Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 7 May – Sunday 14 May:

Last Sunday, foreign ministers of the Arab League member states agreed to reinstate Syria as a full member of the organisation after its suspension due to the Syrian civil war. The decision took place in Egypt’s capital Cairo, ahead of the upcoming Arab League Summit taking place in Saudi Arabia on May 19. The process of bringing Syria back into the Arab League fold has been termed the “Jordanian Initiative”. After the announcement, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that al-Assad could attend the Arab League summit later this month if he wished to as Syria is a full member of the Arab League. The League’s decision is explained this way: “The Syrian crisis has been spilling over very negative effects on the neighbouring countries. The neighbouring countries and the region especially the Arab countries feel that this situation needs to be resolved. This is why we reached this point,”. Syria has also reconquered much of the territory that was rebel-held – the remaining rebels are boxed in in the Idlib Governate in the northwest of the country which borders Turkey. Though Saudi Arabia (which supported the Syrian rebels) had long resisted the normalisation of relations with Syria and its president al-Assad, the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud visited Damascus last month for the first time in more than a decade, and the two countries are also restoring embassies and flights between them. Syria’s membership in the Arab League was revoked in March of 2011, when President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protestors engulfed the country in a devastating civil war that has killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced tens of millions. 

It has been a week of military woes for the Russian Federation. On Monday Russia launched a massive wave of air and drone strikes against Ukrainian target, including the capital Kiev. Earlier, Russia launched about 15 cruise missiles at Ukraine’s capital, the second attack in as many days. Ukraine says its air defence systems shot all of them down after air raid alerts blared over most of the country. The same day, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that his soldiers would remain in Bakhmut as the Russian Defence Ministry had agreed to fully supply his company in their efforts to seize the city of Bakhmut from its Ukrainian defenders. He stated that General Surovokin – demoted in January – would be the groups liaison in the Defence Ministry and would provide them with adequate ammunition and supplies. He described Surovikin as the only man with 4 stars who knows how to fight. Since then, up to 1,000 Ukrainian forces with 40 tanks have been involved in limited offensives to the north of the city where they have forced Russian forces to retreat and recaptured territory. Their likely aim is to isolate Bakhmut and encircle the thousands of Russian (Wagner) troops there. The Russian Defence Ministry admitted on Friday that its troops had been forced to fall back to more defensive positions to the northwest of the city. The city remains mostly under the control of the Wagner Group – around 95% – but the flanks, manned by regular Russian troops appear to be much weaker. 

On Tuesday Russia celebrated Victory Day over Nazi Germany 78 years ago. Significantly, the parade in Moscow’s Red Square included only one tank dating from World War II – the rest evidently at the front. So far the conflict in Ukraine has claimed over 1,800 Russian tanks, destroyed or captured by Ukraine. Prigozhin described the situation in a video directed to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: “There was no tactical retreat … What happened was the outright flight of units of the ministry of defence from the flanks…Today they [Ukrainians] are tearing up the flanks in the Artemovsk [Bakhmut] direction, regrouping at Zaporizhzhia. And a counteroffensive is about to begin…Victory Day is the victory of our grandfathers. We haven’t earned that victory one millimeter.” In a letter directed towards Sergei Shoigu – which Prigozhin shared online – he dared the military chief to visit Bakhmut himself. “I ask you to come to the territory of Bakhmut, which is controlled by the RF paramilitary units, and assess the situation on your own”, citing the Defence Minister’s “many years of experience conducting military operations”. Shoigu is widely known for lacking any such experience. Shoigu, embarrassed so publicly, might prefer to let Ukrainian forces destroy Wagner as Prigozhin’s antics might make him a political rival. 

In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote “Ukraine is much stronger now than last year or in any other year of this war for freedom and independence of our country,”. On Saturday, the Russian Air Force experienced one of the worst days in its history as it suffered historic losses. A least 2 jets (an Su-34 and an Su-35 fighter) were shot down, and two Mi-8 helicopters were shot down by anti-air missiles over Bryansk Oblast within Russia.

On Tuesday, Israel began Operation Shield and Arrow which killed three leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement in targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip. Forty military aircraft carried out a surprise bombing at 02:00 local time which lasted for two hours. The Israeli operation continued, and over 5 days the Israelis launched 422 strikes on the Gaza Strip, many of which levelled buildings. The Israeli strikes appear to have killed the majority of PIJ’s senior leadership – at least 6 of them. Israeli forces killed Ali Ghali, commander of PIJ’s rocket-launch unit, in an attack on a building in Gaza’s southern Khan Younis. It took about 36 hours for the PIJ to retaliate for the initial Israeli strikes – which Israeli officials attributed to a command-and-control crisis created by the killing of the organisation’s military leaders. 1,469 Palestinian rockets and mortal shells were fired towards Israel. Of these, 1,139 penetrated the border; 291 failed to breach the border (some exploded in Gaza and killed civilians there); 39 fell into the sea and 2 Israelis were killed. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 437 of the launches and two were intercepted by the David’s Sling system, in its first operational capacity. David’s Sling was recently purchased by Finland. According to the IDF, the Iron Dome exhibited a 90% success rate. The PIJ was founded in 1981 by Palestinian students in Egypt with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and other areas illegally occupied by Israel. Iran, which supplies the PIJ with training, expertise and money, apparently pressured the PIJ to launch more rockets and refuse a truce, yet on Saturday a ceasefire went into effect. This recent round of conflict was the biggest escalation in Gaza since last August when Israel conducted another operation against the PIJ.

Also on Tuesday, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s hugely popular former prime minister, was arrested on Tuesday on corruption charges. Pakistan’s government had taken Khan into custody due to his alleged non-cooperation with authorities in an ongoing corruption investigation. The case revolves around accusations that, during his tenure as Prime Minister, Khan received land as a bribe in exchange for political favors. The investigation is being conducted by Britain’s National Crime Agency and focuses on money laundering by Malik Riaz Hussain, Pakistan’s largest property tycoon. It is alleged that Mr. Hussain gave the land to the Al-Qadir Trust, established by Khan’s third wife, Bushra Bibi. Although Khan denies the charges, claiming that the land was donated for charitable purposes, he has been indicted in another corruption case. This case accuses him of not disclosing earnings from selling gifts received during his foreign visits as Prime Minister. In a recent hearing, charges were pressed against Mr. Khan, and he pleaded not guilty. His arrest took place while he was in court in the capital Islamabad. Police officers in riot gear escorted him out of the court and bundled him into a vehicle. On Friday, a Pakistani court granted Khan a two-week bail, however Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government on Thursday promised to rearrest Khan if he was provided relief by the Islamabad court. “We will arrest him again. If he gets bail from the high court tomorrow [Friday], we will wait for the cancellation of bail and arrest him again,” said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

On Sunday, polls opened in Turkey for the nation’s presidential election. This presidential election poses a significant political challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades. The election is seen as a crucial event leading up to the country’s 100th anniversary on October 29, 2023. President Erdogan has presented the next century as the “Century of Turkey” and incorporated this vision into his campaign slogans. The May 14 elections are viewed as an extension of Erdogan’s long rule or a potential return to a parliamentary system from the current executive presidency. Turnout has been high, with people eagerly waiting at polling stations to cast their votes. The main contenders in the election are opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and President Erdogan. The most recent polls show Kilicdaroglu leading Erdogan in the presidential race, which will be rerun in two weeks if none of the three candidates passed the 50-percent threshold. In the parliamentary election, however, the ruling AK Party is predicted to be the largest party in the Grand National Assembly. Kilicdaroglu’s possible victory is seen by his supporters as a triumph for democracy, signaling a loss for the authoritarian regime and a win for democratic forces. Despite concerns about Kilicdaroglu’s Alevi background, a religious minority that has faced persecution, he has directly addressed the issue and promised to represent all citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity, minimizing its impact on his campaign.

Read more at Adrian’s Substack – or Twitter @MIASubstack

One thought on “The World That Was”
  1. A good grasp of this event(s).
    Not to sound as a contradiction, President al-Assad, with Russia did hit actual targets. Helping to stop the trouble makers.
    President al-Assad had a peaceable country, all interacted without incident, Muslim or Christian.

    The Ukraine situation, I recommend at You Tube Anne-Laure Bonnel, the Suisse press, 02 hours, showed true events.

    Redacted, Y T, go to their videos, scroll down,look for Grayzone, with Max Blumenthal and Wyatt Reed.

    Thank you all.

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