The Caucasus
tovuz

Armenia-Azerbaijan border as regional flashpoint

Several have been killed in ongoing clashes that broke out along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani general is among the dead in the heaviest fighting between the two nations in years. Villages in Azerbaijan’s northern Tovuz rayon (district) have come under artillery fire by Armenian forces, causing property damage. Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting. But some see an Armenian design to involve Russia in the conflict. This time the fighting is not in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia does not have internationally recognized sovereignty. An attack there would fall outside the purview of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. Under Article 4 of the CSTO Charter, an attack on a member state is considered an attack against all members. (Photo: Axar.az)

Planet Watch
warplane

Trump tears up arms control treaties

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure that allows the US and Russia to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others’ territories. Having last year withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the White House is now threatening to similarly abandon New START, the 2010 agreement that limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Iran
asad base

US-Iran brinkmanship: is it still a charade?

Missiles launched from Iran struck various targets in Iraq—primarily al-Asad air-base west of Baghdad, which hosts US forces. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps quickly took credit for the strikes, and the Pentagon said it believed Iran fired with the “intent to kill.” But the facts suggest otherwise. Media reports indicate Tehran gave Baghdad advance warning of the strikes, and the Baghdad regime in turn informed the US, which moved its forces out of harm’s way. In spite of all the predictable misinformation that quicly proliferated on the internet, there were no casualties. Anonymous US and European sources even told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the Iranians were thought to have intentionally targeted the attacks to miss US forces. At a press conference the next day, Trump said nothing about military retaliation, but announced “additional punishing economic sanctions” that will “remain until Iran changes its behavior.” The assassination of Qassem Soleimani was a reckless and dangerous move in the US-Iran game for control of Iraq and the greater region. But a game, no matter how high-stakes and dangerous, is still in the end a game. (Map: Wikiwand)

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)

New York City
James Bay

Podcast: the struggle for James Bay

“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

Iran

Net silence as Iran explodes into protest

Protests erupted in Iran after the government announced a 50% increase in the price of fuel, partly in response to the re-imposition of US sanctions. Spontaneous demonstrations first broke out in Sirjan, but quickly spread to several other cities, including Tehran, where petrol stations were set on fire. The regime quickly responded by imposing a near-total shut-down of the Internet and mobile data throughout the country. Security forces have already killed several protesters, and the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of “decisive” action if the unrest does not cease. (Image: Hajar Morad via Twitter)

Greater Middle East

EU resolution suspends Turkey’s admittance

The European Union adopted a resolution against Turkey's accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament notes ongoing human and civil rights violations and lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentions the "shrinking space for civil society," arrests and suppression of journalists, and dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of refugees and migrants within Turkey's borders. The body noted that Turkey's government has violated the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism. It has also intimidated its citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey. (Map: CIA)

South Asia

Kashmiris under attack across India

As India and Pakistan exchange military strikes in the wake of last week's massive suicide blast in Kashmir, many cities across India report cases of targeted violence against Kashmiri students and businesses by right-wing groups. Members of Yuva Sena, youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena, attacked Kashmiri students in Maharashtra. Colleges in Dehradun and Bhopal expelled Kashmiri students for posting objectionable content on social media about the suicide attack. A video surfaced on social media showing a Kashmiri man being beaten in Kolkata, West Bengal, by a mob which forced him to chant patriotic slogans like "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" ("Mother, I praise thee" and "Victory to Mother India," two phrases appropriated by the Hindu-nationalist right). (Photo via KashmirWatch)

Iran

Saudi nuke deal: Mike Flynn’s revenge?

Revelations of Trump administration efforts to transfer sensitive nuclear material to Saudi Arabia bring into focus the grim implications of the pull-out from the Iran nuclear deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif takes the opportunity to tweet about "US hypocrisy," while the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli security think-tank, gleefully quotes a recent comment by hardline Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami that Tehran possess the "formula" to build a nuclear bomb. The outrage was revealed when the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight issued a report, after receiving whistleblower complaints of "efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and without review by Congress as required by law—efforts that may be ongoing to this day." The report reveals the key figure pushing for the transfers as Trump's hard-right ex-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, who now awaits sentencing on charges of lying to the FBI. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Palestine

Palestinians reject Warsaw Conference

The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: “Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project.” Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting dominated by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.  (Photo: Ma’an)

Southern Cone

Chinese ‘spaceport’ military outpost in Argentina?

Announcement of a joint Chinese-Argentine satellite production company comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility. The Bajada del Agrio facility played a part in tracking China's recent lunar probe, but is overseen by companies that answer directly to the PLA's General Armaments Department. Only personnel authorized by Beijing have access to the facility, arousing much suspicion about the site in Argentina's news media. (Photo via InfoBae)