UN on alert as West Asia hots up | Sunday Observer
* Israeli bombs Gaza, Syria * Iran seizes oil tanker * King Charles crowned

UN on alert as West Asia hots up

7 May, 2023
Aleppo International Airport 
Aleppo International Airport 

Even as Israel’s hardline racist Government cold-bloodedly allowed a detained Palestinian hunger-striker to die and the US provoked Iran with more economic sanctions, the United Nations (UN) officials have issued cautionary statements as fears mounted of yet another Israeli offensive against the impoverished, blockaded and overcrowded Gaza Strip.

In New York, one senior UN official monitor of West Asian affairs condemned the spate of recent mini-rocket attacks on Israel by militant Palestinian or radical Lebanese groups from across the border in Lebanon. Two other senior UN monitors of detainee rights and health rights condemned Israel’s ghoulish practice of allowing troublesome Palestinian detainees to die while on hunger strike.

“There must be accountability from the Israeli Government following the death of Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan”, two independent UN human rights experts said last Wednesday, referring to the decades-long Israeli practice of mass arbitrary detention of Palestinians as “cruel” and “inhumane.”

The 45-year-old Palestinian died in his prison cell last Tuesday morning following a nearly three-month hunger strike. He had been protesting Israel’s widespread policy of arbitrarily detaining Palestinians without charges and in violation of fair trial guarantees. Adnan was the West Bank-based civilian spokesperson for the small, militarily active, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group which is headquartered in Gaza and is branded as a “terrorist” group by Tel Aviv.


The UN call for greater accountability came from the independent expert, or Special Rapporteur, on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Tlaleng Mofokeng. There has been condemnation across West Asia of the Israeli Government’s apparent failure to ensure adequate medical attention to Adnan’s rapidly deteriorating condition.

A banner welcomes SCO delegates in Goa, India

The Palestinian Government declared three days of mourning. Protests across the Palestinian territories culminated in a number of mini-rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel midweek. This prompted a series of air strikes by Israel on densely populated Gaza causing at least one death and several injury casualties and the destruction of many homes and other buildings.

Even as Palestinians raged and mourned over Adnan’s death, this hapless nation also mourned the killing of nine people during another major Israeli military operation last week in the large city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp.

Also last week, Israeli air raids targeted the Aleppo International Airport (IATA code ALP) in Northern Syria on May 1. Syrian State media reported that the raids killed one Syrian soldier and put ALP out of commission. The nearby Syrian Air Force (SAF) base was also severely bombed. Syria’s State news agency SANA said two civilians and five other Syrian soldiers were wounded.

This wholly unprovoked aggression has been a constant pattern by Tel Aviv for decades as it strives to keep the far weaker and currently insurgency-stricken Damascus regime under continuous pressure. Observers in the region speculate that last Monday’s sudden bombing was an ‘armed propaganda’ action by Israel just before the Iranian President’s visit to Syria, a major ally of Tehran.    

Close ties      

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met his counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday in the first visit by an Iranian Head of State since Syria’s war began in 2011, underlining their close ties as Syrian relations with other Arab states remain weak. The two leaders agreed to further strengthen ties and collaboration.

Although it has not been officially acknowledged, Iran is known to have provided special forces units to Syria to help balance the military equation in the face of hundreds of American Special Forces semi-officially operating in Eastern Syria and Turkish military units also operating on Syrian soil.

Washington has already officially criticised this visit and called on the world community to intensify the isolation of both Damascus and Tehran. This active American posture indicates that Israel’s strike on Aleppo may have also been partly a proxy action on behalf of Washington.

Another potential geopolitical flashpoint is last week’s seizure by Iran of an oil tanker as it exited the Persian Gulf with a load of oil for an US oil corporation. This was Iran’s second such seizure in a week and it outraged Washington.

The US Navy said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the Panama-flagged tanker MV Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz after the Guard’s naval craft had apparently forced the vessel to change course. The US released what it said were pictures of small Iranian naval vessels surrounding the tanker. In the previous week Iran seized an oil tanker, the Advantage Sweet, carrying crude for the US energy firm Chevron.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency, linked to the Revolutionary Guard, reported that the Guard had seized a tanker for what it claimed were un-specified “violations” of maritime protocol. The Niovi, with a fully Indian crew, is reportedly managed by Smart Tankers of Piraeus, Greece.

The UK’s Financial Times (FT), in reporting this potentially volatile development, squarely put the blame for this latest escalation in the Hormuz Strait on Washington’s continuing provocations in enforcing its unilateral economic sanctions against Iran.

An FT report said: “US authorities ordered a tanker of Iranian crude oil to redirect towards the US in recent days, in a move officials believe was the trigger for Iran’s decision to capture a US-bound tanker on Thursday. Three people briefed on the situation said the US had intervened to summon a ship loaded with Iranian crude, originally destined for China, as Washington looks to step up enforcement of sanctions on Tehran.”

The FT goes on to insist that Teheran continues this practice of seizing merchant ships as retaliation for the crippling economic sanctions being unilaterally enforced against it by Washington.


The FT report, however, does not mention that many other poorer nations are currently suffering economically also due to these same sanctions. Sri Lanka, for example, has had to severely reduce its reliance on cheap Iranian crude oil due to American sanctions.

Wednesday’s action by Iran is one of a series of ship seizures since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the historic multilateral treaty (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) that aimed to restrict Iran’s nuclear development and possible nuclear arming. That Treaty had seen Tehran reduce its enrichment of Uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Iranian tanker seizures began in 2019.

And, as the world struggles with climate change, poverty and refugees starving in the war-torn Horn of Africa, Britain yesterday busted hundreds of millions of Sterling Pounds to crown a monarch who long ago lost his Empire and finds that nearly half of his ‘subjects’ consider him irrelevant, if not an economic burden and political embarrassment.

Nearly half of the British population no longer want a monarchy, the Anglican Church of which he is the titular head is now a religious minority with over half of Britons now atheist, and, even those few former British colonies, like Canada and Australia, that still nominally have the British monarch as their Head of State seem poised to gradually abolish that archaic institution.

Cultural and mineral treasures

In South Africa and other former plundered colonies there are movements calling for the repatriation of the cultural and mineral treasures still flaunted by the British monarchy. The famous Cullinan Diamond (some 530 carats), the world’s biggest diamond, and unearthed in South Africa by British colonial miners who then gifted it to their Royal Family, is currently embedded in the sceptre of the UK King. Another slightly smaller South African diamond is embedded in the British ‘Imperial Crown’.   

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s news agency reports a historic development in this coronation with the attendance of a representative of the Roman Catholic Church for the first time since England’s King Henry the Eighth took his Kingdom away from the Vatican and founded the Anglican Church centuries ago. A British Catholic cardinal was also due to attend the Coronation.

Another momentous event closer to home was last week’s foreign ministerial meeting in Goa, India, of the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived in the Indian coastal city of Goa on Thursday to attend the two-day meeting. It was the first time a Pakistani Foreign Minister had visited India since 2011.

The SCO is a political and security bloc in Continental Asia that groups Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It represents nearly a fifth of the world’s eight billion population. The Foreign Ministers Meeting will be followed by the main SCO Summit in July, also to be hosted by the current Chair, India. Significantly, this is one forum where India and China, which have a long-running border dispute, work closely together.  Moreover, since the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation is more or less dormant now, the SCO is the only other multilateral forum that brings India and Pakistan together.