The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated on Sept. 14 that Syria is "not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees." The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country.
The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded "unmanned combat aerial vehicle," the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı, which is Turkish for "raider," is a more advanced version of Turkey's iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and stay in the air longer as well as carry more missiles. The TB2, developed in collaboration with another Turkish defense contractor, Roketsan, has been used by Ankara against Kurdish PKK guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces in Idlib provice. Turkey is said to have 75 of the TB2 drones in its own fleet.
France's highest court on Sept. 7 overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity by cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying ISIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists.
In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush's Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West—as now admitted to by the elite global management.
In Episode 86 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg returns to the book The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi, exploring applicability of its analysis to the current disaster in Afghanistan. This discussion is taken up at the request of Eric Laursen, author of The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort. Laursen is the first to take up the CounterVortex special offer, by which new Patreon subscribers get to choose a topic for exploration on the podcast. When do we have a responsibility to protect, and when do we have a duty to stand aside, and how can these imperatives be reconciled? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) charges in a new report that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are violating US sanctions imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act by supplying oil and gas to the Bashar Assad regime. The report claims the sales come to some six million barrels of oil annually, amounting to profits of $120 million. The report covers the period from enactment of the Caesar Act in June 2020 through July 2021, and asserts that the oil has enabled "perpetration of atrocious violations" by the regime. The report also warns of toxic pollution caused by primitive oil extraction methods used at the SDF-held oil-fields.
Fighting has erupted again in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where an opposition-controlled neighborhood is resisting pressure to disarm. Assad regime forces placed the area, Daraa al-Balad, under military siege in late June, and later escalated to intermittent shelling of the enclave. A new ceasefire was brokered by pro-regime Russian forces over the weekend, under which the opposition forces were to begin the process of disarming but maintain some autonomy within the district. However, the ceasefire broke down almost immediately—allegedly due to violations by Iran-backed militias fighting for the regime. Shelling of the neighborhood has since resumed. The UN relief agency UNRWA has especially expressed concern for the some 3,000 Palestinian refugees living in a camp within the besieged area. UNRWA reports that water and electricity are completely cut off inside the camp. (Middle East Monitor, Daily Sabah, Daily Sabah, Reliefweb)
Kurdish rebels launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military position in northern Iraq, killing one soldier Aug. 13. The troops were stationed at the outpost as part of Ankara's "Operation Claw-Lightning" to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's Defense Ministry said its forces immediately retaliated for the attack, and three PKK fighters were "neutralized" (killed). (Al Jazeera) The following day, thousands of Kurds marched in Dusseldorf, Germany, to protest ongoing Turkish military operations in Turkey's eastern Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, and in Syria's Rojava region. The demonstration was timed for the 37th anniversary of the start of the PKK's armed struggle against the Turkish state. Organizers reported that local police banned slogans calling for the release of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (Rudaw)