World roundup: December 13 2021
Stories from Iran, South Korea, Russia, and more
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
There are several highly contradictory accounts of an incident that took place in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province early Monday morning. The basic facts seem to be that the Syrian Democratic Forces militia, with US support, carried out some sort of raid near a village called Busayrah, possibly in retaliation for an attack on a nearby SDF checkpoint on Friday. That’s where the accounts start to differ. The SDF says its forces killed five IS (well, probably IS) fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the operation targeted one suspected IS fighter and that the SDF then summarily executed the man’s father and brother as well. Another outlet called “the Euphrates Post” also says that a man and his two sons were killed after refusing to surrender to SDF forces. And Syrian state media is reporting that US forces “kidnapped” multiple civilians. For what it’s worth, IS has been active in Deir Ezzor, though it seems mostly in the part of the province that’s under Syrian government, rather than SDF, control.
Looking back a few months, The Washington Post is reporting that the Israeli military has been conducting airstrikes (including one in June, for example) in an effort to prevent the Syrian military from reconstituting its chemical weapons program. That would be the same chemical weapons program the Syrian government was to have halted back in 2013. There are very few things less reliable in contemporary media than a WaPo barn-burner sourced to anonymous “US and Western intelligence officials,” so I wouldn’t make much of this report. But given that Syria’s former chemical weapons program was meant partly as a deterrent to a potential Israeli nuclear strike, and given that Israel still has nukes, it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if Damascus were to retain some interest in stockpiling chemical munitions.