From our Daily Report:

Syria
Syria oil map

Trump lays claim to Syrian oil

Before Donald Trump left the London NATO summit in a huff, he made the startling claim at a press conference that the US can do “what we want” with the oil-fields it now controls in northeast Syria. This faux pas, jumped on by the British tabloid press, recalls Trump’s 2016 campaign trail boast of his plans for Syria: “I’ll take the oil”—and turn the seized fields over to Exxon. A military showdown over the oil looms, as all sides to the conflict await the new order that will emerge from the current scramble for northern Syria. A contest between the US and Russian-backed Assadist forces is a terrifying possibility. One restraining factor is that the US holds the fields jointly with Kurdish forces—and Washington, Moscow and Damascus alike are attempting to groom the Kurds as proxies. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

South Asia
rohingya girl

Bangladesh denies education to Rohingya children

Human Rights Watch reports that the Bangladesh government is violating the right to education of nearly 400,000 school-age Rohingya refugee children by barring UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs from providing the children with any formal, accredited education. The government’s policy prevents Rohingya from integrating into Bangladeshi society, barring their children from enrolling in schools in local communities outside the camps or taking national school examinations. According to HRW, Bangladesh is violating its obligations to ensure the right to education under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other treaties, and its obligation to the integration of refugee children into national education systems under the Global Compact on Refugees. (Photo: Wikimedia/Shirin Kona)

Europe

Russia deploys Cossacks to police Crimea

Russia’s Interior Ministry has announced that “Cossacks” will be deployed, together with thede facto police, in patrolling occupied Crimea, as well as in “carrying out anti-drug measures and educational work with young people.” So-called “Cossacks” were used, with other paramilitaries, during the annexation of the peninsula in 2014 to carry out violence that Russia did not want attributed to official security fources. The group Human Rights in Ukraine believes a similar role is planned again, and that “educational work” means propaganda for the Russian military. (Photo via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

Planet Watch
emissions

UN climate change conference opens in Madrid

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference opened in Madrid—originally planned for Chile, but changed due to the political instability there.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders to select the “path of hope.” He characterized this choice as: “A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions. A path where more fossil fuels remain where they should be–in the ground–and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. That is the only way to limit global temperature rise to the necessary 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.” (Photo: cwizner/Pixabay)

Mexico
narcotanks

Corporate cannabis targets bleeding Mexico

There is a discomforting sense that Mexico is perpetually on the eve of cannabis legalization, as the country’s Congress wins a six-month extension from the Supreme Court to pass a law freeing the herb. But foreign capital is already eyeing Mexico’s emergent legal cannabis sector—even amid a terrifying escalation in the bloody cartel wars. When authorities attempted to arrest the son of “Chapo” Guzmán in Culiacán, the troops were surrounded by Cartel gunmen riding in trucks mounted with big machine-guns, and even what appeared to be improvised armored vehicles. The younger Guzmán escaped, and the Sinaloa Cartel proved it has the firepower to effectively challenge the state—at least on its home turf. (Photo via The Drive)

The Amazon
Amazon burning

ICC receives request to investigate Bolsonaro

Groups including Brazil’s Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Commission for Human Rights (Comissão Arns) submitted a written recommendation to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reporting the need for a preliminary examination into genocide and systematic attacks against indigenous people by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo: pixundfertig/Pixabay via Jurist)

The Andes
sutesal

Peru next for regional protest wave?

Weeks after a nationwide uprising in Chile was sparked by protests over transit fare hikes in the capital, politicians in neighboring Peru are issuing nervous warnings in the wake of days of street demonstrations in Lima. This week, students occupied Central Station on Lima’s Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, workers marched to oppose the privatization of the city’s water system, and hundreds protested the pending release of imprisoned right-wing political leader Keiko Fujimori. President Martin Vizcarra took note of the threat of widespread unrest when he told the Annual Conference of Executives that Peru “is not free of protests” and must work to fight corruption and close the wealth gap. But his prescription was for an “authentic” free market—precisely the policies now being protested. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Southern Cone
Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. (Photo via El Ciudadano)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN releases bleak report on ’emissions gaps’

The UN Environment Program has released its tenth annual report on “emissions gaps,” finding that the current rate of global carbon emissions will lead to an average temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100. The report was completed by international scientists and specialists to assess where countries are in terms of their emissions levels versus where they need to be to avoid the worst damage from climate change. Inger Andersen, the executive director of the program, wrote in the foreword that “[o]ur collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts… This report gives us a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.” (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

The Andes
Rafael Quispe

Bolivia: signs of de-escalation following dialogue

Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed an “Exceptional & Transitional Regime Law” that annus last month’s contested elections and calls for new elections to be held within 120 days—without Evo Morales as a candidate. The pact follows talks mediated by the Catholic Church and the European Union between the new government of interim president Jeanine Añez and leaders of the ousted Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which continues to hold a majority in both houses of the Assembly. As a part of the talks, Morales supporters in the countryside have agreed to dismantle their roadblocks. Rafael Quispe, a traditional Ayamara leader, was also appointed to head Bolivia’s indigenous development agency. (Photo of Rafael Quispe being sworn in via El Pais, Tarija)

The Andes
Cauca blast

War escalating in Colombia’s south

As Colombia’s major cities exploded into protest amid a national strike, a truck-bomb attack targeted a police station in the southern department of Cauca, leaving three officers dead. Authorities blamed the blast in the town of Santander de Quilichao on “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who have remained in arms despite the peace accords. The blast came two weeks after Colombia’s defense minister Guillermo Botero resigned amid outrage over an air-strike on a supposed guerilla camp in the neighboring department of Caquetá, in which several children were revealed to have been killed. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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Featured Stories

Idlib protest

IDLIB RESISTS

Over the past days a popular uprising has broken out across northern Syria’s Idlib against the hardline Islamist group that is militarily dominant in much of the province—Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam or HTS, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The uprising began when HTS increased zakaat (taxes) on a number of goods and services including bread, electricity and olive oil. The anti-Assad regime protests which are held almost every Friday in Idlib are now also demanding the expulsion of HTS from the province. The dominant narrative promoted by the regime and supporters of Assadist fascism is that Idlib is a “terrorist enclave.” Today’s uprising should challenge this narrative. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami provides an account.

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Tapachula protest

LEFT WAITING

For months, hundreds of African migrants and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been camped out in tents in front of the main immigration detention facility in the town of Tapachula, in southern Mexico. Most flew halfway around the world to Brazil, then made the dangerous journey north through the Darien Gap— a remote, roadless swath of jungle—before traversing Central America into Mexico in the hope of finally reaching the United States to claim asylum. Instead, they were detained upon arrival in Mexico, under terms of the new migration agreement between the US and Mexican governments. Melisa Valenzuela reports from Tapachula for The New Humanitarian.

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Rome protest

ROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN

Italy’s far-right interior minister (and de facto ruler) Matteo Salvini was just removed from power in a government shake-up—but not before passing his draconian “Salvini Law.” In addition to restricting the rights of migrants and refugees to asylum and government aid, the Salvini Law imposes a five-year prison term for squatting. Italy’s thousands of squatters—many of them displaced from their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and South America—are now in a precarious position. Bill Weinberg offers a first-hand account from the squats and migrant enclaves of the Eternal City.

Continue ReadingROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN 
Kashmir

HOW INDIA COMPLICATED KASHMIR DISPUTE

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of Jammu & Kashmir state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, the revocation is being challenged as itself unconstitutional, and in violation of both international agreements and the Instrument of Accession by which  J&K joined the Indian union in 1947. The revocation may yet be overturned by India’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, unrest and repression mount in J&K, and tensions are escalating with Pakistan—raising the possibly an armed conflict between the Subcontinent’s nuclear rivals. L. Ali Khan, writing for Jurist, offers a legal and historical perspective on the crisis.

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SYRIA: FROM REVOLUTION TO QUAGMIRE

If 2011 looked like the moment when people could unite, both within and across borders, to topple decades-old dictatorships with the demand for freedom and social justice, today looks like the moment of counter-revolutionary success. After eight years of increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, Bashar al-Assad still presides as president over a now destroyed, fragmented and traumatized country. The dominant narrative is that the war is nearing its end. States once vocally opposed to Assad now have other strategic concerns which take precedence over the victims of his savage efforts to hold onto power. Yet, on the ground, conditions are far from stable; civilians remain trapped and are paying the price for ongoing struggles for power and territory between the regime, foreign states and ideological warlords. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami writes for the North American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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‘RUSSIAGATE,’ SYRIA AND THE LEFT

Why have there been so few large protests against the daily abuses from the Trump administration?  Where is the opposition?  Syria solidarity activists have watched disinformation contribute to uncertainty and division on the left.  Trusted “left” writers have created confusion by supporting the Assad regime and dismissing the extensive evidence of Russian interference in the US elections. Scholars of authoritarianism are warning us of the dangers of the Trump/Putin collusion—while the so-called “alternative” media increasingly functions as an “echo-system” of Russian propaganda. Terry Burke deconstructs this reality in a special for CounterVortex.

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CRITIQUE OF GEOPOLITICS AND THE LEFT

Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg on Eurasianism, Red-Brown politics, and how the consensus position of the contemporary American “left” is now pro-fascist. They also discuss the prospects for reviving the traditional anti-fascist stance of the left, through a ruthless critique of its existing leadership and active solidarity with the civil opposition in Syria.

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U.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN

The US government’s announcement that it has opened negotiations with the Taliban to help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end should be a source of concern for women’s rights advocates everywhere. While it’s still not easy to be a woman in Afghanistan, women have made progress in the areas of education, employment and representation in government since the Talban were overthrown by the US-led invasion of 2003. Pro-war and anti-war voices in the US alike have instrumentalized the suffering of Afghan women to advance their political aims. In a special for CounterVortex, journalist Andy Heintz provides an overview of Afghanistan’s courageous women’s rights advocates, and calls for heeding their voices—which hold a spectrum of opinion on the US military presence in the country.

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ANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS

by Samuel Oakford, IRIN

A new US anti-terror law that has forced the majority of American-funded aid operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to grind to a halt may have even wider humanitarian consequences, leaving nonprofits around the world more vulnerable to litigation. 

While the 700-word bill appears to have been targeted at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, experts say the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, or ATCA, is poorly crafted and could result in some non-governmental organizations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programs.

Signed in October last year and law as of January 31, ATCA is an attempt by US lawmakers to make it easier for American courts to hear civil suits related to terrorist attacks abroad, specifically those involving authorities tied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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WEATHER WAR

How Iran's Regime Uses Floods and Drought as Tools of Ethnic Cleansing

by Rahim Hamid, Dur Untash Studies Centre

In most countries prone to regular severe weather events such as heavy flooding, governments take precautionary measures in vulnerable regions to at least minimize the probable damage and protect citizens' lives and property. 

Unfortunately, however, some governments not only exploit such disasters but deliberately manufacture and intensify them as a strategic weapon against parts of the population that threaten the leaders' economic exploitation of their resources. These governments spare no effort to engineer or exacerbate the effects of such disasters, effectively weaponizing climate change against the people.

Iran's theocratic regime is one such government, pursuing policies that effectively amount to ethnocide against the Ahwazi Arab population. Ahwazis have the misfortune to live in an oil-rich region, from which Iran extracts 95% of the oil and gas resources that it lays claim to. This massive oil wealth, which was the primary reason for Iran's forcible annexation of Ahwaz in the early 20th century, has been a far greater curse than a blessing to the Ahwazi people, most of whom now subsist in nearly medieval conditions of poverty. The international community, meanwhile, seems indifferent to their plight

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TOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP

by Regina Asinde, Waging Nonviolence

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of cities across the West African country of Togo on Dec. 8, as part of a recently revived wave of nationwide protests demanding political reforms. At the center of their demands is the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution, which included a two-term limit on the presidency before being stripped away by former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé, father of current president Faure Gnassingbé.

Mass protests first erupted in August 2017, forcing the government into internationally-moderated negotiations, which—in an attempt to resolve the decades-long political crisis—led to the reinstatement of the two-term limit. However, outrage was soon reignited when it was discovered that past presidential terms would not apply, thereby allowing Faure Gnassingbé—already in his third term—to run for president in 2020 as if it were his first time. Negotiations broke down soon after that, leading to the revival of protests in November.

"Nobody is willing to take that in Togo," said Togolese Civil League executive director Farida Nabourema. "After 51 years of the Gnassingbé, asking us to give them an additional 10 years, starting 2020, is basically asking us to commit suicide. It's something we cannot let happen, and it’s the reason we are back on the streets."

After first allowing protests in pre-approved zones, the government outright banned large demonstrations before the Dec. 8 mobilization. When upwards of 500,000 people turned out in Lomé, the capital city, the regime deployed heavy military force, wounding dozens of civilians and killing at least three—including an 11-year-old boy.

Continue ReadingTOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP