Let's Face It: Putin's Not Our Biggest Problem Right Now

Posted: Sep 06, 2014 12:01 AM

Afghanistan: The rival presidential campaigns held talks on Wednesdayto rescue the voter fraud audit. Candidate Abdullah extended by a day his ultimatum for the UN and the election commission to accept his demands.

A new four-member committee from the two presidential candidate camps has been formed to explore the roles of a chief of state/president who would share power in some fashion with a chief of government/prime minister in a presidential system of government.

Comment: Abdullah's campaign team was willing to give the election commission more time because it agreed to some of Abdullah's demands. It is probably not possible to reach a substantive compromise on power sharing. In a presidential system, the chief of state is also the chief of government, which means there is no power sharing agreement and never was. Afghanistan's system always has been winner take all. There will be demonstrations.

Anti-government fighters attacked a government intelligence headquarters in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 security personnel and injuring more than 150 people.

Comment: There seems to be no coordinated Afghan response to any Taliban provocations. Security is devolving to the local level because Kabul has no government.

Islamic state: The Islamic State is challenging the Taliban and al-Qaida in their Afghanistan and Pakistan heartlands and claiming both countries as part of its 'caliphate'. Leaflets proclaiming the Islamic state includes Pakistan and Afghanistan were posted this week throughout Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. They have also been distributed to nearby Afghan refugee camps.

An important Afghan anti-government fighting group announced that it will join the Islamic state if it meets the criteria of a caliphate.

Comment: This week commentators have opined about whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a greater threat to the region, the world, the US (choose one) than Russia under President Putin. Without taking sides in that discussion, one of the big differences between Russian strategic ambitions and ISIL's strategic goals is that ISIL has announced its mission as converting the entire world to Islam and killing those who resist. Today's announcement advances the mission. Putin has made no comparable claim.

India: Update. India issued a security alert in its four predominantly Islamic states after al-Qaida announced the formation of an Indian branch.

Lebanon: On 3 September, Lebanese mourners buried a Lebanese soldier who was captured and beheaded by Islamic militants. First Sergeant Ali al-Sayyed was laid to rest in his hometown of Fnaydeq surrounded by thousands of Akkar residents and his family. They called for a "revolution" until the 23 soldiers and policemen held captive by ISIL and the al-Nusra Front are released.

Comment: Lebanon is an ISIL target. Lebanese forces are no match for ISIL. The response of Lebanon's allies has been insignificant.

UN-Golan Heights: The UN peacekeeping chief strongly denied on Wednesdayallegations by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP) that Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were ordered to surrender their weapons to Islamist militants who had trapped them.

CSAFP General Gregorio Catapang said his soldiers defended themselves against Islamist rebels last weekend in defiance of an order from their UN force commander to surrender their weapons, a move that would be highly controversial in the six-nation, blue-helmeted force.

The UN's under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, denied that any such order was given.

Comment: This week senior UN officials repeatedly denied the statement by the CSAFP that he countermanded the orders of the UN general in command who directed the Philippine soldiers to surrender. The UN general, however, has not been available for interviews and has made no comment.

The facts are that 45 Fijian peacekeepers surrendered their weapons and are now being held for ransom by Islamic terrorists. The Philippine soldiers followed orders from their national chain of command and are all free and heading home. The UN mission failed to keep the peace once again. The soldiers who escaped and survived did so by disregarding the UN chain of command.

Owing to the failure of the UN peacekeeping mission, Syrian Islamic militants are now in rifle range of Israel across the Golan Heights.

Meanwhile Israeli artillery shelled a Syrian government position on the Golan Heights in retaliation for an errant round fired by the Syrians. The Israelis did nothing while the UN peacekeepers were being taken captive or were under attack.

Ukraine: Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Wales, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said that he agrees to a ceasefire on condition the contact meeting occurs as scheduled on 5 September.

"At 1400 local time (0700 ET on Friday), provided the Minsk meeting takes place, I will call on the General Staff to set up a bilateral ceasefire and we hope that the implementation of the peace plan will begin tomorrow," he told reporters.

Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the main rebel Donetsk People's Republic, said in a statement his men would also order a ceasefire, from one hour later, provided that Kyiv's representatives signed up to a peace plan at the Minsk meeting.

Comment: While NATO plans to fight Russia, Putin's peace plan has outpaced NATO's profession of resolve. The crisis will be winding down on Friday. Even if it does not, Putin emerges with enhanced international stature. If the fighting in Ukraine stops, support for the NATO rapid reaction force in Eastern Europe will weaken rapidly.

End of NightWatch


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