After two weeks of tense stand-off, clashes broke out between militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) on the Iran-Iraq border May 24, with at least two KDPI fighters reported killed. Fighting was reported in the Iraqi border villages of Kelashin, Khenela and Saqar. The dispute started when a KDPI force deployed to the border on May 10 to establish a base in areas where the PKK was already entrenched. The PKK have now surrounded the KDPI forces in the area. With more than 5,000 militants spread across the area, the PKK is in virtual control of the borderlands between Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The KDPI is the Iranian wing of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), loyal to Masoud Barzani. (Rudaw, BasNews, Doğan News Agency, May 24)
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on May 9 called upon his National Drug Council to halt the spraying of glyphosate on suspected coca fields following its recent reclassification as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. The decision to put an end to 20 years of the US-backed aerial spraying was applauded by leaders of the FARC guerillas. The spraying has long been opposed by the FARC as well as by Colombia's peasant communities. Santos' announcement came one week after government representatives and FARC leaders met in Havana for the 35th round of ongoing peace talks—this time to focus on justice and restitution for victims of Colombia's long civil war. (Colombia Reports, May 10; Prensa Latina, May 3)
The 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded at the UN in New York on May 22 without approving a final document—due to US blocking of a provision on creating a Middle East nuclear-free zone. The US blocked the document, saying Egypt and other Arab states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by setting a March 2016 deadline for Middle East nations to meet on the proposal—including Israel. The US was joined by the UK and Canada in blocking the document. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking. Israel of course had no vote, as a non-signatory to the NPT. (AP, Interfax, The Guardian, May 23; Xinhua, May 22)
China's Premier Li Keqiang, on a tour of South America, is plugging a transcontinental railway project that would cut through the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Last year, President Xi Jinping signed a memorandum on the project with the governments of Brazil and Peru, and Li is now pressing for an actual feasibility study. According to an interactive map on Diálogo Chino website, the "Twin Ocean Railroad" or "Transcontinental Railroad" would start at Porto do Açu in Rio de Janeiro state, and cut through the Brazilian states of Goiás, Mato Grosso and Rondônia. It would terminate at Puerto Ilo in Peru's southern Moquegua region.
A military court in Israel on May 21 ordered Palestinian lawmaker, Khalida Jarrar, be released on bail. Under the terms of her release, she is to pay a 20,000-shekel ($5,000) bond with a third-party guarantee. She is to be held three additional days pending a possible appeal. Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested last month by the Israeli military for incitement and involvement in terrorist activities after she disobeyed an Israel-ordered restriction from movement in the West Bank. She was placed under Israeli administrative detention, a system Israel says exists to prevent attacks by militants. Under administrative detention, individuals may be held captive for up to six months without being charged. The detention may be extended under a judge's approval, and evidence regarding the arrest may be withheld if deemed necessary. Some have called Jarrar's arrest a politically-fueled act, as Jarrar was instrumental in the Palestinian Authority's bid to formally join the International Criminal Court.
ISIS forces are in control of most of Moammar Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, and this week sucessfully repulsed an effort to retake the town by the Misrata-based 166 Brigade, which is aligned with the Libya Dawn rebel coalition that holds power in Tripoli. The 166 Brigade was reportedly pushed to the west after launching an attack on Nufaliya, and ISIS-held town on the outskirts of Sirte. ISIS claims to have taken 166 Brigade camps south and east of Sirte, and posted photos of what it says is seized equipment.
Robert Doggart, apparently an ordained minister in something called the Christian National Church, pleaded guilty last month in a plot to massacre Muslims at an upstate New York village known as Islamberg. Doggart, a resident of Signal Mountain, Tenn., was detained by the FBI April 11 as he was evidently planning to burn down the school, mosque and cafeteria at Islamberg—formerly Hancock, in Delaware county along the Pennsylvania border, in the southwestern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. "Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives," he wrote in an indiscrete social media post. "We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God. We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace." Court papers say he intended to use an M-4 assault rifle and explosives, and sought to recruit volunteers for the attack from right-wing militia groups. He was apprehended while planning a reconnaissance mission to Islamberg. Doggart ran as an independent for Congress in Tennessee's 4th District last year, but was handily defeated.
Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG) are continuing to press gains against ISIS in northern Syria—even as the "Islamic State" is defeating government forces in both Syria and Iraq, taking the cities of Ramadi and Palmyra in recent days. On May 19, the YPG reported taking a number of villages and farms in the southern countryside of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) in northeast Syria's Hassakeh governorate. The YPG advance was supported by US-led air-strikes. (ARA News, May 20) The gains come as ISIS continues its campaign of ethnic cleansing against Assyrian Christians in Hassakeh. The YPG has formed an alliance with two Christian military formations, the Syriac Haras al-Khabur and Assyrian Military Council, now fighting ISIS for the towns of Sere Kaniye and Tel Temir. (ARA News, April 23)