North Korea: Update. Today, 8 September, is the start of the annual harvest festival, Chuseok. One of Chuseok's dominant themes is honoring families and ancestors. There are no visits by separated families this holiday. North Korea did not respond to the South's overtures.
On the other hand, North Korea is planning to send a team of 150 athletes and other personnel, but no cheerleaders, to the Asian Games in Incheon from 19 September to 4 October.. The first of these will arrive this week.
North Korea fired three more short range missiles into the Sea of Japan on Saturday. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff judge that the North is developing new tactical missiles.
Afghanistan: The head of the Independent Election Commission told the press today that the Commission soon will announce the results of the voter fraud audit. He said the people voted and have a right to know the outcome of the election, regardless of the state of talks between the camps of the two candidates. The candidates said the talks are deadlocked.
Somewhat contradictorily, the head election official also said that 2,300 ballot boxes are still to be audited.
Comment: Dr. Abdullah declared himself the actual winner of the election and pledged to defend the people's rights. He preemptively rejected the results of the audit. This will not end well, meaning there will be protests and civil disorders.
Authorities have increased security in Kabul as a precaution in anticipation of the Afghan observance of Martyrs' Day on 9 September and of the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Authorities anticipate demonstrations that could lead to civil disturbances.
Iraq: Rumors of a political break- through in Baghdad last week have proven prescient. Iraq's parliament today approved a new government with Sunni and Kurdish deputy prime ministers. Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, his two deputies and the remainder of the cabinet took their oaths of office.
Former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari is the new foreign minister. Prime Minister al-Abadi retains the Interior and Defense portfolios in an acting capacity until he can find candidates upon whom parliament can agree. Al- Abadi pledged to fill the positions within a week.
The Kurdish bloc said its participation in the government was conditional on all outstanding issues between Baghdad and Kurdistan being resolved within three months, and on the government paying Kurdistan's budget allocation, which has been withheld for more than nine months, within one week.
Comment: Al-Abadi worked a minor miracle in that he managed to assemble a cabinet and get it approved by parliament within the constitutionally prescribed deadline.
With the formation of a government, the most urgent task will be the fight against the Islamists, which includes the challenge of rebuilding the confidence of the Sunni Arab tribes in the central government. Confidence building will depend on how the government respects minority rights and privileges. While the new government has received praise and pledges of support from within Iraq, most people will wait and see whether conditions improve after a honeymoon period.
The performance of the al-Abadi government will put to the test the thesis that an inclusive government in Baghdad, of itself, will help undermine the strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The government forces are not making any great inroads against ISIL, but with US and Iraqi air support does not seem to be losing much ground. That means that al-Abadi will have some time to show his good intentions and make a start to rebuild Arab cooperation in Iraq. The Kurds are another matter.
Ukraine: The ceasefire is holding. Fighting today seemed to have decreased, although each side continued to accuse the other of ceasefire violations. Ukrainian President Poroshenko visited the port town of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine and promised that it would always remainUkrainian. Fighting continues on the outskirts of the town.
Comment: This situation has gotten more complicated and more difficult to follow. The pro-Russian easterners no longer seek secession. They now prefer continued union in a federal state. Poroshenko knows this from last week's meeting in Minsk, Belarus, but has not acknowledged the change in the easterners' political objective. Thus, his promise that Mariupol will remain Ukrainian is every party's position. Russia has made no claim to it and the easterners no longer want to secede. Poroshenko is grandstanding on behalf of Kyiv, but it is not clear that Kyiv's forces can hold Mariupol against the easterners.
Another dimension of complexity is the behind-the-scenes exchanges taking place. Several press commentators have made the point that a significant volume of communication is taking place among the interested parties, but is not in open source materials.
One analyst reported that German and European Union leaders are in closer and more frequent contact with Russian leaders than they are with American officials. The substance of the alleged communications is not known. What is known is that most European leaders reportedly favored President Putin's ceasefire proposal and the Americans did not.
An important question is whether the older members of NATO in Western Europe are committed to defend the Baltic States, Poland and the other former members of the Warsaw Pact that are now in NATO. The western European leaders seem content to let Putin lead the search for a solution to the Ukrainian crisis, as long as the shooting stops and business resumes. The Russians have been clear that they do not consider NATO membership by the Baltic states to be irreversible.
Nigeria: Boko Haram extended operations into Adamawa State, south of Borno, capturing Michika on Sunday, a key town near the border with Cameroon. Adamawa is just below Borno State. No casualty figures have been published.
The seizure of the town has caused panic in Adamawa, prompting authorities to close Adamawa State University. A Nigerian news service reported Nigerian Army soldiers with air support fought to recapture Michika on Monday.
Comment: Over the weekend, Nigerian news services reported Boko Haram attacks on one or more villages in Adamawa State, near the border with Borno. They killed 25 people in those attacks. Those apparently were attacks en route Michika.
These appear to be the first reported serious incursions into Adamawa since January 2014. Boko Haram is in the process of grabbing more territory for its version of an Islamic state.
End of NightWatch
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