Moscow has certainly been a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent days. Jan. 13 saw the first direct meeting in years between the intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria's Assad regime, supposedly deadly rivals. The head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan met with Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, in a sure sign of a Russian-brokered rapprochement between the burgeoning dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entrenched dictatorship of Bashar Assad. Sources said discussions included "the possibility of working together against YPG, the terrorist organization PKK's Syrian component, in the East of the Euphrates river." (Daily Sabah, Reuters)
Reviving Friday demonstrations that were a tradition of the Syrian revolution, activists in besieged Idlib province in the north filled the Idlib city center on Jan. 10, flying the Free Syria flag, chanting slogans against the Assad regime and Russia, and demanding international action against the ongoing bombardment of the province. The demonstrators especially expressed their sympathy and support for the displaced persons from Maarat al-Nuaman, a town which has come under especially intense bombardment in recent weeks. The Assad regime and Russia launched their bombing campaign in April, largely violating the de-escalation zone deal reached between Russia and Turkey. (OrientNet)
The Turkish parliament voted overwhelmingly Jan. 2 to send troops to Libya, to back up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, now under siege from an offensive by warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is loyal to the rival government based in the country's east. Lawmakers voted 325-184 in an emergency session to give Ankara a one-year mandate to deploy forces to the North African country. US President Donald Trump responded to the vote by calling his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warning him against intervening in the Libyan conflict. Weeks earlier, the US State Department issued a statement calling on Haftar to halt his offensive, and also warned against "Russia's attempts to exploit the conflict." Russia is believed to be backing Haftar. (EuroNews, BBC News, Politico, Al Jazeera)
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor announced Dec. 23 that five people have been sentenced to death and three sentenced to prison terms in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. The verdict revealed that charges had been dismissed for the remaining three of the 11 that had been on trial. The trial did not find that the killing was premeditated. Among those not indicted were two top Saudi officials, who were exonerated due to lack of evidence. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for the Washington Post, entered the consulate to obtain marriage documents in October 2018, only to be killed there, his body dismembered and later taken from the consulate. The remains have yet to be found.
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!
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
The Yazidi village of Bara in northern Iraq was struck by Turkish warplanes for the second time in two days Nov. 5, injuring at least three. There were also strikes on the nearby village of Khanasor, targeting a base of the Shingal Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia. The YBS played a key role in liberating the area from ISIS after the Islamic State's genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. Turkey believes the YBS to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and justifies its strikes by claiming the area is host to PKK positions. The area of Shingal, also known as Sinjar, was subject to a spate of air-strikes in 2018, which killed YBS commander Zaki Shingali as well as four fighters. (Provisional Government of Ezidikhan)
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.