By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)
Following the announcement of a presidential election in Syria on June 3rd, condemnation has come from the UN, the USA, the UK and other western allies.
Jay Carney speaking for the White House called it a “parody of democracy which would have no legitimacy inside or outside Syria”.
With almost half of Syria’s population displaced and millions living in refugee camps and in other countries, no real vote can take place, though those who have access to a Syrian embassy abroad will be allowed to vote on May 28th.
A spokesman for the Syrian Government has made it clear that there will be no voting in areas controlled by “gunmen”. Effectively then this only leaves voting within Syria in areas controlled by Assad where the vast majority are his supporters.
The Syrian Opposition has described the planned vote, which will predictably return Bashar Al-Assad as President for another 7 year term, as “a farce”.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, speaking on behalf of the General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and UN Special Envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said. “We have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs.”
The BBC has a video report.
After appearing in person at the Christian town of Ma’aloula on Sunday, Assad’s election campaign appears to have kicked off in earnest yesterday at Homs – a city he has starved and bombed into submission – with the appearance of pro-Assad posters with his image saying, ironically, “Hand in hand to build Syria”!
In counterpoint Assad’s opponents have launched a Twitter hashtag campaign, #AssadCampaignSlogans, offering alternative slogans that he might like to use.
Classic offerings so far include: “Vote for the blood Ba’ath” : “Don’t Throw Assad out with the Ba’ath water” : “Harnessing chemicals to build a brighter future” : “My family has megatons of experience” : “Putting laughter in Manslaughter since 2011″ : “Keep the Homs Fires Burning” : I will rebuild Syria from the ashes (as soon as I finish burning it completely)”, and many more.
You can follow the latest suggestions at @noneinhere ‘s website, HERE:
This afternoon, Wednesday, it has also been announced in Damascus that Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar MP is to run for president as well. Al-Hajjar represents Aleppo in Parliament and is part of the internal and allowed opposition (EDITOR: Clearly a man who doesn’t mind wasting his time).
CHLORINE GAS NOW ASSAD’S WEAPON OF CHOICE, DESPITE ALMOST 90% OF SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS REMOVED:
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said yesterday that the 17th consignment of Syria’s chemical weapons had been delivered to the port in Latakia for transshipment, bringing to 86.5% the total of agreed stocks to be removed, including 88.7% of the most dangerous compounds, known as Priority 1 chemicals.
However, what seems to have slipped through the net is chlorine gas, an industrial compound, not included in the agreement, but banned as a weapon of war by international treaty after World War 1.
Reports this morning suggest that chlorine gas has been dropped 6 times on Opposition-held areas in April alone, twice on the village of Kafr Zita in Hama province (scroll down – see below), twice near Talmenes in Idlib province – where those injured now exceeds 130 – and more recently on Harasta and Daraya in the suburbs of Damascus.
In the Daraya incident, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) discovered a 70 metre long tunnel being used by Hezbollah and the Syrian Army on the north side of the district to bring in troops and weapons into the area. As they were investigating it, Daraya was hit by a toxic gas, HERE:
Fighting continues to rage in Eastern Ghouta in the Damascus countryside where the Syrian Army launched a campaign to oust Opposition fighters a few days ago, HERE: and heavy bombing continues on Mlieha, HERE:
From Latakia province recent reports say that fighting is continuing with the Opposition making a number of gains.
Clearly Observatory Tower 45 has changed hands yet again with the Oppposition targeting it with a 120mm mortar, HERE:
However, south of Kessab there has been a fierce battle for Mt.Chalma, HERE:
Apparently, according to Opposition sources, as many as 50 pro-Assad fighters were killed and wounded by 15 planted IEDs and the Opposition are now in full control.
Even further south, the Assad regime is also reported to have suffered heavy losses on Mount al-Nisr and additionally there is a report that Hossam Khadra, leader of “Special Assignments” for Assad’s Baath-party in Latakia, has been killed in the Kessab area.
Yesterday, Tuesday, Opposition fighters claimed to have killed 30 of Assad’s forces in the outskirts of Mork (Morek) in Hama province and destroyed both a tank and a BMP armoured vehicle.
In Idlib province Opposition fighters also took over the Mosbah (pool) Barrier south of Khan Shikhoun, currently a heavily contested area, HERE:
In Aleppo, the Assad regime have been able partly to re-open the ring road into west Aleppo and some supplies have been reported to have got through, though the power supply has been off for 4 days. There are however, also reports that some of Assad’s troops have defected at the frontline on the Sheikh Najjar industrial area to the north-east.
WHILE HOMS FIGHTERS CONTINUE TO HOLD OUT AGAINST REGIME, UN REPORTS SERIOUS LACK OF AID SUPPORT:
In Homs, there have been no further reports of advances on either side, but even Opposition diehards expect that eventually the remaining Opposition areas will fall to regime attack or starvation.
Around 1,000 Opposition fighters remain, but morale after such a long campaign has been weakened, and while some would be prepared to surrender, others are still committed to fighting until the end. You can read more,HERE:
In Saudia Arabia yesterday, Tuesday, Ahmed Jarba, head of the Opposition National Coalition, met with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal to request more assistance. “The talks focused on continuing the Saudi aid and on the need to strengthen the capacities of the Free Syrian Army [FSA],” said a spokesman.
Meanwhile, the heads of five UN agencies have made a call to both sides in Syria’s conflict to allow aid deliveries countrywide, end siege warfare and halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
In Aleppo alone now they estimate there are 1 million in need of assistance and just 40 doctors for a total population of 2.5 million. Previously, prior to 2011, there were 2,000.
The last UN appeal for $6.5 billion in emergency funding for 2014 has largely been ignored with only $1.2 billion pledged so far.
From Paris the sad story of 150 Syrian penniless refugees who, after wandering the world, have ended up in a small park in a suburb of the French capital, HERE:
And lastly, a full list of the expected presidential candidates for the 2014 Election in Syria: