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)

North Africa
Sudan rebels

Internationalization of Libya war

A senior UN official charged at a press conference in Munich that numerous countries are violating the Libya arms embargo and must be held accountable. UN Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams said that “the arms embargo has become a joke.” The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, has been fighting with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) for control of Tripoli since April of last year. Russia, Egypt and the UAE are supporting the LNA, while Turkey supports the GNA. Foreign powers are violating the arms embargo “by land, sea and air,” Williams said. A UN report also accuses Haftar of bringing in Sudanese rebels from Darfur to fight for the LNA, while Turkey is accused of importing Syrian rebels to fight for the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa
Libya

UN calls for accountability in Libya air-strikes

A report published¬†by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office reveals that at least 53 migrants and refugees were killed in the July 2019 air-strikes on the Tajoua detention center outside Tripoli. Those killed were determined to be citizens of Algeria, Chad, Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.¬†The strikes were found to have been conducted by aircraft belonging to a “foreign state” that might have been under the command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) or operated under the command of that foreign state in support of the LNA. The report found that in addition to the internal conflict in Libya, a “parallel situation of international armed conflict” may also exist between outside states supporting the LNA and rival Government of National Accord (GNA). (Map: CIA)

Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”‚ÄĒand turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces‚ÄĒand Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

North Africa
drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago.¬†(Photo of¬†Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

Syria
Russian missile

Russia admits: Syria is test war for weaponry

Russia has effectively used the Syrian war to perfect weaponry, Moscow’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu boasted. Russia intervened in support of the Bashar Assad regime in 2015 and has since been held responsible for some of the most devastating aerial bombings experienced by civilians since the onset of the conflict more than eight years ago. Shoigu said around 300 weapons had been “fine-tuned” through the Syria intervention, including the Kalibr cruise missile, generally launched from Russia’s war fleet off Syria’s¬†coast. Previous to use in Syria, Shoigu said, technical difficulties meant the Kalibr missile often missed targets, but that is no longer the case. (Photo of¬†Vityaz¬†missile launcher via Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
Ukraine

Trump’s phone call: the view from Ukraine

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has finally announced an official impeachment inquiry after reports surfaced that Donald Trump called on a foreign power to intervene in the upcoming election. Trump placed a hold on $391 million in aid to Ukraine just over a week before a July phone call in which he apparently urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden‚ÄĒthe son of former US Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s likely opponent¬†in next year’s race. This pretty clearly constitutes use of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip‚ÄĒor an outright bribe. This is not the first time Ukraine’s internal war has become a football in American politics. (Map via¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library Map Collection)

Europe

Russia completes Crimea-Ukraine border wall

Russia completed a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea’s border with mainland Ukraine. The fence, more than 60 kilometers long, is topped with barbed wire and equipped with hundreds of sensors. Russia’s FSB security agency called the fence a “boundary of engineering structures,” and said it is necessary to prevent “infiltration attempts by saboteurs,” also citing traffic in drugs, arms and other contraband. The statement boasted of “the most complicated system of alarm sensors in the Isthmus of Perekop,” the stretch of land where annexed Crimea borders the Ukrainian mainland. (Photo via¬†–†–ė–ź –Ě–ĺ–≤–ĺ—Ā—ā–ł)

Central America

UN protests Nicaragua ‘anti-terrorism’ law

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. The OHCHR noted that the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. (Poto via Noticiias ONU)

Central America

Podcast: Nicaragua and political deja vu

In Episode 10 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the re-emergence in the news of three figures associated with the drama that played out over revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua then, is again today, and just faced massive protests calling for his ouster. Oliver North, who headed the Reagan White House covert operation to destabilize Nicaragua's Sandinista regime back then, was just named as head of the National Rifle Association. And Luis Posada Carriles the right-wing Cuban terrorist who was part of North's private spy network back then, just died. Historical ironies abound. North, who supported a counter-revolutionary terrorist network in Nicaragua (the "contras"), now baits nonviolent gun-control activists as "terrorists." Ortega, whose government distributed land to the campesinos in the '80s, is now seizing land from campesinos for his monstrous inter-oceanic canal plan. And the conspiracy theory popular among the NRA's white heartland base about the government preparing to disarm the populace and detain resisters in military camps has its roots in the actual FEMA martial law plan drawn up by Oliver North, to be implemented in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua—with Central American refugees to be detained in military camps. A final irony is the NRA-Russia connection, which comes as Nicaragua is cooperating with a resurgent Russian military presence in the Caribbean. Vladimir Putin recently became the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Nicaragua. So is it possible that we are today so far through the proverbial looking glass that Oliver North and Daniel Ortega are now on the same side? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: Wikipedia)