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 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)

Palestine
Mitzpe_Kramim

Israel high court: settlement must be removed

The Supreme Court of Israel ruled that a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank had been built on land that was privately owned by Palestinians, and as a result, the settlement must be removed. The case involved the settlement of Mitzpe Kramim, an outpost in the Jordan Valley built 20 years ago. The settlers claimed they had been granted authority to build there by the Israeli government. Palestinian plaintiffs filed suit in 2011, arguing that they were the legal owners of the land and the construction undertaken by the settlers was illegal. The court has given the government 36 months to arrange for the removal of the settlers to alternative housing. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that his government will “exhaust all processes in order to leave the residents in their place.” (Photo via Peace Now)

North America
nazi krishna

Hare Krishna Nazis (yes) strike in Los Angeles

A banner with the phrase “THE JEWS WANT A RACE WAR” was hung from an overpass above the heavily trafficked Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. An accompanying banner plugged the perpetrators’ website, GoyimTV.com. The site prominently displays a video of their followers standing on the overpass with the banners. The especially surreal twist is the evident involvement of some renegade Hare Krishna devotees. The site heavily promotes the vloggery of one Mukunda Dasa, a white Krishna convert who spouts an amalgam of Hindu and Nazi propaganda and imagery. This creepy convergence is not as strange as it may superficially seem, given the Hindu fascism of India’s ruler Narendra Modi. (Photo via JTA)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: controlled elections amid deepening crisis

To nobody’s surprise, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s bloc won a majority of seats in the country’s parliamentary election, dismissed as a farce by the exiled opposition. As in the presidential elections that confirmed Assad’s hold on the presidency in 1994, millions displaced by the war were not able to vote. The elections were held amid a deepening economic crisis, with the UN noting a 200% food price hike in under a year and warning of widespread hunger. Russia and China meanwhile continue to use their veto on the Security Council to block aid deliveries to opposition-held areas. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Palestine
jordanvalley2

UN rights chief: West Bank annexation ‘illegal’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Israel to halt its efforts to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel plans to annex settlements in the West Bank, as well as areas of the Jordan Valley, in the coming days. Bachelet said that, regardless of how much land Israel tries to annex, such a move is illegal. She added that while the consequences of annexation would be hard to predict, “they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.” (Photo: Ma’an News Agency)

Palestine
Rabin Square

Mass rally in Tel Aviv against West Bank annexation

A joint Jewish-Palestinian rally against Israeli plans for annexation of West Bank settlements drew thousands to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List of Arab-led parties, told the crowd, “We are at a crossroads. One path leads to a joint society with a real democracy, civil and national equality for Arab citizens… The second path leads to hatred, violence, annexation and apartheid. We’re here in Rabin Square to pick the first path.” US Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the rally via video conference, saying he was “heartened” to see Arabs and Jews demonstrating together. (Photo: +972)

Syria
syria occupied

Has Assad outlived usefulness to Putin?

The Russian International Affairs Council, an official diplomatic think-tank, issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Russian news agency TASS suggests that Moscow fears a repeat of the “Afghan scenario” in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. (Photo via Syria Call)