Greater Middle East
Bab al-Mandab

Houthis vow to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

The leadership of Yemen’s Houthi armed movement issued a statement saying they would not halt their military operations in the Red Sea unless Israel stops its “genocide crimes” in Gaza and allows humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. The move comes despite the US announcement of a new naval coalition to counter the attacks. The Houthis, backed by Iran, have launched over a dozen attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began in October. A range of drones and ballistic missiles have been deployed against vessels in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, or Gate of Tears, which separates the Horn of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula—a chokepoint for global trade. Shipping firms have already started to pull their vessels from the Red Sea route, opting for the much longer passage around Africa. The closing of the Red Sea to shipping has obvious implications for the price of oil and the ongoing worldwide food and energy crisis. (Image: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

Southeast Asia
NDFP

Philippines: agreement with rebels to reset peace talks

In a joint statement, the Philippine government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) announced an agreement to reset peace negotiations in an attempt to end a 54-year-long conflict. The agreement, facilitated by Norway, was signed in Oslo by representatives of both President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and the NDFP. The statement cited “socioeconomic and environmental issues,” as well as “foreign security threats facing the country” as reasons for the re-opening of negotiations. Talks last stalled in 2017 when then-president Rodrigo Duterte broke off a peace process and declared the NDFP-affiliated New People’s Army a “terrorist organization.” (Image: NDFP flag via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Sudan for Ukraine

Ukrainian special ops against RSF in Sudan: report

Ukrainian special forces were likely behind a series of drone strikes and a ground operation directed against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) near Sudan’s capital Khartoum, a CNN investigation has found. An unnamed military source in Kyiv told CNN: “Ukrainian special services were likely responsible.” The RSF, which took up arms against the ruling junta in an evident effort to derail Sudan’s planned democratic transition in April, is believed to be backed by Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group. (Photo: Sudan Tribune)

Africa
OLA

Ethiopia: peace talks with Oromo rebels

Preliminary peace talks between Ethiopia’s government and the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) opened on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. The confidence-building discussions, mediated by Kenya and Norway, are aimed at paving the way for future negotiations to end the five-year conflict. The OLA, labelled a “terrorist organization” by Addis Ababa, says it’s fighting for greater autonomy for the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s biggest but historically marginalized ethnic group. Violence has surged in Oromia following a peace deal in November that ended the war in northern Tigray. The OLA is accused of targeting ethnic Amharas who live in Oromia, while militias from the Amhara region—which borders Oromia—have killed Oromo civilians. (Photo via Addis Standard)

Europe
Nordstream

Nord Stream pipeline sabotage: rush to judgment

Ukraine is denying involvement in September’s attack on the Nord Stream pipelines following a New York Times report citing anonymous US officials to the effect that an unnamed “pro-Ukrainian group” was to blame. Russia’s online partisans are meanwhile hyping a piece by Seymour Hersh, similarly citing anonymous officials to the effect that the attack was a US covert operation. Rarely has there been a more blatant case of the cyber-commentariat deciding what to believe on the basis of political convenience. (Map: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
Chad

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle II

In Episode 147 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the recent statement from the UN Environment Program that “only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.” Studies from similarly prestigious global bodies have raised the prospect of imminent human extinction. An International Energy Agency report released last year warned that new fossil fuel exploration needed to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Adoption of new technologies and emissions standards does mean that CO2 emissions from energy generation (at least) are likely to peak by 2025. But the IEA finds that this would still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 C above pre-industrial levels by century’s end—exceeding the Paris Agreement limits, with catastrophic climate impacts. And the catastrophic impacts, already felt in places like Chad and Cameroon, win but scarce media coverage. Climate-related conflict has already escalated to genocide in Darfur. Climate protests in Europe—at oil terminals and car shows (as well as, less appropriately, museums)—do win some attention. But the ongoing resistance to oil mega-projects in places like Uganda and Tanzania are comparatively invisible to the outside world. The dire warnings from the UN and IEA raise the imperative for a globalized resistance with an explicitly anti-capitalist politics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

Europe
Nordstream

Russia ‘weaponizes’ gas supplies to Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the flow of natural gas to Germany and other European markets via the Nord Stream pipeline, calling it a three-day shut-down for maintenance. But Western governments charge that Russia is “weaponizing” gas supplies amid the Ukraine war. Days earlier, Germany’s government broached allowing the blocked Nord Stream 2 pipeline to begin pumping Russian gas. Wolfgang Kubicki, vice president of the Bundestag, said the move is necessary so “people do not have to freeze in winter and that our industry does not suffer serious damage.” His comment prompted a harsh response from Kyiv, where Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “addiction to Russian gas kills.” (Map: Wikipedia)

Africa
Sudan

Wagner Group named in massacres on Sudan-CAR borderlands

Russian mercenaries are accused of carrying out a series of deadly attacks on artisanal miners in the lawless border zone between Sudan and the Central African Republic, in an apparent effort to establish dominance over outlaw gold mining operations with allied paramilitary factions. Dozens are said to have been killed in attacks on mining camps this year, allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group. Witnesses interviewed by The Guardian described “massacres” and looting by Wagner gunmen. The “Troika” diplomatic group that helps oversee the Sudan peace process released a report in March charging that the Wagner Group is engaged in illegal gold mining in collaboration with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group backed by the Sudanese regime. Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement denying the presence of the Wagner Group in the country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Planet Watch
fracking

Ukraine war windfall for US fracking industry

US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and “strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine.” The press release states: “The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward.” This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry. Environmental group Global Witness reacted with alarm to the announcement, stating: “If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether.” (Image: FracTracker)

Syria
Aleppo

End impunity for chemical weapons use in Syria

The United Nations’ top disarmament official stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. “Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn “in the strongest terms” any use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet the country has seen continued chemical attacks since then. In a new report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) summarized 19 “outstanding issues” that remain, six-and-a-half years after the Bashar Assad regime claimed that it had handed over all chemical agents and destroyed all facilities. The OPCW expressed concern that at least one chemical weapons production facility in the country remains operational. (Photo of ruins of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were used in 2017: OCHA/Halldorsson via UN News)

Planet Watch
Line 3

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

As the year comes to a close, Native American activists and their allies in Minnesota are launching a weekly protest vigil against the planned Line 3 pipeline, that would bring more Canadian shale-oil to US markets. The self-proclaimed “water protectors” pledge to continue the campaign into the winter. The Conservation Council of Western Australia meanwhile launched legal challenge against approval of the new Burrup Hub liquified natural gas facility, asserting that it is the “most polluting fossil fuel project ever to be proposed in Australia,” and “undermines global efforts [to mitigate climate change] under the Paris Agreement.” While Denmark has pledged to end North Sea oil exploitation by 2050 as a step toward meeting the Paris accord goals, other Scandinavian governments remain intransigent. The Supreme Court of Norway has upheld a judgment allowing the government to grant oil licenses in new sections of the country’s continental shelf. The decision was challenged by environmental groups including Nature & Youth Norway, who claimed that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. (Photo: Stop Line 3)

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)