed in flames."
Police responders found in the ruins of the incinerated vehicle the body of a man in the front passenger seat. Further investigation would reveal multiple stab wounds including mortal injuries to the heart and lungs, but that the victim was likely still at least clinically alive at the time of the fire.

Tracing back the ownership of the vehicle found the last registered owner to have been in Nagoya City but who had given up the vehicle’s ownership as surrendered collateral for an unpaid debt. The “former” owner had no idea who or for what purpose the car was being used for after he gave up title (or at least gave the car to someone; there is a question as to whether such a transfer would remove ownership liability).

Then, the identity of the victim was determined...

Morteza Farhadi, a 46-year-old Iranian national residing in Inabe, Mie Prefecture.

…and then the curtain closed on reporting about this story.

Since Saturday’s news cycle, there has been a grand total of one media report on the case (in Japanese) citing the police forensics as determined to date. Measurements of stab wound depth; the description of the body position in the passenger seat as found – hunched over forward; and otherwise not a single thing about circumstances or scenarios surrounding this murder.

Here is why this should be getting your attention, in no particular order:

.The police, especially the National Police HQ, never miss a chance to make media hay anytime a foreigner is involved in a major (felony; state crime) criminal incident. It plays into the accepted fable that non-Japanese are much more dangerous than Japanese.

.The media loves a bloody murder. “If it bleeds, it leads” may as well be the implied rule for newspaper editors everywhere, but especially in Japan the idea of bloody, red-handed murder is almost required to be the lead story for days as the media milks out the shock value of knife / gun / blood / panic / grotesque / violence (in what ever mixture fits the case in question). It is especially “good” if the murder then results in a ghastly form of covering up the evidence; dismemberment and / or hidden burial is a sure broadsheet-seller, arson counts for a lot as well in the media reaction.

.There is an accepted belief that of the roughly 10,000 Iranian nationals residing in Japan (about half of them perfectly legally doing so), a significant portion of them are smugglers or petty crooks. The provable allegation is that large numbers of Iranians used to enter Japan for various purposes before visas were required and enforced (law changed in 1992; since 1994, Japan has actually enforced visa requirements on Iranian nationals and has prosecuted a significant number of said persons in the country illegally), and that the habit of those Iranians was to engage in whatever commercial activity they could get away with for personal gain. This has led to the stereotypical image of the Iranian ex-pat with his little street vendor’s table near Ueno Station (Tokyo’s major north east rail terminal) hawking prepaid phone cards and various items of jewelry of dubious material and branding, who might just have a bit of dope for sale if you know how to ask for it. It is an unfair stereotype to all the hardworking legal immigrants, but enough cases of just such description have fallen into police hands that the label sticks.

.There is also an awareness in official circles that some number of Iranian migrants in Japan are engaged in international activities that border on smuggling. Some number of those, it is believed, may be state-sponsored. Not the ones trying to buy up used computers and cheap secondhand automobiles; those fellows are just treading a fine line between customs evasion and entrepreneurial success. But there are those hands in the game that are laundering money and attempting to obtain manufacturing and information technology for the benefit of… well, if it was known clearly for whom, there would be action taken. It is not provable (most of the time), so nothing happens besides ordinary local law enforcement.

So this time…

The Police aren’t saying much.

The Media, who would usually be trumpeting this, are letting the story fade.

The Popular reaction has been limited to “oooh, murder”, and after a few minutes of that the short attention-span of modern life took hold. “oooh, (insert next news story here)”

The Government, either the Gaimushou (Foreign Ministry) or Houmushou (Justice Ministry) seems to have no comment on this matter.


Let’s be honest. In a rational world, this would not be a big story. Even in Japan, people get murdered. It happens. It happens often enough to warrant the story being a page 2 or 3 item unless it is a breaking story. The fact that the victim was of foreign nationality should (again, in a rational world) barely raise the threshold of notice. The potential for it having been part of a larger espionage or gangland plot might, barely, make it newsworthy on a nationwide basis *if there was any clear indication of such*.

But this is not such a world.

This is an emotional world, at least in the news media. The only thing that could possibly subdue the frothing frenzy that is the mass media’s reaction to anything they can paint as controversial or grotesque would be…

…if someone with real authority told them to put a lid on it.

You see, Japanese newspapers and broadcasters are in the main dependent upon “Press Clubs” for access to various official press sources. The one threat that actually strikes home with the mass media here is if, and because it is only rarely so, I repeat *if* someone in the Police or National Government pulled in the editors of the major dailies and broadcast shows and told them “Lay off this story”, that so-called-guidance is backed up by the threat of “and if you don’t, you’ll be banished from all press access to official sources”.

Because there is just too much about this story…

…too much to notice…

…too much not being said…

…to let it be ignored.

End Notes:

The articles directly cited are embedded as links in the text

A very controversial, but highly reasoned source for information on civil rights and foreigner / police matters in Japan is the legal practice of Arudou Debito (a.k.a. Dave Aldwinkle), a crusading lawyer of the old-school who happens to be a foreign-born Japanese National. His website subcategory on “Japanese Police / Foreign Crime” is at *this* link. Note that, as of today, he has not commented on this particular case.

A somewhat dated, but still informative piece on Iranian migrants in Japan can be found at Iranians in Japan at Wiki-p. As always, remember Wikipedia is only as good as its sources.

Malagasy Army intervenes on the rebel side

Reports are just coming in of Army tanks being used to break into the grounds of the Presidential Palace in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

While the Army, and many of the people, are supporting the opposition forces, the African Union has come out against any non-democratic (coup d'etat) solution to the disorder in Madagascar:
The African Union condemned what it called an attempted coup by the opposition and urged the people of Madagascar to respect the constitution.

"The situation in Madagascar is an internal conflict. It is an attempted coup d'etat. We condemn the attempted coup d'etat," Edouard Alo-Glele, Benin's envoy to Ethiopia, said after an emergency meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council.
Beautiful words, yes, but is anyone in Antananarivo listening?

What part of "independent"...

...do they not understand?

In what could turn into a(nother) ugly dispute, Serbia's Minister for Kosovo ...yes, they still have one at the cabinet level... and his entourage were refused entry into Kosovo by the Kovovar Border Police.

They were planning to hold a parliamentary committee meeting in the town Ranilug, which while populated in the majority by Serbs is inside the recognized borders of Kosovo. Recognized, that is, in the general sense... Serbia has yet to recognize Kosovo's independence, unlike 56 other countries including the U.S.A. and most all of the E.U.

Now, let's be clear: if the territory of Kosovo was occupied by a foreign power like South Ossetia or the Northern Territories are, then this author would be cheering the Serbian government for making the attempt at re-asserting itself. The problem here is that while the U.N. charter does not recognize occupation / annexation by force, it does allow for territorial devolution (Independence of a territory from a larger state) at the will of the population there resident. No, relocation or removal ("ethnic cleansing") of the previous population and then repopulating it with one's own nationals doesn't count. Cf. Kaliningrad and non-Israeli Palestine for the usual arguments there, but there are lots more. Kosovo doesn't fit the description.

What the Serbs could, and should, be doing is a steady diplomatic effort to get some recognition of minority rights made a permanent part of the constitution of Kosovo... and then get on with recognizing the situation as it is. A beneficial accord that would allow for Serbian pride and history to be commemorated in the "Birthplace of Serbia" would be the right thing to do. Throw out the memory of the last 50 years and celebrate the wonder of the survival of the Serbian people over the last 630 years.

Otherwise, well, let's just say that there are *lots* of people around the Balkans who have an axe to grind with the Serbs, and it would be a shame if Serbia found itself surrounded by an inherently hostile alliance.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Evening Push

That will be all for new discussion threads today; Next up will be the Weekly piece come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

There are no other site admin matters to trouble with for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Bombing targets tourists in Yemen

This came in yesterday (local time) via the superb Jane Novak at her Armies of Liberation 'blog, but now the AP and AFP are running versions of the story.

The gist: Four South Korean tourists and their Yemeni guide were killed, some larger number of other tourists and locals were wounded, in a bomb explosion. The device was planted in a popular observation point for viewing the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Shibam and was apparently a command-detonated device. That means the terrorists targeted that group of tourists intentionally.

The South Korean government had put a travel warning out on citizens visiting Yemen, but it was not an enforceable prohibition.

El Salvador Election Day

Here it goes, again; another make-or-break Presidential election in Latin America. This time it is El Salvador, with the "reformed" FMLN running a non-revolutionary-front candidate as their face (or stalking horse; you be the judge) against ARENA's former national police commander candidate. ARENA has made up for double digit shortfalls in the polls up to now, and is running a close race. Their win in the San Salvador mayoralty during the local election round earlier this year ran against the tide of FMLN wins in the countryside and that has spurred a recovery for the party. Outgoing President Tony Saca (ARENA) also still commands a >60% approval rating. As of this morning, the American paper The Wall Street Journal cites polling putting things at a dead heat.

Should be an exciting day of democracy in El Salvador. Here's hoping for a fair and beneficial outcome.


UPDATED Late Sunday (North American times):

First reports are trickling in, with the AP citing a 51/49 split in favor of FMLN's M. Funes, with 33% of the vote counted. I say it will be even closer than that in the end, if not a win for ARENA's Avila...


UPDATED Overnight

The Electoral Commission has it at 51/49 for Mauricio Funes (FMLN), with 90% of the vote counted. Rodrigo Avila (ARENA) has conceded defeat and wished the new President luck.

I wish all of El Salvador luck, too, because I think they are going to need it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Televised Confessions of Trafficking in Guinea

The title just about says it all...

The military junta running Guinea (former French Guinea) in West Africa has gone on the airwaves with broadcast confessions by several former high-ranking officials of the government as to their role in (and the size of) the narcotics trafficking passing from South America through Guinea on to Europe.

Here is just the first couple of lines of the article:
When the planes arrived loaded with cocaine, it was Guinea's presidential guard that secured the cargo.

Drug deals were conducted inside the first lady's private residence and in the president's VIP salon at the international airport. To avoid detection, cocaine was sent to Europe in the country's diplomatic pouch.
A damning look at life in a narco-state. Please read the whole report.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I say we take a shot at it.

Asou Tarou, souridaijin (Prime Minister T. Aso) gave a rather lengthy press conference today. Leaving aside the issues of his popularity and the coming need for parliamentary elections looming on the ever-closer horizon...

...the major topic was the reaction to the planned North Korean missile launch, supposedly to happen in the next month's time. The claim is now being made at both the governmental and media levels that Japan will not tolerate having another North Korean missile lobbed across our country, and that countermeasures are intended.

That's fine by me.

Absolutely nothing in the whole world would shake the very souls of want-to-be minor nuclear blackmailers like North Korea and Iran like a demonstration that their neighbors are not just unwilling to be blackmailed, but are perfectly capable of thwarting any demonstration of threat by the blackmailers.

I say we take a shot at it. SM-3's launched for interception, in pairs, from international waters in the Sea of Japan. Just like we practiced off Hawaii last year.

Then we'll talk about the terms for the Six-Party Negotiations.

Chavez's war against the Mayors

The City Mayors and the State Governors, actually.

Earlier this week, the Chavista-controlled Assembly put in place the legislative mechanism to install appointed "federal officials" above the Mayors and to have superceding authority on municipal decisions... so much for electing one's local leaders.

Now, the Chavez regime has authorized National Authorities to take over the management and control of all highways, ports and airports, moving that authority from the States to the Federal government.

Because in an autocracy, there can be only one voice... only one party... only one leadership...

(Anyone noticing that controlling both the police and the harbormasters is a sure way to protect smuggling operations should report to Briefing Room E for Execution now, thank you.)

Daniel at Venezuela News and Views has lots more on this.

They did break the law

...both of the parents did, actually. Passport fraud; entering the country on some one else's passports. But their daughter Noriko has known no other life than that of a child in Japan, and is now a 13 year old student in public Junior High School (something that most children of legal migrants to Japan often do not achieve; they get stuck fulfilling legal public education requirements by attending privately run schools that often teach in the foreign language of the migrant community... not so good for social integration, that).

But the ruling is that only the daughter may remain in Japan as a resident. The parents *have to pay the price of breaking the law*. But after that, there are options available.
The justice ministry, meanwhile, revealed Friday that it intended to grant Noriko, who only speaks Japanese and attends a junior high school in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, special permission for residence later this month so she can continue to go to school in Japan.
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori said that Japan would be willing to grant short-term reentry permission to the girl's parents after they leave the country.

In the event of deportation, the parents would normally not be allowed to revisit Japan for five years due to the record of their illegal stay in the country, while in the case of voluntary departure they would be barred for one year.

But the justice minister suggested he would allow them to make short-term visits.
Keeping families together is a basically decent thing to do.

Finding a way to do so would be a credit to Japan, and offer some hope of resolving the issue of assimilating the significant number of migrants of questionable or illegal status that are a fact of life here.

Having the houmusho (Ministry of Justice, Japan) find a way to offer a role to Noriko Calderon and specifically to her parents Arlan and Sarah to make a public campaign to bring in to legal compliance visa-overstayers and false-entry residents, and to make a scheme that allows such individuals to convert their status to the legally correct form without having to leave Japan would be a good first step...

...and a way for the Calderon family to show some appreciation for the forgiveness being offered.

Japan, like any country, should welcome those who learn to play by the rules.

Even if that knowledge comes late.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Question is not Who, but Why

Now, granted, it was a false identification, but why would the current Government of Ecuador even pretend to have arrested a supposedly major FARC leader? Somebody didn't make the pay-offs on time or something? Some Police officials were actually doing the job that the (rough estimate number) 13,000 Ecuadorian Army troops assigned to the border region are supposed to be doing (of keeping foreign militants out)?

Moreover, why was this item even allowed to get out to any mass media?

Any guesses?

Not quite the whole story...

FOXNews usually gets it right when they do "world news" stories... well, that is if they get don't get handed a load of horsehockey by the AP (or other wire services) to work with, but this report on the Pakistan Civil Liberties Crackdown just doesn't really give one a sense of what is going on.

They got the part about hundreds of people arrested right, but didn't really convey either the level of military deployment to stop the protest march or the sheer size and population of the districts of Sindh or Punjab... the areas under the ban and military intervention... It is as if the U.S.A. government suspended right of assembly and sent in the army to every state east of the Mississippi, plus Texas.

This, combined with the electoral ban against Nawaz Sharif, is as close to a potential breakdown of public order as has come under the Zardari regime. All it would take is a spark to set it off...

Madagascar goes over the edge

There has been a week of disturbances, leading to rioting and now Army mutinies...

...at least 135 people dead...

...no one quite sure who is in control of the military or the government...

...in reports, the Defense Minister 'quit' yesterday (that makes two in a month)...

...and now it is time for the Embassy calls for foreign nationals to get out of the country.


How was that for making a prediction, huh?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tijuana in the news

Two items on the Mexican War against Drug Traffickers in the last day made the news:

Daring reporter (and CompHyp friend) Adam Housley has a report on FOXNews about how the "narco's" are back to mule-packing across the border in Southern California. (They never really stopped, but these days their driving a 20 ton semi-trailer in with a full load is not really an option... so back to basics). The trick this time seems to be an attempt to use U.S. nationals as the mules, to avoid close inspection.

And then, right across the border from that report, the Mexican government scores a big win by bagging 58 suspects at a banquet, including Ángel Jácome Gamboa, who is wanted for the murder of 12 police officers in addition to charges of narco-trafficking. The raid was a Mexican Army-led Operation.


Heck of a good day in Honduras

...for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the forces of justice, that is.

...maybe not so fun if one is a narco-trafficker.

Seized at sea: More than three Tons of Cocaine taken on a Honduran-flagged ship.

Downed on land: Another Ton of Cocaine in an airplane crash in Northern Honduras.

Both the ship and plane were en-route north from ...Venezuela.

The Test; UNSC Iran Sanctions Committee -- part 1

This author has called the Japanese role as Chairman of the UNSC Iran Sanctions Committee "a test", and it is in fact testing time for all parties now:

Iran and Syria have until next week to explain to a United Nations sanctions committee how they were involved with a ship detained off Cyprus in January found to be loaded with explosives believed to be bound for Gaza.

What makes this a particular challenge is that the UNSC Presidency itself is not exactly in sympathetic hands right now... Libya has it for the month.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Weekly N&C for March 9th, 2009

**This is an abbreviated posting as of Tuesday morning. Obligations elsewhere simply do not allow time for a proper job on this. My regrets. LDG**

Sudan goes from bad to worse

The situation in Sudan, specifically regarding the civil war in the Darfur region, may well not be killing as many people this week as in the past, but in the larger scheme of things events have just "killed" any reasonable hope of ending the killing.

The general sequence of events went like this:

The situation on the ground in Darfur has been under fairly steady moderation with UN Peacekeepers (of limited ability) deployed nearby, large numbers of aid agencies attempting to deliver relief, and some amount of media attention to the harm already done; enough that when the rebels (various) or government (incl. paramilitaries) lob bombs or bullets around, someone at least gets the story out. *Not* a good situation, but maybe one on the way in the direction of better...

The International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down a warrant for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, President of Sudan, on March 3rd. Here is the press release from the ICC.

The ICC has no power to compel the arrest of anyone, anywhere. It can only ask that the individual be brought to their custody.

The al-Bashir regime responded with the banning and confiscation of assets of 13 international aid organizations and 3 local providers, on the claim that those groups assisted the ICC in formulating the indictment leading to the warrant.

As of Sunday, March 8th, al-Bashir was putting on his fourth day of displays of utter contempt for the warrant, this time by appearing at a mass rally of "supporters" in El Fasher, capital of north Darfur. He even brought along some of the diplomatic corps from Khartoum to witness the show. The thing is, he really does have a lot of supporters... most of them Islamist thugs in the same mold as O. H. A. al-Bashir, but don't rule out all the anti-colonialist remnants from ~30 years ago or the opportunist Arab nationalist or two in the pack. It seems to be pretty easy to motivate that crew with claims of the ICC being a "white-man's court", which rather makes moot any discussion of intercultural judicial norms like proscribing genocide or such.

As of late Monday, the 9th, the U.S. Embassy in Sudan has gone public with (as several other nation's Embassies have quietly) notice that the al-Bashir regime isn't guaranteeing the safety of any foreign presence and given the limitation on what diplomats can do announced a withdrawal of non-essential personnel. More, Embassies are advising their nationals to have a plan to get out of Sudan by their own means as the Embassy may shut down without warning.

Thanks for the helpful safety tip there, fellows.

Moreover, thank you especially to Dr. Susan Rice, AFRICA EXPERT and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (and her staff), for having pushed for an ICC role in the Darfur conflict resolution for years now...

Congratulations on having excommunicated Henry (IV or V; Holy Roman Emperor), Your Holiness. Damn shame you lack the means or mechanism to have done anything more than made him and his supporters really, really angry. Sure hope you don't mind all the dead Italians.

End Notes:

All notes embedded as links in the text.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Evening Push

There will likely be no other new discussion threads today, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

This is looking to be a busy week, but stay around for various items as they come in:

.Japan has its very own political "donation" scandal going, and this might derail I. Ozawa and the Democratic Party of Japan from their plans to finally win a general election.

..Hugo Chavez has been on a property-expropriation binge this last week. What is going to get seized this week, and how much will arepas cost then. hm?

...Presidential Election time in El Salvador. ARENA vs. FMLN for the big prize this go-round. Polls on the 15th.

....North Korean home rocketry experiments.

Should be, if not else, another exciting time.

As always, thank you for coming here!

Real IRA takes a cheap shot; gets lucky

Twelve years of trying: bombs; infiltrations; the occasional political murder attempt -- not a success... until now.

In the Northern Ireland of today, a land in the main at peace, two British Army Engineers were killed, two others of their fellows wounded, as were two civilians in a "guns-only" attack run by the Real IRA (one of the remaining "dissident" Provo groups still under arms). It wasn't against deployed forces: it was from a commandeered taxi driven close to a basing area.

The young soldiers killed and wounded were receiving a pizza delivery at the gate of the base at the time of the attack.

Update: more details here.

Side Notes:
The statement from Sir Hugh Orde regarding a request for SRR assets to be deployed is likely not of direct relevance to this attack. The knowledge that attack-risk was rising may have influenced his decision to ask for such support, however.

The SRR is the modern-day incarnation of JCU (NI), 14 Int Co. Royal Army that was of great service to the Kingdom during the 'Troubles. It is now a part of United Kingdom Special Forces.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Equal Opportunity Offender

The Iranian theocracy continues to spread *that special feeling* throughout the world, this time drawing the open ire and a break in diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco.

The latest insult is a rather complex one, involving the Sunni definition of royal legitimacy, an Iranian territorial claim to the nation of Bahrain, and a proscription against Shiite proselytism in Morocco...

...but there is a history behind this. Some of us have never forgotten (or forgiven) the Iranian regime's role in propping up the Polisario insurgency in Western Sahara.


It will be hard to get enough unbiased information to answer that, but whatever the cause: Susan Tsvangirai is dead and her husband Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) is injured following a sideswipe crash on a road on the outskirts of the capital.

Prayers and Sympathy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Even Gordon Brown didn't deserve this

It should be abundantly clear from previous commentary that this author is no supporter of Her Majesty's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (U.K.), but some things should be above personal politics and posturing.

A meeting between the P.M. and the President of the United States is one of them.

One, or perhaps both, of these Leaders of Global Stature has just demonstrated appallingly bad sense.

Your nations' foes laugh, sirs. Your nations' foes rejoice.


...let this man anywhere near the NIE process in the American Intelligence community.

*Here* is a brief series of reasons why, conveniently summarized.

There are more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

OFAC lists more elements of Bank Melli

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated 11 more companies held by Iran's Bank Melli under E.O. 13382 (against Proliferators of Weapons of Mass Destruction). UNSC Resolution 1803 was also cited in the designation.

It remains to be seen whether the current American administration has the continuing will to sanction Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but for now it appears that at least the extant legal justification is sufficient to take action this time.

Obfuscator-in-Chief Robert Gibbs, White House Spokesman, offered a more pointless and confused nuanced statement on the overall situation regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Guinea-Bissau: a Killing and a Killing

The latest wave of instability to hit Guinea-Bissau has killed the army chief of staff, General Tagme Na Waie (in a bomb attack; likely ordered by the government) and then assassinated the president of Guinea-Bissau, João Bernardo Vieira (in an armed assault; likely reprisal by members of the military).

Both were fierce political rivals who had used force of arms against each other's power-bases in the past, and both were implicated in the massive corruption of the nation previously discussed here at CompHyp.

For now, the head of the National Assembly has been sworn in as interim President.

This is just a taste of what happens to a country when rivalries are fueled by an abundant supply of arms and narco-trafficking money.

Expect worse to come.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Weekly N&C for March 2nd, 2009

The Dual Standard

In the past two weeks, this author has had firsthand experience with what has become the norm for international travelers between the United States and Japan; the application of systemic border control activities to air travel. In fairness, virtually the same systems are widely applied to any travel *to* the USA from Visa-Waiver countries and Japan has simply set a higher standard than previously existed on all ingress-egress by air. Here are some of the features of the systems encountered:

For a foreign national departing Japan, an exit card must be filed with Immigration Control. In the case of those with some form of allowed Residency (temporary or permanent), this is one piece of a two-part document called a re-entry card. More on the second part of that form, below. Resident Foreigners must also have current permission to exit and re-enter the country (a special passport seal, multiple use type being good for three years, which is functionally an administrative fee to cover the cost of tracking). Implicit in this whole routine is the fact that *all* residents of Japan of any nationality must have a registered address and a certificate thereof issued through the (local) government.

Both Japanese nationals and foreign nationals go through the ordinary passport inspection and search, by government officers of near-perfect manner and expediency. A substantial armed police presence is close at hand throughout the open (unscreened) side of the terminal. Metal detection and carry-on possession screening is all manual operation, with variable set-points for detection sensitivity based on a combination of random and risk factors, and there are all the most recent features for operator assistance on the X-ray systems (imaging; dual measurement; color enhancement; object shape accentuation)… none of which would stop a competent threat… but remember: this is on departure from Japan. The combination of very few threat factors originating inside the country and the nearly-always-laxer standards on exit than on entry pretty much explains why things are done as they are.

For an American national (re-)entering the USA, the possession of a current American passport creates what is functionally a “wave and smile” reception at Immigration Control. Traveling in the company of a foreign-national spouse presented only slightly longer in-processing -- so long as the foreign national of the pair / family had completed the now-mandatory on-line registration prior to travel and they possess a current-type passport with an implanted data chip -- the couple is permitted to go through processing together, and the only difference in treatment is the biometric data collection (digital photo and two fingerprints) required of the foreign national.

Perversely, the treatment of all travelers inside the USA by the now-federalized local security officers is far less effective and far more pretentious. A determined effort is required by couples traveling together to remain together through all the processing (a *must* if one of the group has a disability or language deficit requiring escort-in-transit), and anything but the most obsequious conduct by the traveler is grounds for high-handedness and attitude from the “officer”. Fortunately there are a handful of qualified Federal Officers just behind the front lines, and excepting those times where the security queue is badly backlogged (commuter flights on either US coast), those superior officers are more than helpful in overruling unreasonable conduct by the line inspectors. This is a very good thing, as the current legal situation allows passenger diversion, separation and detention on the whim of the inspecting officer… and if that whim is to treat a question or request as an insult to the officer, one can be in for a very, very hard time.

Foreign nationals traveling unescorted are also at risk to befalling such at the international point-of-arrival. Here is a case documented by Michael Yon of just such an occurrence.

One additional note on the foreigner’s experience on arrival to the USA: The Customs and Immigration form written by the arriving air-traveler only asks for the first address the individual will be staying at inside the USA… and can be the name of the hotel. This means that there is no functional tracking of foreign visitors within the country, and that matters most when there is no exit control to confirm a visitor actually leaves at some point.

Once one’s travels about within the United States have come to their conclusion, the last few steps out the door are supposed to complete the cycle. Once again, traveling with an American passport virtually ensures no significant exit issues at Immigration Control, but notably there is also no apparent exit control applied to foreign nationals either. As recently as three years ago there was an effort made to out-process foreign visitors by use of USA-VISIT computer terminals (similar to an ATM) placed near the departure gates where the individual would indicate that they had cleared Immigration Control and were ready to board their departing flight. No such mechanism was noticed on this trip. The only apparent record was the scan of the foreign national’s passport at the self-service check-in / baggage check at the Airline’s counter in the open terminal area. *If* that was integrated into the border control system, fine. If not, then we are back to the days of having no record of a foreign national leaving the control regime, which is a recipe for massive visa overstaying.

Physical security inspection of persons and carry-on items is similar if not identical to that done for domestic air travel inside the USA. This is the usual song and dance, with the usual “blind-squirrel-finds-an-acorn” chance of detecting a competently executed threat, but it does serve to catch potentially dangerous fools (which remains a far more likely risk than one well-planned and executed).

Upon this author’s return home to Japan, the usual Immigration Control for arrivals was there but sadly there are now three lane discriminations: Japanese nationals; Ordinary Foreign Arrivals; and Residents of Foreign Nationality (previously, Residents were processed in the same system as returning Japanese nationals; now only those of former Colonial descent “Special Permanent Residents” are allowed to do so). However, in the case of Residents of Foreign Nationality traveling with Japanese nationals, an effort is made to keep the group together -- by routing the Japanese national through the Residents lanes. I have no complaint about that; the key is to keep groups together somehow. In the Residents lane, the foreigner submits the second half of that Re-Entry Card document mentioned above, gets logged in with the biometric system (digital photo and two fingerprints, virtually the same as the USA system). Any accompanying Japanese national is then in-processed (sequentially, but close enough to help if the Resident had some problem) by passport inspection and a nice “welcome home”. If all is in good order, it is off to Baggage Claim and Customs. No big deal… well…

Here are the questions on the Re-Entry Card for Residents of Foreign Nationality. Do try to avoid imagining what would happen if the answer to #1 or #2 is “Yes”:

(1) Have you ever been found guilty in a criminal case in Japan or in another country? Yes / No
(2) Do you presently have in your possession narcotics, marijuana, opium, stimulants, or other drugs, swords, explosives or other such items? Yes / No
(3) How much money in cash do you presently have in your possession? (state amount and denomination)

Note for further comedic value: neither Japanese nationals nor Colonial-descendents (SPR) are asked such questions in writing, if at all.

Has anyone noticing the hole in the system yet, whether speaking of that in the USA or Japan?

Dual Nationality

An American dual-national enters and leaves the USA as American. No biometric requirement; no secondary questioning; no entry / exit control other than possession of a passport.

A Japanese “dual-national” (i.e. one in possession of Japanese nationality who has not renounced any other nationality they are entitled to) is by law Japanese anywhere under Japanese jurisdiction. No biometric requirement; no secondary questioning; no entry / exit control other than possession of a passport (now; used to be required).

Hypothetically speaking, dual identities would not work as the name on one of the passports would by definition not match the name on the travel itinerary, but obviously a well constructed false (or real but innocuous) identity used for both passports would pass. It just takes years, or state-sponsored misrepresentation, to legally obtain such documents.

In an ideal case, no misrepresentation is even required.

Now consider the potential for just such a move done by a competent foreign State or Actor, because Somali or Pakistani jihadis recruited through known and compromised groups like the Moslem Brotherhood front-organizations don’t count as competent.

If one ever needed an argument in favor of equal treatment of all persons crossing a controlled border, this is it.

Screen them all to the same standard, or one may as well screen none of them.

Screen them at land crossings and ports of entry as well as airports.

…and, if one can’t control one’s borders or coastlines, then enforce identification within the Nation and allow law enforcement to take fair and appropriate action against undocumented individuals.

It would be a wonderful thing if every nation could trust every visiting foreigner, but like many wonders such an ideal is simply not real, nor reasonable.

End Notes:

All end notes are embedded as links in the text.