Wednesday, March 26, 2014

War Watch March 26 , 2014 -- Iraq and Afghanistan Elections loom for April and consistent violence and deadly attacks continue apace.....Syrian Rebels Seize Another Coastal Village, Nearing Latakia Fall of Major Port Would Delay Chemical Weapons Shipments ....... Egypt Targets 1200 Morsi Supporters With Death Penalty 683 More Detainees Face Same Court That Ordered Hundreds Killed Yesterday

Iraq.......


Iraq Election Commission Resigns Ahead of April Vote

Commission Cites 'Intense Pressures' From Maliki Govt

by Jason Ditz, March 25, 2014
Everybody looking for a crooked April election had their sites set of Afghanistan, where corruption and vote counting is at almost legendary proportions. Iraq’s good at that too, though.
Citing “intense pressure” from the Maliki government, every single member of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq resigned today, leaving open the question of how the April 30 vote will take place.
IHEC’s complaints roughly mirror those of the last election, that the Maliki government is trying to use the electoral law’s ban on candidates of “ill repute” to ban potential rivals en masse.
Different interpretations of the electoral law, and other de-Baathification laws have been justified to make it virtually impossible for many Sunnis to even register as candidates, and after the most recent election, the Maliki government went about banning several successful candidates after the vote was counted, in an effort to up their own representation in parliament.
The previous election saw the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya Party win the largest plurality, with Maliki’s State of Law faction eventually retaining power in a “power-sharing” deal imposed on them by the US. Maliki reneged on virtually all power-sharing, and retains the position of Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister, and Chief of Staff for the military.


68 Killed, 81 Wounded As Iraq Election 

Commission Quits

by , March 25, 2014
At least 68 people were killed and 81 were wounded across Iraq today. Also, a month shy of national elections, the Independent High Electoral Commission quit en masse over what they described as "interference" with their jobs.
The nine members of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) quit their posts today over conflicting rulings from the legislative and judicial branches of government. Parliament could reject these resignations, and it is not expected to delay next month’s election.
One complaint the commission has is the barring of candidates on Ba’ath Party charges. This tactic was used in previous elections to help Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party win seats.
Another is the requirement that the candidates have a "good reputation." However, there is no clear system to appeal negative judicial opinions in such cases. Parliament meanwhile, insists that the candidates simply have no criminal convictions. Iraq’s judiciary has long been accused of favoring Maliki and this could be a manifestation of that control.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Diyala province are threatening to boycott the electionsaltogether over what they see as deteriorating security conditions. Although, Diyala has been one of the more restive provinces for the last several years, in recent days militants have been trying to take over towns as they have in Anbar.
Anbar:
Six people were killed and 10 more were wounded during an artillery barrage inFalluja. The local government announced that a regiment is being built to storm the city.
Gunmen killed a police captain in Ramadi.
One gunman was killed as he tried to sneak-in through the border with Syria.
Violent clashes took place in Garma.
Clashes also took place in Saqlawiya.
Elsewhere:
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed nine people, including three civilians, andwounded at least 26 more near the Muthanna Bridge. A bomb killed four people and wounded four more in western Baghdad. The body of a young man was found. Security forces killed a gunman.
Eight soldiers were killed and 14 more were wounded when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in Tarmiya.
Gunmen killed five soldiers in Ain-Jahash.
In Mosul, gunmen killed three civilians and a policeman in separate attacks. Three militants were killed in an operation. A female politician was gunned down.
A double-bomb blast targeting Sunni lawmakers near Baquba left three bodyguards dead and three more wounded. A woman and a child were killed when a bomb exploded at their home; three others were wounded.
In Baquba, militants killed four civiliansTwo militants were killed in a clash.
Security forces killed a "security advisor" for al-Qaeda during an operation inSamarra.
A bomb wounded three civilians in Balad Ruz.
Two soldiers were wounded in Jalawla when gunmen attacked their checkpoint.
Two gunmen were killed when they attacked a checkpoint in Baiji.
gunman was killed at a Muqdadiya checkpoint.


Afghanistan....


http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0325/As-Afghan-presidential-vote-nears-deadly-Taliban-attacks-spike-video


With just 11 days left before a crucial presidential election in Afghanistan, an attack on an election commission office in Kabul laid bare the security challenge facing Afghan officials in organizing national polls that the Taliban has vowed to derail.
Several gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a regional elections office on Tuesday afternoon and engaged in a protracted gunfight with Afghan security personnel, Reuters reports. Although no casualties were immediately reported, the attack was brazen in both in its choice of location – next to the home of a presidential candidate, Ashraf Ghani – and its timing, staged less than a week after another strike killed nine in an upscale Kabul hotel.
And it brought to the fore, once again, the question of whether Afghanistan is adequately prepared to stage free and transparent elections in a safe environment. 
The April 5 election is supposed to pave the way for Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power. Hamid Karzai, the president for more than 12 years, is barred from running for another term; three candidates are competing to succeed him. Afghans will also elect provincial council members on the same day. 
Touted by United Nations and US officials as “Afghan-led, Afghan-managed and Afghan-owned," the elections are taking place amid a dramatically decreased international security presence across the country as US troops prepare for complete pullout in late 2014.
Afghan officials have claimed repeatedly that securitycan be "guaranteed" at most of Afghanistan's 6,845 polling stations, according to the Associated Press. But last week, an interior ministry spokesman told Central Asia Online, an online news site, that more than 2,000 stations remained under “medium” or “high” security threat.
Afghan officials have claimed repeatedly that securitycan be "guaranteed" at most of Afghanistan's 6,845 polling stations, according to the Associated Press. But last week, an interior ministry spokesman told Central Asia Online, an online news site, that more than 2,000 stations remained under “medium” or “high” security threat.
Another interior minister spokesman told Voice of America last week that the government isconfident in the readiness of 400,000 soldiers and policemen that will be deployed ahead of the vote. The spokesman added that only four districts across Afghanistan face serious security threats, and that the government was taking measures to address the threats to polling. 
Today's attack underscored the vulnerability of election offices: about 20 election officials were trapped inside the building when the gunmen burst in after two blasts cleared their way, a staffer told the Associated Press. Several officials huddled in the bathroom as gunmen exchanged fire with government troops.
Also in jeopardy is the prospect of robust poll monitoring by international organizations, seen as essential to prevent a rerun of the discredited 2009 vote, when 20 percent of the ballots had to be thrown out.
Reuters reports that some groups have already started pulling their staff out of Afghanistan in response to last week’s bombing in Kabul’s Serena hotel, which is frequented by foreign nationals working in the capital. At least one of those killed in the attack was an elections observer for the US-based National Democratic Institute, which has since removed the rest of its observers from the country.
The Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), another organization assisting with poll monitoring, may also be in the process of pulling out, with some reports that its observers have already been moved from Afghanistan to Turkey. After last week's attack, "The European Union's international monitoring mission will be the only major one to remain in Afghanistan," according to Reuters


Syria ........


Syrian Rebels Seize Another Coastal Village, Nearing Latakia

Fall of Major Port Would Delay Chemical Weapons Shipments

by Jason Ditz, March 25, 2014
Fresh off of yesterday’s capture of a Christian town along the Turkish border, Syrian rebels continue their push in the coastal Latakia Province, seizing the village of Samra and moving ever closer to Latakia itself.
On the one hand, the rebels are particularly keen to capture the village of Qardaha as a PR victory, since the village is the home of President Bashar Assad’s family.
That may be a minor prize, in practice, compared to taking Latakia itself, which is a major port and is also where trucks are sending the remnants of Syria’s chemical arsenal for shipment abroad and disincoporation.
The loss of Latakia would be a major blow to the disarmament program, and would almost certain mean a prolonged delay as Syria, already struggling to get trucks into Latakia as it is, would have to find another route to the sea.






Egypt........



Egypt Targets 1200 Morsi Supporters With Death Penalty

683 More Detainees Face Same Court That Ordered Hundreds Killed Yesterday

by Jason Ditz, March 25, 2014
The Egyptian military junta seems not to notice just how bad its policy decisions look, and fresh off of yesterday’s court order of a mass execution of 529 pro-Morsi protesters as “terrorists,” the exact same court is getting a chance to do it again.
The court is getting another group of 683 detainees, including former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie in the new mass trial, and they are likewise facing a myriad of capital offenses which boil down to opposing last summer’s military coup d’etat.
Even the normally pro-junta US State Department was taken aback by the mass death sentences, which they said are against the “basic standards of justice.” Though they insisted the “aid policy” is always under review, the administration doesn’t seem interested in actually cutting Egypt’s annual billions in aid over the matter.
Which isn’t surprising. In the wake of the coup the junta massacred protesters by the hundreds in the streets to relative US ambivalence, so the precedent of the Egyptian military killing whoever it wants is already well established.