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Entries in Kofi Annan (75)


Kenya Feature: A Beginner's Guide to Today's Elections

President Obama appeals to Kenyans to reject the intimidation of violence and host free, fair and peaceful elections

Today's elections in Kenya are seen by many as a key to the stability of East and Central Africa, amid neighbours such as Somalia, the recently-divided Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the same time, there is the legacy of past election violence and the complication that a leading presidential candidate has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

So what is happening today?

The elections are for a new President, MPs, and local representatives. They are the first under the new Constitution, passed in 2010.

What is the background?

In 2007, Kenya was the model of stability and opportunity within an otherwise chaotic region, or so it seemed.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Assad Regime Negotiating a Deal in Moscow?

See also Syria 1st-Hand: Aleppo --- Hunger, Disease, & Little Hope
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Insurgents Take Another Town in the North

2315 GMT: Bahrain. Claims are circulating that leading human rights activist Zainab AlKhwaja was released from prison on bail today.

Zainab's husband said he was collecting her from prison. He described her as the "apple of the eyes of the people of Bahrain".

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article written by Zainab behind bars. Her trial verdict was also postponed until 20 January.

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Syria Live Coverage: "A Political Process to End the Crisis is Still Possible"

2040 GMT: The US decision to place Al Nusra Front on the terrorist watch list will have complicated repercussions. Since we've started covering this conflict, we've been very impressed with both McClatchy and The Institute for the Study of War. As such, we're not surprised that experts from both organizations have, even before the decision was announced, condemned the move because it will complicate the realities on the ground in Syria and potentially isolate Washington from the Syrian rebels:

Some experts warned that declaring Nusra a foreign terrorist organization was likely to hurt the anti-Assad uprising by fueling tensions between the group and other opposition units. The designation could disrupt the coordination behind recent rebel advances and even risk clashes among rebel groups.


“I’m not saying they aren’t a terrorist group. But given the circumstances and given their cooperation with the opposition as a whole, designating them now would be disastrous,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War who recently returned from touring rebel-held areas to research Nusra and other Islamist groups.

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Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The "New Normal" --- Death From the Air


Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Almost 25,000 Dead as the United Nations Departs

1902 GMT: Syria. The must-watch video of the day. Sometimes, videos coming from Syria have an almost meditative element to them, as if so much can be learned from a single video. This is one of those instances.

This is Saleh el Dine, an upper-middle class commercial district in Aleppo. This is the kind of neighborhood you'd find near a major university in London, or Boston, filled with over-priced apartments, upper-class residents, students, coffee shops... the kind of place that ranges from peaceful to bustling depending on the time of day.

In this video it is neither peaceful or bustling. The neighborhood is more like hauntingly deserted, with the distant echo of war faintly heard in the background. The silence is stunning. Periodic gunfire can be heard, then a helicopter which is later seen overhead.

Suddenly, however, a massive explosion, as a bomb or a shell lands too close to the camera.

But after the excitement, the haunting stillness returns. This is what Aleppo has become.

1838 GMT: Syria. We have hundreds of videos of protests, but we'll share a few more of the larger ones. In the first the cameraman says this is Darayya, and he says today's date. Darayya is southwest of Damascus (map), has been fought over for weeks, and is one of the areas that some analysts believe the Free Syrian Army will eventually try to take in order to strike from there at the capital:

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Annan Quits, The Mass Killings Do Not

Claimed footage of the aftermath of regime attacks on the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which killed at least 20 people on Thursday (Warning: Graphic)

See also Syria Audio Feature: "Annan's Resignation is A Sideshow...and What Is Really Important" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Syria Video Feature: Fighting the Battle with Camera Phones
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Aleppo Out of Control?

2040 GMT: Syria. For two weeks we have been talking about the likelihood that the Syrian Army will liberate Aleppo in the sudden push of a massive military assault on the country's largest city. For two weeks, we have been saying that the Free Syrian Army will make Assad pay for every inch of that liberation. Now, however, we need to consider that the most likely scenario may no longer be regime victory in Aleppo.

The roads north of Aleppo are virtually clear of the Syrian army. The area as far east as Kobani (also known as Ayn-al-Arab), and as far west as Dar T'Izzah, all the way north to the border with Turkey, is either completely or largely in insurgent hands. Free Syrian Army fighters have captured perhaps hundreds of vehicles, some of them armoured, and a few of them are tanks.

The FSA has more and more weapons, and has proven it can beat Assad's armour. Those fighters have been hit hard by the helicopters and jet fighters, but have proven that they are strong enough to take those hits. We have now gone many days without a regime victory in the area, and the FSA continues to advance. Perhaps as much of 70% of Aleppo is under some degree of FSA control, while the insurgents are closing in on Assad's military bases south of Salaheddin.

Common knowledge says that the regime will strike soon, but common knowledge said that the regime would retake the city last Saturday. It didn't happen. The FSA won the battles. In fact, there is no available empirical evidence that suggests the Assad regime can win the future battles inside Aleppo.

A quick look at the map tells the story --- the area in blue is area over which the FSA has at least partial control, though this is likely too conservatively drawn):

View Syria - 2012 August 3 - EA Worldview in a larger map

The regime is working against the clock. Since February, the Syrian military has not retaken a single city or town that has been in insurgent control for more than 2 weeks. Reporters on the ground are saying that the FSA is become better equipped and better supplied and that its ranks, both inside Aleppo and outside, are growing.

The regime could make a significant military assault in a bid to take Aleppo back, but it would likely have to be much larger than anything we have seen so far.

Without being alarmist, the most likely scenario may not be a regime assault on the city. Soon, the Free Syrian Army could be poised to take Aleppo --- all of it.

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Syria Revealed: The Quiet Planning for a Country After Assad

Steven Heydemann, involving in planning with Syrian opposition groups, on the US Public Broadcasting Service this week

For the last six months, 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.

The project, which has not directly involved U.S. government officials but was partially funded by the State Department, is gaining increased relevance this month as the violence in Syria spirals out of control and hopes for a peaceful transition of power fade away. The leader of the project, USIP's Steven Heydemann, an academic expert on Syria, has briefed administration officials on the plan, as well as foreign officials, including on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul last month.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Inaction is a "Licence for Further Massacres"

Protesters in Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus tear down a poster of President Assad --- 13 refugees reportedly were slain on Friday by Syrian security forces

See also Bahrain Opinion: The Regime's Propaganda Machine is Cranked Up to Eleven
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A New "Massacre"?

2039 GMT: Syria. Journalist Martin Chulov adds this important note to his published article on the mass killing in Tremseh (see 2009 GMT):

2009 GMT: Syria. A far different account by Martin Chulov of The Guardian than that in The New York Times (see 1905 GMT) about Thursday's mass killing in Tremseh....

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A New "Massacre"?

1902 GMT: Syria. An activist shares a series of videos that show that the FSA has made more effective attacks in the mountainous Jabal Zawiyah region of Idlib province. These videos were reportedly taken in Rami (map):

Another activist makes a bold claim, which we cannot verify at this point:

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The Latest from Iran (12 July): Keeping the Oil Flowing....Maybe

1551 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The latest ponderings of David Ignatius of The Washington Post on the nuclear discussions have little to do with an objective assessment of the situation (see 1505 GMT). Instead, the one paragraph of value is the spin from Western officials:

U.S. analysts believe that the past three months of talks should at least have convinced the Iranians that their bargaining position is weak. Tehran’s hard line hasn’t prevented the imposition of new sanctions, it hasn’t amplified Europe’s economic jitters and it hasn’t fractured the P5+1 coalition. Now the real bargaining begins, in the view of some U.S. and European officials, with economic sanctions adding more pressure on Tehran every day.

Then there is this curious conclusion:

The Obama administration has opted to work with international coalitions to confront Syria and Iran. This still seems like the most sensible policy. But if these multilateral efforts are failing, it will fall to the United States to devise an alternative strategy. If the United States wants to get to “yes” in these negotiations, it will have to bargain more independently and aggressively.

Is Ignatius suggesting --- either on his own behalf or that of officials feeding him the lines --- that Washington should break away from European partners and deal one-on-one with Tehran? And what does "aggressively" mean?

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