US Condemns Syria’s Election, Fine With Egypt’s

Slams Syria Vote as ‘Disgrace’ Despite Strong Similarities to Other US-Backed Votes

The US State Department issued a statement today angrily condemning Syria’s presidential elections as a “disgrace” that don’t represent legitimate voting and will confer no credibility to presumptive winner President Bashar Assad.
syria-lebanon-map1Officials centered their complaints on the lack of real opposition candidates and massacres over the course of the last several years, along with the inability of people in rebel-held regions to vote.

If that sounds familiar, you probably remember Egypt holding an election a week ago under extremely similar circumstances. The US, comfortable with the military coup there and only vaguely concerned with the massacres in Cairo, has been comfortable withGen. Sisi’s win over his coup-backing non-rival.

And while both Syria and Egypt’s elections were a foregone conclusion, they both seem positively Athenian in their democratic principles compared to the 2012 Yemen vote, in which Maj. Gen. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the US-backed ruler, was “elected” in a single candidate vote in which voting “no” was not an option.

Hadi’s rubber stamp election was such a runaway success, by US standards, that President Obama declared it a potential “model” for the Middle East. If Syria is falling short of this model, it can only be in its presumptive victor not having been given an advanced imprimatur by the US.

by Jason Ditz, June 03, 2014

Syrian Rebel Attack Backfires

Syrian rebels cut off water to Aleppo in botched attack on regime areas and manage to create shortage in their own strongholds

In a botched attempt to stop drinking water reaching government-held districts of Aleppo, rebels managed to cut off water supplies to large parts of the city in northern Syria including their own strongholds. Women and children are being forced to queue up with cooking pots, kettles and plastic bottles to get water from the fountains of mosques and wells that may be contaminated.

The water shortage started 10 days ago when the rebels, who control the two main pumping stations, tried to keep water flowing to their areas in east Aleppo, but stop it reaching the government-held west of the city. Describing the action as “a crime”, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and other rebel groups were responsible for the water shortage.

syriaPeople in both halves of the divided city have been forced to rely on ancient wells and fountains. In west Aleppo the Red Crescent and government agencies have provided some water but say it is not safe to drink over an extended period. Some trucks used for taking away waste water from houses are now selling drinking water likely to be contaminated. Fights have broken out in queues when members of local defence committees and officials have demanded they be given priority. Aleppo used to have a population of 2.5 million though at least one million have fled fighting.

A member of the Aleppo Water Department told the Beirut paper al-Akhbar that the Sharia Authority, which unites the rebel movements, controls a crucial pumping station in the Suleiman al-Halabi region. He said that there is a “danger of insurgents pumping water only to the neighbourhoods that they control as it might lead to the collapse of the integrated water system”.

Even before the recent cut-off of supplies, the water system of Aleppo depended on a degree of grudging co-operation between government and opposition mediated by the Red Crescent. The pumping station depends on deliveries of diesel to fuel a generator.

Water has become very expensive in a city where it used to be free. It is the latest disaster to befall Aleppo which, since 2012, has been divided in two. The government has been dropping barrel bombs packed with explosives on rebel districts causing heavy casualties and a further exodus of the population. The rebels have been firing mortars randomly into government areas.

Unlike in central and southern Syria, the rebels are holding their own in Aleppo where they recently launched an offensive which government forces had difficulty in repelling. Last week the Islamic Front detonated explosives at the end of a 400yd-long tunnel under the Carlton Citadel Hotel killing many government soldiers.

The forces of the opposition are dominated by Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qa’ida type groups. Their civil war with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) is mostly being fought further east along the Euphrates Valley with 100,00o people being forced to flee their homes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor in recent days. The Syrian Observatory says that battles between Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis killed 230 fighters in the last 10 days.

The rebels are concentrating their efforts on Aleppo after the final loss of Homs Old City last week when 1,200 rebel fighters were evacuated on buses. Though the government has long been in control of most of Homs, the evacuation marks a serious symbolic defeat for the opposition since the city has been at the centre of media attention. Only the Waer district in the north-west of Homs now remains under partial rebel control, but is sealed off by government checkpoints.

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Syrian Rebel Attack Backfires

In a botched attempt to stop drinking water reaching government-held districts of Aleppo, rebels managed to cut off water supplies to large parts of the city in northern Syria including their own strongholds. Women and children are being forced to queue up with cooking pots, kettles and plastic bottles to get water from the fountains of mosques and wells that may be contaminated.

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Syrian Army Retakes Key Border Town of Yabroud

Al-Qaeda Bombs Lebanon Village in ‘Revenge’

After weeks of sieges in the area, Syrian military forces backed by Hezbollah have taken the rebel stronghold of Yabroud, the last of the rebels’ possessions along the borer with Lebanon.

SyriaThe rebels had lost most of the rest of the towns in the area in recent weeks, and this weekend finally took Yabroud itself after an intense multi-day battle.

The last rebel reports were that Yabroud was facing heavy air strikes, including with barrel bombs. Yabroud was initially a Christian-majority town but has been a rebel arms smuggling depot for months.

After the loss of Yabroud, a suicide car bomb killed two people in a Shi’ite village across the border in Lebanon. Syrian al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra claim credit for the bombing, calling it “revenge” against Hezbollah.

by Jason Ditz

Battles Escalate, Spanning Borders at Syria-Lebanon Frontier

Rebels, Hezbollah Fighters Pour Across Border for Yabroud Fight

The fighting continues to pick up around the Syrian border town of Yabroud, the last rebel-held town on the border with Lebanon. The fighting is escalating all the time, as both sides get reinforcements from across the increasingly meaningless border.

yabrudThe Sunni town of Arsal, in Lebanon, has become a rebel haven, as they smuggle weapons into Syria regularly through that town. Hezbollah, meanwhile, continues to send more fighters for the Assad government’s side across the border.

The value of Lebanon as a smuggling route for the rebels is the primary target of the recent military offensive, and if the Syrian Army manages to retake Yabroud it will effectively shut the border to the rebels, weakening their hold in the region.

Rebels have treated border crossings across the country as particularly important, often fighting with one another over the control of crossings into Turkey, where they can demand a cut of any arms smuggled in by other factions.

by Jason Ditz

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