Afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the politics of withdrawal

In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is “ending the war” in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the US “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a US withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the “end of the war.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

North Africa
tunisia

Tunisia: president accused of ‘coup’

Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a “coup” with the help of the country’s military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund aimed at controlling mass inflation further raised the ire of Tunisians; terms require Tunisia to raise taxes, set higher prices on goods, and implement austerity policies reducing public-sector employment and programs. (Image: Pixabay)

Syria
Raqqa

Survivors struggle four years after battle of Raqqa

Children in Raqqa, northeast Syria, are still living among ruins, with limited water, electricity, and access to education, four years after the city was taken from ISIS, according to a new report by Save the Children. Thousands of people have returned to Raqqa since the battle for the city ended in 2017. But levels of rebuilding and rehabilitation of housing remain low, with children living in constant fear of their homes collapsing on top of them. Research estimates that 36% of the city’s buildings remain entirely destroyed. At the peak of the bombing campaign, Raqqa faced 150 air-strikes a day. (Photo: Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia)

Iraq
mosul

ISIS regroups amid slow rebuilding in Iraq

A suicide bomb killed at least 30 in Baghdad, exploding in a busy market as people prepared for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly four years after the liberation of Mosul, remnants of the militant organization are regrouping to stage scattered attacks across the country. And Iraq has yet to recover from the fight against ISIS. In a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mosul residents offer sobering testimony on the challenge of trying to restart their lives despite a failure to rebuild much of the city’s devastated homes, infrastructure, and economy. There are still around 1.2 million Iraqis displaced across the country, including 257,000 in Nineveh province, where Mosul sits. Aid groups warn that these people are being exposed to new risks as camps close, leaving some with nowhere to go. (Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC via ReliefWeb)

Planet Watch
greenland

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate crisis

The government of Greenland announced that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis… The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.” The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory’s lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to acheive independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Amazon
Amazon Fires

Brazil’s Amazon is now a net carbon source: study

The Amazon has long played a vital role in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world’s largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from forest fires—which have accelerated dramatically under President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo via Mongabay)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Africa
mumuila

Angola: drought threatens traditional pastoralists

Millions of people in southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought continues to ravage the region, Amnesty International said. The organization highlighted how the creation of commercial cattle ranches on communal lands has driven pastoralist communities from their territories since the end of the civil war in 2002. This shift has left huge sections of the population food-insecure, and especially vulnerable as the acute drought persists for over three years. As food and water grow increasingly scarce, thousands have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring Namibia. (Photo of Mumuila woman: Pixabay)

North Africa
Libya detainee

Libya: ‘horrific violations’ in migrant detention

Fresh evidence of harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya, highlights the grave consequences of Europe’s ongoing cooperation with Libyan authorities on migration and border control, said Amnesty International in a report. Since late 2020, Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration, a department of the interior ministry, has “legitimized abuse” by integrating two new detention centers under its structure where hundreds of refugees and migrants had been “forcibly disappeared” in previous years by militias. Amnesty is calling on European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Iran
Ahwazis protest

Iran: protests over water rights in Ahwazi region

Two were killed as Iranian security forces opened fire on Ahwazi Arab protesters in Ahvaz, capital of southwestern Khuzestan province. The deaths came after days of demonstrations in the Arab-majority region, which is stricken by withering drought. Hundreds of sheep, cattle, buffalo and other livestock have died over the past weeks. The protests began a week ago, with a peaceful vigil outside the governor’s office, demanding that authorities open the sluice gates on the network of massive hydroelectric dams built upstream on the region’s main rivers, which divert some 90% of the waters to other regions of Iran. Protesters held up placards in Arabic, Persian and English, with messages including: “Water is a human right”, “We are thirsty–give us water!”, “Stop killing our environment!”, and “Stop drying out the Ahwazi rivers and marshlands!” The protesters also chanted slogans condemning Iran’s central government, such as “The regime keeps us in poverty in the name of religion!” (Photo: Dur Untash Studies Center)

Africa
south africa riot

South Africa’s eruption: not just about Zuma

Violence and looting that left some 120 dead in South Africa diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who refused to appear before a corruption inquiry. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses, deepening poverty in one of the world’s most unequal countries. One bystander in Johannesburg told a TV crew: “The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry.” (Photo: MwanzoTV)

Africa
cabo delgado

Foreign troops deploy in Mozambique

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Rwanda is deploying a 1,000-strong force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive. Reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique’s army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado’s worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted, and close to a million are now facing severe hunger. (Map via Moscow Times)