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‚ÄĒto 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‚ÄĒand is also being aggressively backed by Russia.¬†(Photo via ISS Africa)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war ‚ÄĒalmost

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 D√ľndar, 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 D√ľndar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. D√ľndar 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. D√ľndar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, D√ľndar 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: 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 ‚ÄĒand 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)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan to investigate possible war crimes

The prosecutor-general of Azerbaijan announced that his office is looking into allegations of war crimes during the recent conflict between his nation and Armenia over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has already raised the alarm about possible war crimes, issuing a statement decrying indiscriminate artillery shelling of populated areas, use of cluster munitions by both sides, and videos on social media that appear to show summary executions of captured Armenian soldiers by Azerbaijani troops. The two nations agreed to a Russian-brokered peace agreement last month, under which several districts that Armenia had seized from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union would be returned by December. (Map: Wikipedia)

North Africa

Libya: will ceasefire really be ‘permanent’?

Libya’s warring factions¬†signed a “permanent ceasefire” agreement, raising hopes of progress toward ending the conflict and chaos that has gripped the country since Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed during a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern forces led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar have been fighting for control of Libya since April 2019‚ÄĒeach backed by a bevy of militias in a war that has seen international powers join the fray and an arms embargoroutinely violated. While violence has subsided in the capital city of Tripoli in recent months, countrywide peace efforts have until now gone nowhere. Acting UN head of mission Stephanie Williams hailed the agreement, hammered out during talks in Geneva, as “an important turning point,” but some have expressed doubts that it can be implemented on the ground. Under its terms, all foreign fighters must leave within three months, and a new joint police force will aim to secure the peace. The ceasefire is to start immediately. (Map: CIA)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

UN experts: refer Yemen war crimes to ICC

A UN group of experts has called on the Security Council to refer human rights violations and war crimes committed in the ongoing Yemen conflict to the International Criminal Court. The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen concluded in a new¬†report¬†that the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Southern Transitional Council are responsible for rights violations including “arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the recruitment and use in hostilities of children.” The report also alleges thatde facto authorities” in the capital Sana’a (the Houthi rebels) are responsible for the same violations. (Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

North Africa
Libya Refinery

Russian mercenaries occupy Libyan oil terminals

Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, his long siege of Tripoli broken by the city’s defenders in June, continues to hold the country’s principal oil terminals, and has established effective control over the Petroleum Facilities Guard. The UN this week brokered a ceasefire between Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, seeking to re-open exports from the terminals. Haftar agreed to the ceasefire after the US threatened sanctions against him. Russia, in turn, is apparently backing Haftar, sending arms and mercenaries to help his forces secure the terminals. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is especially said to be present at Es-Sider terminal, outside the port city of Ras Lanuf. (Photo via¬†Libyan Express)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops.¬†This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances:¬†US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while¬†Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The¬†notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in¬†a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity.¬†(Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)