Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

Syria
Rojava

Kurds iced from Syria constitution talks

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced formation of a constitutional committee on Syria that will include members of the Assad regime and opposition representatives. Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the  Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), protested that no representatives from the organization have been invited to join the committee. UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said that although the main Kurdish militia in Syria was not represented, “it is important for me to emphasize that of course also we have Kurdish representatives on the committee.” Bali responded on Twitter that Pedersen “must know that having a couple of Kurds…who [are] allied with the Syrian government or the opposition doesn’t mean Kurds [are] represented in the committee.” Representatives of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria had been iced from the summit in Sochi, Russia, in January 2018, where the decision was taken to draft a new constitution. (Photo: ANF)

North Africa
drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

Syria
Russian missile

Russia admits: Syria is test war for weaponry

Russia has effectively used the Syrian war to perfect weaponry, Moscow’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu boasted. Russia intervened in support of the Bashar Assad regime in 2015 and has since been held responsible for some of the most devastating aerial bombings experienced by civilians since the onset of the conflict more than eight years ago. Shoigu said around 300 weapons had been “fine-tuned” through the Syria intervention, including the Kalibr cruise missile, generally launched from Russia’s war fleet off Syria’s coast. Previous to use in Syria, Shoigu said, technical difficulties meant the Kalibr missile often missed targets, but that is no longer the case. (Photo of Vityaz missile launcher via Wikipedia)

Central Asia
Aleksandr Gabyshev

Siberian shaman’s anti-Putin protest trek cut short

A traditional shaman of Siberia’s indigenous Yakut people, who had been walking cross-country for months toward Moscow “to drive Putin out of the Kremlin,” was arrested in Russia’s far eastern republic of Buryatia. The region’s Interior Ministry said that Aleksandr Gabyshev was detained on a highway near Lake Baikal, and that he will be transferred to his native Yakutia to await trial on unspecified crimes. Gabyshev’s supporters said their camp was raided in the night by “special service units.” The uniformed men did not identify themselves, and gave no reason for Gabyshev’s arrest. (Photo via RFE/RL)

Syria

Erdogan exploits refugees in Syria land-grab

A meeting in Ankara between the Turkish, Russian, and Iranian presidents failed to reach a breakthrough on what is obviously a planned carve-up of Syria. But a consensus does appear to be emerging on betrayal of the Syria Kurds. Ankara is promoting a plan to resettle displaced Syrians in a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” stretching across Syria’s north. While the US wants the width of the “safe zone” confined to 10 kilometers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the zone could be expanded to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor—respectively some 100 and 200 kilometers from the Turkish border. Significantly, the city of Raqqa and much of Deir ez-Zor province are controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Erdogan has named a figure of 3 million refugees and displaced persons to be settled within the “safe zone.” (Photo via Ahval)

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)

Syria

Erdogan bargains with refugees in Syria land-grab

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Europe if his long-sought “safe zone” in northern Syria is not established. Having recently declared the EU-Turkey deal on refugees struck back in 2016 to be no longer in effect, Erdogan is now using the some 4 million Syrian refugees in his country as a bargaining chip in his dispute with Washington over the size of the military “safe zone.” US Central Command maintains that Kurdish militia forces have withdrawn from the strip along the Turkish border, acquiescing in establishment of the “safe zone.” But the US and Turkey remain at odds over the width of the zone, with Ankara demanding 40 kilometers and Washington insisting on 10.  (Photo via Ahval)

Central Asia

India, China mirror each other in Islamophobia

Well, this is grimly hilarious. Genocide Watch has issued two “warning alerts” for India—one for Kashmir and the other for Assam, with Muslims held to be at grave imminent risk of persecution and mass detention in both. Pakistan’s semi-official media are jumping all over this news, which is hardly surprising. But Pakistan is closely aligned with China due to their mutual rivalry with India, so it is also hardly surprising that Pakistani media have failed to similarly jump on the Genocide Watch report on the Uighurs of Xinjiang—despite the fact that the group categorizes the situation there as “preparation” for genocide, a more urgent level than “warning.” China itself has issued a protest to India over the situation in Kashmir. Delhi shot back that Kashmir is an internal matter. Beijing has been similarly dismissive of India’s protests over the mass detention in Xinjiang.  (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Syria

Did Assad sign off on Israeli air-raid in Syria?

After years of presumed Israeli air-strikes on Iranian forces in Syria, the IDF finally carried out air-strikes that were publicly acknowledged, hitting a compound near Damascus supposedly shared by the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force and Hezbollah militants. The strikes follow reports in the Israeli press that there is an “undeclared pact” between Assad and Netanyahu allowing Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria in exchange for diplomatic assistance in regional “normalization” of the Assad regime. (Photo: Israel Aerospace Industries via Jerusalem Post)

Greater Middle East

Yemen: now a three-way war —or four?

Over the past weeks, the two biggest members of the international coalition supporting the official government of Yemen against the Houthi rebels have fallen out, with Saudi Arabia continuing to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates switching its support to southern separatists. UAE-backed forces of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) seized control of the port city of Aden after days of fighting with Saudi-backed forces of the official government. Hadi’s government had been based in Aden since Iran-backed Houthi rebels sezied the capital Sanaa in 2014. Aden had been the capital of South Yemen before it united with North Yemen in 1990. In addition to Hadi’s government, the STC and the Houthis, militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continue to wage an insurgency in the south. (Map via  Perry-Castañeda Library)