Bill Weinberg

Iran: Ahwazi farmers protest land-grab

Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.

The Nation magazine spreads lies on Syria

The Nation magazine's avid Putin propagandist Stephen F. Cohen was featured in an online audio interview Aug. 17, once again dutifully parroting the Moscow line on Syria and Ukraine. But the Syria discussion reached a unprecedented nadir, even for him: echoing the standard Russian propaganda trick of conflating all rebel forces with ISIS—even as the Syrian rebels are actually fighting ISIS. This is another one to file under "Orwell would shit." But sincere "leftists" who only get their news from places like The Nation will never know they are being lied to. Reads the introductory text for the interview: "Putin needs a decision by Obama now as the crucial battle for Aleppo intensifies. Under his own pressure at home, Putin seems resolved to end the Islamic State's occupation of Syria, Aleppo being a strategic site, without or with US cooperation, which he would prefer to have." What does the Putin-Assad war on Aleppo have to do with the fight against ISIS? Absolutely nothing. ISIS is not in Aleppo. It's attempts to establish an enclave in the city were, in fact, repulsed by the very rebel forces that Moscow and Damascus are now savagely bombing.

Is US really backing Syrian rebels?

"Left" media in the US continue to portray a massive Washington program of support for the Syrian rebels to destabilize the regime of Bashar Assad—in spite of the utter baselessness of this thesis. We recently had to call out the ironically-named Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) for spreading such empty dogmatism in a piece entitled "Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA's Efforts to Overthrow Syria's Government." Despite the sketchy media accounts it cites of supposed CIA expenditures on Syrian rebels, we have repeatedly documented how the US is actually tilting to Assad in Syria's war. What limited aid is being made available is explicitly for use against ISIS—not Assad. We noted last year reports that the US is actually constraining the rebel forces from fighting Assad as a condition of receiving aid, insisting they fight only ISIS. Last week another such report ran on Lebanon's Now Media. Once again, a rebel commander from the FSA's Southern Front is quoted asserting that his forces were ordered by the US Military Operations Center in Jordan not to launch an offensive to retake the town of Sheikh Maskin—which had fallen to the regime when the MOC earlier this year ordered the Southern Front to concentrate on an offensive against ISIS rather than defending its territory.  So the price of such arms that the US does provide the rebels is ceding territory to the regime. Let us know how you want your crow prepared, FAIR.

Syria: Turkey invades —against ISIS or Kurds?

Turkey launched a major military intervention in Syria on Aug. 24, dispatching tanks and warplanes to assist rebel forces in taking the city of Jarabulus from ISIS. But it is assumed that their next target will be the Kurdish forces also fighting ISIS—and establishment of the long-anticipated Turkish "buffer zone" in northern Syria. It is telling that this happened one day after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Seemingly in coordnation with the Turkish intervention, Biden warned the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the most effective anti-ISIS force on the ground in Syria—that they had to retreat east of the Euphrates River if they want to continue receiving US aid. "We have made it absolutely clear...that they must go back across the river," he said. "They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment." (The Guardian, BBC News, Bloomberg, Aug. 24; Reuters, Aug. 23)

Yemen: Saudis bomb anti-bombing demonstration

It requires a really special kind of cynicism to pull this one off—the kind born of complete impunity, when the world gives you a blank check to carry out any kind of atrocity. Saudi fighter jets on Aug. 21 carried out air-strikes on a peaceful rally in Yemen's capital Sanaa that had been called to protest Saudi air-strikes. Most recent accounts put the death toll at three, but it seems very likely to rise. The protesters were mostly armed, and began firing on the warplanes with their AK-47s after the air-strikes, in a useless act of defiance. The rally was called after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) withdrew its staff from six Yemen hospitals in response to a Saudi sir-strike on a hospital that left 19 people dead in the northern province of Hajja. It was the fourth health facility supported by MSF to be hit by Saudi-led coalition air-strikes over the course of the war, now in its 17th month. The US continues to have military advisors directly supporting the Saudis' air war in Yemen. This week, their number was cut from about 45 to five, although US officials said this was not due to concern over civilian casualties. (Nine News, Australia, Aug. 21; BBC News, Aug. 20; NYT, Aug. 18)

Escalating internationalization of Syria war

How telling that just as all the Great Powers were making nice and divding their turf in Syria, it starts to look like the US could get drawn into the war against Assad—against its will. Until now, the US has been giving Bashar Assad a wide berth, not interfering with his relentless campaign of aerial terror, but instead concentrating its battle on ISIS. But on Aug. 18, the US for the first time scrambled jets (presumably from Incirlik air base in Turkey) in response to Assad regime aggression after its Kurdish anti-ISIS partners came under bombardment. The US has special forces troops embedded with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which were bombed by regime warplanes near Hasakah, Aleppo governorate. (BBC News, Aug. 20; WPNBC, EA Worldview, Aug. 19) This should put paid to the persistent calumny that the Kurds are collaborating with Assad. But it obviously also holds the risk of direct superpower confrontation, as Russian warplanes are backing up the Assad regime.

Jill Stein joins Trump-Putin fascist convergence

Well, isn't this cute. Talking Points Memo notes that when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein supped with Putin at a Moscow confab sponsored by Kremlin state media mouthpiece RT in December, also on hand was Donald Trump's military advisor, retired General Mike Flynn. The same Mike Flynn who has called for the "destruction of Raqqa" to defeat ISIS, and boasts that he is "at war with Islam," The Intercept informs us. Yet Stein, in her viral YouTube statement from Red Square during the trip, filled with predictable "anti-war" rhetoric, had not a syllable of criticism either for Flynn or for her Kremlin hosts—who were then (as now) busy bombing the crap out of Syria.

Russia and Ukraine on war footing

President Petro Poroshenko on Aug. 11 put Ukraine's armed forces on high alert and "full combat readiness" near the lines of control with Russian-annexed Crimea and the separatist region of Donbas. Russia meanwhile announced it has deployed long-range S-400 missile systems in Crimea. Russian state TV has broadcast footage of men confessing to a plot to carry out terror attacks on the annexed peninsula. The accused saboteurs tell interrogators they were acting on orders from Kiev. Said Russia's President Vladimir Putin: "Our special forces prevented terrorist attacks organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry—the situation is pretty disturbing." Responded Poroshenko: "These fantasies are just a pretext for another portion of military threats against Ukraine." (Kyiv Post, NYT, Al Jazeera, BBC News)

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