The US on Aug. 6 harshly condemned the Syrian regime over thousands of death notices it has released in recent weeks, saying they confirm suspicions of mass detentions, torture and murder. State Department representative Heather Nauert said that over 117,000 people are believed to have been detained or forcibly disappeared in Syria since the conflict began in 2011, with "the vast majority" suspected to be in regime custody "across a network of prisons where regime officials torture and murder civilians to intimidate and silence any opposition" to Bashar Assad’s rule. (Anadolu Agency)
US President Donald Trump issued an executive order Aug. 6 reimposing certain sanctions against Iran. In a press statement, the White House criticized the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015, signed by Iran, Germany, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the EU. The US withdrew from the JCPOA in May, prompting a legal challenge from Iran before the International Court of Justice. The White House stated that JCPOA "threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos." The administration claims Iran used monies freed by the JCPOA to fund nuclear-capable missiles, terrorism, and to support the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
In Episode 14 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the national protest wave that brought down president Park Geun-Hye in South Korea in December 2016, and asks why Americans can't similarly rise to the occassion and launch a mass militant movement to remove Donald Trump. Given this extreme emergency—the detention gulag now coming into place, with undocumented migrants the "test population" for domestic fascism—we should be mobilizing in our millions. Apart from the broad masses being simply too distracted by gizmos and consumerism to see the walls closing in (a problem to be discussed elsewhere), Weinberg identifies two significant obstacles to unity: 1. The fundamental split in the left over the whole question of Russia and its electoral meddling; and 2. The phenomenon of party parasitism, with both the Democrats and sectarian-left factions seeking to exploit popular movements to advance their own power. He concludes by asking whether social media, which is partially responsible for getting us into this mess through its totalizing propaganda environment, can help get us out—whether it can empower us to sidestep the Dems and the alphabet-soup factions alike and work rapidly and efficiently to build a leaderless, broad-based, intransigent movement around the aim of removing Trump. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a new high at the mid-year point, according to a report (PDF) from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued July 16. Although there was a slight decrease in casualties (deaths and injuries) overall, there have been more fatalities than in previous years, with nearly 1,700 killed so far in 2018. Since UNAMA started documentation in 2009, almost 15,000 civilians have lost their lives to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. UNAMA also reports that deliberate attacks on civilians from anti-government elements are increasing at concerning rates.
A leading LGBT rights group projected messages for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in giant letters on the wall of the Presidential Palace in Helsinki hours before the summit between the two leaders was set to open. "Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya," read one message displayed by the Human Rights Campaign. Other projections read: "The whole world is watching" and "Silence is deadly." The group said in a tweet ahead of the action: "Last year, reports surfaced of Chechen authorities rounding up and detaining more than 100 men who were suspected of being gay or bisexual and 20 have been murdered. Today HRC confronted Trump and Putin in Helsinki over these crimes against humanity." The statement continued: "For more than 15 months, @realDonaldTrump has refused to publicly condemn the systematic torture, abuse and murder of LGBTQ people occurring in Chechnya as Vladimir Putin has licensed the violence to continue." (Mediaite)
Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) lifted the state of force majeure it had declared at four export terminals in the country's eastern "oil crescent," after the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar agreed to withdraw from the facilities. Exports are set to resume, and global oil prices began to fall as the news broke. (Libyan Express) The ports of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, Zueitina and Hariga were all handed back to NOC control without any obvious concession being made to Haftar. The Guardian reports that Haftar had been pressing privately for Saddek Elkaber, the governor of the Libyan central bank, to step down, claiming that Elkaber was funnelling monies from the oil industry to militias opposed to him. A strongly worded letter from President Donald Trump, warning he would take legal action against those responsible for the impasse, may have prompted Haftar's capitulation.
In Episode 13 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg deconstructs Trump's executive order ostensibly ending the policy of family separation on the southern border, and demonstrates how it actually lays the groundwork for indefinite detention of migrants on military bases. The Central American peasantry, expropriated of its lands by state terror, CAFTA and narco-violence, is forced to flee north—now into the arms of Trump's new gulag. The judiciary may yet pose an obstacle to enforcement of Trump's order, but this brings us to the Supreme Court's upholding of Trump's Muslim travel ban and the grim implications of Justices Anthony Kennedy's imminent resignation. With Congressional calls mounting for putting off confirmation of Kennedy's replacement while Trump remains under investigation over the 2016 electoral irregularities, a constitutional crisis is imminent.
Colombia has taken significant steps back in a hardline pro-Washington direction since the election of the right-wing Iván Duque as the country's new president last month. Shortly after Duque's victory, the government announced that it will resume aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops—this time using drones rather than planes, to supposedly target the planted areas with greater precision. The move comes in response to a new report from the White House finding that Colombian coca cultivation has reached a new record. Data for 2017 indicates coca cultivation rose 11% to 209,000 hectares (516,450 acres), a level not seen in more than two decades of record-keeping. Estimated cocaine production increased 19 percent to 921 metric tons. "President Trump's message to Colombia is clear: The record growth in cocaine production must be reversed," said Jim Carroll, acting director for the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. (El Colombiano, June 26; AP, June 25)