Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
War Watch May 17 , 2014 -- Libya focus ( Rogue Libyan General Attacks Benghazi Rivals, 24 Killed General Led Self-Proclaimed Army in Offensive ) ..... Iran focus ( US Faults Iran, Warns Time Is Short After Latest Talks Officials Expected 'A Little Bit More Flexibility' From Iran ) ...... Iraq focus ( Iraq Uses Barrel Bombs as Civilians Flee Fallujah Onslaught Govt Touts 'Extraordinary War' Against Anbar Province ) ....... Syria focus ( Aleppo coming into focus of fighting , Kerry announces more weapons from US to Syria Rebels - no discussion of what specifically will be provided though )
On-again, off-again Libyan General Khalifa Hifter’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, which is distinct from the actual, real Libyan Army, attacked multiple militia targets in Benghazi today belonging to Ansar al-Sharia.
Gen. Hifter’s “Libyan National Army” has some pretense of legitimacy, since he has at various points been appointed to roles within the post-Ghadafi government. Where he stands after rumors of his involvement in a February coup attempt is unclear, however, and the fighters amount to little more than an irregular militia themselves, with no real affiliation to the military.
Hifter defected from Ghadafi’s forces in the late 1980s, after the Libya-Chad War. He lived in the United States for most of the time since then, and is alleged to have CIA ties. He returned to Libya as the “leader” of the rebellion in 2011, though again his actual ties to the anti-Ghadafi forces was often ill-defined.
Libya’s actual army was also deployed to Benghazi to try to stop the fighting, and was ordered to intercept any fighters trying to enter Benghazi from either side to join the fighting.
This week’s nuclear deal negotiations in Vienna were supposed to mark the start of drafting the P5+1′s final settlement with Iran. With the US going into the talks steering focus toward non-nuclear issues, the talks made little progress.
Everyone seemed set for the talks, but the US sought to bring in Iran’s conventional military arsenal, insisting that missiles that could hypothetically carry the nuclear warheads Iran doesn’t have in the first place ought to also be strictly limited in the deal.
Iran dismissed that as stupid, and so it went, with the US now faulting Iran, saying the expected “a little bit more flexibility” from Iran on the talks, and that they’d better be aware of the July 20 deadline.
July 20 marks the end of the six month interim deal, which Iran has been abiding by, and while some P5+1 members have talked about extensions, the US seems to be treating it as a firm make-or-break date, preparing to transition back to overt belligerence toward Iran the moment the clock strikes twelve.
A protracted siege against the major Sunni city of Fallujah has left Iraq’s military at a loss. Unable to breach the defenses of the city and fight off the al-Qaeda militants who now control it, they are turning to increasingly desperate measures including barrel bombs.
The makeshift bombs, explosive-packed oil drums filled with shrapnel, have become a popular weapon for Syria’s government in the ongoing civil war there, butthis is the first reporting that the tactic, criticized for its inaccuracy and tendency to inflict large civilian casualties, has reached Iraq.
Officials haven’t confirmed the strikes on the record, but anonymously, Agence-France Presse quoted one official involved in planning the siege saying it was part of a “scorched-earth policy” meant to prevent the rebels seizing the advantage in house-to-house fighting.
The government’s official statements would only tout the bravery of the troops engaged in the “extraordinary war” against Anbar, but as the bombardment of Fallujah leaves more and more neighborhoods in ruins, it is creating a mess exodus of thousands of civilians from the area.
Fallujah has effectively been outside of government hands all year, starting with angry protests against the arrest of a local MP as a “terrorist” and quickly losing the city outright to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which has since taken much of the rest of the province.
The violence across Anbar has death tolls once again at levels resembling the worst days of the US occupation, with 210 people killed yesterday and 38 more killed today. So far in 2014, every month has been worse than the previous one, and that trend seems to be continuing.
Scattered Attacks Leave 38 Killed, 39 Wounded Across Iraq
After talks today in London, Secretary of State John Kerry announced an increase in “all aspects” of aid to the Syrian rebels, including weapons shipments, though he declined to discuss specifics on what weapons this would involve.
Syria’s rebels have recently enjoyed an influx of US anti-tank (TOW) missiles, though they have also sought anti-aircraft weapons, which the US has so far not provided them. The rebels have openly threatened to use anti-aircraft missiles against civilian airliners in Syrian airspace, explaining the US reticence.
Kerry assured that the weapons are only going to “carefully vetted” rebel factions, though since all weapons in the past seem to quickly end up distributed across the rebel spectrum, it isn’t clear how the US hopes to keep that happening this time.
The US and Britain have both given the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) rebel faction diplomatic status, and their leadership has been using that to lobby heavily for increased weapons shipments, saying the arms sent so far are insufficient to turn the tide of the war in their favor. The SNC’s own fighters are extremely minimal inside Syria, but the group has been favored by US and British officials so far.
Rocket strike hits Aleppo neighbourhood
At least 11 people die in an attack on a government-held area of the northern Syrian city.
Last updated: 17 May 2014 10:57
The attack came shortly before a car bombing at a mosque in Binnish, killing at least 8
A rocket strike on a government-held neighbourhood in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has killed at least 11 people, according to the country's state news agency.
The opposition rocket attack on the northern neighbourhood of Achrafieh on Friday also wounded 17 people, the state news agency, SANA, said.
"The toll in rockets fired by terrorists on Achrafieh district has risen to 13, including women and children," SANA reported.
The attack came shortly before a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in the northwestern town of Binnish, killing at least eight people, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
An activist in the area, who goes by the name of Mohammed Kanaan, told the AP news agency that the blast occurred as worshippers attended Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition groups, said the car bomb killed several people and wounded dozens more.
Control of Aleppo, once Syria's economic hub, has been divided between the government and opposition since shortly after fighting began there in mid-2012.
Regime war planes have waged an aerial offensive on the city's eastern, rebel-held districts, frequently dropping barrel bombs on the area.
Opposition forces have also regularly fired rockets into the government-held part of the city.
Activists say more than 150,000 people have died in Syria's three-year-old conflict and more than 2.5 million people have fled the country.