FSA sacks chief over battleground failings

Updated 15 May 2014

FSA sacks chief over battleground failings

DAMASCUS: The Free Syrian Army has sacked its military chief after the Western-backed rebels suffered battlefield setbacks, amid signs the warring parties are escalating the fighting that has already killed more than 140,000 people.
Activists warned Monday that regime troops are preparing a ground offensive against the town of Yabrud, the last rebel stronghold in the strategic Qalamoun region near Lebanon’s border, after days of aerial bombardments.
On the diplomatic front, US Secretary of State John Kerry slammed Russia on Monday for “enabling” Syria’s President Bashar Assad to stay in power, after Geneva peace talks broke off without result at the weekend.
Moscow quickly dismissed the allegation and launched its own broadside, accusing the US of failing to ensure a “truly representative opposition delegation” attended the talks.
The sacking of rebel military commander Selim Idriss was announced Sunday by the FSA, which said he was being replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdelilah Al-Bashir, an army deserter.
Col. Qassem Saadeddine of the rebel coalition said the decision was taken due to “the paralysis within the military command these past months” and the need to “restructure.”
A source inside the Syrian opposition told AFP that Idriss — who was appointed to the role in December 2012 — had faced criticism for failings on the battlefield.
These included “errors and carelessness in combat” and “poor distribution of weapons” among the rebels on the ground, the source said.
The FSA has taken a beating on the battlefield in recent months not only by regime troops but also by radical fighters who have joined the battle to unseat Assad.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday vowed that his group would crush the Syria rebels.
“We will win this battle, God willing,” he said in a speech broadcast on Lebanese television. “It is a question of time.”
The Syrian Army meanwhile recaptured on Monday an Alawite village in central Hama province where rebels “massacred” civilians earlier this month, state news agency SANA said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 25 members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect were killed by fighters in the village of Maan on Feb. 9.


Iranians begin voting in parliamentary election

Updated 42 min 40 sec ago

Iranians begin voting in parliamentary election

  • Voting is scheduled to last for 10 hours
  • There are some 58 million Iranians eligible to vote for the country’s 290-seat parliament

DUBAI: Iranians began voting on Friday in a parliamentary election unlikely to change the Islamic Republic’s troubled relations with the United States, after thousands of candidates were barred from the field in favor of hard-liners.
State television reported that polling started at 0430 GMT. Voting is scheduled to last for 10 hours. There are some 58 million Iranians eligible to vote for the country’s 290-seat parliament.