MENA, MENA, Tekel, Parsin (Middle East, North Africa & other Geopolitical Hotspots) 2018

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Daniel reads the words "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN" and interprets them for the king: "MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed ... and found wanting;" and "PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed in purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made… that he should rank third in the kingdom; [and] that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean (Babylonian) king was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom."[3]

Yemen, Israel, Syria, Iran and Iraq and more

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 05:51 (seven months ago) Permalink

U.S. officials tried to help the Saudis improve their targeting. They eventually expanded a “no strike” list to include thirty-three thousand targets. “We broadened and broadened and broadened that list over time as the Saudis kept striking things that we would have thought they wouldn’t strike,” Konyndyk told me. The State Department sent an expert, Larry Lewis, to Saudi Arabia. When a civilian target was hit, Lewis wanted to help the Saudis implement ways of investigating the incident, to “avoid the same kind of thing happening again,” he said. Lower-ranking Saudis seemed pained by the casualties. “There was definitely a feeling that, of course we want to protect civilians, you know, we’re good Muslims,” Lewis said. The Saudi leadership was less concerned; as Lewis put it, from the rank of lieutenant colonel upward “there was less pressure for change.”

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 05:55 (seven months ago) Permalink

Some 60,000 African migrants entered Israel prior to the construction of a barrier on its southern border with the Sinai in 2012. Israel, which considers them economic migrants, not refugees from persecution, until now has encouraged the Africans to leave by handing them cash — generally about $3,500 — and a plane ticket. About 20,000 have taken the offer, leaving nearly 40,000 in Israel, most living freely.

This month, Netanyahu said those who do not take the deportation offer face jail. Rwanda and Uganda reportedly are the likeliest destinations for deportees, though both governments deny it.

Plans to bring a first-ever group of Ugandan Jews to Israel on a Birthright trip are in jeopardy following the recent deportation of a member of their community.

The group of 40 Ugandans had been scheduled to arrive in Israel in late May on the free 10-day trip available to young Jewish adults from around the world. But Birthright officials are now concerned the group may be turned away upon arrival, just as 31-year-old Yehudah Kimani was, because the immigration authorities do not consider them Jewish...In late December, Kimani, who hails from Kenya but lived for a year among the Abayudaya while converting, was detained upon entering Israel and deported the following morning, even though he had a valid tourist visa.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 06:02 (seven months ago) Permalink

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

The huge spike in airstrikes is the product of new rules of engagement, adopted as part of a strategy that President Trump announced in August. U.S. forces can now strike Taliban targets at will, whereas under the Obama administration they were restricted to defending Afghan forces under imminent attack.

“U.S. strategy is so military-centric. Even 100,000 troops couldn’t finish the Taliban, and ever since those days, they have been zealously confident,” said Borhan Osman, senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group. “The U.S. is misreading Taliban psychology. Their whole fight is about saying, ‘We were a legitimate government and you toppled us and installed a puppet government.’ This new U.S. strategy will only make them more willing to fight.”

U.S. military leaders acknowledge that the Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan’s districts — a number that has slowly crept higher through the past year,

curmudgeon, Thursday, 18 January 2018 04:19 (six months ago) Permalink


Syria crisis: Why Turkey is poised to attack Kurdish enclave Afrin
Syria 'ready to down Turkish jets attacking Kurds Afrin'
Turkey targets Kurdish forces in Afrin: The short, medium and long story

Am I a bad person for hoping this provides a major distraction to the Trump administration from its North Korea plans?

Sanpaku, Thursday, 18 January 2018 22:26 (six months ago) Permalink

You're not. Also because as far as distractions go, this one actually *means* something, instead of the 'my dad has a bigger car than your dad' USA-North Korea stupidity.

Fact of the matter is Trump's not spoken out on any of this. Obv for one, he doesn't even know where the hell Syria is, let alone have a plan or idea about it. The US army has handled things on their own pretty well actually, for once showing at least a hint of loyalty to the Kurds who helped push back ISIS.

The interesting thing is: will America budge when Erdogan puts things to the test? Am I a bad person for hoping your buffoon president will stick to his guns and fend off Turkey in this one? Slim chance, but it's one of the instances I find myself hoping Trump's narcissism actually brings something good to the table.

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Thursday, 18 January 2018 23:04 (six months ago) Permalink

I guess this is not on Fox & Friends...

Plans for the operation were believed to have accelerated when US officials said earlier this month that it would help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the YPG, build a new "border security force" to prevent the return of IS.

Some 25,000 pro-Turkey fighters have joined the offensive, rebel commander Maj Yasser Abdul Rahim told Reuters. It is not clear how many Turkish soldiers are on the ground.

Turkey's military said it had hit 45 targets on Sunday, as part of its campaign.

It earlier said dozens of air strikes had taken out 153 targets belonging to Kurdish militants.

curmudgeon, Monday, 22 January 2018 20:42 (six months ago) Permalink

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said Turkish troops “will take no step back” and expressed frustration with US calls for restraint, accusing the US of arming Kurdish terrorist groups. Mr Erdogan also said that Russia had given its backing to the operation.

Both Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, and Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said they were concerned over the fighting.

There are a number of British and other Western volunteers fighting with Kurdish forces in northern Syria, raising the prospect that Western citizens might kill Turkish troops or be killed by them.

The involvement of Western citizens in the fighting against Turkish forces would likely add more strain to the already-fraught relationship between Turkey and the rest of Nato.

curmudgeon, Monday, 22 January 2018 20:45 (six months ago) Permalink

expressed frustration with US calls for restraint

This fucking guy.

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Monday, 22 January 2018 20:54 (six months ago) Permalink

If Turkey keeps ignoring US calls for restraint, will Pentagon suggest more forceful action by US? Kurds may get dumped by US again.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 21:44 (six months ago) Permalink

There's no way US will stand up against Turkey by using force. Too much 'at stake'. Of course the Kurds will get dumped again. "No friends but the mountains."

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 21:48 (six months ago) Permalink

Seeing Pence and Netanyaho galloping hand in hand in the Knesset yesterday, while MP's protesting Pence's presence there were hauled away, made me vomit.

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 21:49 (six months ago) Permalink

Israel and Egypt working together:

The jihadists in Egypt’s Northern Sinai had killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, briefly seized a major town and begun setting up armed checkpoints to claim territory. In late 2015, they brought down a Russian passenger jet.

Egypt appeared unable to stop them, so Israel, alarmed at the threat just over the border, took action.

For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

curmudgeon, Monday, 5 February 2018 16:51 (six months ago) Permalink

This Israeli action is still in the news too. They want to send the mostly Sudanese and Eritrean men to Rwanda or Uganda:

Israel has started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is offering the migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa.

The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is posing a moral dilemma for a state founded as haven for Jews from persecution and a national home. The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.

curmudgeon, Monday, 5 February 2018 16:56 (six months ago) Permalink

to this, add today's news about Israel, Syria, Iran, Russia:

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said that one of its F-16 fighter jets crashed early Saturday in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire and after Israel had shot down an Iranian drone that penetrated Israeli airspace from Syria.

The events appeared to be Israel’s first direct engagement with Iranian forces across the increasingly volatile boundary in the Golan Heights, risking a new escalation in Syria’s multifaceted seven-year war in the area.

Early assessments suggested that the Israeli F-16 had been hit by Syrian antiaircraft fire, according to a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, though he added that nothing had been officially confirmed.

...This appeared to be the first time in decades, probably since the early 1980s, that an Israeli jet was downed under enemy fire. In the past, Syria has claimed, falsely, that it had shot down Israeli aircraft.

The jet crash represented a severe blow to Israel’s prestige and could mark a major change after years in which Israel has acted against targets in Syria with relative impunity.

The Israeli military said in statement that it “sees the Iranian attack and the Syrian response as a severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty,” and added that it was “fully prepared for further action.”

After the initial assault on the drone launching facilities, Israel said later Saturday that it had attacked 12 additional targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets “that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.”

Iran, along with Russia — which had helped propped up the government of President Bashar al- Assad in Syria — on Saturday denied any role in shooting down the Israeli jet.

...Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 war and fought off an invasion there in 1973. Though the area remained quiet for decades, it has become a growing flash point throughout Syria’s war.

Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria during the war, largely targeting what it says are advanced weapons stores or convoys taking weapons to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon, but sometimes reportedly hitting Syrian government facilities involved in weapons development.

Syria’s government has always said that it would respond at a proper time and place, and it has occasionally returned fire with antiaircraft guns and missiles.

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 February 2018 17:42 (six months ago) Permalink

I read that stuff before bed last night and dreamt that Israel had killed Nasrallah with a missile. Feel like one of the potential catastrophic wars that are potentially in the offing is going to start soon (well, remembering the Syrian Civil War has already been a catastrophic years long war).

khat person (jim in vancouver), Sunday, 11 February 2018 02:41 (six months ago) Permalink

Israel is trying as well diplomatically to get Russia to restrain Iran. Doesn't seem to be working.

curmudgeon, Sunday, 11 February 2018 06:39 (six months ago) Permalink

Did Israel clear its recent bombing missions in Syria with Russia?

curmudgeon, Monday, 12 February 2018 22:17 (six months ago) Permalink

So Russia and Russian fighters have been supporting Syria and Iran, but for now Russia is being quiet about the retaliatory strikes by both Israel and the US. They must see them as one-off actions that will not impact their influence

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 22:01 (six months ago) Permalink

i was thinking that they're likely concerned about escalation as well. things are going pretty tony for them in Syria and it has cost them a significant investment. w/ the sanctions, etc, they are likely v extended and cannot start taking on more conflagration. remember when the turkey stuff went down they ended up not making a huge deal out of it either (as i remember - someone else's recollection may be different). the alternative is that israel is liaisoning about the strikes at least in aggregate and russia is giving the thumbs up.

Mordy, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 22:10 (six months ago) Permalink

When Israel boasted that it took out half of Syria's air defenses the other day, I saw a semi-conservative tweeter say "why didn't Obama do that when Syria used chemical weapons," although the tweeter then acknowledged that this still wouldn't have totally weakened Assad back then and necessarily changed things completely for the non-Isis (US supported) rebels then

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 22:52 (six months ago) Permalink

i hadn't heard that boast! tbh i didn't follow it v closely so i didn't realize the campaign was so extensive. i do think iran would like to establish a front with israel from syria but i don't think they can afford to press it. w/ discontent at home, slowly recovering economy, these years of investment in syria, whatever amount they' re actually spending in yemen... i do wonder how extended they are too. it's so hard to measure the stability of these closed regimes but you'd have to think they are pretty thin and can't really afford to now pick a direct fight w/ israel.

Mordy, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 22:55 (six months ago) Permalink

Israel estimates that it destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defense system in a retaliatory air force sortie after one of its F-16 fighter jets was shot down by a Syrian missile, according to a military assessment provided to local news media Sunday.

The fighting broke out Saturday after an Iranian drone, launched from a site controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, flew into Israeli airspace.

Israel said it hit eight Syrian army targets and four Iranian sites in Syria, including an Iranian command trailer at the so-called T4 base, near the ancient city of Palmyra, from which the drone was launched early Saturday. Israeli Apache helicopters downed the drone, and four F-16 jets were dispatched into Syrian territory to bomb the site from which it was launched.

One Israeli F-16 was hit by Syrian fire as it returned to Israel from the mission, leading to the massive Israeli retaliation.

The deputy commander of Israel’s air force, Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, said Saturday that Israel’s aerial reprisal was “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses” since the 1982 Lebanon War....

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 23:07 (six months ago) Permalink

Kommersant is reporting that the attempt to seize the air base was unsanctioned and that the Russian mercs were under the command of a local businessman who wanted to capture nearby oil fields.

There is apparently footage of the bombing raid and it was pretty clear they had no air support, either from Russia or Syria. The story goes that they took out a lot of US and Kurdish soldiers and the US called in air strikes to maintain hold of the base.

I wouldn’t bet against this kind of thing happening again. Russia has done something similar to the US in Iraq and pulled most of their soldiers out - with private contractors filling the void in return for a cut of oil revenue. The controls are so weak, you’re probably going to get mercenaries fighting against each other at some point.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Wednesday, 14 February 2018 18:39 (six months ago) Permalink

Good piece by Nataliya Valilyeva on the (officially) five Russians who were killed by the US airstrike:

They were working for Wagner, the biggest private contractor / mercenary company - essentially Russia's answer to Blackwater.

It looks like there is pressure within the Duma to start properly regulating the contractors:

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Friday, 16 February 2018 10:10 (six months ago) Permalink

U.N. security council report on Yemen that was released the other day is grim reading

khat person (jim in vancouver), Friday, 16 February 2018 17:39 (six months ago) Permalink


curmudgeon, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 06:03 (five months ago) Permalink

Why more Iranians don't use "Ultrasurf" to access the internet

China, the world’s biggest Internet censor, objects to the development of programs that can circumvent its repressive censorship. Obama administration officials admitted that State Department funding decisions in such matters are based, at least in part, on the department’s desire to keep the Chinese from “go[ing] ballistic.” Now similar concerns for Chinese sensitivities appear to be shaping the Trump administration’s response to the Iranian people’s protests for freedom.

Iranians have been using UltraSurf to circumvent the mullahs’ censors, but recently the number of Iranian users has exploded to about 2 million, with daily hits on the website numbering about 1 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that because of the lack of funding from State, UltraSurf’s servers are in danger of crashing for lack of capacity to meet the exploding Iranian demand. Too many Iranians have joined the people in other closed societies who are trying to use the software.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 06:09 (five months ago) Permalink

More on Iran from a kinda neo-con, sometime moderate W. Post columnist Jackson Diehl

Iranians are still nationalists: More than 70 percent still favor developing missiles and a nuclear capacity. Only 16 percent told the pollsters that “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change.” Yet far fewer support the regime’s foreign adventures. Forty-two percent say “the government should spend less money in places like Syria and Iraq.” A plurality say Iran should negotiate with other countries rather than try to become a regional hegemon. And though 75 percent say the nuclear deal has not improved living conditions, 55 percent still favor it.

What this tells us is that one of the best ways to counter Iran’s interventions in Iraq, Yemen and Syria is to ally with the large bloc of Iranians who oppose them. In part that means helping Iranians find out what their government is up to; the news that it was planning to cut food subsidies while increasing spending on the Revolutionary Guard was one of the triggers of the protests.

Only a tiny number of Iranians — 8 percent, according to the new poll — get information from foreign radio broadcasts, but more than 60 percent depend on the Internet or apps such as Telegram. The United States could do a lot more to help people get around the regime’s attempts to block these channels.
...Rather than pursue such strategies, Trump seems intent on voiding the nuclear deal by May, basically on the grounds that it was negotiated by President Barack Obama. The pact is far from perfect, as I have argued before. For now, though, it has helped to open a rift between the regime and its public and created a potent new source of pressure on Tehran’s foreign adventures. If Trump kills it, expect some quiet celebrations in Tehran.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 18:18 (five months ago) Permalink

Attacks by forces loyal to the Syrian government have killed more than 100 people in a rebel-held Damascus suburb, aid agencies and monitoring groups said Tuesday, calling it one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in Syria’s seven-year war.

People cowered in their basements and doctors worked around the clock as warplanes pounded the cluster of towns and villages east of Damascus known as Ghouta, which government forces have surrounded for the past four years.

Even by the standards of Ghouta, the opposition’s isolated last bastion outside the capital, the latest assault has been brutal. Just last month, government warplanes killed at least 210 people and sent hundreds fleeing to what remained of the hospitals.

In the latest attack, hospitals appeared to be the target. More than five of them were hit on Monday, according to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM). The France-based charity put the toll of the strikes on Monday at 97 dead and more than 500 injured.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 18:55 (five months ago) Permalink

Assad is brutal, and nothing will happen to him.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 21 February 2018 15:03 (five months ago) Permalink

Meanwhile, in another part of Syria--

Turkey warned on Wednesday that pro-Damascus forces would face “serious consequences” for entering Syria’s Afrin region to help Kurdish fighters repel a Turkish offensive.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 21 February 2018 15:08 (five months ago) Permalink

x-post: Got forbid anything happened to him. That would mean regime change.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 21 February 2018 17:43 (five months ago) Permalink

given that apart from ypg the opposition are all takfiri jihadists there really isn't a "good" outcome to this horrible war

khat person (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 21 February 2018 17:48 (five months ago) Permalink

Of the 5 listed in this article, Faylaq al-Rahman: The Faylaq al-Rahman organization, or al-Rahman Legion, is also based in Eastern Ghouta, looks like the least bad

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 21 February 2018 19:40 (five months ago) Permalink

there really isn't a "good" outcome to this horrible war

Considering the near-certainty that whoever wins on the battlefield will indulge in mass reprisal murders, even the outcome of "peace" won't bring much peace. As a practical matter, the fact that all sides understand the inevitability of reprisals means there is every motivation to fight on to complete exhaustion. The winners will rule over rubble, but at least they will be alive, and by now that's all this war is about: survival.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 21 February 2018 19:58 (five months ago) Permalink

NY Times Editorial Board says Assad and Russia should be charged with war crimes for current attacks on Ghouta

curmudgeon, Thursday, 22 February 2018 16:25 (five months ago) Permalink

I kinda would like to see Assad out of office and facing a war crimes trial, even if Syria would just become Libya like, or requiring a UN presence to try to hold off all the other bad options. Alas, UN has messed up in Congo, and Russia, Iran and current US government would never support such an idea. A chaotic Syria without Assad using an Air Force to drop barrel bombs, might not be perfect, but it might be slightly less worse.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 22 February 2018 17:37 (five months ago) Permalink

There's no reason to think it wouldn't be worse. Libya is now a failed state/nightmare of a country.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 18:04 (five months ago) Permalink

And Syria isn't?

Frederik B, Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:34 (five months ago) Permalink

In Syria if the jihadists are conclusively defeated - I'm no expert on military affairs but with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah they might well be - Assad's government will be able establish control over the country, with a possibility of something similar to the status quo ante prevailing.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:40 (five months ago) Permalink

So is an authoritarian state with Assad having an air force that drops barrel bombs, and has support from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah better than Libya? I dunno. Maybe less chaotic I guess, and thanks to Assad's ruthlessness, lots less people around.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:51 (five months ago) Permalink

The benefits of a central authority, no matter that it is despotic, is better than total chaos and lawlessness.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:56 (five months ago) Permalink

I also believe, fairly strongly, that if somehow, magically the people rebelling against Assad could gain control over the country, it would be a hellhole.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:59 (five months ago) Permalink

Wikipedia says there's been something like 400.000 people killed in the Syrian civil war and 10.000 in the Libya Civil War. Take that with a BIG grain of salt, but still. And not getting rid of Assad means the country could explode all over again. It's not the first uprising they've defeated.

Frederik B, Thursday, 22 February 2018 21:03 (five months ago) Permalink

this study from 2015 had casualties at 20k for the Libyan Civil Wars (2011 and 2014-present) Although Syria is more than 3 times more populous than Libya obviously the war there has just been so much more brutal, with huge atrocities from both sides, most notably government forces deliberate targeting of civilians, and targeting of enemy forces in populated areas in ways sure to kill many civilians - war crimes.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 21:14 (five months ago) Permalink

I also believe, fairly strongly, that if somehow, magically the people rebelling against Assad could gain control over the country, it would be a hellhole.

What do you think Assad turned Aleppo into? What do you think he's doing now to Ghouta?

curmudgeon, Thursday, 22 February 2018 21:38 (five months ago) Permalink

Yeah I'm aware we're talking about the outcome from the end of the conflict. The outcome of the Civil War in Libya that ousted Gaddafi is a failed state and an ongoing war that has no signs of abating. In Syria this war may finally come to a conclusion soon.

khat person (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 22 February 2018 22:01 (five months ago) Permalink

only in the sense that it'll become an occupation. assad is still going to need to ongoingly pacify resistance. the war isn't coming to a true *conclusion* imo any time soon, and this is putting aside that iran may be spoiling for a new war right around the corner w/ israel.

Mordy, Thursday, 22 February 2018 22:04 (five months ago) Permalink

in terms of preventing regional conflagration

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Tuesday, 29 May 2018 18:15 (two months ago) Permalink

IMF encouraged austerity measures result in poor and middle class protests in Jordan and the Prime Minister resigning

Mr Mulki had refused to scrap the bill, saying it was up to parliament to decide whether to pass it or not.

His government said it needed the money to fund public services and said the new tax bill would mean higher earners pay more.

But protesters feared it would further worsen living standards. In recent years, Jordanians have seen prices rise with salaries failing to keep up.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 13:51 (two months ago) Permalink

Jordan's economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign investment and aid has declined.

In 2016, Jordan secured a $723m, three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since then, austerity measures agreed with the IMF have caused the price of basic goods and services to rise steadily.

Last Wednesday, demonstrations began when thousands held strike action against proposed income tax rises at a time when ordinary Jordanians were already struggling with inflation.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 13:53 (two months ago) Permalink

Meanwhile in Yemen:

sources have said that the Trump administration is considering giving direct support to seize the country’s main port for humanitarian aid.

First reported by the Wall Street Journal, the move would expand U.S. involvement in the brutal civil war that has been raging since 2014.

The United Arab Emirates has asked the U.S. to assist the Saudi-led coalition to retake Hodeidah.

U.S. officials told the Journal that the coalition will not act without U.S. support. But a high-ranking official told the newspaper that the administration has a “lot of concerns about a Hodeidah operation.”

“We are not 100 percent comfortable that, even if the coalition did launch an attack, that they would be able to do it cleanly and avoid a catastrophic incident,” the official said.

Administration officials are expected to meet today to discuss next steps, according to the Journal.

Experts have called the ongoing war the world’s “largest humanitarian crisis,” with millions facing starvation, lack of access to clean water and a cholera outbreak that likely involves more than 1 million people.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 14:02 (two months ago) Permalink

IMF tax plan being contemplated by Jordan legislature protests continue in Jordan despite Prime Minister resigning. King Abdullah weighs in:

Education minister and former World Bank economist Omar al-Razzaz has replaced former Prime Minister Hani Mulki, who resigned on Monday.

The protests in Jordan, a key Western ally, are the biggest in years.

Demonstrators say a new tax bill backed by the International Monetary Fund will hurt the poor and middle class.

The former PM had refused to scrap the proposals, which include higher taxes and more austerity measures.

In the letter appointing Mr Razzaz to form a new government on Tuesday, King Abdullah said that the cabinet "must carry out a comprehensive review of the tax system" to avoid "unjust taxes that do not achieve justice and balance between the incomes of the poor and the rich".

The previous evening, the monarch warned that Jordan risked entering "the unknown" if it failed to find a way out of the current crisis, Jordan's Petra news agency reported.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 7 June 2018 17:02 (two months ago) Permalink

IMF clearly being shown the blowback to austerity is the rise of right wing populist fascists and they keep going about their business

officer sonny bonds, lytton pd (mayor jingleberries), Thursday, 7 June 2018 18:45 (two months ago) Permalink

Fela once said a long time ago that IMF stands for International Mother F’ers and nothing seems to have changed since

curmudgeon, Friday, 8 June 2018 18:13 (two months ago) Permalink

Long New Yorker article on Israel/US relationship and how it has changed over the years from President 44 to 45(plus lots of details re Abbas, Bibi, and more) looks like an interesting read (just skimmed it) even if it will most likely just confirm bottom lines we already know

curmudgeon, Monday, 11 June 2018 14:58 (two months ago) Permalink

Turkish election tomorrow!

Genuinely in the balance for the first time in ages.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Saturday, 23 June 2018 09:33 (one month ago) Permalink

I can't imagine Erdogan being allowed to lose.

womp womp that sucker (Tom D.), Saturday, 23 June 2018 11:19 (one month ago) Permalink

the leader of the center-left opposition is called (most likely not going to be nicknamed The Guv'nor by colleagues) Muharrem Ince.

calzino, Saturday, 23 June 2018 11:31 (one month ago) Permalink

It’s not officially a Turkish election until this happens:

Not sure Erdogan is going to get the 50% he needs to avoid a run-off with Ince. There will be a huge mobilisation against him if it’s head-to-head.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 09:22 (one month ago) Permalink

Nusret Gökçe, globally known as “Salt Bae” for his meat-cutting and salt-drizzling skills..

you can see by how he votes that he's erm ... got some skills.

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) has announced that it will look into complaints regarding election safety issues in the Suruç district of the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa following claims of vote-rigging.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) earlier on June 24 appealed to the YSK, asking the election body to take action following allegations regarding voting irregularities and other allegations that some election observers were not allowed to do their jobs and they were even attacked at balloting stations in Suruç and some other districts of Şanlıurfa, daily Cumhuriyet has reported.

calzino, Sunday, 24 June 2018 11:00 (one month ago) Permalink

Anadolu News Agency says that Erdogan has 53% with 89%of votes counted. Has been ticking down closer to 50 the more votes are counted.

Ince reckons they’ve actually only counted 40% so don’t expect him to concede.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 18:32 (one month ago) Permalink

The map tells the story.

Latest results in presidential vote in #TurkeyElections as of 9.30 pm:

Boxes opened: 89%

Erdogan: 53.4%
Ince: 30.3%
Demirtas: 7.6%
Aksener: 7.4%
Karamollaoglu: 0.9%
Perincek: 0.2%

Find more at and

— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) June 24, 2018

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 18:40 (one month ago) Permalink

Has been ticking down closer to 50 the more votes are counted.

It is said that where there's a will, there's a way. I am sure Erdogan will find a way to win. Or else appear to. Either way works for his purposes.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 24 June 2018 18:41 (one month ago) Permalink

It has been glitchy all night, but it looks like the opposition's own vote tally is going to show an Erdoğan first round victory.

— Ankaralı Jan (@06JAnk) June 24, 2018

Looks more or less a done deal on a first round victory.

The good news is that the Kurdish party got over the 10% required for parliamentary representation in the other ballot.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:00 (one month ago) Permalink

Why did anyone ever think it could turn out any different?

womp womp that sucker (Tom D.), Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:12 (one month ago) Permalink

I trebled it with Putin's election victory and Celtic winning the title and made a penny!

calzino, Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:16 (one month ago) Permalink

The election may have some irregularities but isn’t exactly 100% rigged and there was a sense of urgency, at least in Istanbul and Ankara, that went along with the idea that this could end up being the most important election in Turkey’s history (or if you’re more pessimistic, the last election in Turkey’s history) to drive turnout.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:17 (one month ago) Permalink

Celtic far less of a surefire bet than Putin or Erdogan tbh.

womp womp that sucker (Tom D.), Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:19 (one month ago) Permalink

What is that red dot to the east?

Frederik B, Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:58 (one month ago) Permalink

Tunceli, where Erdogan got 18%

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 24 June 2018 22:07 (one month ago) Permalink

Interesting. Will check up on the story of that.

Frederik B, Sunday, 24 June 2018 23:23 (one month ago) Permalink


womp womp that sucker (Tom D.), Sunday, 24 June 2018 23:32 (one month ago) Permalink

But not Kurds who voted for the main Kurdish party - there’s a subset called the Alevi I don’t know much about who live there.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Monday, 25 June 2018 05:11 (one month ago) Permalink

Will Assad really agree not to have Iran or other militias in areas near Israel he is currently recapturing (via his usual brutality)? See article below

The Syrian civil war is apparently entering a new phase. After having scored numerous military successes over the last two years, the Assad regime, with Russian air support, is preparing to retake the country’s southwest. This is an area with symbolic importance (the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in Daraa in 2011), but also practical importance, since it abuts both Jordan and Israel.

...Israel wants stability on its border. It has also frequently denounced the Assad regime for slaughtering its own citizens and using chemical weapons. But would it necessarily oppose the Syrian Army’s return to its border in the Golan Heights, if the Iranians were removed from the area at the same time?

In recent years, Israel has given food, clothing and medicine to residents of Sunni Syrian villages near its border. Thousands of Syrians have also entered Israel for medical treatment. Western media reports say Israel has also given rebel militias in those areas arms and ammunition as well. Israel denies this, but recently those denials have sounded less forceful than in the past.

Along with fighting the rebels, the Assad regime has mercilessly slaughtered residents of towns under their control. In many cases, it battered besieged towns with air strikes and artillery until they surrendered.

Thus Israel’s leadership will soon face a dilemma. In internal discussions, some defense officials, including officers in the army’s Northern Command, have said Israel has a humanitarian obligation to residents of these border villages.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine that the public would support risking Israeli soldiers’ lives to save Arab citizens of an enemy country. It’s more likely that Israel won’t intervene directly in the fighting, but will try to make the regime’s return to the border region contingent on an agreement to remove Iranian forces and the Shi’ite militias from it.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 28 June 2018 14:06 (one month ago) Permalink

Deraa has been completely burnt to the ground," Jihad al-Ali, a 26-year-old paramedic in Deraa told Al Jazeera as he described the effect of the ongoing attacks since Wednesday evening.

Syrian government forces launched the military push on June 19 in an attempt to retake the southern provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and parts of Sweida, mostly held by opposition fighters.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 28 June 2018 14:08 (one month ago) Permalink

The whole 'thousands of years of conflict' thing re Israel and Palestine is something I've probably screeched myself on here at some point but also a framework we really need to work against no

Never changed username before (cardamon), Saturday, 30 June 2018 22:21 (one month ago) Permalink

It nicely absolves the British, Ottoman and Russian empires for their behaviour in the 20th century for one thing and sticks all the blame on those inherently-violent Jews and Arabs

Never changed username before (cardamon), Saturday, 30 June 2018 22:23 (one month ago) Permalink

Müslüm Gündüz, the head sheikh of the hardline Aczmendi sect, told the Islamist TV channel Akit TV that those inspired by the founder of the Turkish republic should be forced out of the country, left-wing news site Gazete Tamam said .

“We know the Kemalists well and they know us well. Either they will leave this country or we will. While we are around, the Kemalists cannot be at ease,” Gündüz said.

“Kemalism is against human nature. It is against human morality. It is a system to force Anatolian people to be immoral.”

Kemalism, an ideology named after founding president of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, has been a major secular force in Turkish politics since that time.

But the ideology made people into anarchists and terrorists, Gündüz said.

The Kemalist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was a “religious movement” trying to compete with Islam, he added.

ogmor, Thursday, 5 July 2018 13:26 (one month ago) Permalink

Basically calling for a purge of secularists?

officer sonny bonds, lytton pd (mayor jingleberries), Thursday, 5 July 2018 13:49 (one month ago) Permalink

He has been saying the same thing since 1996.

I wouldn't bet he has more followers than the average Turkish high school has pictures of Ataturk, tbh.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Thursday, 5 July 2018 15:24 (one month ago) Permalink

let's hope so. I've not heard much good news coming out of turkey

ogmor, Thursday, 5 July 2018 18:44 (one month ago) Permalink

During a private meeting shortly before the November, 2016, election, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, floated to a longtime American interlocutor what sounded, at the time, like an unlikely grand bargain. The Emirati leader told the American that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, might be interested in resolving the conflict in Syria in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Current and former U.S. officials said that bin Zayed, known as M.B.Z., was not the only leader in the region who favored rapprochement between the former Cold War adversaries. While America’s closest allies in Europe viewed with a sense of dread Trump’s interest in partnering with Putin, three countries that enjoyed unparallelled influence with the incoming Administration—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E.—privately embraced the goal. Officials from the three countries have repeatedly encouraged their American counterparts to consider ending the Ukraine-related sanctions in return for Putin’s help in removing Iranian forces from Syria.

Experts say that such a deal would be unworkable, even if Trump were interested. They say Putin has neither the interest nor the ability to pressure Iranian forces to leave Syria. Administration officials have said that Syria and Ukraine will be among the topics that Trump and Putin will discuss at their summit in Helsinki on July 16th. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

curmudgeon, Friday, 13 July 2018 04:33 (one month ago) Permalink

This looks very plausible to me - both sides exploring back-channels, encouraged by shared allies, to see whether they could reach a mutually-beneficial foreign policy arrangement and both coming to the conclusion that they couldn't. I doubt the Trump side has given up hope completely, given how central Iran is to a lot of their thinking, but i can't really envisage Russia changing position.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Friday, 13 July 2018 12:12 (one month ago) Permalink

Meanwhile, Assad's brutal campaign marches on through Daraa where the revolution first began...

For the first time in more than seven years, the Syrian government raised its flag Thursday over Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011 and plunge the country into its calamitous civil war.

The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old Assad who has ruled with an iron fist over Syria for 18 years. His father Hafez Assad was president for three decades before him.

Officials accompanied by state media crews hoisted the two-star flag over the rubble of the city’s main square, allowing it to wave in sight of the shell of the Omari Mosque where protesters first gathered in demonstrations demanding reforms then Assad’s ouster in the spring of 2011.

The mosque has since been destroyed in the government’s brutal crackdown against the city, which ranged from alleged torturing of dissidents to shelling the city with tanks and planes.

curmudgeon, Saturday, 14 July 2018 00:33 (one month ago) Permalink

A (recently turned right-wing) friend of mine posted an article saying that Syria was welcoming back the people who had fled, so why should we give them asylum. The worst.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Saturday, 14 July 2018 01:11 (one month ago) Permalink

Welcome back! We kill you now.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 14 July 2018 03:42 (one month ago) Permalink

Thought this was really interesting:

Frederik B, Friday, 27 July 2018 16:04 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Yes, a good article.

And talking of fault lines within an administration...

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Friday, 27 July 2018 16:15 (three weeks ago) Permalink

"Together we can rebuild it... Afrin". #WhiteHelmets are set and ready to go in the city of #Afrin for their latest community work campaigns to restore the city to its former beauty and utility. #Syria

— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) August 1, 2018

kind of a gross tweet considering the turks and islamists just ethnically cleansed Afrin

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 1 August 2018 21:42 (two weeks ago) Permalink

It was hardly the first time the kingdom, an absolute monarchy, had been chided for human rights abuses, or even the first time Canada had criticized the Saudi government since it started arresting the female activists in May. But under Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, a kingdom once known for its go-slow approach to foreign affairs has frequently reacted to perceived challenges from abroad with haste, spit and fire, analysts said.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 7 August 2018 02:58 (one week ago) Permalink

"In These Times" re US support of Saudi Arabia in Yemen--

Yemenis require much more than vague assurances and promises. What Yemenis need is for the United States to end all its support to the Saudi-led coalition, which includes pulling out troops from the Saudi-Yemen border, ending all refueling missions and targeting assistance, ending all military contracts involving the training of Saudi military personnel and the maintenance of military vehicles and aircraft, and ending all sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 7 August 2018 03:17 (one week ago) Permalink

How much oil does Yemen have?

(That was rhetorical. It's not much, Nexen Canada operated the main field in Yemen, was bought out by Chinese CNOOC in 2012, who are abandoning it).

Roomba with an attitude (Sanpaku), Tuesday, 7 August 2018 04:50 (one week ago) Permalink


curmudgeon, Tuesday, 7 August 2018 18:05 (one week ago) Permalink

Saudis, Al Queda, and the US

The deals uncovered by the AP investigation reflect the contradictory interests of the two wars being waged simultaneously in the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

In one conflict, the US is working with its Arab allies - particularly the UAE - with the aim of eliminating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

And in that fight, al-Qaeda fighters are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition and, by extension, the US.

"Elements of the US military are clearly aware that much of what the US is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that," said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.

"However, supporting the UAE and Saudi Arabia against what the US views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilising Yemen," Horton said.

the [Saudi] coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.'t-defeat-al-Qaida-but-pay-it-to-go-away

curmudgeon, Friday, 10 August 2018 03:25 (one week ago) Permalink

I'm sure that'll all be fine

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Friday, 10 August 2018 03:44 (one week ago) Permalink

Pretty much the story of the Sunni Awakening during the Iraq war. Thousands who had been bombing convoys the prior year were put on the payroll. Cheaper to pay them to do nothing than to patch up after IEDs.

Roomba with an attitude (Sanpaku), Friday, 10 August 2018 04:21 (one week ago) Permalink

Meanwhile, Saudi coalition air attacks that kill children continue:

An airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition struck a school bus in northern Yemen on Thursday and killed dozens of people, many of them children, local medical officials and international aid groups said.

The attack sent a flood of victims to overwhelmed hospitals struggling to cope in what the United Nations considers one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The coalition said it had hit missile launchers and called the attack a “legitimate military operation,” but the attack and the justification for it were condemned and drew new attention to the tremendous human toll of the war in Yemen, especially on children.

curmudgeon, Friday, 10 August 2018 12:50 (one week ago) Permalink

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