Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

France prepares more troops for Sahel

At a meeting with leaders of five West African nations, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to send 220 more troops to fight growing militancy in the Sahel. The increase is unlikely to be welcomed by aid groups, which have called for civilians to be prioritized in responses, and criticized the region’s growing militarization. Meeting in the southern French city of Pau, the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed to step up military cooperation, combining their respective forces under a single command structure, to be called the Coalition for the Sahel. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Iran
Syria shepherds

Syria: ‘retaliatory’ massacre after Soleimani killing

More than 20 shepherds were killed in eastern Syria, with pro-opposition activists claiming that Iran-backed militias were responsible. The shepherds were slain in the Maadan area, on the border of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces, and also near the line between territory held by the Assad regime and that held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The regime is being massively backed by Iranian forces, and Iran-backed militia units had establsihed checkpoints along the border of the zones of control. The media-activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently claimed that the shepherds were shot and stabbed in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Damascus state media blamed the massacre on ISIS. Soleimani’s elite Quds Force intervened in Syria to prop up the Assad regime along with Russia in 2015.  (Photo: EA Worldview)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces—and Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

UN rights office protests Trump military pardons

A spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that he is “very concerned” by President Donald Trump’s pardons of two army officers and restoration of rank of a Navy SEAL. The president granted full pardons to two officers accused of killing noncombatants or disarmed captives, and restored rank to a SEAL accused of posing with the body of a slain fighter in Iraq. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, said the pardons sent “a disturbing signal to militaries” around the globe, noting that international law requires the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, and that the pardons “simply void[ed]” the legal process. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Afghanistan
Afghan paramilitary

CIA-backed Afghan forces commit ‘grave’ abuses

Human Rights Watch charges in a new report that US Central Intelligence Agency-backed Afghan forces have committed summary executions, disappearances, attacks on medical facilities, and other “grave” offenses. These paramilitary forces are officially under the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), but have been recruited, trained, equipped and overseen by the CIA. The CIA provides logistical support, as well as intelligence and surveillance for targeting during “kill-or-capture” operations. US special forces personnel, usually Army Rangers, often are deployed alongside the paramilitary forces. (Photo: IRIN)

Iraq
Sinjar

Iraq: Turkish jets attack Yazidi villages

The Yazidi village of Bara in northern Iraq was struck by Turkish warplanes for the second time in two days, injuring at least three. There were also strikes on the nearby village of Khanasor, targeting a base of the Shingal Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia operating in the area. The YBS played a key role in liberating the area from ISIS after the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. Turkey calls the YBS an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and justifies its strikes by claiming the area is host to PKK positions. (Photo: Provisional Government of Ezidikhan)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia anarchists

Indonesia: inauguration amid revolt, repression

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term amid an official ban on protests, and Jakarta’s streets flooded with military troops. The inauguration was preceded by a wave of mass protests, led by students but joined by labor unions and radicalized anarchist youth. The demonstrations were sparked by a new law that weakens Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, and another instating such moralistic measures as a ban on extramarital sex. But anger was also directed at plans for a tough new criminal code, at troops mobilized to put down unrest in Papua region, and failure to stem forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo now causing toxic haze across Southeast Asia. (Photo: Anarchist Communist Group)

Syria
troops return to Syria

Trump makes grab for Syrian oil-fields

A US military convoy was spotted headed back into Syria from Iraqi territory—just days after the US withdrawal from northern Syria, which precipitated the Turkish aggression there, had been completed. The convoy was traveling toward the Deir ez-Zor area, presumably to “guard” the oil-fields there, now under the precarious control of Kurdish forces. Following up on President Trump’s pledge to secure the oil-fields, Defense Secretary Mark Esper now says that the troops being mobilized to Deir ez-Zor “will include some mechanized forces.” Despite the talk of protecting the fields from ISIS, it is Russian-backed Assadist forces that are actually now also advancing on Deir ez-Zor from the other direction. So a show-down appears imminent—with the Kurds caught in the middle. (Photo: Rudaw)

Syria
Kurdish protest

Syria: confusion, anger as US troops withdraw

US troops hastened their withdrawal from Syria, amid the anger of local Kurds and confusion over the future status of American forces in the area. Kurdish residents attempted to block a convoy of withdrawing US forces, with local youth pelting the vehicles with stones and rotten vegetables. But the Pentagon is now saying a remnant force of some 200 troops may remain—not to protect the Kurdish population from the Turkish aggression, but to help secure the Kurdish-held oil-fields from falling into the hands of ISIS. Trump actually broached turning the oil-fields over to “one of our big oil companies.” (Photo: ANHA via EA Worldview)

Syria
FSA-YPG

Podcast: against Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in Syria

In Episode 41 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that the Turkish aggression in northern Syria holds the risk of an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. But he recalls the inspiring moment in 2014 when the Kurds and Free Syrian Army were united in a common front against Assad and ISIS. This alliance was exploded by imperial intrigues. The FSA, under military pressure from Assad, accepted Turkish patronage—and Turkey is bent on destruction of the Kurdish autonomous zone. Now, under pressure from Turkey, the Kurds have made an alliance with Assad—who the Arab-led opposition have been fighting for eight brutal years. In the brief “ceasefire” now declared, it is urgent that progressives around the world raise a cry against the Turkish aggression—but with a single standard, also opposing the ongoing Russian and Assadist war crimes. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of 2014 FSA-YPG united front via Rojava Breaking News)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)