Water also at issue in France protests
Amid nationwide protests over the government's pension reform in France, clashes between demonstrators and police are reported from the rural commune of Saite-Soline, in the western department of Deux-Sèvres. Thousands defied an official ban March 25 to mobilize against the construction of new water storage "basins" for crop irrigation. In the ensuing fracas, security forces deployed helicopters and tear-gas, and several protesters were wounded, some seriously. Authorities said that gendarmes were injured as well, and patrol cars set ablaze. Some protesters reportedly dug up and dismantled a section of pipe that had been laid to feed the reservoir, and marched with the severed segments held aloft. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described the scene as "eco-terrorism."
Nord Stream pipeline sabotage: rush to judgment
Ukraine is denying involvement in September's attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, which were built to carry Russian natural gas to Germany (but had already been shut by Russia before the apparent sabotage). The denials follow a March 7 report in the New York Times, citing anonymous US intelligence officials to the effect that an unnamed "pro-Ukrainian group" was to blame. (BBC News) German prosecutors simultaneoulsy announced their investigators had found "traces" of explosive on a yacht that had sailed to the site of the attack from Rostok just beforehand, and had been rented from a Polish-based company that is "apparently owned by two Ukrainians." (Politico, The Guardian)
French forces out of Burkina Faso, into Ivory Coast
France has officially ended its operations in Burkina Faso on Feb. 20, a month after the ruling junta there terminated a military accord that allowed the former colonial power to fight jihadists. French forces remain in the greater region, however. The move came as French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited Côte d'Ivoire, pledging to boost military support as jihadist attacks hit coastal West African states. (TNH)
Podcast: West Africa's forgotten wars
In Episode 161 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of the under-reported conflicts in West Africa, where government forces and allied paramilitary groups battle multiple jihadist insurgencies affiliated either with ISIS or al-Qaeda on a franchise model. Horrific massacres have been committed by both sides, but the Western media have only recently started to take note because of the geopolitical angle that has emerged: both Mali and Burkina Faso have cut long-standing security ties with France, the former colonial power, and brought in mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group. In both countries, the pastoralist Fulani people have been stigmatized as "terrorists" and targeted for extra-judicial execution and even massacre—a potentially pre-genocidal situation. But government air-strikes on Fulani communities in Nigeria have received no coverage in the Western media, because of the lack of any geopolitical rivalry there; Nigeria remains firmly in the Anglo-American camp. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Iran: resistance grows as death toll tops 500
The independent Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) on Jan. 16 released statistics finding that 522 protestors, including 70 children and youths, have been killed in Iran since the start of the national uprising in September. Authorities have arrested 19,400 people, including 168 children and youths. Of those detained, 110 are "under impending threat" of a death sentence. Four protestors have already been executed. Human Rights Watch additionally reported that authorities have fired assault rifles on protestors, and have subjected those in detention to torture, mistreatment and sexual abuse. (Jurist)
African intrigues over Wagner Group
Burkina Faso's ruling military authorities on Dec. 16 summoned Ghana's ambassador over accusations that they have hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help fight jihadists. Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo said: "Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there." Calling the mercenaries' presence "distressing," Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner control of a gold mine as payment.
Podcast: climate change and the global struggle II
In Episode 147 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the recent statement from the UN Environment Program that "only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster." Studies from similarly prestigious global bodies have raised the prospect of imminent human extinction. An International Energy Agency report released last year warned that new fossil fuel exploration needed to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Adoption of new technologies and emissions standards does mean that CO2 emissions from energy generation (at least) are likely to peak by 2025. But the IEA finds that this would still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 C above pre-industrial levels by century's end—exceeding the Paris Agreement limits, with catastrophic climate impacts. And the catastrophic impacts, already felt in places like (just for example) Chad and Cameroon, win but scarce media coverage. Climate-related conflict has already escalated to genocide in Darfur, and possibly in Syria. The oil companies, meanwhile, are constitutionally incapable of writing off the "stranded assets" of vast hydrocarbon investments. Climate protests in Europe—at oil terminals and car shows (as well as, less appropriately, museums)—do win some attention. But the ongoing resistance to still-expanding oil mega-projects in places like Uganda and Tanzania are comparatively invisible to the outside world. The dire warnings from the UN and IEA raise the imperative for a globalized resistance with an explicitly anti-capitalist politics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
EU doubles down on asylum double standards
More than 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers have entered Germany this year—outpacing the 890,000 that arrived during the Mediterranean migration crisis in 2015. Back then, the vast majority were Syrians. This year, around one million of those who have entered are Ukrainians, although Syrians, Afghans, and others continue to arrive. For Ukrainians, the EU Commission this week extended the Temporary Protection Directive—first activated in March, and allowing them to live, work, and access services throughout the EU. Some 4.2 million Ukrainians have registered under the directive, which is now valid until March 2024. Meanwhile, the EU is pursuing much less welcoming policies for asylum seekers and migrants from other parts of the world. These include the the Dublin Regulation, that since 2003 has required asylum seekers to apply for protection in the member state they first entered—often prolonging perilous journeys to reach sanctuary beyond countries with harsh immigration policies, such as Poland and Hungary.
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