Greater Middle East

Podcast: Libya and Syria, 12 years later

In Episode 165 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the simultaneous 12th anniversary of the start of both the NATO intervention in Libya and the Syrian revolution. The NATO intervention was at root a bid to to control the political trajectory of the Arab Revolution, and bring about a Thermidor in which Western-backed technocrats would be ascendant. The Syrian people seized back the initiative with their popular uprising against the Bashar Assad dictatorship. But, following the precedent set in Libya, the Great Powers have intervened, seeking to impose their own order‚ÄĒover the heads of the Syrian people. This time, however, the principal interventionist power has not been the West seeking to coopt the revolution, but Russia seeking to prop up the genocidal ancien r√©gime. Listen on SoundCloudor via Patreon.¬†(Photo: Daraya, 2011 via¬†Leila’s Blog)


ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights. Both stand accused of the war crimes of unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied territories of Ukraine into Russia. While Ukraine is not a party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, the country accepted¬†ICC¬†jurisdiction for purposes of “identifying, prosecuting, and judging the perpetrators and accomplices of acts committed in the Territory of Ukraine since 20 February 2014.” (Photo: OSeveno/WikiMedia)


Russia imposes sanctions on Baltic citizens

The Russian Foreign Ministry has¬†issued sanctions against 144 citizens of Lithuania,¬†Latvia and¬†Estonia. Moscow accused the individuals of hostile acts against the Russian state. The alleged acts include lobbying for sanctions, interference with Russia’s internal affairs, and inciting “Russophobic” sentiments.¬†The three¬†Baltic states are particularly outspoken in their support of Ukraine, and¬†calls for¬†holding Russia accountable for war crimes and possible “genocide.” (Photo of Riga, Latvia, via Wikimedia Commons)


Ukraine denies plot to kill Transnistria leader

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)¬†denied plotting to assassinate the president of the Russian-backed breakaway de facto state of Transnistria in Moldova. The denial comes after the Transnistrian Ministry of State Security¬†said it thwarted an SBU-orchestrated terrorist attack targeting multiple Transnistrian government officials. The SBU characterized the accusation as an instrument of Russian provocation amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Transnistria controls around 4,000 square kilometers of internationally-recognized Moldovan territory, but is not recognized by any UN member state. However, Russia has maintained a military presence in the breakaway state, which borders Ukraine, since the 1990-2 Transnistria War. (Photo via Ukraine Defense Ministry)

The Caucasus

Georgia drops ‘foreign agent’ bill after protests

Georgia’s ruling coalition agreed to withdraw a controversial “foreign agent” bill after two days of angry¬†protests¬†in the capital Tbilisi. The bill “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” introduced in Parliament in February, would have required non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive 20% or more of their annual revenue from a “foreign power” to register as “agents of foreign influence” with the Justice Ministry. (Map:¬†PLC)


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)

Fort Lee

US welcomes Ukrainians; Afghans left in limbo

More than 271,000 Ukrainians have been admitted to the United States since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year‚Äďfar exceeding the goal of 100,000¬†set¬†by President Joe Biden’s administration last March. Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghans protested in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad,¬†over long delays¬†in their US resettlement process. After the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the United States opened programs to provide fast-track visa access for at-risk Afghans. However, these program have¬†reportedly stalled, leaving many in vulnerable positions in Pakistan, struggling to access essential services.¬†(Photo of evacuees arriving at Fort Lee, Va., via¬†Homeland Security Today)

Idlib displaced

Unnatural disaster in Syria’s northwest

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that has killed some 15,000 in Turkey and Syria, the contested political situation in the latter country is raising particular dilemmas. Aid agencies warn of “catastrophic” implications for Syria’s rebel-controlled northwest, where millions of displaced and vulnerable people were already in precarious straits and relying on humanitarian support before the quake. At least half of the estimated 2,000 dead in Syria are in the rebel-controlled area. Due to Russian influence at the UN on behalf of the Bashar Assad regime, humanitarian access is already limited to one border crossing‚ÄĒBab al-Hawa. And Moscow and Damascus have been pressuring to close that one as well.¬†(Photo:¬†UNHCR)


Podcast: West Africa’s forgotten wars

In Episode 161 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of the under-reported conflicts in West Africa, where government forces and allied paramilitary groups battle multiple jihadist insurgencies affiliated either with ISIS or¬†al-Qaeda on a franchise model. Horrific massacres have been committed by both sides, but the Western media have only recently started to take note because of the geopolitical angle that has emerged: both Mali and Burkina Faso have cut long-standing security ties with France, the former colonial power, and brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group. In both countries, the pastoralist Fulani people have been stigmatized as “terrorists” and targeted for extra-judicial execution and even massacre‚ÄĒa potentially pre-genocidal situation. But government air-strikes on Fulani communities in Nigeria have received no coverage in the Western media, because of the lack of any geopolitical rivalry there; Nigeria remains firmly in the Anglo-American camp. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.¬†(Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Planet Watch
doomsday clock

Doomsday clock moves, Russia nixes talks

The¬†Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists¬†moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, citing the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine. The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight‚ÄĒthe closest to global catastrophe it has ever been. The press release announcing the move spared no criticism for Russia, excoriating Moscow for breaking its commitment to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and borders in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, and violating international protocols by bringing its war to the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear plants. The statement also expressed alarm over Russia’s repeated implicit threats to unleash nuclear war.¬†The statement nonetheless called on the United States to “keep the door open to principled engagement with Moscow¬†that reduces the dangerous increase in nuclear risk.” However,¬†Kremlin representative Dmitry Peskov responded to the statement by rejecting¬†any imminent return to the negotiating table: “Right now we can only state that the prospects for stepping on a diplomatic path are not visible at present.” (Image:¬†BAS)

Greater Middle East

From Palestine to Iran: free the land

In Episode 160 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes hideous ironies in the current horrific headlines. Russia was excluded from the official commemorations of Holocaust Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau as it pursues its war of aggression and extermination in Ukraine in the perverse name of “de-nazification.” But Israeli flags were of course displayed at the commemoration‚ÄĒeven as Israel escalates toward a genocidal solution to the Palestinian question. The fundamental contradiction driving the conflict is the expropriation of the Palestinian people of their lands, and the denial of their self-determination by Israel. The emergence of an explicitly anti-Zionist bloc in the protests against the¬†new far-right government in Israel is a sign of hope. The US, however, is undertaking its biggest joint military exercises ever with the new Israeli regime, despite Biden’s supposed rejection of its extremist policies of settlement expansion and annexation‚ÄĒviewing the Jewish State as a strategic ally against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meanwhile, the oppressive regime in Iran treats minority peoples such as the Kurds, Baluch, Ahwazi and Baha’i much as Israel treats the Palestinians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: B’Tselem)