Conflict update: December 21 2016


The UN Security Council will vote tomorrow on a resolution, authored by Egypt, demanding a stop to the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This will not be the first time the Security Council has taken up the issue of Israel’s illegal, slow-rolling annexation of occupied Palestinian territory, and the probably outcome tomorrow will be, as it has been in the past, a US veto, just as Benjamin Netanyahu is urging. There will be no justification for that veto, just as there’s never been one before–the settlements are illegal, they are an absolute obstacle to peace, and they are contrary to both US interests and policy. Still, that’s how the vote will probably go tomorrow.


This is it, man. Barack Obama has no more elections to contest, the Democratic Party just comprehensively fucked up an election that was simultaneously being stolen from it, and the president-elect is very likely going to bury utterly any remaining chance for a Palestinian state and give the Israelis a green light to go nuts building more settlements. If there’s never been a good justification for America’s constant “LEAVE ISRAEL ALONE” policy at the UN, now there’s not even a bad justification for it. Barack Obama hates Benjamin Netanyahu and has a chance to really screw with one of the more loathsome bits of Donald Trump’s foreign policy while accruing zero political penalty for it. And all he has to do is literally nothing. Just don’t veto the resolution. We don’t need to vote “yes.” We can abstain–again, literally nothing.

Settlements are the avowed policy of the current government of Israel. That’s never been truer than it is right now. But Israel is also sensitive to international pressure, and it has consistently relied on American protection at the UN to ward off much of the pressure its annexation/apartheid policies deserve. This is the perfect storm in terms of America’s ability to, just this once, tell a fringe right-wing Israeli government, one that constantly has one hand out looking for more US aid while jamming the thumb of its other hand into America’s eye socket, to stop trying to ethnically cleanse the occupied territories and start negotiating in good faith on a peace deal. Or, failing that, just to tell it to go fuck itself. And, again, most likely it won’t happen. Because we live in a shitty, shitty world run by sociopathic assholes. But there is a chance, however fleeting, that Washington will, for once, do the right thing on this issue.


Speaking of Israel, the IDF has been actively striking targets in Syria over the past few weeks in order, apparently, to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons (particularly anti-aircraft and chemical weapons). Hezbollah is of course in no position to retaliate, with all its capacity oriented toward Syria right now, but interestingly there doesn’t seem to be any Israeli urgency to open up a full-scale conflict with the Hezbollah for the time being. It’s not entirely clear why this is, but my sense is that the Israeli government doesn’t feel like it can justify an attack on Hezbollah even by its usual “mowing the lawn” standards for that sort of thing.


According to The Telegraph, the Aleppo evacuation has reached its final stages with only a few thousand people still waiting to get out of the city. The evacuation process had to overcome yet another delay today, this time likely caused by bad weather.

The Turkish military says that 14 Turkish soldiers were killed and 33 wounded in fighting against ISIS near al-Bab. They reported that 138 ISIS fighters were also killed, and that the full al-Bab to Aleppo highway is now under Turkish control.


As the Turkish government works overtime to fabricate ascertain whether there is a connection between the assassination of Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov and the Gülen movement, much is being made of the fact that the assassin, Mevlut Mert Altıntaş, was killed by (other) Turkish police at the scene. In Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, a society that cultivates conspiracy theories to an extent that would make Alex Jones uncomfortable, this is powerful evidence, not that Altıntaş was armed and had already shot people and was therefore a clearly dangerous threat, but that the officers who killed him were also in on the operation. And, of course, that they were all Gülenists. The pieces are all right there, folks, you just have to open your eyes.

When I wrote that any deterioration in the Turkey-Russia relationship coming out of this assassination was likely to be a more long-term thing, I assumed that Ankara wouldn’t be boneheaded enough to conduct its investigation in a way that put it on Moscow’s bad side. It’s starting to seem like I might have been giving them too much credit, as the Russian government is already, in so many words, telling Turkey to quit trying to push the Gülen theory and just let the investigation play out.


With Iraqi forces in eastern Mosul currently holding position while refitting for a new push toward the center of the city, there hasn’t been much to say about the operation lately. There have been scattered artillery exchanges, but more action can be found south of Mosul and also to the west, where ISIS forces look like they’re attempting to dislodge the Popular Mobilization Units from Tal Afar Airport.


The Taliban claimed credit for a Wednesday attack in Kabul, on the home of parliament member from Helmand province named Mir Wali. At least five people were killed–Mir Wali was not among them, but the son of another member of parliament was.

On the plus side, the Taliban says it’s ready for peace talks, provided all foreign forces leave Afghanistan and thereby cripple the Afghan government’s ability to fight them. It seems unlikely that condition will be met.


Vladimir Putin seems to have identified Khalifa Haftar as his Man in Libya. With Donald Trump, who clearly has no problem with wannabe despots, taking office in a month, Haftar could soon find himself in good standing in both Washington and Moscow, which would be a pretty good place for him to be.

South Sudan

The UN Security Council is looking at Friday as the day to vote on a proposed arms embargo on South Sudan. That vote, as it currently stands, is going to fail, and if you’re looking for a reason then hit CTRL-F and search this post for the sentence “we live in a shitty, shitty world run by sociopathic assholes.”

Democratic Republic of the Congo

A group of mediators from the Catholic Church are urging President Joseph Kabila and the DRC opposition to come to some kind of accord with respect to the country’s political crisis by Christmas. What’s the compromise between “Kabila’s term is over and he has to leave office” and “Kabila will never voluntarily leave office”? Can he be president every other day?

The Gambia

Yahya Jammeh said today that he’s prepared to die for what he believes in, which is apparently that he should keep being president even after losing the election. He also said that “nobody can deprive me of that victory except the almighty Allah.” And, I mean, Allah already made you lose the freaking election, dude. What more does He have to do?


After initially arresting the wrong guy, German authorities now think they know who was behind Monday’s truck attack in Berlin: Anis Amri, a 23 year old Tunisian who had sought and been rejected for asylum in Germany. Amri’s asylum application paperwork was apparently found at the scene, and he was already on German law enforcement’s radar.


Two Ukrainian soldiers have been killed over the past day or so in eastern Ukraine in fighting south of Donetsk. That brings to seven the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed there this week in a new spike in the violence there.


Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today that “almost all communication” between the US and Russia has been frozen. It’s not clear why he said this. Washington denied it, and it’s demonstrably bullshit–John Kerry talked to Sergey Lavrov yesterday. Marcy Wheeler suggests that Peskov was expressing Moscow’s dissatisfaction with the fact that somebody in the Obama administration leaked to the media that Barack Obama had used the fabled “Red Phone” to call Putin and express displeasure over Russian interference in the election. It’s just nice to see everybody getting along like this.

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