On a visit to Baghdad this week, Gen. Frank McKenzie, chief of the Pentagon's Central Command, announced that US forces in Iraq will be reduced in the coming weeks from some 5,200 troops to about 3,000. McKenzie later told reporters that troop levels in Afghanistan will drop from the current 8,600 to 4,500. All of this is to happen by "late October," he said. How convenient. (AP, Politico) This all smells more of politics that strategy. There are still more than 10,000 ISIS fighters remaining across Iraq and Syria, according to a UN estimate from August. So, as Defense One comments, "any 'mission accomplished' moment remains elusive to clear-eyed observers of ISIS and the Middle East."
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has signed a decree that sets up a Justice Commission for the Yaqui People, seeking to resolve problems of land, water, health, education and infrastructure faced by the indigenous group. The decree was signed Aug. 6 during a visit by López Obrador to the Yaqui community of Vícam, in Guaymas municipaliy, Sonora state. The decree seeks to redress a long history of oppression, massacres, slavery and land theft faced by the Yaqui. López Obrador said that the Yaqui have been Mexico's most persecuted indigenous group, stating, "All the original inhabitants suffered robbery, but no people suffered as much as the Yaqui." The president also said that he had agreed to modify the route of the planned Guaymas-El Oro gas pipeline that was supposed to run through Yaqui territory.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in British Columbia, ending their years-long battle against the construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline is a controversial project to carry crude oil between Alberta and British Columbia's coast. The First Nations filed their appeal after a February decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals that upheld the pipeline's legality. "The consultation process initiated by Canada invited the participation of 129 indigenous groups impacted by the project," stated that ruling, "and more than 120 either support or do not oppose it." The Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh contested this. In a 2018 appeal, the Tsleil-Waututh nation asserted sovereignty over the land, and their "freestanding stewardship, harvesting and cultural rights in this area." Both nations further claimed that the pipeline's construction would obstruct access to water, game and agricultural resources.
International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced May 28. The next summit, officially dubbed the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year's summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. Instead, critical decisions were put off for COP26. This means a full two years will have passed before any progress can be made. (STV)
More than 10 years after the Bagua massacre in the Peruvian Amazon, sparked when National Police troops attacked a roadblock by indigenous protesters, a magistrate at the penal chamber of Peru's Supreme Court of Justice on Jan. 31 absolved 53 of the protesters, who had faced criminal charges. A lower court had cleared the accused protesters, all indigenous Amazonians, in September 2016. Last year, the high court confirmed this ruling on charges of homicide, assault and theft of police firearms. But charges of riot, disruption of public services and illegal firearm possession remained outstanding until this second decision.
Moscow has certainly been a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent days. Jan. 13 saw the first direct meeting in years between the intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria's Assad regime, supposedly deadly rivals. The head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan met with Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, in a sure sign of a Russian-brokered rapprochement between the burgeoning dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entrenched dictatorship of Bashar Assad. Sources said discussions included "the possibility of working together against YPG, the terrorist organization PKK's Syrian component, in the East of the Euphrates river." (Daily Sabah, Reuters)
A new rupture on the disaster-plagued North Peruvian Pipeline fouled local water sources that several indigenous communities depend on in Peru's rainforest region of Loreto. The spill occurred June 19 at kilometer 227 on the pipeline, in Manseriche district, Datem del Marañón province. The government's Environmental Evaluation & Fiscalization Organism (OEFA) is overseeing recovery efforts, but the local communities of Nuevo Progreso and Saramiriza are demanding emergency potable water deliveries, saying they have been without clean water since the spill. Pipeline operator PetroPeru is blaming the rupture on "an act of delinquency" by local residents. (Gestión, EFE, June 23; InfoRegion, Gestión, June 19)
Amid alarmingly sketchy accounts of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which are said to have caused damage but no casualties, Trump has dispatched the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf, and ordered a partial evacuation of US diplomatic staff from Iraq. An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was also hit by drones, according to the kingdom's energy ministry. Meanwhile, Iran-backed war crimes and "sectarian cleansing" in Syria and Iraq are safely invisible to the outside world. Well, oil matters; people do not. We already knew that. But adding to the Orwellian nature of it all—the US and Iran are on the same side in Syria and Iraq. De facto in the former (where the US has tilted to Assad, rhetoric notwithstanding), de jure in the latter (where Washington and Tehran alike openly back the Baghdad regime). Let's hope that Trump's mutuality of interest with the ayatollahs (however sinister) will compel both sides to retreat from the brink before they blunder into total disaster. As always, US war moves put the civil opposition in Iran in a more difficult position, making it easier for the regime to paint them as pawns of Washington. Any anti-war position must be clear on solidarity with the people of Iran, including in their democracy struggle—emphatically not with the regime.