Syria
Idlib

Idlib demonstrators revive Syrian revolution

Reviving Friday demonstrations that were a tradition of the Syrian revolution, activists in besieged Idlib province in the north filled the Idlib city center, flying the Free Syria flag, chanting slogans against the Assad regime and Russia, and demanding international action against the ongoing bombardment of the province. The demonstrators especially expressed sympathy and support for the displaced from Maarat al-Nuaman, a town which has come under especially intense bombardment. The Assad regime and Russia launched their bombing campaign in April, violating the “de-escalation” zone deal reached between Russia and Turkey. Since then, some 700,000 people have been forced to flee. (Photo: OrientNet)

Iran
Iran protests

Podcast: solidarity with Iran —the people, not the state

In Episode 46 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the racist imperial narcissism in coverage of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani—all of which (left, right and center) is solely concerned with whether he was responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Americans.” Safely invisible is the reality that Soleimani and his militia networks were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. Iranian forces in Syria have been carrying out a campaign of sectarian cleansing, with Shi’ite militia leaders usurping the lands of displaced Sunnis. Soleimani’s militias in Iraq have meanwhile been serially massacring protesters. Over this same period, hundreds of protesters have been killed in state repression in Iran itself. Anti-war forces in the West must not be confused by Trump’s cynical pretense of support for the Iranian protesters. Our opposition to Trump’s war moves must be in explicit solidarity with Iran —meaning the people of Iran, not the state. And that includes solidarity with the struggle of the Iranian people against an oppressive regime. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: @iranprotest2019)

East Asia
Taiwan protest

Taiwan repudiates fascist world order

Following a bitter campaign dominated by “fake news” generated from China and punctuated by sexist personal attacks on President Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent was re-elected, overwhelmingly defeating Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), received the highest total ever recorded for any candidate in a presidential election in Taiwan. With Han and the KMT calling for closer integration with China, the repression in Hong Kong was an inevitable and pressing context in the vote. The populist Han, described as Taiwan’s Donald Trump, cultivated an “everyman” image despite his own lavish lifestyle. But his closeness to Beijing led to fears that the KMT was willing to accept a “one country, two systems” solution for Taiwan—just as this model was collapsing in Hong Kong. (Photo of Workers’ Struggle demonstration in Taipei via New Bloom)

Iran
Syria shepherds

Syria: ‘retaliatory’ massacre after Soleimani killing

More than 20 shepherds were killed in eastern Syria, with pro-opposition activists claiming that Iran-backed militias were responsible. The shepherds were slain in the Maadan area, on the border of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces, and also near the line between territory held by the Assad regime and that held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The regime is being massively backed by Iranian forces, and Iran-backed militia units had establsihed checkpoints along the border of the zones of control. The media-activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently claimed that the shepherds were shot and stabbed in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Damascus state media blamed the massacre on ISIS. Soleimani’s elite Quds Force intervened in Syria to prop up the Assad regime along with Russia in 2015.  (Photo: EA Worldview)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia

China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone off the disputed island of Natuna began leaving the area after days of stand-off. Indonesia deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area, and summoned Beijing’s ambassador to complain. China reportedly sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for shipping lanes. The archipelago falls within China’s “nine-dash line,” covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Iran
asad base

US-Iran brinkmanship: is it still a charade?

Missiles launched from Iran struck various targets in Iraq—primarily al-Asad air-base west of Baghdad, which hosts US forces. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps quickly took credit for the strikes, and the Pentagon said it believed Iran fired with the “intent to kill.” But the facts suggest otherwise. Media reports indicate Tehran gave Baghdad advance warning of the strikes, and the Baghdad regime in turn informed the US, which moved its forces out of harm’s way. In spite of all the predictable misinformation that quicly proliferated on the internet, there were no casualties. Anonymous US and European sources even told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the Iranians were thought to have intentionally targeted the attacks to miss US forces. At a press conference the next day, Trump said nothing about military retaliation, but announced “additional punishing economic sanctions” that will “remain until Iran changes its behavior.” The assassination of Qassem Soleimani was a reckless and dangerous move in the US-Iran game for control of Iraq and the greater region. But a game, no matter how high-stakes and dangerous, is still in the end a game. (Map: Wikiwand)

Mexico
desaparecidos

Mexico: 60,000 ‘disappeared’ in drug war

Mexican authorities announced that an estimated 61,637 people have disappeared amid the country’s drug war. A previous analysis in April 2018 put the figure at just 40,000. The new figure was calculated based on analysis of data from state prosecutors. While the cases analyzed date back as early as the 1960s, more than 97% of the cases have occurred since 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderón began a military crackdown on drug traffickers. More than 5,000 people disappeared last year, according to Karla Quintana, head of Mexico’s National Search Commission. (Photo: WikiMedia)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

North Africa

Who was behind new Tripoli air-strike?

The Presidential Council of Libya’s internationally-recognized government issued a statement condemning the air-strike on Hadba Military College in Tripoli, in which some 30 cadets were killed and many more injured. “The attackers aim to destabilize Tripoli in order to seize power via such repeated terrorist attacks, disregarding the safety of civilians,” the statement read. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord blamed the strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is loyal to the rival government based in Libya’s east and has been besieging the capital for months. Haftar’s forces, in turn, denied responsibility for the attack. (Map: CIA)

East Asia
Tiananmen

China detains activists in year-end crackdown

Over a dozen Chinese lawyers and activists were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019, in a crackdown targeting participants who attended a private pro-democracy gathering in the coastal city of Xiamen, rights groups reported. The meeting had been called to discuss a “democratic transition in China,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Wang Yaqiu. The period around New Year is traditionally when Beijing chooses to arrest prominent dissidents in an effort to minimize international media attention, “so it is not a surprise that they chose this particular time to launch a manhunt of activists.” The meeting involved a small group “peacefully discussing politics in a private space.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

Africa
Darfur

New ethnic conflagration in Darfur

At least 40 were killed and some 30 injured in a new outbreak of inter-communal violence in Sudan’s Darfur region. The fighting erupted east of El-Geneina, capital of West Darfur state, reportedly sparked by the killing of an Arab man near Crendingue, a camp for displaced persons from the Masslit tribe. Most of the dead appear to be Masslit. Thousands more have fled across the border into Chad, fearing attack. Gunmen have reportedly prevented families of the victims from collecting the bodies. and continue to fire in the air. In Sudan’s ongoing pro-democracy revolution, many Massalit youth formed Resistance Committees, and established security patrols around the camp and neighboring villages. Many local Arabs, however, supported the former regime, fueling the current conflict. (Map: Wikipedia)

North Africa

Turkey prepares Libya intervention

The Turkish parliament voted overwhelmingly to send troops to Libya, to back up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, now under siege from an offensive by warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is loyal to the rival government in the country’s east. Lawmakers voted in an emergency session to give Ankara a one-year mandate to deploy forces to the North African country. US President Donald Trump responded to the vote by calling his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warning him against intervening in the Libyan conflict. Weeks earlier, the US State Department issued a statement calling on Haftar to halt his offensive, and also warned against “Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict.” Russia is believed to be backing Haftar. The Libya Observer reports that “random shelling continues to take civilian lives” as Haftar’s forces and “foreign mercenaries” mount an advance on Tripoli’s airport. (Map: CIA)