Syria
Khan Sheikhoun

UN: Syria must come clean on chemical weapons

Syria’s declaration to the United Nations of its chemical weapons program cannot be considered accurate due to gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council. Izumi Nakamitsu urged the country to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), adding that “full cooperation” is “essential to closing these outstanding issues.” The disarmament chief was presenting an update on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program. Nakamitsu said that 20 outstanding issues remain unresolved, involving undeclared research, production, and the arming of unknown quantities of chemical weapons. (Photo from April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack via EA Worldview)

Syria
Idlib

Deadly snow days for Syria’s displaced children

Heavy rains, wind and snow have hit displaced people living across northern Syria hard this month, as camps flooded and tents collapsed. Forecasts predict even lower temperatures in the coming days. Three children are already reported to have died—one when snow caused a family’s tent to collapse; two more when a heater set their tent on fire. These deaths have become a tragically predictable feature of the Syrian war, as a large number of the country’s 6.7 million internally displaced people live in shelters that can’t withstand winter weather. The same is true for many Syrian refugees in places like neighboring Lebanon, who are forced to brave the cold in makeshift settlements. Fuel is costly and can be hard to come by, so some people take dangerous steps to stay warm. As Sherine Ibrahim, country director of CARE Turkey, said in a statement: “During the cold winter, mothers are usually the last ones to eat, and children are usually the first ones to freeze.” (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
idlib

Russian warplanes bomb Idlib water station

Russian warplanes are reported to have carried out an air-raid on the main water pumping station for the city Idlib, capital of the besieged province of that name in Syria’s north. Witnesses on the ground said Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs on the water plant as well as several towns outside the provincial capital. A UN humanitarian official acknowledged the air-raid without naming the perpetrators, tweeting: “The country is already facing a water crisis & continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians.” An official in the opposition administration of the city said the plant is now out of operation, charging: “The Russians are focusing on infrastructure and economic assets. This is to add to the suffering of people.” (Image via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Aleppo

Podcast: R2P in the 21st Century

In Episode 101 of the CounterVortex podcast, we present the audio from a panel at the Ninth International Herbert Marcuse Society Conference, held in October at Arizona State University in Tempe. The panel, “The Responsibility to Protect in the Twenty-First Century,” features two presentations. Javier Sethness speaks on “Realism, Egalitarianism, and Internationalism,” providing a theoretical and historical framework, including a discussion of Herbert Marcuse‘s work with US intelligence in World War II. Bill Weinberg, speaking from New York, follows with “For Solidarity; Against Dictators and Campism,” discussing contemporary examples, including Syria, Libya, Burma and Taiwan. A third presentation was to have been offered by Anner G. in Ethiopia, on “The Responsibility to Protect in Tigray,” but she was unable to join. The work of her group, Horn Anarchists, is discussed in Weinberg’s presentation. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Planet Watch
extinction rebellion

Podcast: anarchism and the climate crisis

With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a “Code Red for humanity.” In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: East River Park Action)

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)