Monday, May 19, 2014

War Watch May 19 , 2014 -- Libya focus -- Is US Behind ‘Rogue’ General’s Libya Coup - ? Gen. Hifter Lived in Metro DC for Decades and his attempted Coup has involved not just restive Benghazi but has spread to Tripoli and the GNC ( Congress ) has been indefinitely suspended to boot ........ Iraq focus -- If the Iraqi authorities are to be believed, at least 142 militants were killed in security operations and clashes today. The military is conducting extensive operations in Anbar province, neighboring Babil province, and even north towards Mosul in Nineveh province, which also borders Anbar province. Independent confirmation cannot be obtained from the battle zones. Over 40 civilians and security personnel were also killed. At least 180 people were killed and 59 more were wounded in these attacks and security operations........ Syria Rebel in-fighting continues between ISIL and al Nusra in Syria oil rich region of Deir al - Zor ( follow the money always ) , General in Charge of Syria air defense killed in fighting near Damascus......


Libyan Military Splinters as Rivals Prepare for Civil War

Govt Courts Islamist Militias as Last Chance to Retain Power

by Jason Ditz, May 19, 2014
The weekend takeover of Libya’s parliament by the leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army and it’s head Gen. Khalifa Hifter has made an unstable situation much worse, and has the nation’s countless armed factions picking sides for what is shaping up to be a full-scale civil war.
Though Gen. Hifter’s Army is itself just another “irregular force,” parts of Libya’s actual military are rushing to his side, including the Special Forces, which endorsed Hifter’s “Operation Dignity” against Islamist MPs.
Libya’s Army Chief of Staff, which remains loyal to the government, appears to know it can’t win the fight alone, and has issued a call for the Islamist dominated militias to come to Tripoli to fight by their side to restore the power of Prime Minister Malteeq, whose government was in power for only a few hours before the coup.
Malteeq’s power bloc was overwhelmingly Islamist MPs, which likely played a role in Hifter’s allegation of an Islamist takeover of parliament. That the military is now putting out an SOS call to Islamist fighters to save his government is likely to add to the division between Hifter’s anti-Islamist coup forces and the remaining loyalists.

US Moves More Troops, Planes to Sicily for Possible Libya Mission

Troops on 'Heightened Alert' Amid Tripoli Coup

by Jason Ditz, May 19, 2014
US officials have reported an additional 60 US Marines and four Osprey aircraft deployed to Sigonella, Sicily, to join the force readying for deployment across the Mediterranean to Libya to evacuate US Embassy personnel.
Officials say the troops are on “heightened alert” at the base since yesterday’s attempted coup in Tripoli. Fighters on both sides in Libya are gearing up for a potential civil war.
The US had sent most of the force,some 200 marines, to Sicily late last week, days before the coup happened. At the time they cited non-specific “unrest” as the region for the move.
The troops are all part of a “Crisis Response” task force created after the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. The troops are normally stationed elsewhere in Europe, and only move to Sicily when something is happening in Libya or, in this case, a few days beforehand.

Suspension of Libyan parliament sought

Government demands parliament be suspended until next polls, day after building was attacked by forces of ex-general.

Last updated: 19 May 2014 21:27
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Libya's government has demanded the suspension of parliament until the next general election, as the security situation in the country goes on a downward spiral, fuelled by growing tensions between two armed groups.
In a statement issued on Monday, the cabinet said it requested that the General National Council be suspended after an impending vote on the 2014 budget, a day after the legislature's building came under attack by rebels loyal to retired general Khalifa Qassim Haftar.
 Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh reports from Tripoli
The proposal, submitted by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, was made to parliament as a solution to Libya's political chaos and violence, Reuters news agency cited the cabinet's statement as saying.
Allies of Haftar have been staging a campaign against the government which they accuse of backing "terrorism" and using unofficial armed groups to impose laws. His fighters demand the suspension of parliament.
They staged an attack on the parliament in Tripoli on Sunday, after an assault on Friday on religious armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi that authorities said killed 70 people.
Warring sides
The Associated Press news agency reported that the parliament's chief has deployed an al-Qaeda-inspired armed group, the Lions of Monotheism Group (LGM), in the capital Tripoli on Monday, in response to the Sunday attack. The reports lend credence to Haftar's claims that the government is reliant on militias.
Meanwhile, a Libyan air force unit based in the eastern city of Tobruk has decided to back Haftar's troops, Reuters reported.
"The Torbuk air force base will join ... the army under the command of General Khalifa Qassim Haftar," a statement read. Staff at the air base confirmed its authenticity.
A commander of Libyan special forces in Benghazi also announced that his soldiers had joined "operation dignity" lauched by Haftar, Reuters reported.
There were reports that an airport in Benghazi had come under rocket attack early on Monday and that the airport had been ordered closed until May 25.
Security concerns
The European Union said it was "deeply concerned" over the recent bout of violence in Libya.

A spokesman for foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said the EU was concerned about the "continuing deterioration".

"The EU renews its commitment to support the Libyan people ... and calls on all parties to build consensus so as to ensure a transition to a stable democracy," spokesman Michael Mann said.
Al Jazeera's programme Witness joins a group of Libyan rebel fighters defending the frontline in Misrata
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it was closing its embassy and consulate in Tripoli and withdrawing all of its diplomatic staff, citing security concerns, the state news agency SPA reported.
Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Tripoli, said that the United Arab Emirates also withdrew its diplomatic envoy from the embattled country.
Algeria has also imposed restrictions on border crossings with Libya, allowing only Algerian citizens to cross from Libya and only Libya citizens into Libya, Reuters reported.
Turkey temporarily closed its consulate in Benghazi due to a threat of an attack, Tanju Bilgic, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying.
Officials believe members of the al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq militias, the largest in the capital, backed Hafter even though they operate under a government mandate. Al-Qaaqaa posted a statement on its official Facebook page saying it attacked parliament with Sawaaq because politicians supported "terrorism".
Parliamentary head Nouri Abu Sahmein earlier told Libyan television station al-Nabaa that parliament would convene on Tuesday.

Is US Behind ‘Rogue’ General’s Libya Coup?

Gen. Hifter Lived in Metro DC for Decades

by Jason Ditz, May 18, 2014
On May 14, the US Marines announced the deployment of 200 marines to Sicily, in southern Italy, as a “crisis response” force for Libya. They did so at the behest of the US State Department, who at the time insisted there was no specific threat, nor any imminent plan to evacuate the embassy in Tripoli.
Just four days later, General Khalifa Hifter and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army attacked Tripoli, took over parliament, and announced his intention to “purge” the nation of Islamists, starting with the parliamentarians themselves.
It’s Gen. Hifter’s second attempted coup this year, and seems to be going quite a bit better than the February fiasco, which began with statements announcing his takeover, and never really expanded much beyond that. The timing of the marine deployment suggests this latest move did not come as a major surprise to the administration, but Hifter’s US connections may run much deeper.
Gen. Hifter got his start, and his generalship, as a close ally of Moammar Gadhafi, but changed sides when he was captured during the failed late 80′s invasion of Chad. Released at the behest of the US, after which he was set up as a military leader in the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), a rebel faction based out of Chad which was backed by the CIA.
The NFSL didn’t last much longer in Chad, however, as a takeover of Chad by Gadhafi ally Idriss Deby led the US to evacuate the rebels. Hifter quietly relocated to the DC suburbs after that, and lived there through 2011, when he left to declare himself a rebel leader during the fight that ousted Gadhafi.
His post-revolution career has been perplexing, as Gen. Hifter has hung around in Libya, and often claimed to be a leader, if not the leader, in the Libyan military, but never seems to have been formally appointed to any post of serious power.
Eventually, the general got his army, or at least his self-styled army, forming the Libyan National Army, which has no official connection to Libya’s actual army, but inexplicably has at times been able to muster attack helicopters and artillery in attacks on Islamist groups. The “army” has been fighting an on-again, off-again crusade against Islamist factions, with the government of former Prime Minister (and former NFSL leader) Ali Zeidan mostly looking the other way.
His attack on Benghazi on Friday seemed to change things considerably, and the new Libyan government was harshly critical of the operation, even sending the real military to the outskirts of the city to prevent either side from bringing more reinforcements to the battle.
Instead of being chastened by his lack of a government imprimatur, Hifter’s forces marched straight for Tripoli, and by Sunday had taken over the airport and parliament. General Hifter has since castigated parliament as a den of Islamists,
Whether the coup lasts remains to be seen, but he hit parliament just hours after Prime Minister Ahmed Malteeq finally formed the first post-Zeidan government, after two months of infighting over cabinet positions,
Though a self-described independent, Prime Minister Malteeq was openly backed by several Islamist parties in the battle for premiership, which no doubt played a role in Gen. Hifter’s objection to his government.
Gen. Hifter has bragged about his US backing in the past, though exactly where he stands with the US at present is as unclear as where he stands within Libya’s military command. Anticipatory actions ahead of the coup, however, suggest that whatever prompted Hifter’s attack, it was not a surprise in the US.


Libyan General Seizes Parliament, Much of Tripoli

Seizes Power, But Insists Move 'Not a Coup'

by Jason Ditz, May 18, 2014
Just days after his forces attacked Islamists in Benghazi, Libyan General Khalifa Hifter and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army have attacked the capital of Tripoli itself, seizing parliament and declaring it “suspended” indefinitely.
The on-again, off-again appointee to Libya’s government was at the center of a failed February coup d’etat, and seems to have a better handle on it this time around, though he insists this coup is “not a coup,” but rather simply the will of the people.
Since seizing parliament, Hifter’s Army, which is distinct from Libya’s standing army, has seized much of Tripoli, concentrating its forces on the parliament building and international airport, with checkpoints along the way. He has declared the constitutional assembly, which was empowered to draft a new constitution, as the de facto parliament of the country now.
Hifter says his goal is to “purge” Libya of all Islamists, and that includes the ones in parliament. Libya’s Justice Minister called for an “immediate end” to the siege of parliament, saying they don’t accept Hifter’s takeover.


Security Ops, Attacks Kill 142, Wound 59 Across Iraq
by , May 18, 2014
If the Iraqi authorities are to be believed, at least 142 militants were killed in security operations and clashes today. The military is conducting extensive operations in Anbar province, neighboring Babil province, and even north towards Mosul in Nineveh province, which also borders Anbar province. Independent confirmation cannot be obtained from the battle zones. Over 40 civilians and security personnel were also killed. At least 180 people were killed and 59 more were wounded in these attacks and security operations.
In Anbar:
In Falluja, shelling left four dead and five wounded. A gun battle that left four militants dead also killed two soldiers and wounded a third one.
Eighteen militants were killed and two more were wounded during operations inSajar and Jamiaat al-Falluja.
In Amiriyat al-Fallujanine militants were killed. 
Operations in adjacent Babil province left 30 militants dead and six wounded in Jurf al-Sakhar. A police chief declared most of the area free of militants. The survivors fled into the desert.  
Also in Babil, six militants were bombed to death in Fadhiliya.
Four people were killed and 12 more were wounded when a bomb blew up at a market in Mahmoudiya.
In Baghdadthree shoppers were killed and seven more were wounded in a blast at aMaamil market. A blast on a commercial street in western Baghdad left two dead and seven woundedThree off-duty policemen were killed when gunmen attacked their apartment building; a fourth person was also killed. Gunmen kidnapped a parliamentary candidate, and they injured his father and brother during the kidnapping. A civilian was gunned down in Shabb.
A car bomb in Qayara killed two policemen. A policeman was shot dead.
civilian was killed in a drive-by shooting in Bani Saad.
A kidnapped woman was rescued in Basra. Gunmen killed an officer and wounded his driver.
In Muqdadiya, gunmen wounded a married couple.
Forty militants were killed during an operation in Ein al-Jahash.

Syria .....

Splintered al-Qaida rebels extend fighting in Syria

05/18/2014 21:32

Clashes continue between Islamist fighters from Nusra Front - the official al-Qaida branch in Syria - and breakaway faction ISIL.

A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra
A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra Photo: REUTERS
Fighting continues to rage between Iraq and breakaway al-Qaida faction Levant that reportedly seeks to form a continuous land link between Iraq and Syria, and the official al-Qaida branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.
Clashes continued between the two groups in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group on Sunday.
If Levant (ISIL) can take the oil rich region, it will control territory across Syria and into Iraq.
“In the event that ISIL is able to defeat the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamist factions fighting alongside it in the areas east of Jadid Aghiadat in Deir al-Zor, this will be the first geographic link between Syria and Iraq,” the head of the Syrian Observatory told Asharq al-Awsat.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has been helped by the multiple fractures in rebel ranks.
“Bashar has the upper hand on the ground. As long as the FSA [Free Syrian Army] exists, he will always have the upper hand,” said a fighter from ISIL, highlighting the mutual animosity that plagues Assad’s enemies.
ISIL’s rebel opponents say the group is more intent on carving out a jihadist heartland in rebel territory than on fighting Assad. He, in turn, has carefully avoided targeting ISIL in government air strikes, they say.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The general in charge of Syria’s air defense has been killed in fighting near Damascus, an opposition monitoring group and Syrian security officials said Sunday.
The officer, Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, one of the highest-ranking officers to die during the country’s three-year conflict, commanded 60,000 troops in Syria’s air defense forces, said Hisham Jabber, a retired Lebanese Army brigadier general who closely follows the military in neighboring Syria. But it was unclear what impact General Ishaq’s death would have on the battlefield, given that Syrian opposition fighters possess no aircraft, General Jabber added.
“Will this have any effect on the military operation? No,” he said, noting that such officers usually groom a successor. “It could have an effect on morale, but in the field there are many officers who can take his place.”
General Ishaq died of injuries sustained on Saturday in Mleha, a district on the outskirts of Damascus where there have been intense battles in recent weeks, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain that monitors the conflict with a network of contacts inside Syria. Syria’s state news agency did not immediately report the death.
General Jabber said it was unclear how General Ishaq had been wounded. He surmised that the officer had been helping direct the battle in the area from an operations room rather than leading a fighting formation on the ground, and that he could have been hit by a mortar shell, by a rocket or in an ambush.
Insurgents have attacked many of the antiaircraft batteries around Damascus, in part to seize weapons that they could use against government warplanes that have bombed rebel-held areas. The government has been seeking to clear insurgents from the suburbs ringing Damascus and has called many of its most respected officers and elite units to battles there.
Four of the country’s most senior security officials were killed in an explosion in Damascus in the summer of 2012, and a few other top-ranking officers have died, most recently Hilal al-Assad, a cousin of PresidentBashar al-Assad’s who commanded the pro-government militias known as the National Defense Forces. But the high-profile deaths have not typically shifted the tide of battle.
Government forces have made advances lately in central Syria while insurgents keep up pressure in the north, east and south, leaving the conflict far from a military resolution even as efforts to reach a political settlement falter.
Before commanding the air defense forces and running an air-defense academy in the northern city of Aleppo, General Ishaq was a fighter pilot who shot down an Israeli jet during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a rare accomplishment for the outgunned Syrian Air Force, which lost many planes for every one it shot down, General Jabber and others said.
General Ishaq was given the honorary rank of lieutenant general after his death, General Jabber said. The only living Syrian to hold that rank is President Assad, who is also the general commander of the armed forces. Lieutenant general is the highest rank in the Syrian Army because it was the rank of Mr. Assad’s father and predecessor as president, Hafez, and no one can outrank him, General Jabber said.
General Ishaq had been an officer in the elite Republican Guard and had good relations with Mr. Assad and a good reputation in the military, according to Syrians with contacts in the security forces. He was a member of the Sunni majority, one of many high-ranking Sunnis in a military pitted against a Sunni-led uprising, they said.