29 August 2018   Leave a comment

Something very strange is going on in Syria.  Russia has sent many naval warships through the Bosphorus to assemble off the coast of northern Syria.  At the same time, US troops in northern Syria have been put on alert and the US is warning Syria against the use of chemical weapons.  Idlib remains the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, and many expect a major battle over the city to unfold soon.  According to al Jazeera:

“The key northwestern Idlib province is the Syrian opposition’s last major bastion in the country. It is currently home to nearly three million people, half of whom are internally displaced, and encloses what was once a major commercial highway linking Syria to Turkey and Jordan.

“Along with sharing a border with Turkey, Idlib is adjacent to Latakia province, a Syrian government stronghold that is home to the biggest military airbase of its major ally, Russia.

“Idlib’s strategic importance is what makes a government-led assault imminent, experts say, and its capture would put the vast majority of the country under Assad’s control.”

There are about 2,000 US troops in northern Syria who are working with Kurdish militias.  Turkey has been working with Iran and Russia to clear out the rebels in Idlib, a stance that places the US in opposition to its NATO ally, the US.  It seems clear that both the US and Russia consider the outcome in Idlib to be extremely important to their respective interests.  To make matters more complicated, the Lebanese newspaper, al-Akhbar, reported on Tuesday on a secret meeting between “a senior US officer led a delegation that included officers from several US intelligence and security agencies” and Major General Ali Mamlouk, head of Syria’s national security office, that lasted four hours (Google can translate the page).  The US apparently made this offer:

“A clear and specific American offer: The United States is ready to withdraw its troops completely from Syrian territory, including the Al-Tanf and East Euphrates according to security arrangements supervised by the Russian and Syrian armies. In exchange for meeting Damascus three American demands,

“First : Iran’s full withdrawal from the Syrian south.

“Second, obtaining written assurances that US companies will receive a share of the oil sector in eastern Syria.

“Third, to provide the Syrian side with the Americans with full data on the terrorist groups and their members, including the numbers of foreign victims of these groups and those who survived, and those who have the possibility of returning to Western countries, considering that ‘the terrorist threat is intercontinental, We can get hurt in the service of international security'”.

The Syrian response was that the US forces were an “occupying” and had to withdraw from Syria before any agreement could be reached.  But Reuters has confirmed the meeting and indicated that the two sides agreed to maintain contacts.  It is not at all clear to me why the US wants Syrian oil fields available to US companies.  The US has not had relations with Syria for many years.



The US and Mexico have agreed upon certain changes in labor and content laws in the automobile industries involved in North American trade and Canada is now mulling whether it wishes to join the new agreement.  The renegotiated terms are good for automotive labor, but its overall impact on labor in both countries is unclear since it institutionalizes higher car prices in North America which will undoubtedly have an effect on labor in other industries.  We will have to wait to see the knock-on effects before a judgment can be made on the overall labor market.  But there is some concern over whether the new rules governing wages and content will be enforced.  Similar labor (and environmental) protections were included in the original NAFTA agreement, but those protections were never enforced.  We will have to wait to see if the new terms are enforceable before we determine the new agreement to be worthwhile.


Between 1904 and 1907 Germany killed thousands of Herero and Namaqua people in what was then known as SouthWest Africa and now Namibia.  It was the first attempted genocide of the 20th century  and in 1985 the United Nations released what is known as the Whitaker Report which discusses genocide.  The Herero and Nama people had rebelled against German colonial rule and the rebellion was ruthlessly suppressed: “The German government recognised” and tried to apologize “for the events” in 2004, “but has ruled out financial compensation for the victims’ descendants.”  Negotiations between Germany and Namibia are still going on.  At the time of the attempted genocide many skulls were sent to Germany for study and the German government has begun the process of returning those skulls.  According to the BBC:

“The skulls of some of the victims were sent to Germany where racial anthropologists studied them as part of an attempt to justify a theory about the superiority of Europeans.

“There are thought to be hundreds of Namibian skulls in Germany and on Wednesday more than 25 remains were handed back.

“Skulls from Germany’s other African colonies, including modern day Cameroon, Tanzania, Rwanda and Togo, were also used in the discredited studies.”

It is hard to figure out why it has been so difficult for Germany to accept full responsibility for the actions of the German state.

Herero Victims


Posted August 29, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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