North Korea-South Korea-US: US-South Korean exercise "Key Resolve" began on 26 February and will continue through 9 March.
On Sunday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcast, "The war drills are an unpardonable infringement upon the sovereignty and dignity of Korea….The army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to fight a war," an editorial said, referring to the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
On Saturday, KCNA broadcast the threat of "sacred war" if the US and South Korea began annual military exercises. Two days ago Kim Jong-un ordered the armed forces to "make a powerful retaliatory strike" if the country's territory is violated.
Comment: The "Key Resolve" exercises involve 2,100 American personnel and large portions of the South Korean armed forces. A quick survey of the North's commentaries shows the threats are inconsistent and exaggerated. North Korea can stage a provocation at any time, but it is not ready for war.
North Korean leaders are torn between their desperate need for outside aid of all kinds and their determination that the country's state of near destitution not be interpreted as weakness. This explains the militaristic propaganda bluster less than a week after North Korean diplomats nearly begged for US food aid.
There is no threat of war, but the North might stage a military provocation, if only to save face for the incompetent leadership group in Pyongyang. It is not a good time for a provocation, however, just when Allied capabilites are peaking. For now, North Korea remains leaderless and shows no consistency in anything it undertakes, unless the Chinese are involved.
Pakistan: Update. Pakistani authorities acted on Saturday to demolish the house where Osama bin Laden lived and was killed by US special forces last May. The three story building is being razed.
Comment: Pakistani leaders consider the house to be a symbol and reminder of their humiliation by the US. Without the building as a reminder, memories of the bin laden raid should fade in half a generation. However, the memories of the incompetence of Pakistan's military and the duplicity of its intelligence agencies will be harder to forget.
Afghanistan: Two US office workers were shot and killed at their desks in the Ministry of Interior on Saturday and seven US soldiers were injured in a bombing on Sunday. Police sources reported anti-US demonstration in the capitals of at least 12 of the 34 provinces. Protests against the Koran burnings also occurred in Pakistan and as far away as Malaysia.
The US announced that it withdrew all its personnel from Afghan government ministry buildings.
Germany announced a similar withdrawal and closed a small military post in Taloqan in Takhar Province in northern Afghanistan because of the protests. The German command feared the 50-man contingent in one of the quietest towns of Afghanistan was in danger of overrun by the hundreds of protestors over the weekend. The Germans rebased the outpost with the main German force, which is based in Konduz, 70 miles west.
France also announced that it withdrew its personnel working in Afghan government offices.
Comment: Disparity of cult, differences of religion, explains the protests but not the murders. They look like the work of Taliban infiltrators or sympathizers in the Afghan security forces. No place is safe for NATO soldiers and western workers.
The protests are patently political, but they also show there is little basis for trust between the western allies and the Afghans. Trust is the first casualty of the killings and injuries.
Syria: Update. Despite continuing fighting, Syria held the promised referendum on a new constitution on 26 February. More as results of the vote are reported.
Syria-Saudi Arabia: During Friday's meeting in Tunisia, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said he supported giving weapons and ammunition to groups fighting the Syrian regime. "I think it's an excellent idea," Prince Saud told reporters in Tunisia. Asked why, he replied: "Because they have to defend themselves."
Comment: Prince Saud's remarks make clear that Saudi Arabia has decided to roll back the Shiite heresy in Syria and block Iranian influence in Arab lands.
Syria-Hamas: On Friday, Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniya, publicly turned against the al-Asad regime in Syria by announcing their support for the opposition. During Friday prayers at Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Haniya said, "I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform." The crowd answered with calls of "No Hezbollah and no Iran" and "the Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution."
The policy change also was announced at a rally in the Gaza strip. Hamas' leadership also confirmed longstanding reports that they have vacated offices in Damascus and moved to Lebanon.
Comment: The Hamas statements, if backed by action, represent a strategic setback for Iran and seem to signify that Hamas has reconciled with Arab leaders, such as the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood. This does not signify a reduction in hostility toward Israel, but the Palestinian cause appears to be an Arab cause once again.
Last year the Saudis warned the Iranians on several occasions to cease meddling in Arab affairs. A Saudi role in Hamas' change of policy has not been reported, but its congruence with Saudi desires and interests to contain Iran strongly suggests significant Saudi involvement.
While Iran is maintaining its defiance over nuclear issues, it is proving unable to preserve its strategic position west of Baghdad. It is being contained on multiple fronts.
End of NightWatch for 26 February.
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