Breaking! Gladio B Assassinates Journalist With Car Bomb!

An investigative journalist was just assassinated in Malta with a car bomb. Media outlets are reporting this murder may be politically driven, and is only limited to Malta, but there is much more to this story as this journalist was getting too close to something much bigger, Operation Gladio B.

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Show notes

Connecting the Dots: Afghan Heroin, NATO, Azerbaijan Hub & Cargo Business

Sibel Edmonds: Grossman got 911 suspects released from jail

The Pentagon's $2.2 Billion Soviet Arms Pipeline Flooding Syria

German Concerns Spark Pentagon Reroute of Syria-Bound Arms

The Malta-Azerbaijan connection - chronology of a saga

Panama Papers journalist killed by car bomb

Updated: Daphne Caruana Galizia killed as vehicle blows up in Bidnija; bomb not in cabin - expert

Malta blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia dies in car bomb attack

Journalist investigating corruption in Malta killed by car bombing

Sibel Edmonds: Azerbaijan- Operation Gladio B

"The Lone Gladio" reveals Washington's strategy for winning the New Great Game

Major Development: Deep State Rattled- Smear Campaign on Persecuted Journalist Begins!

A journalist comes under fire and becomes the target of a smear campaign by the deep state media for exposing CIA-NATO gunrunning operations supplying weapons to terrorists via Azerbaijan on Diplomatic Flights. In addition to being interrogated by national security services and fired from her job, the investigative journalist has now come under attack by the establishment media. In this brand new exclusive interview investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva joins FBI whistleblower and Newsbud founder Sibel Edmonds to go on record in response to the rattled deep state’s desperate media smear campaign attempt, while Sibel exposes the deep state network behind the attack. Don’t miss this powerful 30+ minute exclusive interview and discussion with the persecuted journalist and Sibel Edmonds, who goes on record naming names.

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Show Links

Murky Azerbaijani Flights to Syria: Whistleblowing or Black PR?

Breaking: Journalist Interrogated & Sacked for Exposing CIA-NATO Arming of Terrorists

Anonymous Bulgaria Leaks Massive 10GB Of Data: “Silk Way Airlines Helps Terrorists”

Connecting the Dots: Afghan Heroin, NATO, Azerbaijan Hub & Cargo Business

"The Lone Gladio" reveals Washington's strategy for winning the New Great Game

Sibel Edmonds: Azerbaijan- Operation Gladio B

U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce

It’s a Baker Botts World!

Civil Rights Defenders

The Eurasia Foundation

Meydan TV

Open Democracy

Transparency International Ukraine

Breaking: Journalist Interrogated & Sacked for Exposing CIA-NATO Arming of Terrorists

An investigative journalist has been interrogated by government national security forces and fired from her job for documenting and exposing covert CIA-NATO operations directly arming ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists- a covert operation involving NATO, CIA, U.S.-based Mega Arms Trafficker(s), a shady U.S. organization ran by well-known Deep State Players, and much more.

Watch this Newsbud exclusive breaking story and investigative report, including our exclusive interview with investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, a candid commentary by Sibel Edmonds, leaked documented evidence, and glaring direct connections to some of the biggest names and entities connected to the Deep State, and CIA-NATO Operation Gladio B.

Correction: At 2:05 Spiro stated Trud Newspaper was based in Belgium, Trud Newspaper is based in Bulgaria

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Show Notes

350 Diplomatic Flights Carry Weapons for Terrorists!

Anonymous Bulgaria Leaks Massive 10GB Of Data: “Silk Way Airlines Helps Terrorists”

The U.S. and Europe Must Investigate Azerbaijani Shipments of Weapons to Terrorists

Connecting the Dots: Afghan Heroin NATO-Azerbaijan Hub

Newsbud Exclusive- NATO-CIA-Pentagon: Junction of the Real Druglords & Warlords

Sibel Edmonds: Azerbaijan- Operation Gladio B

"The Lone Gladio" reveals Washington's strategy for winning the New Great Game

Azerbaijan Keeps Mum about Bust on Georgia Heroin Highway

US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce

‘Worth killing over’: How a plane mogul dodged US scrutiny

Spies and shadowy allies lurk in secret, thanks to firm’s bag of tricks

Iranian-born KC aviation figure with colorful past appears in Panama Papers

Farhad Azima: Panama Papers Expose

Meet The Iranian-Born, Major Clinton Donor Caught Up In The Panama Papers Scandal

Project for the New American Century (PNAC)

Israel Signs $1.6 Billion Arms Deal with Azerbaijan

Israel, Azerbaijan united by arms trade and respect, Netanyahu says on visit

Journalist Interrogated, Fired for Story Linking CIA And Syria Weapons Flights

The Balkanization of Syria & Iraq: The Roadmap to US-Israeli Hegemony in the Middle East

The New Great Game Round-Up: June 9, 2015

Aliyev Regime Kicks Out OSCE, Afghan Spillover High on the Agenda During CSTO- SCO Meetings & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After the United States has been bombing Afghan wedding parties for years, it should come as no real surprise that Afghan funerals are now becoming a popular target for U.S. drone attacks as well. The Afghan government was quick to assert that all victims were Taliban, pointing out that the funeral ceremony was for a slain Taliban commander. Therefore, according to Kabul's logic, all the mourners must have been Taliban too. Afghan MPs from the region and the Taliban beg to differ. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also stated that most of the victims were civilians and he condemned the U.S. drone strike in the strongest possible terms. Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani, who has been doing his best to please Washington since taking office, prefers not to comment on such incidents. Considering that Ghani is already under fire for a lack of leadership, the silence won't help his case:

Leader in Afghan north dismisses Kabul government as a 'show' Atta Mohammad Noor, a powerful governor in northern Afghanistan, visited a local amusement park last week and grabbed a video arcade gun. Firing on fictional aliens made a break from the frequent target of his ire: the government in Kabul. Noor, a former general hardened in wars against the Soviets and Taliban but now suited and affluent, complains of a lack of leadership by President Ashraf Ghani and is angry his warnings of rising militant violence in the north were not heeded. "They told me that they will take action, but unfortunately they didn't," the governor of Balkh province told Reuters, recalling a warning he gave Kabul several months ago to prepare for more Taliban violence in the north. 

Afghan Spillover High on the Agenda During CSTO, SCO Meetings

Despite early warnings, the Kabul government has failed to stop the Taliban advances in the north of the country. The latest alarming development is the Taliban's capture of Badakhshan's Yamgan district. Badakhshan and other northern Afghan provinces have seen heavy fighting in recent months, thus the neighboring countries are getting increasingly worried about a spillover of violence. Tajikistan lost no time in taking measures to address the issue and appealed to its allies for support. Russia and the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) immediately promised to help out but Russian military aid has been slow to arrive. Moscow tried to silence the Tajik complaints by promising more military aid and CSTO chief Nikolay Bordyuzha assured Dushanbe that CSTO forces could be at the Tajik-Afghan border within three days if need be. The situation in northern Afghanistan was again high on the agenda during the recent meeting of the CSTO Defense Ministers in the Tajik capital:

CSTO defence ministers agree to change military-technical policy A number of significant measures, including on upgrading the military-technical policy, will be taken following meeting of the Council of Defence Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held earlier on Thursday in Dushanbe, CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha told reporters. "This concerns, above all, upgrading the organization’s legal framework and legislations of CSTO member-countries, especially in the light of issues we encountered during the transfer of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force to Tajikistan," Bordyuzha said after the meeting, reports TASS. The CSTO Secretary General noted that prior to the meeting the defence ministers had been received by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, adding that the meeting "grew into a very serious discussion of the situation in the Central Asian region, the challenges faced by Tajikistan and other regional countries and the processes under way in Afghanistan."

Tajik leader Rahmon and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu also discussed the deteriorating situation in northern Afghanistan as well as military cooperation between the two countries. Shoygu stressed the importance of "enhancing the combat capabilities of Tajikistan's armed forces and the Russian military base deployed in Tajikistan" and vowed to implement the "extensive plans" both countries had agreed upon. In addition to the support from Russia and the CSTO, Tajikistan will get assistance from China. The Interior Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were recently meeting in Dushanbe as well and China's Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun generously offered his Tajik counterpart technical aid with no strings attached - much to the delight of President Rahmon. Moreover, the two countries are reinforcing their cooperation in the fight against terrorism:

A joint exercise for Tajik and Chinese special operations forces to be held in Vahdat on June 6 More than 100 servicemen of special operations forces of the Ministry of Public Security of China have arrived in Dushanbe for participation in a joint anti-terror exercise that will be conducted at the mountain training ground that is located in the Marghov area of the Romit Gorge, not far from the Vahdat Township on July 6, according to the Tajik Interior Ministry press center. The purpose of the exercise is reportedly to rehearse coordination and interaction between the special operations forces of the Tajik Interior Ministry and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security in anti-terror mission in mountain terrains. Interior Ministers of Tajikistan (Ramazon Rahimzoda), Kazakhstan (Kulmukhanbet Kasymov), Kyrgyzstan (Melis Turganbayev), Russia (Vladimir Kolokoltsev) and Uzbekistan (Adham Akhmedbayev) as well as the Minister of Public Security of China (Guo Shengkun) will observe the exercise, the Interior Ministry press center reports.

The meetings in the Tajik capital underline growing concerns in the region about a possible spillover of violence from Afghanistan and the threat of ISIS, which is now being hyped even more due to the defection of Tajikistan's OMON commander. While the CSTO Defense Ministers and SCO Interior Ministers were traveling to Dushanbe, Moscow hosted an important meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov used the opportunity to point out that ISIS is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan and he urged the SCO to play a bigger role in fighting ISIS in the war-torn country. To this end, Moscow is willing to strengthen cooperation with Kabul "in all spheres." Afghanistan is very much interested in closer cooperation with the SCO countries and wants to join the organization as a full member but the country still has to meet some criteria before it can follow Pakistan and India:

Welcome! SCO Foreign Ministers Agree to Grant Membership to Pakistan, India The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers decided to grant India and Pakistan the status of members of the bloc, which is to be confirmed at the SCO summit in July, Pakistan's ambassador to Russia told Sputnik on Thursday. "The council of ministers met yesterday and there is an agreement to allow Pakistan, along with India, to be upgraded [to SCO member states]. The decision of the council of ministers will be put forward to the summit in Ufa [in July]," Zaheer Janjua said. "We both [Pakistan and India] have requested for association with the SCO by becoming full member-states. Our application for a full member status is under active consideration. We are hopeful that this summit will endorse the membership of Pakistan along with that of India," he added.

Russia: Tough Life for ISIS, Human Rights Groups

The upcoming SCO summit in Ufa is shaping up to become the perfect opportunity for Russia to demonstrate the "international community" how isolated the country really is. Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted during the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow that twelve new nations are showing interest in working with the SCO and he emphasized that the SCO's main projects, the New Silk Road and the Eurasian Economic Integration, are in the interests of all SCO members. One of Moscow's biggest concerns is that the U.S. and its allies could try to impede Eurasian integration and create problems for Russia and China by fueling conflict in the region, for example with the help of ISIS. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolkoltsev told his counterparts during the recent meeting in Dushanbe that the Russian authorities have already taken measures to contain the ISIS threat at home:

ISIL recruitment spots in Russia known, under surveillance - Kolokoltsev Russia is concerned about new sources of instability threatening Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries, in particular, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev told reporters on Friday. "In the past few months, the Russian law enforcement authorities have seized several dozens of persons on suspicion of terrorism. Fifteen members of terrorist groups have been killed," he said after a meeting of the SCO Council of Interior Ministers. He declined to disclose possible places where Russian and foreign citizens were recruited for the "jihad" and said that information was classified.

Russia's problems with terrorist recruitment have been documented time and again in recent years as more and more jihadists traveled to Syria from Russia. Moscow's Central Asian migrant workers are particularly susceptible to recruitment by ISIS and other terrorist groups but even Russian philosophy students fall for ISIS recruiters. Due to the fact that the Caucasus Emirate has been losing its leaders as well as its appeal, ISIS is also making inroads in the North Caucasus. One leader of a local militant group in Dagestan, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, was just killed in a firefight with police after they stopped his car. Pledging allegiance to ISIS makes for headlines in Russia but it can have adverse effects on the insurgents' life expectancy. In Chechnya, even just spraying ISIS graffiti can get you into real trouble. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is known for his strong-arm tactics, regardless of whether that concerns dealing with terrorists or dealing with activists:

In Chechnya, Human Rights Group’s Offices Are Vandalized Cheered on by a small crowd, masked men vandalized the offices of a human rights advocacy group in Grozny, the capital of the Russian region of Chechnya, on Wednesday. Employees of the Committee Against Torture, some of whom fled through windows as the vandals smashed into the office with crowbars, said the local authorities had ignored calls pleading for help. They suggested that the attack was officially sanctioned by the government of Chechnya, which is led by Ramzan A. Kadyrov, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. It was not the first attack on the Committee Against Torture, which seeks to draw attention to human rights abuses in Chechnya and throughout Russia. In December, the group’s offices were firebombed.

Kadyrov stirred up the public against the Committee Against Torture at the end of last year when he implicated the group's head Igor Kalyapin in organizing the attack on Grozny on December 4. Shortly thereafter, the offices of the Committee Against Torture were firebombed after a huge rally against terrorism. This week's attack came again after a rally in Grozny, closely resembling last year's actions against the group. While Kalyapin and his colleagues filed a complaint over the inaction of the police, Kadyrov suggested that they had provoked the unrest themselves in order to attract more media attention and obtain more U.S. grants. The Chechen leader vowed to find those responsible for trashing the offices but this should be taken with a grain of salt. He is probably just trying to find out who deserves a thank-you letter. So it is not difficult to understand why Kalyapin and Co. prefer other investigators:

Russian Rights Group Doesn't Want Chechens To Probe Attack The leader of a prominent Russian human rights group whose office was trashed by unknown individuals in Grozny does not want Chechen authorities to investigate the incident. Igor Kalyapin, the chief of the NGO Committee Against Torture (KPP), said at a session of Russia's Presidential Council for Human Rights on June 4 that the doesn’t trust Chechen authorities and wants the incident to be investigated by officials from at least the regional level of the North Caucasus.

Aliyev Regime Not Interested in "Western Democracy", Kicks Out OSCE

Chechen Republic head Kadyrov demonstrates on a regular basis that he knows how to deal with pesky activists, journalists and dissidents but there are a few leaders from whom he can still learn a thing or two - Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev being one of them. In recent months, Aliyev has been making headlines with an unprecedented crackdown on critics. He didn't shy away from jailing U.S.-backed journalists and activists and even CIA propaganda outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was forced to close its Baku bureau. RFE/RL is still operating in the country but the U.S.-backed Azerbaijani opposition has been dealt a heavy blow. Aliyev knows exactly how far he can go without crossing the red line. As long as he doesn't come up with the idea of changing Azerbaijan's close energy or military cooperation with the West, Washington is willing to turn a blind eye to the democratic deficits:

U.S. to hold off democracy dialog with Azerbaijan until it makes sense Washington decided to hold off on carrying a bilateral dialogue over civil society and democracy with the Azerbaijani officials, TURAN’s U.S. correspondent was informed by the diplomatic sources. State Department official Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for human rights, was planning to visit Baku early last week to focus on current challenges between the two countries in a wave of an ongoing crackdown against civil society and western institutions in Azerbaijan. The trip, however, got cancelled at the last moment, according to the diplomatic sources, leading to rumors that the Azerbaijani side prevented it. Baku previously snubbed another top U.S. government delegation’s trip prior to 2013 presidential election,which was supposed to be lead by then DAS Thomas Melia on democracy and human rights.

Of course, the U.S. will never stop meddling in Azerbaijan and continue to support the opposition but the pro-government media doesn't mind pointing this out whenever the opposition holds a rally. With the 2015 European Games in Baku just around the corner, the Aliyev regime is getting worried that "anti-Azerbaijani circles" will step up their efforts to discredit the country. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) was the first major European sports authority to join these "anti-Azerbaijani circles" and others will hopefully follow. Baku is already rallying the troops, in this case the pro-government media, which have been ordered to look out for any enemy propaganda about the Games. Aliyev's adviser Ali Hasanov also accused the UN representative for Human Rights and the OSCE of double standards, saying: "If this is Western democracy, then we do not need such democracy." Shortly thereafter, the OSCE was ordered to close its office:

Azerbaijan Orders OSCE To Close Baku Office The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Azerbaijan has given it one month to halt its operations in the country and that Baku provided "no explanation" for the decision. OSCE spokesman Shiv Sharma told RFE/RL on June 5 that Azerbaijani authorities this week "informed us of their intentions of closing the office" of its project coordinator in Baku and that the 57-member security organization is "now assessing our options." The move comes amid heightened criticism of Azerbaijan's record on civil society and media freedoms by Western officials and international human rights watchdogs.

Unperturbed by all the enemy propaganda, Azerbaijan's pro-government news agency APA uncovered an evil plot by the European Union's mission to Baku and the Greek Embassy to keep Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos from attending the Games' opening ceremony. Understandably, the Embassy of Greece in Baku was "deeply outraged and unpleasantly surprised with unprecedented lies and unfounded accusations, spread by the local media." It is only fitting that Aliyev adviser Hasanov had praised APA & Co. for their "sound journalism" during his recent meeting with pro-government media. The head of Azerbaijan's Press Council, Aflatun Amashov, assured Hasanov that the media will do its best to "preserve the European Games in history." He also complained to Hasanov about the criticism on social media. Hasanov told him to ignore it but that's of course easier said than done:

Azerbaijani Diplomat Criticizes Government On Facebook, Sparking Scandal An Azerbaijani diplomat could be in hot water after he publicly criticized the government following a deadly Baku apartment-building fire. Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry has launched an internal investigation into a scandal that erupted over the Facebook comments made by Arif Mammadov, the chief of mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's delegation to the European Union. Fifteen people died in the high-rise fire in May, prompting Baku residents to criticize the city's beautification efforts ahead of the inaugural European Games that will be held this month in the Azerbaijani capital.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

BFP Roundtable Video- Who is Putin & Why has he let his nation become encircled by NATO

Sibel Edmonds, Pearse Redmond & Tom Secker on the recent “revelation” from Putin regarding Operation Gladio B

In this second episode of the new BFP Roundtable series Pearse Redmond, Sibel Edmonds and Tom Secker discuss the recent “revelation” from Putin regarding Gladio B operations in Chechnya. They start with the basic facts that Putin has laid out: intercepts obtained by the FSB show that US officials in Azerbaijan were supporting and backing Chechen rebels during the early 2000’s. The panel each breaks down the interesting timing of these revelations, which come as a series of shake-ups in and around Russia have threatened Putin’s grasp on power. Is this a threat from Putin to the West or a bone to throw to the hardcore nationalists within the Russian Federation? Later they move on to the question of who Putin is as a leader and how he has managed to let his nation become completely encircled by NATO. The group then moves on to how the geopolitical chessboard has been reoriented away from ideological battles into one based on identity and media control. They finish off by looking at how Russia Today fits into this new geopolitical landscape.

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The New Great Game Round-Up: April 28, 2015

Putin Sheds Light On U.S. Terror Operations in the N. Caucasus, All-Weather Friends China-Pakistan Elevate Relations to New Level & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has been making headlines on a daily basis in recent weeks, in large part due to the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and the ensuing turf war between Kadyrov and elements in Russia's security apparatus. The investigation into the Nemtsov murder has turned the spotlight on Kadyrov's near limitless powers in Chechnya. This has long been a thorn in the side of some people in Moscow. Chechnya lives by different rules from the rest of Russia and investigators realized this lately when they tried to get access to suspect Ruslan Geremeev and his father, Federation Council member Sulieman Geremeev. But some people apparently didn't get the memo. On April 19, a suspected criminal was killed in Grozny during a special operation, which was carried out by members of the Stavropol police and Chechnya-based forces under the command of the federal government. Nobody deemed it necessary to inform the Chechen authorities of the operation and this didn't go down well with Kadyrov:

‘Shoot to kill’: Chechen leader’s row with Interior Ministry heats up Tensions continue to rise between the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and the Russian Interior Ministry. It follows the killing of a Chechen native by police from another Russian region during arrest. Grozny has accused the ministry of distorting facts. Kadyrov was outraged upon learning of the operation, as he said it was performed without the Chechen authorities being notified. “I officially state that if [armed people] turn up on your territory without you knowing about this – be they Muscovites or Stavropol natives – shoot to kill. We should be reckoned with,” Kadyrov said during a meeting with Chechen security officials.

Putin Sheds Light On U.S. Terror Operations in the North Caucasus

Russia's Interior Ministry responded by saying that Kadyrov's words are "inadmissible." Although the head of the Chechen Republic continues to insist that there is no conflict between him and federal law enforcers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the tensions. After the Chechen Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the "abuse of power" by Stavropol police, Federal Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin intervened and took over the investigation, which prompted Kadyrov to demand an explanation from Bastrykin. The antics of the Chechen leader are causing Russian officials quite a headache and rumor has it that Kadyrov has now been offered to take a job in the federal government. That way the Kremlin could limit Kadyrov's influence without causing too much trouble in Chechnya. And trouble in Chechnya is always a good thing to avoid, especially when the U.S. deep state plans to start another Chechen war. It is an open secret that the United States and NATO are pulling the strings behind the insurgency in Russia's North Caucasus but it is rarely mentioned in the media by Russian officials, which makes Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent interview all the more interesting:

Putin accuses US of supporting separatists in Russia In a new documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin says intercepted calls showed that the U.S. helped separatists in Russia's North Caucasus in the 2000s, underscoring his suspicions of the West. The documentary showed Putin interviewed at the Kremlin in the dimly-lit St. Alexander's Hall. In excerpts released shortly before the film's broadcast, Putin said Russian intelligence agencies had intercepted calls between the separatists and U.S. intelligence based in Azerbaijan during the early 2000s, proving that Washington was helping the insurgents. Putin said he raised the issue with then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who promised Putin to "kick the ass" of the intelligence officers in question. But in the end, Putin said the Russian intelligence agency FSB received a letter from their "American counterparts" who asserted their right to "support all opposition forces in Russia," including the Islamic separatists in the Caucasus.

Azerbaijan has long played a key role in U.S.-NATO terror operations in the region. In this regard, the U.S. embassy in Baku hosted quite noteworthy meetings between 1997 and 2001, where U.S. military and intelligence officials met with the likes of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and terrorism financier Yasin al-Qadi. Close U.S. ally Azerbaijan and NATO member Turkey served as main conduits for the 'Gladio B' operations and there is some evidence to suggest that things haven't changed much over the years. Last Friday, Turkish "charity" IMKANDER held a rally in Istanbul to mourn the loss of Caucasus Emirate leader Aliaskhab Kebekov, aka Ali Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, who was killed by Russian security forces in Dagestan a few days earlier. Kebekov's predecessor Doku Umarov had been honored with a similar rally last year. When IMKANDER is not organizing rallies for slain terrorists, the organization is attracting negative attention for recruiting "Syrian rebels":

'People In Pankisi Know Who's Recruiting Their Kids To IS' While the answers to these questions remain unknown, it is worth noting one important connection between Pankisi Kists fighting in Syria and a foreign group. Seyfullakh al-Shishani (Ruslan Machaliashvili) who pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra before his death in February 2014, had close ties to a Turkish NGO named Imkander, which helps refugees from the North Caucasus living in Turkey. Machaliashvili had become involved with Imkander when he lived in Istanbul before going to fight in Syria. Imkander, which is reportedly also involved with helping provide medical treatment for Chechens fighting in Syria, openly praised Machaliashvili in a funeral in absentia it held for him in Istanbul in February 2014.

As discussed last week, the terrorist recruitment in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge seems to getting out of hand, which has caused a storm of protest from parents and locals. Given IMKANDER's history, it comes as no real surprise that the Turkish "charity" is not only providing food to Pankisi residents but also recruiting new fighters for NATO's war in Syria. Russia has tried to put IMKANDER on the Al-Qaida Sanctions List, to no avail. The U.S. and Azerbaijan opposed sanctions against IMKANDER and the UK, France and Luxembourg blocked the Russian request in the UN Security Council. That explains perhaps Putin's suspicions of the West. After the U.S. and its allies recently refused to add ISIS to the Al-Qaida Sanctions List as a separate group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out that both ISIS and al-Qaeda have emerged as a result of Washington's actions, which is a diplomatic way of saying what Putin hinted at in his interview. Lavrov said that he sees ISIS as Russia's main enemy now and there is certainly some truth to this:

Umar Shishani’s Right-Hand Man Calls On North Caucasian Jihadis To Join IS In Dagestan & Chechnya In a recent video address, Abu Jihad, a close confidante of Islamic State’s commander in Syria Umar Shishani, has called on jihadis in the North Caucasus to join those local groups who have pledged allegiance to IS Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and not the Caucasus Emirate (CE). Abu Jihad is the nom de guerre of Islam Seit-Umarovich Atabiyev, an ethnic Karachay from the North Caucasian republic of Karachay-Cherkessia. While Abu Jihad does not appear to have taken part in any military action on behalf of IS, in 2013 and 2014 he was frequently seen alongside Umar Shishani and has since become a prominent ideologue within IS’s North Caucasian contingent. More recently, he has begun reaching out to jihadis in Syria and the Russian Federation via regular Russian-language audio lectures on the Zello platform.

Taliban Trying to Match ISIS Brutality as Both Groups Clash

With the continued existence of the Caucasus Emirate in question, ISIS could become Russia's main enemy in the North Caucasus. The much-hyped terrorist group is expanding into several countries. Lately, ISIS's expansion into Afghanistan has been the main topic of conversation in the region. Russian and Central Asian officials lose no opportunity to hype the threat and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani even went as far as telling his friends in Washington during a recent visit that ISIS poses a "terrible threat" to Western and Central Asia. That is of course absurd but it is hard to deny that more and more jihadists in Afghanistan pledge allegiance to ISIS, much to the dismay of the Taliban. When a suicide blast rocked Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad last week, killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 100, suspicions quickly focused on ISIS but Afghan and NATO officials expressed doubts about ISIS's responsibility for the bombing and the group denied any involvement:

ISIS Now Says It Didn’t Bomb Afghanistan ISIS loyalists may have claimed credit for Saturday bombing that killed at least 35 people in eastern Afghanistan. But U.S. officials now believe that Taliban fighters—not the Middle East-based extremist group—carried out the strike. Had ISIS been responsible, it would have been among the deadliest attacks by the group outside the Middle East. What’s more, a spokesman for ISIS in Afghanistan denied that his group was responsible for the attack, which sparked outrage among Afghans. “ISIS was not behind the deadly blast in Jalalabad, and we condemn such an attack,” Sheikh Muslim Dost told The Daily Beast. “This is an act of the Pakistani agencies to damage reputation of the ISIS.”

If the "Pakistani agencies" would go to the trouble of staging a massive suicide bombing in order to damage the reputation of ISIS, is doubtful to say the least. The statement of Sheikh Muslim Dost should be taken with a grain of salt but it is possible that the Taliban were behind the attack. There are some indications that they are trying to match the brutality of ISIS. A recent wave of kidnappings and subsequent beheadings of members of Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic group was also first blamed on ISIS but turned out to be the work of the Taliban. Shahgul Rezaye, a Hazara member of Parliament, explained it as follows: "They’re trying to show they are as bad as ISIS." As previously mentioned, publishing a biography of Mullah Omar won't be enough to stop jihadists in Afghanistan from abandoning the Taliban in favor of ISIS. The rivalry between the two groups has now reached a new peak:

ISIS, Taliban announced Jihad against each other Mashaal Radio has published a report stating that Daesh and Taliban group have announced Jihad against each other. Nabi Jan Mullahkhil, police chief of southern Helmand province has told Mashaal Radio during an interview that he has received documents in which both the terrorist groups have announced Jihad against each other. Mashaal Radio which is related to Azadi Radio quotes Mullahkhil as saying when the matter of peace talks between government and Taliban comes into discussion some intelligence agencies make new groups to keep the war ongoing in Afghanistan.

It appears that the war in Afghanistan won't end anytime soon. Washington's decision to slow the "withdrawal" has undermined the Afghan peace talks before they got started and due to the rise of ISIS, the Taliban are now even less inclined to make compromises. On April 24, the group launched its annual spring offensive "under the inspirational name of 'Azm' (determination)." While Ghani is still pretending that the NATO-trained Afghan security forces are able to defend the country, Afghanistan's elite is already fleeing to Europe amid increasing violence. Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors are keeping a wary eye on the situation. The Taliban are doing what they want on the Turkmen-Afghan border and northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan have also seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. A few days ago, Ghani and Interior Minister Ulumi visited Badakhshan province to check the security situation after the Taliban had launched a major attack in Badakhshan:

Taliban admit to beheading Afghan soliders ‘in revenge’ The Taliban admitted that its fighters beheaded seven Afghan soldiers during clashes last week in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. The Taliban acknowledged that the beheadings are “contradictory to rules of engagement,” but then justified the gruesome acts as revenge for Afghan soldiers mutilating Taliban fighters. In a statement released today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official media outlet, the jihadist group said it “launched its usual investigation” of the reports of the beheadings “as part of its Islamic and humanitarian responsibility.” The Taliban killed, captured, or wounded 33 troops after more than 250 Taliban fighters assaulted the district of Jurm in Badakhshan last week, according to news reports. Afghan forces claimed that 20 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.

All-Weather Friends China & Pakistan Elevate Relations to New Level

Since Badakhshan borders not only Tajikistan but also China and Pakistan, Beijing and Islamabad are also going to keep a close eye on the situation. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan last week to unveil energy and infrastructure investments totaling $46 billion in an effort to expedite the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The economic corridor aims to connect Pakistan's Chinese-managed Gwadar port to China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which is now the core of China's growth and security concerns. It is a risky project because it depends on stability in Xinjiang and Balochistan, two regions struggling with foreign-backed separatist movements. A spillover of violence from Badakhshan is the last thing that Beijing and Islamabad want to see. In exchange for putting up the money, the Chinese authorities expect their Pakistani counterparts to maintain stability in the country and provide security for Chinese workers:

Pakistan to Create Security Force to Protect Chinese Workers Pakistan’s military will assemble a 12,000-strong special security force to protect the Chinese workers and engineers expected to flood into Pakistan as part of a flagship $46-billion infrastructure program, Pakistani officials said. 

The size of the new security force reflects the ambitious scale of the Chinese construction plan, which would see work begin on dozens of projects starting this year. It also addresses Beijing’s long-running concerns with the safety of its workers abroad, particularly in conflict zones. Pakistan plans to devote nine army battalions and six wings of the civilian security forces to the new security unit, said Pakistan’s military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asif Bajwa, in a statement late Tuesday.

Beijing has learned from negative experiences in Afghanistan and doesn't want to take any risks as the "all-weather friends" China and Pakistan proceed with the implementation of the mega project. Chinese media hailed Xi's visit to Pakistan, saying that both countries "upgraded their relations to all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation, eyeing perpetual friendship from generation to generation." This is not necessarily an exaggeration. China has just been granted operation rights for 40 years at Gwadar, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year, and the CPEC cements ties between the two neighbors even further. Pakistani planning minister Ahsan Iqbal described the project as a "game-changer for Pakistan" but it is actually a game-changer for the whole region. After Beijing recently offered Islamabad its help in constructing the Pakistani side of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Iran lost no time in expressing its willingness to supply gas to China:

Iran backs pipeline to China under 'One Belt, One Road' initiative: ambassador Iran is seeking to extend its energy delivery network to China under Beijing's massive "One Belt, One Road" push to boost regional connectivity, Tehran's envoy has said. Ali Asghar Khaji, Iran's ambassador to China, said Iran would expand its railways, roads, ports, telecoms sector and energy security under a five-year development plan. "Setting up an extended network of energy pipelines would help regional security and development," he told the South China Morning Post. Iran says it has already built a natural gas pipeline to its border with Pakistan, which previously balked at constructing a link on its side amid threats of sanctions from Washington. But Islamabad was now seeking Chinese funding to build its portion, The Wall Street Journal reported this month. The deal comes amid a push to build an economic corridor between Pakistan's port city of Gwadar and western China's Xinjiang region.

As China redraws Eurasia's geopoliticial map, the U.S. sees its hopes dashed. Washington has long tried to sabotage the construction of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Strong U.S. pressure forced India to withdraw from the pipeline in 2009 and Pakistan was later also bullied into abandoning the project. Thanks to Beijing's efforts, the completion of the Peace Pipeline is now within reach and even an expansion to China seems possible. Depending on how the situation in Xinjiang and Balochistan develops, these efforts might pay off. After Xi Jinping visited Islamabad to inaugurate the CPEC, it didn't take long before Baloch nationalists dismissed the project as an attempt to "colonize" Balochistan and demanded a share of the financial benefits for the province. So it remains to be seen whether China and its allies will be able to implement the mega projects or whether Baloch "rebels" will thwart Beijing's plans:

Security Fears for China-Pakistan Corridor Ethnic Baloch rebels, who oppose Gawadar’s development while the province is not independent, have in the past blown up numerous gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers. Earlier this month the Balochistan Liberation Front claimed an attack in the province that left 20 construction workers from elsewhere in Pakistan dead, the bloodiest separatist incident since 2006. 

Siddiq Baloch, editor of the Balochistan Express newspaper, said the rebels want to scare off investors and developers who are working with the Pakistani government—such as the Chinese. “There is the thinking that by doing this, they want to disrupt the working of the economy, disrupt the administration, challenge the administration in the area,” he said.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

                                                       

The New Great Game Round-Up: April 14, 2015

Gülen Movement Uses Turkey's Uyghur Adventures to Attack AKP, Aliyev Discovers His Faith as Azerbaijan & GCC Eye Closer Ties & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of this year, China's state-run Global Times shed light on Turkey's role in smuggling Uyghur would-be terrorists out of the country and funneling them into Syria or Iraq. It is likely that Beijing made the story public to put pressure on Ankara in the ongoing tug-of-war between China and Turkey over Uyghur refugees in Thailand. But interestingly, the Chinese authorities haven't been the only ones to draw attention to this issue in recent months. In an interview with Turkish daily Hürriyet at the end of last year, Washington's favorite Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer complained that the Turkish government has ignored requests to take action against Turkey-based illegal human trafficking networks bringing Uyghurs to Syria and Iraq. AKP officials and the Islamist press responded by calling Kadeer "an infidel" and "an American agent for sale." The latter characterization is not exactly inappropriate and Kadeer's statement indicates that some people in Washington are willing to reveal information about Turkey's role in the East Turkestan project in order to settle a score with the Turkish government. A recent report in the newly launched newspaper of the Gülen movement supports this assumption:

ISIL recruits Chinese with fake Turkish passports from Istanbul The Turkish daily Meydan has uncovered a network based out of Istanbul, recruiting and facilitating the transport of fighters from China’s autonomous Turkic Uighur Xinjiang region to Syria and Iraq. The network is based out of Zeytinburnu, a district on Istanbul's European side which is home to a community of Uighurs who live in Turkey. It is headed by Nurali T, a businessman who has been facilitating the movement of Uighurs from China to Syria and Iraq via Turkey since 2011. He is known by his code name Abbas. An individual who works for him, AG, says that a total of 100,000 fake Turkish passports have been produced, 50,000 of which have been shipped to China to be handed to fighters recruited to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Gülen Movement Uses Turkey's Uyghur Adventures to Attack AKP

Meydan quoted "A.G." as saying that more than 50,000 Uyghurs have made their way to Turkey via Thailand and Malaysia with these fake passports. A.G. claimed that most of the Uyghurs were caught by police after landing in Turkey and had their passports seized before they were released and sent to join ISIS. The modus operandi sounds familiar and much of the report doesn't seem far-fetched, except for the ridiculously high numbers. Regardless of whether or not there is some truth to the claims, the report shows that the CIA-backed Gülen movement is also prepared to throw the spotlight on Turkey's East Turkestan activities in order to discredit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his associates. The first issue of Meydan was published last Monday and it didn't take long before Gülen's new paper launched its first attack. Erdogan's mouthpiece Daily Sabah lost no time in responding to the report:

Gülenist media attacks Uighurs fleeing Chinese crackdowns with ISIS claims Uighurs who were forced to seek refuge due to the Chinese government's religious, cultural and language restrictions as well as ethnic discrimination policy faced a smear campaign by several Turkish media outlets that are associated with the Gülen Movement. In efforts to harm Turkey and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, fabricated Gülenist media reports claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was given more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports under the government's authorization and these passports were used by Uighurs escaping to Turkey to enter Syria and join ISIS.

Our old friend Seyit Tümtürk, the go-to-guy for Uyghurs in Turkey, was once again chosen to set the record straight. Tümtürk lamented that Hizmet's smear campaign is "devastating" for Uyghurs living in Turkey and he emphasized that the Gülen movement "has placed its signatures under a great tyranny" by propagating these "baseless claims." As previously discussed, Gülen and his puppeteers in Washington don't flinch from exposing Turkey's role in U.S.-NATO terror operations when the information can be used against Erdogan. The Turkish power struggle has already revealed some of NATO's dirty secrets in Syria and now it is turning the spotlight on the East Turkestan project as well. China won't mind. The Chinese authorities are grateful for any information which can be used to justify the increasingly harsh anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang. Despite the ongoing violence, Xinjiang authorities claim that the overall situation in the autonomous region remains "stable and controllable." Xinjiang's stability becomes ever more important as China expedites more major projects in the region:

China to Build Pipeline From Iran to Pakistan China will build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran to Pakistan to help address Pakistan’s acute energy shortage, under a deal to be signed during the Chinese president’s visit to Islamabad this month, Pakistani officials said. The arrival of President Xi Jinping is expected to showcase China’s commitment to infrastructure development in ally Pakistan, at a time when few other countries are willing to make major investments in the cash-strapped, terrorism-plagued country. The pipeline would amount to an early benefit for both Pakistan and Iran from the framework agreement reached earlier this month between Tehran and the U.S. and other world powers to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. had previously threatened Pakistan with sanctions if it went ahead with the project.

Iran says that it has already completed its 560-mile portion of the pipeline and China is now giving Pakistan a hand to construct the Pakistani side of the project. The "Peace Pipeline" will run to Pakistan's Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea, which is under Chinese management. Iranian gas could be shipped from Gwadar to China by sea or a new pipeline could pump the gas along the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Xinjiang. Given that China plans to ship less oil and gas across the Strait of Malacca, Beijing will probably prefer the second option. But this is only going to work if the situation in Xinjiang and Balochistan doesn't get out of hand. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. strongly oppose the construction of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline for obvious reasons and they will do their best to sabotage the project. The House of Saud is not amused about the latest developments. As Pakistan eyes closer ties with Iran, the Saudis are left out in the cold:

Pakistan declines Saudi call for armed support in Yemen fight Pakistan's parliament voted on Friday not to join the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, dashing Riyadh's hopes for powerful support from outside of the region in its fight to halt Iranian-allied Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia had asked fellow Sunni-majority Pakistan to provide ships, aircraft and troops for the campaign, now in its third week, to stem the influence of Shi'ite Iran in what appears to be proxy war between the Gulf's two dominant powers. While Saudi Arabia has the support of its Sunni Gulf Arab neighbors, Pakistan's parliament voted against becoming militarily involved.

Aliyev Discovers His Faith as Azerbaijan & GCC Eye Closer Ties

Some Pakistanis could barely contain their joy and celebrated that "for once Pakistan does not dance to the unmelodious Arab tune." The Gulf Cooperation Council is still raging but it is doubtful whether the "oil-spoilt sheiks" will be able to convince Pakistan of changing its decision: "The sheiks can shoke on their fury for all we care." Fortunately for Riyadh, not all Iranian neighbors are fed up with the Saudis and their GCC friends. Azerbaijan is looking to strengthen its ties with the Gulf states and the best thing is: Azerabaijani leader Ilham Aliyev couldn't care less about the opinion of his people. Contrary to what some American politicians believe, Azerbaijan is not exactly a democracy. At the beginning of this month, Aliyev hosted the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in Baku to strengthen bilateral cooperation:

UAE and Azerbaijan forge deals Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Thursday held talks with Azerbaijan’s president during a two-day visit that resulted in bilateral economic and emergency readiness agreements. Sheikh Mohammed and president Ilham Aliyev discussed ways to strengthen cooperation with Azerbaijan, state news agency Wam said. Mr Aliyev voiced confidence in the results of the bilateral exchange, particularly in investment. Also on Thursday, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a study on investment opportunities with Azerbaijan, Wam said.

A few days after Sheikh Mohammed's visit, Aliyev took his family on a trip to Saudi Arabia. The Azerbaijani leader is not known for his religious piety, quite the contrary, but he used the opportunity to pose for one photo op after another at Islam's holiest sites. During their visit to the holy city of Mecca, the Aliyev family and the Grand Mufti of the Caucasus, Allahshukur Pashazadeh, performed the Umrah, which was extensively documented by camera. Besides all the posing, Aliyev also found the time to hold talks with Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and other Saudi officials. United in their subservience to Washington and in their love for democracy, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia maintain close ties. According to Aliyev, the two countries "are brothers and friends." And in order to put a check on Iran, Saudi Arabia wants to expand cooperation with its brother and friend in all fields:

Saudi King holds talks with Azerbaijan’s president Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in the royal palace at the capital Riyadh on Sunday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The president’s visit signals the GCC’s intention of strengthening ties with central Asia states, especially Azerbaijan, according to Mohamad Al Salami, a Riyadh-based researcher on Iranian affairs. “By strengthening economic, cultural, and political ties with central Asian states, which border Iran, GCC states would force Iran to reassess its political stance on issues in the area,” Al Salami told Al Arabiya News Channel.

Considering that Azerbaijan is already touting itself as an economic bridgehead for Arab states, it is safe to say that Baku is not averse to supporting the GCC plans. A big plus of working with the Gulf states is that they won't criticize democratic deficits or the worsening human rights situation in Azerbaijan, in contrast to Baku's Western partners. Human Rights Watch and several other NGOs just called on the European Olympic Committees to speak out against Azerbaijan's crackdown on activists and journalists and urge Baku to release political prisoners ahead of the first European Games in Azerbaijan. It remains to be seen if the Azerbaijani authorities will be swayed by this criticism. Aliyev & Co. know that they can get away with almost anything as long as they don't question Azerbaijan's close energy and military cooperation with the West:

Azerbaijan, US to agree on military co-op Azerbaijan and the United States will agree on the issues of bilateral cooperation in the defense sector, the message of the defense ministry of Azerbaijan said Apr.8.

During the conference, the participants discussed the work carried out in the defense sector between the two countries, the prospects for bilateral cooperation, as well as the project of the “Work plan on military cooperation for 2016 between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and the US European Command.”

Turkey Alarmed As Kardashians Draw Attention to Armenian Genocide

In the end, human rights are only of secondary importance. Washington would never threaten to end its military cooperation with Azerbaijan in response to Baku's relentless crackdown on critics. The country in the South Caucasus is too important as proxy for the U.S. and NATO. Vital NATO member Turkey plays a decisive role in this regard because it is Azerbaijan's closest ally. The two countries maintain very close military ties and regularly conduct joint military exercises. Moreover, they also share a common enemy: neighboring Armenia. As previously mentioned, when relations between Washington and Baku soured, Aliyev turned to his buddy Erdogan for support and he used every opportunity to emphasize the common struggle of both countries against "the invader Armenia, that is laying down groundless claims against Turkey and Azerbaijan." Against this backdrop, it comes as no real surprise that there are some claims about Turkish military involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict:

Azerbaijan denies presence of Turkish soldiers on contact line with Armenia

Azerbaijan has denied reports from the Armenian side that the country has Turkish soldiers fighting on its side on the contact line between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops.

The battles along the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops involve only Azerbaijani servicemen, who are fit with the most modern weaponry and equipment, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry told Trend Apr. 7.

The ministry was commenting on a recent report spread by Armenian media about an alleged involvement of the Turkish servicemen in the battles along the line of contact as part of the armed forces of Azerbaijan.

Irrespective of these claims, Armenia is currently out of sorts with Turkey. Tensions between Yerevan and Ankara have been rising in recent weeks as the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaches. The Turkish government spares no effort to discourage people from using the word "genocide" to refer to the mass slaughter of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. When Pope Francis called it "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urged the international community to recognize it as such, Ankara lost no time in recalling its Vatican envoy. But to make matters worse for Turkey, Pope Francis hasn't been the only immensely popular figure to draw attention to the Armenian Genocide. American reality TV star Kim Kardashian visited Armenia for a couple of days with her family, rapper husband Kanye West and camera team to explore the Kardashians' ancestral homeland and shoot new episodes for the TV series, making the PR disaster for Turkey perfect:

Kardashian sisters will continue fighting for Armenian Genocide recognition The Prime Minister of Armenia, Hovik Abrahamyan, on Thursday received members of the famous American Armenian Kardashian family (photo). The PM underscored the Kardashian’s contribution to the international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, and their visit to Armenia ahead of the Genocide Centennial. Abrahamyan stressed the fact that the Kardashian family, just like the other Armenians worldwide, do not forget their roots, and they make Armenia more recognizable by visiting their historical homeland.

Thanks to Pope Francis' comments and the Kardashians' efforts, the Armenian Genocide received more media attention than Turkey would like. While the Armenian press is celebrating the unprecedented interest in Armenia, Turkish media is very concerned that the Kardashians' visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial "can be propaganda of genocide recognition on American TV channels." So Turkish officials will probably watch the next episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians very closely. As Turkey is trying to make the best of a bad job, Azerbaijan is probably relieved that the Kardashians didn't show more interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But perhaps that is planned for the next season. Meanwhile, Armenia is preparing the official commemoration ceremony on April 24 and that includes removing some misguided individuals who want to exploit the anniversary for political purposes:

Armenian Opposition Group Leaders Sent To Pretrial Detention Five leaders of an Armenian opposition group have been sent to pretrial detention. A spokeswoman for Armenia's Investigative Committee, Sona Truzian, told RFE/RL on April 10 that the five leaders of the Constituent Parliament group had been sent to pretrial detention for two months. The Constituent Parliament had announced plans to organize antigovernment protests during events on April 24, marking the 100th anniversary of what Armenia considers genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

                                                       

The New Great Game Round-Up: February 2, 2015

China Tries to Lure Turkmenistan with Surface-To-Air Missiles, Russia Vows to Support Tajikistan as ISIS-Taliban Rivalry Escalates & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Over the years, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has proved himself to be an excellent Twitter warrior. Aliyev regularly uses his favorite medium to blow his own trumpet and blast arch-enemy Armenia. So he started the new year by calling Armenia "a powerless and poor country," which "is not even worthy of being a servant." The conflict between the two neighboring countries over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has escalated in recent months. Although international mediators have repeatedly called on both sides to work towards a peaceful solution, the clashes intensified again in January. On Thursday, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said it had shot down an Armenian drone near Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia dismissed the statement as "absurd." Despite all that, Aliyev is touting Azerbaijan as "an island of stability." Most people will also have a hard time agreeing with Aliyev's claims that "the fight against corruption and bribery is proving very successful" and that "no-one is prosecuted or arrested for a critical opinion in Azerbaijan." Baku's unprecedented crackdown on journalists, human rights activists and NGOs has drawn a lot of criticism from the West. Even "civil society" expert George Soros is deeply concerned:

George Soros urges President Aliyev to loosen his stranglehold over civil society The Open Society Foundations are deeply concerned about the intensifying campaign against civil society in Azerbaijan, including the detention of several prominent human rights activists. In April, the authorities targeted Open Society’s foundation in Baku, the Open Society Institute–Assistance Foundation. They froze the foundation’s local bank account and seized its computers, as well as questioned former employees. The Open Society Foundations dismiss any allegations of wrongdoing. George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations, met with President Ilham Aliyev in Davos, Switzerland, and urged the president to loosen his stranglehold over civil society and to end his harassment of legally registered charitable organizations.

Atlantic Council Working on Transatlantic Strategy for Europe's East

Aliyev knows full well that he is not in a position to defy Soros and the U.S. deep state, which Soros represents. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Azerbaijan will abandon its pro-Western course, as many people have suggested in recent months. Baku's friends in the U.S. are already trying to pour oil on troubled waters. This week, The Washington Times launched a marketing campaign for the Aliyev regime. The highlight was an article by former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dan Burton, in which he explained why "America and the rest of the free world need more friends like Azerbaijan." Burton is currently the chairman of the Azerbaijan America Alliance. He can look back on a long career as lobbyist for Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds included Burton in her State Secrets Privilege Gallery with good reason. Speaking of 'Gladio B,' former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, whose name might sound familiar to readers of The Lone Gladio, likewise urged the U.S. to pay more attention to Azerbaijan. It is well known that Aliyev's fiefdom in the South Caucasus is very important to the U.S. and NATO. The Atlantic Council's new strategy for Eastern Europe will definitely take this into account:

“Toward a Transatlantic Strategy for Europe’s East” conference held in Washington

The Atlantic Council in partnership with the government of Latvia has hosted a conference titled “Toward a Transatlantic Strategy for Europe’s East” in Washington. Head of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Samad Seyidov attended the conference. Mr. Seyidov jointly with Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia and Georgia, the Deputy FM of Ukraine and a Polish official participated in the “Toward a Europe Whole and Free" program.

Azerbaijan's neighbor Georgia plays an equally important role in Washington's plans to create a Europe "whole and free," which means the consolidation of a unified Europe controlled by Brussels on behalf of the United States. Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili attended the Atlantic Council conference during her four-day visit to Washington, where she met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials. Moreover, Beruchashvili found the time to talk to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) about Russia's imminent "annexation" of South Ossetia. The Georgian Foreign Minister was referring to South Ossetia's new integration treaty with Russia, which is expected to be signed later this month. Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia's has already signed a similar treaty. Russian officials have assured that neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia will be incorporated into the Russian Federation but the draft of the South Ossetia treaty tells another story:

South Ossetia is the Next Crimea Unlike the treaty of the same name that Russia signed with Abkhazia at the end of 2014, which underwent several re-writes, the draft of the South Ossetia treaty involves the transfer of huge amounts of sovereign responsibilities away from the de facto authorities in the capital Tskhinvali to the Russian Federation. These transfers are so comprehensive as to effectively signal the end of South Ossetia as an independent entity. If this treaty is signed into law, South Ossetia will lose control of its military, police, border control, judiciary and education system. In short, all of the attributes of a sovereign polity, recognized or not. The immediate impact of this will be softened due to de facto Russian control, official or via infiltration, of many South Ossetian institutions, but writing such control into law is groundbreaking.

South Ossetia has been calling for much deeper integration for quite some time, which is not difficult to understand considering Georgia's actions. While Beruchashvili was meeting with U.S. officials in Washington and helping the Atlantic Council with its "transatlantic strategy towards Europe's East," her colleagues at home were also busy furthering Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration. At the beginning of this week, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili welcomed Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, who visited the South Caucasus to discuss Georgia's integration with the EU and NATO. And shortly thereafter, they hosted NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, who flew to Tbilisi to scout out prospective sites for NATO's planned military training center in the country. Vershbow hailed Georgia's "remarkable democratic and defense reforms" and stressed that the U.S.-led military alliance is "committed to have the training center up and running later this year":

NATO To Start Military Exercises In Georgia This Year NATO's planned military training center in Georgia will start operations this year, a senior alliance official said on a visit to Tbilisi. "Starting this year, we aim to hold periodic military exercises here in your country, with NATO Allies as well as with other interested NATO partners," said NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow at a January 30 speech in Tbilisi.

The exercises will be held at a "Joint Training and Evaluation Centre," the establishment of which NATO and Georgia announced last September. A location for the center still hasn't been determined, but one of the items on Vershbow's agenda in Georgia was to scout out locations; Civil.ge reported that one of the candidates sites he visited was the Vaziani training range near Tbilisi.

Russia Vows to Support Tajikistan as ISIS-Taliban Rivalry Escalates

In light of NATO's activities in Georgia, Russia's "annexation" of South Ossetia makes perfect sense. Meanwhile, Russia is also trying to convince Tajikistan of closer integration. Moscow would like Tajikistan to become the third Central Asian member state of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) after Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which is expected to join the bloc in May. To this end, the Kremlin wants to exploit Tajikistan's dependence on remittances from labor migrants in Russia. Remittances from Tajik workers abroad make up about 50 percent of the nation's GDP. Given that Russia's new regulations disadvantage migrant workers from outside the EEU, the Tajik authorities will have a hard time rejecting EEU membership. Furthermore, Russia eyes closer military cooperation with Tajikistan. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stressed this again during this week's visit to the Central Asian country, as he tried to assuage concerns about slow deliveries of promised military aid:

By providing assistance to the Tajik army Russia strengthens its own security, says Russian official “Antonov noted that Russia and Tajikistan have no choice but to expand cooperation because they face common challenges and threats,” Faridoun Mahmadaliyev, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told Asia-Plus in an interview. “We realize that Tajikistan is our advanced post in the fight against terrorism and other challenges and threats,” Antonov said. He further added that the Russian defense ministry would continue providing assistance to the Tajik armed forces.

Antonov stated that Moscow wants to strengthen the Tajik army as "an outpost of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Central Asia" and the strengthening of the Tajik-Afghan border was reportedly also high on the agenda during his meeting with Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon. Russian and Central Asian officials have recently sounded the alarm due to the growing number of insurgents in northern Afghanistan. Kidnappings along the Tajik-Afghan border highlighted that the threat has to be taken seriously. The four Tajik border guards, who were supposed to be handed over to Tajikistan last week, are still being held hostage in Afghanistan and two more border guards were lately wounded in shootouts along the frontier. Many of the insurgents in northern Afghanistan are believed to be Central Asian fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or splinter groups, such as Jamaat Ansarullah. Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Afghanistan, raised a few eyebrows when he claimed that the jihadists are from the Islamic State (ISIS) but recent reports suggest that some insurgents have indeed joined ISIS and this has brought a new private militia into the arena:

“Marg” Group formed against Taliban and ISIS in northern Afghanistan A new group calling themselves “Marg” or “Death” announced its existence in northern Afghanistan. Dozens of members of “Marg” group yesterday went to the provincial council of northern Balkh province and announce their readiness to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Taliban in Afghanistan. Marg Group claims that more than 5,000 people have announced their allegiance with them to fight ISIS and Taliban.

Balkh province borders Turkmenistan in the north-west, Uzbekistan in the north and Tajikistan in the north-east. The Central Asian regimes will be relieved to hear that a homegrown militia is now giving the Afghan security forces a hand. But perhaps the problem will solve itself. ISIS and the Taliban are not exactly on the same page. ISIS is trying to woo fighters away from the Taliban and wannabe Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called Taliban leader Mullah Omar "a fool and illiterate warlord." As mentioned last week, former Taliban commander and Guantanamo detainee Mullah Raouf Khadim was leading ISIS's recruitment efforts in Afghanistan but the Taliban lost no time in getting rid of the competition. It remains to be seen if this signifies the end of ISIS in Afghanistan. All indications are that the much-hyped terrorist group won't give up that easily. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani recently announced the group's leaders for "Khorasan," which covers Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Tajikistan. Hundreds of Taliban fighters have reportedly joined the new branch of ISIS in Pakistan and the insurgents, who escaped Pakistan's Operation Zarb-e-Azb, are potential recruits as well:

Militants Driven From Pakistan Flock to Afghan Towns Arab and Central Asian Islamist militants have moved into Afghanistan after a military offensive by Islamabad largely eliminated havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Afghan officials and local residents say, posing a potential new threat to the country’s already tenuous security. At least 400 families affiliated with militant groups—including members of al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan—crossed into Afghanistan in December and now live in the homes of locals in lawless parts of the country, Afghan officials say. Afghan officials say these fighters aren’t engaging in combat, but their arrival comes as a robust Taliban insurgency confronts the government in Kabul. Islamic State, which occupies swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, has also sought a foothold here.

China Tries to Lure Turkmenistan with Surface-To-Air Missiles

ISIS's expansion into the region has apparently only just begun. The director of a Bishkek-based think tank told reporters last week that ISIS has allocated around $70 million to destabilize the situation in Central Asia and that the group's main target is the Fergana Valley, which spreads across eastern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These alarmist predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. The insurgents in northern Afghanistan give the neighboring countries cause for concern but they have not even crossed the border into Central Asia. Furthermore, Uzbekistan is perfectly capable of dealing with the threat. The Uzbek regime will put the 300 armored vehicles from the U.S. to a good use, regardless of whether that means fighting ISIS or crushing dissent at home. Only Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have a good reason to worry about ISIS, the IMU or whatever else the insurgents in northern Afghanistan like to call themselves:

Islamic State fighters appear on Turkmen-Afghan border The presence of Islamic State (IS) fighters has been reported in the Almar district of Afghanistan’s Faryab province along the border with Turkmenistan, Radio Azatlyk (the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) reported on January 22 with reference to Afghan parliament member Gulmuhammed Rasuli. 

According to Rasuli, on January 21 in Kabul, heads of Afghanistan’s special services discussed the situation in the north of the country, and confirmed the fact of IS fighters’ movement from southern Afghan provinces to the north. Rasuli was quoted as saying that black flags of the Islamic State seen in Almar villages inhabited by Pushtuns testify to the presence of IS fighters close to the Turkmen border.

As previously discussed, the presence of insurgents along the Turkmen-Afghan border prompted the Turkmen regime last year to "invade" Afghanistan and push the fighters back. The situation has been very tense ever since. Most of the insurgents, who are causing trouble on the border, were members of the Taliban or the IMU but according to Rasuli, several Taliban groups in the region have now joined ISIS. In contrast to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan cannot count on support from Russia or the CSTO because the country refuses to join the Russia-led military alliance or the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for that matter. Turkmenistan attaches great importance to its neutrality. This has advantages but also some disadvantages. As the security situation deteriorates, the Turkmen authorities might be tempted to turn to Russia or China for assistance. Beijing is already trying to lure Ashgabat with HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles but this begs the question why Turkmenistan would need surface-to-air missile systems:

Central Asian countries trade with China natural gas for weapons China plans to sell HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to its Central Asian neighbors of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to reduce the price it has to pay the two countries for natural gas, reports Kanwa Defense Review, a Chinese-language military magazine based in Canada, on Jan. 25. Since natural gas produced in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is vital to China's development, the country is willing to sell advanced weapon systems such as the FD-2000, an export version of the HQ-9 missile, to its western neighbors as a way to get better deals. Yet there is a catch. If China successfully convinces both nations to purchase FD-2000s, they will then have to purchase Chinese radars, early warning aircrafts and even fighter jets to coordinate with the air defense system.

From China's point of view, the deal makes a lot of sense but the Turkmen regime would be well advised to think twice about increasing its dependence on China even more given the fact that Turkmenistan is already heavily dependent on its strategic partner. If Iran goes ahead with its plan to boost domestic gas production and stops importing Turkmen gas, Turkmenistan's gas exports will depend entirely on China's demand. China received 25.86 Bcm of Turkmen gas in 2014, a 5.3 precent increase from 2013, but still less than the 30 Bcm/year agreed between Turkmengaz and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in 2007. It is doubtful that the two companies can adhere to their agreement to boost China's imports from Turkmenistan to 40 Bcm/year by 2015. With China about to import more Russian gas, Turkmenistan is under pressure to diversify its gas exports. As expected, the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline remains a pipe dream. Turkey and Azerbaijan think that they have found the solution but Russia will beg to differ:

Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmenistan to join Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline - Turkish FM Both Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmenistan to be included in the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, an indispensable project for Turkey that will be completed within three years, Turkish foreign minister said Thursday. Addressing a press conference after the trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in Ashgabat, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "TANAP is an indispensable project for us. We plan to finish this project in three years," reports Anadolu News Agency.

Cavusoglu said the secure transmission of the Azeri and Turkmen natural gas through Turkey to Europe was also discussed.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

Porkins Policy Radio- Gladio Operations in Russia’s Backyard, Chechens & Al-Zawahiri’s 1996 Imprisonment in Russia

On this week’s episode we continue our roundtable discussion on Gladio B with Sibel Edmonds and Tom Secker. Picking up where we last left off, the three of us explore some of the reasons for Russia’s presumed intransigence in the face of mounting NATO and Gladio operations in their backyard. As a case study for this we look at Ayman Al Zawahiri’s little-discussed imprisonment by the Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in Chechnya in 1996 while traveling with four diplomatic passports and a laptop. We discuss why the FSB captured him as well as why they let him go. We also explore the recent uptick in violence in Chechnya and how this relates to an increase in NATO operations meant to destabilize Russia.

 *For MP3 download click here

*For the first episode of this roundtable click here

The New Great Game Round-Up: January 19, 2015

Turkey's Role in Washington's East Turkestan Project Exposed, Aliyev Turns to Erdogan for Support Amid War of Words with U.S. & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was rocked by several terrorist attacks last year. One of these attacks, the double suicide car bombing in May, which left 43 people dead and more than 90 injured, prompted the Chinese government to launch a one-year-long no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign. Especially Xinjiang's Uyghur population is suffering from the anti-terror campaign and Western media outlets lose no opportunity to draw attention to the plight of the Uyghurs. In recent weeks, much of the reporting has focused on Urumqi's burqa ban. Last month, the capital of Xinjiang banned the wearing of Islamic veils in public and legislators approved the regulation a few days ago but it is not clear when it will take effect. Faced with mounting criticism, Beijing is using all available means to prevent the usual suspects from continuing with their propaganda campaign against China. The Chinese authorities are fed up with the "biased reporting," which highlights government repression of Uyghurs and tries to blame all violence in Xinjiang on "China's hostile policy":

Police in China shoot dead six in restive Xinjiang A group of "mobsters" on Monday tried to set off an explosive device in a business district in China's troubled western region of Xinjiang, prompting police to shoot six of them dead, the local government said. 

Police in Shule county, south of the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, had acted on a tip-off about "a suspicious person carrying an explosive device", the Xinjiang government said on its official news website.

China's allegations were an "excuse to cover up the excessive use of force", said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for exile group the World Uyghur Congress.

"China's hostile policy will only provoke more turbulence there," he said in emailed comments.

Turkey's Role in Washington's East Turkestan Project Exposed

Dilxat Raxit, Sweden-based spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), surely knows what he is talking about. Otherwise the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) wouldn't pay him and his exile group that much money. Understandably enough, China is upset about the fact that individuals working for the NED-funded WUC or its sister organization, the Washington-based Uyghur American Association (UAA), are being quoted as impartial experts by Western media after every major incident in Xinjiang. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, China's state-run Global Times called on the West to refrain from promoting Rebiya Kadeer & Co. and to abandon double standards on terrorism. However, all indications are that this appeal will fall on deaf ears. A few days ago, the Global Times broke an interesting story, which highlights that the United States and its allies are still working on their East Turkestan project:

Turks, Uyghurs held in smuggling, terrorism scheme Chinese authorities have made arrests in a stowaway case involving 10 Turkish suspects and nine Uyghur suspects from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, authorities told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Ten Turkish suspects were arrested for organizing illegal border crossings. Other Uyghur suspects, including a wanted Uyghur terrorist, are being held for organizing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations, authorities said. 

Police in Shanghai's Public Security Bureau captured the suspects in November when nine Uyghurs attempted to sneak out of China with altered Turkish passports with the help of two other Chinese suspects.

Police found terrorism-related videos on the phones of the Uyghur suspects and some of them confessed that they had planned to go to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Nine of the Turkish suspects had come to China to hand over their passports to traffickers who were trying to smuggle out the Uyghurs. They were reportedly paid $2,000 each by a Uyghur living in Turkey and a Turkish suspect to get visas with fake invitation letters at the Chinese Embassy in Turkey and participate in the smuggling scheme. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not elaborate on the case but stated that the report was "extremely accurate." As is often the case when it comes to U.S.-NATO terror operations, the trail leads to Turkey. Although Turkey's support of terrorists has been exposed time and time again in recent months, the Turkish government tried to convince the public that illegal border crossings are the real issue and that there is no terror connection whatsoever. The Chinese authorities know of course full well that NATO member Turkey is a main conduit for the 'Gladio B' operations and has long played a decisive role in destabilizing Xinjiang. Therefore, Beijing hates to see more Uyghur refugees settling in Turkey under the auspices of the WUC [emphasis mine]:

Turkey offers shelter to 500 Uighur refugees who fled Chinese crackdown Five-hundred Uighurs who have been seeking refuge in Turkey since fleeing Chinese persecution are finally breathing easy after reaching the country that has been eager to receive them. Dozens of people were spotted at a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand in March who were deemed to be illegal immigrants by Thai officials. The group of people identified as Uighurs from China's restive northwestern province of Xinjiang, had fake Turkish passports and sought to escape the shadow of fear in China. "[Some of] those who fled atrocity were caught in Thailand and 367 Uighurs are being kept there. Some of those who could make it to Turkey without being caught have been brought to Kayseri [in Turkey]. The number may increase," said Seyit Tümtürk, the deputy head of the World Uyghur Congress.

Tümtürk, who is also the chairman of the Kayseri-based East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association, stressed that the refugees are being taken care of and that all their needs are being met by officials. He then followed the example of his boss Rebiya Kadeer by reiterating old WUC propaganda about China's so-called Ramdan ban and claiming that "on the first day of Ramadan, in the town of Yarkent, two villages were burnt down and 3,000 Muslims were killed." As regular readers of the New Great Game Round-Up will know, the WUC propaganda about the "Ramadan ban" and the "massacre" in Yarkant was debunked several months ago. Uyghur refugees should be wary of Tümtürk, his associates and the Turkish authorities. The Turkey-Xinjiang connection was already exposed in the summer of 2013 when Chinese police arrested Uyghur student turned terrorist Memeti Aili, who had been offered "help" by the Istanbul-based East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association while studying in Turkey. Before he knew what has happening, Aili was fighting in Syria and plotting terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. Moreover, as discussed during the latest Porkins Great Game episode, Turkey is exploiting Chechen refugees as well. Prominent Chechen leader Medet Ünlü learned the hard way that it is very dangerous to take a stand against the exploitation. At the beginning of this week, members of several human rights groups protested in front of the Ankara courthouse to draw attention to the Turkish authorities' reluctance to investigate Ünlü's assassination:

NGOs condemn authorities’ negligence in investigating murder of Chechen consul Öztürk Türkdoğan, the chairman of Turkey's Human Rights Association (İHD), said that Ünlü became a victim of a political assassination for his position on the issue of Chechens being used to fight in the conflict in Syria. Türkdoğan stated that he wished this murder will be solved alongside many other unsolved murders. “Ünlü's stance regarding the Syrian conflict was important. The assassinations of opinion leaders and widely-esteemed people are entirely political,” the head of the İHD said. Stating that the savagery of jihadist organizations is being condemned internationally, Türkdoğan said: “The issue of youngsters joining these organizations is a real problem. Ünlü had an upright stance regarding his opposition towards sending Chechens to fight in the Syrian war. I think they wanted to give the Chechens a message through here [Ünlü].”

Aliyev Turns to Erdogan for Support Amid War of Words with U.S.

The Chechens got the message and joined the war of the NATO-GCC-Israel axis against Syria in large numbers. NATO member Turkey has played a major role in fueling the conflict but close U.S. and NATO allies, such as Azerbaijan, have done their part as well. Given the fact that Azerbajian is also a conduit for the 'Gladio B' operations, Baku's support for the "Syrian rebels" comes as no real surprise. Azerbaijan has already provided lots of cannon fodder for the war and the increasing number of Azerbaijani citizens traveling to the "Islamic State" indicates that the Wahhabi influence in the country is growing. However, some Azerbaijani jihadists seem to have missed the point that they are not weclome at home after they have done their job in Syria. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev takes no chances when it comes to preserving his rule. Depending on how Aliyev's relationship with his "friends" in the U.S. develops, it makes sense to take the "moderate rebels" off the streets before they launch "peaceful protests" in Azerbaijan. His closest ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, can tell him a thing or two about Washington's dirty tricks. As the war of words between Azerbaijan and the U.S. escalates, Aliyev turns to Erdogan for support:

Ankara, Baku to show off strong bilateral ties with grand gestures in 2015 The year 2015 will provide more than one occasion for Turkey and neighboring Azerbaijan to show off the strength of their bilateral cooperation, not only in the global political arena but also in the global economic field. While listing some key joint economic projects during a press conference in Ankara with Azerbaijan’s visiting President Ilham Aliyev on Jan. 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recalled that Turkey will host a G-20 summit later this year. “As host of the G-20, we have used our mandate to favor Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan will take part in the G-20 this year as our guest,” Erdoğan said. “From preliminary preparations to G-20 negotiations, Azerbaijan will be with us,” he added.

Aliyev thanked his Turkish counterpart for the invitation, stressing that the "brotherly ties" between Turkey and Azerbaijan are stronger than ever. The two leaders vowed to boost cooperation in trade, investment, energy, defense and transportation projects in an effort to increase the current trade volume of $5 billion to $15 billion by 2023. In particular, the construction of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) was named as a top priority in this regard, which is interesting in the light of Russia's recent announcement that it will shift all its gas transit from Ukraine to Turkey in the coming years. Turkish President Erdogan stated a few weeks ago that the much-publicized pipeline deal between Russia and Turkey was not binding and required more talks on the details. So it remains to be seen whether or not Gazprom will be able walk the talk. Despite all the speculation about Turkey's and Azerbaijan's geopolitical shifts, both countries are still doing Washington's bidding when it comes to energy and foreign policy. For example, Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation has not been affected at all by the ongoing war of words between Baku and Washington:

More than 1,000 Azerbaijani servicemen to participate in 116 NATO events Under the individual partnership program between Azerbaijan and NATO, more than 1,000 servicemen of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces will participate in 116 events this year.

109 of these events will be held in foreign countries, 7 - in Azerbaijan. Under the individual partnership program between Azerbaijan and NATO, in 2014 more than 1,200 representatives of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces participated in 100 events within the Partnership for Peace programme.

While Brookings bemoans the end of the close political relationship between the U.S. and the Aliyev regime, Azerbaijan continues its close cooperation with the U.S.-led military alliance as if nothing had happened. Last year, a new Training and Education Center was created at the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry in order to boost cooperation with NATO and there are no signs whatsoever that Baku considers leaving this path. As previously discussed, the alarmist reports in Western media should be taken with a grain of salt. Azerbaijan's close military ties with Turkey contribute to the NATO integration and Aliyev mentioned during his recent visit that both countries have "great plans for deepening the cooperation in the defense sphere" in 2015. Erdogan reiterated his support for Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and he invited Aliyev to an event marking the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on April 24, when Armenia will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. This adds to other provocations in recent days, which bode ill for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict:

Aliyev Takes to Twitter Again to Attack Armenia Azerbaijan’s dictatorial President of 12 years, Ilham Aliyev, took to Twitter again on Monday to attack Armenia and boast about his accomplishments in a lengthy series of successive tweets. Aliyev spared few words and paid no heed to diplomacy or tact in his inimical tweets, one of which said, “Armenia is a powerless and poor country.” The Azeri President’s tweets come at a time when tensions are very high at the border between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, with intensified exchanges of fire and sporadic skirmishes having taken place in the past two weeks.

Killing of Armenian Family Tests Armenia-Russia Ties

It is not the first time that Aliyev's tweets have caused a stir. Last summer, Aliyev delivered a bellicose speech on the front line after the worst clashes in years over Nagorno-Karabakh had left more than a dozen soldiers dead. The summary of his speech on Twitter was interpreted as a declaration of war but the Azerbaijani leader met shortly thereafter with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan and agreed to resolve the conflict peacefully. If the guys from Stratfor are to be believed, Azerbaijan will now attempt to challenge the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, while Russia is "more focused on domestic and economic issues and thus less likely to intervene in skirmishes" over the disputed region. The conflict can escalate at any time, as highlighted by the downing of an Armenian helicopter last November. There are so many military incidents that it is sometimes difficult to keep track:

Armenia Claims To Have Retaliated Against Azerbaijan For Helicopter Shootdown Armenia has already retaliated against Azerbaijan for the downing of a military helicopter last month, Armenia's defense minister has said, without saying what the retaliation amounted to. Armenia immediately promised to retaliate, but it wasn't clear how. And on December 23, Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said it has already happened: "A disproportionate response to the Azerbaijani side has been given, part of the information about the operation was given to the public. However, it wasn't appropriate to release all of the information." The most significant military incident since the shootdown that was partially reported was a heavy exchange of fire, including relatively rare mortar attacks, in early December. The de facto Nagorno Karabakh government claimed that five to seven Azerbaijani soldiers were killed, though that wasn't independently confirmed. Still, even that would seem to not meet the standard of retaliation that Armenia had been promising.

The downing of the Armenian helicopter marked not only a dangerous period in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict but it also put Armenia's loyalty to Russia to the test. Yerevan has often criticized that Russia is supplying both sides of the conflict with weapons, lamenting that these Russian weapons could be used against Armenia. When Karabakh Defense Minister Movses Hakobian alleged that Moscow had supplied Azerbaijan with the Strela air-defense system that was used to shoot down the Armenian helicopter, Yerevan's worst fears seemed to be coming true and Russia was forced to answer some difficult questions. Ultimately, both sides settled the differences and Armenia decided to cast its lot with Russia by joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). But only a few days after the EEU came into force, another terrible incident caused tensions between the two close allies:

Protesters demand Russian soldier’s trial in Armenia, clash with police About a dozen people were injured after police dispersed a rally outside the Russian consulate in Gyumri, Armenia. The crowd demanded that a Russian serviceman accused of killing a family of six be transferred under Armenian jurisdiction. The clashes erupted in Armenia’s second largest city on Thursday after the funeral of the six members of the Avetisyan family, who were killed earlier this week. The protesters – who came “in thousands” according to local media – marched from the Shirak province prosecutor’s office to the Russian consulate service, and then began hurling stones and bottles at police. Demonstrators demanded that Russian solider Valery Permyakov – the key suspect in the murder – stay in Armenia for trial and not be transferred to Russia. The serviceman is accused of gunning the family down with an AK-74, in what is believed to have been a crime of passion. Permyakov, who has admitted to the murders, shot six people – including a two-year-old girl. A six-month-old boy was also stabbed, but survived.

Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged that Permyakov went AWOL with his weapons before the horrific killings. He was detained one day later by Russian authorities while trying to cross the border into neighboring Turkey. Permyakov's return to the military base in Gyumri has prompted fears among the local population that he would not be held responsible for his crimes but both the Russian and the Armenian authorities have emphasized that the Russian soldier will be prosecuted. At the moment the only question is whether he will be prosecuted under Russian or Armenian jurisdiction. Armenia's Prosecutor General Gevork Kostanian tried to calm the protesters by promising that the country's authorities are doing everything for Permyakov to be brought to justice in Armenia. Yerevan and Moscow are now carrying out a joint investigation and Russian President Putin has also become involved to make sure that Russia's good relations with Armenia will survive this latest test as well:

Putin Vows Justice In Armenian Family Massacre Signaling concerns over unprecedented anti-Russian protests in Gyumri, President Vladimir Putin reportedly assured his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian on Sunday that Moscow will help to punish those responsible for the killing of six members of a local Armenian family. According to official Russian and Armenian sources, Putin telephoned Sarkisian to “once again express condolences to the relatives of the victims and the entire Armenian people” in connection with the slaughter allegedly perpetrated by a Russian soldier. “The president of Russia expressed confidence that all necessary investigative actions will be taken within shortest time frames and that all the guilty will receive punishment envisaged by the law,” read a statement released by the Kremlin.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

                                                       

The New Great Game Round-Up: January 12, 2015

Washington's Regime Change Tools Struggle in the South Caucasus, Tajikistan Scrutinizes Gülen Schools-Prepares for Afghan Spillover & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Since the end of 2013, Turkey has been engulfed in a relentless power struggle between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who left his post as Turkish Prime Minister last year just to become the country's 12th President, and the influential CIA-backed movement of self-described "imam, preacher, and civil society activist" Fethullah Gülen, who has been living in the United States ever since he was forced to flee Turkey in 1999. The conflict between the former allies has now reached a point where President Erdogan is preparing to add the Gülen movement to Turkey's "Red Book," meaning that the organization will be classified as a threat to Turkey's national security. Although the power struggle has largely been taking place in Turkey, other countries, such as Azerbaijan, have been affected as well and Erdogan is not the only one who is currently trying to contain the activities of the shadowy movement. The regimes in Central Asia are increasingly suspicious of Gülen's schools and with good reason. After Russia and Uzbekistan had already closed down the schools more than a decade ago, Turkmenistan followed suit in recent years and Gülen's schools in Tajikistan are now also under high scrutiny, as Erdogan's mouthpiece Daily Sabah triumphantly announced this week:

Tajikistan to discontinue Gülen schools, citing ‘shadowy mission’ Saidov Nuriddin Saidovich, Tajikistan's minister of education and science, announced that they will not extend the agreement they had made with the Gülen Movement over permission to operate schools in the country, since they consider the mission of the schools belonging to the group as "shadowy." 

According to the local press, an official from the ministry, Rohimjon Saidov, also said there will be an end to the agreement between the Gülen Movement and the Tajik government over the schools they run in the region. Saidov added that the deal made with the education institutions in question expires in 2015 and that the country will no longer extend it.

There are currently 10 schools in Tajikistan run by the movement. The first school affiliated with the group was opened in the country in 1992. For the last decade, the purposes of the schools have become a hot debate in the Turkish government. There have been numerous demands for their closure by Ankara.

Tajikistan Scrutinizes Gülen Schools, Prepares for Afghan Spillover

Interestingly, according to Tajik media, Saidov didn't mention the word "shadowy." Instead he said that the Tajik government is going to review the licenses of the Gülen schools because their mission is "unclear." Daily Sabah is known to overstate the case when it comes to the Gülen movement but given that Gülen's schools play a decisive part in the Islamization of Central Asia and the Caucasus region and that they have been used for various covert operations by the CIA, the Tajik authorities should consider referring to the schools' mission as "shadowy." Dushanbe has long lamented that young Tajiks, who are studying illegally at Islamic religious schools abroad, "can be easily radicalized and recruited into extremist or militant groups," while doing little to stop the indoctrination and terrorist recruitment at home. However, recent actions indicate that this could change in the near future:

Suspected Islamist Leader, Subordinates Detained In Tajikistan

The suspected leader of a cell of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and 10 alleged subordinates have been detained in Tajikistan. The Tajik Interior Ministry said in a televised statement late on January 7 that Ikrom Halilov, a former imam of a local mosque, and the others had been apprehended in Shahrinav district, 50 kilometers west of the capital, Dushanbe. According to the ministry, the group is suspected of planning to attack a police station in order to seize guns.

In recent months, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has been making headlines in northern Afghanistan, where Central Asian fighters belonging to the IMU or splinter groups, such as Jamaat Ansarullah, and allied Taliban forces have been massing close to the borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. At the end of last year, Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Afghanistan, gave a long interview to Interfax warning of the threat to Central Asia and Russia but oddly enough, he said that the jihadists in northern Afghanistan are from the Islamic State (ISIS). Kabulov described in great detail how many fighters are concentrated on the Tajikistan and Turkmenistan beachheads and he stressed that "our allies in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan know about this, they confirm that they have the same information, and they are taking measures." Why Kabulov referred to the insurgents as ISIS fighters is not clear. A few Tajik ISIS jihadists have lately proclaimed their intention to "fight infidels" in Tajikistan but they haven't gotten permission yet:

IS Militants Asked Baghdadi For Permission To Fight 'Infidels' In Tajikistan Militants from the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq have published a video saying that they have asked permission from the group's senior leadership to wage jihad in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik service has reported. Abu Umariyon says that he and his fellow Tajik militants asked Baghadi and Islamic State leaders for permission to go back to Tajikistan and fight with the extremist group Jamaat Ansarullah. 

However, Baghdadi did not give his permission. "The emirs [militant leaders] who passed on their message to Baghdadi told them that right now they have to wait," the Tajik militant explains.

This video caused a stir in Tajikistan and the Islamic Center of Tajikistan slammed the jihadists, asking how it is possible "to wage jihad in a state whose population is 99 percent Muslim." But even without the return of Tajik ISIS fighters, the Tajik authorities have every reason to be concerned about the situation in northern Afghanistan. Kidnappings on the Tajik-Afghan border highlighted only recently how serious the threat is. This week, Tajik officials made public the identities of four Tajik border guards, who were abducted last month, and rejected earlier reports saying that the Taliban had made demands for their release. Due to the deteriorating security situation, Tajikistan's special services have reportedly taken "a number of measures to strengthen the most vulnerable stretches" of the Tajik-Afghan border and they are now keeping a very close eye on the activities of the insurgents in northern Afghanistan. On top of that, Tajikistan is also setting up a new military base close to the border:

Eyeing Taliban, Tajikistan Sets Up New Military Base On Afghan Border Tajikistan's armed forces are setting up a new base near the Afghanistan border in response to the apparent massing of fighters on the Afghan side of the border. The base, to be called "Khomiyon," will be in the Kulyab region. "Tanks, armored vehicles and other weaponry" will be deployed to the base, which "units of all security structures of the country will be able to use for conducting maneuvers," reported RFE/RL, citing a source in Tajikistan's Ministry of Defense. While there is no "immediate threat" from the Taliban fighters apparently massing near the Tajikistan border, Dushanbe still chose to take "preventative measures," the official said. An unnamed source in Tajikistan's State Committee on National Security (GKNB) told the Russian news agency TASS that "groups not controlled by Kabul" have massed on the Afghanistan side of the border.

Taliban Reject Government Posts As Ghani Urges U.S. to Stay Forever

On the same day, an unnamed official from Uzbekistan's National Security Service used similar language to warn of the "increased concentration of armed formations not controlled by the government of Afghanistan." Uzbekistan is also taking some measures to address the problem but the Uzbek authorities stop short of building new military bases because they are better prepared to deal with the threat than neighboring Tajikistan or Turkmenistan. After the Taliban became Turkmenistan's immediate neighbor about one month ago by taking over Khamyab District in Afghanistan's Jowzjan Province, the Afghan government is now trying to calm Ashgabat's nerves. Jowzjan's police chief General Fakir Mokhammed Dzhauzdzhani announced last week that Afghanistan's armed forces are preparing large-scale operations in Jowzjan and Faryab Province, where insurgents have repeatedly caused trouble in recent months. Although the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has ended the Afghanistan war in name only, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lost no time in mourning after the coalition troops:

Afghan president says U.S. might want to 're-examine' pullout deadline Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the United States might want to "re-examine" the timetable for removing the remaining U.S.-led coalition troops in the country by the end of 2016. "Deadlines concentrate the mind. But deadlines should not be dogmas," Ghani told the CBS program "60 Minutes" when asked about the issue. Asked if he had told that to U.S. President Barack Obama, Ghani said: "President Obama knows me. We don't need to - to tell each other."

Given that Ghani is very much Washington's guy, his words come as no real surprise and this interview will probably earn him even more tributes in the American press. But while U.S. officials and media lose no opportunity to praise Afghanistan's new leader, the Afghan people are less impressed with Ghani's performance so far. According to the latest poll by Afghan news channel TOLOnews and the ART research institute, Ghani has lost popularity among the Afghan people by almost 50 percent since taking office in late September of last year. One of the reasons is most likely Ghani's failure to form a cabinet with the chief executive of his unity government, Abdullah Abdullah. Although the two men reached a power-sharing deal in September, there has been a deadlock over senior cabinet positions. Ghani had also hoped to draw three Taliban leaders into his government but the group rejected the offer:

Taliban 'reject offer of Afghan government posts' The Taliban have been offered posts in the new Afghan government but have turned them down, the BBC understands. The offer came from new President Ashraf Ghani in a bid to end the insurgency that threatens the recovery of the country. The three men whom President Ghani had hoped to draw into his government were Mullah Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, who has lived relatively openly in Kabul for some years, Wakil Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister, and Ghairat Baheer, a close relative of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces are allied to the Taliban.

If Ghani fails to reach some kind of deal with the Taliban, the situation in Afghanistan is only going to get worse and the Afghan President will have a hard time staying in power. In this light, Ghani's appeal to the United States "to re-examine" the pullout deadline makes perfect sense. However, as previously discussed, Ghani's concerns about NATO's so-called withdrawal are completely unfounded. The U.S. military responded to the "60 minutes" interview by saying that the U.S. "plan remains in effect and there have been no changes to the drawdown timeline" but even if the U.S. goes forward with its plan to draw down to a "normal" U.S. embassy presence in Kabul at the end of 2016, that means keeping thousands of contractors in the war-torn country. However, at the moment it doesn't look as if the U.S. is really serious about its drawdown plan:

Lejeune Marines prepare for deployment to Afghanistan Just months after marking the end of the Corps' combat operations in Afghanistan, officials revealed that Marines are headed back into the war-torn country, but details of the deployment remain scarce. The disclosure came in a Marine Corps news release outlining preparations being made by 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The company tested its Supporting Arms Liaison Team Alpha's readiness for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan by tackling various "real-life" scenarios between Dec. 8 and 11, according to the release. Outside of the news release, Marine Corps officials declined to discuss 2nd ANGLICO's upcoming deployment. Citing operational security, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force declined to specify when — and for how long — the unit will be deployed, where within Afghanistan it will operate and whether other Marine units will accompany it.

Washington's Regime Change Tools Struggle in the South Caucasus

In addition to the American troops, Operation Resolute Support, the follow-on mission to ISAF, will also rely on a number of troops from other NATO countries and close NATO allies, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan. A group of Azerbaijani soldiers just left for Afghanistan to support the NATO-led mission despite the current tensions between the regime of Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev and the West. In recent months, Azerbaijan has repeatedly made headlines with crackdowns on NGOs, human rights activists and journalists, most of whom are supported by the United States and the EU. After the Azerbaijani authorities had already arrested Khadija Ismailova, a leading investigative journalist working for the Azerbaijani service of CIA mouthpiece Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), at the beginning of last month, relations between Baku and Washington went from bad to worse when the Aliyev regime cracked down on RFE/RL's Baku bureau a few weeks later:

U.S. 'Alarmed' As Azerbaijan Targets RFE/RL's Baku Office The U.S. State Department says its concerns about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan are deepening after authorities there raided and closed RFE/RL's Baku bureau and interrogated its employees and contractors. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told a December 29 news briefing in Washington: “These actions, along with the denial of access to legal counsel during these interrogations, is further cause for concern." The offices of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, known as Radio Azadliq, were raided on December 26 by investigators from the state prosecutor's office who confiscated documents, files, and equipment before sealing off the premises.

Predictably, the ongoing war of words between the U.S. and Azerbaijan escalated after the crackdown on RFE/RL. Former RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin condemned Aliyev's campaign against "one of the few independent news outlets left in Azerbaijan" in the strongest possible terms and he warned the Obama administration that Washington's vision of a Europe "whole and free" is at risk. "Europe whole and free" is a code often used but rarely explained because it basically means the consolidation of a unified Europe controlled by Brussels on behalf of the United States. Azerbaijan supports Washington's vision but when push comes to shove, the Aliyev regime is more interested in its own survival than in a "Europe whole and free." Although tensions are running high at the moment, it remains to be seen whether or not Azerbaijan will really "snub the West," as some suggest:

Azerbaijan Snubs the West These events have been reported abroad largely as marking a further constriction in Azerbaijan’s already tiny space for alternative points of view. And they are that. But they also suggest a dramatic change in the geopolitics of the volatile Caspian Sea region: the Azerbaijani government’s growing hostility toward Washington.

The attack on RFE/RL followed months of extreme anti-Western rhetoric. Top Azerbaijani government officials have accused the United States ambassador to Baku of “gross interference” and former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden of being an American spy. In early December, the president's chief of staff, Ramiz Mehdiyev, published a 13,000-word article claiming that the C.I.A. was contriving regime changes in the post-Soviet space (the so-called color revolutions). It also called Azerbaijan’s human rights activists a “fifth column” of the United States.

It is worth pointing out that the Israeli press has also been sounding the alarm regarding Azerbaijan's supposed foreign policy change but Israel's Ambassador to Azerbaijan Rafael Harpaz addressed these reports a few days ago, allaying any fears and stressing that nothing had changed in Azerbaijani-Israeli relations. Therefore, the alarmist reports in Western media warning of Baku's geopolitical shift away from the West should be taken with a grain of salt. The U.S. won't accept losing Azerbaijan considering that neighboring Armenia has now officially become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), cementing its ties with Moscow. After all attempts to impede Armenia's accession to Russia-led trade bloc have failed, Washington is apparently no longer interested in "advancing democratic values, practices and institutions" in Armenia and decided to shut down the local office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) citing "financial problems," which is obviously a lame excuse:

NDI suspends its activities in Armenia The Armenian office of US' National Democratic Institute (NDI), operating in Armenia since 1995, suspends its operations due to financial problems, Gegam Sargsyan, the head of the office, said on January 7. The NDI has ceased to receive funding from its main sponsor – the USAID (United States Agency for International Development), therefore, starting March 2015 the office will freeze its activities "for an indefinite time, until funds become available," said Sargsyan. "The USAID stopped funding NDI a year ago; then, we received funds from the American National Endowment for Democracy," said Gegam Sargsyan, adding that today the USAID prefers supporting local organizations rather than international ones; while "the NDI is not their current priority."

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

BFP Exclusive- Without Truth, Life is Worthless: On Sibel Edmonds’ The Lone Gladio

The Lone Gladio: The fight against evil requires a massive counter-force. It requires not one but an army of angels-demons.

Sibel Edmonds' first novel is more than a spy story or a geopolitical thriller. It is a work of fiction that makes us confront the dark structures of our contemporary existence. It makes us ask perennial philosophical questions about the meaning of justice and truth and the utility of individual and collective rebellion. It makes us come face to face with the reality of the world we live in, the reality which Edmonds describes as more monstrous than our worst nightmares because there appears to be no escape except death.

Weaving together the traumatic life stories of the FBI analyst Elsie Simon and the high-level CIA operative Gregory McPhearson, Edmonds depicts the world run by the shadow networks of the US-NATO Deep State. The individuals at the top of this infernal hierarchy, built on the interlinking of the war, energy, and financial industries are described as seeing themselves as visionaries and believing themselves to be gods. The lives of ordinary people mean nothing to them. They will use any and all means and methods at their disposal, no matter how brutal, to affirm and strengthen their grip on world domination. All aspects of global criminality operate under their supervision: narcotics trade, money laundering, terrorism, dictatorships, coup d’états, wars, revolutions, etc. Their absolute control over the US and European political representatives and the mass media allows them to manipulate the public into believing whatever they want them to believe. That day is night, that truth is falsehood, that those who resist and rebel are criminals or madmen or both.

But can anything be done about it? Can this vicious circle of sadism and violence be stopped before it is too late, before the whole wide world becomes one monolithic police state to which everyone must profess obedience or perish in the torturers' hands? In the novel, Edmonds provides an answer as to how the circle could be broken temporarily, how the world could get "a bit of peace, if only for a little while". But even that requires the appearance of an archetypal hero, an angel-demon, who takes the matters in his own hands.

The problem is that the US-NATO Deep State has already become so embedded in the existing political landscape, having been endowed with the unlimited money-printing powers via the Federal Reserve, that it is able to plan several worldwide power-grabbing operations at the same time. As Edmonds' main protagonist puts it, you cut off "two tiny heads of the beast, but the hydra's got hundreds more". The mythological metaphor is completely in order. The powers of the Deep State go beyond what the captive public thinks humanly possible.

This attitude on the part of the majority is nothing new. Ever since Plato's allegory of the cave, it is known that most people have been raised to feel content to live and die chained in the darkness taking the shadows of the artifacts on the wall for reality. The philosopher, the person who possesses knowledge of the truth, is supposed to be their liberator. But more often than not, he or she is their first victim. Their captors are more dear to them than truth and slavery more precious than freedom.

Still, in every age and every culture, there are those who have and will pursue the path of true knowledge and wisdom, no matter what. The motivation to pursue justice and truth is passed on to them from their elders like a torch and they will carry it forward into the next generation. It is a process both psychological and metaphysical. Yet until they organize, until they pull together their abilities and strengths, until they form their own unique community across their different nationalities, religions, and languages, their victories, if any, will remain provisional and short-lasting. They will not be able to break the chain, to dry out the river of pain, to turn the shock-and-awe Medusa into the stone.

This is why Edmonds does not and cannot end her novel conclusively. The fight against evil requires a massive counter-force. It requires not one but an army of angels-demons, in addition to the tremendous effort to create new educational models and new media content. This novel therefore must have a sequel. I am already impatiently waiting for it.

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* Visit these links to purchase The Lone Gladio in Kindle, paperback and Nook formats. You can also purchase a signed copy (can be shipped to anywhere in the world!) from the author at The Lone Gladio website or here

Filip Kovacevic, Boiling Frogs Post contributing author and analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco, and can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

Corbett Report- Gladio B & the Battle for Eurasia

Objective: The Destabilization of Central Asia & the Caucasus

‘Operation Gladio B’--the continuation of the old NATO Gladio program--covers a tangled web of covert operatives, billionaire Imams, drug running, prison breaks and terror strikes. Its goal: the destabilization of Central Asia and the Caucasus. In this presentation to Studium Generale in Groningen on November 19, 2014, James Corbett lifts the lid on this operation, its covert operatives, and the secret battle for the Eurasian heartland.

**Visit these links to purchase The Lone Gladio by Sibel Edmonds in Kindle, paperback and Nook formats. Or you can purchase a signed copy from the author at The Lone Gladio website

The New Great Game Round-Up: November 17, 2014

Russia Sees ISIS Terrorists Everywhere, China Sets Out to Bring Peace to Afghanistan- Xinjiang & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Three months ago, Armenia and Azerbaijan were on the brink of all-out war after the worst clashes in years over the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan had left more than a dozen soldiers dead. Russian President Vladimir Putin brought both sides to the negotiating table to prevent a further escalation of the conflict and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev readily agreed to postpone the recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, which fueled speculation that Baku had provoked the clashes for political reasons. Azerbaijan has shown a pattern of provoking such events in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict. Moreover, the escalation of violence in late July/early August coincided with a crackdown on human rights activists and NGOs. After this short period of heavy fighting the situation calmed down and last month French President Francois Hollande hosted "constructive" talks between Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan. The two leaders agreed to continue the dialogue to find a negotiated peace to the Karabakh conflict but this week's downing of an Armenian helicopter doesn't bode well for the shaky peace process:

Azerbaijan shoots down Armenian helicopter

The armed forces of Azerbaijan shot down and destroyed an Armenian military helicopter in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Wednesday, the defense ministries of both countries said.

The incident threatened to set off another cycle of violence between the two South Caucasus neighbors over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but along with some surrounding territory has been under the control of Armenian soldiers and local Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire.

Nagorno-Karabakh said the helicopter belonged to its armed forces and was on a training flight near the cease-fire line. All three crew members on board were killed, a high-ranking officer with the Nagorno-Karabakh forces told the AP. The officer was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

Downing of Armenian Helicopter Disrupts Shaky Peace Process

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry alleged that "two military helicopters, performing combat maneuvers over the Azerbaijani positions, attempted to open fire at the positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces." Azerbaijani troops then returned fire and and brought down one helicopter. The spokesman of Nagorno-Karabakh's armed forces pointed out that the helicopter was not engaged in a combat operation but conducting a training flight as part of the ongoing joint Armenia-Nagorno-Karabakh military drills "Unity 2014", which involve about 17,000 soldiers and a large amount of military hardware. Artsrun Hovannisyan, the spokesman of the Armenian Defense Ministry, called Azerbaijani claims the helicopter attacked Azerbaijani troops "absurd" and he emphasized that the downed helicopter carried no weapons. Hovannisyan warned that this "unprecedented provocation" leads to an escalation of the situation and Armenia vowed to respond to the provocation:

Armenian helicopter downing: 'Grave consequences' warning

Armenia has threatened "grave consequences" after Azerbaijan shot down one of its helicopter in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
"This is an unprecedented escalation and the consequences for Azerbaijan will be grave," Armenian foreign ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovannisyan said.

A further statement from Armenia's foreign ministry accused the Azeris of a "criminal provocation" and of "gravely violating agreements reached at recent summits."

Armenian leader Sargsyan showed that he means business. One day after the helicopter was shot down and Azerbaijan "declared its airspace closed over the occupied territories," Sargsyan flew there anyway on a helicopter and Nagorno-Karabakh presidential press secretary David Babayan said "the airspace over Karabakh is really closed, but only for the Azerbaijani air force." Armenia's president and other high-level officials visited units of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army and attended the "Unity 2014" military exercises. Addressing the officers of both armies, Sargsyan stressed that there will be "redemption day" for Azerbaijan and he warned the Azerbaijani authorities that war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia will be "no flash mob." While almost everyone is wondering how and when Armenia will retaliate, Azerbaijan's Aliyev is also promising more military action:

Aliyev Hails Armenian Chopper Downing, Vows More Military Action

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev praised his army for the Nov. 12 downing of an Armenian helicopter that killed three crew members in the worst military incident between the two countries in 20 years.

Aliyev promised more armed responses to Armenian “provocations” in future during an “operational meeting” yesterday with his generals in the western Shamkir District, his office said.

The soldier who shot down the helicopter has been awarded and Baku is apparently more interested in "correcting" "wrong" media reports than in resolving the conflict. Aliyev's critics often accuse him of using high diplomatic tensions with Armenia as a cover to target and lock up political activists and the downing of the Armenian helicopter conveniently diverts attention from Baku's "crackdown on independent media and rights activists." Fortunately, Aliyev's friends in the West are not swayed by trifles, such as human rights abuses. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, secretly flew to Azerbaijan this week to meet with his buddy Aliyev. The Queen’s second son has already met the Azeri President eleven times on official business in the past decade and his friendship with Aliyev and other controversial leaders cost him his post as the UK’s trade envoy in 2011. But "Air Miles Andy" was not the only noteworthy guest in Baku this week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also travelled to the Azerbaijani capital a few days ago to hold talks with Aliyev and other senior officials. It was Rouhani's first visit to Azerbaijan since his election last year and the two neighboring countries agreed to boost cooperation in various areas despite their difficult relationship:

Iran, Azerbaijan ink five cooperation agreements during President Rouhani's visit

The Iranian and Azeri officials signed five cooperation agreements on Wednesday to expand ties in areas of economy, renewable energy, industry, communications, and transport, IRNA reported on Wednesday. The cooperation deals were signed at the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku.

Prior to his trip to Baku, Rouhani stated that the Caucasus is Iran's "bridge" to Europe and Iran is also the Caucasus's bridge to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

"This bridge and multilateral relations with the Caucasus and the Central Asia should be strengthened," he added.

Russia Sees ISIS Terrorists Everywhere

 Azerbaijan is already positioning itself as a gas mediator between Iran and Europe but first of all Tehran has to reach a nuclear deal with the West, which looks unlikely to happen before the November 24 deadline. Judging from Rouhani's words, Iran wants to follow Russia's and China's lead and strengthen its foothold in the Eurasian Balkans. China, which boasts strategic partnerships with all five 'stans, focuses primarily on economic cooperation, whereas Russia also regularly tries to convince the local regimes of closer military cooperation. In recent months, Russian officials and pundits have used the threat of Central Asian ISIS fighters, who might return from Iraq and Syria, to this end. For example, Russian commentator Alexander Sobyanin argued a few weeks ago that the Central Asian jihadists are sponsored by U.S. intelligence and that they could be used to foment instability in Central Asia, creating a pretext for U.S. military presence in the region. One Russian lawmaker has now come up with a plan to prevent the long prophesied Islamist takeover in Central Asia:

Lawmaker Proposes 'Russian Foreign Legion' To Combat IS

Should Russia have a foreign legion, like France? A Russian lawmaker thinks such a concept could
address the threat of the Islamic State (IS) group in Russia and Central Asia.

The proposal, by State Duma Deputy Roman Khudyakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) faction, comes amid growing fears over the influence of the IS in Russia and former Soviet Central Asian republics.

The Russian lawmaker said that a Russian foreign legion could guarantee stability in Central Asia, and oppose possible aggression from Islamic State militants operating in the region.

Khudyakov is known for his creative proposals for new legislation and his latest idea was not met with much approval but it demonstrates once more that the ISIS hype has reached Russia. Last week, Russian media reported that members of the so-called "GTA gang", which had terrorized Moscow motorists in recent months with a series of murders resembling the popular video game "Grand Theft Auto," were Central Asian migrant workers linked to ISIS. According to law enforcement officials, several of the detained gang members were set to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Interestingly enough, many of the Central Asians fighting in Iraq and Syria have been recruited while working in Russia and not in their home countries. Russian officials are not only concerned about the spreading of radical Islam among Russia's Central Asian migrant workers but also about the plans of Western intelligence agencies with regard to ISIS. Especially Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has absolutely no doubt about CIA, MI6 & Co. pulling the strings behind the much-hyped terrorist group and the ongoing war of words between Kadyrov and ISIS entered another round a few days ago:

ISIS commander 'Omar the Chechen' allegedly killed

The Islamic State military commander "Omar the Chechen,” who threatened Russia with a jihadist onslaught, has been eliminated, said Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov. He posted a photo on Instagram which he says is proof.

“The enemy of Islam, Tarkhan Batirashvili, who called himself Omar Ash-Shishani ("Shishani" is Arabic for "Chechen"), has been killed," Kadyrov posted. "That will happen to everyone who will threaten Russia and the people of Chechnya. This will happen to everyone who sheds Muslims' blood."

Kadyrov's message was reported all around the world but it didn't take long before the Chechen leader deleted his post. As many people quickly pointed out, the photo posted by Kadyrov doesn't show Tarkhan Batirashvili's dead body and the same picture has been used on at least one previous occasion to "prove" the death of Kadyrov's new nemesis. Given the fact that his death was reported at least four times in recent months, Batirashvili seems to be following in the footsteps of Osama bin Laden and Kadyrov's previous nemesis Doku Umarov, who was "killed" about a dozen times before he eventually left the stage. Up until now, Western and Arab media have portrayed Batirashvili as the military genius of ISIS but his military prowess has recently been called into question. One former associate, who fought alongside Batirashvili in Syria, accused the ISIS leader of only knowing how to send mujahedin as cannon fodder but that is apparently the preferred strategy of ISIS anyway. Nevertheless, Kadyrov won't take any chances and will do his best to get rid of Batirashvili and the cannon fodder: 

Chechen Gets 2 Years in Prison for Battling Assad's Forces in Syria

A 22-year-old Chechen man has been sentenced to two years in prison for fighting in Syria's civil war, a news report said Tuesday.

Said Mazhayev, who prosecutors say went to Syria last November and fought alongside the Free Syrian Army until January, admitted his guilt in court, prosecutors told the Caucasian Knot news website.

Under Russian law, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison for taking part in an armed conflict in a foreign state. Ahead of the verdict, which was issued Monday, prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Mazhayev to three years and two months in a penal colony.

China Sets Out to Bring Peace to Afghanistan, Xinjiang

There are hardly any Syrians left among the "Syrian rebels," as foreign fighters are pouring into Syria faster than ever. According to U.S. and British counterterrorism officials, "the growing number and variety of foreign fighters streaming into Syria is unprecedented in recent history." Lately, even fighters from the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), made their way to the battlefields of northern Syria. China is very concerned about the Syria-Xinjiang connection and the capture of a Chinese national fighting with ISIS in Iraq caused a great stir. It is unclear how many Uyghur insurgents have travelled to the Middle East but the emergence of ETIM fighters in Syria will reinforce Beijing's concerns in this regard. China has long avoided getting involed in conflicts like Syria or Afghanistan but the Chinese authorities have realized by now that they will have to bite the bullet sooner or later. As the NATO-led coalition forces are reducing their presence in neighboring Afghanistan, China is now trying to achieve what the U.S. and its allies failed to do: 

EXCLUSIVE - China seeks greater role in Afghanistan with peace talk push

China has proposed setting up a forum to restart stalled peace talks between Afghanistan and Taliban insurgents, the latest sign Beijing wants more of a say in its troubled neighbour's affairs as it frets about its own Islamist militant threat.

Documents seen by Reuters show that China put forward a proposal for a "peace and reconciliation forum" that Afghan officials said would gather representatives from

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the Taliban command.

China's proposal has not yet been formally announced because Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants more time to see whether the Taliban and Pakistan are willing to join in, according to his aides.

China's "peace and reconciliation forum" was certainly high on the agenda during Ghani's recent two-day visit to Pakistan, where he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other top officials to ease relations between the two countries. Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to expand their bilateral trade to $5 billion but it remains to be seen if they will pull together when it comes to the peace talks. Beijing will definitely do its part to bring Islamabad to the negotiating table. Considering that the Taliban have previously endorsed China's growing role in Afghanistan, China may even have a chance of succeeding in restarting the peace process. Pakistan has only recently signaled its readiness to support China's fight against the "East Turkestan" forces and to cooperate more closely on Afghanistan: 

Pakistan says will help China fight Xinjiang militants

Pakistan will help China with its fight against extremists Beijing says are active in its unruly far western region of Xinjiang, the country's prime minister said on Saturday during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif told Xi that his country would "continue to resolutely fight the East Turkestan Islamic Movement terrorist forces", China's foreign ministry said in a statement following the meeting in Beijing.

Pakistan will increase its coordination with China on
Afghanistan too, so as to "jointly maintain regional peace and stability", Sharif said.

Of course, Pakistan's cooperation comes at a price. China promised its close ally billions of dollars in investment during Nawaz Sharif's trip to Beijing. Pakistan and China signed 19 agreements and memorandums mostly centered on the energy sector to the tune of over $40 billion. Amir Zamir, spokesman for Pakistan's ministry of planning and development, stressed that "there is no loan or aid for the energy projects, but pure investment by the Chinese." China spares neither trouble nor expense to push economic cooperation and to maintain stability in the region. Predictably, Washington's Uyghur exile groups are alarmed at all these deals because "Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Shanghai Cooperation countries’ deals means more heavy-handed repression of Uighurs." China won't be swayed by such concerns and continues its crackdown on illegal religious activities in Xinjiang:

China targets 'wild imams' in mass public sentencing

China has jailed almost two dozen people including "wild imams" who preach illegally in the western region of Xinjiang where the government says Islamists are waging a violent campaign for a separate state, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.

The 22 suspects were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 16 years at a mass public sentencing in Xinjiang on Monday, the state-controlled
China News Service reported.

As well as the imams, or Muslim religious leaders, those sentenced included religious leaders who engaged in religious
activities after being sacked, as well as those who broke the law while at their posts, it said.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The Lone Gladio- Operation Gladio B: NATO-CIA-MI6 Recipe for Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard

James Corbett Interviewed by Jim Hogue on “The Lone Gladio”

Tune in to this extraordinary interview. James Corbett discusses The Lone Gladio, and provides an incredible analysis of the Deep State, Shadow Government, Operation Gladio B, Zbigniew Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard, the New Cold War, Synthetic Terrorism, Perpetual Wars and much more!

Many thanks to the informed and articulate host, Jim Hogue, for providing this forum to inform and induce needed critical thinking!

*Visit these links to purchase The Lone Gladio in Kindle, paperback and Nook formats. You can also purchase a signed copy (can be shipped to anywhere in the world!) from the author at The Lone Gladio website or here

**Visit this page for all previous reviews, analyses and interviews on “The Lone Gladio”: ClickHere