Greater Middle East
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)

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Iraq

More US troops to Iraq?

An Iraqi military official denied reports of a deployment of more US troops to the country, asserting that Baghdad does not need foreign forces. CBS News reported that 1,500 troops from the New Jersey National Guard are being deployed to Iraq and Syria to join the US-led coalition established to fight ISIS. This would constitute the largest reserve deployment out of New Jersey since 2008. CBS cited the state’s Gov. Phil Murphy as saying the troops were being mobilized for Operation Inherent Resolve. But the report was refuted by Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, the head of Iraq’s Security Media Cell—a body that officially cooperates with the US-led coalition to counter online disinformation. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

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syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux)

The Pentagon carried out air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Iraq in retaliation for a drone attack on a US airbase in Erbil, while a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed in a presumed Israeli strike in Syria. Israel continues to trade cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, while Yemen’s Houthi armed movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks targeting the Israeli port city of Eilat. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is now fighting on “seven fronts”—Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. (Image: Pixabay)

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Yemen

Yemen: Houthis ‘weaponize water’ in siege of Taizz

In a new report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) charges that both the Houthis and government forces have violated residents’ right to water in the ongoing siege of Taizz, Yemen. For the past eight years, the besieging Houthi forces have cut off the flow from watersheds under their control to the Taizz Local Water & Sanitation Corporation, which manages the city’s water supply and sewage treatment system. These watersheds previously provided 77% of the city’s supply. The government troops that control the city have meanwhile sold the public water from wells within the urban area for their own profit. HRW called upon both parties to “allow Taizz’s local water agency to access, repair, and operate water infrastructure on the front lines and in Houthi-controlled territory.” (Map via PCL)

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Bab al-Mandab

Houthis vow to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

The leadership of Yemen’s Houthi armed movement issued a statement saying they would not halt their military operations in the Red Sea unless Israel stops its “genocide crimes” in Gaza and allows humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. The move comes despite the US announcement of a new naval coalition to counter the attacks. The Houthis, backed by Iran, have launched over a dozen attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began in October. A range of drones and ballistic missiles have been deployed against vessels in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, or Gate of Tears, which separates the Horn of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula—a chokepoint for global trade. Shipping firms have already started to pull their vessels from the Red Sea route, opting for the much longer passage around Africa. The closing of the Red Sea to shipping has obvious implications for the price of oil and the ongoing worldwide food and energy crisis. (Image: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

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Galatasaray

Turkey: vigil for disappeared resumes after five years

A group of Turkish mothers whose sons and daughters were forcibly disappeared in the 1980s and ’90s held a public vigil in Istanbul without police interference. This marked the first time the “Saturday Mothers” group has been allowed to proceed with such an event since police dispersed their last gathering in August 2018. The group’s vigils had persisted for nearly three decades. The vigil was resumed after Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that suppression of the event violated participants’ rights. (Photo via Twitter)

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syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war?

As Israel intensifies air-strikes in the Gaza Strip, a northern front appears to be opening in the war.  Civilians are fleeing both north Israel and south Lebanon as Israeli and Hezbollah forces exchange fire across the border. Following Israeli air-strikes on targets in Syria, drone attacks by presumed Iranian-backed forces hit US military bases and outposts in both Syria and Iraq. The US responded with air-strikes on Iranian Revolutionary Guards positions in eastern Syria. The Iranian military has announced that it will launch large-scale maneuvers, involving infantry, air and naval forces. (Image: Pixabay)

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Yemen

Houthis repress North Yemen nationalist rallies

Houthi de facto authorities carried out a wave of arrests, rounding up scores of largely peaceful demonstrators who gathered to commemorate the 61st anniversary of North Yemen’s 26th of September Revolution, reports Amnesty International. The organization is calling on Houthi authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release all demonstrators held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of assembly.” On the date marking establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962, people took to the streets in cities across North Yemen, including Sana’a, Ibb, and Houdeidah, carrying flags of the republic that was formally disbanded with Yemen’s unification in 1990. (Map via Wikipedia)

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UAE

‘Repressive petro-state’ UAE to host climate summit

Amnesty International joined with over 200 civil society organizations to call upon participating governments of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to address the human rights record and climate policies of the United Arab Emirates. The COP, the annual conference of governments from around the world to discuss climate policy, is to be held in the UAE in December—convened by Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The open letter states: “We support the concerns expressed by climate justice movements that allowing COP28 to be held by the rulers of a repressive petrostate, and overseen by an oil executive, represents a blatant conflict of interest, and threatens the legitimacy of the whole process.” (WildPixar via Jurist)

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Bahrain

Israel and Bahrain: partners in repression

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with the crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, at Gudaibiya Palace in the capital Manama, to discuss boosting trade and diplomatic ties, which were first established in 2020 as part of the so-called Abraham Accords. Cohen said he hoped this would be a precedent for “normalization” of Israel’s relations with other Arab states. Tellingly, the meeting came as Israel and Bahrain are each facing hunger strikes in their prisons, with political detainees protesting harsh conditions and restrictions on their basic rights. (Map: PCL)