Syria
Aleppo

End impunity for chemical weapons use in Syria

The United Nations’ top disarmament official stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. “Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn “in the strongest terms” any use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet the country has seen continued chemical attacks since then. In a new report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) summarized 19 “outstanding issues” that remain, six-and-a-half years after the Bashar Assad regime claimed that it had handed over all chemical agents and destroyed all facilities. The OPCW expressed concern that at least one chemical weapons production facility in the country remains operational. (Photo of ruins of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were used in 2017: OCHA/Halldorsson via UN News)

North America
capitol

Pro-Trump rioters storm US Capitol

Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington DC on Jan. 6 after Trump supporters rallied by the thousands on the National Mall. President Donald Trump had addressed them in a rambling speech laden with grievances and falsehoods just after noon and encouraged them to move on to the Capitol. As they did so, the House and Senate were evacuated, and the Capitol building and surrounding locations put on lockdown. The rioters breached police lines and security barriers at several points and appeared to roam the Capitol corridors at will. Several broke into the House and Senate chambers and sat unopposed in the chairs of the presiding officers. The scenes were disturbingly reminiscent of the moment in 1814 when invading British forces seized the Capitol and their commanding officer mounted the empty Speaker’s Chair, and asked mockingly, “Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it will say ‘Aye!'” (Photo: @BGOnTheScene)

Afghanistan
Badakhshan

Did China plan ‘false flag’ attacks in Afghanistan?

India’s Hindustan Times reports that Afghanistan has busted a conclave of 10 Chinese espionage agents that was supposedly “operating a terror cell” in Kabul. Citing unnamed diplomats and security officials, the account claims the spies were in contact with the Haqqani Network, now the inner core of the Taliban insurgency, and were gathering information on the activities of Uighur militants in Badakhshan province. Badakhshan includes Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle” that extends to the border with China’s Xinjiang region, and has been named before as a stronghold of Uighur militancy. The account states: “One view within the Afghan security establishment is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.” ETIM is the supposed Uighur network blamed by Chinese authorities for sporadic armed attacks within the People’s Republic over the past generation, although there is skepticism that it actually exists in any organized sense. (Map via Afghan War Blog)

East Asia
Teng Biao

Trump co-opts Chinese dissidents —stirring dissent

Chinese-diaspora opponents of the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship who have swallowed the Trumpian enemy-of-my-enemy kool-aid bait a principled dissident who opposes Trump and the CCP alike as an agent of the latter because he will not toe their reactionary line. The dissident in question is legal scholar and exiled democracy activist Teng Biao, who has faced protests at his New Jersey home. The protesters are followers of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui who now runs conservative GTV Media in a partnership with far-right operative Steve Bannon. Further evidence that there is no more honorable place in this world than to be a dissident among dissidents. (Photo: Princeton Planet)

Europe
RKF Jr

RFK Jr joins neo-Nazis in Berlin protest

Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. “The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany’s Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany’s pandemic restrictions. The protest, which brought out many so-called “Corona-Truthers” who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative fĂĽr Deutschland and openly neo-Nazi NPD. Some carried signs reading “Trump, please help,” and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism.” (Photo via Daily Kos)

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)

East Asia
Wuhan police

Another independent journalist arrested in Wuhan

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city one day after she published a video critical of the government’s countermeasures to contain the virus. The Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code. (Photo: China News Service via Wikimedia Common)

Watching the Shadows
conspiranoia

Podcast: COVID-19 and conspiracy theory

In Episode 51 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the dangerous, irresponsible and politically weaponized claims being avidly propagated about COVID-19. In addition to paving the way for Facebook and other platforms being given greater power to censor content, these claims serve to delegitimize any critique of actual abuses of power by the medical establishment, government and corporations. Worse, claims originating from social-media trolls and the yellow press are being weaponized by the US State Departmentand Chinese Foreign Ministry as propaganda in their New Cold War. Whether the virus originated in a Chinese government lab in Wuhan or the US government lab at Fort Detrick is probably unknowable, and of limited relevance to the dilemma of how to resist the fast-consolidating biological police state. Listen on SoundCloud. (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
Syrian refugee children

From revolution to genocide: Syria’s grim anniversary

Nine years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II. (Photo of refugee children on Jordanian border: Peter Biro/ECHO via The New Humanitarian)

Watching the Shadows
Coronavirus

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism

In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a “counter-terrorist” measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country’s north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a “Reichstag Fire” to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Chinese police demonstration video, via Twitter)

East Asia
wenzhou

China: internal resistance to bio-police state

“Citizen journalists” and “netizens” in China who are critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak are being “disappeared”—but online criticism is spreading faster than official censors can contain it, in by far the biggest eruption of dissent under Xi Jinping’s rule. At least one city, Wenzhou, has seen a street protest over the draconian controls the government is instating, in open defiance of the lock-down. Even voices from within China’s political establishment are saying this could be the biggest challenge to the regime’s legitimacy since 1989. (Image via YouTube)

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—the 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—or an outright bribe. This is not the first time Ukraine’s internal war has become a football in American politics. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)