Syria

SDF take last ISIS pocket: what next?

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the complete “territorial defeat” of the Islamic State. Trump was of course quick to take credit for the victory. But this is a victory for the Rojava Kurds and their Arab and Assyrian allies, not for Trump. And it could paradoxically be very bad news for them, as they have now outlived their usefulness to the empire and could be betrayed to Turkish aggression. The collapse of ISIS could set off a new scramble for Syria’s north, with potential for an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. (Image: SDF)

Greater Middle East

EU resolution suspends Turkey’s admittance

The European Union adopted a resolution against Turkey's accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament notes ongoing human and civil rights violations and lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentions the "shrinking space for civil society," arrests and suppression of journalists, and dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of refugees and migrants within Turkey's borders. The body noted that Turkey's government has violated the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism. It has also intimidated its citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey. (Map: CIA)

Greater Middle East

Brussels court: PKK activity not ‘terrorism’

After nine years of proceedings, a court in Belgium acquitted multiple defendants accused of activities involving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Belgian judicial authorities had requested that 36 individuals and companies be tried by a criminal court on charges of taking part in "terrorist activity." The Belgian Chamber of Indictment, however, blocked proceedings against all defendants, ruling that the PKK insurgency is an "internal armed conflict" within Turkey and, as such, neither the party nor its armed wing, the People's Defense Forces (HPG), may be considered a terrorist organization under Belgian law. The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the decision. (Photo: ANF)

Iraq

Iraq prosecuting children suspected of ISIS ties

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged Islamic State affiliation based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture, Human Rights Watch charges. The 53-page report claims that Iraqi and KRG authorities often arrest children with "any perceived" connection to ISIS, use torture to coerce confessions and prosecute them in "hasty and unfair trials." International law observes children recruited by armed groups as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central Asia

Podcast: Tibet and the struggle for cyberspace

In Episode 28 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with trepidation Google’s plans to develop a censored search engine for China, and thereby be allowed back through the Great Firewall to access the world's largest market. But the next and more sinister step is imposing China's draconian standards for control of information on all Internet users, worldwide. Harbingers of this are already seen in Facebook's censorship of the Tibetan struggle, and of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as well as initiatives to suppress footage of Israeli war crimes. While protesting such moves is imperative, the potential for such abuses in inherent to the technology—and this, ultimately, is a deeper and more complex problem that also demands a thoroughgoing critique. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Students for a Free Tibet)

Syria

Anarcho-fascist convergence at State of Union?

We’ve already noted the strange bedfellows in the Rojava Kurds’ political push to forestalll a US withdrawal from northern Syria, which would be a green light for Turkey to attack their autonomous zone. Well, they just got stranger with the arrival in Washington of Ilham Ahmed, co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council, civilian wing of the Kurdish-led US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. She and her delegation met with Trump at the Trump International Hotel, where the prez reportedly told the group “I love the Kurds,” and promised that they are “not going to be killed” by Turkish forces. Making it even more surreal, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, best friend of fascist dictator Bashar Assad on Capitol Hill, brought Ahmed to the State of the Union address as her special guest. The Turkish newspaper Takvim ran a photo of Ahmed standing beside Trump at the SOTU. We wonder if Ahmed, who represents a radical-left Kurdish revolutionary movement that is influenced by anarchism, is aware that the presidential bid of her host Gabbard has been endorsed by David Duke—who shares Tulsi’s fondness for Assad.

Greater Middle East

Turkey: two years for signing peace petition

A Turkish court sentenced academic Müge Ayan to two years and one month in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization for signing a petition calling for a peaceful end to Turkey's decades-old conflict with Kurdish rebels. A former anthropology professor at ?stanbul’s Bilgi Univresity, Ayan is among the 1,128 of signatories of a petition which criticized heavy-handed tactics employed by the Turkish army in predominantly Kurdish cities in the country, including long curfews and the use of heavy weaponry, after a two-and-a-half year ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party broke down in 2015. (Photo: Ahval)

Iraq

Yazidis fear renewed genocide

Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, appointed an Investigative Team on Genocide, primarily looking at massacres and enslavement that targeted the Yazidi people when ISIS was in control of their territory. But the team will also examine possible crimes and complicity by the Iraqi national government, its allied paramilitary forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and foreign powers such as Turkey. The body is cooperating with the UN investigative team also working in the area, with an eye toward eventual establishment of an International Tribunal on Genocide for Yezidi and Neighboring Peoples. Yazidi leaders in the international diaspora are meanwhile expressing concern that the announced US withdrawal from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence—potentially threatening Yazidis both sides of the border. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)

Syria

Manbij blast heightens contradiction in north Syria

A suicide blast cliamed by ISIS killed 19 people—including four Americans—in the contested north Syrian town of Manbij, even as the Trump White House embarrassingly crows about how the Islamic State has been defeated. But an ISIS resurgence is actually a lesser concern than a US withdrawal setting off a scramble for Syria’s north—and an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. Most or all of the Kurdish forces seem to have left Manbij, but a contingent of US troops remain in the town, forestalling a reckoning—for now. Both Assad and Free Syrian Army forces are nearby, each waiting to advance on Manbij as soon as the US withdraws. The Assad regime, FSA and Kurdish forces are all mutually hostile. A US withdrawal could mean a power vacuum that sparks a conflagration. (Photo of regime forces outside Manbij via Kurdistan24)

Syria

Bolton goes to bat for Rojava Kurds?

Talk about strange bedfellows! This week witnessed the surreal spectacle of US National Security Adviser John Bolton, the most bellicose neoconservative in the Trump administration, visiting Turkey to try to forestall an Ankara attack radical-left, anarchist-leaning Kurdish fighters that the Pentagon has been backing to fight ISIS in Syria. “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton told reporters. Refering to the Kurdish YPG militia, a Turkish presidential spokesman responded: “That a terror organization cannot be allied with the US is self-evident.” Bolton left Turkey without meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then publicly dissed the National Security Adviser’s stance as a “serious mistake.” YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmud, in turn, shot back: “Turkey, which has been a jihadist safe-haven and passage route to Syria since the beginning of the conflict, has plans to invade the region end destroy the democracy created by blood of sons and daughters of this people.” (Photo: ANF)

Syria

Reprieve for Rojava?

US officials say the timetable for Donald Trump’s withdrawal of all 2,000 troops from Syria has been extended from 30 days to four months. The statements came a day after Trump met with his ally Sen. Lindsay Graham, a critic of the withdrawal order, who was apparently instrumental in getting the president to blink—amid the predictable irruption of blustering and face-saving tweets. This may apply some brakes to Turkish preparations to cross the border to expunge the revolutionary Kurdish forces in northern Syria’s autonomous zone of Rojava. Residents of the Rojava town of Kobane, near the border, have launched a “human shield” encampment to block any incursion by Turkish forces. At the border village of Qeremox, the unarmed encampment was organized by Kobane’s autonomous administration, and has been joined by international supporters. (Photo of Kobani women at the Qeremox encampment via ANF)

Syria

Kurdish forces turn Manbij over to Assad: report

Following the announcement of a US withdrawal of its troops embedded with Kurdish forces in Syria, the Kurds are again making overtures for a separate peace with the Assad regime. Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are reported to have turned over the flashpoint town of Manbij to regime forces—marking the first time that the Assad regime’s flag has flown over the northern town for more than six years. “The aim is to ward off a Turkish offensive,” said Ilham Ahmed, an official of the Kurdish autonomous administration. “If the Turks’ excuse is the [YPG], they will leave their posts to the government.” However, a Kurdish deal with Assad could cement the split between the Syrian rebels and the YPG, and holds risk of opening an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Photo via Kurdistan24)