control of oil
Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the United States can do "what we want" with the oil-fields now under its control in northeast Syria. The Dec. 2 remarks are provided via White House transcript: "And I wanted to say that, in keeping the oil, ISIS was trying to, as you know, regain control of the oil. And we have total control of the oil. And, frankly, we had a lot of support from a lot of different people. But, right now, the only soldiers we have, essentially, in that area, are the soldiers keeping the oil. So we have the oil, and we can do with the oil what we want." This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump's 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: "I'll take the oil"—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon!
The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference began Dec. 2 in Madrid, with leaders looking for solutions to reduce global carbon levels. Leaders originally planned for the conference to be held in Chile, but due to political instability, the conference was moved to Madrid, where it will take place over the next two weeks. The conference started with statements from prominent leaders, notably António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General. Guterres urged leaders to select the "path of hope." He characterized this choice as:
At least six were killed and some 20 injured when Bolivian army and National Police opened fire on protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed president Evo Morales in the working-class city of El Alto. Protesters had been blockading the entrance to Senkata gasworks and oil refinery in the city for three days on Nov. 19, when troops backed up by armored vehicles attempted to clear the gates, allowing tanker-trucks through to supply gasoline to La Paz. Bolivia's official rights agency, the Defensoría del Pueblo, confirmed the death of three in the incident, but local media are putting the toll as high as eight.
Protests erupted in Iran Nov. 15 after the government announced a 50% increase in the price of fuel, partly in response to the re-imposition of US sanctions. Spontaneous demonstrations first broke out in Sirjan, but quickly spread to several other cities, including Tehran, where banks and petrol stations were set on fire. The regime quickly responded by imposing a near-total shut-down of the Internet and mobile data throughout the country. Security forces have already killed several protesters, and the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of "decisive" action if the unrest does not cease. (Al Jazeera, Wired, Payvand, Jurist)
A US military convoy was spotted headed back into Syria from Iraqi territory—just days after the US withdrawal from northern Syria, which precipitated the Turkish aggression there, had been completed. The convoy was traveling toward the Deir ez-Zor area, presumably to "guard" the oil-fields there, now under the precarious control of Kurdish forces. (Rudaw) Following up on President Trump's pledge to secure the oil-fields, Defense Secretary Mark Esper now tells USA Today that the troops being mobilized to Deir ez-Zor "will include some mechanized forces." USA Today also reports that Esper broached sending armored vehicles now based in Kuwait to defend the Syrian oil-fields.
US troops hastened their withdrawal from Syria on Oct. 21, amid the anger of local Kurds and confusion over the future status of American forces in the area. More than 100 vehicles crossed into Iraq that day. The departure of the 1,000 soldiers—including 500 that were embdedded in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—was marked by the US destroying weapons, equipment and facilities to keep them from falling into the hands of Russian, Assadist or Iranian forces. Video showed Kurdish residents, furious at a perceived betrayal by the Americans, berating and attempting to block a convoy of withdrawing US forces as youth pelted the trucks and armored vehicles with stones and rotten fruit.
Celebrations broke out across Ecuador Oct. 13 after President Lenin Moreno agreed to overturn Decree 883, which would have eliminated fuel subsidies. Moreno's capitulation followed 10 days of nationwide protests that left at least eight dead, hundreds injured and more than 1,000 detained. After suspension of the decree was announced, thousands of indigenous activists, local residents and student volunteers took to the streets of Quito to clean up the city. Teams worked their way through El Arbolito park, epicenter of the protest movement, which was still littered with burning tires and pavement slabs that had been used as barricades. Moreno and protest leaders are to open a dialogue to find alternative means to cut Ecuador's public spending.
Ecuador's government declared a "state of exception" Oct. 3 after protesters opposed to a fuel price hike blocked streets and disrupted transport nationwide. A national paro, or general strike, was called after President Lenín Moreno announced his decision to end a 40-year-old subsidy for fuel—widely perceived as a move taken in response to belt-tightening demands made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following a recent $4.2 billion loan package. At least 350 have been arrested in the "paquetazo" protests, whch have been led by transport unions, indigenous organizations and student groups. (TeleSur, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC News)