Planet Watch
anarchy

Podcast: for pragmatic anarchism

In Episode 93 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg responds to the request from Patreon subscriber and legendary folksinger Dave Lippman to discuss the contemporary significance of anarchism. Weinberg cites recent examples of an “anarcho-pragmatism” that aspires to libertarian socialism but also works toward concrete victories in the here-and-now: the Zapatistas in Mexico, piqueteros in Argentina, the Rojava Kurds and other liberatory elements of the Syrian Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since last year’s Black Lives Matter uprising, anarchist ideas have started to enter mainstream discourse—such as calls for “decarceration” and to abolish the police. Weinberg also makes note of pointed criticisms of some contemporary anarchist thought from the Marxist-Humanists. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr)

Syria
Aleppo

The Syria war’s unknown toll

For the first time since it stopped attempting to count Syria’s dead back in 2014, the UN has released a new casualty number. The UN Human Rights Office now says 350,209 people were killed in the war between March 2011 and March 2021—but cautions that because of the strict methodology used, this figure is “certainly an under-count of the actual number of killings.” And it doesn’t include those who died from causes that would likely have been more easily treatable were it not for the ongoing violence, such as hunger or COVID-19, which is now barrelling through northwest Syria, spreading quickly in displacement camps and overwhelming healthcare facilities. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria unsafe for refugees to return: UN report

The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated that Syria is “not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees.” The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country. The report estimated that 40,000 children are being detained in camps for suspected ISIS collaborators in the Kurdish-controlled east of the country. Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, said that these conditions indicate that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being “completely forgotten.” (Photo: UNHCR)

Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Europe
ISIS

French firm charged with abetting ISIS atrocities

France’s highest court overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity by cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying ISIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists. The Paris Court of Appeal accepted the company’s argument that the payments were not aimed at abetting ISIS atrocities. But the Cassation Court found that “one can be complicit in crimes against humanity even if one doesn’t have the intention of being associated with the crimes committed. Knowingly paying several million dollars to an organization whose sole purpose was exclusively criminal suffices to constitute complicity, regardless of whether the party concerned was acting to pursue a commercial activity.” (Photo via MEMO)

Afghanistan
ground zero

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush’s Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Afghanistan
Aleppo

Podcast: humanitarian intervention reconsidered II

In Episode 86 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg returns to the book The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi, exploring applicability of its analysis to the current disaster in Afghanistan. This discussion is taken up at the request of Eric Laursen, author of The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort. Laursen is the first to take up the CounterVortex special offer, by which new Patreon subscribers get to choose a topic for exploration on the podcast. When do we have a responsibility to protect, and when do we have a duty to stand aside, and how can these imperatives be reconciled? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Syria
Syria Oil

Rojava Kurds sell oil to Assad regime: report

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) charges in a new report that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are violating US sanctions imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act by supplying oil and gas to the Bashar Assad regime. The report claims the sales come to some six million barrels of oil annually, amounting to profits of $120 million. The report asserts that the oil has enabled “perpetration of atrocious violations” by the regime. The report also warns of toxic pollution caused by primitive oil extraction methods used at the SDF-held oil-fields. (Image: Kurdistan24)

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)

Iraq
kurdish march

Protest ongoing Turkish military intervention in Iraq, Syria

Kurdish rebels launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military position in northern Iraq, killing one soldier. The troops were stationed at the outpost as part of Ankara’s “Operation Claw-Lightning” to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey’s Defense Ministry said its forces immediately retaliated, and three PKK fighters were “neutralized” (killed). The following day, thousands of Kurds marched in Dusseldorf, Germany, to protest ongoing Turkish military operations in Turkey’s eastern Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, and in Syria’s Rojava region. The demonstration was timed for the 37th anniversary of the start of the PKK’s armed struggle against the Turkish state. (Photo: Defend Kurdistan via Twitter)

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)

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)