Greater Middle East

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)

Emir of Kuwait dissolves parliament

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, issued a decree to dissolve the parliament on Oct. 16. The decision was made due to "mounting security challenges as well as volatile regional developments." As of late, tension has been rising between the government and parliament, as parliament members sought to question government leaders regarding a decision to increase petrol prices and other alleged financial and administrative violations. Kuwait has been under increasing pressure as global oil prices have dropped, forcing the country to cut back on numerous subsidies, causing civil unrest. In addition, Kuwait has faced threats of attack by ISIS.

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.

Growing internationalization of Yemen war

Two missiles fired from territory held by Houthi rebels in Yemen fell just short of a US warship patrolling the Red Sea, the Navy said Oct. 10.  The attack took place just north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The destroyer USS Mason had been "conducting routine operations in international waters," the Pentagon said in a statement. A day earlier, the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis accused the rebels of firing a ballistic missile toward the southwestern Saudi city of Taif. The missile was one of two that the Saudi-led coalition intercepted that day, the coalition said. Both attacks were apparent retaliation for an Oct. 8 air-strike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed at least 140 and wounded over 500 at a funeral in Sanaa. In the aftermath of the strike, Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh—who has allied his loyalist forces with the Houthis—called for a mobilization along the Saudi border "to take revenge."

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)

70,000 Syrian refugees stranded in 'buffer zone'

Blocked from entering Jordan, some 70,000 Syrians are camped out near a border crossing known as Rukban, one of two locations where refugees and asylum seekers are marooned in a "demilitarized zone" a few kilometers wide on the Syria-Jordan border—demarcated by ridges of bulldozed earth known as berms. Syrians began arriving at this remote, wind-battered stretch of desert in July 2014. With Jordan refusing the majority entry, the settlement has grown—and apparently been infiltrated by smugglers and rebel groups and extremist militants. Aid has been reduced to almost nothing, and the UN and donors have been trying to hash out a deal for weeks.

Global day of 'Rage for Aleppo'

A global day of "Rage for Aleppo" was held Oct. 1, with protests against the siege and bombardment of the city reported from more than 30 cities across the world. Some Muslim counties had their demonstrations a day early, after the Friday prayer. (Iran-Arab Spring, Oct. 1) The joint Assad-Putin campaign of aerial terror on Aleppo remains unrelenting, and continues to make hospitals a sepcial target. Regime or Russian warplanes bombed two hospitals in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo on Sept. 28. Two patients were killed in one of the strikes, and six residents queuing for bread near the hospital were killed in the other. Only about 30 doctors are believed to be left inside the besieged zone, overwhelmed by hundreds of casualties every day. Some 250,000 people are trapped in the city, with food running out. On Sept. 30, another water station in opposition-held eastern Aleppo was hit in air-strikes, leaving still more residents without water. (MEM, Spet. 30; Reuters, Sept. 29)

Syria: hideous escalation fruit of bogus 'ceasefire'

We really do get tired of having to say that we called it. We really do. When it was jointly announced by the US and Russia two weeks ago, we said the Syria "ceasefire" would actually mean an escalation. But even we didn't anticipate it would be this bad. The Assad regime and its Russian partners have launched more than 150 air-strikes on eastern Aleppo and surrounding towns just over the past 24 hours, leaving at least 100 dead. Far worse is sure to follow, as a water-pumping station supplying rebel-held districts of the city was hit. Rebels are accused of shutting down another station that supplies regime-held western areas of the city in retaliation. In any event, a staggering 2 million residents are without water, and the UN is warning of "catastrophic outbreaks of waterborne diseases." Ongoing bombardment prevents repair crews from reaching the stricken plants. UNICEF deputy director Justin Forsyth told the BBC: "Aleppo is slowly dying, and the world is watching, and the water is being cut off and bombed—it's just the latest act of inhumanity." (Zama