Greater Middle East
Sahrawis

Podcast: from Palestine to Western Sahara

Benjamin Netanyahu’s gaffe on French TV, displaying a map of the “Arab World” that showed the occupied (and illegally annexed) Western Sahara as a separate entity from Morocco, sparked a quick and obsequious apology from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But the snafu sheds light on the mutual hypocrisy at work here. There is an obvious hypocrisy to Moroccan protests that demand self-determination for the Palestinians but not the Sahrawi, the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Western Sahara. The hypocrisy of Israel is also obvious: Israeli commentators and hasbara agents are the first to play the “whataboutery” game—relativizing the plight of the Palestinians by pointing to that of Kurds, Berbers, Nubians, Massalit and other stateless peoples oppressed under Arab regimes. But, as we now see, they are just as quick to completely betray them when those regimes recognize Israel and betray the Palestinians. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 229 of the CounterVortex podcast. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Kirby Gookin/Western Sahara Resource Center)

Greater Middle East
sahara

Netanyahu’s new map flap: multiple ironies

Israel was forced to apologize to Morocco after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen in a video displaying a map of the Middle East and North Africa—that failed to show the occupied (and illegally annexed) territory of Western Sahara as within the kingdom’s borders. Netanyahu brandished the map in an interview with a French TV channel, showing what he called “the Arab world” in green, a swath of near-contiguous territory from Iraq to Mauritania—contrasting small, isolated Israel, “the one and only Jewish state.” The goof was especially dire because in 2020 Israel joined the US as the only two countries on Earth to recognize Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara, in exchange for Moroccan recognition of the Jewish state under the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords. This was a cozy mutual betrayal of both the Palestinians and Sahrawi Arabs, the indigenous inhabitants of occupied Western Sahara. (Image: Twitter via Middle East Eye)

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Egypt

EU ‘blank check’ for Egypt dictatorship

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are preparing to sue the European Commission over the 7.4-billion-euro aid package extended to Egypt in March, aimed at stopping migration. The deal—similar to others the EU has pursued in recent years—has been criticized for ignoring human rights concerns. “Throwing money at dictators is not migration policy,” one MEP said. Meanwhile, the EU has announced a 1-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon, also aimed at stemming migration. (Map: PCL)

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Egypt

Egypt: hold on presidency consolidated amid repression

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt was sworn in for a third term after being re-elected in a December vote in which he faced no serious challengers. El-Sissi won 89.6% of the vote, running against three virtually unknown opponents. First elected in 2014 (after coming to power in the previous year’s coup d’etat), then re-elected in 2018, el-Sisi was allowed a third term under constitutional amendments passed in a 2019 referendum. In addition to allowing a third run, the reform also extended his terms from four to six years. Another such reform allowing him to stay in office beyond 2030 has been broached. The election took place in an atmosphere of repression, with opposition candidates barred from running and even prosecuted. Hundreds of protesters and regime critics were arrested in the lead-up to the vote. (Photo: Abdelrhman 1990 via Wikimedia Commons)

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syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux redux)

At least 42 people were reported killed in Israeli air-strikes near the Syrian city of Aleppo, allegedly targeting an arms depot belonging to militant group Hezbollah. Those killed included Hezbollah members and Syrian soldiers—as well as civilians, by some reports. Israeli air-strikes in southern Lebanon meanwhile killed 16 people, and one in Israel was killed by a barrage of rockets fired by Hezbollah from south Lebanon. Earlier, a series of air-strikes on Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zor killed 15 people, including a World Health Organization staff member as well as an Iranian military adviser. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for those strikes. But Israel’s intermittent air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Syria have been escalating since the Gaza bombardment began. (Image: Pixabay)

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Ghaziyeh

Lebanon: displacement as Israel intensifies air-strikes

As Israel expands its air-strikes deeper into Lebanon, hitting parts of the country previously considered safe, those already forced to flee the conflict are struggling to get by without jobs or much aid, unsure where to go next if things get even worse. Cross-border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese political and militant group, have been growing since the outbreak of war in Gaza, with almost daily exchanges of fire. According to UN figures, the violence has forced more than 90,000 people to flee their homes inside Lebanon since early October. (Photo: Aftermath of Feb. 19 Israeli air-strikes in south Lebanon town of Ghaziyeh, where Israel said it targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot. Credit: Egab/TNH)

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Yemen

Ecological disaster looms after Houthi ship attack

The internationally recognized Yemeni government issued an urgent plea to the international community following a Houthi attack on the Rubymar, a British-owned cargo ship carrying hazardous materials through the Red Sea. The attack has raised fears of an imminent environmental disaster due to the potential leakage of fertilizer and oil from the abandoned and damaged vessel. Yemen has formed an emergency committee tasked with crafting a plan to mitigate the threat. But the Houthis, who control much of Yemen’s territory, say they will only allow salvage or mitigation efforts in exchange for entry of relief aid into the Gaza Strip. US Central Command reports that a a 30-kilometer oil slick is already spreading from the stricken vessel, foreboding a significant ecological crisis in the area. (Map via PCL)

Greater Middle East
syria

Podcast: Iraq, Palestine, escalation and errata

In Episode 212 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the latest escalation in the Middle East—and continues to note discrepancies in the reportage. US air-strikes on Iraq are said to have targeted the self-declared Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and its constituent militias such as Kataib Hezbollah. But some reports indicate the actual target has often been the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary network integrated into Iraq’s official security services. Meanwhile, insufficiently noted media accounts report “no evidence” to back up Israeli claims of Hamas co-optation of UNWRA, which has led to a devastating cut-off of funds to the UN agency by the Western powers. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Pixabay)

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women life freedom

Neither US imperialism nor Islamic Republic

In Episode 211 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the potential for escalation to world war as Joe Biden retaliates for a deadly drone strike on US forces by an Iran-backed militia with air raids on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. The same militias that have been attacking US forces in Iraq and Syria have also brutally repressed protesters in Iraq, and fought for the genocidal Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Tehran’s paramilitary network has also carried out deadly repression of protests within Iran itself. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, now also coming under US bombardment, are responsible for war crimes against the Yemeni people and repression of their popular movements. It is necessary to oppose Biden’s widening of air-strikes against Iran’s paramilitaries, but also to oppose the Islamic Republic, equally a force of regional reaction. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: London rally in solidarity with Iranian protesters, October 2022. Credit: Sinai Noor via Wikimedia Commons)

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syria

Was drone strike on US forces in Jordan or Syria?

President Biden is pledging undefined retaliation after three US troops were killed and dozens injured in a drone strike being blamed on one of the Iran-backed militias that have been harassing US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. It is widely reported that the target was a site in Jordan known as Tower 22, which provides logistical support for the US outpost across the border at al-Tanf, Syria—near where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq intersect. However, a communique from the umbrella group for Iran-backed factions known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq did not mention Tower 22, but claimed responsibility for drone strikes on three sites within Syria. These are al-Tanf, the nearby border outpost of Rukban, and Shaddadi—over 200 kilometers away in Hasakah governorate, in Syria’s northeast corner, near oil fields that are under the control of US-backed Kurdish forces. (Image: Pixabay)

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Gaza

Podcast: Gaza, Guernica and the Great Game

In Episode 209 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the frightening international escalation set off by the Gaza cataclysm, with Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan all coming under aerial bombardment over the past week, in a cascading regional crisis. The 1937 aerial bombardment of the Spanish town of Guernica by Nazi warplanes shocked the world. Today, what happened there is a near-daily occurrence in countries around the world. And the media (“mainstream,” “alternative” and “social”) are more concerned with how the various actors line up in the Great Power game than the horrific realities on the ground. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: WAFA via WikimediaCommons)

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syria

Jordanian air-strikes on Syria narco-networks

At least 10 people, including children, were reported killed in Jordanian air-strikes in southwestern Syria. Several homes were destroyed in Arman, Suweida province, near the border with Jordan, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. The monitoring group has noted several Jordanian strikes and border raids in recent weeks targeting Iran-backed militias believed to be behind a surge in smuggling into the kingdom, particularly of the amphetamine Captagon. Last week, SOHR reported that five presumed smugglers were killed and 15 others arrested by Jordanian forces after clashes on the border. During the operation, large amounts of Captagon and hashish were confiscated. (Image: Pixabay)