Russia-Pakistan: Russia has lifted its embargo on sales of weapons and military hardware to Pakistan. The first item under consideration is Mi-35 attack helicopters.
The head of Russia's state defense corporation said Monday, "Such a decision was made. We are negotiating the sales of Mi-35 helicopters to the country."
A Pakistani official said there had never been an embargo on Russian sales to Pakistan. Rather Russia refused to sell weapons to Pakistan because of Russia's arms relations with India.
Comment: Russia will never replace China as Pakistan's principal source of weapons. On the other hand, Russia can sell directly toPakistan or facilitate the sale of advanced weapons technology that China lacks. That way Russia gains a measure of access and influence it has never had in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army has 35 operational AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters provided by the US. The Army is in the market for newer systems. The Russians apparently intend to try to compete for this business.
This initiative is another manifestation of regional preparations for the post-2014 security situation in Afghanistan. Russia is broadening the scope of its interaction with the regional interests by engaging Pakistan. That looks like a lesson learned from the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan that ended in February 1989.
Syria: Polling stations for the presidential election opened during this Watch. Syria's electoral commission announced on Saturday that 95% of the 200,000 registered Syrian expatriate voters cast ballots at 43 embassies.
Asad will win easily, but Syrian analysts pointed out that this is the first time that the ballots contain the names of candidates other than Asad.
Comment: A brilliant and well informed reader suggested that the Egyptian election outcome is a useful benchmark for judging the legitimacy of the Syrian vote. In Egypt, which has no civil war, but is under authoritarian government, the voter turnout was between 15% and 44.4% of Egypt's 54 million registered voters. President-elect al-Sisi won 92.2% of the votes cast.
Syria has more than 10 million registered voters. In the past nine elections and referenda since 1998, the average participation rate was 71.75%, according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).