Syria
syria refugees

Hunger ’emergency’ in Syria’s Idlib

Nearly a year after the height of a devastating regime offensive that forced a million people from their homes in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, aid workers warn that the region’s civilians, especially young children, face a new threat: rising hunger. In Idlib province, the situation is worsened by mass displacement and a population already in dire need after years in the crosshairs of conflict—putting an estimated four million people, including 1.5 million in camps, at particular risk of hunger and malnourishment. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote—a decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets—until the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Syria
White Helmets

Russian-backed ‘crimes against humanity’ in Syria

Human Rights Watch condemned Russia and the Syrian government in a new report for launching at least 46 documented deadly attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria’s northern Idlib province. The report reveals that the Russian-backed offensive targeted hospitals, schools, markets, and other essential facilities for over 11 months from April 2019. HRW contends that these attacks violated international humanitarian law and may constitute crimes against humanity. These numbers represent only a fraction of the attacks occurring in the region. Witnesses and local authorities say the documented attacks killed at least 224 civilians and wounded 561 others. In addition to harming civilians directly, the attacks have also adversely impacted public health, education, and the standard of living in Idlib by restricting access to food, water, and housing. Both the Assad regime and Russia exacerbated this crisis by blocking humanitarian aid to the region. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria
Rukban

Jordan forcibly deports Syrian refugees

Over the past months, dozens of Syrian refugees have been deported by the Jordanian government to Rukban, a desolate camp across the Syria-Jordan border. Authorities say those targeted for deportation have “security” issues, but returnees to the camp deny having had any problems with law enforcement in Jordan. Amnesty International said  that at least 16 refugees have been “forcibly transferred” to Rukban over the past month alone. Watchdog groups say the deportations are a violation of asylum-seekers’ rights, and that sending a refugee back to likely harm—known as refoulement—is prohibited under international law. While Jordan has been quietly deporting asylum-seekers for several years, this is the first time it has been accused of forcible transfers to the desert no-man’s-land, which experiences scalding temperatures and is largely cut off from food and medicine supplies. “It’s still a human rights violation regardless of what [the refugees] are accused of,” said Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These deportations have happened with no fair trial or due process.” (Photo: Omar al-Homsi/TNH)

Iraq
Yazidis

Yazidis call Middle East indigenous alliance

In a meeting hosted by the Yazidi autonomous territory of Ezidikhan in northern Iraq, representatives of tribal peoples and ethnic minorities from across the Middle East and North Africa agreed on a framework for a region-wide alliance of stateless nations struggling for self-determination and autonomy. The meeting at the Ezidikhan seat of Shingal was attended by representatives of the Mandaeans and Zoroastrians as well as Yazidis. Messages of support were also sent by the Shabaks of Iraq, Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Berbers of Libya, and Palestinian Bedouins residing in the state of Israel. Delegates announced formation of a Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Middle East open to all stateless peoples of the region. The Confederation pledges to seek greater recognition for stateless peoples of the Middle East at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to seek redress for persecution, exclusion and genocide. (Photo of Yazidi delegates: Ezidikhan.net)

Syria
Daraa

Armed struggle re-emerges in regime-controlled Syria

Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed reconquest of most of Syria over the past two years is beginning to look like a Pyrrhic victory, as protest and even armed resistance re-emerge in regime-controlled territory. Insurgency is especially mounting in southern Daraa province—where the revolution first began in 2011. Brig. Gen. Talal Qassem of the army’s 5th Division was shot dead this week by gunmen on a motorcycle in the northeast of Daraa. He was the second regime general slain in the province since Assadist forces retook southern Syria in July 2018. They were among more than 200 regime soldiers and officials slain in attacks over this period, and the pace of the attacks is fast escalating. Among regime figures slain in the past month are the mayor of the town of Lajat, a military intelligence officer, and a member of the “reconciliation committees” attempting to rebuild regime support. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Syria
Khan Sheikhoun

Syrian opposition marks seven years of chemical terror

On the seventh anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which left 1,400 civilians dead, the Syrian opposition issued a statement protesting that the responsible parties are still yet to be held accountable—while gas attacks have continued in Syria. The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary & Opposition Forcesdemanded that the perpetrators of the attack be tried by the International Criminal Court. “The collapsed international system is the one that allowed this massacre to happen and left those responsible unjudged,” the statement said. The regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has carried out hundreds of chemical attacks since 2013. (Photo from April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack via EA Worldview)

Syria
Tal Al-Zahab

Syria: US troops clash with Assad regime forces

US troops clashed with an Assad regime unit in northeast Syria, an incident that illustrates the uneasy patchwork of power in the region. One regime soldier was reportedly killed and two wounded. Both Pentagon and Damascus accounts agreed the confrontation began when a joint convoy of US and Kurdish forces encountered a regime roadblock, but differed on which side fired first. The regime also claimed a US warplane fired on the roadblock, contrary to the Pentagon account. US-backed Kurdish forces have controlled much of the northeast since driving out the Islamic State last year. However, the regime, supported by Russia, also occupied part of the area as ISIS was defeated. (Photo: QalaatM via Twitter)

Syria
Syria oil map

Rojava Kurds cut deal with US oil company

In the imperial carve-up of northern Syria, US troops have since late last year been controlling the oil-fields of Deir ez-Zor province, in collaboration with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Now reports are emerging that the Kurdish autonomous administration in the region has signed a 25-year contract with a little-known US company for exploitation of the oil. The company, Delta Crescent Energy, received a waiver from US sanctions on Syria from the Treasury Department. The deal was confirmed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Greater Middle East
Bierut blast

What Beirut blast could mean for battered Lebanon

As rescue workers continue to look for survivors amid the rubble of a massive explosion that killed a reported 130 people in Beirut’s port, the implications of the blast for Lebanon appear grim. Lebanon’s economy has been in freefall for months, unemployment is rising, and the foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigned one day before the blast, warning that the country risks becoming a “failed state.” Now hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless, critical port facilities are destroyed, and local hospitals are overwhelmed. Lebanon was already battling COVID-19 before the blast, and last week it instituted a new lockdown to try to control a spike in new infections. (Photo via Beirut.com)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: controlled elections amid deepening crisis

To nobody’s surprise, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s bloc won a majority of seats in the country’s parliamentary election, dismissed as a farce by the exiled opposition. As in the presidential elections that confirmed Assad’s hold on the presidency in 1994, millions displaced by the war were not able to vote. The elections were held amid a deepening economic crisis, with the UN noting a 200% food price hike in under a year and warning of widespread hunger. Russia and China meanwhile continue to use their veto on the Security Council to block aid deliveries to opposition-held areas. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)