Greater Middle East
Syria: reject 'normalization' of Assad regime
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates for an official visit March 19—another advance in the attempt to normalize his genocidal regime. The trip was accompanied by more ceremony than Assad's visit to the UAE last year, his first journey to an Arab state since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011. The UAE trip comes after a visit to Oman last month. Days before the UAE visit, Assad was in Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. In addition to voicing support for Putin's war in Ukraine, Assad told Russian state media that he welcomes any expansion of Moscow's military bases in Syria. (EA Worldview, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, EuroNews)
Will Iran-Saudi deal end Yemen's war?
As part of its China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran has agreed to stop arming Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Officially, Tehran denies arming the rebels, who have been fighting forces aligned with Yemen's internationally recognized government—including a Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led coalition—for eight years. Regardless of the report's veracity, the deal between the regional rivals has put a renewed focus on efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, which many have portrayed as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Podcast: Libya and Syria, 12 years later
In Episode 165 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the simultaneous 12th anniversary of the start of both the NATO intervention in Libya and the Syrian revolution. The NATO intervention was at root a bid to control the political trajectory of the Arab Revolution, and bring about a Thermidor in which Western-backed technocrats would be ascendant. The Syrian people seized back the initiative with their popular uprising against the Bashar Assad dictatorship. But, following the precedent set in Libya, the Great Powers have intervened, seeking to impose their own order—over the heads of the Syrian people. This time, however, the principal interventionist power has not been the West seeking to coopt the revolution, but Russia seeking to prop up the genocidal ancien régime. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Podcast: against Assadist earthquake-exploitation
In Episode 163 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg deconstructs the propaganda campaign that would exploit the devastating earthquake to get the sanctions lifted on the genocidal Bashar Assad regime in Syria. The earthquake was actually a windfall for the drive to "normalize" the regime. Listen and find out why the superficially plausible arguments of the "no sanctions" line are cynical and intentionally misleading. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Unnatural disaster in Syria's northwest
In the wake of the devastating Feb. 6 earthquake that has killed some 15,000 in Turkey and Syria, the contested political situation in the latter country is raising particular dilemmas. Aid agencies warn of "catastrophic" implications for Syria's rebel-controlled northwest, where millions of displaced and vulnerable people were already in precarious straits and relying on humanitarian support before the quake. At least half of the estimated 2,000 dead in Syria are in the rebel-controlled area. (Al Bawaba, SOHR, CNN) Due to Russian influence at the UN on behalf of the Bashar Assad regime, humanitarian access is already limited to one border crossing—Bab al-Hawa. And Moscow and Damascus have been pressuring to close that one as well.
Turkey: Kurdish party challenges ban order
Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) on Jan. 16 asked the Turkish Constitutional Court to postpone its decision on a government request to ban the party until after the upcoming general elections, planned for June. Co-leader of the HDP, Mithat Sancar, told reporters: "The Constitutional Court should stop all proceedings on this case. The authorities want to use this case against the HDP as a tool to threaten us." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government accuses the HDP of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey. The HDP won 12% of the vote in the 2018 general election and holds 56 of parliament's 579 seats. (Kurdistan24)
Turkey seeks Moscow 'green light' for assault on Rojava
Turkey is now openly seeking cooperation from Russia, foremost foreign backer of the Bashar Assad dictatorship, in a long-planned cross-border operation into northern Syria against the Kurdish autonomous zone in the region, known as Rojava. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, speaking to reporters Dec. 25, said: "We are in talks and discussing with Russia about all issues including opening the airspace." (Reuters)
Syria: SDF cooperation with Pentagon suspended
With Turkey preparing a new offensive against the reduced Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria's Rojava region, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced a halt to military cooperation with the United States. In a Dec. 2 statement, the SDF said that "all coordination and joint counterterrorism operations" with the US-led coalition battling ISIS remnants in Syria have been suspended. The move is evidently intended to place pressure on the US to do more to constrain Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who reportedly now has his sights on the remaining significant strongholds of the autonomous administration, Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Kobane. The US has some 600 troops embedded with the SDF in Syria. (MEE, PBS, PRI, Al Jazeera)
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