Syria

Idlib bombardment resumes after brief respite

Russia and the Assad regime resumed attacks on opposition-held northwest Syria, breaking a four-day pause declared by Damascus. Russian and regime forces, whose spring offensive shattered a “demilitarized zone” announced last September by Moscow and Turkey, again began bombing and shelling both rebel positions and civilian areas. The regime’s military said last week that it was halting operations, which have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 since late April, while giving an ultimatum to anti-Assad forces to withdraw from the 20-kilometer “demilitarized zone” through Idlib and northern Hama province. As the new air-strikes were launched, an army statement said: “The agreement to a truce was conditional… This did not happen… We resume our military operations against terrorist organizations.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

As Russia bombs Idlib, Turkey threatens Rojava

Some 100 civilians have been killed over the past week as Russia and the Assad regime step up aerial attacks on Idlib, the northern Syria province that remains outside regime control. Meanwhile, Turkish officials again warned of an offensive against the Kurdish-controlled area in northeast Syria, known to the Kurds as Rojava. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara has “no patience left” with Washington’s perceived accommodation of the Syrian Kurds. At issue is the size of the military “buffer zone” Ankara seeks to create along the border in northern Syria. The US has agreed to a “safe zone” that would cut through the Rojava autonomous cantons of Kobani and Cezire. However, the two sides differ over the depth of the zone. Ankara wants a 40-kilometer belt while the US is supporting only 10 kilometers. Turkey is also demanding the complete departure of the Kurdish militia from the area, and full control by Ankara’s forces. (Photo of White Helmets in Idlib via EA Worldview)

Iran

Iran war fever: real or charade?

Trump retreats from military action against Iran after a US surveillance drone is shot down in the Strait of Hormuz. Was the man who destroyed Raqqa and Mosul suddenly concerned with a possible 150 human casualties, as he claimed in his tweet explaining the balk? Or do Washington and Tehran have too much invested in pursuing their common wars against ISIS and other Sunni militants in Syria and Iraq to want the encumbrance of war with each other? (Photo of Global Hawk drone via Wikipedia)

Syria

New spasm of Syria chemwar denialism: don’t buy it

A sudden feeding-frenzy of revisionism about the April 2018 Douma chemical attack in Syria has broken out, with celebrities glomming on in unseemly manner. This time Susan Sarandon joins already proved Assad regime shill Roger Waters, their spewing avidly lapped up by Kremlin propaganda organ RT (of course). But also getting on this bandwagon—most disgracefully, because he purports to be a “journalist”—is Robert Fisk. This all hinges on a supposedly leaked document from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which purports to claim that the shells from the Douma attack did not fall from the air but were planted. The OPCW has not acknowledged the document as authentic, and it contradicts the findings of every bona fide investigation into the attack. The OPCW’s formal findings assigning blame for the attack have yet to be released. (Image: Syria Solidarity NYC)

Syria

Twins of genocide schmooze in Damascus

Omar BashirSeeking to legitimize his regime now that he’s reconquered most of Syria (with massive Russian military help), Bashar Assad has just welcomed the first Arab League leader to Damascus since the war began in 2011—none other than President Omar Bashir of Sudan, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. The Assad regime’s official news agency SANA said the two dictators discussed the “situations and crises faced by many Arab countries,” stressing the need to build “new principles for inter-Arab relations based on the respect of the sovereignty of countries and non-interference in internal affairs.” The Assad regime is itself now credibly accused of genocide, with a mass extermination of detainees amply documented, not to mention serial use of chemical weapons and massive bombardment of civilian populations. Assad and his generals may yet face war crimes charges before the ICC. (Photos: Pinterest, BashirWatch)

The Andes

Colombia: Duque escalates war on ELN guerillas

Colombia's new right-wing President Iván Duque has not returned to the dialogue table with the ELN guerillas, insisting they first liberate all hostages. The guerillas have released several captives over the past weeks, but nine are still believed to be held—mostly noncombatants. Interpol has issued a "red notice" for members of the ELN Central Command, incluiding top commander Nicolás Rodríguez AKA "Gabino." Rumaldo Antonio Barrientos Taborda AKA "Gurre," a top ELN regional commander, was reported killed in an operation by the army's elite Héroes de Tarazá unit in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia department last week. After the attack, the ELN's chief negotiator Pablo Beltrán issued a communique charging Duque with pursuing an agenda imposed by Washington to return to the hardline policies from before Colombia's peace process. Beltrán stated: "Trump gave the order, the force must be eradicated, there must be fumigation, and there must be use of repressive and war measures, and this is Plan Colombia." (Photo: Colombia Reports)

Syria

Syria: Kurds to join regime offensive on Idlib?

As the Assad regime and its Russian backers prepare an offensive to take Idlib, the last area of opposition control in Syria, the people of the northern province have been holding demonstrations, organized by the civil resistance, waving the Free Syria flag and calling on the world to act to prevent the impending massacre there. But dozens of Kurdish fighters who had fought in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the US-backed campaign against ISIS, are now reported to have joined the regime offensive on Idlib. The SDF’s civilian wing, the Syrian Democratic Council, has sent a delegation to Damascus to open talks on coming to accommodations with the Assad regime. Despite these overtures, the regime continues to reject any recognition of the Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava. The Rojava Kurds have had to make very hard decisions. Despite their leftist politics, they allied with US imperialism against ISIS. They now appear to be closing ranks with the Assad regime—because Turkey, which wants to crush them, is backing the Free Syrian Army. Kurds and Arabs have been pitted against each other by the Great Powers. But just as the Kurds are likely to be betrayed by the US in a carve-up deal with Turkey now that ISIS is effectively defeated, they may similarly be betrayed by Assad once the FSA is defeated. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Syria

Russian naval build-up ahead of Idlib offensive

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement explaining its unprecedented build-up of naval force in the Mediterranean as part of a week-long exercise would begin on 1 September. It said the exercise would involve 26 warships and naval vessels, including two submarines, with 34 aircraft, including missile-armed long-range bombers. But it is obvious that this build-up is timed to coincide (at least) with the planned Assad regime offensive on Idlib, the last Syrian province that remains under opposition control. Russia will certainly be massively backing the regime offensive, which the UN warns could spark a humanitarian catastrophe. With Turkey closing its borders to new refugees, it is unclear that civilians have any place left to flee. Many are already living in camps in Idlib under desperate conditions, with two million in need of humanitarian aid. (Photo: Syria News)

Syria

Did John McCain meet with jihadists in Syria?

Upon his death, many are reviving the discredited claim that John McCain met with ISIS on his Syria trip in 2013. But some are settling for the less ambitious, and perhaps plausible, claim that he met with jihadists who were implicated in atrocities. Ben Norton tweets: “John McCain was a staunch supporter of the CIA-backed, al-Qaeda-linked Salafi extremist opposition in Syria. In fact the late senator posed in a photo with a rebel who was involved in kidnapping 11 Lebanese Shia civilians.” But Norton is repeating as “fact” what are actually unproven claims—while he still equivocates about “alleged” chemical attacks by the Assad regime. It’s a bitter irony. McCain participated in war crimes in Vietnam. Two generations later, those who gloat at his death are covering up for equivalent war crimes by Assad and his allies. It fell to McCain, who was unapologetic about his Vietnam role, to try to drum up some support for the resistance in Syria. (Photo: John McCain Twitter feed)

The Andes

Colombia: Duque sworn in amid terror, massacre

Colombia's newly-elected right-wing President Iván Duque took office pledging to unite the country. As he was sworn in, thousands marched in Bogotá to demand that Duque respect the peace pact with the FARC, and address the ongoing assassination of social leaders—thought to number 400 since the peace deal was signed in November 2016. Exemplifying the depth of the crisis, days before the inauguration armed men opened fire in broad daylight at a pool hall in the town of El Tarra, near the Venezuelan border. Among the slain were at least two demobilized FARC fighters and a local community leader. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Greater Middle East

Syria endgame: whither Idlib?

With the fall of Syria's southern province of Daraa to Assad regime forces, only Idlib in the north remains as a last pocket of opposition control. The besieged rebel forces there are anticipating a final offensive by Assad and his Russian backers. But a complicating factor is that Turkey is occupying areas of Idlib, which means an offensive there threatens international escalation. Speaking to reporters before heading for a summit of emerging market countries in South Africa, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would speak there with Vladimir Putin about how to resolve "the issue of Idlib." This points to a possible carve-up deal, in which the bulk of Syria falls under Assad with Russian protection, Idlib remains under rebel control with Turkish protection, and the northeastern Rojava region will remain a Kurdish autonomous zone under US protection. (Photo: Syria News)

The Andes

Colombia to resume aerial spraying, join NATO

Colombia has taken significant steps back in a hardline pro-Washington direction since the election of the right-wing Iván Duque as the country's new president last month. Shortly after Duque's victory, the government announced that it will resume aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops—this time using drones rather than planes, to supposedly target the planted areas with greater exactitude. The move comes in response to a new report from the White House finding that Colombian coca cultivation has reached a new record. Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos also announced in the lead-up to the election that Colombia will formally join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a "global partner"—making it the only Latin American nation with NATO affiliation. (Photo: Contago Radio)