Russia Calls Arms Deal with Syria a “Stabilizing Factor” for Region

Night Watch
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Posted: May 30, 2013 12:01 AM

North Korea-South Korea: In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 28 May, a spokesperson for North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland announced, "The South side needs to open the way for company executives related to the Kaesong Industrial Complex to visit the North."

"We are ready to accept their visit. If they come, we will proceed with the discussion of problems pertaining to the normalization of the Industrial Complex, including that of products being taken out of it."

"The South Korean authorities need not worry unnecessarily about their safety. However, if they feel unsettled, they may send people from the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee together."

Comment: The quotes above were taken from a longer screed that berated the South Korean government for refusing to allow the Kaesong businessmen to return to Kaesong. The South wants the North to agree to official discussions to arrange their return to retrieve finished products still at the complex. The North has refused so far.

Today's statement came close to begging the South Korean government to allow the Kaesong businessmen to return to the industrial complex. The direction of movement in the media exchanges is toward restoration of the complex, but the pace is likely to be glacial.

Pakistan: Update. Today, President Zardari summoned the new National Assembly to convene on 1 June. The first order of business of the new parliament will be to elect its speaker, then it will appoint the leader of the parliament as Nawaz Sharif who becomes the prime minister.

Pakistani media reported today that Nawaz Sharif intends to retain the foreign affairs and the defense portfolios as Prime Minister because they require handling sensitive relations with the Pakistan Army leadership.

Iraq: Update. After a short lull, the sectarian attacks have been steady since Thursday. Today more than a dozen bombings occurred in Shi'ite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing more than 80 people and wounding nearly 200 others. On Tuesday, 27 people died in bomb attacks.

Comment: If the pattern of the past two weeks holds, a one- or two-day pause in Sunni attacks on Shia should follow. The Shia will counterattack.

Syria- Russia-European Union: The military-technical cooperation contracts between Russia and Syria have not undergone changes, said Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad. "All agreements signed between Syria and Russia are being implemented without any changes made," he told the press on Monday.

Haddad was commenting on reports claiming that Russia has frozen S-300 missile systems' shipments to Syria at Israel's request.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday, "We consider these supplies a stabilizing factor and believe such steps will deter some hotheads from considering scenarios that would turn the conflict international with the involvement of outside forces."

Comment: The timing of the latest Syrian and Russian statements corresponds to the European Union decision to discontinue the ban on weapons aid for the Syrian opposition.

The Russian public statements are not aimed at deterring Israeli attacks, though the Russians said those attacks should halt. According to Israeli press, Israeli experts judge it will take at least a year for the system to be installed; personnel trained and for it to become operational. The new air defense installations will be added to the target lists for the Israeli Air Force.

The Russian statements are aimed at the US and NATO. Various Russian leaders have declared Russia will not allow Syria to go the path of Libya, in which NATO intervention began with a no-fly zone. The announcement is a public statement of commitment of support for Syria that will make it difficult for NATO members to generate the domestic political backing to establish a no-fly zone over Syria. The long war in Afghanistan has made the NATO electorates weary of fighting.

This Russian announcement also reduces the prospects for substantive progress at a US-Russian brokered negotiation sometime in June. No basis for trust or compromise exists among the parties. Russia and Syria can present a united position, but the Syrian opposition entities cannot. US and European goals are not congruent with each other and not with Saudi and Qatari interests.

The US intention apparently is to start a negotiating process, in the expectation that process will lead to substance. After the European Union vote, which in essence permits European states to provide weapons to the Syrian opposition entities, the backdrop of any discussion will be the EU action whose intended effect would be to escalate the fighting. That would seem to remove from the agenda any serious discussion of ways to stop the killing.

Lebanon-Syria: Lebanese security officials reported three mortar shells hit the Bdaita district today, on the outskirts of the Shi'ite town of Hermel in northeast Lebanon. Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders claimed responsibility for similar attacks on Monday, but did not claim those on the 28th thus far.

Comment: The attacks are a feeble Syrian opposition reply to Hizballah's open entry into the fighting in Syria. The Western-backed Free Syrian Army is directly spreading the Syrian fighting to Lebanon.

Niger: During a stop in Niger on 28 May, France's foreign minister said that the attackers who carried out last week's double suicide bombings on a military camp and the uranium mine had inside help. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Niamey, Niger's capital: "The terrorist groups benefitted from a certain level of complicity."

Comment: Inside help and local sympathizers facilitated the Islamic militant and terrorist attacks in Mali. Niger is no different.

End of NightWatch

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