Greater Middle East
Sahrawis

Podcast: from Palestine to Western Sahara

Benjamin Netanyahu’s gaffe on French TV, displaying a map of the “Arab World” that showed the occupied (and illegally annexed) Western Sahara as a separate entity from Morocco, sparked a quick and obsequious apology from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But the snafu sheds light on the mutual hypocrisy at work here. There is an obvious hypocrisy to Moroccan protests that demand self-determination for the Palestinians but not the Sahrawi, the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Western Sahara. The hypocrisy of Israel is also obvious: Israeli commentators and hasbara agents are the first to play the “whataboutery” game—relativizing the plight of the Palestinians by pointing to that of Kurds, Berbers, Nubians, Massalit and other stateless peoples oppressed under Arab regimes. But, as we now see, they are just as quick to completely betray them when those regimes recognize Israel and betray the Palestinians. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 229 of the CounterVortex podcast. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Kirby Gookin/Western Sahara Resource Center)

Greater Middle East
sahara

Netanyahu’s new map flap: multiple ironies

Israel was forced to apologize to Morocco after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen in a video displaying a map of the Middle East and North Africa—that failed to show the occupied (and illegally annexed) territory of Western Sahara as within the kingdom’s borders. Netanyahu brandished the map in an interview with a French TV channel, showing what he called “the Arab world” in green, a swath of near-contiguous territory from Iraq to Mauritania—contrasting small, isolated Israel, “the one and only Jewish state.” The goof was especially dire because in 2020 Israel joined the US as the only two countries on Earth to recognize Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara, in exchange for Moroccan recognition of the Jewish state under the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords. This was a cozy mutual betrayal of both the Palestinians and Sahrawi Arabs, the indigenous inhabitants of occupied Western Sahara. (Image: Twitter via Middle East Eye)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Podcast: geopolitics of the Essequibo dispute

In Episode 205 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks at the recent re-escalation and (hopefully) denouement of the dispute over Esequibo—an oil-rich territory controlled by Guyana and claimed by Venezuela. Ironically, this claim was first asserted by the conservative, anti-communist Venezuela of the 1960s to help destabilize the anti-imperialist Guyana of Cheddi Jagan. Today, the left-populist but increasingly nationalistic regime of Nicolás Maduro even entertains hubristic claims to sovereignty over Venezuela’s other much larger neighbor, Colombia. But this revanchism appears to mask the fact that “revolutionary” Venezuela largely remains a petro-state with a rentier economy, vulnerable to drops in the global oil price, even if Chinese corporate exploiters have been replacing gringo ones. With the recent easing of sanctions, US giants like Chevron have even returned to Venezuela—while the extractivist model results in indigenous resistance. Contrary to the dogmas of left and right alike, the real root of the Venezuelan crisis is that the country is insufficiently socialist. Listen on SoundCloudor via Patreon. (Map: SurinameCentral via Wikimedia Commons)

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)

Europe
Putin

Russia conducts simulated nuclear strike

Russia’s military conducted exercises with nuclear-capable missiles, shortly after the State Duma unanimously voted to revoke ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Russian Strategic Missile Forces command claimed the exercises were part of a regularly scheduled annual training drill held every October. But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercises were to simulate a retaliatory nuclear strike to be carried out if Russia were attacked with nuclear firepower first. The Russian military widely publicized videos of the exercises across state media. According to the Kremlin, the exercises were overseen by President Vladimir Putin from a Moscow command center. (Photo: Kremlin)

Iran
Bauchi

‘Islamic State,’ Islamic Republic both target Baluchi

More than 50 were killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan province as people gathered to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Those targeted in the blast at the town of Mastung were overwhelmingly members of the Baluch ethnicity. The attack is believed to have carried out by the local “Islamic State” franchise, ISIS-Khorasan. That same day, Iranian security forces opened fire on Baluchi protesters at the town of Zahedan, Sistan & Baluchestan province, leaving several wounded. The demonstration had been called to commemorate the previous year’s “Bloody Friday” massacre in Zahedan, when some 40 were slain by security forces during a protest held amid the national uprising then sweeping through Iran. (Map via Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Podcast: the fall of Artsakh & the fate of the Armenians

With a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians underway from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh following its fall to Azerbaijani forces, the threat of “ethnic cleansing” looms. The enclave had maintained a de facto independence as the Republic of Artsakh since 1991, but the war in Ukraine has pushed the stand-off out of the headlines, and ironically given Azerbaijan a free hand to finally re-take the territory. In Episode 193 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the historical roots of the conflict, and demonstrates how the Armenians of Artsakh have been betrayed by all the Great Powers—including both Russia and the United States. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
Maksym

Ukrainian anti-fascist sentenced to prison in Russia

An appeals court in Moscow upheld the 13-year sentence imposed on Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, in what Amnesty International called “a grave miscarriage of justice.” Butkevych had been convicted in a “sham trial” by a de facto court in the Russian-occupied “Luhansk People’s Republic” in Ukraine, which Moscow has unilaterally declared annexed territory. A platoon leader in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Butkevych was taken captive in March and charged with war crimes. Amnesty dismisses the case as “a reprisal by Russia for his civic activism and his prominent human rights work.” Before the invasion, Butkevych led a Ukrainian NGO helping refugees find asylum in the country, and had long been a frontline opponent of the militant right in both Ukraine and Russia. (Image: Ukraine Solidarity Campaign)

South Asia
Aksai Chin

Podcast: Himalayan fault lines in BRICS

In Episode 189 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that despite all the tankie pseudo-left enthusiasm for the BRICS summit in South Africa, the notion of a unified bloc against Western hegemony is illusory. The Johannesburg confab was immediately followed by a diplomatic spat between China and India, sparked by Beijing’s release of an official map of the territory of the People’s Republic—showing two Himalayan enclaves claimed by India as Chinese territory: Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which have both been the scene of border skirmishes in recent years. The map also shows an island in the Amur River, by mutual agreement half controlled by Russia, as entirely Chinese. Moscow, depending on China’s acquiescence in the Ukraine war, has lodged no protest over this. But the border disputes between nuclear-armed India and China have the potential to escalate to the unthinkable. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: CIA via Wikipedia)

Europe
Ukraine

Ukraine: ‘forced citizenship’ in Russian-held territory

Russia has launched a systematic effort to force residents of occupied areas of Ukraine to accept Russian citizenship as part of its program of consolidating authority, according to a new report. Residents of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts are subjected to threats, intimidation, restrictions on humanitarian aid and basic necessities, and possible detention or deportation—all designed to force them to become Russian citizens. Based on a comprehensive review of open source material, Yale Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) has identified the laws and tactics used to make it impossible for residents to survive in their homes unless they accept Russian citizenship. These laws and tactics violate international law, including the prohibition on discrimination against people living under occupation based on nationality, and forcing people to declare allegiance to an occupying power, both illegal under the Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions. (Map: PCL)

North Africa
SADR

Abraham Accords’ betrayal of Sahrawi consolidated

Israel announced that it has formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The US in 2021 became the first nation to recognize Morocco’s claim to the territory—an open quid pro quo for Moroccan recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. Israeli recognition of Morocco’s claim was promised at that time. However, much of the territory is controlled by the Polisario Front, independence movement of the Sahrawi Arab people. Some 45 countries around the world recognize Polisario’s declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR); the US and Israel are alone in recognizing Rabat’s rule over the territory. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Southeast Asia
South China Sea

Podcast: geopolitics of the Barbie affair

In Episode 181 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the strange reality that the Barbie move has been banned in Vietnam over a brief image of a world map appearing to show the “nine-dash line” demarcating China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. While US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan wins headlines, Beijing’s maritime dispute with Hanoi holds unsettling potential for escalation. In a surreal paradox (for those who remember their history) Vietnam has actually been tilting to the US in the new cold war with China. It has also been increasingly resorting to internal police-state measures to protect the interests of foreign capital in the country. All of this constitutes a rebuke both to the neoliberals, who cling to the discredited dogma that “free markets” inevitably lead to peace and democracy, and to the tankies, who rally around both the regimes in Beijing and Hanoi, in defiance of political reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via IDSA)