Iran
Iran

Oil shock, wider war after Saudi refinery attack?

With some some 5% of the daily global supply wiped out by the drone attack on Saudi facilities, a new oil shock now appears imminent—putting paid to the conventional wisdom that such spikes are a thing of the past due to increased US domestic production. The Persian Gulf reserves remain determinant in global political power. How realistic is the fear of a new shock—or Western military confrontation with Iran? (Map: myket)

Afghanistan

US allies maintain lead over Taliban in civilian deaths

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a midyear report detailing the 3,812 civilian casualties in Afghanistan since Jan. 1, 2019. According to this report, Afghan government forces and their allies killed 717 civilians, while the Taliban and other militant groups have killed 531 civilians. Nonetheless, there was an overall 27% decrease in civilian casualties from the same period of 2018, with the decrease attributed to a shift away from ground engagements and suicide bombers. Aerial operations continued to be a rising cause of civilian casualties. The report also states that women are disproportionately affected by the ongoing attacks, not only due to loss of life or serious injury, but also secondary effects such as economic insecurity and displacement. In addition, women are at a higher risk of sexual violence and gender-based violence. (Photo: USAF)

Iran

Iran bombs Iraqi Kurdistan

Following recent Turkish air-strikes on the border area of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, Iranian artillery and drones struck a village in Sidakan district of Erbil province, killing one civilian and wounding two more. The mayor of Sidakan said a young girl who was working in the fields outside the hamlet of Dere was killed in the attacks, and her two bothers wounded. Orchards and pastures were also set ablaze in the strikes. Sidakan has frequently come under attack by Turkish warplanes targeting presumed strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Iranian attack was apparently aimed at an allied Kurdish armed group that opposes Tehran, the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). (Photo via Al Monitor)

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)

Africa

Fulani herders massacred in Mali

A village of semi-nomadic Fulani herders was attacked  in Mali New Years Day, with at least 33 residents slain and several homes set aflame. Survivors said the attackers were traditional Dogon hunters, known as dozos. The army was rushed to Koulogon village in central Mopti region to control the situation. But the perpetrators may have been assisted by the armed forces. Dogon residents of the area have formed a self-defense militia, known as Dana Amassagou, to prevent incursions by jihadists from Mali's conflicted north into the country's central region. The militia is said to have received weapons and training from the official armed forces. However, driven by conflicts over access to land and shrinking water resources, the militia has apparently been attacking local Fulani villages. Hundreds were killed in clashes between Dogon and Fulani last year, and a Senegalese rapid reaction force under UN command was deployed to Mopti in response to the violence. (Photo of Fulani elder via IRIN)

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)

Greater Middle East

US special forces deployed to Yemen’s border

US special forces have reportedly been deployed to Saudi Arabia to help locate and destroy ballistic missiles and launch sites used by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The team of Green Berets is said to be based  in the kingdom’s southern city of Najran, where it is working with US intelligence analysts, training Saudi forces in border security, and using surveillance aircraft to track the movement of Houthi missiles and launchers. (Map via University of Texas)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: air-strikes spike in anti-opium drive

US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)

Southern Cone

‘Lost kingdom’ of Patagonia stands up for Mapuche

The exiled Royal House of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia elected Prince Frederic Luz as the new monarch—claiming dominion over a large area of Chile in the name of the region's Mapuche indigenous inhabitants. Although now dispersed in Britain and France, the Royal House traces its origin to 1860, when Orélie de Tounens was recognized as king by the Mapuche, on his pledge to help them resist Chilean encroachment on their unceded territory. In the 1870s, the territory was finally taken in a genocidal campaign by the Chilean military. De Tounens returned to Europe and campaigned for international recognition of his exiled government. The Royal House still advocates for the rights and sovereignty of the Mapuche today. (Photo: North American Araucanian Royalist Society via CraigsList Philadelphia)

Syria

Afrin and Idlib offensives signal Syrian endgame?

As Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies continue their advance on Kurdish-held Afrin, Russia and its Syrian regime allies continue their advance on rebel-held Iblib. Both offensives are taking a horrific toll in civilian casualties, but the parallels don’t end there. Even as they ostensibly oppose each other, both Turkey and Assad are accused of conniving with ISIS forces to weaken the defenders of the respective enclaves. And the twin aggressions in Afrin and Idlib come amid a sudden and rapid internationalization of the Syrian war. (Photo: Kurdish militia figher at Afrin, via ANF)

Watching the Shadows

Supreme Court denies review of drone strike

The US Supreme Court declined to review a lawsuit over a drone strike in Yemen that killed five people. An appeals court dismissed the lawsuit by the families of two Yemeni men allegedly killed by the strike in 2012. The plaintiffs argued that two family members were victims of a "'signature strike," an attack in which the US illegally "targets an unidentified person…based on a pattern of suspicious behavior as identified through metadata."

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: troop surge or drone war?

Trump was expected to announce a troop surge for Afghanistan n his address from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. Gen. John Nicholson, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, had been requesting another 4,000 troops, on top of the current 8,500. Instead, Trump was heavy on get-tough rhetoric and light on actual specifics. But as he spoke, a US drone struck presumed ISIS targets in Nangarhar province—the latest in a growing trend toward automated warfare in Afghanistan.