Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Southeast Asia
mandalay

Burma: urban warfare erupts in Mandalay

Gunfire erupted in the streets of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, as regime troops raided a building where a cell of the incipient armed resistance movement was sheltering. The raid sparked hours of running street battles. Resistance fighters erected barricades of flaming tires to slow the advance of troops. Both the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the rebel People’s Defense Force (PDF) claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their own forces. “We’ve declared war,” the Mandalay PDF said in a statement. “The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here.” (Photo: Myanmar Now)

Syria
Idlib

Syria: regime bombs first responder headquarters

Assad regime forces shelled a White Helmets civil defense center in northwest Syria, killing a rescuer and wounding three others. The destroyed center was in the town of Qastoun in the al-Ghab Plain of western Hama province. Local sources said that Russian-made Krasnopol guided missiles were used, indicating the deliberate targeting of the rescuers. Regime forces have escalated shelling of southern Idlib and western Hama provinces this month, as civilians return to their homes from displaced persons camps near the Turkish border. At least nine people have been killed, a school destroyed, and crops burned. (Photo via EA Worldview)

North Africa
tarhouna_collage

Libya: UK slaps sanctions on Haftar-aligned militia

The UK government imposed sanctions on Libya’s al-Kaniyat militia and its leaders for violations of international law. The militia is reportedly responsible for 27 mass gravescontaining the remains of hundreds of residents reported missing in the Libyan town of Tarhuna, on the southern outskirts of Tripoli. The group, aligned with the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, is additionally held responsible for atrocities such as torture, murder, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance. Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the UK and the US are the two that have imposed sanctions on the militia. A Security Council resolution that would have placed international sanctions on the militia was blocked by Russia last November. (Map: CIA)

The Caucasus
Lake Sev

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan’s forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November’s ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times. (Photo: Albero/Wikimedia Commons via Armenian Weekly)

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)

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)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Iraq
Iraq pipeline

Crisis-hit Iraq mortgages oil to China

Iraq has won an up-front $2 billion infusion from a state-owned Chinese oil company, as it continues to struggle amid the pandemic-triggered collapse in energy prices. After numerous bids to Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO), the deal was clinched by ZhenHua Oil Co, subsidiary of China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco). The deal marks the first in which Iraq has offered a pre-payment for crude, with oil effectively used as security for a loan. According to Bloomberg, SOMO is to supply some 130,000 barrels a day of crude for five years. Norinco is primarily a defense company, with investments in oil and minerals in several countries. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

Greater Middle East
Cumhuriyet

Turkey convicts newspaper editor on ‘terrorism’ charges

Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found Dündar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. Dündar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey’s state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. Dündar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, Dündar fled the country while Turkish authorities ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts. He is now living in exile in Germany. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

North Africa
libya

Libya: Turkish troop presence threat to ceasefire

Libya’s eastern warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), threatened to launch attacks on Turkish forces if Ankara doesn’t withdraw troops and mercenaries sent in to back up the GNA. Haftar’s comments came in response to the Turkish Parliament’s move to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Turkey’s defense minister responded that any attack by Haftar on its personnel would be met with force. “A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces,” Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli. The ultimatum is a threat to the ceasefire that has largely held since it was signed in October. (Map: CIA)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)