Conflict update: April 10-14 2017

First off all, apologies for not doing one of these earlier this week. I had intended to crank something out on Wednesday but, well, when Wednesday rolled around I didn’t want to anymore.

Second, Easter and Passover greetings to my Christian and Jewish readers. This is one of the rare years when the Orthodox and Catholic Easter dates align with one another, so I don’t have to specify which Christians for a change. I’ll probably be back to regular programming on Monday, so I wanted to get an Easter message out just in case I don’t have the opportunity again before Sunday.

OK, so, strap in. I’ll try to make this as short as possible. Forgive me if some smaller stories fall through the cracks.


If you assume that Rex Tillerson is actually able to speak on his boss’s behalf, then it’s possible that a “Trump Doctrine” is beginning to take shape:

Days after President Trump bombed Syria in response to a chemical attack that killed children, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Monday that the United States would punish those “who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world.”

Hey, that’s interesting. So does that mean we’re going to punish the Saudis for committing crimes against the innocents in Yemen? No? Well, how about punishing Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the next time he disappears some political opponents or massacres a bunch of protesters? Not that either, huh? OK, well surely we’ll want to protect innocents in Bahrain from their–oh, I see. Are we at least planning to punish Bashar al-Assad for the myriad crimes he’s committed against innocents that haven’t involved nerve gas? Hah, not even that, cool.

Hey, what about those ~270 or so innocents we bombed in Mosul about a month ago? Or the ~50 or so we bombed at evening prayer in al-Jinah around that same time? Are we going to punish ourselves for those crimes?

No, don’t answer, I already know. This is quite a doctrine we’re developing. We’ll punish those who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world (offer may not be valid in your area).


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Conflict update: April 5 2017


I’ve already written most of what I had to write about Syria today, but there are a couple of additional updates. Well, one, really. President Trump spoke in public, which seems inadvisable but I guess you make do with the president you have, and anyway after we spent last week (and, off and on, many weeks before that) talking about how Bashar al-Assad is actually not so bad and, look, we’re not joining his fan club or anything but he seems like somebody we could live with, we’re probably going to war with him. Of course we’re not, because today’s policy is subject to change depending on how much sleep the president gets and whatever they talk about on “Fox & Friends” tomorrow morning, but for now that may be where we’re at. Speaking of which, did you hear Susan Rice probably committed a crime? I think they said so on InfoWars or whatever.

Also, for what it’s worth, that Steve Bannon news from earlier today? Laura Rozen, who’s as good a national security reporter as there is in my opinion, says it may have happened because Bannon was one of the louder pro-Assad voices on the NSC.


Not much to report from Mosul today, but the city of Tikrit was rocked by a significant ISIS attack overnight, involving suicide bombers and at least ten militants disguised as police officers. Over 30 people were killed in the engagement.


The House Foreign Affairs Committee inexplicably decided to hold a hearing today at which members took turns criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and offering their hopes that his desired constitutional changes would be defeated in the April 16 referendum. I can only assume Erdoğan is going to incorporate their remarks into his stump speech ASAP.


The United Nations made a last ditch effort to convince the warring parties here to steer clear of Hudaydah and its port for humanitarian reasons. It won’t work. Hudaydah is on the Saudi hit list and it’s not coming off until they’ve taken it and (probably) its actual port facilities are mostly destroyed.


Though his White House visit was completely overshadowed by the Syrian news, Jordan’s King Abdullah did take the opportunity to blow smoke up President Trump’s ass on Israel-Palestine, the better to try to sell him on the Arab League’s deader-than-disco peace deal.


Tehran mayor and erstwhile presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has reportedly withdrawn from consideration for the upcoming election, possibly in anger that the principlist Popular Front of Revolutionary Forces (JAMNA) coalition hasn’t lined up behind his candidacy (which, since he lost in 2013 to Hassan Rouhani by a pretty sizable margin, isn’t really that surprising). There are rumors that Ghalibaf has cut a deal with Mashhad shrine head Ebrahim Raisi to serve as Raisi’s vice president should the occasion arise–but Raisi himself hasn’t even decided if he’s running, and he seems put out by JAMNA’s unwillingness to coalesce behind him.


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Conflict update: December 29 2016

and that’s the way it was is hitting the road for a few days and, if it’s all the same to you fine readers, I’d kind of like to turn the blog more or less off and take a real break. That means we won’t be back to regular posting until January 3. Happy New Year and see you in 2017!

What? Oh, right, one more round of mostly shitty news before I go.

World War III

The long-mehwaited American response to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election was unveiled today:

The targets of the sanctions include Moscow’s top intelligence services, the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate, as well as three companies and a handful of individuals. Among the individuals are top officials from the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU.

The State Department expelled 35 Russian operatives from the Russian embassy in Washington and the Russian consulate in San Francisco on Thursday. The officials and their families were given 72 hours to leave the U.S.

The State Department also notified Russia that as of Friday Moscow would be denied access to two Russian government-owned compounds—one in Maryland and one in New York.

This is…about what you’d have expected, it seem to me. There’s been took much noise about this story for the Obama administration not to have done something, even though as far as I can tell (or at least as far as anybody outside the intelligence community has been allowed to know) the evidence behind this accusation against Moscow is still pretty circumstantial. And this is definitely something. These are tangible actions that will hurt Russia a little and embarrass it more, and they’ll be tough for Donald Trump to undo without raising eyebrows. What they’re not is anything that could honestly be categorized as an escalation, if you’re operating from the assumption that Russia has indeed screwed with America’s electoral process.

Moscow will now respond as it can (at least 35 US diplomatic personnel in Russia will certainly be expelled within the next few days, for example), and that will be about it. President Obama said today’s actions aren’t the end of the US response, but realistically this is about it at least as far as a public response. Obama also ordered the release of information on Russian cyber-activity that could help US individuals and businesses take stronger security precautions, and if you ask me that’s the most impactful part of today’s actions. Assuming anybody actually bothers taking those precautions.

Speaking of responses, let’s see what President-elect Trump had to say about all of this yesterday:

President-elect Donald Trump is less than enthusiastic about some senators’ suggestion that Russia ― and perhaps even Vladimir Putin himself ― should be sanctioned for interfering in the U.S. elections, telling reporters Wednesday that it’s time people move on.

For Trump, the real culprit isn’t the Russian president or his hackers. It’s computers and technology.

“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” Trump said Wednesday, according to the pool report. He was at his Mar-a-Lago resort, standing next to boxing promoter Don King. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind the security we need. But I have not spoken with the senators and I will certainly will be over a period of time.”

Ah, I-uh, that’s very, ahhhh, he’s got a…well I think what he means is, see, there are computers, and they have speed, and a lot of other…things…and…the senators, also too. Hail to the Chief!

War on Terror

So this is potentially interesting: Continue reading

Aung San Suu Kyi’s “unavoidable reconciliation”

Here’s Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking to people whom she wants to convince to invest in her country:

“We do not want our country to be unstable. But we’ve had a long history of disunity within our nation,” Suu Kyi said, addressing senior business representatives at the International Enterprise Singapore Global Conversations roundtable event. “So national reconciliation is unavoidably important for us. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s unavoidable.”

“We have to achieve peace and national reconciliation that our country may be able to progress, and that those who wish to invest in our country may find the right amount of confidence,” she said.

Here’s what’s been happening lately in the country Aung San Suu Kyi leads: Continue reading

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Rohingya ethnic cleansing program continues apace


If you’ll excuse me, I have to laugh until I throw up now

The latest step in Myanmar’s campaign to erase the Rohingya people from the planet involves literally erasing them from the lexicon:

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has told the UN special rapporteur on human rights that the government will avoid using the term “Rohingya” to describe a persecuted Muslim minority in the country’s north-west.

The statement came as the top UN human rights official issued a report saying the Rohingya had been deprived of nationality and undergone systematic discrimination and severe restrictions on movements. They had also suffered executions and torture that together may amount to crimes against humanity, the report said.

Members of the group of about 1.1 million people, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The term is a divisive issue.

The UN human rights investigator, Yanghee Lee, met Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyitaw on her first trip to Myanmar since the Nobel Peace Prize winner took power in April.

“At their meeting here this morning, our foreign minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained our stance on this issue that the controversial terms should be avoided,” said Aung Lin, the permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs.

This isn’t a brand-new policy; the US government publicly refused to stop using the term “Rohingya” in early May, in response to a request by the Burmese government. What’s new is that Myanmar is declaring this policy to the United Nations.

The plan, at least while Lee is there, is to refer to the Rohingya as “People Who Believe in Islam in Rakhine State,” which is Orwellian if inelegant, crafted so as to render the Rohingya both stateless and nation-less. The Rohingya are a people who have lived for generations in Rakhine and have roots, and human rights, around their ancestral homeland. “People Who Believe in Islam in Rakhine State” are just Muslims in Rakhine, and if you need to relocate them they can go be Muslims someplace else. The Rohingya are a distinct people, so when Buddhist mobs kill them with tacit government permission, or when the government institutes policies meant to shrink their numbers and ultimately eliminate them over the long-term, that’s genocidal. But there are over a billion “People Who Believe in Islam” around the world, so even if Aung San Suu Kyi personally killed every last Person Who Believes in Islam in Rakhine State, that still couldn’t be considered a genocide.

There was a time, back when Suu Kyi–a Nobel laureate and person who sometimes says things like that quotation above, perhaps without really understanding them–was on the outside looking in on Myanmar’s political system, when her total public indifference to the Rohingya was excused as a political necessity. She can’t speak out about the genocide until she’s led the country through its democratic transition, it was said. She’ll be able to take it on directly once she and her party have won legitimate elections. Well, that’s already happened, and yet here we are, with Suu Kyi herself now sanctioning these crimes against humanity. Suu Kyi announced at the end of May that she would lead a “peace and development committee” for Rakhine, but if step one of her plan for peace and development in Rakhine involves stripping the Rohingya of their identity and whatever protection it offers, that’s not a very promising start.


Suu Kyi and the Rohingya: no more excuses

I put a new piece up at Medium, just to be different, on Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rohingya in the aftermath of Myanmar’s recent elections. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory, giving it control of parliament despite the fact that a quarter of the seats in the legislature have been reserved for appointment by the country’s military. Myanmar’s chances to transition from military rule to real democracy finally look pretty good, but Myanmar will never really complete that transition if the government doesn’t act now to save the desperately at-risk Rohingya:

Meanwhile, however, the Rohingya suffer, and their suffering has reached critical levels. An investigation by the Yale University School of Law recently concluded that there is “strong evidence” of an orchestrated genocide being carried out against the Rohingya by Myanmar’s government and its Buddhist majority. Another recent report, by the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at Queen Mary University of London, “found compelling evidence that the Rohingya face mass annihilation and are in the final stages of a genocidal process.” If nobody either inside or outside of Myanmar takes some action to protect them soon, regardless of how such action might affect the country’s progress toward democratic governance, the Rohingya may cease to exist altogether.

Suu Kyi has been unwilling to tackle the Rohingya crisis head-on, but now that she’s apparently going to be running the country — she’s constitutionally barred from serving as president, but that may change or NLD may put forth a candidate to be president who will agree to take direction from her — she simply doesn’t have the luxury of dodging it anymore.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you come here often, and you like what I do, would you please consider contributing something (sorry, that page is a work in progress) to keeping this place running and me out of debtor’s prison? Also, while you’re out there on the internet tubes, please consider liking this blog’s Facebook page and following me on Twitter! Thank you!

You need to watch this investigation into the Rohingya genocide

Al Jazeera has put together a remarkable investigation into the Burmese government’s complicity in the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, a genocide that a report from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London says is entering its “final stages,” with the Rohingya on the verge of “mass annihilation.” The network put together a documentary, Genocide Agenda, based on its findings, which you can see here:

As part of their investigation, and as you see in the documentary, Al Jazeera took its findings to the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic at the Yale Law School, which concluded that there is “strong evidence” of a genocide against the Rohingya organized by the government.

It’s difficult to get people in the West to care about what’s happening to the Rohingya, partly because Myanmar is just about as far from the mind of a typical Westerner as any place on earth, but mostly because the Rohingya are guilty of an irredeemable sin in the eyes of most people in the West: they’re Muslims (seriously, search “Rohingya” on Twitter and read some of the responses from people who are apparently Americans, who literally know nothing about the Rohingya apart from the fact that they’re Muslim). The Buddhist majority in Rakhine and the Burmese government have used international Islamophobia and xenophobia quite effectively to defend what they’ve been doing, characterizing the dehumanization and slaughter of the Rohingya as a defense of Myanmar’s Buddhist culture against “invasion” by foreign Muslims. They insist that the Rohingya are “illegal immigrants” despite the fact that a) the evidence supporting that contention is scarce if it exists at all and b) even if it were true it wouldn’t justify a campaign designed to eradicate the entire community, and they invent inflammatory accusations against individual Rohingya in order to whip up mob violence that targets the entire community.

The Obama administration periodically gives the Rohingya a brief mention or acknowledgement, but you get the strong sense that it believes that doing any more than that will upset Myanmar’s transition from military rule to democracy. Of course, that transition is marred by the fact that Burmese Muslims, and not just the Rohingya, are being systematically shut out of the political process, while the champion of Burmese democracy, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is participating fully in this disenfranchisement and has had absolutely nothing to say about the Rohingya genocide. At the very least, maybe President Obama could stop embracing Suu Kyi so tightly.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you come here often, and you like what I do, would you please consider contributing something (sorry, that page is a work in progress) to keeping this place running and me out of debtor’s prison? Also, while you’re out there on the internet tubes, please consider liking this blog’s Facebook page and following me on Twitter! Thank you!