South Korea: correction: South Korean legislative elections are in April. The Presidential election is in December. Thanks to the brilliant and diligent Readers who caught the error.
The judgment stands, however, that North Korean propaganda is attempting to influence elections in South Korea.
Syria: Special comment. Readers are rightly perplexed about conditions in Syria. Syrian press restrictions inhibit any neutral or balanced coverage. Everything reported from opposition sources and activists is biased and some reports of massacres include manufactured images, according to eyewitnesses.
International news descriptions of a worsening crisis receive no offsetting coverage of testimony from non-Sunni and non-opposition sources that little is occurring. The massacres are not taking place, occurring to sources that receive messages from Orthodox Christians living in Homs, for example. Life goes on in all of the towns and ports.
Skirmishes at checkpoints are the most common form of clash. That means four or five people fire a few rounds at four or five soldiers or policemen. Defectors are Sunni conscripts. The Syrian Army is about 60% conscript. Desertion is common in conscript armies. Defectors from the professional, full-time, non-conscript core of the force, most of whom are Alawites, have not been reported.
The point is that western media present one side of the struggle -- that of the exiled Sunni politicians and activists with cell phones. Clips from social networking media are heavily one-sided and some are not authentic.
Limited communications from people caught in the middle, non-Muslims, suggest there is a lot less fighting and fewer deaths. Reports of carnage and massacres of hundreds do not seem to be accurate, except in opposition propaganda media.
The truth of the security situation is difficult to deduce from open source materials. Nevertheless, Readers should know that Russia and China have first rate intelligence services. The Russians in particular have deep roots in Syria. They apparently have advised their leaders that the situation in Syria is not as described by the US at the UN, reflected in the Russian and Chinese veto of the UN resolution over the weekend.
NightWatch has seen this situation before, in Afghanistan in 1989. The Soviets withdrew the 40th Army, judging that the Najibullah government would survive. The US policy elite were convinced the pro-Soviet Afghan government would collapse in violence within months after Soviet combat forces withdrew. In fact it lasted three years.
Two important rules of intelligence analysis are never underestimate the intelligence capabilities of the opposition and always question critically the influence of bias in US information channels. The other guys always know things the US cannot know.
The situation in Syria is not yet as dramatic and dire as US nightly news reports. The end game for the Asad regime has begun, but that does not mean its end will be swift. The opposition apparently actually "controls" very little and is much less robust than the UN debate suggested. The actual security situation in Syria is unknown, based on open source reporting. What is clear, however, is that the US media presentation of the Syrian security situation is grossly distorted.
Russia-US: For the record. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov described as "nearly hysterical" the US Ambassador's and the US Secretary of State's reactions to the Russian veto of the UN resolution on Syria. Lavrov is to visit Damascus this week.
Comment: The US closed its embassy in Damascus, but not because of security conditions or a dangerous security situation in Damascus. There have been no reports of violence there in days. Normal diplomacy and air travel continues. Even the Syrian road safety advisory network is working and reportedly told travelers over the weekend that the route to Homs was safe. And it was.
A US spokesperson said the Syrian regime is isolated, but such remarks are inane when Russia and China both back the Syrian regime. Holding more than a $ trillion in US sovereign debt, China is in no danger of isolation by anyone, especially the US.
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