Africa
Juba protest

South Sudan: protests after singer’s death

Juba, capital of South Sudan, saw street protests after popular singer Trisha “Cee” Cosmaswas killed when the bici-taxi she was riding in was struck by a truck. At least a score were arrested in the demonstrations, and the local Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) charged that peaceful protesters were swept up by police. A demonstration called by youth group Anataban decried both lawless motorists on the capital’s streets and a lack of emergency services. Tanker-trucks delivering water to districts where residents have no indoor plumbing have been involved in several such incidents. Speaking before his arrest, one activist told local Radio Tamazuj, “The same government that gives foreigners driving licenses, without a street driving test, has failed to provide health services, and many people have died because of water truck accidents.” (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

Syria
syria betrayed

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years after the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful anti-regime protests, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report finding that actions by the Assad regime and its Russian allies over the course of the Syrian war have likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.” The UN and human rights groups have issued such findings repeatedly—to little media coverage. The charge of genocide officially requires the world to act under the Genocide Convention. But the world is no longer even paying attention. (Image: Delawer Omar)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

North America

Did Biden cave to ICE mutiny?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo with “temporary guidelines for enforcement and removal operations” by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving ICE agents discretion on enforcement actions and overturning the “100-day pause on certain removals” instated by President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 20. The move was protestedby the ACLU as a “disappointing step backward.” But litigation was already pending over the “pause.” A federal judge in Corpus Christi had granted a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, in a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had filed a lawsuitagainst the “pause.” After this, ICE agents resumed deportations that had been blocked by Biden’s Jan. 20 order—in open defiance of White House policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government—and is also being aggressively backed by Russia. (Photo via ISS Africa)

Iran
Iran-Missiles

Can Iran nuclear deal be salvaged?

President Joe Biden’s pledge to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal is already deteriorating into a deadlock—a testament to the effectiveness of the Trump-era intrigues that sabotaged the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Biden and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have each traded “You Go First” statements—the White House demanding Tehran return to compliance with the JCPOA and Khamenei insisting the US lift the sanctions that were re-imposed by Trump. There is indeed a case that the US, having abrogated the pact first, should now be the party to “blink” in the stand-off, and lift the sanctions as a good-faith measure. (Image via Wikipedia)

The Andes
yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

Syria
Derik

US forces sent back in to northern Syria?

Two days after President Biden’s inauguration, a large convoy of US military vehicles reportedly entered northern Syria from across the Iraqi border. The convoy, consisting of some 40 trucks and armored vehicles accompanied by helicopters, was reported by Syrian state media, citing sources on the ground. The putative sighting raises speculation that Biden is reversing the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, which had been ordered by Trump in 2019. The report comes as the uneasy peace between Kurdish forces in the region and the Assad dictatorship is breaking down, with new fighting in the town of Qamishli, shattering a de facto power-sharing arrangement. (Photo: North Press Agency)

The Andes
sillazo

Bolivia: Evo Morales warns of new coup

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales, back in his country from exile in Argentina after October’s elections returned his Movement to Socialism (MAS) to power, warned of the ongoing danger of a new coup d’etat and asked his followers to debate how to best defend new President Luis Arce and the “process of change.” The comments came at a meeting of the MAS in Chapare region, Morales’ traditional heartland of support. Recalling his own ouster in November 2019, Morales said: “The issue of the coup is still compelling; it is an ideological, programmatic struggle; it is a cultural, social, communal and, of course, an electoral struggle.” Invoking divided loyalties in the military, he added: “I am also convinced that in the Armed Forces there are not only those who respect and admire the MAS, but there are also anti-imperialist soldiers.” However, he added that “they are not many,” and others have “submitted to the North American empire.” (Photo: Los Tiempos de Cochabamba via Twitter)

Afghanistan
Badakhshan

Did China plan ‘false flag’ attacks in Afghanistan?

India’s Hindustan Times reports that Afghanistan has busted a conclave of 10 Chinese espionage agents that was supposedly “operating a terror cell” in Kabul. Citing unnamed diplomats and security officials, the account claims the spies were in contact with the Haqqani Network, now the inner core of the Taliban insurgency, and were gathering information on the activities of Uighur militants in Badakhshan province. Badakhshan includes Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle” that extends to the border with China’s Xinjiang region, and has been named before as a stronghold of Uighur militancy. The account states: “One view within the Afghan security establishment is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.” ETIM is the supposed Uighur network blamed by Chinese authorities for sporadic armed attacks within the People’s Republic over the past generation, although there is skepticism that it actually exists in any organized sense. (Map via Afghan War Blog)

Oceania
torres strait

Strategic strait at issue in Australia-China rift

Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)