Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 21, after recent findings evidenced the regime's use of poisonous gas throughout the nation's civil war. A two-thirds majority of nations voted to strip the Bashar Assad regime of its rights and privileges as a member of the organization, including the right to vote at OPCW conferences. The OPCW, monitoring body for the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, has 193 members, 87 of whom voted in favor of suspension of Syria's rights. Out of the 136 countries participating in the Conference of State Parties where the vote was taken, 34 states abstained and 15 voted against, including Russia, Iran and Syria.
The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced April 26 that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). "The residents of al-Tay neighborhood who left their homes due to escalation will be assisted by our forces to return to their homes," the Asayish statement said.
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 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposés of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross "works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents." This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts.
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.
In Episode 65 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers his presentation on the panel "Kronstadt 1921 and the Social Crises of 2021," part of the online conference Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021 and Beyond, marking the centenary of the Kronstadt uprising in revolutionary Russia. In March 1921, Russian naval troops mutinied and took over their island garrison as an autonomous zone, in solidarity with striking workers in Petrograd, and to demand greater freedom and power for democratic soviets (worker councils) against the consolidating one-party state of the Bolsheviks. When the uprising was brutally put down, this marked the first time that international leftist forces found themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion. A century later, all too many on the international "left" similarly find themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion in Syria. And the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, unlike the Russia of 1921, is by no stretch of the imagination a revolutionary state. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.