Well, that didn't take long, did it? A massive manhunt is underway in Mexico after the country's most notorious drug lord escaped from the country's highest security prison on the night of July 11. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán stepped into a shower and through a secret door down a tunnel that led out of Altiplano Federal Prison. The lighted and ventilated tunnel was nearly a mile long, Mexico's National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido García admitted. Reports indicate the tunnel even had a "rail system." It came out in a warehouse. The Mexican press have now dubbed El Chapo the "Lord of the Tunnels."
Lebanon Now reported July 7 that Syrian regime forces backed by Iranian troops clashed with residents of two Alawite villages outside Hama following a wave of mass arrests in the area. Residents of al-Bared and al-Qahira villages—populated by members of the Alawite and the Alawi-offshoot Murshidi sect—staged a local uprising, in which one government solider was killed. The villages have since been surrounded by regime and Iranian forces. The sweeps that set off the clashes were reportedly ordered by an Iranian field commander. The arrests of residents suspected of hoarding or selling black-markey fuel were carried out by Iranian Revolutionary Guards backed up by regime military intelligence troops.
At the July 11 ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was chased off by stone-throwing protesters—the first violence at the annual commemoration. He later said he was hit in the face with a rock (although he was not injured) as the crowd chanted "Kill, kill" and "Allahu Akbar!" At issue is Serbia's official denialism on whether the massacre of more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims after the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 constituted "genocide." Vucic wrote up a open letter for the ceremony that said: "Serbia clearly and unambiguously condemns this horrible crime and is disgusted with all those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice." But it (pointedly) did not use the word "genocide." The New York Times notes that Bosnian Muslims still recall Vucic's bloodthirty statement during the 1992-95 war that for every dead Serb, 100 Muslims should be killed. But much more to the point is that Serbia's government last week asked Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would formally designate the Srebrenica massacre an act of genocide. (Jurist, July 5) On July 8, Russia obliged, with Moscow's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling the UK-drafted text "confrontational and politically-motivated." In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic, the head of Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP that Russia's veto made "trust and reconciliation impossible." She added: "Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children. By deciding [to veto] Russia has left the door open for a new war." (Al Jazeera, July 9)
Chicago documentary collective Kartemquin Films announced that it will make director Brent E. Huffman's new release Saving Mes Aynak available for free to the people of Afghanistan on the digital platform VHX. The film follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races to save the remains of Mes Aynak from imminent demolition by China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), a Chinese state-owned mining company that wants to develop a mammoth copper project on the site. Located in Afghanistan's Taliban hotbed of Logar province, Mes Aynak was built 2,000 years ago by the ancient Buddhist civilization—on top of a Bronze Age site dating back some 5,000 years. Only 10% of the site has so far been excavated, and time is running out. Laws protecting antiquities apparently go unenforced due to official corruption. Meanwhile, the Taliban continue to plunder the site, selling the artifacts on the black market to fund their insurgency. Huffman received death threats from the Taliban for his filiming work at the site. (Al Jazeera, Newsweek, July 1; Inside Pulse, June 25)
Middle East Eye reported July 7 that Egypt's dictatorial President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a delegation representing the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at his presidential headquarters in Cairo. The delegation, headed by the president of the organization's executive council, Stanley Bergman, discussed ways to "defeat terrorism" and militancy in the region. We'd love to know what the hell Sisi was thinking by agreeing to this meeting. Way to play right into the hands of the jihadis, fool. What a cynical, duplicitous game this guy is playing. Trying to appease the Islamists by sending atheist bloggers to prison, and then cozying up to the dreaded Zionists as an "anti-terrorist" ally. Who does he think he's kidding?
OK, this one is sending the irony meter into full tilt. Two Spanish volunteers who went to Iraq to fight ISIS at Sinjar (presumably alongside PKK forces) in an "International Brigade" were arrested upon their return to Madrid and face charges of... (wait for it)... membership in a "terrorist organization"! One defendant is named as Paco Arcadio; the other only by his nom de guerre "Marto." El Mundo reports they were released on bail July 6. Anarchist website Insurrection News informs us that they are followers of Reconstrucción Comunista, one of the more militant tendencies to emerge from Spain's fragmented Communist Party. Upon his release from jail, Arcadio made a statement about why they went to fight ISIS: "In this region, the proletarian struggle is advancing. It is the struggle against fascism as represented by the Islamic State. We went to help, as the international brigades came to help us in '36."
Here's another one to file under "Life's little ironies." Vietnam's Communist Party boss Nguyen Phu Trong (the country's "paramount leader") meets with Obama at the White House—a first, coming exactly 20 years after US-Hanoi diplomatic relations were restored. Why now? The Washington Post flatly states that Obama "is seeking to reconfigure a historically difficult relationship with Vietnam into a strategic partnership against China." White House officials "said Hanoi has been signaling interest in forging deeper economic and military ties with the United States," and also emphasized that Vietnam "is among the 12 nations involved in an expansive Pacific Rim trade pact." That's the Trans-Pacific Partnership—which is nearly openly conceived as a counter-measure to China's economic rise.
In a press conference at the Pentagon today, President Obama said the struggle against ISIS will be a "long-term campaign," but that the US is "intensifying" efforts. He boasted: "In the past year we've seen when we have effective partners on the ground." He also stated: "Altogether, ISIL has lost over a quarter of the populated areas it had seized in Iraq." In naming those forces on the ground, he mentioned first and foremost "our Arab partners"—despite the fact that the most significant gains against ISIS have been not at the hands of Arabs but Kurds. Of the specific victories he invoked, only one—Tikrit—was by Arab forces. All the rest—Kirkuk, Sinjar, Mosul Dam, Kobani, Tal Abyad—were by Kurdish forces. Nowhere in his 20-minute comments did Obama so much as utter the word "Kurds," although he did refer to the "Peshmerga," "tribal fighters" and the "moderate opposition" in Syria.