Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Monday, June 2, 2014
War watch June 2 , 2014 - Iraq death continues ( rising generally since the Sunni crackdown ordered by PM Maliki in April of 2013 ) , no end in sight for the killings .... Libya in focus - Hafter's war against Islamists including the Elected Government continues , along with the political squabbling....... Afghanistan's President Karzai upset that he was uninformed on prisoner swap , despite the prisoner swap , Taliban Spring Offensive continues ......
The UN figures confirmed the trend, though as usual were woefully misleading on the number. Official UN figures put the May toll at 799 dead,but excluded all violence in Anbar Province, where most of the fighting actually is.
The UN has argued that Anbar is too violent to get reliable tolls from since al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) took over much of the province earlier this year. Iraq launched a military operation, trying to retake Anbar, but most of the major cities remain outside their control, a fact that meant most of Anbar did not participate in this month’s election.
73 Killed, 50 Wounded Across Iraq on First Day of June
May has been the deadliest month so far this year. Antiwar.com compiled 2,249 fatalities, of which 1,075 were civilian and security member deaths. Another 1,953 people were wounded, including 87 militants.
Other sources, such as the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, have resisted including any casualty estimates from Anbar province. Because of the dangerous security situation there, it has been impossible to get independent confirmation of the casualties. Therefore, the toll could be much higher.
Consequently, the United Nations lists only 799 dead and 1,409 wounded in other parts of Iraq, but it also acknowledges that at least 195 civilians more were killed (and 499 were wounded) in Anbar. That brings their tally to at least 994 dead and 1,908 wounded, which is in line with Antiwar’s figures–minus militant deaths.
That fatality figure, by the way, is up slightly from last month, while the number of wounded dropped considerably. April suffered from pre-election violence against civilians, while May has had to endure increasing violence between the government and militants, even outside of Anbar province. Few militant injuries are reported, because they usually take their injured with them back to their camps.
The Iraqi government also released its figures, which were 938 killed and 1,463 wounded.
In today’s violence, at least 73 people were killed and 50 more were wounded. One police dog was also wounded.
Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni has said he played no role in creating the current dispute in Congress over the appointment of Ahmed Maetig as the new premier and has asked that the prime ministerial crisis be resolved through legal channels.
In a statement made yesterday, Thinni said he had not provoked the situation in the General National Congress (GNC) which had led to it sending contradictory messages, one from GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain asking him to resign from his post, and another from the GNC first Deputy Ezzedine Al-Awami asking him to stay on.
Thinni went on to say that he would not respond to threats from some Congress members that he would face jail time if he refused to leave his office.
In a statement on Thursday, Sahmain had said Thinni could face a custodial sentence for abuse of power if he did not relinquish his post.
Thinni said he had been asked four days ago by 41 GNC members to remain as Caretaker Prime Minister pending a Supreme Court judgement on the legality of Ahmed Maetig’s election to the post of Prime Minister on 4 May. He reaffirmed that he had no desire to cling to power for its own sake but wished to see the issue dealt with in the proper and legal manner.
Rumours have been circulating that Thinni’s government was in the process of transferring power to a new Maetig government. Spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office Ahmed Lamine dismissed these rumours out of hand. “We have made an official announcement urging people to accept only our official statements” he told the Libya Herald.
Hafter forces claim to control most of Benghazi following deadly clashes and airstrikes
By Noora Ibrahim and Moutaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 2 June 2014:
The force loyal to General Khalifa Hafter, the Libyan National Army, has claimed control of the majority of Benghazi’s districts following last night’s deadly clashes and airstrikes.
The spokesman for Hafter’s forces, Mohammed Hejaz, told the Libya Herald that the Libyan National Army had assumed control of 80 percent of Benghazi and was well on its way to pushing Ansar Al-Sharia and its affiliated organisations out of the city.
Hejazi said the fighting, which has continued sporadically in some pockets of Benghazi into the afternoon, began at around 4 am. He said forces from Ansar Al-Sharia had attacked the base of Zawia’s Martyr’s Brigade in Tabalino near Gariyounis, closing in from three directions. The Zawia Martyr’s Brigade is aligned with the Saiqa Special Forces which allied itself with Hafter two weeks ago.
Hejazi said Saiqa and Hafter’s forces then intervened, pushing back Ansar Al-Sharia. He added that over the course of the clashes the Libyan National Army had carried out bombing over Sidi Faraj, Guwarsha, Gariyounis and Hawari districts. All of theses areas, which are known in the city to be Islamist strongholds, have been hit several airstrikes by Hafter’s forces over the last week.
The sounds of bombing and clashes with anti-aircraft fire and automatic weapons were constant in the city last night with residents in the worst affected districts forced to leave their homes. The number of dead and wounded, many of them civilians, continues to rise.
One resident in the Tabalino area said he was certain he would die at any minute and that his house was shaking constantly during the attack.
Another in Gariyounis said an armed convoy had parked in his street, firing a barrage of anti-aircraft fire and RPGs at a helicopter flying overhead. He said a missile had hit the house directly behind his and that finally his family and neighbours had fled their homes, escaping to safety by running through a nearby alleyway.
A medical professional working at the Ibn Sina Clinic in Tabalino said staff at the centre had been forced to move all patients out of their rooms and into a central hallway after bullets started hitting the exterior walls and breaking windows.
Hejazi has categorically denied rumours that forces loyal to Ansar Al-Sharia successfully shot down a helicopter this morning. He also said civilian casualties from the fighting were the responsibility of the Islamist group.
“This is a dirty war,” he added, claiming that Ansar Al-Sharia, in their desperation, had fired rockets, mortars and shells indiscriminately into residential areas. He said they had engaged in theses tactics, as many times previously, because they knew they were on the verge of defeat.
As the clashes subside, Benghazi is deserted today. Schools, banks and businesses have all remained closed with the city’s department of education announcing that today’s final secondary schools exams have been postponed.
At least 15 dead and 43 wounded in Benghazi’s early morning clashes
By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 2 June 2014:
The number of dead and wounded in dawn clashes in Benghazi today is put at 15 dead and 43 wounded by Bengahzi Medical Centre and the Jalaa Hospital but the number of dead is expected to rise.
The spokesperson for Jalaa Hostpital, Fadia Barghathi, told the Libya Herald that eight killed and 15 injured had been received at the hospital. She added that among those killed there were seven soldiers loyal to General Khalifa Hafter’s “Libyan National Army” and one ambulance diver.
The spokesman for Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) said 28 injured and seven dead had been brought in throughout the morning. He said civilians, combatants and some children were among the casualties but could not give specific numbers.
Among the dead to have arrived at BMC was the son of the hospital’s director. The spokesman said Faraj Fathi Jahani, a dentistry student, had been pronounced dead at BMC after a shell hit his home. He was 17 years old.
Benghazi Central Blood-bank has issued an urgent request for all blood donors to give blood at the city’s hospitals as they run on reserve supplies.
Hafter bombs Ansar Sharia in Benghazi Royal Palace
By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 1 June 2014:
A Libyan Air Force jet loyal to the “National Libyan Army” of retired General Khalifa Hafter carried out air strikes against Ansar Al-Sharia today.
The official spokesperson for Hafter’s operation “Karama” or Dignity in Benghazi, Mohamed Al-Hijazi, confirmed to Libya Herald the bombing of the Heir to the Throne Palace in the Fuaihat region of Benghazi this lunchtime.
Hijazi claimed that the Palace has been used by Ansar as a hideout and a base ever since the 17th February Revolution. He said that they had light, medium and heavy weapons stored at the Palace. He also claimed that he was sure that Ansar had suffered injuries and deaths as a result of the air raids – but was unable to confirm any numbers.
However, Libya Herald was unable to obtain any confirmation of injuries or deaths from the leading hospitals in Benghazi as of lunchtime.
As a result of the bombing by troops loyal to the Hafter inspired “Karama Operation”, an operation not officially sanctioned by the Libyan state to rid Benghazi and Libya of extremists and terrorists, it is believed that Ansar Al Sharia fired rockets at a training institute.
Hijazi, critical of the bombing of the non-military institute by Ansar claimed that while his movement’s military activities were accurate and avoided collateral damage and civilian causalities. Ansar fire indiscriminately, unconcerned by the inaccuracy of their military actions, claimed Hijazi. He said that this is part of their plan – in the hope of making the general public rise against the Dignity operation.
The so called anti terrorist military activities of the Dignity Operation had been taking place in the Hawari district of Benghazi recently and it seems that the plan now is to expand operations to other districts of Benghazi.
GNC leaders in war of words over prime ministerial crisis
By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 31 May 2014:
General National Congress Deputy President Ezzedin Al-Awami has said that the activities of Congress should be suspended. He was responding a statement by Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain on Thursday that the decision by the current government not to relinquish power was illegal. Sahmain also threatened that Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni could go to jail for his “abuse of power”.
Awami told reporters yesterday that he had not been consulted about the statement and that he had in effect been ignored by Sahmain’s office.
He said the best course of action currently open to Congress was to allow the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of Ahmed Maetig’s election to the post of Prime Minister and freeze all of its sessions and sittings. He added that the GNC should support the caretaker government in its fight against terrorism and oversee fresh legislative elections on 25 June.
On Wednesday, Thinni vowed to stay on as Prime Minister, saying irregularities in the election of Ahmed Maetig had made it impossible for him to leave.
The roles played by Awami and Sahmain in the aftermath of Maetig’s controversial election have been contradictory. Following Maetig’s election, Thinni said he had been presented with two letters from the GNC, one from Abu Sahmain asking him to resign, and another from the Awami asking him to stay on.
Congress member for Geminis Abdullah Al-Gmati has told the Libya Herald that 38 Congress members support Awami in his calls for the suspension of the GNC. “Justice and Construction Party members and those in the Wafa block are fighting for the Meatig government for the sake of their own interests, to the detriment of country,” he declared.
Gen. Hifter’s spokesman claimed the warplane attacked a palace belonging to the “Crown Prince,” that Ansar al-Sharia was using as its headquarters. The palace was conspicuously unharmed, however.
Rather, locals say that the warplanes’s rockets were fired at the engineering building of a nearby university, causing major damaging and wounding two people within.
Dean Nasser al-Aqouri confirmed the attack hit his university, saying the toll would’ve been far worse but luckily the missiles were fired shortly after the last lectures of the day had finished, so the building was largely empty.
Gen. Hifter has promised to “cleanse” Libya of Islamists, and took over parliament by force two weeks ago. Several militias have lined up against him in Tripoli, and the country seems to be moving back into a civil war.
Afghan president fumes at prisoner deal made behind his back: source
(Reuters) - The Afghan president is angry at being kept in the dark over a deal to free five Taliban leaders in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, and accuses Washington of failing to back a peace plan for the war-torn country, a senior source said on Monday.
The five prisoners were flown to Qatar on Sunday as part of a secret agreement to release Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who left Afghanistan for Germany on the same day.
The only known U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Bergdahl had been held captive for five years.
"The president is now even more distrustful of U.S. intentions in the country," said the source at President Hamid Karzai's palace in Kabul, who declined to be identified.
"He is asking: How come the prisoner exchange worked out so well, when the Afghan peace process failed to make any significant progress?"
Karzai has backed peace talks with the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and has fought a bloody insurgency since then against U.S.-led forces in the country.
But they have come to little so far, and the group has moved swiftly to dash hopes that the prisoner swap would rekindle peace talks between it and the Afghan government.
"It won't help the peace process in any way, because we don't believe in the peace process," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday.
The palace official also said Karzai was worried about further deals being cut without his knowledge.
"It indicates that other deals could be negotiated behind the president's back," he said.
Karzai has yet to comment publicly on a swap that is bound to deepen the mistrust of a leader who has been fiercely critical of the U.S. administration in recent years.
He is due to step down as president later this year, but many Afghans believe Karzai will continue to wield considerable influence over policy from behind the scenes.
Karzai's press office said in a statement that the U.S. deal to transfer five Taliban militants from a Guantanamo Bay jail to Qatar violated international law.
"No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country as prisoners," said the statement, issued on behalf of the foreign ministry.
IN A HURRY TO LEAVE?
The prisoner swap has stoked widespread anger in Afghanistan, where many view it as a sign of a U.S. desire to disengage from the country as quickly as possible.
Washington has mapped out a plan to fully withdraw all of its troops by the end of 2016.
Under the terms of the deal, cut by Qatari intermediaries, the five Taliban detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they had been held since it opened in 2002, and flown to Qatar where they must stay for a year.
Senior officials at the Afghan intelligence agency say they believed the men would return to the battlefield and bolster the insurgency just as most foreign combat troops prepare to exit by the end of this year.
All five were classed as "high-risk" and "likely to pose a threat" by the Pentagon and held senior positions in the Taliban regime before it was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.
At least two of them are suspected of committing war-crimes, including the murder of thousands of Afghan Shi'ites, according to leaked U.S. military cables.
The swap has similarly drawn protest from U.S. Republican politicians who have called it negotiating with terrorists and warned the freed men will likely return to battle.
While Bergdahl's release on Saturday was celebrated by his family and his hometown, and could be seen as a coup for President Barack Obama as he winds down America's longest war, Senator John McCain and other Republicans questioned whether the administration had acted properly in releasing the militants.
"These are the highest high-risk people. Others that we have released have gone back into the fight," said McCain, a former prisoner of war and Vietnam War veteran.
"That's been documented. So it's disturbing to me that the Taliban are the ones that named the people to be released," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation".
As the Obama administration sought to counter the criticism, Bergdahl was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for medical treatment.
After receiving care he would be transferred to another facility in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. defense officials said, without giving a date for his return to the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he hoped the exchange might lead to breakthroughs in reconciliation with the militants and rejected accusations from Republicans that it resulted from negotiations with terrorists, saying the swap had been worked out by the government of Qatar.
Afghan blast kills Turkish engineers
Suicide bomber hits vehicle carrying company staff to construction site in eastern Nangharhar province, officials say.
Last updated: 02 Jun 2014 10:43
Three engineers from a Turkish company have been killed in a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan, according to officials.
The spokesman for the governor in Nangharhar province said the attack took place on Monday morning when the Turkish workers were travelling to work in the district of Behsud.
Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said the bomber drove a motorcycle and the explosion killed three engineers and wounded a fourth.
The team was working on a construction project in Behsud.
"Turkish engineers were entering the facility by a car when the rickshaw loaded with explosives blew up," Fazel Ahmad Shirzad, provincial police chief, said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack and officials at the Turkish embassy in Kabul could not immediately be reached for comment.