Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, April 25, 2014
War Watch April 25 , 2014 -- Afghanistan will most likely see a run off to elect its new President in June as none of the candidates have more than fifty percent of the vote , shockingly , we now see Afghans turning on US doctors - Afghan Hospital Guard Kills Three US Doctors in Kabul US Nurse Also wounded in Incident ..... Syria nears completion of chemical weapon handover ( 92.5 percent of chemical material removed and destroyed despite an ongoing war and having to move the chemical material through Rebel controlled areas ) , ongoing battles between Government and Rebels - Northern Syria , Homs , Aleppo and areas around Damascus seem to be in focus presently ....... Iraq - daily carnage across the country and somehow a free and impartial Election is supposed to occur in less than a week ....
The hospital, affiliated with Christian charity Cure International, was established in 2005, and specializes in pediatrics. Dr. Jerry Umanos, a pediatrician from Chicago, had been working there since many years. The two other doctors,identified as a father and son, were visiting the site.
What prompted the shooting remains unclear, but the attacker was wounded during the incident and underwent surgery in the same hospital. He is recovering and will be questioned soon.
The US embassy confirmed the incident, but offered no further details. So far no group has claimed responsibility for encouraging the shooting, either.
The current front-runner is Abdullah Abdullah, with Ashraf Ghani having sewn up second place. Zalmay Rassoul, polling at a distant third, will not be able to catch up and get into the two man run-off.
Not that Rassoul is out of the picture, and both candidates in the run-off will clearly court his endorsement, in the hope sthat he can bring some of that 11% of the vote with him into the next round.
It will be the first proper run-off vote in Afghan history. In the first election, President Karzai netted a majority in the first round, winning outright, and in the 2009 election a run-off between Abdullah and Karzai became a moot point when Abdullah withdrew, protesting Karzai’s refusal to implement reforms.
Officials are claiming secret evidence that Syria did not declare the entirety of its chemical weapons program’s capabilities, and are complaining that at the end of the disarmament program Syria still retains the technological and practical capability to manufacture such arms.
Some officials claimed the secret evidence had been provided to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) months ago, but there is no indication that it went anywhere or led to any findings.
Likewise, the technological capability to mix chemicals is a fairly trivial one for any industrialized state, and there had never been any supposition that dismantling the chemical arms factories meant Syria as a whole would forget how chemistry works.
Thus while scary the latest allegations don’t amount to much, if anything, and seem primarily to be a continuation of Western efforts to oppose the OPCW ending its chemical disarmament program just because the chemical weapons as such are gone. Western officials have suggested they’d prefer to leave the OPCW there more or less permanently.
At least 30 people were killed and scores of others wounded today when Syrian warplanes launched an air strike against the northern town of Atareb, just outside of Aleppo.
The rebel-held town was targeted early in the day, and the strike hit a crowded vegetable market,killing a lot of innocent bystanders. Rebels say the toll may rise further, as many of the wounded are not expected to survive.
Atareb, like many other cities in Aleppo, has paid a heavy price in the civil war, and has traded hands multiple times over the past few years between the military, al-Qaeda, and other rebel factions.
It is unclear exactly what the intended target was in today’s attack, but it does not appear any significant rebel targets were hit.
DAMASCUS, April 24 (Xinhua) -- A total of 71 people were reportedly killed on Thursday in separate car bombs and battles between the Syrian army and rebels across the country, local media reported.
At least seven people were killed and many others wounded on Thursday when two rebel car bombs exploded in the countryside of Syria's northeastern province of Hasaka, which is largely populated by Kurds, the official SANA news agency said.
The first car went off near a school at the entrance of the town of Ras al-Ein, north of Hasaka, killing two people and injuring some others. The second car bomb simultaneously exploded at the al-Khamis marketplace in the town of Tal Halaf, west of Ras al-Ein, killing five people.
SANA spelled no further details, but both towns are predominately Kurdish near the Turkish borders.
Syria's Kurds pose some 15 percent of Syria's 23 million inhabitants, of which most live in the north of the embattled country. They tried to keep their areas immune from military operations during the conflict and retain some kind of "autonomy."
However, fighting has broken out in northern Syria between the Kurds and the Nusra Front, covering all the Kurdish areas in northern Syria. The Kurds managed to hold their ground in a number of areas, such as Ras al-Ein.
In the capital Damascus, the rebels' mortar shelling continued on Thursday against a number of districts of the capital, namely al-Amara, Qazzasin, Salhiyeh and Jaramana.
SANA said the armed militant groups fired 16 mortar shells on Jaramana, wounding at least 22 people.
The incident was the latest in a string of similar shelling attacks by suspected militant groups that aimed to shake the government's grip on the area and to retaliate the army's advancement on many fronts in central and southern Syria.
Separately, SANA said the Syrian army fought the rebels on Thursday in the eastern countryside of Damascus, the central Homs province, Idlib and Aleppo in northwestern Syria. The report said the army killed 30 rebels during the battles in Aleppo.
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on ground, claimed that 12 civilians were killed in Aleppo on Thursday by the government troops' aerial bombardment on the rebel-held Karm al- Beik neighborhood.
Activists have for long accused the government troops' aircraft of dropping crude, explosive-filled barrels on rebel-held areas in Aleppo.
The Observatory added that 22 fighters of the al-Qaida- affiliated Nusra Front and the Ahrar al-Sham movement were killed during clashes with the Syrian army in the southern province of Daraa.
Reports estimated that more than 150,000 people have been killed so far since the Syrian crisis started in mid-March 2011.
The Hague (AFP) - Syria has nearly completed surrendering its chemical weapons stockpile, a joint task force in charge of the operation said Thursday, as UN Security Council members called for a fresh probe into alleged gas attacks.
"Today's operation brings the total of chemical material removed and destroyed to 92.5 percent," the combined Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN task team said in a statement.
Damascus had pledged to have all of its stockpile removed from the war-ravaged country by Sunday. The weapons are then due to be destroyed by June 30.
The consignment of chemicals were delivered to the main Syrian port of Latakia, from where it will be removed by cargo ships for delivery to the US Navy vessel Cape Ray for destruction.
Syrian authorities also "destroyed buildings, equipment and empty mustard gas containers", the OPCW-UN statement said.
"A majority of (storage and productions) sites are now closed," the joint mission said.
"I welcome the significant progress of the last three weeks and I strongly encourage the Syrian authorities to conclude removal operations as part of their efforts to achieve the June 30 deadline," the mission's chief Sigrid Kaag said.
- Gas attack probe call -
Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint OPCW-United Nations mission for the destruction of Syria's chemic …
In New York, Security Council members on Wednesday called for new claims of a chlorine gas attack in a rebel bastion in Syria to be probed after Kaag briefed them behind closed doors.
Joy Ogwu, Nigeria ambassador who holds the rotating presidency, said members "expressed concern about alleged reports about the use of chlorine gas in some of the towns, which left people dead and injured, and called for an investigation into this incident".
France and the United States allege that President Bashar al-Assad's forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on a rebel-held village in central Hama province earlier this month.
There have been conflicting accounts of the alleged chlorine attack on Kafr Zita, with the government and the opposition trading blame.
Activists have also reported other chlorine gas attacks, most recently in Idlib province, in the northwest, on Monday.
Damascus has denied any part in the attacks.
Under the terms of a US-Russian brokered deal which averted the threat of US military action last year, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical stockpiles.
A Syrian man gestures amid dust following reported air strikes by government forces in Aleppo on Apr …
The deal was reached after deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus in August that reportedly killed hundreds.
The West blamed Assad's regime but the government said rebels were behind it.
- Chemical issues remain -
As Syria -- which in the past has missed several deadlines according to the deal -- nears completing the handover, several issues however remain on the table, analysts and diplomats said.
It is unclear whether Syria itself will make Sunday's deadline, sources said.
The last of the chemical stockpile remains near Damascus and cannot be accessed for security reasons, a source close to the OPCW told AFP.
Syrian representatives at the OPCW said at a meeting Wednesday they "hoped to celebrate the last of the removal" by the next Executive Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, but gave no guarantees, another source added.
"They will complete the removal, but the question of production sites is still there," added chemical weapons analyst Sico van der Meer of the Clingendael Institute.
He was referring to the often-heated topic of debate at OPCW Executive Council meetings on how Syria's chemical production sites should be destroyed.
Damascus wants to seal the sites, which it says has already been rendered unusable while Western countries want them completely destroyed, fearing that they may be used in future for chemical purposes.
A diplomatic source told AFP that "this is an issue which may occupy the (41-country) Executive Council for a long time still".
Van der Meer said this would benefit Syria and Assad's forces as they battle to crush rebels in the three-year conflict, which has now killed more than 150,000 people, according to a monitoring group.
"Syria is playing for time, as long as the process of destroying its chemical weapons is underway, the international community is not going to bother it too much," Van der Meer said.
A major political rally attended by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shi’ite militant faction aiming to turn into a political party in this month’s national election, attracted thousands of supporters to a Baghdad soccer stadium.
It also attracted several bombers from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which tore through the rally, killing at least 31 people and wounding scores of others. and fueling calls by the group’s supporters for revenge.
Multiple blasts were reported in the stadium, with the second prompting security guards to start firing into the stadium, though who they were shooting at is unclear. The panic grew as people tried to flee the rally, and candidates tried to hide behind the stage.
Later in the evening, a top Sunni politician in Basra was assassinated by Shi’ite militants in what officials say was likely a revenge attack for the earlier bombing, and another example of the growing sectarianism across Iraq.
Officials say the military is pushing hard for increased involvement in Iraq, particularly in Anbar, where al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has taken over much of the province.
Exactly how many US military personnel are on the ground is not public knowledge, and officials would only say “it’s more than before, but not really a lot.”
Central Command also reportedly counseled Iraq against attacking Anbar at present, warning they don’t think the Iraqi Army is up to the task, despite massive weapons shipments to the army to fight that battle. The Pentagon, it seems, is envisioning using this as its ticket back in.
85 Killed, 108 Wounded Across Iraq As Political Rally Attacked
The Pentagon has sent a team to Iraq to assess the situation in Iraq. The U.S. military appears keen to help Iraq counter the Sunni extremists. Today, at least 85 Iraqis were killed and 108 more were wounded. Many of them were killed at a political rally in Baghdad. Elections take place next week, except in Anbar where the situation is too volatile.
A militant-linked website claimed the attack was in revenge for killing and displacing Sunnis. It did not help to have one speaker tying some Sunni politicians to terrorism. The group has also sent fighters to support Assad in Syria and is apparently planning to do the same in Anbar province.
Once again, many militants were reported killed across Anbar province. While independent figures are impossible to obtain, the numbers hint at the carnage currently underway in the province. However, even more civilians and security members were killed today. Most of the casualties were in scattered violence across Iraq, including Anbar. The worst attacked occurred at a checkpoint in Hilla.