Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Travel

I'll check in as I can, and I expect to be back here the middle of next week.

No promises on The Weekly N&C before then.

Until the return, then, this thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. Yeah, yeah, the usual rules still apply: play nice.

Thank you for your patience, and your interest in CompHyp.

Be well and safe, All.


Oh joy.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday he has picked California- based lawyer and major fundraiser John Roos as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.


If approved by the Senate, Roos, 54, one of Obama's top fundraisers during his presidential campaign, will serve as point man for U.S. policy on Japan, a key Asian ally.


Roos is almost unknown among U.S. and Japanese officials and experts. As he has no diplomatic and security experience, some doubt has been raised about his qualifications at a time when North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are mounting.
-- source: Kyoudou (Kyodo wire service)

We got a rock.

Two Hezbollah Frontmen get OFAC listing, too.

Following up on yesterday's listing of the network of P.A. Bermudez Suaza as Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker(s), the U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated Kassim Tajideen and Abd Al Menhem Qubaysi, two Africa-based supporters of the Hizballah (Hezbollah) terrorist organization, under Executive Order 13224 as material supporters of a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SPGT). Hezbollah has been so listed since 2001, superseding its listing as a Foreign Terrorist Organization ( al) since 1995.

The connections that run from South America through West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East continue to be unmasked.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Don't count out the FARC yet

Just in case anyone was thinking that the FARC was on its way to the dustbin of history any time soon, *Here* is a report from yesterday's Miami Herald newspaper on what is being called "Plan Rebirth".

Between the FARC and the reforming Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path Movement; Peru), this matter of guerrillas as narco-traffickers is far from resolved.

OFAC listing sets the table for Pursuit of Assets

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has promulgated a listing of 14 Individuals and 14 Business Entities, all related to the case of Pedro Antonio Bermudez Suaza (alias "El Arquitecto"), as Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker(s) (SDNT).

The key man in this network, P.A. Bermudez Suaza, is in Mexican custody facing charges there and is under indictment in the U.S.A. since September, 2008. While several other of the listed individuals are in custody as well, many are not. This OFAC listing sets the table for a massive Pursuit of Assets, which remains one of the most effective means of destroying the material components of trafficking networks.

It doesn't hurt that anything that severs the linkage between the FARC, the Colombian Cartels and the Mexican Cartels is a good thing for eventual peace and security in all the countries along the route.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ROK joins the PSI

Well, they really didn't have much else left to do to demonstrate just how angry they are. The Republic of Korea has joined the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

This is the U.S.-led international effort to identify *and intercept* movements of materials and technology for the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Ballistic Missiles. It is basically a sense-seek-seize regime that looks most like the historical British Navy campaign to stop the Slave Trade on the high seas in the 19th Century. For General Information Only, here is the wikipedia entry on the PSI. Note links in the sources cited there to both pro- and anti- PSI sources (the argument is on legality of the seizures). The PSI does not target any specific nation, but it is commonly held that North Korea is the most active proliferator of banned weapons right now.


One other little detail...

...the reason the Republic of Korea had been holding off on joining the PSI was that the North Koreans (DPRK) have stated openly that if the ROK did so it would be a "declaration of war".

Is Niger about to turn back to dictatorship?

This looks bad for democracy (or any other representative system of government) in Niger:
Niger's President, Mamadou Tandja, has dissolved the uranium-rich country's parliament a day after his bid for a third term in office was ruled illegal.

He assumed executive powers after the constitutional court turned down his attempt to extend his time in power.
He used an executive decree to turn out the Parliament, and has apparently gone back on promises of quitting in December of this year. This was supposedly to give time for the results of the November Presidential election, which he can not constitutionally stand for.

Let's see what ECOWAS and the African Union have to say about this latest example of the trampling of the rule of law.

Georgian Independence Day

That would be today. They count it from the post-Imperial Russia declaration of independence that was shortly thereafter crushed under the campaign to establish the Soviet Union.

Here is hoping that history is not on-course for a repeat performance.

My particular compliments to Ambassador (E & P) Ivane Matchavariani, who represents The Republic of Georgia in Japan, for his very fine Independence Day message as published in The Japan Times today.

(regrettably, The Japan Times does not make such messages available in their on-line edition.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Weekly N&C for May 25th, 2009

Better men

This is Memorial Day in the United States. I've had the day here (in Japan) already. I got to spend the day with some old friends. The hard part was the realization that I can't clearly see their faces in my memories any more.

But it sure sounded like someone was singing "Up on Cripple Creek" in the squad bay, again.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill
"The Contest in America," Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862); later published in Dissertations and Discussions (1868), vol.1 p. 26 -- as cited on Wikiquotes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This one didn't fizzle.

Kilju, North Hamgyong Province, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea).

~0950hrs 25.May 2009

Seismic indications of a substantial underground explosion.

Looks like they managed a multi-kT device this time (multi-kT = in excess of 1 kilo-ton of TNT in blasting power; for comparison, the WWII-era weapons were between 15 and 21 kT).

Yonhap News (South Korea) also has sources saying the P.R.Chinese were informed before the test.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Padilla gets the call

With former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos having by neccesssity resigned to prepare for the next Presidential Election in Colombia, the country was left without one its best leaders in the battle against the FARC.

Thankfully, General Freddy Padilla has stepped up to the job.

He is another steady hand at the helm of the military, well versed in both the matters of internal conflict and foreign threats to the nation.

Another solid choice by the Uribe administration. Bravo.

Swat Valley

Over two million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons; refugees), mostly fleeing the treat of indiscriminate heavy weapons fire by the Army.

Repeated claims by the Pakistani Army that they are "about to" recapture Mingora.

Things are not quite working out as planned for the expected set-piece between the Pakistani Taliban and the Army.
"You cannot distinguish between a Talib and a normal citizen," said Maj. Gen. Sajjad Ali, who commands troops in the northern portion of Swat. "The area is densely populated, and it's very easy for the terrorists to hide."
Uh huh.

Why is anyone surprised?

Madagascar unity resolution?

More on this if it becomes confirmed in reports from the region, but a U.N. special envoy charged with finding some resolution to the coup d'etat in Madagascar has announced that there is an agreement between both exile and junta governments to negotiate a unity resolution to the matter.

Historical Note for the curious: We've been here before.


So far only Reuters has the report from UN Special Envoy Tiebile Drame. This statement says the negotiations will lead to new elections.

AU adds to calls for Somalia Blockade

The expected follow-up to the IGAD call for a blockade of Somalia, from the African Union, has arrived. Their statement called upon to the United Nations Security Council to authorize and enforce a no-fly zone, a sea blockade of rebel-held ports and sanctions upon any country supplying arms or aid to the insurgency fighting the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

Oh, they mentioned Eritrea by name as a supplier.

Eritrea's U.N. ambassador filed an official letter denying any such activity.

That letter may not get the best reception as, on Friday, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (one of the insurgent leaders) told Reuters in an interview that Eritrea supported the insurgency.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Unity Government going no-where

The South African Development Community (SADC) has announced that there are no problems with the "Unity Government" in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia):
SADC executive secretary Thomaz Salomao told IRIN the regional bloc was pleased by the strides achieved, and that "Any deadlock is yet to be communicated to us formally, but we are happy with what they [unity government] have achieved so far."
Hm. Apparently it takes rather little to make the SADC Executive Secretary happy. *Here is the whole story*, courtesy of IRINnews under the headline "ZIMBABWE: The unity government's 100 days in the doldrums".

The problem remains that R. Mugabe remains.

That could be expanded upon to say that the problem remains that the ZANU-PF remains in virtually complete control of the levers of power.

Until he and his kleptocratic associates are out of power, no real progress can be made. SADC has become the problem, not the solution, regarding the abuses of the ZANU-PF.


In an unfortunate coincidence, this is the anniversary of the expulsion of Mengistu Haile Mariam and his government from Ethiopia. In his escape, he fled to the protection of the R. Mugabe regime and has remained there in spite of his conviction on charges of Genocide. He has even found a role in the Mugabe security apparatus, acting as a "security advisor" most likely responsible for the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina forcible demolition of slums in the capital region. He remains in residence in the Harare (Salisbury) district of Gunhill, out of the reach of the Ethiopian courts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iranian Missile Test

Time for another round of chest-thumping in the run-up to the Iranian Presidential Election (on June 12th, 2009)...

The Iranians cranked off the latest version of their IRBM.

The claim is that this one was solid-fueled, which would be a major improvement (if true).

All manner of U.S. government officials have issued statements, mostly of the 'it is a bad thing' sort, but one statement in particular stood out:
In a breakfast meeting with reporters, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy said she could not confirm reports of a launch but spoke in general about Iran's missile program.

"There are U.N. Security Council resolutions in place that ... thwart that kind of activity," Flournoy said. "So I do think that it poses a security threat to the region and that we will have to, probably, to deal with it."
Madame Undersecretary, if that was "thwarted", I'd hate to see what "not thwarted" looks like. They got the missile up, fired, and tested. The Iranian thinking at this point has to be "Deal with *that*".



You want to see "thwarting"? *This* is just one of the choices, and M. Flournoy's name came up in the decision to continue funding this project as well. No mention is made in the report as to if she recommended spending the money elsewhere.

A call to blockade Somali Islamists

The East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries have called for an Air and Sea blockade on points-of-entry controlled by the Islamist al-Shabaab insurgency.

That's a tall order, involving two ports and dozens of small airstrips.

Fortunately, the IGAD countries have recognized that Eritrea is one of the major suppliers:
Eritrea is suspended from Igad and could now be barred from the African Union.

"There is incontrovertible evidence that Asmara and Eritrea is involved in arming, training, recruiting and supplies to the insurgents in Somalia," Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told the BBC.
How much pressure to put on Eritrea is a question. They are mostly a transhipment point; Putting an additional blockade on Eritrea would certainly be considered an act of war; There is also the added complication that Iran has recently opened a "naval base" in Eritrea.

A renewed Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict is also a risk in all this. The two nations have been basically taking time-out on their war(s), and they are on opposite sides of the Somalia conflict.

They fought for you

The campaign to grant full rights of settlement to veterans of the Gurkha Regiment(s) has finally taken a turn for the better, with the Brown administration promising "to ease restrictions" on resettlement. The complaint to date by the government has been that allowing open resettlement would cost the Crown about 1.4 billion pounds (~US$2 billion)...

The Parliament has resolved (albeit in non-binding form) to offer *all* Gurkha veterans equal rights to stay in Britain.

Here's a hint: how about stop letting seemingly limitless numbers of 'certain nationalities' to show up and settle in the U.K for a year, and redirect the effort to settling the Gurkha veterans.

The U.S. military offers a track to citizenship for foreign nationals who enlist.

The Legion (French Foreign Legion) grants citizenship outright to veterans who complete the enlistment in good conduct.

It is time to show some appreciation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What could possibly go wrong?

The United States government has sent Vice President Joe Biden on a three-day tour of the Balkans...
Indeed, Biden is the highest-level U.S. official to visit Bosnia since President Bill Clinton's trip there in 1999. Biden and Solana are meeting on May 19 with rival political leaders from the country's Bosniak, Croatian, and Serbian communities. Biden also plans to deliver a speech in the Bosnian parliament.


On May 20, Biden is to travel to Belgrade, a leg of his tour that is seen as critical to easing tensions in the region.


The final leg of Biden's tour comes on May 21 when he visits Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Biden is expected to urge the ethnic Albanian majority's leaders in Kosovo to build a functioning and effective state and to protect the rights of minorities, especially Serbs.
and coincidentally,

A spokesman for former-President Bill Clinton told the Miami Herald that Mr. Clinton is to be the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, which is noteworthy in particular as...
The U.N. currently has no special envoy for Haiti, and it is expected that Clinton will travel there at least four times a year as part of the UN's effort to build on the momentum created by his March visit.


The hope is that Clinton's attention -- and fundraising power -- will help to further galvanize international support in a country plagued by donor fatigue, lack of international coordination and a history of political instability.

The U.N., which has 9,000 peacekeepers on the ground, has argued that without long-term development all of the recent gains can be quickly washed away.
In fairness, Mr. Clinton has done a stellar turn in fundraising for disaster relief, and the République d'Haïti certainly needs all the help it can get after suffering two direct hits from hurricanes last season.

But do remember that Mr. Clinton is responsible for putting Jean-Bertrand Aristide back in power, and history has not been very kind about how that all worked out over the long term.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Weekly N&C for May 18th, 2009

In another world

*Note: the following scenario is illustrative only; no such operation has ever been mooted in any open-source way, ever.*

With the imminent collapse of the central authority of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea), it has been necessary to prepare alternatives to allowing the nuclear arsenal of that state to fall under the control of those factions or individuals may act outside the constraints upon a state actor. The ongoing turmoil in the command authority that began shortly after the demise of the head of state is apparently accelerating, and it is judged very likely that the unitary structure of the DPRK Army may well be compromised. Were that to result in a further fragmentation of authority, it is deemed an unacceptable risk that said weapons might be used or more likely sold by opportunistic elements in the command authority. In meetings this week, the United Nations Security Council has resolved to call upon the interim government to assure the security of all Weapons of Mass Destruction possessed by the DPRK, in specific requiring demonstrable efforts to disable from use all nuclear armaments and their associated ballistic missile delivery systems. As of this writing, no reply has been made to the UNSC by the interim administration.

Sources in the Japanese Self-Defense Ministry have provided an outline of what course of action is impending: Based upon the decades of careful placement of agents in positions of vital importance in the scientific ranks (and likely the military officer corps) of North Korea, Japanese military intelligence is in possession of information on the location and security precautions surrounding the (sources say) 11 nuclear weapons in the North Korean arsenal. A massive operational contingency plan is in place, calling for the insertion of over 6,000 elite members of the Airborne Regiment and Special Forces, backed by a seizure of air superiority, naval support, and advanced intelligence capabilities that would provide technological and information dominance in the region of the targeted objectives. The source also implied strongly that cooperation with elements of the Republic of Korea (ROK; South Korea) Armed Forces and Intelligence Services is a vital part of this plan. Given the serious nature of the situation, it is clear that this information has become public to assure the people of Japan, and of neighboring states equally threatened by the fall of the Kim regime, that in a crisis the nuclear arsenal of the DPRK will not fall into the hands of rogue military leaders or terrorists.

Are you reassured, yet?

…or does the improbability of that scenario make you stifle a laugh?

…or perhaps you are just stunned by the idea that sources within a government would let such a thing out to a media source, for any reason.

Well, take a moment to compose yourselves, and then let’s take this matter on.

It is entirely immaterial as to whether the hypothetical-Self-Defense-Force of the scenario actually has such a plan. It is sufficient for purposes of this argument that the real Self Defense Force of Japan does have (at least on the Table of Organization) or will likely soon have all the elements cited above, excepting perhaps the massive number of agents infiltrated into the DPRK. Given the decades of interaction between the two nations since the 1950’s, it is not beyond believability that by building on clandestine relationships some (un-named) Japanese Secret Agency could have placed hundreds of agents at various levels, and that is particularly plausible to both North and South Korea observers as those two nations have been engaged in a covert campaign for as long as they have been at war. The elements of “possibility” must exist, and that is enough for now.

If the reader is willing to suspend disbelief this far, then we can use this scenario to make a case about the conduct of the “sources” and the “media” in this case.

The question in challenge: Is anyone’s interest served by “sources” leaking this to the “media”?

If by anyone, one would mean: The agents in place; The soldiers tasked with the mission; The forces of the friendly country said to be acting in support of the mission, or; The government whom the “source” was a part of (in the scenario, Japan)…

Then the answer would be, in sequence: NO; NO; NO, and; well, that depends on how feckless they really are.

If by anyone one meant the “media”, the question would be almost self-answering. The “media” runs stories like this for the perceived benefit to the media, and perhaps that of the reporter. It was a scoop, don't you know.

For one thing that the modern way of war and politics should have already taught any observer is that the enemy reads the news too. To cite but a single example, al-Qaeda's propaganda efforts are full of references to recent events, news reports, and other timely information (partly to prove they are still alive, of course).

That would mean, in the case of the scenario, that after such a story runs in the “media” the agents in place are subject to redoubled efforts by the foe’s counter-intelligence forces, the information on location of and security measures at the target sites is likely to be in flux and defensive preparations will generally be heightened. That pretty much covers the NO; NO; NO part of the answer.

But in regards to the “source”, the answer gets wrapped up in the politics of the moment. Perhaps the “source” is opposed to the proposed plan; Letting out word of it might well torpedo the whole plan. Perhaps the “source” was acting under instructions to say there was such a plan to make the leadership of the government ‘look tough’ for political gain. Perhaps the “source” was sent out to run a fake; there is a plan, it is so risky that no one in the government seriously believes it would ever be used, so someone higher up than the “source” has decided leaking out the plan will cause some intended action on the part of the “foe” (like massively tightening security over their weapons arsenal). It might even be a crude negotiating ploy, were there to be secret discussions on the side happening to get an allied power of the “foe” to quietly take ‘temporary’ possession of the weapons, or to take away the cause for action from a third-party (from the scenario: “don’t worry, Americans; we’ve got a plan”).

None of those possible explanations is particularly beneficial taken as they are.

Were there to *actually* be a plan like the one in the scenario, and it were the only viable option even if the chance of failure or incomplete success was high, such a leak would be disastrous. In fact, it would arguably be criminal.

Now set aside the scenario as presented, and welcome back to the real world.

Pakistan is in the midst of a threatening situation, with Taliban forces within 100 km (60 miles) of the capital, Islamabad, and a weakened central government.

Pakistan is also determined to improve and increase its nuclear arsenal, from the ~100 weapons believed available now.

It has even been openly questioned in the mass media as to how secure the Pakistani nuclear weapons really are.

Someone thought it was a good idea to talk about the situation in Pakistan in the same terms as the fanciful scenario presented here.

Are you reassured, yet?

End Notes:

All End Notes are linked in the text, above.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Very Late Push

I'll be back in about 12 hours with The Weekly Item, barring any priority traffic.

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.

No admin items of note. Be Well and Safe.

My thanks to all the visitors, and as always, thanks for coming here!

Our proxies are freedom fighters...

There is something almost tragic about the presumption of Chadian (interim) Defense Minister Adoum Younousmi in his announcement that Chad has ended its raids into Sudan. Those would be the air raids into and ground operations along border with Sudan over the last week. We'll have to see if Sudan goes along with the whole "stopping" thing. Anyway...

He had to go and say the "M" word.
"We destroyed seven pockets of groupings of mercenaries. We hit them with our aircraft along the border, without any collateral damage," Younousmi said in a statement, using the term mercenary to describe the eastern Chadian rebels.


"Chad will no longer accept groups of mercenaries reorganising and rearming to attack it, wherever they are. However far it takes us, we will go by land, air and sea to destroy the mercenary bases," he said.
The report says they captured roughly a hundred of them; I'm sure we are all looking forward to seeing the parade. Now knock off with the exculpatory language. The insurgents are Chadian and Sudanese tribals, and they are all backed by either Sudan or Chad for the express purpose of destabilizing the opposite government. Their wanting to pull al-Bashir and company down makes the Chad-backed groups the popular favorite world-wide, but from a more measured view, there just isn't very much difference between "their" insurgents and "your" insurgents.

On that bit about "by Sea", never mind the fact that Chad is a landlocked nation. He probably just meant that the glorious libertarian freedom-loving patriots that make up Chad's allies in opposition to the al-Bashir regime in Sudan will cross the entirety of Sudan for the chance to engage in Naval Expeditionary Warfare on the Red Sea.

Either that, or Chad is working on a *really* long canal.

Or maybe, just maybe, he was demonstrating that...


EU cuts Fiji Sugar

We've mentioned it here before, albeit in a "comments" discussion, that the Republic of Fiji has two main sources of foreign trade income (Sugar and Tourism) that might be targeted to put pressure on the military-backed "government".

Well, make that *one* main source, now:
The European Commission said it had cancelled subsidies worth 24 million euros ($32.37 million) in the absence of any commitment to elections in 2009, as promised by military chief and interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
Perhaps this will be enough to let good sense take the lead. Fiji is not burdened with a kleptocratic class, as per se, nor are the differences between the ethnic communities by any means insurmountable. But it is well past time for faction leaders to step aside... and that needs happen before any meaningful result will come of new elections.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Globovision put on notice

This matter has been coming to a head for a week, building on the long campaign by the Chavistas against any mass media outside government control. I received this on the 13th from sources watching the local Venezuelan media:
It looks like Chávez is going after everyone... Conatel will be "inspecting" the media to check that they are all operating as they should... here comes full censorship.

Otro avance de Chávez sobre la prensa: allanará todos los medios
Dos días después de que el caudillo advirtiera con aplicar medidas severas a la prensa, la Gaceta Oficial publicó hoy una resolución según la cual se iniciarán inspecciones a las radios y televisoras a cargo del ente regulador del sector
Now it seems that the threat is about to be made real. El Universal in English also has a running timeline of the threats and attacks against Globovision *here* detailing casework over the last week by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on this matter.

Sudan accuses France of complicity in Chad airstrikes

It is not immediately obvious whether that is just a statement of the obvious (France has a post-colonial presence military in the Republic of Chad and supports the government), an attempt at denigrating the capabilities of the Chadian forces, or a real accusation of French aircraft doing the striking in the three airstrikes against anti-Chad insurgent forces across the border in Sudan, but that is what the Foreign Ministry of Sudan is saying.

Given that the Chadian Air Force operates only about 20 aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters), and only 2 (of 6 ordered) Su-25A ground-attack aircraft are of any real use in the strike role, it is not surprising that Sudan would claim that the attacking aircraft came from the French Assistance Operation at N'djamena. This deployment operates Mirage F1 fighters in multi-role missions in the defense of Chad.

However, given the obvious identification differences between a Su-25A and a Mirage F1, one would think that the Sudanese claim would be more strongly made (if they had any proof).

What, if anything, the Sudanese are about to do in reprisal remains to be seen. The Air Force of Sudan operates ~20 MiG-29 (depending on maintenance availability), but quality of aircrews and general combat proficiency vastly favors the French if things came to a fight.

Niger Delta fighting escalates

The long-simmering conflict in Nigeria's Niger Delta region has flared, with Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) guerrillas having pulled off two hijackings of oil barges and then the Nigerian military going on the counter-offensive. 10 crew members of the M/V Spirit have been rescued, although reports are a total of 22 people were taken hostage and 1 may have died from gunfire.

Nigerian gunboats and helicopter gunships were also in action, attacking the MEND "Camp 5" base near Warri and leading to the camp's "total destruction".

MEND was at its strongest last year when oil prices made "bunkering" (stealing industrial quantities of crude petroleum) highly profitable. With the Nigerian military now committed to action after MEND's declaration of "All-out War" last week, the future of the armed insurrection is clearly in doubt.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sri Lanka within inches of victory

The desperate fighting against the LTTE ("Tamil Tiger") terrorist army is drawing to a close, but it is proving to be a very nasty close.

The LTTE main element is trapped on a spit of land between the ocean and a great lagoon and hold on to less than 2.5 square kilometers (about 1 sq. mile) of land.

Draw that area on a map of your home town... it is the size of a matchbox, militarily speaking.

Their human shields are once again making a break for the exits, with over 5,000 people attempting to cross the lagoon, only to be taken under fire by the LTTE they were supposedly "supporting". Only the intervention of Sri Lankan Army helicopters suppressing some of the fire from the LTTE allowed the escape to succeed, and even then many civilians were wounded.

So with victory within reach; a final military defeat of the LTTE after literally decades of terror and conflict...

...the administration of B. Obama in the United States has
"accused the government of “indiscriminate shelling” of areas containing civilians, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people on over the weekend"
...tried to get the Sri Lankan Army to "slow down", and is threatening to intervene in IMF loan practices as a means of applying pressure.

Read it all, please, and you be the judge.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Food for thought

What if...

...the leaders of a country that is already food-insufficient were to choose to orchestrate the renting of land so that more food could be grown...

...for export. To generate hard-currency revenues. Which go into accounts...

...under the control of the leaders?

Might not work out too well, once the local population found out about it.

It is a tough call to simply condemn the entire idea. The same country might well need the revenue to pay for fuel or manufactured goods that are necessary to upgrading the domestic market food production. But that implies that the leaders of the country can be trusted to have the best interests of the population and the future of the country in mind.

Well, it is happening.

*Here* is a report on the role of East Asian, North African and Gulf States (like the UAE and Saudi Arabia) in the ongoing "land grab" happening across South and East Africa.

Once you've gotten that report digested, there is more.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has *this report*, with analysis, of the massive Chinese investments happening in the lower Zambezi area of Mozambique. It in particular points out the difference between the efforts of South African farming interests (mostly focused on improved production for all markets) and the Chinese effort (which brings in Chinese to man and run the farms, with production focused on export).

Tuck into that for a moment, and consider some of the unintended consequences.

If this hasn't been inflammatory enough for your tastes, then let *this* report from the Inter Press Service put some anti-colonial seasoning on your portion.

Because it really isn't clear at all whether this is going to work out for good or bad. This might be a very fine way for countries with underutilized land bring in revenue that will one day lift up the standard of living and add to the national wealth. But this also may leave entire populations in rural Africa still short of food looking over the fence at the foreign workers growing food that will never be allowed to be sold on the domestic market.

Dealing with the starving masses is already a problem through much of Africa; dealing with ANGRY starving masses is going to be much harder.

Worse: Is it in any way wise to depending on the dutiful patriotism of the leaders of the countries renting out the land to see the profits of these rentals go to the national good?

Market-based solutions to problems like this have worked in places like Latin America. (cf. Colombia --> U.S.A. trade under the tariff exemption for some agricultural products)

Or is this happening because the powers-that-be in these "land rent" arrangements don't trust the people *on the land* to take up the task?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yemen coming apart at the seams

As if the accelerating violence in Somalia isn't enough trouble, now it seems clear that Yemen is in grave danger of societal breakdown:
Yemen's stability and security, and its future as a unitary state, are in jeopardy following recent violent demonstrations in the south, experts say.

In the past few days, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the governorates of Lahj, al-Dhalei, Hadhramaut and Abyan, chanting anti-government slogans and calling for secession and the withdrawal of "the northern occupation".

Scores were killed in clashes between protestors and security forces, and a number of soldiers were killed when armed groups attacked security checkpoints.

The violent demonstrations were the worst in the south since late 2006.
Source: IRIN

That article also cites the always-excellent Jane Novak on the situation. As a reminder, *here is a link* to Ms. Novak's "Armies of Liberation" weblog. This is the best English-language site available on matters in Yemen.


Oh, and just so one doesn't go thinking that the only problem facing Yemen is separatism... al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula has their part in all these troubles, too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

FARC's 'Reciclo' captured

Chalk up another one for the Colombians:
Wilson 'Reciclo' Urbano Lopez was arrested in Ibagué, Tolima after months of intelligence work, the Police say.
He's reputed to have been the FARC's #2 man on their narco-smuggling side, with contacts all through the Central American transportation chain.

Should be an interesting conversation with the authorities, to say the least.

Source: Colombia Reports.

Hekmatyar offered an out?

The Government of Afghanistan's President H. Karzai is being cited as having offered warlord Gulbaddin Hekmatyar a piece of the pie and a way to save his miserable hide, so reports the Sunday Times of London: Bring representatives of Hezb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar's front) into the government on the condition that they lay down arms; G. Hekmatyar himself goes for a 3-year vacation in Saudi Arabia, and; after that period of time the lot of them get removed from the "U.S. Terrorist List".

Presumably, they mean the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, but there are some other parts of this that don't quite make sense...

. The GovAfghanistan doesn't get to say what group is or isn't on that list.

.. Hekmatyar-and-company are on the hook with the French for attacking French troops, in addition to holding most-wanted status in the eyes of the American Forces and the Afghan National Army.

... and Hekmatyar is himself an arch-enemy of the Karzai-led political faction.

This is all just has to be one of those "somebody is playing with the media" games (like saying there are "moderate Taliban willing to negotiate").

The question is: Why is Hamid Karzai willing to play this game?

Venezuela T. I. A.

Here we go again:

We hear it in Africa all the time; We heard it in Bolivia earlier this year; now it seems to be Hugo A-go-go's Chavez' turn to pull out the "foreign mercenary threat" routine:

Venezuela weapon cache uncovered; 4 foreigners detained.

At least they didn't call them "Mercenaries" directly; the Justice Minister called them "suspected terrorists" and that one of them was "a member of the military of a European country".

Bah. They could be anything (but likely *not* competent, to have gotten caught up in this). Given the local major illicit export industry, they might well have been hired guns for the Narcos.

Maybe what he really was trying say was "T.I.A." in Spanish.

UNCLOS Sea Bed filing deadline

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that all claims to be made for sea bed or continental shelf extensions to Exclusive Economic Zones allowed under the treaty be filed by 13.May 2009. (excepting Antarctic Claims, which remain deferred)

Well, that's tomorrow and it seems that the claims are pouring in.

The ones to watch are: the Russian claims (all of them); the Argentine vs. U.K. counter-claims in the South Atlantic, and; the various mid-ocean claims extending from singular or limited island holdings... France and the U.K. have a lot of these.

The "good neighbor" award already went to Norway for filing early and in agreement with most all its neighboring states, but a close second goes to the Irish / U.K. / French / Spanish joint filing over the division of rights in the Bay of Biscay and the extended continental shelf west from there. Bravo!

Milestone: #500 post

It just seems fitting that Thread Topic No. 500 here at CompHyp is...

blatant self-congratulation


...something seemingly senseless, but fun: Rangers vs. Special Forces.

Compare and Contrast.

((wry grin))

h/t to The Strategy Page for this one

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Weekly N&C for May 11th, 2009

No Deal without Our Islands

Monday morning comes, and with it to Toukyou (Tokyo) came Председатель Правительства Российской Федерации (Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation; roughly “Prime Minister”) Vladimir Putin and his vast entourage of “business” negotiators, arriving for the final round of the Japan-Russia Nuclear Cooperation agreement talks… and a whole lot of side business.

Here is a summary report from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty on the Russian version of the trip:
Putin told Japanese media the accord would increase the share of Russian nuclear fuel on the Japanese market to 25 percent from 15 percent.

He is also seeking Japanese investment in about 200 other projects, including automobile, energy, space, communications, and steel-manufacturing projects, the "Nikkei" business daily reported after an interview with Putin.

"We intend to sign a host of inter-governmental agreements. And I think representatives of business will come to sign significant contracts," Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview supplied by the Russian government.

"We have observed a rise in Japanese investment into the Russian economy," said Putin, who will meet Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on May 12.
The thing is, though, that as of last weekend *the deal was not yet done*. The Moscow Times (English-language source) reports (cited here):
Japan's ambassador to Moscow, Masaharu Kono, was less optimistic, saying Friday that the countries had yet to reach a final agreement on the matter, Interfax reported.
Gee, any thoughts on why such a series of mutually beneficial agreements might be a tough deal to close?

How about…


…there might be a little open issue still on the table from back in 1945?

Like the fact that there is no Peace Treaty or final border settlement between Japan and Russia.

Like the fact that the then Soviet Armed Forces not only chose to occupy the Japanese territories of Karafuto, Chishima and the Hoppou Ryoudo, respectively Sakhalin Island (southern portion), the Kurile Islands and the Northern Territories (islands adjacent to Hokkaidou), but has claimed sovereignty over all of them. The claim of the Russian Government is that Sakhalin and the Kuriles have been exchanged back and forth by previous agreements (some in the wake of wars) and so are separable territory as called for under the Potsdam Declaration’s dismantlement of Imperial Japan. Where their claim really gets weak, though, is the attachment of the four coastal islands of the Northern Territories to the long arc of the Kurile Islands, something that was never considered even going back to the original 1855 boundary delineation (the first time a line was drawn). Here is a convenient map reference, not so much for the Russian / Russianized names on the map, but for the easy-to-see red lines showing: the 1855 line; the 1875 revised settlement, and; the 1945 line-of-control.

The policy of Japan has been to effectively concede the matter of Sakhalin and the Kuriles, for reasons that are legally unfathomable but might be explained by someone trying the “nice guy” approach so as to not call into question the terms of the Treaty of San Francisco. Had the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of San Francisco, of course, this matter would have been long decided by the terms of implementation… but Stalin had some rather grand ideas about the Far East and it wasn’t until after he was gone in ’56 that even a cessation of hostilities was formalized (by letter, not armistice). What Japan *did not concede*, at any time, was that the Northern Territories were anything but Japanese territory.

The Soviet reply and the Russian reply ever since, to that policy statement has been: “We Won. Bugger Off.” Oh, and they evicted the entire native population of the islands.


So why on this Green Earth are we cutting business deals with Russia?

Because we have apologists and opportunists working the media on behalf of selfish interests. (Note to readers of past newsletters: yes, *that* Suzuki Muneo (M. Suzuki); he’s still at it; He got out of jail and got back into the House of Representatives.)

Now there are some reasonable voices and they have noticed The Importance of being Putin…(source in Japanese)
(In regard to the Northern Territories Issue resolution) “The Prime Minister (Putin) being the very, very powerful leader, unless you obtain both the understanding and support of the Prime Minister, it won’t happen.” (This source in the Gaimushou; Japanese Foreign Ministry) expressed that beneficial exchange of opinions is expected (hoped for).
Again, fine; good luck with that.

It seems pretty clear that efforts at the “nice guy” approach haven’t cut the mustard.

Furthermore, it seems that cutting deal after deal for business purposes hasn’t gotten the job done, either.

Now this is not to say that doing business with one’s neighbors is a bad thing… it certainly isn’t.

But it simply defies comprehension to be doing business with a country that is occupying your territory and lacks even the fig leaf of legal justification to be doing so.

So welcome back to Japan, Mr. Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation. Now that you are here with what is arguably hat-in-hand looking for “business”, how about you show off a bit of that “very, very powerful” stuff and commit the Russian Federation to getting off of our islands and getting on with negotiating a peace treaty? (in that order, preferably)

You’ll probably get a lot of good business opportunities, and it wouldn’t be onerous of you to ask for some relocation assistance for the Russian nationals that would be displaced. They have been stuck there for 60 years, after all.

Heck, we’d even throw M. Suzuki in the deal, too. You folks seem to get along so well.

No deal without getting our islands back.

In fact, if the current administration has any pride at all, no deals of any kind until we get our islands back.

This farce has gone on long enough.


End Notes:

All end notes are embedded in the text as links.

There are Personal Profiles and General Information on Places available for all the cited items at Wikipedia. As always when using Wiki-p, check all the sources for confirmation.

translation from the Japanese-language citation by this author.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Midday Push

That's a wrap for this week, and hopefully you all found it worthwhile to read. Presuming no surprises happen, next up is The Weekly on Monday ('blog time).

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 administrative matters to speak of; things seem to be back on schedule and it is great to see comments and questions come in about the various topics.

My thanks to all the visitors, and as always, thanks for coming here!

If this is peace...

...just imagine what the war will look like.

The Republic of Chad and the Republic of Sudan had just (last week) signed an accord promising to restore diplomatic ties and to cease the support of rebel forces against each other, only to have the Darfur-and-border region go up in flames again:
Chad said it had halted an attempted rebel advance (against Chad) on its capital last week following fierce fighting in the east.


On Saturday JEM rebels (against Sudan) clashed in North Darfur with forces loyal to former rebel Minni Arcua Minnawi, the only Darfur rebel to sign a peace deal with the government in 2006.

UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni said another brief battle took place on Sunday.


The fighting in Chad, in which N'Djamena said 225 rebels and 22 government soldiers were killed...
That's right; Two battles, one on each side of the border, with two proxy armies doing the attacking.

The full report can be read *here*.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fiji not invited to Japan-Pacific Island Summit

The Government of Japan has advised the military Junta of Fiji that no Cabinet ministers from Fiji are invited to the 5th Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Summit (PALM5), to be held on Hokkaidou (Hokkaido; North Japan) on the 22nd~23rd of this month. So reports the Yomiuri Newspaper, today. (Source in Japanese)
...the policy of not inviting the Cabinet minister of the Fiji junta was decided, (the Government of Japan) understood that it has conveyed this to the Fiji side.  The Fiji diplomatic source on the 9th made clear (their understanding).
(translated in form, by this author)

This revises the announced list of attendees, and is more current than reports from the region citing a Japanese Embassy statement from Fiji earlier today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Consequences... uh huh.

U.S. Special Representative to the Six-Party Talks Stephen W. Bosworth is in South Korea on his swing through the region to try and get the talks restarted, and is faced with a new round of North Korean hostility...
"If the North Koreans decide to carry out a second nuclear test, we will deal with the consequences of that, and there will be consequences," Bosworth told reporters after talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on ways to resume the six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Coming from the former head of KEDO, the Clinton-era effort to bribe the North Koreans into compliance with the Agreed Framework, well let's just say I'm not sure they are buying it, Professor.

You've already offered bilateral talks in parallel to the Six-Party negotiations, which is a fairly obvious effort to make-nice to the North Koreans by sidelining both Japan and the Republic of Korea. Somehow, they didn't get the memo or something, the North Koreans still feel they can get more by talking *at you* than by talking with you... and you start speaking of "consequences", after Dr. Susan Rice (AFRICA EXPERT) failed to get more than a letter declaring disappointment out of the UNSC after the recent missile test?

Mr. Bosworth, you were the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea for almost 4 years. You simply have no excuse for any misapprehensions about the North Koreans. Same goes for reading the PRC on this matter.

It isn't like you are Christopher Hill or something.

Toyota Venezuela Labor Leader Killed

Argenis Vásquez, the trade union secretary of car-maker Toyota, was killed by unknown attackers on May 5th. Labor Union members have rightfully demanded an investigation into the killing, and Toyota has allowed a two-day work stoppage to allow the workers to attend the funeral.

Just because such reports rarely make it to the media outside Venezuela, do not consider this attack to have been an isolated case. In fact, the Venezuelan Worker's Confederation (CTV) is reporting to the International Labor Organization that 154 Labor leaders have been killed in recent years in Venezuela. Criminal gangs have been attempting to drive out or kill traditional labor leaders and replace them... and the implication is that the criminal gangs are Chavista opportunists.

Malaysia does its part

It has been a long year waiting, but Malaysia has located and arrested Mas Selamat Kastari, a high-ranking leader in Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and an escapee from Singapore's high security jail back in February of 2008.

JI is, along with Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, the al-Qaeda affilate group in Southeast Asia. JI's military-wing leader "Hambali" (actual name: Riduan Isamuddin) was the operative agent leading the 9-11 Second Wave attack plan targeting Los Angeles. More on "Hambali" and the role of JI in al-Qaeda's plans can be found in the U.S. Government's 9/11 Commission Report.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yesterday's Enemy

...may well be tomorrow's friend...

...or a double-dealing traitor.

Which of these it will be, in the case of the Kivu Amnesty, remains to be seen.

Declaring L. Nkunda to be outside the amnesty is a good start at recognizing how bad the rebels have been, but allowing J. B. Ntaganda (wanted ICC fugitive on war-crimes charges) to remain a General and head of the (now integrated into the national army; FARDC) CNDP soldiers is a less promising turn of events.

Still, co-opting renegades to fight other rebels (the Hutu-based insurgency) is a longstanding tradition in a part of the world where allegiances are regularly bought and sold.


John Manjiro

Time for a break from pressing news events. Instead, here is a report on the wonderful memorial to Captain Whitfield and John Manjiro in Fairhaven, Massacusetts, that opens today.

Private citizens, led by Hinohara Shigeaki (S. Hinohara) of Japan, have raised the funds necessary and seen to the restoration of the house where Captain William Whitfield brought a rescued young fisherman, Nakahama Manjirou (a.k.a. John Manjiro), upon the return of their ship to the United States in 1843.

For those not fully aware, John Manjiro was one of the first Japanese to come to the United States of America, and became fluent in English in his years under the sponsorship of Captain Whitfield. Risking his very life to return to Japan in 1851, John Manjiro bravely faced his detention and months of questioning before being allowed to return to his home district of Tosa (now Kouchi, on Shikoku), where he was eventually rewarded for his bravery and loyal desire to return. Two years later, he was summoned to Edo and made Hatamoto (samurai in direct service to the person of a Lord) to the Shougun. His written reports were of immense service to the government at a time when little was known of matters outside Japan, and his skill with language proved vital upon the arrival of the American squadron under Commodore Matthew Perry (1853). His career spanned decades thereafter, including service to the newly-founded Japanese Navy and a post as a professor at the Toukyou Imperial University (now University of Tokyo).

A personal profile of John Majiro is available at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Civilian panic in Swat, NWFP

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is citing tens of thousands of displaced persons fleeing the North West Frontier Provinces as the Pakistani Taliban have gone on the offensive and the Pakistani Army has begun at least a few serious operations to stop them.

Here's where is gets bad: As the UNHCR alluded to in the summary of emerging risks, the Voice of America is also citing the movement of as many as 500,000 persons fleeing the fighting in Swat, just one region under contest.

Mass refugee movements are far more disruptive to the efforts of the regular Army than they are to the insurgents... indeed, the Taliban must be pleased with the results of their efforts so far.

As General David Petraeus, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, said last week, the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive... counting from the 30th of April... there is already one week gone on the timer.

Labor Unions vs. Chavez?

It sounds counter intuitive, but given the proclamations that "Bolivarian Socialism" should 'replace Unions...
Despite pro-worker rhetoric, Chavez's brand of "21st Century Socialism" is not closely tied to labor movements and he recently argued the unions should cease to exist in his self-styled revolution. sure looks like Hugo Chavez is in for some rough times with the Unions, especially the workers at PDVSA, the nationalized Oil Production Monopoly. Health, Education, Electric Utilities and Telecommunication (most all nationalized as well) are also likely to be beating the drum for better compensation. One issue is the ~30% inflation rate being endured in Venezuela right now, but another is just plain inflation of the number of workers on the government rolls:
But a two-year nationalization drive has boosted state employment rolls by placing cement, steel and telecom companies in government hands and creating a new cadre of state workers who often receive better benefits than in the private sector.

State oil company PDVSA has more than tripled its permanent employees to about 75,000 since 2003, according to recent figures.
Ouch, that is going to leave a mark.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"The law is being applied maliciously."

I'll say.

-Eighteen- previously-bailed detainees, opponents of R. Mugabe's authoritarian rule, have been ordered back to jail as new charges have been returned against them.
Activist Jestina Mukoko appeared stunned as she heard the ruling from the dock, and stared at Harare Magistrate Catherine Chimanda as her supporters burst into tears. Mukoko and the others have said they were tortured during an earlier stint in prison.

The suspects had been free on bail for two months. Chimanda said Tuesday she was sending them back to prison because a formal indictment filed Monday accused Mukoko and the others of sabotage, terrorism and banditry. Chimanda scheduled the trial to start July 4.
It is almost needless to say, but just to be sure...

I am unaware of anyone outside the Mugabe regime who considers these charges to be based on anything real. They are an excuse to terrorize the opposition.

Shame, Magistrate Chimanda; shame.

-updated reports now cite 18 bails were revoked, not 16-

Wednesday Update:

The appeal for a new bail was granted! All 18 are out of jail for now, but were required to surrender their passports as well as the usual weekly reporting requirement. External pressure is also starting to mount regarding this case:
Human Rights Watch said in a statement Zimbabwean authorities should drop the criminal charges against the activists.

"This continued persecution makes it pretty clear that (Mugabe's) ZANU-PF (party) is trying to undermine the new power-sharing administration and is an example of Zimbabwe's overall lack of progress in respecting the rule of law and basic rights," said Georgette Gagnon, HRW Africa director.
Here's hoping for some internal pressure to get those charges dropped as well, and soon.

No jacket required

Iran has announced the sudden cancellation of the massive entourage tour by Imadinnerjacket President M. Ahmadinejad and about a 100 associates to Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador that was scheduled to start tomorrow.

No explanation of the cancellation was made.
Roberto Jaguaribe, a political undersecretary at Brazil’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Brasilia it will be rescheduled for a date after Iran’s June 12 elections.
That may be, but between the protests in the streets of Brazil's cities...
A few thousand rallied over the weekend in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, carrying banners that read “President Lula: explain to your guest what freedom of expression means.”
and the claims of Argentina for extradition of five wanted Iranians indicted for the 1994 terror bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, Iran is not as popular down south of the equator as it seems to be in Chavezistan.

Plot or Counterplot?

The Republic of Georgia is reporting a situation of mutiny, possibly linked to a coup d'etat plot, at the Mukhrovani military base near Tbilisi.

The mutiny seems contained, and the officers responsible for the base have been relieved of command.

It appears the plot was designed to disrupt the NATO exercises at Vaziani that are due to start on the 6th of this month.

Alternative reporting on this from The Guardian UK and FOXNews / AP.

Oh, guess it is probably worth mentioning that the Government of Georgia is claiming to have arrested a coup plotter and has announced at a news conference that the plotters "were receiving money from Russia". The FOXNews source linked above cites
Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the suspected coup plot was organized by a former special forces commander, Georgy Gvaladze. Gvaladze and an army officer on active duty have been arrested, the spokesman said.

The coup plotters, backed by 5,000 Russian troops, were planning to disrupt NATO military exercises set to begin Wednesday in Georgia, Utiashvili said.
Not unbelievable, but does Russia really want to start a fight (again) at this time? Because being part of an attack on a NATO cooperation exercise would pretty much meet my definition of an act of war.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Weekly N&C for May 4th, 2009

Two thousand years in the making

Roughly speaking, that is; but who’s counting? So at the risk of leaving the impression that one has wandered into an episode of "Mysterious Missives of the Monastic Mystics" on some cable channel, let’s drag this out a bit. What if…?

. One of the avowed goals of Orthodox Judaism could be made real, or proven forever lost.

.. The Vatican could regain control *and sovereignty* over many of the Christian pilgrimage sites of the Holy Land for the first time since, well, since the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

… A real and lasting accommodation could be reached between Israel and the Vatican, and thus with the largest Christian faction still inclined to support Palestinian Arab causes over those of the nation of Israel.

…. But,

….. The cost would be the opening of a legal door through which Islamic states could claim exclusive rights to the grounds of Mount Moriah and all the structures thereon.

…… The same Mount Moriah known as Har haBáyit (The Temple Mount) and as al-haram al-qudsī ash-sharīf (The Noble Sanctuary).

If you were to speak for the Government of Israel, would *you* make that deal?

Or a deal that looked a lot like that?

Well it seems that, if your name is President Shimon Peres of Israel, you might just try to pull it off.

Alright; enough with the Raiders-of-the-Lost-Da-Vinci-Code talk. But really, there is something very serious about all this, and the above-linked article only touches upon just how incredibly convoluted a territorial and material sovereignty issue is being brought to the fore in the weeks before the May 11th ~15th Papal visit to Israel and the Palestine Territories.

The short form is this: Various sects of various Abrahamic religions have claim to various sites considered sacred in their various traditions within the boundaries of the former Palestine Mandate Territory. Several of them claim the same places, but not the same structures. All of them have pressed these claims for centuries (millennium in many cases) and in regard to a few of the sites have reached accommodation with rivals to either share or partition access to them. But from the perspective of legal jurisdiction, those sites that are within the boundaries of Israel are Israeli territory, and those within the Palestinian National Authority are to be part of PNA territory at the time of a two-state resolution to the occupation thereof by Israel.

So to take the example of the Church of the Nativity, considered sacred by both Christianity and Islam: it is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic authorities; it is physically located in Beit Lahm (Bethlehem) in the PNA-administered West Bank; it is under obligatory protection by the Israeli occupation. The sovereignty issue is purely one of recognizing the PNA; once a Palestinian state comes fully into being that site will be within that sovereign territory… except the extant agreements on the administration of the site grant some privileges to the religious occupants. But the territoriality of the site is not in question.

The same sort of arrangement has traditionally been offered regarding the various sites fully under Israeli control, whether Jewish, Christian and/or Moslem, even granting privileges to the administration of the Qubbat as-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) and the al Masjid al-Aqsa (al-Aqsa Mosque) under an Islamic trust. But these are *arrangements*, not concessions of sovereignty. The PNA would love to have sovereign control of the Noble Sanctuary in its entirety, though... more on that below.

In about a week, there will be a visit to the Holy Land by Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, President Shimon Peres of Israel has instructed his office to pressure the government to transfer sovereignty over six Christian sites to the Vatican.


On Sunday, according to the report, Beit Hanassi requested that the Interior Ministry sign documents conceding sovereignty on the sites, however the interior minister refused.

Yishai was quoted as saying that he opposes all yielding of sovereignty.
"Beit Hanassi" is the Presidential House of Israel; "Yishai" is Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the cabinet minister who would be actually responsible for proposing such a matter to the government.

It would be entirely reasonable at this point to ask “Why on Earth would the government of Israel create extraterritorial enclaves for Christian holy sites, especially given the claims of other religions to their respective sites?”

It can’t be about money; no compensation has apparently been offered.

It *might* be about something else, though. The Temple Treasures.

There is the vaguest possibility that, contrary to all denials by the Vatican to date, the Holy See does have in its possession (somewhere) what remains of the relics of the Second Temple that were taken as prize by the Roman Empire (as immortalized by the depiction of the sack on the Arch of Titus in Rome).

At least one researcher has made the claim that the Treasures might still exist, and has an idea who controls them now.

If, and I’ll grant that is a *big* if, the Vatican has the ability to see to the transfer of those remaining relics to the nation of Israel, that would be an answer to one of the dreams of the Orthodox sects of Judaism; to have the valued items of the Second Temple restored to Jerusalem.

But, with all things comes a price.

To establish the precedent of granting extraterritoriality to the six sites desired by the Vatican throws open the door to the claims upon the Noble Sanctuary… which, in case it hasn’t come to mind yet, is built upon Mount Moriah; the very ground believed by the faithful (and a lot of researchers) to be the site of the Second Temple.

Should Israel set aside most all normal diplomatic concerns and grant extraterritoriality to the Vatican claims, the most likely result will be a hardening of the Islamic Arab claim to the Noble Sanctuary. If that were to occur, Israel would be faced with the choice of granting some kind of equivalent status to the Islamic claims, or finding that the slim hope of ever resolving the Palestinian issue by an agreed two-state solution have been dashed upon the rocks of disappointment.

Given how badly things have gone with Gaza, and given the level of support that can be expected at this time from Israel’s traditionally closest ally, it probably isn’t worth it.

The Pope is coming to visit, with or without this matter being resolved.

Offer him a nice visit. Be nice to the pilgrims that will come to be a part of his visit.

But don’t offer extraterritorial sovereignty for the six sites. Formalize an “accommodation”, or grant further “privileges”, but don’t give them away for all the treasure in the world.

Otherwise, someone else will be lined up to “get what’s his”… even if it is yours.

End Notes:

Most all citations are linked in the text above.

The Vatican has issued a statement to the media on the coming visit, which addresses several other matters but does not mention the issue of seeking sovereignty over the six sites.

General Information on the particular sites and public figures mentioned in this article and in the linked citations can be found at Wikipedia. The usual rule applies: check all the sources cited by the Wiki-p entry.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Evening Push

That is all for this week, which is a good thing considering how The Weekly got pushed aside by other obligations and then some needed sleep.

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.

It remains a pleasure to be of some small use and service by writing this weblog.

As always, thank you for coming here!

Kenpou Kinenbi

Golden Week is upon us, the spring planting festival subsumed into modern national holidays. Shouwa no hi, the memorial of the birth of the Shouwa Tennou (referred to in foreign media as Emperor Hirohito), was the 29th of April. But after a couple of days back to work, the holiday week is now in full swing, with Kenpou Kinenbi (Constitution Memorial Day) today. This celebrates the adoption of the 1947 Constitution by the government-under-occupation.

It is also the day all the "no amendments, none, never" factions of Japanese politics put on their displays of... well, frankly, of ignorance. But be that as it may, for there have been serious (if on-again-off-again) efforts to actually amend the Constitution since 2005.

Much to this author's pleasant surprise, a main speaker at the pro-amendment rally in Shinjuku, Toukyou (Tokyo) today was none other that Koike Yuriko (Y. Koike) of Jiyuu Minshutou (the Liberal Democratic Party; LDP):
"Constitutional revisions are indispensable to building international peace in the true sense of the words. The time has already ripened," said Yuriko Koike, a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a former defense minister.

Koike went on to criticize the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, whose members are often divided over issues related to the peace provisions of the Constitution, saying the party would not be qualified to assume power as long as it avoids mapping out its stance on the subject.
Excellent. She promoted the pro-amendment platform *and* landed a glove on the pride of Minshutou (the Democratic Party of Japan; DPJ).

That's the way one gets another shot at party leadership, ma'am. Here's hoping for success to both your goals and the pro-amendment effort.

Good news from Panama's election

Well, here's hoping so.

The general sense in the international media, to cite one example, looks very promising; that Ricardo Martinelli of the Democratic Change (CD) party has a solid lead over Balbina Herrera of the incumbent Revolutionary Democratic (PRD) party, his closest rival, going into today's Presidential and Legislative election.

If victory favors the CD, then Panama will likely accelerate its swing to the Conservative side, which matters a lot when one remembers how many friends have been bought by Venezuela's H. Chavez in his pursuit of regional hegemony. A strong, independent Panama is a great neighbor for Colombia, and a very fine guardian of the Panama Canal.

For those interested, *here* is Angus Reid Global Monitor's election tracker for this contest.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Somali Entrepreneurs

There is just something Third-World-typical about *this*: Some entrepreneurial fellows on the Somali Presidential Guard found a way to both turn coat *and* turn a profit: Sell their Gun-Trucks to al-Shabaab
A businessman at Mogadishu's Bakara Market said armed trucks with government insignia were seen around the market, which has been a stronghold of Islamist rebels since the Ethiopian intervention.
Sure was nice of the AU "peacekeepers" who shared the same garrison to have noticed the absence of their supposed colleagues.

I've got your "enduring resolution"

profane reference unstated as the implication alone is sufficient

Sri Lanka is about to win through in the war against the LTTE terrorist thugs. That means it must be time for the LTTE to try to sucker the U.N. and Internationalists everywhere into saving them from the much deserved fate of defeat that faces them.

How about this for an "enduring resolution"?

By the way, that above-linked AFP article is a bit short on its treatment of Akashi Yasushi (Y. Akashi)'s recent role in the matter. *This* AP version of the story is a bit better. He has in fact made several comments, only one of which asked for more consideration as to the fate of those 50,000 (10~20,000?) people still held behind LTTE lines, functionally as human shields. He did visit some of the refugee camps, where the more than 110,000 people already rescued are seeking protection and aid, and asked the government to do more in concert with international relief organizations. However, he also got cornered by some questions and...
(Y. Akashi) also called on the Tamil Tigers to "change its attitude" and let civilians crammed into the small patch of territory the rebels still hold to move out to safety.

Akashi also praised fund-raising efforts across the country for the refugees, which he described as "heartwarming."

"People from the south of Sri Lanka, most of them (majority) Sinhalese, are collecting money and goods for the (Tamil) refugees from the north," he said. "I hope such harmony and friendship will continue in the future."
OK, so he is playing both sides. What do you expect from "a politically appointed International Civil Servant at the Headquarters of the United Nations Secretariat in New York", anyway?

Fair Disclosure: Y. Akashi is one of the people vilified by this author for his overclaim of usefulness in the Cambodian U.N. intervention and his shameful role in the Balkan Wars (specifically his role in leaving Srebrenica to be massacred by Serbian forces during the Bosnia War). He's not going to get much of a fair hearing from me on much of anything without having someone outside his little Turtle Bay world back him up.

How would you feel, if...

...your government ordered, with no evidence offered as to the necessity, the destruction of a substantial means of livelihood / food choice for a substantial minority segment of the population... a foodstuff the majority population deems unacceptable for religious reasons?

Just putting this out there for your consideration.

The Government of Egypt has ordered the destruction of all swine livestock in the country as a part of "preventative measures against the influenza outbreak". Of which, by the way, there are no confirmed cases in the *region*, much less the country.

Some odds and ends to add to your considered opinion:

Coptic Christians make up just over 10% of the ethnic mix that is Egypt; For comparison, both the Hispanic ethnicity group and the "Black" identifier group used in U.S. census data are just a little larger segments of the American mix (they are both about 12%, but this doesn't note the substantial cross-counting from the groups).

The Egyptian Government apparently took the action to order the pig kill for political image purposes. They have been severely criticised in the media for failures to take action after Avian Influenza struck in 2003~06, and for general incompetence in the face of natural disasters like floods and landslides. Still,
The government likely felt confident slaughtering pigs would not spark any public backlash in predominantly Muslim Egypt, where the majority of the population does not eat pork. Pig raising and consumption is limited to the country's Christian minority, estimated at 10 percent of the population.
Didn't quite work out that way.

While the leaders of the Coptic Church signed off on the idea, pretty much everyone else (*including* the Moslem Brotherhood!) and pro-government news media has recognized this as the singularly unjustified act that it was.

Maybe the government thought it was saving the pigs from getting infected... by killing them. Look, it is now confirmed that people can give this influenza to pigs, but there is no evidence that pigs can give it to humans.



Given the way this week has gone, and the unfortunate fact that what was prepared for The Weekly N&C for April 27th, 2009, has been overtaken by ordinary news reports, I am making the choice to concentrate efforts on next week's push. There will be no The Weekly for the 27th.

My regrets to any of you who were patiently waiting, and I hope you'll look forward to Monday's item.

A little light reading

The U.S. Department of State has issued its "Country Reports on Terrorism, 2008", right on schedule:

*Here* it is, with links to either .pdf format or chapter-by-chapter views.

After all, anything that makes Hugo A-go-go Chavez *this upset* is probably a good read, right?