Iran
baghdad

Baghdad under pressure on militia repression

One protester was killed and dozens injured as security forces opened fire on a rally in Baghdad, where thousands had gathered to demand accountability in the murder of Iraqi activists and demonstrators. Video footage on social media showed live fire, tear-gas and street-fighting reminiscent of October 2019, when the nationwide uprising first broke out. Since then, almost 600 protesters have been killed and at least 30 activists slain in targeted killings. Many of these have been carried out by paramilitary militias, which were formed to fight ISIS, but have since been used to repress protests. The US has placed sanctions on militias held responsible for internal repression in Iraq, but one senses the real issue for Washington is Tehran’s role in backing this paramilitary apparatus. (Photo via Twitter)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

Iran
Mount Gare

Turkey, Iran in synchronous attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan?

Iraqi Kurdistan saw simultaneous air attacks—from Turkish warplanes on a mountain supposedly harboring PKK guerillas, and (in a far more audacious move) from an Iran-backed militia on the regional capital Erbil. In the latter attack, a barrage of rockets targetted a US airbase outside Erbil’s airport. Awliya al-Dam (Guardians of the Blood) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for the deaths of “the martyred leaders”—an apparent reference to the paramilitary commanders killed in the US drone attack on the Baghdad airport in January 2020. The Turkish strikes targeted Mount Gare, where PKK militants supposedly killed 13 captive Turkish soldiers being held in a cave complex. The PKK, however, said the captives had been killed in earlier Turkish air-strikes on the position. The affair sparked diplomatic tensions between Ankara and the new Biden administration in Washington, which initially refused to accept Turkey’s version of events. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Iran
Iran-Missiles

Can Iran nuclear deal be salvaged?

President Joe Biden’s pledge to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal is already deteriorating into a deadlock—a testament to the effectiveness of the Trump-era intrigues that sabotaged the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Biden and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have each traded “You Go First” statements—the White House demanding Tehran return to compliance with the JCPOA and Khamenei insisting the US lift the sanctions that were re-imposed by Trump. There is indeed a case that the US, having abrogated the pact first, should now be the party to “blink” in the stand-off, and lift the sanctions as a good-faith measure. (Image via Wikipedia)

Iran
ahwaz women

Iran: sweeps target Ahwazi women activists

Rights advocates in Iran’s Khuzestan province, homeland of the marginalized Ahwazi Arab people, report another wave of sweeps and incommunicado detention of local activists. Among those detained in raids by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are Zeinab Sawari, a teacher and prominent Ahwazi advocate for women’s and children’s rights, who had recently been involved in fundraising for victims of the severe flooding that devastated the region this year. Also detained by IRGC agents were Maryam Ameri and Fatema Tamimi, whose homes were searched and ransacked, with computers and extensive archival material confiscated. Maryam and Fatema had worked on Ahwazi cultural programs together, cataloguing traditional folk songs and producing short documentaries about Ahwazi music, lore and history. Azhar Alboghbiesh, a young activist volunteer for the project, was likewise arrested in a raid on her home, in which agents reportedly fired in the air to intimidate her family. All remain in detention at undisclosed locations. (Photo of Azhar Alboghbiesh and Maryam Ameri via Dur Untash Studies Center)

Watching the Shadows
federal police

Podcast: the most dangerous period comes now

In Episode 58 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of pro-Trump rabble threatening insurrection from Michigan to Idaho (where overt neo-Nazism is in evidence) as explicit calls are raised from the far right for “martial law” and nullification of Biden’s election. In this light, the petition to the Supreme Court by “red state” attorneys general was not significant because of its odds for success but as an indication of how the political lines are drawn at this moment. With the attempted “judicial coup” now failing, Trump and his partisans are preparing for Plan B—an actual military coup. The Pentagon purge is clear evidence of this, and the sabre-rattling at Iran may be aimed at fomenting a global crisis that will provide a convenient pretext. It is a failure of America’s progressive forces that #StopTheSteal has become a popular hashtag on the right but #StopTheCoup has not become a popular hashtag on the left. Weinberg urges that we reject the dubious precepts of “American exceptionalism” and start acting like it can happen here—before it is too late. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via CrimethInc)

Europe
NCRI

Belgium: Iranian diplomat on trial over bomb plot

Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and three Iranian-Belgians went on trial in Antwerp, Belgium, marking the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. The four are charged with planning an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. The NCRI is political wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Assadi served at Tehran’s embassy in Vienna and is believed to have been working for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. (Photo of 2018 rally in Paris via NCRI)

Iran
Stratofortress

Will strikes on Iran be Trump’s Plan B?

The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration’s belated initiation of the transition process. But along with the news of Murphy’s capitulation come reports that the US has deployed heavy  bombers to the Middle East, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have conveniently claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in the port of Jeddah. And this all comes just days after the disconcerting news that Trump had gathered his cabinet and advisors for a White House conclave weighing the options for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With his attempted judicial coup failing, Trump’s Plan B could be postponement (read: cancellation) of the presidential transition under pretext of a world crisis of his own making. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Iran
narges

Iran: demand release of imprisoned rights defenders

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for Iran to releaseimprisoned human rights defenders, lawyers and political prisoners, citing COVID-19 concerns. Iran is the country worst-affected by the pandemic in the region, and the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in its prisons create a breeding ground for the virus. Bachelet said, “People detained solely for their political views or other forms of activism in support of human rights should not be imprisoned at all.” After Bachelet’s statement, authorities released activist Narges Mohammadi, a campaigner against the death penalty and former vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center. She was sentenced to prison in 2016 on charges of “forming an illegal group.” The UN called for her release in July after she began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. (Photo of Narges Mohammadi via Twitter)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Iran
#DontExecute

Iran high court suspends execution of protesters

Iran’s Supreme Court suspended the execution of three men who faced charges following the November 2019 anti-government protests. The Revolutionary Court in Tehran had convicted the three of moharebeh (waging war against God), and “destroying and setting fire to public property with the aim of confronting the political system of the Islamic republic.” The high court confirmed their death sentences last week, but suspended the executions following a worldwide online campaign under the hashtag #DontExecute. (Image via Twitter)