After meeting in Ankara Oct. 17, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria over the next five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a "ceasefire." However, the 13-point agreement does not use the word "ceasefire," but states: "The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal." Operation "Peace Spring" is the utterly Orwellian code-name for the Turkish offensive, and the YPG is the People's Protection Units, the Kurdish militia in northeast Syria. The YPG was not a party to the "ceasefire," but nonetheless agreed to abide by it. Still, fighting has continued, with at least eight civilians reported killed less than 24 hours into the deal. There is also no consensus on the geographic limits of the area covered by the deal. The official text does not define it, and Turkey and the US remain at odds on the size the "safe zone" (another Orwellian construction) that Ankara seeks to establish in Syria. Ankara is still asserting it will be 100 kilometers deep, while Washington is calling for 20 kilometers. (Rudaw, Middle East Eye, AP)
The European Union adopted a non-binding resolution March 13 against Turkey's accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament by 370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions. The assembly noted past and ongoing human and civil rights violations committed by Turkey. The body expressed concern over Turkey's lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentioned the "shrinking space for civil society," arrests and suppression of journalists, and dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of refugees and migrants within its borders. The body noted that Turkey's government has violated the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism. It has also intimidated its own citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey.
European governments are complicit in the systematic, unlawful and frequently violent "pushback" or collective expulsion of thousands of asylum-seekers to squalid and unsafe refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled Pushed to the Edge: Violence and Abuse Against Refugees and Migrants along Balkan Route, the report details how, by prioritizing border control over compliance with international law, European governments are not merely turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but actually funding such activities. In so doing, they are fueling a growing humanitarian crisis on the edge of the European Union.
The European Parliament on June 14 overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russian authorities to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and all the other "illegally detained Ukrainian citizens" in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea "immediately and unconditionally." Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a Russian prison in the far-northern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region since May 14. He is demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners. Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. A Russian court in 2015 convicted him of planning to commit terrorist acts and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He denies the accusations.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that this year has seen a "notable trend of spontaneous returns" of displaced Syrians to their homes, both from outside and inside the country. Around 31,000 refugees returned from neighboring countries in the first six months of 2017, while more than 440,000 internally displaced persons went back to their homes—a combined total of nearly half a million. The main destinations are said to be Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus—all now largely under regime control after years of heavy fighting against rebel forces. UNHCR representative Andrej Mahecic said Syrians are seeking out family members, checking on property, and "in some cases responding to a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country." But he warned that despite hopes over recent peace talks in Astana and Geneva, the "UNHCR believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria." (The Independent, July 1)
Of the more than 14,000 asylum seekers currently confined to five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, many are facing dire circumstances due to unusually harsh winter conditions, according to a statement released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The migrants are fleeing conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have been confined for more than ten months, according to the report. A "hotspot" was created in Moria on the island of Lesbos at the recommendation (PDF) of the European Commission to serve as a reception and registration area for refugees, as required by a deal the EU signed with Turkey last March. The report from HRW finds more needs to be done, saying the Greek government should immediately transfer vulnerable refugees to "appropriate mainland accomodations." During a recent visit to the Moria camp, HRW staff reported seeing flimsy, snow-covered tents, and vulnerable refugees in life-threatening living conditions.
OK, I’ve had enough with these disingenuous demands from the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, etc. that the CIA "show us the evidence," and the frankly absurd charges of "McCarthyism," which is simply reading the politics of this mess backwards. I know not a blessed thing about digital forensics, but all the political logic here points to Russia being behind the hacks in an intentional strategy to throw our election to Donald Trump. All these "leftists" abetting the fascist takeover of the country like this (whether cluelessly or cynically) have me pulling my damn beard out. Please follow this.
We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.