Europe
Ukraine

North Korea recognizes Donetsk and Luhansk ‘republics’

North Korea’s government recognized two breakaway states claiming independence from internationally-recognized Ukrainian territory. North Korea is the third country to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics,” after Russia and Syria. Two days before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Moscow recognized the “republics,” and moved troops to the regions. Since Russia’s invasion, North Korea has defended Russia and has blamed the crisis on “the hegemonic policy of the US.” Ukraine cut diplomatic ties with North Korea immediately after the recognition. (Map: PCL)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria aid access resolution expires amid UN standoff

A Security Council resolution that allowed the UN to deliver humanitarian aid across Turkey’s border into northwest Syria without President Bashar al-Assad’s permission expired  as diplomats failed to come to a deal in the face of a Russian veto. Russia, which has long opposed the cross-border aid operation as an affront to Syrian sovereignty, used its veto to stop a one-year renewal. Its own proposal for turning aid deliveries over to the Assad regime after six months was voted down by the US, UK, and France. The Assad regime is accused of denying aid to besieged rebel-held enclaves. Aid workers in the region are warning of imminent “famine” in northern Syria in the wake of the resolution expiration, which coincided with the Eid al-Adha holiday. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Syria
Aleppo ruins

UN: more than 300,000 civilians dead in Syria war

More than 306,000 civilian were killed in Syria between March 2011 and March 2021, according to new estimates released by the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to the latest findings, civilians represent an overwhelming majority of the estimated 350,209 total deaths identified since the start of the civil conflict. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet emphasized that this “does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to healthcare, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights, which remain to be assessed.” This is compounded by estimates from the World Bank that more than half the country’s pre-war population has been displaced. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Iraq
Rojava

Podcast: Rojava and Ezidikhan in the Great Game

In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey’s first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his “security zone.” There is growing speculation that the US could “green light” this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide at the hands of ISIS in 2014, now face extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone of Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad’s military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Rojava Solidarity NYC)

Syria
Syria oil map

Erdogan preparing new Syria incursion?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan is ramping up threats to invade more areas of northern Syria, saying that he plans to “clean up [the Kurdish towns of] Tal Rifat and Manbij of terrorists,” and establish a greater “security zone” in Syrian territory along Turkey’s border. Much of this region is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be a “terrorist organization” because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organization. It’s not clear if ErdoÄźan will go ahead with a new incursion now, but some wonder if the US, which has backed the SDF, may be willing to turn a blind eye to such an offensive if Turkey backs off its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

North Africa
libya

Russian mercenaries accused in Libya atrocities

A report to the Security Council by a panel of UN human rights experts finds that foreign fighters and private military companies are responsible for grave abuses in Libya—especially naming Russia’s Wagner Group. The report was classified “confidential,” but a copy was leaked to the Associated Press. It finds that both Turkish-backed militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNA) and the Wagner Group, apparently contracted by eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, have employed mercenaries who were veterans of the war in Syria. GNA-aligned militias are implicated in abuses of migrants, who have been “regularly subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture.” The Wager Group is accused of planting unmarked anti-personnel mines on the southern periphery of Tripoli, when the city was besieged by Haftar’s forces from April 2019 to October 2020. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
Kobane

Syria: Turkish drones target Kobani

Two drone strikes targeted the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, after weeks of intermittent shelling of villages in the surrounding countryside. The attacks are apparently being launched from the area of Jarabulus immediately to the west, which is held by Turkish occupation forces and allied militias. According to the Rojava Information Center (RIC), some 35 drone attacks on the Kobani area have already “killed at least 13 people & injured 34 in 2022 alone.” Kobani became iconic in 2014, when the city’s Kurdish defenders waged a heroic resistance against ISIS. But since the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish autonomous zone, known as Rojava, in late 2019, the city has been a precarious enclave of remnant Kurdish control, in an uneasy alliance with Assad regime forces. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Watching the Shadows
anti-chomsky

Podcast: against Chomsky’s genocide complicity

In Episode 120 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg invites the enmity of his comrades on the left with a long-overdue deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, genocide-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In relentless sycophantic interviews, Chomsky inevitably opposes a no-fly zone for Ukraine, war crimes charges against Putin, or even sanctions against Russia, on the basis that such moves would lead to nuclear war. He offers no acknowledgment of how capitulating to Putin’s nuclear threats incentivizes such threats, and the stockpiling of missiles and warheads to back them up. This is part of a long pattern with Chomsky. He has repeatedly engaged in baseless “false flag” theorizing about the Syria chemical attacks, leading activists in the Arab world to accuse him of “regime whitewashing.” He similarly abetted Bosnia genocide revisionism, and denial of the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia. All this can be traced to the analytical and ultimately moral distortions of the so-called “Chomsky rule“—the notion that we are only allowed to criticize crimes committed by “our” side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via social media)

Greater Middle East
Manjorah

Middle East: ‘peak wheat’ fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon’s government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it’s a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. The food crisis is deepened by a decades-worst regional drought impacting Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Iran. A new assessment on Iran from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) documents water shortages, disappearing wetlands and emptying villages, making the impacts “impossible to ignore.” (Photo of IDP camp in Yemen: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam)

Europe
mariupol

Ukraine: Russian chemical attack on Mariupol claimed

Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which said a substance believed to be sarin gas was sprayed from a drone. The fact that this report emerges from the Azov Battalion, with its notorious far-right proclivities, will doubtless provide an excuse for those predisposed in favor of Russia to dismiss the claims. However, that same day, a far-right militia commander on the Russian side had openly threatened to use chemical weapons on defenders of Mariupol. Immediately dismissing an atrocity claim at Mariupol—or assuming it was a “false flag” by Ukrainian forces against their own people—amid the destruction of the city by Russia’s war machine is perverse and dishonest on its face. (Photo via Twitter)

Europe
Kharkiv

Ukraine: hundreds of Russian war crimes reported

Rights organizations and monitors in Ukraine are collecting evidence of Russian war crimes to turn over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and say they have documented hundreds of atrocities. Gyunguz Mamedov, the former head of the “War Department” in the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office, which was formed after the eruption of the Donbas conflict in 2014, reported that the coalition Ukraine5AM has documented 388 war crimes committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine. The coalition is made up of 23 human rights organizations and scores of independent investigators. Mamedov mentioned the shelling of civilian buildings and intentonal targeting of civilians; attacks on hospitals and medical staff; as well as abductions of officials and other civilians. (Photo: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Iran
KRG

Iran claims missile strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for ballistic missile attacks on northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, saying that the strikes targeted an Israeli “strategic center” in the city. Iranian state media reported that the missiles were aimed at “Mossad bases” in Erbil. The IRGC had days earlier vowed to seek revenge against Israel, saying the Zionist state will “pay the price” for killing two of its guards in recent Israeli air-strikes on targets in the Syrian capital Damascus. Erbil’s governor Omed Khoshnaw denied any Israeli military or intelligence presence in the city, calling the accusation “baseless.” The estimated 12 rocket strikes took no casualties, but caused damage to civilian properties and triggered panic among the populace in neighborhoods of Erbil. (Map: UNHCR via ReliefWeb)