News comes from Washington - actually from an off the cuff remark from US President Donald Trump - that the United States will no longer support the Syrian rebels. The fear, Trump says, is that they are - in one way or another - allied with some variant of al-Qaeda. There is, of course, some truth to that. But it is not true that the United States is actually going to cut off its intervention in Syria. That is a fundamental misreading of the Trump statement.
First, the United States will continue to back the Syrian Defense Forces in north-eastern Syria, where they proceed toward the ISIS-held city of Raqqa. This city has been ferociously bombed, as I wrote last week.
Second, in south-eastern Syria, the United States is backing proxy forces that are engaged in another kind of war - a war to create a buffer zone that divides Iraq from Syria. What the US has been worried about is the move by Syria and Iraq to open their border posts and their roads, which would enable Iran to move its goods along a much cheaper ground route to Damascus than through the air. I wrote about this battle over the buffer zone and the road in The Hindu on July 18th, the day before the news came out of the 'end' of US funds. In fact, the groups I mention in the article will - as confirmed to me by a source in Washington - continue to receive aid. You can read my report here.
The picture above is of the border post at Tanf, taken from the Syrian side.
What this ongoing conflict suggests is that the US - under Trump - continues to be driven by an anti-Iran agenda. I went on The Real News that day to join Paul Jay and Trita Parsi to discuss the war drums that are beating in Washington DC. You can watch our 18 minute conversation here.
It is easy to say that Iran is intervening outside its borders. But so too is the United States, and of course Saudi Arabia......
This is an ongoing story. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, south of the Syrian-Iraqi border, at the edge of Arabia, the war on Yemen continues. Most of this war has taken place with little public concern. When the UN tried to take three BBC journalists to the war zone, the Saudi-backed authorities stopped them. They do not want sunlight in Yemen. It must be left in darkness.
What happens in the darkness is famine and disease, in this case cholera. Earlier this week another Saudi jet fired on a convoy of cars and killed at least twenty civilians. They were internally displaced refugees, vulnerable people who were fleeing one hot zone into another. My report - which you can read here at Alternet - covers all this, and then ends with perhaps too much cynicism,
The US Senators nodded their heads. They are sagacious. But then they move along. There are arms deals to cut. There are donors to talk to. So much to do in a day. So difficult to concentrate on every problem in the world. So hard to digest these stories of suffering. Perhaps an extra oxycodone with the next cup of coffee?
Above you will find a hundred zombies in Hamburg, the This is Hell activists, who bravely protested the G20. While they were out on the streets, Trump was inside pretending that Akie Abe, the spouse of Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, did not speak English (she does, by the way). He was also roaming around, looking a little lost. But this is an illusion. What actually happened at the G20 is less the shunning of Trump and more a capitulation to the Trump agenda. A reading of the final documents suggests that no-one, not even Germany's Angela Merkel, wanted to push past Trump to a new kind of liberal order. Trump planted himself firmly in the midst of the G20, which is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I wrote a report on this aspect of the G20 for Frontline, which you can read here. This is a great issue of the magazine. There is a fine interview with Arundhati Roy in it, if you are interested.
For LeftWord Books, I am editing a book called How the East Was Read, with essays by Pankaj Mishra, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Nilanjana S. Roy and others. It will be about Soviet books. While thinking about this book, I decided to read a bit about one of the main illustrators of Soviet children's books - Alisa Poret (see her above).
She was a painter and a designer, a brilliant person. It got me thinking again about Mayakovsky and Lenin's phrase - hooligan communism. You can read my blog post here. Come to it with a sense of humour!
And visit leftword.com for our new 1917 offerings.
I am always happy to hear from you - particularly if you have suggestions or thoughts about any of this stuff that stays with me long after I fall asleep.