The Caucasus
Lake Sev

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan’s forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November’s ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times. (Photo: Albero/Wikimedia Commons via Armenian Weekly)

Syria
syria chemical attack

Syria stripped of voting rights by OPCW

Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), after recent findings evidenced the regime’s use of poisonous gas throughout the nation’s civil war. A two-thirds majority of nations voted to strip the Bashar Assad regime of its rights and privileges as a member of the organization, including the right to vote at OPCW conferences. The OPCW, monitoring body for the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, has 193 members, 87 of whom voted in favor of suspension of Syria’s rights. Out of the 136 countries participating in the Conference of State Parties where the vote was taken, 34 states abstained and 15 voted against, including Russia, Iran and Syria. (Photo: SNHR)

Syria
qamishlo

Syria: Kurdish forces take Qamishlo from regime

The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Qamishlo District Council, an organ of the Rojava autonomous administration, issued its own statement, charging that NDF attacks on Asayish checkpoints were “evidence of their desire to inflame the discord among the components of the region…in particular the Kurdish and Arab.” (Photo of Qamishlo District Council reading statement: ANHA)

Syria
Aleppo ruins

Russian rights groups protest Syria war crimes

The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups has been released, highlighting the role of Moscow’s military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, “A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War,” is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Watching the Shadows
Alexander Reid Ross

Podcast interview: Alexander Reid Ross

In Episode 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposĂ©s of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross “works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents.” This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria
Atareb

Syria: outrage after Assad regime attack on hospital

Aid groups working in besieged northern Syria are expressing outrage after a hospital in the town of al-Atareb was destroyed by artillery fire. Six people were killed in the strikes, including a child, and at least 16 injured. The hospital was within the rebel-held pocket of Aleppo province, which has come under renewed bombardment by the Assad regime and Russia in recent weeks after a year-long lull in the fighting. The hospital was jointly supported by the International Rescue Committee and the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS). All the casualties were civilians. The IRC said in a statement: “Although SAMS shared the hospital’s coordinates through the UN’s notification system, it came under attack and has now been damaged so severely that it can no longer be used.” (Photo via Daily Sabah)

Greater Middle East
Selahattin DemirtaĹź

Kurdish leader sentenced for insulting Erdogan

Kurdish left-wing politician Selahattin DemirtaĹź was sentenced to three years and six months in prison by a Turkish court for insulting President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan. Demirtas, a leader and co-founder of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was given the maximum punishment for the offence. He has been imprisoned since November 2016 along with several other HDP leaders. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled twice in favor of Demirtas’ immediate release, concluding that his continued pre-trial detention has an “ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society.” (Photo: DemirtaĹź’ presidential campaign launched outside Edirne prison where he is incarcerated, May 2018, via Wikipedia)

Syria
kronstadt

Syria: Lessons from Kronstadt 1921

In Episode 65 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers his presentation on the panel “Kronstadt 1921 and the Social Crises of 2021,” part of the online conference Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021 and Beyond, marking the centenary of the Kronstadt uprising in revolutionary Russia. In March 1919, Russian naval troops mutinied and took over their island garrison as an autonomous zone, in solidarity with striking workers in Petrograd, and to demand greater freedom and power for democratic soviets (worker councils) against the consolidating one-party state of the Bolsheviks. When the uprising was brutally put down, this marked the first time that international leftist forces found themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion. A century later, all too many on the international “left” similarly find themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion in Syria. And the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, unlike the Russia of 1921, is by no stretch of the imagination a revolutionary state. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo mash-up with images from Rojava Breaking News and RFE/RL)

Syria
syria betrayed

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years after the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful anti-regime protests, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report finding that actions by the Assad regime and its Russian allies over the course of the Syrian war have likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.” The UN and human rights groups have issued such findings repeatedly—to little media coverage. The charge of genocide officially requires the world to act under the Genocide Convention. But the world is no longer even paying attention. (Image: Delawer Omar)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Syria
jarabalus

Russia bombs oil facilities in Syria’s north

A missile attack on an oil refinery at al-Hamaran, near Jarabulus in Syria’s rebel-held northern pocket, was launched from Russian warships off the country’s coast, according to a monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least one person is known to have been killed in the the three-missile strike, which also hit a nearby market, possibly as “collateral damage.” In a similar strike last month, rockets fired from the Russian coastal military base at Khmeimim struck an oil refinery in the town of Tarhin, also within the Jarabulus pocket. The pocket is in the hands of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), and the strikes appear aimed at preventing SNA forces from resuming oil production in the region for black-market export to Turkey. Under a Moscow-Damascus deal announced in 2018, Russia is to have exclusive rights to exploit hydrocarbons in Syria in exchange for military support to the Bashar Assad regime. (Image via YouTube)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government—and is also being aggressively backed by Russia. (Photo via ISS Africa)