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18 December 2012 INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Iraq Mali Syria 1 2 3
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Tensions continue in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. A car bomb killed two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers on 16 December in the disputed region of northern Iraq where Baghdad and Kurdistan continue their military stand-off, according to Reuters. The long-standing dispute over oil and land led Baghdad and Kurdistan to dispatch troops in November 2012 to the region. No one claimed responsibility for the recent bombing in the ethnically mixed town of Jalawla. This is the second major military build-up since US troops left the region in December 2011 and threatens to ignite tensions and fracture the fragile stability of the country. According to the Associated Press (AP), the UN envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler states “This [ most recent standoff] is only the symptom” and “We have to go to the root and the root is the Arab-Kurdish understanding. Distribution of wealth in this country is distribution of power, period”. A deal brokered by the two parties calls for the eventual withdrawal of Iraqi military and Kurdish fighters from the area but does not provide a specific timetable. Distrust remains high and the two sides are far from reaching a lasting deal over how to manage the oil and its profits. On 17 December, a series of attacks concentrated in the disputed Iraq-Kurd region killed at least nineteen people, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). In Muafaqiyah, outside Mosul, seven people were killed and eleven wounded in a bombing, while in the town of Tuz Khurmato two car bombs detonated, killing five and wounding 24 people. Several other violent attacks were reported throughout Iraq this past week. Gunmen killed four police officers in Fallujah while a “sticky bomb” killed a department head on the campus of Tikrit University on 12 December, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP). Also, a convicted al Qaeda prisoner wounded another prisoner and several guards when he deton ated his explosives in an attempted suicide attack within a central Baghdad prison. The same day, gunmen armed with silencers killed a policeman at a
checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul and gunmen in Mahmudiyah in southern Iraq killed an Iraqi intelligence officer, according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP). On 14 December, two Iranian Shi’ite pilgrims were killed in a bomb attack on their bus as they travelled to Samara to visit holy cities, according to Pan Armenian. US Department of Defense offices have reportedly asked Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to halt negotiations with Russia over the purchase of several Russian-made air defence missile systems, particularly the short-range Pantsir S-1, according to United Press International (UPI). The Pentagon expressed concern that the systems may eventually fall into the hands of extremist groups. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaeifar, stated that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to visit Baghdad later in December, according to Trend news service. The Iranian president hopes to hold talks with senior Iraqi officials and have an opportunity to visit several Shi’ite holy sites within the country. Prime Minister Maliki urged the European Union to “stop encouraging the emigration of Iraqi Christians from the country”, according to al Arabiya, stating that Christians and Muslims within Iraq have lived in harmony and have enjoyed good relations without any conflict prior to the sectarian war in 2005. Maliki has asked that the Vatican issue a statement urging Christians to remain in Iraq so that “the East will not be emptied from Christians just as the West is not emptied from Muslims”. In humanitarian news, a 12 December report released by the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) shows that thirty -two percent of children in Iraq are deprived of many basic services. The findings show that there are significant disparities in access to health care and nutrition, education, w ater and sanitation, protection, shelter and information services.
Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned from office on 10 December, hours after he was placed on house arrest by soldiers who prevented him from leaving the country, reports al Jazeera. Diarra has served as interim prime minister since April 2012 when the army handed power back to civilians following the March 2012 coup. Jim Terrie, a former senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told al Jazeera that he believed that the pressure placed on Diarra by those behind the March 2012 coup led to the prime minister’s resignation. Two security officials, including a police officer and an intelligence agent, confir med to the Associated Press (AP) that coup leader Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo had ordered the prime minister’s arrest. Before entering politics, Diarra was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1998; was awarded the African Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998; is an astrophysicist who worked on five US space agency (NASA) missions; served as Africa and Middle East chairman for computer software company Microsoft in 2006 and became a US citizen, reports al Jazeera. Prior to the March 2012 coup, Diarra had planned to run for office in Mali’s 29 April 2012 elections. Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher for West Africa, Corinne Dufka, condemned the military’s intervention, saying that the treatment of Diarra is part of a pattern of abuse carried out by soldiers since the March coup, according to AP. “They’ve [the Malian military] arrested, beaten and intimidated journalists; tortured and disappeared military rivals; and now, apparently, arbitrarily detained the prime minister. None of these incidents have been investigated and those responsible appear to have been embolde ned by the shameful lack of accountability,” said Dufka. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned that Diarra’s forced resignation makes Western countries wary of becoming involved in a military incursion. The president of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, who has served as a mediator on the Mali crisis, said that the latest developments threaten to only worsen t he situation. The UN Security Council expressed “their readiness to consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who prevent the restoration of the constitutional order and take actions that undermine stability in Mali”. UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said that “the secretary -general calls again for a cessation of military interference in politics and urges the Malian leadership to resolve any issues through peaceful means”. Following Diarra’s resignation, Mali swore in Diango Cissoko, a career civil servant, as the new prime minister on 13 December, reports AP. Cissoko won favour with Captain Sanogo by including him as an equal with the interim president and prime minister during mediation efforts to resolve Mali’s crisis earlier in the year. A senior official of the Africa Union (AU) peace and s ecurity council, El Ghassim Wane, stated that the AU “strongly condemn the conditions under which the prime minister was compelled to resign” but also stated they would “support the new prime minister and assist him and the authority of the interim president. ..in precisely establishing and ensuring absolute civilian oversight over the military”. Cissoko has formed his government, which includes Defence Minister Colonel Yamoussa Camara, Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly and Economy Minister Tienan Coulibaly, all of whom held posts in the previous administration, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP). In addition to the Ministry of Defence position, the former military junta is retaining three other key positions (Homeland Security, Justice, and Territorial Administration). Representatives from northern Mali now hold four ministries (Education, Environment, Handicrafts and Tourism); they held only one in the previous government.
18 December 2012
The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ms. Salamatu Hussaini Suleimanhas warned that it would be “dangerous” to rely solely on dialogue as the strategy for resolving the crisis in northern Mali given the lack of participation of all armed groups in the negotiation process. She urged the international commu nity to secure a UN Security Council mandate to deploy an African -led military force into Mali. According to AFP, a UN Security Council resolution is expected before the end of the year. The Council of the European Union approved on 10 December the Crisis Management Concept for a new Common Security and Defence Policy mission to support the training and reorganisation of the Malian Armed Forces. The EU training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) is “intended to help improve the military capacity and the effectiveness of the Malian Armed Forces in order to a llow, under civilian authority, the restoration of the country's territorial integrity”. EUTM Mali will train battalion groups of the Malian Armed Forces as well as related combat support and combat service units. The mission will also work to “improve the functioning of the army’s logistical and operational chains of command”. The mission’s mandate will last 15 months a nd comprise 200 instructors, as well as mission support staff and force protection. Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton st ated that the EU military training mission would proceed as planned despite the recent political events in Mali, reports AP. In other security news, Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on 13 December called for a meeting in Libya with Chad, Mali, Niger and Sudan to “reach an agreement to secure the borders” in order to prevent the movement of “armed opposition groups”, report AFP. According to BBC, a confidential UN report warns that military intervention in northern Mali could generate between 275,000 to 725,000 refugees and between 119,000 to 299,000 internally displaced people (IDPs ). The report provides a detailed description of four main scenarios “escalating from the current status quo to an all-out war with the Islamists attempting to advance south on the capital, Bamako”. In addition to displacement, the outlined scenarios state that over one million people will be at risk of cholera. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that currently some 47,000 IDPs are taking refuge in the Malian capital Bamako. Among those in Bamako, 58 per cent originate from the Timbuktu region and 38 per cent from the Gao region. UNHCR representative in Mali, Marie-Antoinette Okimba, stated that “donors are in general more reluctant to allocate funding to try and help populations who are dispersed in urban settings - and hence more difficult to track and assist than in camps”. Despite these difficulties, “these people need urgent assistance”. UNHCR further reports that displacement in Mali is fluid and complex, with people who fled the violence in the North often traveling back and forth to check on their houses, fields or relatives.
Distancing themselves from comments made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on 13 December, Russian leadership stated that they had not changed their policy toward the Assad government and reiterated their support for the regime wh ile also acknowledging the possible victory of Syria’s rebels, according to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM). Bogdanov stated “An opposition victory can’t be excluded, unfortunately, but it’s necessary to look at the facts: There is a trend for the gove rnment to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory”. In an interview with a “pro-Assad” Lebanese newspaper, Syria’s Vice President Farouk al Sharaa suggested that President Bashar al Assad may not play a role in Syria’s future and continued to call for a political solution to the conflict, according to CSM. Sharaa’s comments “mark the highest-level acknowledgement yet from the Syrian government that a victory for Assad is looking increasingly unlikely”. Iranian army chief General Hassan Firouzabadi warned Turkey on 15 December against positioning NATO anti-missile systems and 400 US troops in Turkey’s territory, stating that such a move risks igniting conflict with Syria, according to AP. Firouzabadi suggested the deployment of NATO Patriot missiles along the Turkey -Syria border could lead to a “world war” that engulfs Europe, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, quickly distanced himself, saying “the statement that was issued after the meeting between the envoys of China, Russia, Syria and Iran…was not a joint statement” and was “issued by the Iranian embassy itself”, according to the Daily Star. Those attending the meeting reiterated the desire for a political solution in Syria and stressed the need to stop sending funds and weapons to the opposition. Iran called for an immediate ceasefire between the Syrian government and opposition forces on 16 December in order to start a national dialogue between Damascus and the rebels, reports Agence-France-Presse (AFP). Meanwhile, Turkey forwarded a new proposal to Russia for an “orderly peaceful transition in a war-ravaged Syria in the post-regime era, according to AFP. The Turkish roadmap calls for Assad to step down during the first three months of 2013 and for the transition process to be undertaken by the opposition National Coalition. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly commented that the proposal was a “creative formula” to address the crisis. On 11 December, Syrian officials issued arrest warrants for former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Member of Parliament Oqab Saqr and Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Meqdad with charges of providing weapons and funds for “terrorist groups” in Syria, reports 18 December 2012
Daily Star. Interpol’s office at the Internal Security Forces reported receiving the warrants and copies had been forwarded to all Arab states. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati responded, saying that the warrants were “political and legally void”. Syrian warplanes bombed a Damascus district housing Palestine refugees and Syrian displaced persons on 16 December, according to al Jazeera. A mosque sheltering people who fled violence in neighbouring suburbs was struck and several people were killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, according to al Jazeera, Iyad al Tubasi, a brother in law of al Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI) former leader Abu Musab al Zaqawi, has been killed in Syria while fighting with the al Nusra Front in Daraa. Al Nusra Front ha s claimed responsibility for five suicide attacks in Daraa since the end of June 2012. Al Nusra Front was added to the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations on 11 December 2012 while the US Treasury imposed sanctions on the group, according to Examiner. In efforts to prevent the collapse of state institutions if President Assad is overthrown, Syrian government defectors and opposition figures formed the Free National Gathering, led by former Prime Minster Riyad Hijab, which is positioned to assume key government functions, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, Britain and France are leading efforts to ease the arms embargo that prevents them from shipping weapons directly to rebel forces, reports United Press International (UPI). The two European powers were unsuccessful in persuading other countries to amend the embargo. British Prime Minister David Camero n argued, “We have been supplying [the Syrian Opposition] with non-lethal equipment and the conversation now is what more should we do, what more can we do to help advise, work with, shape and support [the opposition], people will ask in future years…what action did you take in order to help deal with this situation?” Syrian activists renewed claims that Assad forces have intentionally targeted the food chain by bombing bakeries in rebel-held territories, according to McClatchy. Bread is scarce in major cities and towns, infant formula is in short supply and, along with exorbitantly high fuel costs, many are facing an acute food crisis that could end in starvation. Severe food shortages are reported in almost every province in the country and since August 2012, Assad forces have destroyed 38 bakeries. Walid al Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister has blamed the suffering of his country’s people on the sanctions levied by the United States and European countries and called on the United Nations to work towards lifting them, according to Associated Press (AP). The current sanctions include a freeze on the assets of Assad and other Syrian government officials as well as an embargo on oil and weapons. Death To ll in Syria
Source: Syrian Revolution Martyr Database accessed 17 Dec 2012
As winter descends on the region and snow covers the peaks of Lebanon’s mountain range, Syrian refugees and displaced persons are struggling to feed and shelter their families, according to Voice of America (VOA). Night-time temperatures are below freezing, and with little resources to buy kerosene to heat their shelters, many are at risk of exposure. As the fighting intensifies in Damascus and Aleppo, relief workers fear that massive dislocations of hundreds of thousands of people could come at the hardest time of the year. According to Reuters, Lebanon hosts 154,387 Syrian refugees, Jordan hosts 142,664, Turkey 136,319 and Iraq 65,449. With the inclusion of refugees in North Africa, the UN High Commissione r for Refugees (UNHCR) reports there are over 500,000 registered Syrian refugees. The number of registered Syrian refugees regionwide rose by about 3,200 per day in November 2012. The United Nations is considering sending between 4,000 and 10,000 peacekeeping troops to Syria, reports UPI. Country ministers whose service personnel comprise the UN peacekeeping force met on 14 December to discuss options for Syria. According to sources, the UN has “no extra resources” and if the UN deems peacekeepers necessary for Syria, they would need to be withdrawn from current areas where they are stationed. Syrian opposition groups are against the presence of international peacekeepers saying they would only delay Assad’s ouster from power. The UN and Arab Le ague envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told UN officials in November 2012 that a peacekeeping force was necessary in Syria.
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18 December 2012