Greater Middle East

The new Axis: Moscow, Damascus, Washington

Assad regime and Russian warplanes resumed their bombardment of Aleppo Nov. 15 after the "humanitarian pause" announced last month. Damascus state TV boasted of "precision weapons to target terrorist positions," of course. Activists on the ground report an assault of unprecedented intensity, with bombs falling virtually constantly. The assault had been threatened in mass text messages sent to residents of rebel-held east Aleppo by the regime, instructing them to leave within 24 hours. The campaign of targeting hospitals has resumed, and eastern Aleppo is now without a single hospital operating at full capacity, the Syrian American Medical Society reports. One of those struck this week was a children's hospital, forcing staff to evacuate babies to safety. (EA WorldviewCNN, Nov. 19; CNN, Nov. 15)

UN demands Turkey release international judge

The president of the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, Theodor Meron, demanded (PDF) the release of Turkish judge Aydin Sefa Akay in an address to the UN General Assembly on Nov. 9. The General Assembly had elected Akay as a judge to the MICT in 2011. Turkish officials detained Akay in September after a failed coup against the Turkish government. Turkey's actions violated the diplomatic immunity of international judges, said Meron. In his address, Meron called for "Judge Akay's immediate release from detention and the cessation of all legal proceedings against him."

Turkey: Kurdish opposition leaders arrested

Turkey's Interior Ministry confirmed Nov. 3 that 11 lawmakers with the leftist and Kuridish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers have been detained by police in operations across the country, ostensibly as part of a terrorism investigation. Those detained include HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. The arrests come as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seizing draconian powers in the wake of July's attempted coup. Hours after the arrests, a bomb attack outside a police station in Diyarbakir left eight dead and over 100 wounded. As in previous recent terror attacks in Turkey, authorities initially blamed the leftist Kurdish guerillas of the PKK, but it was subsequently claimed by ISIS. (Kurdish Question, Kurdish QuestionAnadolu Agency)

Russia delivers Aleppo ultimatum —with war fleet

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued an ultimatum to the defenders of Aleppo's rebel-held east that they abandon the city by Friday Oct. 4. The rebel leaders pledge defiance, saying that promised safe passages out of besieged areas are a trap. "This is completely out of the question. We will not give up the city of Aleppo to the Russians and we won't surrender," Zakaria Malahifji, of the Fastaqim rebel group, told Reuters, denying that there are safe exit corridors. "It's not true. Civilians and fighters are not leaving. Civilians are afraid of the regime, they don't trust it. And the fighters are not surrendering." (The GuardianAl Jazeera) A Russian military fleet is meanwhile making its way to Syria, signaling an imminent escalation in the ongoing aerial assault on Aleppo. There has been some controversy about the fleet's refueling stops along the way. While NATO member Spain has allowed Russian warships en route to Syria to resupply at its port of Ceuta before, this time international pressure led Moscow to withdraw its request for a stop there. (World Post, The Local, Spain) The Royal Navy, which monitored the fleet's passage through the English Channel, says it includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as well as three submarines (two nuclear-powered) armed with cruise missiles. (The Independent)

Turkey: Diyarbakir mayors detained on 'terrorism'

Diyarbakır mayor Gültan Kışanak, a member of the Democratic Regions' Party (DBP), and her co-mayor Fırat Anlı were arrested by Turkish authorities Oct. 30 as part of an anti-terrorism investigation. The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office charged Kışanak with "being a member of an armed terrorist group," while Anlı was charged with "trying to separate land under the state's sovereignty." Ayla Akat Ata, a former lawmaker of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), forerunner of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was also detained at a protest against the arrest of the co-mayors. Akat was charged with "managing a terrorist organization." An HDP leader called Akat's detention a "kidnapping, not an arrest." Said HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş: "If you call it an arrest, then you accept that the law made a decision and the legal mechanism works. Arrest is a legal term, but there is no law. This is abduction and kidnapping." (Hurriyet Daily News, Daily Sabah)

Saudi air-strikes kill over 90 at Yemen prison

Air-strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 90 prisoners and injured dozens more in the Zaydiyah district of the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, Yemen on Oct. 29. The prison housed up to 84 prisoners and was bombed for hours, resulting in the collapse of the building. The bombing occurred hours after a peace agreement between Yemeni rebels of the Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia failed. Before the airstrikes began on Saturday, Saleh Al Samad, the head of Yemen's Supreme Political Council, accused the coalition of committing human rights abuses in Yemen. The bombings were part of a series of strikes that occurred throughout the day, resulting in a multitude of deaths and injuries. The death toll continues to rise as first responders clear out the area. Ironically, many of those who were detained at the Houthi-controlled prison were actually opponents of the rebels. The coalition has yet to make a comment on the bombing.

Bill Weinberg: against pro-war 'anti-war' jive

Bill Weinberg rants against the bogus "anti-war" position that holds that Donald Trump, who would "bomb the shit out" of Syria, is the less dangerous candidate than Hillary Clinton—and especially Jill Stein's call for the US to actually join with Russia in the destruction of Syria. Calling this an "anti-war" position is another one to file under "Orwell would shit."

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 ignominious