Iran
Stratofortress

Will strikes on Iran be Trump’s Plan B?

The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration’s belated initiation the transition process. But along with the news of Murphy’s capitulation come reports that the US has deployed heavy  bombers to the Middle East, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have conveniently claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in the port of Jeddah. And this all comes just days after the disconcerting news that Trump had gathered his cabinet and advisors for a White House conclave weighing the options for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With his attempted judicial coup failing, Trump’s Plan B could be postponement (read: cancellation) of the presidential transition under pretext of a world crisis of his own making. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East
Egypt Police

Human rights leaders arrested in Egypt

Egyptian authorities arrested Gasser Abdel Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), one of the country’s leading human rights organizations and a frontline voice against torture and persecution of dissidents. Mazek’s arrest closely follows the arrests of several other leaders of the organization, who have been charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “financing terrorism.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the arrests and called for Egyptian authorities to release the detained members of the group. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central America
Guatemala congress

Guatemala: protesters set fire to Congress building

Thousands protested in Guatemala’s capital against a newly approved 2021 national budget that imposes deep cuts in funding for health care, education and programs to combat malnutrition—at a time when the country is hit hard by natural disasters and COVID-19. One breakaway group of protesters hurled improvised incendiary devices at the Congress building, setting it on fire. Police used batons and tear-gas to push protesters back, attacking not only the some 1,000 in front of Congress but also a much larger demonstration in front of the National Palace. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned what it called an “excessive use of force” by the National Civil Police, while the government of President Alejandro Giammattei accused the protesters of “terrorist acts” that will be “punished with the full force of the law.” (Photo via Prensa Libre)

Central Asia
kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan: ‘authoritarian’ new constitution unveiled

Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan unveiled a new constitution, drawing criticism over the expansion of presidential powers. Shortly after the draft was released, politicians and activists expressedconcerns that it could lead to full-blown authoritarianism. Among many changes, it reduces the size and power of parliament, with responsibilities transferred to the presidency. One section banning anything that contravenes “generally recognized moral values and the traditions of the people of Kyrgyzstan” has especially raised human rights concerns. Among those pushing for the new charter is Sadyr Japarov, who briefly served as acting president after escaping from prison during unrest in the wake of the contested October parliamentary elections. He resigned to run for president, which the current constitution barred him from doing while serving as president. Elections for both the presidency and approval of the new constitution are to be held in January. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Planet Watch
Alaska

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January—but will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)

Africa
uganda protest

Electoral violence rocks Uganda

At least 16 people have been killed in protests in Uganada since the arrest of two leading opposition candidates in upcoming presidential elections. One of the detained candidates, the popular musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine, was accused of breaking COVID-19 restrictions at campaign rallies. Both he and fellow candidate Patrick Amuriat Oboi were detained while on their way to attend rallies. Four candidates, including two former military generals, have suspended their campaigns following the arrests. The military has been deployed to put down the protests in Kampala and other cities. Protesters are tearing down and burning campaign billboards of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986, before the majority of Ugandans were born. (Photo: Badru Katumba)

Africa
ethiopia

Renewed war in Ethiopia draws in Eritrea

The already horrific conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray state seems set to escalate after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that a three-day ultimatum for local forces to surrender had expired, clearing the way for a government offensive on the regional capital Mekele. At least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan amid air-strikes and mounting reports of atrocities on both sides. Neighboring Eritrea has also apparently entered the conflict—ironically on the side of the Ethiopian government, long its bitter enemy. The state government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) accuses Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of troops over the border to support Ethiopian federal forces. Although this is denied by Eritrea, Tigray state forces have fired rockets into the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Mekele has also fired rockets at the airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar in Ethiopia’s Amhara state, whose local forces have joined the conflict on the side of the central government. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

The Andes
peru protester

Peru: after deadly repression, protesters win a round

Following an outburst of angry protest across the country, Peru’s third president in less than a week was sworn in, with a coalition cabinet aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of chaos. The crisis was set off by the impeachment of President MartĂ­n Vizcarra, who had been investigating corruption by the hard-right Fujimorista bloc in Congress—and whose removal was assailed as a “legislative coup.” The new interim president, former Congressional leader Manuel Merino, was perceived as a pawn of the hard right; demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima and other cities after his inauguration. In two days of repression by the National Police, two young protesters were killed, more than 200 injured, and two more listed as “disappeared.” Merino and his cabinet stepped down, leaving the country without a president for nearly 24 hours before Congress finally agreed to approve a replacement. This is Francisco Rafael Sagasti, a first-term congressman representing Lima. Although Sagasti is from the center-right Partido Morado, his installation is being seen as a victory for the protesters. He took office with an homage to the slain demonstrators, praising them for having “marched to defend democracy. (Photo: Revista Ojozurdo)

North America
federal police

Trump preparing post-election coup: deal with it

Ten days after the Associated Press called the election for Biden, cracks are finally beginning to emerge in the consensus that he will be allowed to take office without a fight. Trump, refusing to concede and incessantly tweeting about how he “WON THE ELECTION,” still controls the state apparatus—and, in league with the more sophisticated minds of Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is clearly preparing it to resist a transfer of power. Despite Biden’s own seeming denialism about this reality, the odds that he will actually be inaugurated on Jan. 20 are diminishing each day. (Photo via CrimethInc)

North Africa
western sahara

Polisario declares end to Western Sahara truce

The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario’s armed wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)

Central Asia
East Turkistan

ETIM dropped from US ‘terrorist’ list: how real?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he is revoking the “terrorist organization” designation of the supposed “East Turkestan Islamic Movement”—an entity that may not actually exist in any organized sense but has been used to justify China’s mass detention of the Uighurs in Xinjiang region. Reaction has been perfectly predictable. The Washington-based Uighur Human Rights Project called Pompeo’s decision “long overdue” and a “definitive rejection of China’s claims.” It was likewise applauded by the DC-based self-declared East Turkistan Government in Exile. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of “backpedaling on international counter-terrorism cooperation,” and expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the US decision.” (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

The Amazon
amazon

Brazil carbon emissions rise as Amazon burns

Brazil’s carbon emissions surged last year due to rising deforestation in the Amazon, jeopardizing the country’s commitments under the Paris climate accord, an environmental group warns in a new study. Brazil spewed a total of 2.17 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019, an increase of 9.6% over 2018, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory. That coincided with the first year in office for President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic who has presided over a sharp increase in forest-clearing and wildfires in the Amazon. (Image via Veganist)