Greater Middle East
women life freedom

Neither US imperialism nor Islamic Republic

In Episode 211 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the potential for escalation to world war as Joe Biden retaliates for a deadly drone strike on US forces by an Iran-backed militia with air raids on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. The same militias that have been attacking US forces in Iraq and Syria have also brutally repressed protesters in Iraq, and fought for the genocidal Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Tehran’s paramilitary network has also carried out deadly repression of protests within Iran itself. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, now also coming under US bombardment, are responsible for war crimes against the Yemeni people and repression of their popular movements. It is necessary to oppose Biden’s widening of air-strikes against Iran’s paramilitaries, but also to oppose the Islamic Republic, equally a force of regional reaction. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: London rally in solidarity with Iranian protesters, October 2022. Credit: Sinai Noor via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Sudan

Who’s arming who in Sudan?

The United Arab Emirates denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan’s army, despite a leaked UN document alleging “credible” evidence. The UN report said arms shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to “punch above its weight” in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war. Sudan’s strategic position on the Red Sea has attracted the involvement of several regional powers. Egypt is backing the army, as is, reportedly, Iran. The multiplicity of actors has complicated resolution of a conflict that has displaced 10 million people. (Map: PCL)

Greater Middle East
syria

Was drone strike on US forces in Jordan or Syria?

President Biden is pledging undefined retaliation after three US troops were killed and dozens injured in a drone strike being blamed on one of the Iran-backed militias that have been harassing US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. It is widely reported that the target was a site in Jordan known as Tower 22, which provides logistical support for the US outpost across the border at al-Tanf, Syria—near where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq intersect. However, a communique from the umbrella group for Iran-backed factions known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq did not mention Tower 22, but claimed responsibility for drone strikes on three sites within Syria. These are al-Tanf, the nearby border outpost of Rukban, and Shaddadi—over 200 kilometers away in Hasakah governorate, in Syria’s northeast corner, near oil fields that are under the control of US-backed Kurdish forces. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
Sahel

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a “sovereign decision” to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The statement charges that ECOWAS has “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and is now “under the influence of foreign powers.” All three countries are led by military juntas after undergoing coups d’etat, which resulted in their suspension from the bloc. All three countries have also moved closer under their respective military regimes to Russia, whose Wagner Group mercenary force is backing up a new Malian government offensive against Tuareg separatist rebels. (Map: Wikivoyage)

The Amazon
PataxĂł

Brazil to back indigenous group in deadly land dispute

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva vowed to provide the indigenous PataxĂł HĂŁ HĂŁ HĂŁe people of Bahia state with federal support in a land dispute with farmers who are encroaching on their territory. The dispute led to the death of an indigenous leader in a confrontation with armed farmers; her brother, a traditional indigenous chief, was also shot but survived after undergoing surgery. Others suffered non-deadly injuries in the clash at Itapetinga municipality, including a broken arm. (Photo: Povos Indigenas no Brasil)

Greater Middle East
Iraq

More US troops to Iraq?

An Iraqi military official denied reports of a deployment of more US troops to the country, asserting that Baghdad does not need foreign forces. CBS News reported that 1,500 troops from the New Jersey National Guard are being deployed to Iraq and Syria to join the US-led coalition established to fight ISIS. This would constitute the largest reserve deployment out of New Jersey since 2008. CBS cited the state’s Gov. Phil Murphy as saying the troops were being mobilized for Operation Inherent Resolve. But the report was refuted by Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, the head of Iraq’s Security Media Cell—a body that officially cooperates with the US-led coalition to counter online disinformation. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

The Andes
colombia

Colombia: 181 social leaders murdered in 2023

The Colombian Ombudsman’s Office (DefensorĂ­a del Pueblo de Colombia, DPC) reported that 181 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in 2023. While the report acknowledges a 16% decrease in cases compared to 2022, with 34 fewer deaths, the DPC remains concerned about the ongoing risks faced by those operating in regions affected by internal armed conflicts. The most affected social sectors include indigenous groups, peasants, Afro-descendants, LGBTIQ+ individuals, and the human rights community. Notably, three departments—Cauca, Antioquia, and Nariño—accounted for 41% of the cases, with Cauca being the most affected at 36 cases. (Map: PCL)

Greater Middle East
syria

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux)

The Pentagon carried out air-strikes on Iran-backed militia forces in Iraq in retaliation for a drone attack on a US airbase in Erbil, while a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed in a presumed Israeli strike in Syria. Israel continues to trade cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, while Yemen’s Houthi armed movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks targeting the Israeli port city of Eilat. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel is now fighting on “seven fronts”—Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. (Image: Pixabay)

Europe
ICC

Russia: ex-GRU officer to testify before ICC

Former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Salikov arrived in the Netherlands to testify as a witness at the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding Russian war crimes. Salikov took part in operations in eastern Ukraine as an officer of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) starting in 2014, and later served as a senior instructor for the private military company Wagner in Syria. In 2022, he was a commander in the private military company Redut during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Salikov admitted to witnessing crimes against civilians, including child abductions. (Photo: OSeveno/WikiMedia)

Africa
Daouda Diallo

Burkina Faso’s leading rights activist ‘disappeared’

Regional NGO alliance the People’s Coalition for the Sahel is demanding the immediate return alive of human rights defender Daouda Diallo, secretary general of Burkina Faso’s Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC). The CISC announced that Diallo was abducted on a Ouagadougou street by at least four unidentified men in civilian clothes. Diallo’s CISC has been raising the alarm about ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso under the military regimes that have been in power since a January 2022 coup. It is believed Diallo may have been “requisitioned” by the armed forces to participate in the very counterinsurgency campaign that his group has been protesting. (Image: CISC via OHCR)

Southeast Asia
NTF-ELCAC

UN call to disband Philippine ‘counter-insurgency force’

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry, called for the disbandment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which he called a “counter-insurgency force” in the Philippines. In a press conference held after his 10-day trip to the Philippines, Fry stated that the NTF-ELCAC has “operated with impunity” and that an independent investigation into the group is necessary. The trip, which was meant to assess how climate change is impacting human rights in the Philippines, began to focus on the NTF-ELCAC as several local rights groups brought attention to its involvement in violence against land defenders and opponents of extractive industries. The group is accused of “red-tagging,” in which those resisting projects are accused of being fighters or supporters of the communist insurgency, effectively making them targets. (Photo: Ryomaandres/Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Sudan

Is Sudan about to split in two?

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are ousting the army from military bases across the western Darfur region, leading to fears the country will be split in a similar way to neighboring Libya, which is ruled by rival governments. Even as the RSF has engaged in talks with the army in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, the group has launched attacks on the capitals of three of Darfur’s five states, leading to mass displacement and large civilian casualties. Last month, it took full control over Nyala and Zalingei (the capitals of South Darfur and Central Darfur), while last week it seized the main army base in West Darfur’s El Geneina. Over 1,000 people from the Masalit ethnic group were reportedly killed by RSF and allied militia fighters during the West Darfur takeover, which may amount to the worst civilian atrocity since Sudan’s current war erupted in April. RSF leaders are now threatening to seize El Fasher in North Darfur, which has been a safe haven in recent months, and has attracted hundreds of thousands of displaced people. (Map: PCL)