Monday, January 31, 2011

Aristide gets a passport.

Told you this was going to happen after the Duvalier incident.

My suggested countermeasure still stands regarding Aristide.

Not that it is likely to happen, but they surprised me about Duvalier.

None the less, expect calamity until proven otherwise.

Egypt: Monday (Updated)

We are a week into this crisis, and some things are beginning to set.

M. ElBaradei is trying to make himself important, but it seems people are seeing him for what he is. Remarkable good sense, that.

Newly appointed Vice President Omar Sulieman has opened the door to a negotiated solution but many in the streets are still questioning what is to negotiate. Some of the 'major' opposition (there really isn't any major opposition besides al-Ikhwan, the "Muslim Brotherhood") are also taking that position:
"We have no plans to reach out to Mubarak because in our eyes he is already gone and his regime is a failure," says Shadi Taha, the deputy head of the Al Ghad Party, a leading secular group in Egypt.
All well and good, but there needs to be some plan for the future and that best include the Army as a guarantor of the State.

Meanwhile, mass evacuations of foreign nationals are underway. Not exactly a timely response, but better than nothing.

For those wishing another informed opinion, here's CompHyp friend J. E. Dyer's take on the media malfeasance of claiming that al-Ikhwan's goals are of any potential benefit to however this all ends.


Update, late Monday 'blog time:

Someone, somehow, got an ounce of good sense into the heads of Obama's NSC team. They've reached into the past and called on Amb. Frank G. Wisner Jr. to go to Egypt for the administration. Back in the day, he was Ambassador for the U.S.A. to several really tough spots. Hopefully, he's still got it.

(Wikipedia link provided for convenience only; source all citations there, please)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Morning Push

First up, the situation in Egypt is still one of teetering on the edge of disaster...

The Army hasn't taken a pivotal role... yet...

There is *no* moderate opposition organization to speak of...

...and You Know Who is just itching for an opportunity and enough popular outrage against the government to be able to step in and "lead". Bad. Very Bad. We're looking at HAMAS with F-16's, if that happens.

Then, on another matter entirely, you might want to know that the first official numbers on South Sudan's Independence are coming in... and they are stunning. People are literally dancing in the streets of Juba.

So now it's your turn. Here's your Open thread for Sunday.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: Saturday

I'm on the run doing other things, but just to keep the information coming on this:

Here's CNN on Mubarak's moves to install a new government. The key item is the promotion of Omar Suleiman to the heretofore empty position of Vice President. He's one of the faces I mentioned obliquely as possible candidates for The Man on the White Horse solution. I'm not sure, though, if accepting a role in the new Mubarak regime makes him more likely to step in if the House of Mubarak crumbles, or if it taints him as a supporter of the Old Guard.

Caroline Glick has some insights as to the players in the opposition... not a promising bunch... and how the outcome of all this matters greatly to Israel.

The Hot Air guys have been doing a great job making this all more accessible to American readers who may not be up to following the details of all this. Here's their latest very readable thread post.

If you'd prefer the 'Pros from Dover', here's a link to STRATFOR's non-subscriber analysis items on the Egypt situation. You will need to sign up, but unlike most of their usual feeds, this one is free.

For the news, and lots of it with only a little commentary, I still consider The BBC's effort to be the best coverage out there. This link is to the latest story there, but expect further coverage as this progresses appearing on their home page or feeds.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt: Friday

Summary of reports *here*.

The BBC's brief item on Mubarak's speech. Same page has links to several items and analysis.

FOXNews politics has this item on the U.S. government response so far, and Greg Palkot reporting on the protests (video link).

There is a lot more reporting out there, but mostly it tells the same story... A very very long Friday of demonstrations.

I'll try to have more on this as the course of things becomes clearer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egypt at a crossroads

It is coming up on Day Three of the running street fights and protests against the government in Egypt. Unhappiness has been a way of life there for decades, to some extent, but no large political movements have ever effectively tapped into the dissatisfaction to produce a meaningful opposition to President Hosni Mubarak's functional autocracy... at least no movements intent on peaceful change. But now, somehow, protests as large as several hundred people are breaking out in several cities... and they appear to be genuinely spontaneous. That's not real big, but... since they have been sustained in the face of repression by the authorities, the day will soon come where the Egyptian 'street' will rise up alongside them. Then there will be a real challenge to the continuation of the regime. The problem with that is three-fold:

. The Mubarak regime has had an absolute lock on power. That means that the security forces are (at least for now) completely loyal and more than willing to use force to break up demonstrations. Arrests of over 700 people for demonstrating are known as of now, with some reports claiming up to twice that many in custody. For those used to the Western idea of "bust 'em, cite 'em, and release 'em" regarding political protesters, it may come as a shock to learn that the Egyptians hew to the old fashioned idea of dropping the arrested into crowded holding cells and pretty much forgetting about them until the courts get around to hearing their cases, on some pretty serious charges, perhaps weeks later. This is great while the regime is winning; it makes problems disappear. When the popular tide turns, however, having a reputation as inhumane brutes actually makes it morally easier for the masses to start taking reprisals and that leads to lots of streetlamp decorations, if you know what I mean.

.. Because the only opposition of note prior to this has been Islamists of the Moslem Brotherhood, and many of the more motivated Islamists have taken up arms against the government in previous uprisings, the authorities have placed a nearly complete ban on such groups and considers any sign of them reason to pull back the police and send in the Army. In its own way, that's almost reasonable. The gunbattles during the last couple of insurrections have been legendary in ferocity and that's going to lead to a "take no prisoners" approach by the authorities if for no other reason than self-preservation. The Islamists, of course, take this as a challenge. But that all means that the most organized source of any opposition to the government is also the one group that no friend of democracy would ever want to get close to gaining power. (cf. HAMAS in Gaza, which is by the way the Gaza branch of the Moslem Brotherhood)

... Other than that, again because the Mubarak regime has had absolute power for so long, there really is no one of any stature within the country to take the lead of a political (rather than revolutionary) opposition to the government. Moreover, if the "Opposition" ever did bring down the House of Mubarak, there is no one with any meaningful experience in governance to form a new administration. This opens the door to one of two kinds of opportunists: The Outsider and The Man on a White Horse.

The Outsider of record, right now, is former United Nations functionary Mohamed ElBaradei. Typical of Outsiders, he is far better known through foreign media than at home, which means his supporters are foreigners too... virtually no one in Egypt likely has the slightest idea what M. ElBaradei has been doing the last couple of decades, and it is a fair bet that most Egyptians wouldn't even be able to put a face to his name. Note to foreigners reading this, by the by... M. ElBaradei is no friend of the West. He spent most of his years at IAEA covering up for Pakistani and Iranian misdeeds and feathering his own bed. This is not the kind of fellow that "the International Community" should be speaking favorably of.

Which leaves us with... The Man on the White Horse... the typical military commander or poseur to such that feels the disorder simply can't be tolerated, for the good of the nation don't you know, who then 'rides' into public view at the head of what is either a coup or a counter-revolution. Sadly, this is one area where Egypt has far too much recent experience: Both G. Nasser and A. Sadat gained access to power through a takeover(in the Revolution of 1952), although Sadat remained in the Vice Presidency until Nasser has the good manners to die and leave the office as an inheritance. H. Mubarak himself got the job by having been Sadat's Vice President... when Sadat was assassinated. Men from the military succeeding men from the military, albeit with the cloth of political office draped over their uniforms. Might be time to be checking the lists of Vice President (nope: there isn't one. the office is vacant) and Chiefs of each branch of the military (maybe: a couple of names come to mind) to see who is next in line seniority and reputation-wise.

Because the real enormity of this isn't going away even *if* the Mubarak regime crushes all dissent this time...

Hosni Mubarak has been in power for 29 years. He's 82 years old.

...and other than some trial-balloon-floating on behalf of his second son Gamal, there is no one currently clearly in line to succeed. Even the possibility of G. Mubarak stepping up has taken a hit today as reports are he has fled the country, bound for Britain, with his family and a couple boxcars-worth of luggage. (The government, of course, denies that happened.) That looks more like 'getting out with the loot' than getting ready to take power...

So hang on to your hats, folks; it looks like Egypt is in for one heck of a ride.

Here's hoping for the emergence of a genuine secular and democratic opposition movement, and a bright future for Egypt. 'Till I see that, though, I'd advise planning for the country to face a bit more dark and troubled times.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

They are the same.

Just in case you ever considered correct the idea that The State, any State really, can be trusted with an unbridled authority over assigning property rights:

This (video feed) is really the same... this.

There really no functional difference.

Frédéric Bastiat probably said it best: "property is value".

When you see a State asserting that it is the sole or preeminent allocator of property, what that State is really saying is that they assign control of value.

No further explanation of the resulting Kleptocracy should be required.

No further explanation as to why this conduct should *always* be opposed should be required either.

Fighting a political war in the banks

First, there were calls to embargo Cocoa exports to try to cut off hard currency revenues; Now the battle is over control of the assets of the Central Bank.

That's where the campaigns to oust (or to keep in power) de facto President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire is being fought right now.
Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has ordered the seizure of all local branches of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says gendarmes and armoured vehicles have surrounded the bank's HQ in the city.
It is being fought there for two reasons: To try anything to avoid a foreign military intervention to remove Gbagbo; and because Gbagbo can't stay in power if his money runs out.
Without access to government funds, it is unclear whether Mr Gbagbo will be able to continuing paying the country's military and security forces.
This all goes back to Gbagbo playing for time.

He's having some success. While ECOWAS is still considering intervention and is rounding up International support for such an operation, the first cracks in the African Union position opposing Gbagbo are showing.

If the Opposition and ECOWAS are to carry the day on this, they are going to have to get back some of the momentum. Otherwise...


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Hizb'allah (Hezbollah) 's pick for the next Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Miqati, is now a certain electee.

That's pretty much the end of any chance of bringing the killers of Rafik Hariri to justice.



Michael J. Totten reads this as time to fight. He's right, but I'm not sure the anti-Hizb' groups have what it takes to win such a fight...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Domodedovo Airport Attack (Updated)

The details are still coming in, but here is the short form:
35 people have been killed in an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport according to the airport spokesperson. Up to 130 are said to have been injured in what the Investigative Committee believes to be a terror attack.
The attacker hit the crowd at the Arrivals area waiting for passengers to clear the secure zone.

The report (in English) from Russia Today on the attack. Scroll down that page for more details and some analysis.

The BBC has a lengthy coverage as well, and has links to more information.

Preliminary reports have several body parts of the bomber collected as evidence. The ФСБ (FSB) was apparently in pursuit of the attack cell earlier in the day, but did not catch on as to who and where until too late.

The War goes on.



UPI has it as two suicide bombers:
Witnesses told Russian media two people detonated their explosives as passengers walked from the international arrival area of Moscow's busiest airport, RIA Novosti reported.
Note, the two linked reports above have it as a single bomber. Someone at the investigation needs to address this difference.

Well, that does explain... some of Gordon Brown's appointees lasting longer than five minutes.

Seems that, since untoward removal of the serving Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office Humphrey back in late 1997, and then brief acting tenure in 2007 of Sybil (during the house switch that put Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling in Number 10 while Brown resided in Number 11), the official residence of the Prime Minister of Her Majesty's Government has been without a ratcatcher.

The results are becoming an obvious embarrassment to the current administration. Yet the Cameron Premiership has yet to see the obvious:
Asked about the rat during a lobby briefing, the prime minister's official spokesman said there were "no plans" to bring in a cat to deal with it.
No Plans?

This is *not* like the problem with building two large-deck aircraft carriers that will have no airplanes. This certainly isn't up to the difficulty level of dealing with the financial and social damage done by over a decade of New Labour policies.

This isn't hard, Mr. Cameron.

The resolution is even good media optics.

Consider it a sop to the Traditionalist Right of the Party, if you must.

Something with sharp claws would be of use shredding those unreasonable budgetary requests from holdover Public Servants anyway.

I'll send you the contact information for a rescue centre in London.

Get a cat.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Morning Push

It's been a very good week here, both 'blogging and working, thanks to the efforts of some very good friends. I remain grateful to you, ladies and gentlemen.

Following up some earlier threads here at CompHyp:

The Royal Malaysian Navy made it two-for-two this week against the pirates of Somalia with a successful interception and a lively shooting match that bagged all the attackers.

The Central Bank of West Africa will have a new chief, and that cuts off another point of support for de facto President L. Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire. He may yet be pushed out of power without a military intervention, but nothing is resolved yet.

The commentary here on American B. Rhodes' ill-considered remarks to P.R. Chinese media about the Senkaku Islands matter has been picked up in the 'blogosphere. Special thanks again to Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection for making it the Post of the Day there.

So now it's your turn. Here's your Open thread for Sunday.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

No Progress... No Surprise.

The Istanbul round of the P5+G negotiations (the five UNSC Permanent Members and Germany) with Iran over nuclear proliferation has ended with no progress. The two reasons for the failure can be found in the same quote from the BBC article:
EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton, who led the international team, said Iran had come to the talks with pre-conditions.
So long as negotiations are entrusted to a nearly-powerless lead negotiator, Iran obviously feels free to engage in non-productive distractions... after all, their goal is to negotiate for nothing and take a long time doing that.

A different dynamic is required for the forces opposing proliferation to succeed.

I would suggest taking on Amb. John Bolton, empowered with a letter authorizing military and economic coercion, to lead any future round of negotiations... but then the Iranians simply wouldn't show up and then push would come to shove.

...which it likely will, anyway. May as well be moving forward those intervention plans, folks. Bets are we will need to use them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Not helping, Jan 2011 edition.

The military has a quaint term for those who screw over their friends and team mates, especially if it was done for personal gain or convenience: 'Blue Falcon'.

The term isn't really applicable outside the team structure, but... if I were to encourage its application in the Foreign Policy area... this pretty much qualifies. Thank you ever so much, Junior. You have apparently let your promotion from Speechwriter to Title-that-means-speechwriter convince you that what you say is somehow useful or helpful. It wasn't:
HONG KONG, Jan. 21 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The United States recognizes no claims to the sovereignty of a set of islets in the East China Sea, an adviser to the U.S. president said Friday.
"The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands," Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

He was responding to Chinese blogger Ma Xiaolin, who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

"We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan," Rhodes said.
First, that isn't historically correct. The U.S. in fact was the author of the postwar partitioning of territory in the area, and specifically mandated their return-by-transfer as part of the Okinawa reversion to Japan. P.R. Chinese and ROC claims to the area postdate that.

Second, it isn't correct as extant policy. The status quo is expressly covered in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, under which the territory is specified as part of the territory of Japan to be defended, as amended since reversion).

Third, if this statement reflects the Obama administration's official opinion as to what position it would take were the matter to be open to negotiation, that would be a matter for the President and his Secretary of State to make known through their Ambassadors to both interested countries... and even then, if Madame Secretary inserts her opinion into other people's sovereign business, it is still not meaningful or helpful and she can rightly be told to mind her manners.

If his boss... the top boss... is willing to publicly stand behind B. Rhodes words, then there should be a quick trip back to Washington D.C. for U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos... and little invitation for a speedy return. But that's not what has happened so far, and that's not what's going to happen if there is a whit of sense left in the U.S. government.

I'll posit that as "likely", so that leaves only one alternative:

Public refutation of B. Rhodes' statement by the administration.

It would help if a public humiliation of Rhodes could be scheduled as well, but that's likely asking too much. Pity, that.

edit: description of status under the Security Treaty clarified.

addenda: Welcome, Legal Insurrection readers and thanks to Professor Jacobson for making this thread the "Post of the Day" for 22.January.

This is how soup is done.

An impressive demonstration of resolve and capability by the ROK Naval forces successfully prevented a pirate raid (18.Jan) presumably killing the pirate raiders, and then rescued the M/V Samho Jewelry from pirate control (today), killing eight pirates and capturing five alive for arrest.

All 21 crew members were rescued, although one suffered a non-lifethreatening gunshot at the hands of the pirates.

Yonhap report on the raid.

Yonhap timeline on the events.

Reuters report on the raid.

Kyoudou wire service report on the raid.

This operation, from beginning to end, is how it should be done.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unity Government broke... again.

While the kleptocrats of the ZANU-PF continue to move their ill-gotten loot to places like Malaysia and China / Hong Kong, the Unity government and the people of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) have found that once again the treasury is far insufficient to meet obligations. Here's the latest telling of the truth by Finance Minister Tendai Biti (of the MDC-T):
“For the month of January we have only collected US$64 million and we are supposed to pay $101 million [public sector wage bill]. Where we are going to get the money to close the gap? I don't know. I have made it very clear that we can only eat what we have killed and no more or no less."
What makes this all far, far worse, is the estimation that the pathetic wages for non-political public sector employees (education and medical care in particular) simply don't come close to covering the cost of living, and that may well put the Unions in the streets. Here's their argument:
Public sector unions are threatening a national strike and have refused an 18-26 percent salary increase offer by government that would increase the lowest-paid worker's monthly income from $128 to $160. The unions are demanding a minimum monthly wage of $500.

The Zimbabwe Consumer Council told IRIN the cost of living for a low-income family of six in January 2011 was $503.40.
(Fair disclosure: I'm no fan of public employee unions, generally, and I certainly think the Statist practices of making so many jobs in countries in much of Southern Africa public employees distorts the economy. That said...)

...the Unions likely have a very good claim there. What makes this particularly ugly is that there is simply no way to pay for that under the current regime. Even *if* the Unity government had any real authority, it couldn't make money appear from the ruins of the economy as it stands in any short term. The only way, *the only way* for the government to be able to provide a modest standard of living for public sector workers will be if the people can restore the economy to any real productivity... and that can't happen with any part of the ZANU-PF in a position to keep stealing.

T. Biti, as part of the Oppos in Unity, has a rather precarious position to defend, I grant you. But he's sounding like a battered wife these days...
"We [the unity government] have also failed in many areas, with the slow pace of democratic delivery, the slow pace of constitutional development, the slow pace of security sector reform - all those things are failures," Biti said.

"This [the unity government] agreement has been very difficult. Whether it will lead to the collapse of the agreement I don't know. It is like a marriage. The husband can be cheating, but it does not necessarily mean it will end in divorce," he said.
Pathetic, isn't it?

The time is well past to end this charade.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Smolensk Crash ATC transcripts

The big picture is coming into focus, but very slowly.

The tragic crash last January at Smolensk that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others on their way to a memorial service for the Katyn dead has been a matter of great confusion. Was it purely weather related? Pilot error? Air Traffic Control error? Some matter of political intervention on the part of either the Poles or the Russians?

It hasn't been the clearest of investigations, either.

The Russians took complete charge of the investigation and recovery, and spent most of their effort on not letting out exactly what happened. That didn't go over well at all in Poland...

So they released transcripts of the black box recordings. (As far as this author knows, however, the actual recordings remain in Russian custody. They certainly held them back for a long time.)

Now, the BBC reports that Russia has released transcripts of the ATC traffic... and that still doesn't really settle things:
Russia released the transcripts after Poland complained they had not been included in Moscow's official report into the crash on its territory.

Questions remain about communications with the doomed plane.
That would be because the transcripts seem almost nonsensical.
In their conversation in Russian, detailed in the transcript released by Russia along with its final report on 12 January, the Polish pilot appears not to take in what the Russian ATC officer is saying.

"...fog, visibility 400m," says the Russian.

"Understood," the pilot replies. "What are the weather conditions?"

The ATC officer spells out the visibility in English, then gives temperature and pressure readings, adding, at 1024: "There are no conditions for taking you."

"Thank you," the pilot replies, "but if possible we will try to approach, but if the weather is bad we will circle around."

The last message from the Polish plane, at 1040 as it tries to come in to land, is that it has switched its lights on.

It strikes tree-tops just before 1041, crashing about five seconds later.

The Russian ATC transcripts show controllers swearing obscenities in between desperate attempts to contact the pilot.
If what the transcripts say is what actually transpired... swearing obscenities is an entirely reasonable response.

This simply isn't going to be resolved until a full investigation by a third-party with access to original recordings happens.

Russia should invite one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ozawa won't 'cooperate'

No surprise, really.

Facing a mandated indictment for false reporting of political funds, Ozawa Ichirou (I. Ozawa), the infamous master political player and faction leader that played a major part in bringing minshutou (the Democratic Party of Japan; DPJ) into power, has wisely chosen to not expose himself to an opportunity for perjury. The Opposition response was simple: No sworn testimony?
The DPJ initially proposed to the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, the New Komeito party, that they take part in an executive meeting of the House of Representatives' Deliberative Council on Political Ethics on Tuesday.

But the LDP and New Komeito refused, saying it would be meaningless to convene a meeting if Ozawa is unlikely to appear at the ethics panel to give unsworn testimony. They instead called for Ozawa to give sworn testimony, which would make him liable to a charge of perjury.
Very well then, how about cooperating with the court-appointed Prosecution? The State Prosecutor has refused to issue formal charges, but was overruled by an independent judiciary panel (similar to, but not, a Grand Jury in a Common Law system). That means pending indictment will be prosecuted by a legal team appointed by the Courts. So nope, no further pre-indictment cooperation:
Defense attorneys for Ichiro Ozawa have decided that the ruling party kingpin will refuse any request for questioning ahead of his expected indictment over alleged mishandling of political funds, sources close to the matter said Monday.

Ozawa's defense team plans as early as Tuesday to notify court-appointed lawyers who are assuming the role of prosecutors about the policy, the sources said. With the move, the case will enter the final phase toward Ozawa's mandatory indictment.
Very well. A reasonable course of action on his part. To quote the old parting legal shot, "See you in court".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hariri Tribunal issues a sealed indictment

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL; a.k.a. 'The Hariri Tribunal') investigators have finally made their official indictments.
International prosecutors have issued an indictment for the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has not yet released names of suspects, and a pre-trial judge will now decide whether to issue warrants.

Members of the armed Shia group Hezbollah are expected to be named.
Any bets on how long the secret stays secret? Just asking...

Anyway, the political maneuvers to frame this matter have been underway since Hizb'allah (Hezbollah) walked out of the governing coalition last week. They are hoping to get a compliant administration to refuse further cooperation with the STL. Kind of like gangsters trying to buy off a prosecution, that.

In a pleasant manifestation of stated international support for stability as a new Prime Minister is being selected, the U.S. Embassy has been trying to have some understanding (or small support) of the process. Let's just say the guys on the other side are taking notice:
At the weekend, US ambassador Maura Connelly held talks with Christian MP Nicolas Fattoush - seen as a pivotal figure in the attempt to build a new coalition.

Foreign Minister Ali al-Shami summoned the envoy and accused her of "interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon".

The US strenuously denied the allegations, state department spokesman Philip Crowley telling AFP news agency: "We are respecting Lebanon's sovereignty and we would hope other countries would as well."
Don't worry too much; Ambassador Connelly and the staff there must well know that A. al-Shami is only in that job because his Harakat Amal (Amal Movement) party is hand-in-glove (for now) with the Hizb'allah political wing. Best to simply receive the accusation and just smile quietly. Let Foggy Bottom handle the denials duty. Gives Crowley something to do with his spare time.

The big issue in this, of course, is what will Hizb'allah do if they think a government supported by Saudi Arabia, France, and or the United States is going to come into power. Unless it will be a terribly weak coalition, one with those supporters is not going to back off the quest to punish Hariri (Sr.) 's assassins. That will leave Hizb'allah only with its lifeline allies of Iran, Syria and anyone playing for their team, then Amal and the turncoat faction led by Michel Aoun siding with it in-country.

That isn't a sit-pat hand in the allies department, and there isn't much other than offering safe exile that they could do if they wait until the STL makes the charges formal and public. The expected play will be to continue to short-circuit the process: If bringing down the administration won't stop things, then the next step is probably either a move to *make* Hizb'allah the government (a coup or civil war) or the threat of a external conflict of sufficient size to distract attention (gee, another Hizb-Israeli War might do). But I'm not sure that latter choice would work. The Saudis for one would happily fight Hizb'allah to the last Israeli, if you get my meaning, and such a conflict going regional would simply end any sense in the Gulf Cooperation Council that the Iranian regime could be tolerated any longer.

Avoiding that and getting the accused to trial may be mutually exclusive.

I *think* it would be worth it, though, especially if those still-sealed indictments reach out beyond Hizb'allah... maybe even outside Lebanon...





Do not allow this.

Do not allow Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's return to Haiti to pass with impunity.

Find out who is claiming to give him 'Diplomatic Status' and tell them it is not accepted.

Arrest him. Call up the Philippines prosecutors who did so much to get Marcos' stolen millions clawed back and copy their entire playbook. Then get to clawing.

In case anyone has forgotten:
Author Amy Wilentz, whose book "The Rainy Season" is a definitive account of the aftermath of Duvalier's exile and Aristide's rise, said: "This is not the right moment for such upheaval."

"Let's not forget what Duvalierism was: prison camps, torture, arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial killings, persecution of the opposition," she wrote in an e-mail to AP.
Oh, and if you need another reason to not let this stand:
And, she added, "If Haitian authorities allow Duvalier to return, can they thwart exiled President Aristide's desire to come back to the country?"
Because having either man back in Haiti could likely bring on Civil War. Having both back and free to act virtually guarantees one.

Arrest him. If Aristide shows his face, arrest him as well.

Haiti has more than enough problems right now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday No More Negotiations Open Thread

With fond memories of a dinner in a German restaurant (not in Germany) 20 years ago with my old pal Scott, for one... when I got a war for my birthday...

Scott, if you get to read this, just remember: Bernie under the bed; Peter hanging out the window, describing the triple-A going for a Golden BB hit; all broadcast real-time. It felt so different watching such from... home.

Will, Mr. Bill, you were around, too.

Good Times.

Here's your Open thread for Sunday.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Time to count up.

The polls for the independence referendum in South Sudan are now closed, and things look very promising for independence.

Now, it is time to count up, make things official, and get a formal announcement out by the agreed 15.February date.

There will be a lot to do for the new nation, and they will need a lot of assistance to do it all, but there is real hope for liberty.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stories to watch the next few days

Here's a by-no-means-all-inclusive alert. I've picked out three stories happening now that all have major international impact:

Lebanon has lost its government over the soon-to-be-announced Hariri Assassination indictments. As always, look for analysis to Michael J. Totten on matters in Lebanon, and look to Ya Libnan for your Lebanese news source.

North Africa beats East Africa to the punch on riots threatening the regime. Tunisia has declared a State of Emergency. Yes, there is still an open dispute in Tanzania as well, but it hasn't reached this level yet. Then again, those protests are more recent in origin.

Sudan is still in the process of the referendum on South Sudan Independence. The good news is that the required 60% of the electorate threshold for ratifying the result has been passed, and the Independence platform seems almost assured of carrying, but the district of Abyei isn't part of the territory to be liberated by the vote; its status won't be decided until later and then supposedly by negotiations. That and the tribal divisions in the region are all the invitation North Sudan needs to continue to stir up trouble.

Expect to see all of these stories get worse before they get better.

New Kan Cabinet

Well, seems the boss didn't wait until Monday to let the cat out of the bag...

Kan sacks under-fire duo from top Cabinet posts.

In fact, he let six members of the former naikaku (Cabinet) go and did some swapping around. Here are the big changes:
Yukio Edano, who served as acting secretary-general of the governing party, to replace Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku.

Kaoru Yosano, an independent member of the House of Representatives who has just left the opposition Sunrise Party, as state minister for tax and social security reform and economic and fiscal policy.

Former House of Councillors President Satsuki Eda was named as justice minister, while former House of Representatives Vice Speaker Kansei Nakano was given the post of National Public Safety Commission chairman and state minister for the issues of abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea and civil service reform.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi, another Cabinet minister slapped with a censure motion, was replaced by Akihiro Ohata, who served as economy, trade and industry minister in the previous Kan Cabinet.

State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Banri Kaieda, who supports the government's bid to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, replaced Ohata who is skeptical about the move.
Mostly all for the better, I do believe. There was some talk that replacing Y. Sengoku was to be a sop to the party faction that still backs I. Ozawa in his struggles with the Kan-led party leadership; nope, that wasn't what happened:
The prime minister clarified his stance to eliminate the influence of DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, who faces indictment over a political funding scandal, from the party by replacing staunch Ozawa opponent Sengoku with Edano, who is also critical of Ozawa.

To support Edano, who became the youngest chief Cabinet secretary in history at age 46, 78-year-old DPJ legislator Hirohisa Fujii, who had served as finance minister, was named as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, a rare post for a former Cabinet member to be given.
Brought up a Young Gun and supplied him with the support of one of the most respected men in the DPJ. No win for Ozawa there, none at all.

Very, very promising.

Someone, part 2

Follow-up to "Someone..." written here at CompHyp on 7.January.

It is always a pleasure to have La Gringa help me out with media sources in Honduras, and I remain grateful to her for responding quickly to some of my questions. (I, of course, then was unavailable for a couple of days... but *she* was quick.) Here's some further information on the Honduras Minibus Attack story:

Local news report (Spanish language) with photographs of the vehicle after the attack. Here's her observations at that time (8.January)
They may have been after one person initially but the attack on the bus wasn't targeted. It looked like at least 100 bullets in the sides, front and back of the bus.

The police are calling it an ajuste de cuentas (CompHyp reader help: translates lit: adjustment of accounts; "settling scores") between two competing drug factions. The police frequently claim the motive was an ajuste de cuentas and that is usually the end of the story. It is rare that anyone is ever charged with this type of crime.

One of the survivors was interviewed in the hospital. She said she didn't have anything to do with drugs.

Life has no value in Honduras and crime is out of control. I wouldn't expect to hear any more about this except for the occasional article over the next week or two at most saying the police are working on it, then it will fade from view as the next massacre takes the limelight, and the one after that. It's really only slightly out of the norm of what happens here every day.
I do appreciate that last about how such crime is 'only slightly out of the norm', although there is something about this particular event that may well go beyond that. Fortunately, La Gringa was willing to continue the discussion and gave me permission to publish it here. In her second letter, she added (all links Spanish language):
But I have a couple of corrections from a different news channel last night. The ages of the youngest victims may not be accurate. I think the police were just guessing the ages initially. La Prensa reports today that the youngest victims were 2 years and 8 months old which is what the police spokesman said last night. In the photo, one of the coffins appears to be infant size. La Tribuna has a list of victims and different ages in this article.

Proceso Digital has had several articles over the past 2 days... The latest article (as I write) has a little more info about the suspected intended targets, but basically the same as the LP article.

I wouldn't want to be one of the survivors. In one article I read that the police have asked the military to guard the survivors at the hospital, but eventually they'll have to leave and I wouldn't put their chances at survival high if the criminals think they can be identified.

It is very common in Honduras to blame the victim. I think that we all want to believe that the victim "must have been involved in something" or "must have made someone mad". In this case, it very likely might be true, but overall it makes me very sad. I can perfectly see that guys who feel very macho with AK-47s would be infuriated that the bus driver didn't stop and blast the hell out of it with no concern for who might be inside.

I think that we have to have that belief so that we feel a little safer, that *we* aren't involved in anything like that so *we* or the people we love won't be killed in some senseless act. But really, all we have to do is to take the wrong bus, go to the wrong restaurant at the wrong time, work at the wrong place, or drive down the street at the wrong time.... We can't live in terror all the time, so we get hardened to what happens here every day.
A very sad picture she paints, I think. I remain at least willing to consider the possibility that the eventual connection in this crime will be that the people targeted were relatives of those who, or actually a part of an effort to, oppose the Narcos. I can't second source that, though, so I may well have to let the 'wrong place; wrong people' narrative hold. That does, however, lead us to this last request from La Gringa in our conversation:
If I see anything more informative, I will let you know, and I would appreciate it if you would let me know if you have any updates.
That goes for me as well. Any update on this story, especially one that puts the targeted individual(s) in the context of place, activity, or relationship with anti-Narco or (sad possibility) Narco actors would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, and thanks to La Gringa again.


Update 17.January

Thanks to Fausta for linking to this in her Carvival of the Americas news links today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are you quite finished, yet?

American political matters gone wrong have the almost unique ability to push every other bit of world news off the front page... or the second... and some times even through to the middle of the broadsheet...

Look, I even have some (slight) familiarity with one of the victims in the Tucson Massacre. I'm angry that it happened, and proud beyond belief of the people at the scene that saved lives and took down the attacker. That doesn't mean I'll put up with the vastly partisan gamesmanship that political interests (mostly from the particularly shameful Left, this time) to get to other stories that might be of interest here. Nor do I appreciate having to spend valuable client time debunking misinformation on a matter that is to most of my customers a matter of purely vicarious interest. Yes, I do have to do that when the U.S. Secretary of State does something dumb and has the bad form to do it overseas and in front of the media. (Warning: Link is to a video feed.)

I was sincerely hoping that, by today, the news cycle would have moved past this.

No luck.

Oh well. I'll continue to take the Eagle1 option until this plays out and I can present other matters... and be civil about it...

...maybe tomorrow will be better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday come Monday

This post is for admin purposes only. (filling in a blank day Sunday)

The last Open Thread remains open, as my old friend Will noticed. Thanks for putting those comments up; You others reading here should go look.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Monday.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Japan Cabinet Reshuffle: First Look

It is now almost certain that come January 17th, the naikaku (Cabinet) serving with souridaijin Kan Naoto ('Prime Minister' N. Kan) will have a vastly different make-up. It remains to be seen if kanbou choukan Sengoku Yoshito (Chief Cabinet Secretary Y. Sengoku; #2 officer as well as the media face of the Cabinet) will be replaced, but several others may be. Here's one almost certain to change:
Ahead of a reshuffle of his Cabinet, Prime Minister Naoto Kan is considering replacing Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akihiro Ohata, who maintains a cautious stance toward Japan's participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, it's been learned.
The article linked cites two others likely to be shuffled out.

The only sure keepers at this point, say the wags, are soumu daijin Katayama Yoshihiro (Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Y. Katayama) and gaimu daijin Maehara Seiji (Foreign Minister S. Maehara). Bouei daijin Kitazawa Toshimi (Defense Minister T. Kitazawa) may be in line for a new job in the Cabinet, but replacing him will require once again calling on the rather shallow bullpen that the DPJ has in Defense and Foreign matters.

A tough challenge for N. Kan to pull this together again, having just gone through a Cabinet shuffle in September, but that last change was for the better. Maybe another iteration will be better yet...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Someone; Someone's Wife; Someone's Children

It is just the sort of nasty, but somehow insignificant story that passes in the news stream: The AP reports 8 dead, 3 wounded in Honduras bus shooting.
Gunmen killed four women and four children, including an 18-month boy, and wounded three others Thursday in an attack on a minibus in Honduras, officials said.

The attack in the rural eastern province of Olancho appears to have been aimed at one of the passengers on the minibus, said Security Ministry spokesman Leonel Sauceda.
(sourced via SFGate)

This version of the report has it that an "extortion attempt by street gangs" was the motive, and that one or two of the passengers in the minibus were the target. The shooting started when the driver pressed on through the attempted road block.

Here's the BBC version... Eight die as gunmen attack bus in Honduras. They give the motive as
(The motive for the attack) is being investigated.

Honduran newspaper the Herald said police were exploring possible links to drug traffickers.

The paper quoted unnamed sources as saying the gunmen were targeting a woman know only as "the doctor".
If this isn't pushing all your "there is more to this" buttons, then I'm not sure what more would be needed.

This was a premeditated ambush, targeting someone or someone's wife or someone's children or grandchildren... not ordinary highway robbery.

When who that was becomes public, I'll wager there will be a lot more to say about this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Open Thread

Another unplanned open thread for you. I get a late call to have some information available for a client on Friday... you get an open thread. Not sure which of us is coming out ahead on this.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

See you tomorrow!


Here's a little foreshadowing of coming matters, if it helps:

Riots again in Tanzania. The results of a mayoral election are still so suspect that the Oppos are willing to brave facing the police to protest. 2 dead, a dozen more in the hospital, gunshot.

There's a cabinet reshuffle in the works here in Japan, due before the 13.January DPJ party convention. One major point of discussion is if it is time for Chief Cabinet Secretary Y. Sengoku to go. Should be a lively discussion, to say the least.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mookie's back

In this 22.Dec.2010 article by the BBC summarizing the change of power that happened in Iraq when Nouri al-Maliki managed to get the Sadrist political faction to back his retaining the Prime Ministry, the author wrote:
Mr Sadr's exact whereabouts is a secret, though he is widely believed to be studying in Iran.
That wasn't much of a secret, folks. Moqtada al-Sadr (Muqtada al-Sadr), pretender to his father's place in the Shiite religious heirarchy and career goon-squad leader, ran to Iran when the boom came down on his "Mehdi Army" (properly Jaish al-Mahdi; JaM) in 2007 and 2008. He presence there previously had been during his artfully provided theological education that just barely qualified him for the titles he is so proud of, and that was where his protectors and enablers in the Pasdaran (IRGC) were best able to protect him again.

So fast-forward to today; The Sadrist political functionaries are an essential bloc in the parliamentary support for the new government. Officially, the JaM is disarmed. Slate wiped clean. Loyal Iraqis, all of them, by official declaration.

Guess who just got off an airplane. Yup, Mookie is back in Iraq.

I'll be nice about this... presuming he and his followers follow the law and voice their opinion in the manner of democratic discourse, welcome home.

One step over the line, and some one should haul him in and bring out all the charges (from treason against the State to simple murders and quite a lot in between) that have been conveniently set aside... and make this the last time anyone has to deal with this man and his collection of thugs. Ever.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I smell a rat.

Call me a pessimist, or at least ill-tempered and suspicious, about Sudan's President and ICC-indicted genocidaire Omar Hassan al-Bashir's visit to Juba yesterday in South Sudan.

The visit by the Northern leader who presided over the slaughter of 2 million of his countrymen during the north-south Civil War of Sudan has got to be about something. The official story goes like this:
"The preferred choice for us is unity but in the end we will respect the choice of the southern citizens," Bashir said in a speech to southern officials. "One would be sad that Sudan has split but also pleased because we witnessed peace."

Bashir appeared visibly resigned in contrast to his usual upbeat rhetoric, in a visit seen as a farewell to the south and to the title of Africa's largest country by area.

Accepting that the result is likely to be secession, Bashir said he would come and join in the celebrations after the vote.

"Even after the southern state is born we are ready in the Khartoum government to offer any technical or logistical support and training or advice -- we are ready to help."
I'm not buying it.

This vile fellow has proven a master of using inter-tribal rivalries and other divisions to constantly sow infighting between those that oppose him. It would simply be a volte-face of epic proportions for him to accept the obvious and concede the virtually-certain independence for South Sudan that this weekend's referendum will bring.

If there is anything like a halfway competent Intelligence advisor to the Government of Autonomous South Sudan right now, they should be combing over a list of every single person that met with any part of the al-Bashir entourage ...down to the hired help at hotels and restaurants... looking for any sign of the all-important meeting-of-allegiance that an al-Bashir loyalist would want before signing on to a renewed campaign against South Sudan. It might not have happened; a really competent al-Bashir organization would have gotten such done in secret in the North when no one was watching. But better to be safe than sorry.

I'll just leave this for now with this last quote from the article cited above:
One woman, a Juba resident who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said, "next time he comes we can arrest him".
Yes, yes, you can and we'll all be grateful.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Ahmadinejad move toward loyalty

For those following the roll-over of personnel at the top of the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran, there was this bit of foreshadowing last November, calling the split between President M. Ahmadinejad's faction and that of Parliament Speaker A. Larijani.

We got another look at what was happening when Foreign Minister M. Mottaki got unceremoniously sacked in mid-December.

The next cards to fall have now fallen. 14 Presidential Advisers have been shown the door:
The Peninsula newspaper said the Mehr news agency quoted presidential adviser Mehdi Kalhor as saying he and 13 others had received letters notifying them they had been terminated. Similarly, PBS Frontline's Tehran bureau reported the Iranian Web site Mashregh also announced the firings.

Iran's Press TV reported Ahmadinejad thanked the 14 for their service and wished them well in other service areas.


Frontline said most of those dismissed were aligned with Iran's hardliners and had been critical of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
So it isn't that anything like reform might be happening; It is more a consolidation based on loyalty to Ahmadinejad and his close circle.

The revolution is dead, and has been for some time. The autocrat and his circle are now attempting to lock in their place at the center of power.

That's nothing but bad news for the people of Iran, and worse news for the rest of us, if that comes to be.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Long Memories

It is often unwise to engage in triumphalism when one hasn't really won.

It is even less wise when one is celebrating mass murder in the very land where the slaughter was committed and there are still survivors around with long memories.

Case in point.
The same statue had been damaged last week in an explosion claimed by a Ukrainian nationalist group, Tryzub (Trident), which denounced Stalin as "the executioner of the Ukrainian people and an international terrorist."

Stalin is a deeply divisive figure in Ukraine, which is sharply split between its nationalist west and pro-Russian supporters in the east who take a fonder view of the Soviet past.
Yes, blowing up a statue of Stalin is criminal property damage.

That said, the irony of seeing the Communist Party of Ukraine make a claim of private property rights to file charges is just sauce for the goose.

Sunday Morning Push

The first such of the New Year.

2010 went out with a boom for CompHyp, thanks to a host of new visitors and the very kind links to here that referred them.

Here's your Open thread for Sunday.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Meanwhile, in Côte d'Ivoire...

...things aren't getting better.

De facto President Laurent Gbagbo's effort to push aside U.N. and French peacekeepers has been entirely rightly ignored, but his loyalists in the army still have ~600 UN peacekeepers surrounded in their entrenchments around the Golf Hotel complex that headquarters recognized-electee Alassane Ouattara and his staff.

ECOWAS isn't scheduled to go back in for talks until the new week. The last round of such was less than impressive, with an almost go-slow approach to the problem. Here's why.

Other people aren't waiting around to get involved, and that's *very* bad news. These folks are the same randomly murderous gangs of Charles Taylor's civil war in Liberia made infamous in the "Blood Diamond" story. Not a good sign when they are volunteering to join either side (or both!).

The spokesman for Alassane Ouattara is now publicly calling for ECOWAS to come with force quickly to remove Gbagbo and his regime.

Gbagbo, for his part, has simply rejected the call to step down by his rival and, in his New Year's address,
Mr Gbagbo said the pressure for him to quit amounted to "an attempted coup d'etat carried out under the banner of the international community".
Not going anywhere.

So here we go, again.