Planet Watch

Podcast: paradoxes of anarchism and nationalism

In Episode 32 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads from George Orwell’s 1945 essay “Notes on Naitonalsim,” and explains why despite his anarchist politics he is willing to march under the Mexican flag but not “Old Glory,” under the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli, under the Tibetan flag but not that of the People’s Republic of China—and under the Free Syrian flag but not that of the Assad dictatorship. The Free Syrian flag flown by the rebels and opposition is the original flag of an independent Syria, and now represents the struggle to free the country from a one-family dynastic dictatorship massively propped up by foreign powers. Weinberg especially calls out the depraved Max Blumenthal for purveying a version of events in Syria starkly at odds with reality. Weinberg invites listeners to join the Syria Solidarity NYC contingent at New Yorkl’s May Day march, gathering 5 PM at the Sixth Ave. entrance to Central Park. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: SHAML)

Iran

Russia-Iran alliance in Syria unraveling?

Reports are emerging of a clash between Russian forces and an Iran-backed militia in Syria—pointing to mounting tensions between the two most significant foreign powers backing the Assad regime. At least 11 were killed in the fighting in the city of Aleppo, which quickly escalated to the use of heavy weaponry. The clash followed Israeli air-strikes on Iranian targets near Aleppo, and Tehran-backed factions apparently accused Russia of green-lighting Israel’s attacks, or even coordinating with Tel Aviv on the strikes. (Photo via Syria Call)

Syria

Syria’s Idlib still under bombardment

Syria’s last opposition-controlled province of Idlib has receded from the headlines since a joint Russian-Turkish deal was announced last September, forestalling an Assad regime offensive on the province and establishing a “demilitarized zone” policed by the two foreign powers. But shelling and bombardment of the province by Assadist and Russian forces has escalated over the past month—and much of the shells and missiles are falling within the “demilitarized zone.” UN Senior Humanitarian Advisor for Syria Najat Rochdi reports that over 100,000 Idlib residents have fled their homes since February as a result of increased fighting. More than 90 civilians, half of them children, were killed in the province in March. As ever, medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted. (Photo via EA Worldview)

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.

Syria

Dutch anti-ISIS volunteer arrested in Netherlands

Authorities in the Netherlands have arrested a Dutch volunteer—known by the nom de guerre Andok—who fought with the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) against ISIS in northern Syria’s Raqqa in 2017. The Dutch Public Prosecution said in a statement that Andok, 24, was identified in an interview on Dutch TV. However, in the interview he did not show his face nor reveal his real name. He was detained upon his arrival at Amsterdam’s airport, and appeared the following day before a judge in Rotterdam, who placed him in custody for two weeks pending formal charges.

Palestine

Escalation in Gaza; Orwell in Golan

Amid a new round of Israeli air-strikes on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Donald Trump in Washington for the signing of a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. At the joint press conference, Trump said, "We will confront the poison of anti-Semitism." We hope it is unnecessary to point out the perversity of Trump exploiting the threat of anti-Semitism to justify US recognition of an illegal Israeli annexation of Syrian territory. (Image: Ma'an)

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)

Syria

Assad to The Hague —hope at last?

Even amid growing media portrayals that Bashar Assad has won the war in Syria, the first real hope has emerged that the dictator will face war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court. A group of Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after surviving torture and massacres submitted dossiers of evidence to the ICC in an attempt to prosecute Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which establishes the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers in London are citing recent precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction for the crime of forcible population transfers across international borders. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)

Palestine

Palestinians reject Warsaw Conference

The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: “Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project.” Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting dominated by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.  (Photo: Ma’an)

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.

Syria

Russia dispatches Cossacks to Venezuela?

Numerous media sources are reporting that Vladimir Putin has dispatched a team of private mercenaries to Venezuela to back the besieged government of Nicolás Maduro. Reuters cites claims that some 400 contractors from the Wagner group have arrived in Caracas. Wagner PMC (Private Military Company) is a Russian firm already contracted by Moscow's Defense Ministry to provide personnel for the wars in Ukraine and in Syria. Moscow Times cites Yevgeny Shabayev, ataman (commander) of the Khovrino Cossack paramilitary group, as saying that Cossacks had been recruited for the force to serve as a kind of Praetorian Guard for Maduro. "Our people are there directly for his protection," he said. Russian media cited Shabayev saying a "military conspiracy had been discovered in Maduro's inner circle, and therefore it was necessary to replace his personal security with loyal people." (Image: Voices from Russia)