Greater Middle East
In Episode 69 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi (Routledge 2020). While Noam Chomsky's critique of "humanitarian intervention" has merit, those who parrot it often act as if it simply ends the conversation—and, worse, engage in post-truth revisionism to deny that mass atrocities are even happening. The Nation magazine has repeatedly run lying propaganda that merely turns the realities of the Syrian war on their head, portraying the victims as aggressors. Contrary to the popular fiction of a "regime change" war, the US bombardment of Syria has overwhelmingly targeted ISIS—and has been coordinated with and approved by the Assad regime. And contrary to the unseemly gloating about the chaos in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi, there is a good case that the situation there would be worse, not better, if there had not been a "regime change" war. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups was released on April 2, highlighting the role of Moscow's military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, "A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War," is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The 198-page report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention.
In Episode 68 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a meditation on the final demise of the millennia-old Jewish community in Yemen, as the last families of Yemeni Jews are deported by the Houthi rebels that hold the capital and much of the country's north. Largely ignored by the world media amid the ongoing horrors in Yemen, this grim passage poses challenges to some fundamental assumptions of both Zionism and anti-imperialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen's north, including the capital Sanaa, last week deported 13 Jews from three families—effectively ending the millennia-old Jewish community in the country. The group was reportedly transferred to Egypt as part of a deal to free Jewish prisoner Levi Salem Marhabi, who has been held by Houthi authorities for over four years. One of the 13 deported Jews told London-based Arabic international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: "They gave us a choice between staying in the midst of harassment and keeping Salem a prisoner or having him released. History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment. We had rejected temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced."
Turkish prosecutors on April 5 issued arrest warrants for 10 retired senior navy officers a day after 104 officers released a letter defending the Montreux Doctrine. The Montreux Doctrine is an agreement made in 1936 concerning critical waterways that run through Turkey, most notably the straits of the Bosphorus (also known as Strait of Istanbul) and the Dardanelles. The terms of the international convention provide that Turkey may control the straits, but must permit civilian vessels to pass through the waterways in times of peace. In addition, the treaty regulates passage of warships and foreign cargo ships on the waters. The treaty was designed to "prevent the militarization of the Black Sea."
Turkish security forces arrested 203 soldiers March 23 in nationwide raids targeting military personnel accused of links to an exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of being behind a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The 2016 episode led to crackdowns and mass arrests, resulting in more than 250 deaths. Thousands of soldiers were rounded up in the wake of attempted coup. The new raids targeted personnel across ranks; colonels, lieutenants, majors, captains, sergeants, and specialist sergeants were sought out. Operations were held across 53 provinces in the country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Authorities alleged that the arrested soldiers are linked to the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a supposed network infiltrating the police and security forces. The suspects are accused of communicating with Gülen's "covert imams" via payphone. "Covert imams" is a term used by the government to refer to FETO operatives.
Aid groups working in besieged northern Syria are expressing outrage after a hospital in the town of al-Atareb was destroyed by artillery fire March 21. Six people were killed in the strikes, including a child, and at least 16 injured. The hospital was within the rebel-held pocket of Aleppo province, which has come under renewed bombardment by the Assad regime and Russia in recent weeks after a year-long lull in the fighting. The hospital was jointly supported by the International Rescue Committee and the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS). All the casualties were civilians.
Kurdish left-wing politician Selahattin Demirtaş was sentenced to three years and six months in prison by a Turkish court on March 22 for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Demirtas, a leader and co-founder of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was given the maximum punishment for the offence. He has been imprisoned since November 2016 along with several other HDP leaders. The charge against him concern statements he made in 2015 at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, where he said Erdoğan "fluttered from corridor to corridor" during a Paris conference in the hopes of getting a picture with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also said that the government had betrayed the country by mismanaging the diplomatic crisis between Russia and Turkey after Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane at the Syrian border.