Greater Middle East

Egypt: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Sinai feared

Human Rights Watch detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into conditions facing civilians in Sinai. Abuses include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Africa

General Assembly: UK must return Chagos Islands

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the islands “as rapidly as possible.” The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally. The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a joint US-UK military base, which is still in place on the island of Diego Garcia. Before the UN vote, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth told the General Assembly the forcible eviction of Chagossians was akin to a crime against humanity. (Photo: WILPF)

Iran

US-Tehran terror-baiting tit-for-tat

In an amusingly grim development, Donald Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “foreign terrorist organization,” and Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately retaliated by declaring the Pentagon’s Central Command a “terrorist organization.” Both moves mark a first, applying the designation to government entities. The perverse irony, of course, is that both Trump and Tehran can be seen as perfectly correct. Left-secular forces in the Middle East have long decried that the region is caught between two poles of terrorism—that of political Islam and that of US imperialism. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are complicit with “sectarian cleansing” of Sunni Muslims in Syria. CENTCOM’s warplanes meanwhile virtually destroyed the city of Raqqa in the battle against ISIS—with civilian casualties nearly doubling after Trump took over. Yet in Iraq, the US and Iran were in a de facto alliance—both supporting Baghdad and fighting ISIS. And indeed, given Washington’s growing tilt to Assad in the Syrian war, an element of this alliance can be seen there as well. That’s why they call it a Great Game.

Afghanistan

Report: Afghan government control lowest yet

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction finds that the security situation is at an all-time low since monitoring began. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control in 2015, Afghan government-controlled or "influenced" districts have declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, areas of insurgent control or influence rose 5.5% while "contested" districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assessed that the Kabul government controls or influences 226 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the Taliban controls/influences 49. The remaining 132 districts are identified as "contested." Since the prior quarterly report, Operation Resolute Support downgraded eight districts from "government influenced" to "contested." SIGAR said Afghan security forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban" in the period covered by the report. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Watching the Shadows

Amnesty calls on UN to ban ‘killer robots’

Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on  the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)

Planet Watch

Podcast: The countervortex of global resistance

Journalist Dan Young speaks with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg in an interview for Northern California's KNYO. They discuss the prospects for resisting the global vortex of ecological collapse, totalitarianism and permanent war—and supporting indigenous and autonomy struggles, popular democracy, and peace initiatives. Weinberg traces his own political evolution through the Cold War endgame of the Reagan era, the Lower East Side squatter scene, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, 9-11 and the "Global War on Terrorism," to the Arab Revolution, the Syrian war and the current dilemma. The discussion touches on the abysmal politics of the contemporary American left, the urgent need for international solidarity across the Great Power "spheres of influence," the contradictions and challenges posed by digital technology, and the possibilities for a decent future for humanity on Planet Earth.

Southeast Asia

US broaches air-strikes on ISIS in Philippines

On the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's Manila meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, NBC News reports that the Pentagon is considering a plan for the US military to conduct air-strikes on ISIS targets in the archipelago nation. The account quotes two unnamed defense officials who told the network that "authority to strike ISIS targets…could be granted as part of an official military operation" likely to be named in the coming days. The strikes would probably be conducted by armed drones.

Greater Middle East

Qatar crisis places US regional policing in pickle

Qatar's diplomatic isolation by the other Gulf states, accused of supporting terrorism in the region, heightens contradictions for the Pentagon's use of the critical al-Udeid Air Base.

Greater Middle East

UN: Saudi anti-terror laws threaten rights

The UN Special Rapporteur on protection of human rights while countering terrorism said that Saudi Arabia's sweeping anti-terror laws pose a threat to fundamental freedoms.

North Africa

US troops for Libya, escalation in Somalia

The US military plans to station ground troops in Libya to help local forces fight the ISIS faction there, and also seeks greater scope to target insurgents in Somalia.

New York City

Activist attorney Lynne Stewart dead at 77

Lynne Stewart, the fighting activist attorney who gained fame with her 2005 conviction for "providing material support" to terrorism, died at her home in Brooklyn.