Angry protests have swept through several provinces of Iran over the past two weeks amid an economic crisis exacerbated by subsidy cuts that have seen the price of basic goods soar as much as 300%. According to reports on social media, at least six people have been killed as security forces have been deployed across the country to quell unrest. The protests have turned political in many areas, such as the Isfahan provincial capital of Golpayegan, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic. The government has cut off the internet to a number of areas hit by protests, including traditionally restive Khuzestan province.
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Some 1,500 advocacy groups from over 130 countries have formed a global alliance to support a Vanuatu government proposal seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change. The government plans to put the proposal to the UN General Assembly for a vote later this year. Prime Minister Bob Loughman said the Pacific Island nations can't survive if rich corporations and governments continue to put profits ahead of people and the planet. Addressing members of the new International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (ICJAO) coalition, including the Climate Action Network, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and 350 Pacific, he said: "The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. Civil society and friends, this is not a crisis that I or my people will continue to accept; not before we have done everything within our powers to stop it. We, the smallest nations of the world do have power." (Climate Action Network International, Radio New Zealand)
In Episode 121 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the grim irony that on the week of International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, Russian regime and state media figures issued blatant threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. This follows criminal recklessness by Russian forces at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear plants, which itself constituted an escalation on the ladder of nuclear terror. These events clearly illustrate how nuclear power and weapons constitute a single unified threat. Weinberg continues his deconstruction of the industry propaganda about how the "no safe dose" dictum is now obsolete (no, it isn't, actually), and sophistries such as the "Banana Equivalent Dose." Amid the relentless efforts to revive the nuclear industry in the US, China is undertaking a major thrust of nuclear development, with similar plans afoot in France. And this as economies are increasingly based on energy-intensive and socially oppressive activities like "crypto-mining." Nonetheless, respected environmentalists such as acclaimed climate scientist James Hansen and Charles Komanoff of the Carbon Tax Center now advocate a continuance of reliance on nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. This false choice is predicated on the continuance of dystopian "normality"—exactly what needs to be challenged. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon's government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it's a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. Oxfam is warning that wheat reserves could run out within weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mercy Corps reports that food prices are up in rebel-held northwest Syria, where food security was already a major concern. Last month Egypt put a cap on unsubsidized bread prices before they could get too high. Yemen, which imports the vast majority of its food, is of particular concern as it already has so many hungry people and is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Last week, UNICEF said that "the number of malnourished children [in the region] is likely to drastically increase."
US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on March 25 announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and "strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine." The press release states: "The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward." This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.
South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar warned March 28 that the country is heading "back to war" following attacks on his Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) by government forces under President Salva Kiir. The warring parties signed a 2018 peace agreement that led to a unity government two years later. But key parts of the deal have not been implemented, and violence has flared in the countryside. Machar's party suspended its participation in peace deal monitoring mechanisms after claiming that his house had been surrounded by government forces on March 27. As tensions build, humanitarian needs are deepening: more than 70% of South Sudan's population are expected to face extreme hunger this year, while funding constraints and attacks on aid convoys will likely continue to complicate relief efforts.
The threat that climate change poses to human well-being and the health of the planet is "unequivocal," says the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The expansive review—which forms the second part of the IPCC's sixth assessment report (AR6)—warns that any further delay in global action to slow climate change and adapt to its impacts "will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all."