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


West Tells Syria Rebels: Assad Must Stay

SNC Member: West Open to Assad Running for Reelection

by Jason Ditz, December 17, 2013
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.

As Aid Dries Up, Pro-West Syrian Rebels Defect to Islamists

Secular Rebels Defecting to Better-Funded al-Qaeda

by Jason Ditz, December 16, 2013
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.


Afghan Military Cedes Checkpoints to Taliban in Helmand

Provincial Officials Promise Investigation

by Jason Ditz, December 16, 2013
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.
Officials have openly talked about the idea of giving the Taliban total control over a number of the provinces they dominate in return for an end to the civil war, though such talks haven’t advanced very much on that front, with the Taliban saying any deal must come with an end to foreign military presences.


Iran FM Complains to Kerry About Latest Sanctions

EU Prepares to Ease Sanctions on Iran

by Jason Ditz, December 16, 2013
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
by , December 16, 2013
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.
In Baghdad, a double bombing targeting Shi’ite pilgrims walking to Karbala killed 25 people and at least wounded 53 more in the Rashid neighborhood. Six people were killed and 15 more were wounded in a blast near the provincial building. A bomb inBayaa killed six and wounded 14 more. Outside the Interior Ministry, a bomb killed five people and wounded eight more. A bomb killed four people and wounded 10 more at a market. A bomb in Nahda left four dead and 20 wounded. A bomb in Jisr Diyala wounded 25 peopleEight were wounded in a bomb in Karkh. Gunmen inNew Baghdad killed a civilian. A government employee was wounded in a small arms attack in Fudhaliya.
In Mosul, militants executed 12 Shi’ite pilgrims and wounded seven more after removing them from a bus traveling between Tal Afar and Karbala. A civilian was wounded in a separate shooting.
car bomb in Baiji announced an attack against a police station that may have been a jailbreak attempt. Five suicide bombers then took over the station. As police and special forces fought the group, they blew themselves up at separate times. At leasteight policemen were killed and 10 more were wounded during the assault.
Using a similar tactic, three suicide bombers set off two car bombs as they took over the council building down the road in Tikrit. At least eight people were killed and three more were wounded. Separately, three soldiers were gunned down while guarding an oil pipeline. Over 40 hostages were liberated safely.
Two policemen were killed and five others were wounded in a suicide blast at a police checkpoint near Falluja. Gunmen killed a policeman and wounded another at a checkpoint.
Two soldiers were wounded in Anbar province as they killed a suicide bomber.
Near Ana, police found the bodies of two civilians.
The bodies of two policemen were discovered near Haditha.
In Mahmoudiya, a sticky bomb killed a civilian.