Greater Middle East
Cumhuriyet

Turkey convicts newspaper editor on ‘terrorism’ charges

Can DĂĽndar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found DĂĽndar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. DĂĽndar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey’s state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. DĂĽndar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, DĂĽndar fled the country while Turkish authorities ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts. He is now living in exile in Germany. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Rule of the Strongmen

In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump’s evident preparation for a coup d’etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via Macmillan)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride—”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister—knowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria
CJEU

Syrian draft-resister wins landmark asylum case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that foreign military draft evaders may be entitled to asylum in the EU. The court held that there is a “strong presumption” that people escaping military service under authoritarian regimes are entitled to asylum, if evasion is motivated by “political opinions, religious beliefs or…membership of a particular social group.” The case, concerning a Syrian national whose asylum claim was turned down by the German Federal Office for Migration & Refugees, has been remanded to an administrative court in Hannover, with instructions to follow the standards laid out in the CJEU ruling. (Image: CJEU)

Syria
syria refugees

Hunger ’emergency’ in Syria’s Idlib

Nearly a year after the height of a devastating regime offensive that forced a million people from their homes in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, aid workers warn that the region’s civilians, especially young children, face a new threat: rising hunger. In Idlib province, the situation is worsened by mass displacement and a population already in dire need after years in the crosshairs of conflict—putting an estimated four million people, including 1.5 million in camps, at particular risk of hunger and malnourishment. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote—a decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets—until the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Syria
White Helmets

Russian-backed ‘crimes against humanity’ in Syria

Human Rights Watch condemned Russia and the Syrian government in a new report for launching at least 46 documented deadly attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria’s northern Idlib province. The report reveals that the Russian-backed offensive targeted hospitals, schools, markets, and other essential facilities for over 11 months from April 2019. HRW contends that these attacks violated international humanitarian law and may constitute crimes against humanity. These numbers represent only a fraction of the attacks occurring in the region. Witnesses and local authorities say the documented attacks killed at least 224 civilians and wounded 561 others. In addition to harming civilians directly, the attacks have also adversely impacted public health, education, and the standard of living in Idlib by restricting access to food, water, and housing. Both the Assad regime and Russia exacerbated this crisis by blocking humanitarian aid to the region. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria
Rukban

Jordan forcibly deports Syrian refugees

Over the past months, dozens of Syrian refugees have been deported by the Jordanian government to Rukban, a desolate camp across the Syria-Jordan border. Authorities say those targeted for deportation have “security” issues, but returnees to the camp deny having had any problems with law enforcement in Jordan. Amnesty International said  that at least 16 refugees have been “forcibly transferred” to Rukban over the past month alone. Watchdog groups say the deportations are a violation of asylum-seekers’ rights, and that sending a refugee back to likely harm—known as refoulement—is prohibited under international law. While Jordan has been quietly deporting asylum-seekers for several years, this is the first time it has been accused of forcible transfers to the desert no-man’s-land, which experiences scalding temperatures and is largely cut off from food and medicine supplies. “It’s still a human rights violation regardless of what [the refugees] are accused of,” said Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These deportations have happened with no fair trial or due process.” (Photo: Omar al-Homsi/TNH)

Iraq
Yazidis

Yazidis call Middle East indigenous alliance

In a meeting hosted by the Yazidi autonomous territory of Ezidikhan in northern Iraq, representatives of tribal peoples and ethnic minorities from across the Middle East and North Africa agreed on a framework for a region-wide alliance of stateless nations struggling for self-determination and autonomy. The meeting at the Ezidikhan seat of Shingal was attended by representatives of the Mandaeans and Zoroastrians as well as Yazidis. Messages of support were also sent by the Shabaks of Iraq, Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Berbers of Libya, and Palestinian Bedouins residing in the state of Israel. Delegates announced formation of a Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Middle East open to all stateless peoples of the region. The Confederation pledges to seek greater recognition for stateless peoples of the Middle East at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to seek redress for persecution, exclusion and genocide. (Photo of Yazidi delegates: Ezidikhan.net)

Syria
Daraa

Armed struggle re-emerges in regime-controlled Syria

Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed reconquest of most of Syria over the past two years is beginning to look like a Pyrrhic victory, as protest and even armed resistance re-emerge in regime-controlled territory. Insurgency is especially mounting in southern Daraa province—where the revolution first began in 2011. Brig. Gen. Talal Qassem of the army’s 5th Division was shot dead this week by gunmen on a motorcycle in the northeast of Daraa. He was the second regime general slain in the province since Assadist forces retook southern Syria in July 2018. They were among more than 200 regime soldiers and officials slain in attacks over this period, and the pace of the attacks is fast escalating. Among regime figures slain in the past month are the mayor of the town of Lajat, a military intelligence officer, and a member of the “reconciliation committees” attempting to rebuild regime support. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)