Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

North Africa
libya

Libya: Turkish troop presence threat to ceasefire

Libya’s eastern warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), threatened to launch attacks on Turkish forces if Ankara doesn’t withdraw troops and mercenaries sent in to back up the GNA. Haftar’s comments came in response to the Turkish Parliament’s move to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Turkey’s defense minister responded that any attack by Haftar on its personnel would be met with force. “A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces,” Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli. The ultimatum is a threat to the ceasefire that has largely held since it was signed in October. (Map: CIA)

North Africa
Sahrawis

‘Abraham Accords’ betray Palestinians …and now Sahrawis

President Donald Trump announced that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump’s vaunted “Abraham Accords,” which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his “historic decision” to sign the deal, and pledged a “very warm peace” between the two countries. This would indeed be appropriate, as Israel and Morocco are both illegally occupying the territory of a colonized Arab people. Until Trump’s proclamation, not one country on Earth has recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was seized after Spain withdrew from its colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975. Some 60 recognize the exile government that has been declared over the territory by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of the territory’s Sahrawi Arab people. (Photo: Kirby Gookin via Western Sahara Resource Center)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

UN experts: refer Yemen war crimes to ICC

A UN group of experts has called on the Security Council to refer human rights violations and war crimes committed in the ongoing Yemen conflict to the International Criminal Court. The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen concluded in a new report that the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Southern Transitional Council are responsible for rights violations including “arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the recruitment and use in hostilities of children.” The report also alleges thatde facto authorities” in the capital Sana’a (the Houthi rebels) are responsible for the same violations. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

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)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Yemen: secret torture centers revealed

In an exhaustive report, the independent monitor Mwatana for Human Rights documents a chilling aspect of Yemen’s more than five-year war that has gone overlooked, precisely because of its secretive nature: “enforced disappearances,” torture, and killings at illegal detention centers across the country. The report documents abuses by all parties to Yemen’s war, some of which it says may constitute war crimes. The Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, and the Houthi rebels are all accused of running detention centers—some on military bases or intelligence compounds, some in cellars below private homes or requisitioned public buildings. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Greater Middle East
NEOM

Tribesman killed for resisting Saudi robot city?

Saudi activists and dissidents are disputing official accounts alleging that a tribesman who refused government orders to surrender his home to make way for a new mega-project was killed in a shoot-out with security forces. Authorities say Abdul Rahim Ahmad al-Hwaiti, from Tabuk province on the Red Sea, was a “wanted terrorist” who opened fire on State Security agents who arrived at his home. But the incident came two days after al-Hwaiti posted a video statement saying he and other local residents were being pressured by the government to give up their properties and accept relocation. Al-Hwaiti, a member of the powerful al-Huwaitat tribe, accused the government of a policy of “forced displacement.” The project at issue is the NEOM, a planned “special economic zone” for high-tech industry, to cover an area bigger than Belgium, where robots will outnumber human residents. (Image via NeoScribe)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Yemen’s southern separatists declare self-rule

Yemen’s southern separatist group declared self-rule in the parts of the country it controls, leading to fears of a new and even more dangerous conflict after five years of war. The Southern Transitional Council said in its announcement that it plans to govern several southern provinces, including the de facto capital city of Aden,which the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi also claims as its seat. (Map of Yemen before 1990 unification via Wikipedia)

North Africa
Sudan rebels

Internationalization of Libya war

A senior UN official charged at a press conference in Munich that numerous countries are violating the Libya arms embargo and must be held accountable. UN Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams said that “the arms embargo has become a joke.” The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, has been fighting with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) for control of Tripoli since April of last year. Russia, Egypt and the UAE are supporting the LNA, while Turkey supports the GNA. Foreign powers are violating the arms embargo “by land, sea and air,” Williams said. A UN report also accuses Haftar of bringing in Sudanese rebels from Darfur to fight for the LNA, while Turkey is accused of importing Syrian rebels to fight for the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)