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)

Palestine
Apartheid wall

‘Apartheid’ Israel: semantic implications

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has issued a report with the provocative title: This is Apartheid: A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It documents systematic discrimination against Palestinians in the spheres of land, citizenship, freedom of movement, and political participation—on both sides of the Green Line. It echoes the 2017 findings of the UN Economic & Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in its report, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. But the fact that this time the comparison between Zionism and South African apartheid is being made by an Israeli organization poses a challenge to the increasingly entrenched dogma that all anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. (Photo: Filippo Minelli)

Syria
Derik

US forces sent back in to northern Syria?

Two days after President Biden’s inauguration, a large convoy of US military vehicles reportedly entered northern Syria from across the Iraqi border. The convoy, consisting of some 40 trucks and armored vehicles accompanied by helicopters, was reported by Syrian state media, citing sources on the ground. The putative sighting raises speculation that Biden is reversing the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, which had been ordered by Trump in 2019. The report comes as the uneasy peace between Kurdish forces in the region and the Assad dictatorship is breaking down, with new fighting in the town of Qamishli, shattering a de facto power-sharing arrangement. (Photo: North Press Agency)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)

Africa
Sudan

Sudan: ‘peace’ with Israel, war with Ethiopia?

In a victory for the Trump White House, Sudan officially signed on to the so-called “Abraham Accords,” agreeing to normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel. Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the document in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But leaders of Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition, the Forces of Freedom & Change, have formed an opposition front against the agreement, saying the Sudanese people are not obligated to accept it. Meanwhile, there are alarming signs that the war in Ethiopia is spilling into Sudanese territory. The Sudanese army reported repulsing Ethiopian forces from the contested Grand Fashaga enclave on the border between the two countries. The Grand Fashaga, in Sudan’s breadbasket Gedaref state, is adjacent to Ethiopia’s conflicted Tigray region, and has seen an influx of refugees from the fighting across the border. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

North Africa
Sahrawis

‘Abraham Accords’ betray Palestinians …and now Sahrawis

President Donald Trump announced that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump’s vaunted “Abraham Accords,” which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his “historic decision” to sign the deal, and pledged a “very warm peace” between the two countries. This would indeed be appropriate, as Israel and Morocco are both illegally occupying the territory of a colonized Arab people. Until Trump’s proclamation, not one country on Earth has recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was seized after Spain withdrew from its colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975. Some 60 recognize the exile government that has been declared over the territory by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of the territory’s Sahrawi Arab people. (Photo: Kirby Gookin via Western Sahara Resource Center)

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)

Palestine
Jerusalem

State Department: Jerusalem ‘capital of Israel’

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that “the State Department will allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to request either ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Israel’ as their place of birth on consular documents,” including passports. The announcement is the latest in US pro-Israel policy shifts that began with President Trump’s December 2017 proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The proclamation reversed decades of US policy and drew criticism from the international community. In May 2018, the US Embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Photo: Ma’an News Agency)

Greater Middle East
Levant Basin

Hydrocarbons at issue in Israel-Lebanon dispute

US-mediated talks opened between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon’s coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN. (Photo: US Energy Information Administration)

Iraq
Yazidis

Yazidis call Middle East indigenous alliance

In a meeting hosted by the Yazidi autonomous territory of Ezidikhan in northern Iraq, representatives of tribal peoples and ethnic minorities from across the Middle East and North Africa agreed on a framework for a region-wide alliance of stateless nations struggling for self-determination and autonomy. The meeting at the Ezidikhan seat of Shingal was attended by representatives of the Mandaeans and Zoroastrians as well as Yazidis. Messages of support were also sent by the Shabaks of Iraq, Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Berbers of Libya, and Palestinian Bedouins residing in the state of Israel. Delegates announced formation of a Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Middle East open to all stateless peoples of the region. The Confederation pledges to seek greater recognition for stateless peoples of the Middle East at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to seek redress for persecution, exclusion and genocide. (Photo of Yazidi delegates: Ezidikhan.net)

Palestine
Palestine

Israeli settler gets life for killing Palestinian family

An Israeli court sentenced a Jewish settler to life in prison plus 20 years for murdering a Palestinian family in a 2015 firebomb attack on their home in the occupied West Bank. The district court determined that Amiram Ben-Uliel led a racially-motivated attack on the Dawabsheh home in Duma village, and spray-painted the terms “Revenge” and “Long Live the Messiah” on the home’s walls in Hebrew alongside a depiction of the Star of David. The attack killed Saad Dawabsheh, 32, and Riham Dawabsheh, 27, along with their 18-month-old son, Ali. Then four–year–old Ahmed Dawabsheh was the only family member to survive the attack, with severe burns. Judge Ruth Lorch stated that Ben-Uliel did not commit “a reckless act” in “a spontaneous manner,” but acted in a “meticulously planned” manner “stemm[ing] from racism and an extremist ideology.” (Photo: RJA1988 via Jurist)

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)