Syria | USA | Britain | Media

An interesting article on the balance of forces between the Syrian government, the Islamic State, Kurdish forces, Turkey and the US:
Timur Göksel: Will Trump see eye to eye with Erdogan’s plans in Iraq, Syria? (Al-Monitor)

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford visited Ankara Nov. 6 and held a 4½-hour meeting with his Turkish counterparts.
This sudden, unplanned visit led some to wonder if there was a rupture between Ankara’s strategic thinking on Iraq and Syria and the United States’ goals in the region.
Ankara is hoping to find harmony with the incoming US administration on its fight against the Islamic State…
In the Nov. 6 operation, about 25,000 YPG fighters who had been controlling the Kurdish cantons of Kobani and Jazeera turned their backs to Turkey and launched an assault toward Raqqa in the south. The Kurds practically vacated their two cantons and left them wide open to a possible offensive by Turkey…
Ankara has two main goals in Iraq: to increase Turkey’s effectiveness north of Mosul and thus become part of the Mosul operation, and to eliminate the PKK’s domination of the Sinjar area that forms a bridge between Iraq and Syria…
Many key names in Ankara believe that the Trump transition team will understand the dynamics of Iraq and Syria and support Ankara in its struggle against the PKK and PYD in northern Syria and against growing Shiite influence in Iraq.

Joseph Briefel: Should Baathists have role in post-IS Iraq? (AL-Monitor)

As the inevitable defeat of IS approaches, analysts and politicians are busy discussing life in Iraq after the group. Sectarian reconciliation, political autonomy and the role of external actors such as Turkey continue to dominate the media discourse.
One group that remains absent from post-liberation narratives is the former Baathists, who have played a complex role in Mosul’s recent history and have had a dysfunctional relationship with post-2003 governments in Baghdad. If the role of former Baathists is forgotten in post-IS Iraq, then many of the key issues that arose when IS entered Mosul in 2014 will likely return in the future.
The powerful role played by former Baathists in IS’s leadership structure is well known. Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s Intelligence Service, and Abu Ali al-Anbari, a former major general under Saddam, were IS’s former deputy commanders in Iraq and Syria.

Police Attack Water Protectors at Standing Rock—AGAIN (TeleSur)

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline after a standoff at a river nearby.

Police Unleash Military-Style Assault on Standing Rock Protesters (TeleSur)

Police were spraying protesters with water in sub-freezing temperatures and firing rubber bullets, reportedly injuring 167.

Tom Phillips: Climate change a Chinese hoax? Beijing gives Donald Trump a lesson in history (Guardian)

China has rejected Donald Trump’s claims that climate change is a Chinese hoax, urging the US president-elect to take a “smart decision” over his country’s commitment to the fight against global warming.

Yoav Haifawi: The Economist in China’s Wonderland (Free Haifa)

On November 12th 2016 The Economist published a short report from Shenzhen about what seems as a totally boring subject: Chinese courier firms. It comes, as usual, under a patronizing title “China’s express-delivery sector needs consolidation and modernization”. But it contains such a glaring and laughable combination of contradictions that I found it worth bringing here to you.

Ewen MacAskill: ‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper (Guardian)

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.
The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

India | Syria | Gabon | Black Lives | Germany | Yemen

Millions of Indian workers strike for better wages (AlJazeera)

Thousands of state-run banks, government offices and factories shut as workers rally against Modi’s economic policies…
Union officials said about 180 million workers, including state bank employees, school teachers, postal workers, miners and construction workers, were participating, but the figure could not be independently verified.

Kareem Shaheen: Turkey sends tanks into Syria in operation aimed at Isis and Kurds (Guardian)

Turkey has launched a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border in a coordinated campaign with Syrian opposition fighters, who seized an Islamic State-held village in the area in the first hours of fighting.
The operation, called Euphrates Shield, has a dual purpose: to dislodge Isis from Jarablus, its last major redoubt on the 500-mile border, and to contain the expansion of Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Ismail Akwei: Gabon’s parliament set on fire as riots break out amid calls to publish results (africanews)

Gabon’s parliament has been set on fire on Wednesday after rioters stormed the capital Libreville and other cities in protest against election results.
The riots started immediately after Gabon’s Minister of Interior announced last Saturday’s election results declaring incumbent president Ali Bongo the winner.

A vision for Black lives: Policy demands for Black power, freedom & justice (Movement for Black Lives)

Black humanity and dignity requires black political will and power. In response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country have come together with renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda. We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.

Robin D. G. Kelley: What Does Black Lives Matter Want? (CounterPunch)

On August 1 the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over sixty organizations, rolled out “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” an ambitious document described by the press as the first signs of what young black activists “really want.” It lays out six demands aimed at ending all forms of violence and injustice endured by black people; redirecting resources from prisons and the military to education, health, and safety; creating a just, democratically controlled economy; and securing black political power within a genuinely inclusive democracy. Backing the demands are forty separate proposals and thirty-four policy briefs, replete with data, context, and legislative recommendations…
“A Vision for Black Lives” was not a response to the U.S. presidential election, nor to unfounded criticisms of the movement as “rudderless” or merely a hashtag. It was the product of a year of collective discussion, research, collaboration, and intense debate, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland last July, which initially brought together thirty different organizations. It was the product of some of the country’s greatest minds representing organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG)…
The result is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone. The demands are not intended as Band-Aids to patch up the existing system but achievable goals that will produce deep structural changes and improve the lives of all Americans and much of the world.

Philip Oltermann: Angela Merkel’s party beaten by rightwing populists in German elections (Guardian)

Angela Merkel has suffered a sobering defeat in regional elections in her constituency of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) coming third behind the Social Democrats (SPD) and the rightwing populists Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
Projections late on Sunday night saw the centre-left SPD on 30.5%, the anti-immigration AfD on 20.9%, and the chancellor’s centre-right CDU suffering its all-time lowest result in the eastern state, on 19%. Earlier this year, the CDU had looked like the party most likely to be tasked with forming the next government in the state.

Johannes Stern: German Luftwaffe begin NATO patrols over the Baltic / Deutsche Luftwaffe patrouilliert wieder über dem Baltikum (World Socialist Website)

The return of German troops to Eastern Europe is part of the preparations for war against Russia adopted in early July at the NATO summit in Warsaw. These include the deployment of four additional battalions, each with at least 1,000 troops, to the Baltic States and Poland (Germany will take over command of the battalion in Lithuania), the establishment of a NATO missile defence system in Eastern Europe and a further shifting of the most powerful military alliance in the world in the direction of the Russian border.
All these measures increase the risk of direct conflict with nuclear-armed power Russia…
If one of the Baltic states ruled by far-right, anti-Russian parties, provokes a conflict with Russia, Germany is pledged to wage war against Russia.

Patrick Martin: The most unpopular candidates in American history (World Socialist Website)

The contest between the militaristic Clinton and the fascistic Trump has alienated tens of millions from the corporate-controlled two-party system.

Bill Van Auken: New York Times launches McCarthyite witch-hunt against Julian Assange (World Socialist Website)

The New York Times Thursday published an article entitled “How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West’s Secrets.” The 5,000-word piece, covering three columns of the top half of its front page, boasts three bylines. Presented as a major investigative news article, it is a piece of pro-government propaganda, whose style and outright character assassination against the WikiLeaks founder seems to have been cribbed from the vilest McCarthyite smear jobs of the 1950s.

Peter Symonds: RAND Corporation lays out scenarios for US war with China / „Das Undenkbare denken“: USA entwerfen Szenarien für Krieg gegen China (World Socialist Website)

A new study by the RAND Corporation titled “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable” is just the latest think tank paper devoted to assessing a US war against China. The study, commissioned by the US Army, provides further evidence that a war with China is being planned and prepared in the upper echelons of the American military-intelligence apparatus.

America Is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen (New York Times)

A hospital associated with Doctors Without Borders. A school. A potato chip factory. Under international law, those facilities in Yemen are not legitimate military targets. Yet all were bombed in recent days by warplanes belonging to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, killing more than 40 civilians.
The United States is complicit in this carnage. It has enabled the coalition in many ways, including selling arms to the Saudis to mollify them after the nuclear deal with Iran. Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.

Alex Emmons: The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals (Intercept)

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, after Houthi rebels took control of the capital and forced Yemen’s Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into exile. The United Nations has since attributed the majority of the war’s 6,500 deaths to the Saudi coalition, which the U.S. and U.K. have resupplied with tens of billions of dollars of weapons.

Thailand | South Africa | Venezuela | Israel | USA

Giles Ji Ungpakorn [ใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์ tɕāj ʔɯ́ŋ.pʰāː.kɔ̄ːn]: Junta’s referendum on authoritarian constitution neither free nor fair (Ugly Truth Tailand)

The Thai junta’s so-called “referendum” on its authoritarian constitution is not a genuine democratic referendum. It is being conducted in a climate of fear, bullying and harassment. Those wishing to oppose the constitution and campaign for a “No Vote” have been constantly arrested and thrown in jail and their literature confiscated. Even neutral meetings to discuss the constitution have been banned. Independent media have been raided by soldiers. The military controlled media is giving a one-sided, pro-junta view of this appalling constitution and soldiers are being sent into communities to “explain” the “benefits” of the constitution to the public…
This retched draft constitution should be rejected because it is drawn up by people who have contempt for democracy and contempt for most citizens. This is reflected in the ridiculous “prologue” which also justifies and white-washes all the actions of the military junta. There are a number of measures which increase the powers of military appointed bodies over elected governments and parliament. It allows for a non-member of parliament to become Prime Minister in certain circumstances and there is a special additional question in the referendum which asks if people would like the parliament and senate to vote together to appoint someone from the junta to be the Prime Minister after the first elections. Of course the senate is to be fully appointed by the junta. In addition, the formula for determining the number of members of parliament favours the Democratic Party.
The constitution is the most neo-liberal constitution ever drafted in Thailand. At a stroke it turns the clock back and virtually abolishes the universal health care scheme and the right to free secondary education. It also entrenches Theravada Buddhism at the expense of other beliefs.

Reuters: Thailand referendum gets under way as military seeks to cement power (Guardian)

Yes vote on new constitution backed by junta would hand control of senate to commanders, granting them a veto on decisions by elected lawmakers

Emma Graham-Harrison: Voters deliver stinging rebuke to ANC in South African election (Guardian)

South Africans have delivered a stinging rebuke to the ANC, handing the party its first major election setback since it swept to power after the end of apartheid over two decades ago.
Frustrated with a stagnant economy, a 25% unemployment rate and corruption allegations against Jacob Zuma, the president, voters in local elections turned away from the ruling party in their millions and it has been defeated in two of the three cities where it faced the strongest challenge.
The ANC is likely to claim a slim overall majority when final results are announced, but it has lost control of Port Elizabeth, an industrial city on the south coast, and Pretoria, the capital.

Eva María: Why “Twenty-First-Century Socialism” Failed (Jacobin)

The Bolivarian Revolution improved millions of lives, but it was never able to fundamentally challenge the logic of capital.

Chip Gibbons: The Repression Lists (Jacobin)

For decades, the state has used lists like the no-fly list to expand its power and harass political dissidents.

Andy Wilcoxson: The Exoneration of Milosevic: the ICTY’s Surprise Ruling (CounterPunch)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milošević was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
In a stunning ruling, the trial chamber that convicted former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadžić of war crimes and sentenced him to 40 years in prison, unanimously concluded that Slobodan Milošević was not part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war…
The Karadžić trial chamber found that “the relationship between Milošević and the Accused had deteriorated beginning in 1992; by 1994, they no longer agreed on a course of action to be taken. Furthermore, beginning as early as March 1992, there was apparent discord between the Accused and Milošević in meetings with international representatives, during which Milošević and other Serbian leaders openly criticised Bosnian Serb leaders of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the war for their own purposes.”

Eugen Hardt: Rojava: „Taktisches Bündnis“ mit US-Imperialismus führt zur Niederlage (Linke Zeitung)

Turkey/Kurdistan | Israel/Palestine | Postcolonialism

Constanze Letsch, Ian Traynor: Turkey election: ruling party loses majority as pro-Kurdish HDP gains seats (Guardian)

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party wins 41% of vote – meaning it will need a coalition partner to form a government.

HDP wins 13.1% of votes and 80 deputies (Kurdish Question)

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has demolished the 10 percent election threshold in Turkey and North Kurdistan, getting 13.1 percent of the votes from 6 million 52 thousand voters and gaining 80 seats in the Turkish parliament. The party has increased its votes in Istanbul by 100 percent and has been the only party sending deputies to the parliament in many cities.
Besides exceeding the election threshold as a party for the first time and thus hindering the AKP from gaining power alone, the HDP also multiplied its votes in Turkey and North Kurdistan…
The HDP has outscored other parties in the provinces of Iğdır, Şırnak, Hakkari, Dersim and Ağrı. The party has granted 3 deputies from Hakkari with 87.7 %, 2 from Iğdır with 55.94 %, 4 from Şırnak with 83.93 %, 2 from Dersim with 60.06 %, and 4 from Ağrı with 76.94 %.
The AKP which persistently advocated “one flag, one land, one nation, one state” while taking no concrete steps for the resolution of the Kurdish question, has collapsed in the Kurdish region, …
The HDP also overthrew the threshold in İstanbul where it won 11 seats, winning 12.60 % with 1 million, 68 thousand, 808 votes, as well as in İzmir where it gained 2 seats, winning 10.54 % with 285,256 votes.

Mark Lowen: Turkey election: Kurds, women, gays put faith in upstart party (BBC)
Kate Lyons: Record number of women elected to Turkish parliament (Guardian)

The HDP campaigned on leftwing issues such as raising the minimum wage and improving access to university education, and on a platform of gender equality, promising to create a ministry of women and make International Women’s Day a national holiday.
The party has male and female co-chairs and a near-50% quota for female candidates and 10% quota for LGBT candidates. It charges women half as much as men to stand as candidates. Such policies are yielding results: 268 of the HDP’s 550 candidates were women, and 31 (39%) of its 80 elected MPs.

Gideon Levy: Israel washed itself clean of Gaza’s dead beach children (Haaretz)

The IDF should have been the first to press for a true investigation of the death of three boys shelled on Gaza’s coast – instead it blamed Hamas, as if it had sent the boys to play on the beach.

Peter Beaumont: Witness to a shelling: first-hand account of deadly strike on Gaza port (Guardian, 16 June 2014)
Amy Goodman, Yousef Munayyer, Gideon Levy: Israeli Report Finds 2014 Gaza War “Lawful” and “Legitimate” Ahead of Critical U.N. Investigation (Democracy Now)

The Israeli government has released a report that concludes its military actions in the 2014 war in Gaza were “lawful” and “legitimate.” The findings come ahead of what is expected to be a critical United Nations investigation into the 50-day conflict that Israel has dismissed as biased and refused to cooperate with. More than 2,200 Palestinians died in what was called “Operation Protective Edge,” the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers.

Ali Abunimah: UN’s Ban Ki-moon caves in, takes Israel off list of serious child abusers (Electronic Intifada)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has caved in to pressure from Israel and the United States and taken the Israeli military off an official list of serious violators of children’s rights, in this year’s report on children in armed conflict.
In doing so, Ban rejected an official recommendation from his own Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and numerous human rights organizations and child rights defenders.
Ban’s act is particularly egregious since the report found that the number of children killed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2014, at 557, was the third highest only after Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of Syria.

Colum Lynch: Israel’s Shield (Foreign Policy)

The Obama administration is seen as no great friend of Bibi’s government. But behind the scenes at the U.N., the United States is working hard to protect it.

Gideon Levy, Alex Levac: Starved for freedom: Palestinian goes on hunger strike for 4th time (Haaretz)

It’s his fourth hunger strike and his 10th arrest without charges trial. Cumulatively, he has spent more than six years in Israeli prisons, almost always under the system of “administrative detention” – arrest without trial. His persecutors, the security authorities, have not presented any legal evidence in court to corroborate their suspicions. Only once was he convicted and sent to prison by a court. On all the other occasions, he was thrown into jail for months and even years. Each time without an indictment, without a trial, without being informed of the charges against him.

Ido Efrati, Jonathan Lis: Israeli government approves bill to force feed prisoners on hunger strike (Haaretz)

Israeli Medical Association says bill violates ethical standards and requires doctors to employ ‘means bordering on torture.’

Aeyal Gross: Pinkwashing debate / Gay rights in Israel are being appropriated for propaganda value (Haaretz)

Using gay rights as a yardstick for a country’s human rights record makes it seem as if the Israeli occupation does not undermine democracy and human rights.

Israel boasts about gay rights, but discrimination still prevalent (Haaretz)

Jonah Birch: How Does the Subaltern Speak?: An Interview with Vivek Chibber (Jacobin)

In recent decades, postcolonial theory has largely displaced Marxism as the dominant perspective among intellectuals engaged in the project of critically examining the relationship between the Western and non-Western worlds. Originating in the humanities, postcolonial theory has subse­quently become increasingly influential in history, anthropology, and the social sciences. Its rejection of the universalisms and meta-narratives associated with Enlightenment thought dovetailed with the broader turn of the intellectual left during the 1980s and 1990s.
Vivek Chibber’s new book, Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital, represents a wide-ranging challenge to many of the core tenets of postcolonial theory. Focusing particularly on the strain of postcolonial theory known as subaltern studies, Chibber makes a strong case for why we can — and must — conceptualize the non-Western world through the same analytical lens that we use to understand developments in the West. He offers a sustained defense of theoretical approaches that emphasize universal categories like capitalism and class. His work constitutes an argument for the continued relevance of Marxism in the face of some of its most trenchant critics.