Syria
Kobane

Syria: Turkish drones target Kobani

Two drone strikes targeted the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, after weeks of intermittent shelling of villages in the surrounding countryside. The attacks are apparently being launched from the area of Jarabulus immediately to the west, which is held by Turkish occupation forces and allied militias. According to the Rojava Information Center (RIC), some 35 drone attacks on the Kobani area have already “killed at least 13 people & injured 34 in 2022 alone.” Kobani became iconic in 2014, when the city’s Kurdish defenders waged a heroic resistance against ISIS. But since the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish autonomous zone, known as Rojava, in late 2019, the city has been a precarious enclave of remnant Kurdish control, in an uneasy alliance with Assad regime forces. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Watching the Shadows
khazaria

Podcast: whither Khazaria?

In Episode 123 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the history of Khazaria, the medieval Turko-Jewish empire in what is now southern Russia and eastern Ukraine. While the fate of the mysterious Khazars has won much attention from scholars—and controversy—because of what it may reveal about the origin of the Jews of Eastern Europe, this question also touches on the origins of the Ukrainian people and state. Whatever the validity of the “Khazar Thesis” about the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazim, it is the Ukrainian Jews—such as President Volodymyr Zelensky—who are the most likely to trace a lineage of the Khazars. In 2021, Zelenksy and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law recognizing the cultural and autonomous rights of three indigenous peoples of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula: the Muslim Tatars and the Jewish Krymchaks and Karaites. Of any Jews on Earth, it is these last two groups that have the best claim to the Khazar inheritance—and are now a part of the struggle for a free and multicultural Ukraine, in repudiation of the Russian neo-imperialist project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Fanciful rendering of Khazaria flag via AlternateHistory.com)

Iraq
ybs

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq’s Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (Photo: A poster commemorating a slain YBS fighter on a bombed-out building in Sinjar. Credit: TNH)

Africa
Somalia

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that “government-controlled” Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the “recognized” Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite fo everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Central America
Archipelago of San Andrés

Win for Nicaragua in maritime dispute with Colombia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ruled that Colombia must end its “interference” in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San Andrés. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the “intervention” of another state is contrary to international law. (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
druzbha

Transnistria blasts signal spread of Ukraine war

A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto “Ministry of State Security” in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova’s Russian-backed separatist enclave of Transnistria. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Ominously, the attack came one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow’s war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova, to “give the Russian army access to Transnistria.” The blasts also came on the same day as large explosions in Bryansk, a Russian town near the Ukrainian border which is serving as a key staging area for the invasion. Bryansk is a hub on the Druzhba oil pipeline, and the flames engulfed a petroleum depot. Russian officials are speculating that Kyiv’s forces were behind the blasts, while Ukrainian officials speculate they were Russian “false flag” operations. (Photo of Druzhba blasts: Anonymous Operations)

South Asia
Kashmir

Protests in Baltistan amid Pak political crisis

Pakistan has seen mass mobilizations both in protest and celebration since parliament voted to remove Imran Khan as prime minister. Opposition to Khan has especially been mounting in the remote and contested Himalayan region of Baltistan, with residents demanding the return of properties they say have been usurped by local officials. Protesters accuse the Khan administration of illegal and forceful acquisition of their properties on behalf of “land mafias” dominated by regional oligarchs. (Map via Wikipedia)

Central Asia
russia

Podcast: the looming breakup of Russia

In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin’s criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the “autonomous” republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia’s Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, KalmykiaKamchatka, TatarstanTuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the “destruction forever” of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

Europe
Crimea

Tatars demand return of Crimea to Ukraine

Crimean Tatar community leaders issued a demand that return of the Crimean Peninsula, unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014, be a condition imposed by Kyiv in its talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine. The decision to adopt this demand was taken in a virtual meeting of the Mejlis—the traditional assembly of the Crimean Tatars, which has now been suppressed within Crimea by the Russian occupation forces. “The re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including the republic of autonomous Crimea and Sevastopol, should be an obligatory condition for official negotiations between Ukrainian representatives and the aggressor state,” said the chief of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov. The online meeting of the Mejlis took place ahead of a new round of talks between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Senegal

Senegal: new offensive against Casamance rebels

Senegal’s military has launched a new offensive against a faction of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). The operation follows the death of four soldiers and the capture of seven others in fighting with the MFDC faction led by Salif Sadio, which has remained in arms in defiance of a 2014 ceasefire. A military statement said the offensive aims to “destroy all armed gangs conducting criminal activities” and “preserve the integrity of the national territory at all costs.” Casamance—the narrow southern strip of Senegalese territory sandwiched between Gambia to the north and Guinea-Bissau to the south—has seen a pro-independence insurgency since 1982, making it Africa’s longest-running conflict. Tens of thousands have been displaced, the rural economy is devastated, and large stretches of territory have become no-go zones due to landmines. (Map: PCL Map Collection)

Africa
mali-hunger-displacement

Mali: crisis deepens as foreign forces withdraw

France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year’s coup d’etat. The junta has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State—a nearly 70% increase from early 2020. (Photo of Mali displaced persons camp: The New Humanitarian)

The Amazon
Ato Pela Terra

Brazil: bill to open indigenous reserves to mining

Under the slogan “Ato Pela Terra” (Stand for the Earth), thousands of protesters, including some 150 indigenous leaders from eight ethnic groups, gathered for the biggest environmentalist demonstration ever held in Brazil’s capital, protesting a series of bills dubbed the “death package” by critics. The package being pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro would open indigenous reserves to a wide range of economic activities, including mineral exploitation. This measure, assailed as unconstitutional, is actually opposed by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM), which issued a statement calling it “inappropriate” and warning that it would give legal cover to informal “garimpo” mining in the Amazon rainforest. But Bolsonaro maintains the measure is mandated by the Ukraine war, which has threatened supplies of strategic minerals, including the key fertilizer ingredient potassium. Brazil, the world’s top soy producer, imports 80% of its fertilizer—20% from Russia, its biggest supplier. (Photo via Twitter)