Bad news comes from the eastern Saudi city of Qatif, where the National Guard has been running rampage through the city in the name of counter-terrorism. The police has been going after young dissenters, but also migrant workers who are mainly from South Asia. I have seen pictures of Indian and Bangladesh men lying naked on the sidewalk, being held in place by heavily armed Saudi guardsmen. There is also a photograph of a South Asian man lying dead in a side-street. I am trying to get as much information as possible from contacts in the region, but little has come out beyond the broad outlines of the story and the pictures. I hope that the various South Asian governments will be seized of this and approach the Saudi government for explanations. Stay tuned for more on this.
Meanwhile, in northern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces - with assistance from particularly brutal US bombing runs - have moved closer to taking about half of Raqqa - the ISIS capital. The Syrian Democratic Forces are - in fact - the Syrian Kurdish groups that have now come under a new banner for good political reasons. They are eager to indicate that they are Syrian patriots with an agenda for the future of Syria, and they are very eager to camouflage from the very anxious Turkish government that they are essentially a Kurdish army. The picture above is from Tell Rifaat, a town north of Aleppo that was seized by the Syrian Democratic Forces (although here they are flying the flag of the YPG - the People's Protection Units, a Kurdish militia).
At Alternet today, I have a report on developments in northern Syria, with the Syrian Kurds making a tactical alliance with the United States to protect their gains from the Turkish and Syrian governments. This is a perilous position. Will the United States merely use the Kurdish fighters against ISIS and then abandon their political goals? This seems likely. But it is not what the Kurds hope as an outcome. The US might want to dismantle Syria, but it does not necessarily want the Syrian Kurds - with their broad left nationalism - to inherit the lands that they have fought to hold. My report strays into Iraq for a moment to suggest the linkages between these developments and the September 25 referendum for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. You can read my report here.
The leader of the Kurdish armed forces revealed that the US has seven military bases in the territory held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. This suggests that the US is not in a hurry to depart from the region once ISIS is removed from Raqqa.
Further south, as I wrote last week, the US had been trying to create a buffer zone to prevent the opening of the major roadway that would link Tehran to Damascus. The fight to create this buffer zone is on along the entire Syrian-Iraqi border, from the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces to the Jordanian border.
This pressure on Iran by the United States is one more mechanism by which the Trump administration is trying to provoke Iran. More sanctions are now on the table. I have written a report on this which will be in next week's Frontline. I will send that along. Some of the material was previewed in a 40 minute conversation on July 18th with Paul Jay of The Real News Network. We talked about a range of issues, but circled around the main point - is the Trump administration building its political and military arsenal to attack Iran? Seems to me the answer - chillingly - is yes. You can watch our conversation here. PS: I hope I'm wrong.
Finally, for a bit of fun, I wrote a blog post on Charlie Chaplin and Communism. It is not a well-known matter that Chaplin sympathized with the Soviet Union and with Communism. It was this sympathy that set the US government against him from 1922 till he was essentially exiled from the United States in 1952. It is quite a story. In 1953, the year after his exile, Mrinal Sen wrote a book on Chaplin which was illustrated by Satyajit Ray (the image on the left above was the original cover of that book). Two years later, both Sen and Ray would release their first films - Raat Bhore and Pather Panchali. When Chaplin died in 1977, a few months after the Left Front won a landslide victory in West Bengal, Mrinalda gave a beautiful speech at a memorial service in Calcutta - held the day after Chaplin's death. It was about art and politics. And life.
You can read my blog post here.
Hope you visit us at LeftWord Books - if not in Shadipur, then on the web here. Read our blog there, where we have essays from Steve Ellner on Venezuela, Subhashini Ali on Dalits and the Left and a review by Komita Dhanda on our new book on the Freedom Theatre of Palestine. Come by.