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)

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)

Africa
Mali

‘False flag’ plot behind Mali mass grave?

The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying after the French military used a drone to film footage that Paris says shows Russian mercenaries burying bodies in a mass grave near a military base. The French government says the bodies were buried outside the base at Gossi, Tombouctou region, in a scheme to falsely accuse its departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. Video from the drone was released after pixelated images appeared on social media of corpses being buried, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, a town to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadi insurgents. The junta acknowledges that numerous militants were killed in the operation. (Map: PCL)

Europe
mariupol

Ukraine: Russian chemical attack on Mariupol claimed

Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which said a substance believed to be sarin gas was sprayed from a drone. The fact that this report emerges from the Azov Battalion, with its notorious far-right proclivities, will doubtless provide an excuse for those predisposed in favor of Russia to dismiss the claims. However, that same day, a far-right militia commander on the Russian side had openly threatened to use chemical weapons on defenders of Mariupol. Immediately dismissing an atrocity claim at Mariupol—or assuming it was a “false flag” by Ukrainian forces against their own people—amid the destruction of the city by Russia’s war machine is perverse and dishonest on its face. (Photo via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
Marib

Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi ‘terrorist’ tag

President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization following the group’s missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates, which leads the anti-Houthi military coalition with Saudi Arabia. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have “catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians.” Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid to Houthi-controlled territory. Violence is meanwhile escalating, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Marib by Mohamed Ghazi/TNH)

Watching the Shadows
killer robot

UN chief calls for action against autonomous weapons

UN Secretary General António Guterres called upon member states to devise “an ambitious plan…to establish restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons” ahead of the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). A coalition of over 65 CCW states has endorsed a proposed ban on lethal autonomous weapons (LAWS). But some member states, including the US and Russia, oppose the ban. States such as the US, Israel, India and France are believed to oppose the ban owing to their heavy investments into the development of AI for military use. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)

Iraq

Cycle of sectarian reprisals in Iraq

A cycle of attacks and counter-attacks in eastern Iraq raises concerns about a return of deadly sectarian violence in the country. Gunmen killed 15 people in the largely Shi’ite village of al-Rashad, Diyala governorate. The attack was blamed on remnants of the so-called Islamic State. Revenge attacks shortly followed on a nearby Sunni village, Nahr al-Imam, including the burning of crops and homes, forcing some residents to flee. The reprisal attacks were said to have included the participation of members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)—a network of Shi’ite militias now formally under the command of the official state security forces. Baghdad sent troops and delegations to the region, but tensions remain high. (Map: MapSof.net)

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)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Pakistan backing Taliban takeover in Afghanistan?

The Taliban announced that they have taken the Panjshir Valley from the incipient National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). In an audio statement from an undisclosed location, NRFA leader Ahamd Masoud pledged to carry on the fight, and called upon Afghans to launch a national uprising against the Taliban. Another NRFA leader, Fahmi Dashti, was reported killed in the battle for the Valley. News sources in India claimed he met his death in a targeted drone strike launched by Pakistan. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
ISIS-K

US collaborates with Taliban against ISIS: it’s official

At least 12 US service members were killed in a combined bomb attack and armed assault at a gate to the Kabul airport, where throngs fleeing the Taliban were desperately crowding. Up to 100 Afghan civilians were also killed, including children. US Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told a press briefing at the Pentagon that the US is coordinating with the Taliban in the effort to maintain “security” in Kabul, saying: “They’ve been useful to work with.” It was also revealed that days earlier CIA director William J. Burns met face-to-face in Kabul with the top Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. The “secret” meeting was reported in the Washington Post. (Photo via Future Center)

Palestine
Daraa

Syria: southern ceasefire breaking down

Fighting has erupted again in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where an opposition-controlled neighborhood is resisting pressure to disarm. Assad regime forces placed the area, Daraa al-Balad, under military siege in late June, and escalated to intermittent shelling of the enclave. A new ceasefire was brokered by pro-regime Russian forces, under which the opposition would begin the process of disarming but maintain some autonomy within the area. However, the ceasefire broke down almost immediately—allegedly due to violations by Iran-backed militias fighting for the regime. Shelling of the neighborhood has since resumed. The UN relief agency UNRWA has especially expressed concern for the some 3,000 Palestinian refugees living in a camp within the besieged area. UNRWA reports that water and electricity are completely cut off inside the camp. (Map: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)