Bill Weinberg

Syria: fall of Dabiq fails to spark apocalypse

Well, here's some good news. Free Syrian Army forces, backed by Turkey, this week took the town of Dabiq from ISIS. The small town in northern Aleppo governorate is of little strategic significance but great symbolic import. ISIS had promised a final apocalyptic battle between the Muslims and unbelievers would take place there. Instead, faced with Turkish warplanes, the jihadists ignominiously withdrew. Conveniently reinterpreting a prophetic hadith, ISIS promptly changed the name of its magazine from Dabiq to Roumiya. That means Rome—taken to signify Europe and the West. According to the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, a companion of the Prophet, Muhammad said: "The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A'maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best of the people of the Earth at that time will come from Medina [to defeat them]." (ARA News, Oct. 17; RFE/RL, Oct. 9)

Syria: 'pause' before international storm?

Even as Russia and the Assad regime instate a "humanitarian pause" in the bombing of Aleppo, air-strikes continue in the surrounding countryside. Some 2,700 have been killed or injured in the bombardment since pro-regime forces began their offensive on the city last month. Over 250,000 remain under siege in what was once Syria's commercial hub. The eight-hour "pause" was extended by three hours after the UN protested that this was not enough time to allow aid deliveries. (AFP, Oct. 18) In one of the last air-strikes before the "pause," at least 13 civilians were killed—including 11 from the same family, according to the Aleppo Media Center. A six-weeks-old baby girl was among the dead. (The Guardian, Oct. 17)

Narco-fascism in the Philippines?

The Philippines' new ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte just took things to a new level. He had previously compared himself to genocidal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in pledging to unleash a reign of terror on drug users and dealers. But on Sept. 30, he actually invoked Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust as a favorable model for what he intends to do in his own country. "Hitler massacred three million Jews," Duterte told reporters. "Now, there are three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them." He said thusly purging the Philippines would "save the next generation from perdition." (Reuters, Oct. 1; PhilStar, Sept. 30)

Yemen and Syria: fearful symmetry

Russia used its veto power on the UN Security Council Oct. 8 to kill a French-backed resolution demanding an immediate end to air-strikes on besieged Aleppo. Venezuela, shamefully (but not surprisingly), also voted against it. This was the fifth time Russia has used its veto to kill a UN resolution on Syria since the war began more than five years ago. (Reuters) The aerial terror remains unrelenting. On Oct. 13, a Russian or Assad regime air-strike (it matters little which) killed at at least 15 at a marketplace in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. (Rudaw) Secretary of State John Kerry has called for an investigation of possible war crimes by Russia and the Assad regime.

Syria: nuclear flashpoint

The US on Oct. 4 announced it is suspending talks with Russia over the Syria war, citing the Kremlin's support of the Bashar Assad regime in the brutal bombing campaign on the besieged city of Aleppo. Secretary of State John Kerry days later called for an investigation of possible war crimes by Russia and the Assad regime. Despite the seeming lack of anyone left to negotiative with, he still insisted: "We aren't going to leave the multilateral field, we are going to continue to try to find a way forward in order to end this war." (Jurist, Oct. 7; NYTFox News, Oct. 4) All indications point to further escalation. Moscow's Defense Ministry cautioned the US against carrying out air-strikes on Assad's forces, darkly adding that Russia now has air-defense missiles operational in Syria. Russia has just installed S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems at the Tartus naval base and Khmeimim air-base in the Assad regime's coastal stronghold of Latakia. The radius of the weapons reach may be "a surprise," the Defense Ministry's Gen. Igor Konashenkov boasted. (RT, Oct. 6; BBC, Oct. 4)

Philippines: more Duterte death-squad links revealed

President Rodrigo Duterte's ultra-hardline anti-drug policies took center-stage in the Philippines in mid-September as the country's Senate held televised hearings on the matter. By now, the National Police force has acknowledged that its troops have killed 1,506 suspected drug dealers or users since Duterte took office in June. (Amnesty International, adding those killed by unaccountable "vigilantes," puts the figure at 3,000.) Duterte openly boasts that the killings will continue. The hearings heard impassioned testimony both for and against this lawless crackdown.

Bolivia tilting back to prohibitionist stance?

President Barack Obama once again singled out Washington's biggest political adversaries in Latin America for censure in this year's White House report on global anti-drug efforts. The annual memorandum to the State Department, "Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries," released Sept. 12, lists 17 Latin American countries out of a total of 22 around the world. As has now become routine, Bolivia, Venezuela and Burma are blacklisted as countries that have "failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to the obligations under international counternarcotic agreements." (InSight Crime, Sept. 13)

More US troops to Iraq —on whose side?

The Pentagon plans to send some 600 additional troops to Iraq to help launch a long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS in the coming weeks. Added to the 560 new troops announced in July, this will bring total US troop strength in Iraq to over 5,000. Most of the new troops will be deployed to Qayyarah, an Iraqi air-base also known as Q-West, about 40 miles south of Mosul that has become the key staging base for the offensive. Some also will be deployed to the al-Asad base, which is further west in Anbar province. (LAT, Sept. 28)

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