The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia brings World Court case against Azerbaijan

The Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that “for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination,” including mass killings, torture and other abuses. The complaint charged that “Armenian cultural heritage has also been systematically destroyed, erased and falsified.” Armenia has requested the Court to take provisional measures “as a matter of extreme urgency” in order to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm.” (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
Crimea protest

Putin rejects Ukraine law on indigenous rights

A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine’s parliament is aimed at protecting the culture, language and autonomy of the Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea. Putin in an interview after passage of the law asserted that the present leaders of Ukraine are clearly hostile to Russia. “Otherwise, how can you explain a law where Russians are a non-indigenous people? What will this lead to? Some people will simply leave.” He then compared these imagined “consequences” with the effects of a “weapon of mass destruction.” In another interview, he said that the bill “reminded” him of Nazi Germany, as it divides people into “indigenous, first-class and second-class people and so forth.” (Image: One of the last demonstrations in Crimea in March 2014, before the Russian occupiers crushed almost all protest. Via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the Great Game

In Episode 85 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the implications for world peace and the prospects for survival of basic freedoms as the Taliban consolidate their second period of rule in Afghanistan. There are already signs that Russia and China are seeking to groom the Taliban as proxies against the US and the West, with (inevitably) the dream of a trans-Afghanistan pipeline route still a part of the agenda. The US, in turn, could start backing the incipient armed resistance, already organizing in the Panjshir Valley. The task for progressives in the West now is to loan what solidarity we can with the civil resistance—the secularists and feminists who are already defying Taliban rule on the ground across Afghanistan. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Palestine
Daraa

Syria: southern ceasefire breaking down

Fighting has erupted again in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where an opposition-controlled neighborhood is resisting pressure to disarm. Assad regime forces placed the area, Daraa al-Balad, under military siege in late June, and escalated to intermittent shelling of the enclave. A new ceasefire was brokered by pro-regime Russian forces, under which the opposition would begin the process of disarming but maintain some autonomy within the area. However, the ceasefire broke down almost immediately—allegedly due to violations by Iran-backed militias fighting for the regime. Shelling of the neighborhood has since resumed. The UN relief agency UNRWA has especially expressed concern for the some 3,000 Palestinian refugees living in a camp within the besieged area. UNRWA reports that water and electricity are completely cut off inside the camp. (Map: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)

Planet Watch
PLARF

China: rapid expansion of nuclear missile silo fields

Satellite images reveal that China is building two new nuclear missile silo fields. The Federation of American Scientists reports that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) appears to be constructing new missile silos near Yumen, Gansu province, and at another site some 380 kilometers to the northwest, near Hami in Xinjiang. The construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion ever of China’s inter-continental ballistic missile silos. China has for decades operated about 20 silos for its DF-5 ICBMs. With 120 silos under construction at Yumen, another 110 silos at Hami, a dozen silos at Jilantai, Inner Mongolia, and possibly more silos being added in existing DF-5 deployment areas, the PLARF appears to have approximately 250 silos under construction—more than ten times the number of ICBM silos currently in operation in China. (Photo: Federation of American Scientists)

Syria
Daraa

Syria: starvation threat seen in Daraa siege

The siege imposed by Syrian government forces on Daraa al-Balad enclave since June could lead to serious humanitarian repercussions if it continues, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement. Russian-backed regime forces are trying to get remnant rebel fighters in the district of Daraa city to surrender their light weapons, and accede to installation of military checkpoints—demands that violate terms of the 2018 ceasefire in Daraa. The statement urgently called for lifting the siege and allowing entry of humanitarian aid, noting that shipments from the World Food Program have been barred entry. It also stressed that all roads to hospitals in government-controlled Daraa are cut off by regime troops, leaving district residents without access to medical facilities, except for a single insufficient clinic within the encircled area. Food, medicines and other basic materials are running low, threatening 40,000 residents with starvation. (Map: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Africa
cabo delgado

Foreign troops deploy in Mozambique

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Rwanda is deploying a 1,000-strong force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive. Reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique’s army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado’s worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted, and close to a million are now facing severe hunger. (Map via Moscow Times)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: Russia plays ‘political games’ with aid access

The UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty. Some 1,000 truckloads of aid pass through Bab al-Hawa each month—and humanitarian agencies say this is insufficient to address the scale of the disaster in Syria’s north. In 2014, the Security Council approved four border crossings for aid into Syria. But Russia has since used its veto to restrict aid access to the rebel-held north, leaving only Bab al-Hawa open. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Syria
syria chemical attack

Podcast: chemwar and pseudo-left disinformation

In Episode 77 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg applauds The Young Turks for challenging the increasingly hegemonic pro-Assad consensus on the American “left,” with incisive programming on the 2018 Douma chemical attack and this year’s sham elections that confirmed the dictator’s rule. For calling out the relentless disinformation, they are of course coming under withering attack from Aaron Maté, Jimmy Dore, Katie Halper, Roger Waters and other stateside exponents of the Kremlin propaganda machine. Disgracefully, similar exponents, e.g., Ben Norton, are now predictably lining up behind the Burmese junta. Forthright repudiation of this toxic tendency is long overdue. But does the TYT critique go far enough? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: SNHR)

Southeast Asia
mandalay

Burma: urban warfare erupts in Mandalay

Gunfire erupted in the streets of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, as regime troops raided a building where a cell of the incipient armed resistance movement was sheltering. The raid sparked hours of running street battles. Resistance fighters erected barricades of flaming tires to slow the advance of troops. Both the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the rebel People’s Defense Force (PDF) claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their own forces. “We’ve declared war,” the Mandalay PDF said in a statement. “The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here.” (Photo: Myanmar Now)