Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
War Watch - June 3 , 2014 - Syria Election Day , Updates on Civil War ...... Iraq and Libya both deal with political instability and daily death dealing .......
Syrians vote in presidential poll
Voting under way in contest that incumbent Assad appears certain to win, amid fears of violence around polling stations.
Last updated: 03 Jun 2014 11:33
Opposition activists have branded the vote a 'blood election', with Syria in the middle of a civil war [EPA]
Syrians are voting in a presidential election which the incumbent Bashar al-Assad is widely expected to win.
Voting is only taking place in government-controlled territories, meaning those displaced by fighting or living in rebel-held areas will not be able to take part.
The opposition has dismissed the vote as a "farce" that will prolong the country's three-year conflict. The vote excludes regime opponents from running.
Tuesday's controversial vote is Syria's first election in nearly 50 years, with Assad and his father Hafez renewing their mandates in successive referendums.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the Al Masnaa border crossing in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Tuesday, said: "The displaced Syrians who are in Lebanon, if they go in today [to Syria] they will risk losing their status as refugees in Lebanon.
"The opposition says this is a farce, they don't recognise these elections. They say there is no way it could be legitimate while civil war is raging in the country, while it's being organised by the same president they want to overthrow.
"If you talk to regular Syrians, many of them have come to the conclusion, whether they support Assad or oppose him, he has prevailed in the last three years, and know he is going to win the seven-year term which is going to further complicate the process to form a new transitional government away from the current regime."
Syrian television showed Assad casting his ballot at a school in the Damascus neighbourhood of al-Maliki. He was accompanied by his wife, Asma.
Assad faces two virtually unknown competitors - Maher al-Hajjad and Hassan al-Nuri.
Nuri, who studied in the US and speaks English, told AFP news agency he expected to come second after Assad.
Both he and Hajjar have only lightly criticised Assad's rule, for fear of being linked to an opposition that has been branded "terrorist" by the regime. The two men are, instead, focusing on corruption and economic policy.
The vote takes place as the war continues, with the air force bombarding rebel areas in Aleppo and fierce fighting in Hama, Damascus, Idlib and Daraa.
More than 15 million Syrians will be able to cast their vote in 11,000 ballot boxes distributed in more than 9,000 offices, which will be open from 7am to 7pm local time.
"They [Syrians] feel things are being complicated, but they are adamant they have to deal with this reality," Al Jazeera's Roula Amin said.
"That is why these people crossing into Syria vote feel they arre doing it only to manage their daily lives, meaning they don't want to lose their chance to go back to Syria, or maybe lose their passport, or having their family pay a price if they don't vote."
Observers from countries allied to the regime - North Korea, Iran and Russia - are supervising the vote, while a security plan has reportedly been put in place in Syrian cities to prevent possible attacks against voters and polling stations.
It’s coming up on two years now since government and rebel forces started fightingover the key north Syrian city of Aleppo, and a decisive win both thought would come in a matter of hours has dragged on into a protracted quagmire.
Territory rarely changes hands that often anymore in the city, but “enemy territory” is regularly hit with rockets, mortars, indeed anything. This weekend, the attacks came from Islamist rebels, and left at least 50 people dead.
According to rebel mouthpiece the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of civilians were among the slain in the rocket strikes, including nine children.
Government forces similarly launched attacks on rebel-held territory in Aleppo, with reports of 13 killed in a barrel bomb attack late Sunday. As usual, no territory changed hands, but many civilians were killed on both sides.
Libya's new PM promises to tackle violence
Government to take responsibility for security and fighting "extremism and terrorism", Ahmed Maetig says.
Last updated: 03 Jun 2014 10:19
The new prime minister Ahmed Maetig declared his commitment to "fight terror and extremists" [Reuters]
Libya's new prime minister has warned that fighting extremism without government involvement could split the country, after clashes in Benghazi left 21 people dead and 82 others injured.
Ahmed Maetig held a cabinet meeting on Monday evening in the capital Tripoli, having been elected by parliament last month, and denounced clashes that had taken place in the eastern city.
In a televised statement he said: "As the [new] government starts its duties, we are committed to protect our people. We'll take the responsibility of implementing security all over the country and fight terror and extremists.
"Extremism is not accepted from any party. Fighting it without government involvement will split Libya and that could be difficult to fix later. We won't allow anyone to threaten neighbouring countries"
Monday's clashes were between an armed group, Ansar al-Sharia, and irregular forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a former general.
Timeline: Three years after Libya's uprising
Witnesses said that gunfire, which began the day before, could be heard across the city, particularly coming from a special forces army base in a western suburb of Benghazi. Haftar is campaigning to rid Libya of fighters that he claims the federal government has failed to control.
Local residents said Monday's fighting was the worst they had seen since March 2011, when forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi tried to enter the city.
Ansar al-Sharia gained support following the death of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The group is thought to be behind the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four people including the US ambassador.
Libya is in turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that removed Gaddafi, with various factions locked in conflict.
The growing Libyan unrest saw a protracted gunbattle overnight in a residential area of Benghazi, where forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s pro-coup faction fought with Ansar al-Sharia militants.
Local officials estimated “at least 18 dead,” but that they had no idea yet how many of the casualties were combatants and how many were civilians, with each side accusing the other of firing into homes.
Gen. Hifter, who launched a coup d’etat two weeks ago, has promised to “cleanse” the entire nation of Islamist factions, and over the weekend launched air strikes against Benghazi, with one round of attacks hitting a university near Ansar al-Sharia’s local headquarters.
Hifter has emphasized moves against Ansar al-Sharia in recent days, but his coup has primarily focused on political Islamist factions in Tripoli, with the militant faction seemingly included to give his operation some thin veneer of “anti-terror” legitimacy.
Iraq PM calls for “jihad” against Anbar jihadists
Maliki pledges to "cleanse" Anbar of ISIS by start of Ramadan
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki speaks during a news conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Baghdad on January 13, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmed Saad)
Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Al-Maliki called for “jihad” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq’s restive western Anbar province on Wednesday, pledging to crush the Islamist insurgency before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that is set to be begin in late June.
In his weekly speech from Baghdad, Maliki also called for a “national dialogue” on Anbar, stressing that the Iraqi people must “stand with the security forces,” and that residents of Anbar must work with “their brothers from the tribes of Anbar and the local and central governments to accelerate the cleansing of Anbar” of ISIS militants.
“Everybody must unite and return to the ranks of jihad to fight against ISIS and its offshoots, as well as the conspirators who are manipulating the fate of the people of Anbar,” he said.
ISIS forces took control of Iraq’s largest province in December 2013, seizing the towns of Ramadi and Fallujah amid mass popular discontent in the Sunni-majority province towards the central government over perceived bias on the part of Baghdad.
Anbar’s tribal hierarchy has split over ISIS’s presence, with some tribesman fighting alongside its members and others joining government forces seeking to retake the province. Many inhabitants have fled following the government’s continued inability to drive out the Islamists militants, and amid fears that ISIS will seek to unite territory under its control in eastern Syria and western Iraq to form an Islamic emirate.
“It will not take long to quickly eradicate and eliminate [ISIS fighters] and achieve the great purpose of easing the suffering and [facilitating] the return of the displaced families,” Maliki said on Wednesday.
The Iraqi prime minister is currently seeking to form a new government after failing to secure a majority in recent parliamentary elections, with many opponents criticizing his security record.
In addition to the premiership, Maliki has acted as interior and defense minister over the past four years.
There has been no official response from Anbar’s local government to Maliki’s call, as uncertainty continues to surround the position of political and tribal leaders in the governorate.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Faris Ibrahim, a member of the Anbar Salvation Council, dismissed Maliki’s calls for a “national dialogue.”
“This conference means giving a chance to the opportunists who have infringed on the rights of those who fought and sacrificed themselves for Anbar,” he said.
“What Anbar and its people want is to be liberated from ISIS and its followers, who once they find themselves cornered go to the government to offer their services,” Ibrahim added.
The Anbar leader accused Maliki’s government of lacking the will to truly crack down on ISIS in the province, adding that Baghdad has made a number of bad decisions that have lost it the trust and goodwill of the local tribes.
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