National Security Brief: December 20, 2011

— The failure to realize reclusive North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il died until state television announced it two days later represents the latest in a line of major intelligence failures about what’s happening in the secretive, hard-line communist state.

— A sometimes productive few months of tenuous diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear weapons program ground to a halt with the elder Kim’s death due to questions about succession and U.S. emphasis on, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it, a “peaceful and stable transition.”

— A bombshell arrest warrant issued for an Iraqi vice president on charges of running a death squad roiled politics there, threatening to collapse the coalition government and raising tensions only the day after U.S. troops exited.

— Iran’s deputy oil minister acknowledged that Western sanctions and a drop in foreign investment have resulted in declining domestic petroleum production.

— The U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned Syria for its violent nine-month crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it supported a new, beefed-up draft resolution on the violence in Syria presented by Russia to the U.N. Security Council last week.

— An Arab League advance team will travel to Syria on Thursday to begin preparations for an observer mission agreed to by the Syrian government earlier this week.

— An organizer in the Chinese village of Wukan, where residents have rebelled against Communist Party authorities for more than a week, said today that the group would hold talks with the government and demand a set of concessions in return for calling off a march. Wukan residents are protesting the government over farmland seized by the government.

— In a separate incident, Chinese police fired tear-gas and beat demonstrators who stormed government buildings to protest against a coal-fired power plant in southern China.