Iraq
Sinjar

The Yezidis, ‘esotericism’ and the global struggle

In Episode 156 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses Peter Lamborn Wilson‘s last book, Peacock Angel: The Esoteric Tradition of the Yezidis. One of the persecuted minorities of Iraq, the Yezidis are related to the indigenous Gnostics of the Middle East such as the Mandeans. But Wilson interprets the “esoteric” tradition of the Yezidis as an antinomian form of Adawiyya sufism with roots in pre-Islamic “paganism.” Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, the divine being revered by the Yezidis as Lord of This World, is foremost among a pantheon that ultimately traces back to the Indo-European gods. Wilson conceives this as a conscious resistance to authoritarianism, orthodoxy and monotheism—which has won the Yezidis harsh persecution over the centuries. They were targeted for genocide along with the Armenians by Ottoman authorities in World War I—and more recently at the hands of ISIS. They are still fighting for cultural survival and facing the threat of extinction today. Weinberg elaborates on the paradox of militant mysticism and what it means for the contemporary world, with examples of “heretical” Gnostic sects from the Balkan labyrinth. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Kurdistan Source)

Greater Middle East
syria

Multiple interventions continue in Syria

An air raid on the convoy of an Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria’s Deir az-Zor province left 14 presumed fighters dead and made brief headlines. There was immediate speculation that the raid was the latest in the small but growing handful of times over the course of the 10-year Syrian war that the US has bombed forces allied with the Assad regime. The strikes did immediately follow the slaying of a US aid worker in Iraq. However, Israel has for years also carried out sporadic air-strikes on similar targets in Syria, and has likewise come under suspicion in this attack. Getting far less media attention are ongoing air-strikes by Russia and the Assad regime on the remaining pocket of rebel control in Syria’s northwest. Just three days before the Deir az-Zor attack, Russian or regime strikes in Idlib province targeted a displaced persons camp, leaving at least seven noncombatants dead—and winning few international headlines. (Image: Pixabay)

Iraq
Bordeaux

Turkey accused of chemical attacks in Iraqi territory

Kurdish communities in cities across Europe held protests demanding action on claims that the Turkish military has repeatedly used chemical weapons in its ongoing air-strikes against strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The Nobel-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) said it found evidence of chlorine and other “improvised chemical agents” during an investigative mission to Iraq. The IPPNW urged international bodies including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to launch formal investigations. The PKK has released the names of 17 guerrillas it says were killed by Turkish chemical attacks in Southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) over the past year. Kurdish news outlets published a video that has been circulating on social media, showing two PKK fighters apparently suffering under influence of a chemical agent. The Turkish defense ministry dismissed the claims as “completely baseless and untrue.” Iraq’s parliament has established a commission to examine the charges. (Photo: ANF)

Iran
KRG

Iran strikes targets in Iraqi Kurdistan

At least 13 people were reported killed in Iranian missile and drone strikes on the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. UNICEF said a pregnant woman was killed and two children were among those injured as one missile struck a school in the refugee settlement of Koya. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had struck Kurdish “separatist terrorists” who backed “riots,” referring to the anti-government protests that have swept the country over the past two weeks. The IRGC named the targeted groups as Komala, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). Komala confirmed that 10 drones landed the Zargwez area, PAK said its headquarters in Sherawa was hit, and the PDKI said its bases in Koy Sanjaq were struck. (Map: UNHCR via ReliefWeb)

Iraq
Rojava

Podcast: Rojava and Ezidikhan in the Great Game

In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey’s first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his “security zone.” There is growing speculation that the US could “green light” this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide at the hands of ISIS in 2014, now face extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone of Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad’s military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Rojava Solidarity NYC)

Iraq
ybs

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq’s Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (Photo: A poster commemorating a slain YBS fighter on a bombed-out building in Sinjar. Credit: TNH)

Greater Middle East
Manjorah

Middle East: ‘peak wheat’ fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon’s government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it’s a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. The food crisis is deepened by a decades-worst regional drought impacting Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Iran. A new assessment on Iran from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) documents water shortages, disappearing wetlands and emptying villages, making the impacts “impossible to ignore.” (Photo of IDP camp in Yemen: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam)

Iran
KRG

Iran claims missile strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for ballistic missile attacks on northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, saying that the strikes targeted an Israeli “strategic center” in the city. Iranian state media reported that the missiles were aimed at “Mossad bases” in Erbil. The IRGC had days earlier vowed to seek revenge against Israel, saying the Zionist state will “pay the price” for killing two of its guards in recent Israeli air-strikes on targets in the Syrian capital Damascus. Erbil’s governor Omed Khoshnaw denied any Israeli military or intelligence presence in the city, calling the accusation “baseless.” The estimated 12 rocket strikes took no casualties, but caused damage to civilian properties and triggered panic among the populace in neighborhoods of Erbil. (Map: UNHCR via ReliefWeb)

Iraq
Iraq

China scores major energy deal in Iraq

Iraq’s Ministry of Oil signed an $8 billion agreement with China’s state-owned Hualu Engineering & Technology to oversee expansion of al-Faw Petrochemical Complex, allowing its refinery to process 300,000 barrels per day of crude. The expansion of al-Faw complex, along the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra governorate, is the largest yet undertaken in the Iraqi energy sector, and is seen as facilitating a new thrust of output by the country’s oil industry. The deal is a “build-own-operate transfer” (BOOT), which means Hualu could gain effective control of the facility.  Hualu is majority-controlled by the giant China National Chemical Engineering Company (CNCEC). (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

Iraq
Iraq mass grave

UN team delivers report on ISIS atrocities in Iraq

The United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq delivered its report to the Security Council, accusing Islamic State (ISIS) actors of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (UNITAD), uncovered evidence of massacres including the deaths of at least 1,000 Shi’ite prisoners at a prison in Mosul in June 2014. The executions had been planned in detail by senior ISIS members. The team also carried out an analysis of battlefield evidence that showed ISIS developed and deployed chemical weapons as part of a long-term strategic plan. The team identified more than 3,000 victims of ISIS chemical attacks to date. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

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 ErdoÄźan’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)