Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
War watch December 17 , 2013 - Marginalization of FSA continues in Syria ........Afghan Military Cedes Checkpoints to Taliban in Helmand ........ Iran FM Complains to Kerry About Latest Sanctions EU Prepares to Ease Sanctions on Iran ...... Death dealing in Iraq continues unabated
Members of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) report that they have been told by Western officials that they believe President Bashar Assad must remain in power to prevent an al-Qaeda takeover of the country.
“Some do not even seem to mind if he runs again next year,” noted one SNC member. That’s not sitting well with the SNC, but it may not matter.
Western diplomats confirmed the shift, saying that the rebels have been warned that any “transitional administration” would have to include a major presence from Alawites, and that Assad could stay as president with “diminished powers.”
If the rebels reject that plan “they will lose most of the West,” one diplomat said, reflecting the dwindling confidence in the secular rebels’ ability to accomplish anything on their own.
This appears to be only one of the possibilities the West is exploring, with both the US and Britain openly talking to Islamist rebels about backing them as the new “pro-West” rebels.
The loss of multiple warehouses full of US aid and growing al-Qaeda encroachment has Western nations cutting off the direct provision of aid to the increasingly irrelevant Free Syrian Army (FSA).
That means money is getting tighter and tighter for the FSA, and with al-Qaeda and other Islamist factions seemingly never at a loss for funds, that’s got many of the FSA fighters defecting outright.
FSA commander Ahmed Hariri says that early in the civil war his group was getting millions of dollars, but now the group is down to providing a single meal a day to its fighters, and letting many of them go on leave to get real jobs.
For FSA commanders, that’s a problem likely to get worse before it gets better. Western nations are less and less willing to send aid to the feckless group, which can’t seem to keep it from being stolen, and the US is openly courting the Islamic Front as a possible replacement “pro-US” faction, meaning even if the US does resume its aid to Syrian rebels, it might not be the FSA anyhow.
The Taliban has had a major presence across southern Afghanistan, but seems to be getting semi-formal control over some territory today, amid reports that the Afghan National Army has ceded control of three checkpoints in the Sangin District of Helmand to Taliban control in return for an end to attacks in the area around them.
That’s a de facto ceding of the territory around those checkpoints, of course, and while the Afghan Defense Ministry is refusing to confirm any such arrangement, provincial officials said they believe it is the case, and have sent a delegation to Sangin to investigate.
Such an agreement isn’t sitting well with the provincial officials, obviously, but could be a trial balloon for a more formal “power-sharing” arrangement with the Taliban.
A few days of pause in the P5+1 talks with Iran wasn’t necessarily a game-changer for the diplomatic process, but Iran remains none-too-happy with the latest US sanctions against their trading partners, and is not afraid to say so.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned Kerry over this in a phone call today, expressing “dissatisfaction” over the latest US sanctions, which both Iran and Russia have said violate the spirit of the P5+1 deal.
That the US used a technicality to impose new sanctions is also going to complicate the language of any final P5+1 deal, as Iran is no doubt going to go over the wording with a fine-tooth comb to avoid any more wiggle room for the US to renege on it.
Zarif provided some details on the red-lines for his nation in those talks, saying Iran is not willing to give up all uranium enrichment, nor to shutter the heavy-water reactor at Arak.
Iran may be about to get some major sanction easing in the coming weeks, however, as EU officials say they are ready to suspend a number of sanctions as soon as the interim P5+1 deal begin being implemented. The IAEA needs time to get more inspectors into the region for confirmation of the implementation of the deal, expected to come in early January.
Iraq Attacks Against Pilgrims, Govt Buildings Leave 100 Dead and 183 Wounded
Attacks against Shi’ite pilgrims stole the headlines today in Baghdad and Mosul. Perhaps even more frightening, suicide bombers also attacked government buildings and took hostages north of the capital. Overall, at least 100 people were killed and 183 more were wounded.
Even more violence is expected in the days building up to Arbaeen observances next week. The holiday, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, underscores the schism between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims.