BREAKING NEWS- Sources Reveal Imminent False-Flag Terror Attacks in China

This is an urgent news announcement by Newsbud, based on information received from carefully vetted sources both inside and outside the United States.

Radical Cleric Gulen’s Network, CIA’s long-term proxy for Gladio B false flag terror operations, has issued an action order to its top operatives (aka senior lieutenants) in Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Latvia. These operatives are to act as agent provocateurs- to create violence and terror incidents to be blamed on Uyghurs, an ethnic minority in China’s Xinjiang region, and by doing so, incite the Chinese government to respond with force.

As a leading independent media organization Newsbud is releasing and disseminating this urgent announcement now in an attempt to help prevent further terror incidents and carnage. Please do your share and help us disseminate this information.

The Battle for Texas: Sibel Edmonds Goes After Pocketed Politicians at The Capitol

Watch Sibel Edmonds, Newsbud crew and award-winning filmmaker Mark S. Hall take on pocketed politicians at the Texas State Capitol.

Newsbud does not take money from advertisers, foundations or NGO’s. We are 100% funded by you, the people. Support Newsbud for a stronger independent grassroots media by making a donation today.

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Show Notes

Support Newsbud

Newsbud Gulen Playlist

Killing Ed

Reza Zarrab: The Upside-Down Deal in the Iran Sanction-Busting Scandal!

Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is also involved in Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, has been released from federal prison and given immunity, and will be the star witness at a trial over a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. Federal prosecutors in New York will have Zarrab on the stand on Wednesday to testify against his former co-defendant, Turkish bank executive Mehmet Atilla.

In this episode of Probable Cause Sibel Edmonds presents two main factors driving the direction of the Zarrab case- both of which are absent from the agenda-driven mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets. Edmonds discusses Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s role and targets in the case, and delves into the backward deal- aka an upside-down deal, the US prosecutors have given Zarrab-the Kingpin, in the Gold-for-Gas case, in return for his testimony against the low-level accomplices.

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Notes

The Coming Two Coups: The Mysterious Zarrab Case, Mueller, Trump & Erdogan

Turkish businessman's Iran sanctions guilty plea opens door to cooperation in Robert Mueller's Michael Flynn investigation

Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?

A Mysterious Case Involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani

Signs of Possible Guilty Plea in Turkish Gold Trader Case

Did the Feds Flip Turkish Businessman Reza Zarrab—and Could He Bring Down Michael

The Link Between a U.S. District Attorney Fired by Trump and the President of Turkey

Breaking: FBI Whistleblower Exposes Special Counsel Mueller’s Conflict of Interest!

FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds exposes Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conflict of interest in pursuing General Michael Flynn’s case due to his direct involvement as former FBI Director and his role in covering up and protecting Gulen Networks’ criminal operations within the United States, and demands that he steps down.

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Show notes

Breaking: FBI Whistleblower Exposes Special Council Mueller's Conflict of Interest!

Targeting Michael Flynn & Shielding the Radical Cleric Gulen: Special Counsel Robert Mueller MUST Step Down

General Michael Flynn, Former National Security Advisor to President Trump, is being investigated by Special Counsel for accepting legitimate payments from Turkish companies for researching and exposing Wanted Terrorist and Radical Islamist Fethullah Gulen and his $25+ Billion criminal network in the United States.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is Special Counsel in charge of the case. He is the same Robert Mueller who used his position as Director of the FBI to shield and cover up Gulen’s criminal-terrorist network and operations, and take drastic measures to quash a whistleblower’s Gulen-related reports. These previous connections and actions by Mr. Mueller create a direct conflict of interest with his current position as Special Counsel in Flynn’s case, and require that he must immediately step down from the case.

………………………………………..

In May 2017 the Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

Not long after being appointed Mr. Mueller began targeting former national security adviser Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, expanded the investigation beyond the Russia-Gate probe, and began a furious pursuit of Mr. Flynn’s Turkish connections and his vocal stand on the wanted radical Islamic Cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Mr. Mueller’s inquiries went from Russia-connections to Flynn’s outing of Gulen’s twenty five-billion-dollar sleeper terror cell in the United States. Not finding any substantial evidence against Flynn within the Russia-Gate scope, the Special Counsel team switched gears and started a Turkey-Gate. During the past several months Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors have used multiple grand juries to issue subpoenas for documents related to Mr. Flynn. All this despite President Trump’s demand that:

Mr. Mueller should confine his investigation to the narrow issue of Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential campaign, not conduct an expansive inquiry into the finances of Mr. Trump or his associates.

Mr. Mueller’s prosecution team and F.B.I. agents have spent hours going over the details of Mr. Flynn’s perfectly legitimate business dealings with a Turkish-American businessman who worked with Mr. Flynn’s consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group. Why? Because the business arrangements included research for and exposure of the world’s largest radical Islamist network, operating in the United States for over two decades- the Gulen Network.

The targeting of Mr. Flynn through consolidated Obama Whitehouse leaks and one-sided media attacks began six months prior to the Special Counsel appointment. It started with an editorial penned by Mr. Flynn on November 8, 2016, when he became the first public official to unabashedly expose the radical cleric long protected by multiple government agencies- the CIA, State Department and FBI, starting under President Bill Clinton’s administration:

The primary bone of contention between the U.S. and Turkey is Fethullah Gülen, a shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania whom former President Clinton once called his “friend” in a well circulated video.

Gülen portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist. He has publicly boasted about his “soldiers” waiting for his orders to do whatever he directs them to do. If he were in reality a moderate, he would not be in exile, nor would he excite the animus of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government.

To professionals in the intelligence community, the stamp of terror is all over Mullah Gülen’s statements in the tradition of Qutb and al Bana. Gülen’s vast global network has all the right markings to fit the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network. From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden.

However, funding seems to be no problem for Gülen’s network. Hired attorneys work to keep the lucrative government source of income for Gülen and his network going. Influential charities such as Cosmos Foundation continue their support for Gulen’s charter schools. Incidentally, Cosmos Foundation is a major donor to Clinton Foundation. No wonder Bill Clinton calls Mullah Gülen “his friend.”

By writing and publishing this strong commentary Lt. General Flynn not only took on the enormously powerful Gulen’s terrorist network, but also the wrath of the CIA and the FBI, the Intelligence and law enforcement agencies tasked with bringing Gulen into the United States in 1998, his grooming, and his ongoing protection for over two decades.

FBI Director Mueller & the Gulen Case Cover-Up

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was directly involved in quashing and covering up Gulen and Gulen Network related cases within the FBI’s Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and White-Collar Crime divisions. The dossiers and mountains of criminal and espionage evidences on Gulen’s network resided in multiple FBI field offices, with the FBI’s Washington D.C., Chicago, and New Jersey Field Offices being the three most important investigative centers on the case.

Mr. Mueller was the primary official responsible for the invocation of the State Secrets Privilege, gag orders and retroactive classification of congressional records in my case, the Sibel Edmonds Case, a large part of which pertained to criminal, terrorism and espionage related operations conducted by Fethullah Gulen and his Networks in the United States.

Gulen’s money laundering and terrorism-related operations have been known to the FBI for two decades. It was only after the attempted coup in Turkey that some of these facts began surfacing in the mainstream media:

Over the past two decades, Gulen’s Turkish followers have opened up taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. Some parents have expressed concern about the connection to the Gulen movement, while others don’t seem to mind. But CBS News has learned the FBI is investigating whether Gulen’s followers have skimmed money from those schools in order to fund his movement in Turkey. A senior State Department official believes Gulen-linked charities and educational institutions in the U.S. look “a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up... to hide money for money laundering.”

Based on information provided by Emanet, federal investigators believe former officials at his Ohio school illegally paid themselves about $5 million in federal contracts and then sent those U.S. tax dollars to Bank Asya, a bank in Turkey linked to Gulen’s followers.

In March of 2016 the following report erased any doubts about Gulen’s terrorist and criminal activities in the US - spanning over two decades:

Living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, with a net worth of around $25 billion, Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen has catalyzed a global movement of charter schools from Africa to Latin America into the United States. Building private schools in over 180 countries around the world, the global Gülen movement has paved the way for the largest U.S. charter school network with more than 140 schools in some 26 states.

What lies underneath this charter-school network, however, is a possible undercurrent of white-collar crime and corruption. Known in Turkey as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization or FETÖ this growing network is being investigated by the FBI for everything from fraud and malpractice, to misuse of public funds. One spokeswoman for the bureau said that an investigation is ongoing and FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Gülen-affiliated charter schools in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio in 2014.

            …

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks demonstrate a concern by U.S. officials that these Turkish teachers and businesses “might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the U.S.” These cables state that the H1B visa applications were “not convincing” and that Gülen’s more moderate message “cloaks a more sinister and radical agenda.”

Receiving approximately $150 million a year in tax breaks and subsidies, government officials are increasingly concerned that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund a close-knit network of Turkish teachers and businesses using charter schools as a Trojan horse for embedding into the U.S. education system.

In March 2016, Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark went on record and stated that the United States has become a part of Turkey's problems for letting Fethullah Gülen, who is wanted in Turkey, stay in the U.S. Clark went on adding that he found it strange how Gulen has been allowed to remain and operate in the United States:

We are even part of that. One of the most wanted people in Turkey is a man named Gülen, a former ally of President Erdoğan, who is in the United States, running a network of charter schools subsidized by the United States. Very strange," he added.

Documents from Wikileaks has shown that American officials have been worried Gülen could be targeting children across the U.S. through running over 125 Gülen charter schools in 25 states:

In 2005, one U.S. embassy worker expressed concern about the schools: “We have multiple reliable reports that the Gülenists use their school network (including dozens of schools in the U.S.) to cherry pick students they think are susceptible to being molded as proselytizers,” U.S. Embassy officials in Ankara said in a 2005 report. And we have steadily heard reports about how the schools indoctrinate boarding students,” they said.”

Despite the publication of mounting criminal evidence against Gulen’s operations, to this date the FBI has continued shielding this terrorist:

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on Concept Schools, a charter school network in the Midwest funded by the Gülen movement. Though an ongoing FBI investigation has found the schools divert Illinois taxpayer dollars to Gülen-affiliated contractors, the Concept network continues to receive government funds:

Days after federal agents swept into the headquarters of Concept Schools and a charter school it operates in Rogers Park in June 2014, top Chicago Public Schools officials took notice of the raids on the taxpayer-funded charter operator but decided to steer clear.

More than two years since the FBI raids brought the still-ongoing federal investigation involving Concept to light, the charter operator has continued to do business with contractors identified in court documents as allegedly having been involved in defrauding a government grant program, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

As the longest serving FBI Director, Mr. Mueller was in charge of the FBI’s investigations and pursuit of Gulen and his network for eleven years. During his tenure he not only continued the same policy and practices of his predecessors in shielding and protecting Gulen’s criminal network, he went even further by quashing and covering up reports and cases involving Gulen’s terrorist-criminal-espionage operations through retaliations, invocation of the State Secrets Privilege, and hindering Congressional oversight and investigations through retroactive classification.

Mr. Mueller, due to his direct involvement as former FBI Director and his role in covering up and protecting Gulen Networks’ criminal operations within the United States, by shutting down pertinent FBI investigative operations and by transferring certain terrorism related Gulen files to the counterintelligence division, has a major conflict of interest as Special Counsel targeting Flynn’s case as it pertains to exposing the Gulen network and his relationship with Turkish entities sharing the same interest in exposing and extraditing Fethullah Gulen. Thus, Mr. Mueller must step down from his position as Special Counsel in this case- a case targeting and probing Lt. General Michael Flynn.

# # # #

Sibel Edmonds is editor and publisher of Newsbud, founder and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), and author of the acclaimed book Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, and The Lone Gladio, a Political Spy Thriller. She has appeared on national radio and TV as a commentator on matters related to whistleblowers, national security, and excessive secrecy & classification. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award. Ms. Edmonds is a certified linguist, fluent in four languages, and has an MA in public policy from George Mason University and a BA in criminal justice and psychology from George Washington University.

*Sibel Edmonds Court Case: Sibel Edmonds v. United States Department of Justice, et al.

**Concocting the Flynn Scandal: Clinton-CIA-FBI Conspire & Collude in A Coup Against Trump

***Sibel Edmonds’ FBI Case Timeline under FBI Director Robert Mueller

As a language specialist for three languages, including Turkish and Farsi, and with Top Secret Security Clearance, Sibel Edmonds began working for the FBI’s Washington Field Office in September 2001.

Between December 2001 and March 2002, Edmonds reported serious criminal conduct and related cover ups within the FBI. Edmonds took her reports to the FBI HQ OPR Unit, DOJ-Inspector General’s Office, and later the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After her termination, Sibel Edmonds’ reports were confirmed by the FBI in unclassified briefings to Congress, and by a Justice Department’s Inspector General Report.

In May 2004, the Justice Department retroactively classified Edmonds' briefings, as well as the FBI briefings, and forced Members of Congress who had the information posted on their Web sites to remove the documents.

The remarkable act of retroactive classification exemplifies a dangerous abuse of secrecy by the government regarding Edmonds' case. At least two Senators, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), publicly supported Edmonds and pushed the Justice Department to declassify at least some of its investigation into her dismissal.

In March 2002 she reported several problems inside the FBI, including certain sensitive cases being covered up and certain employees with highly questionable alliances. Upon formally reporting criminal conduct and related cover-ups she was retaliated against, and ultimately fired within a few weeks -  in April 2002.

In June 2002 Senators Grassley and Leahy wrote the Justice Department Inspector General asking specific questions about Edmonds' allegations, stating that the FBI had confirmed many of Edmonds’ allegations in unclassified briefings. This letter was later retroactively classified in May 2004.

In July 2002 Edmonds filed a lawsuit to challenge the FBI's retaliatory actions.

In August 2002 Senator Leahy wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking for a speedy and thorough investigation of Edmonds' case. This letter was later retroactively classified in May 2004. The investigation was not completed for another two years, and then classified.

In May 2004 the Justice Department retroactively classified Edmonds' briefings to Senators Grassley and Leahy in 2002, as well as FBI briefings regarding Edmonds’ allegations.

In June 2004 the Project on Government Oversight filed suit against the Justice Department and Attorney General Ashcroft, saying the retroactive classification violated the organization's First Amendment rights.

In July 2004 a Justice Department investigation into Edmonds' dismissal was completed, but was classified. The report found that Edmonds' allegations of corruption within the FBI ""were at least a contributing factor" in her dismissal.

In July 2004 Judge Reggie Walton in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Edmonds' lawsuit, relying on the government's States Secrets Privilege.

In January 2005 the ACLU filed a brief urging the D.C. Court of Appeals to reinstate the Edmonds' case, saying that the government is abusing the ""State Secrets Privilege"" to silence employees who expose national security blunders. Oral argument was scheduled for April 21, 2005.

In January 2005 the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General released an unclassified summary of its investigation into Edmonds' termination. The report concluded that Edmonds was fired for reporting serious security breaches and misconduct in the agency's translation program, and that many of her allegations were supported.

In August 2005 the ACLU filed Edmonds’ case with the Supreme Court. The ACLU also asked the Supreme Court to reverse the D.C. appeals court's decision to exclude the press and public from the court hearing of Edmonds' case in April. The appeals court had closed the hearing at the eleventh hour without any specific findings that secrecy was necessary.

In November 2005 the Supreme Court denied review in Edmonds’ case.

Concocting the Flynn Scandal: Clinton-CIA-FBI Conspire & Collude in A Coup Against Trump

In this exclusive investigative report, Newsbud uncovers the Deep State entities involved in concocting the Flynn scandal and Gulen-Gate, how these interests and groups colluded and conspired and used their media tentacles to bring down a National Security Advisor, and how this operation is geared to pave the way to impeach the Trump presidency. We also present an exclusive interview with the man at the center of the Flynn scandal, Ibrahim Kurtulus, among other experts.

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Show notes

Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support

Trump’s Top Military Adviser Is Lobbying For Obscure Company With Ties To Turkish Government

Trump Adviser Recently Met With Relative Of Turkey’s President

New Ties Emerge Between Clinton And Mysterious Islamic Cleric

Did the FBI retaliate against Michael Flynn by launching a Russia probe?

 KILLING ED A Documentary Film About Charter Schools, Corruption, and the Gülen Movement in America

WSJ Exclusive: Ex-CIA Head Woolsey on Flynn, Covert Plan

 Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife

 Meet Fethullah Gulen, Deep State Plotter

WikiLeaks, Hillary-Gulen Intimate Ties & How the Clintons Gave Birth to Mullah Gulen’s Terrorist Network

Turkish Intel Chief Exposes CIA Operations via Islamic Group in Central Asia

The Real-Life House of Cards: Insider Deals, Murder & Espionage- The Clintons, Seth Rich & Awans!’

CIA-NATO Target Russia’s Coming Election While German Leaders Are Bought By Radical Islamic Cult

The hottest stories from Newsbud.com in this weekly round up, plus a sneak peak of whats to come. Sign up today and join the community for access to exclusive content only available at Newsbud.com

Newsbud Roundtable- “A Turning Point in the Middle East & the Fall of an Empire!”

Newsbud Founder-Editor Sibel Edmonds joins foremost Middle East expert and analyst Prof. William Engdahl and top Russia-Balkans expert Professor Filip Kovacevic in a one-of-a-kind roundtable discussion on a Turning Point in the Middle East and the fall of the US Empire. Our distinguished panelists discuss Turkey’s major shift away from NATO and into further alliance with Russia, Iran and the rest of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the contentious coming Kurdish referendum, the recent Turkey-Germany spat, the CIA’s Fethullah Gulen’s infiltration of the German government, and much more.

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Show Notes

Turkey’s Shift from NATO Is Redrawing the Map

Turkey Urges Iraqi Kurds to Abandon Independence Vote

U.S. Urges Kurdistan to Delay Independence Referendum

Germany’s Juncker Says Erdogan’s Turkey Taking Giant Steps Away From EU

According to Germany’s Gabriel, “Turkey will never be EU member under Erdogan”

Berlin has been Intensifying Agitation against Turkey

Kurds Drive a Wedge between US and Turkey

US-Rebels Clash in Syria Becomes Attempt to 'Prevent Turkey from Entering Afrin'

Exposed: Clinton Train Paid The Young Turks $20 Million

In this week’s episode of Newsbud’s Spiro Reports, Spiro investigates the deep state’s role in influencing the so-called alternative media. Recently the Young Turks secured an investment deal for $20 million. You know what they say, follow the money! Find out what we discovered in this hard hitting Newsbud community exclusive as we uncover the shady powerful network within the Clinton train who is pulling the money strings for the Young Turks. Plus, find out what former FBI whistleblower and Newsbud Founder Sibel Edmonds had to say about the Young Turk front man only at Newsbud.com

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Show notes

Progressive media outlet The Young Turks has raised $20 million in venture-capital funding and plans to double its staff

The Media Consortium

Meet the New George Soros

3L Capital

Dave Leyrer’s Omaze Raises Money For Clinton Foundation

Hacked documents reveal Soros plans for more Internet regulation

Soros-Funded Lefty Media Reach More Than 300 Million Every Month

Don Gevirtz; Democratic Fund-Raiser

2010 Overview The Aspen Institute

Brookings Institute Attendee List

The “Partners”: Who’s Who in the Democracy Alliance

George Soros’s Democracy Alliance

Democracy Alliance

Security Tight at Secretive Democracy Alliance Meeting

Obama’s Top Fund-Raisers

WndrCo LLC

Global Development Council Alan Patricof 

Millenium Challenge Corporation Report

So many choices … from the Aspen Institute

Is Hillary Clinton still the one to beat in 2016?

Global development leaders offer suggestions for next US president

The Secret Masters

Jeffrey Katzenberg - news and investigations

With cash from Jeffrey Katzenberg, The Young Turks looks to grow paid subscribers

Greycroft Alan Patricof

Newsbud Special Report- State Secrets: Sibel Edmonds Uncovers ‘The Untouchables’

Newsbud presents major new revelations by former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds, known as the most classified and gagged person in US history, takes on the US Congress and the culprit media in one of the most significant and longest ongoing political/criminal cover-ups involving the FBI, a notorious political mob in Chicago, a well-known elected official and her convicted criminal spouse. Further, she renews her public call for joint testimony under oath before the US Congress. Do not miss this in-depth exposé shedding light on just how notoriously corrupt criminals are given immunity and untouchable status, not only by the US government, but also by the Deep-State collaborators- the US media.

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Show Notes

Sibel Edmonds’ State Secrets Gallery

Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?

Sibel Edmonds’ Under Oath Testimony

Sibel Edmonds’ Deposition: Transcript & Video

Chicago! Not the Musical, but the Action-Suspense Docudrama!

Turkish Imam Fethullah Gulen Nabs George Bush PR Queen

Schakowsky is Most-Frequent Flier Among State's Congressional Delegation

Schakowsky: 23 Privately Funded Trips Since 2007

‘Kosher’ Schakowsky: Still AIPAC’s Number One Darling

Robert Creamer Visited Obama’s White House 340 Times

Why Did Vote-Rigging Robert Creamer Visit The White House Over 200 Times During The Obama Admin

Senior Democratic strategist resigns after video surfaces showing his staff planning to incite violence at Trump rallies and discussing paying mentally-ill people to disrupt GOP events 

FBI Raids, Concept Charter Schools, and Rahm

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Husband Indicted

Rep. Schakowsky's Husband Charged

Bob Creamer: Truth, Justice ... and Fraud

An Inconvenient Patriot

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused of hiding sex abuse of former student

The People’s Campaign: The Real Hastert Case- All in One Place

Democracy Now: Sibel Edmonds & David Rose on Dennis Hastert

Why is FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds Boiling over Former Speaker Hastert’s Plea Deal?

Did Foreign Governments Blackmail Denny Hastert?

Did You Know: The King of Madrasas Now Operates Over 100 Charter Schools in the US?

The Sanitized Gulen Coverage Continues…

Turkish Intel Chief Exposes CIA Operations via Islamic Group in Central Asia

BFP BREAKING NEWS: Boston Terror, CIA’s Graham Fuller & NATO-CIA Operation Gladio B-Caucasus & Central Asia

Graham E. Fuller: Where Were You on the Night of July 15?

Sibel Edmonds: The Future of Newsbud & Important Updates

Beginning this month Newsbud will be offering exclusive content only available at newsbud.com. The content will be available only to the Newsbud Community Members(Subscribers). Your subscription will provide you with full community access to exclusive content, Including videos and articles from Newsbud’s team of experts and analysts. As members you will also receive monthly newsletters from Newsbud Founder Sibel Edmonds.

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Show Notes

Become a Newsbud Community Member

Support Independent Media

Phase One Kickstarter

Phase Two Kickstarter

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

Russian Soldiers Cause a Stir in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan Refuses to Give Up on Pipe Dreams & 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.

The recent confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar has aggravated the alarming situation in Afghanistan. New Taliban supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is struggling to stop the factionalism that has been fueled by Omar's death and the Afghan peace talks have been put on hold for the time being. Many of Mansoor's critics oppose the talks with Kabul and favor Mullah Omar's son Yaqoob as Taliban leader. A few days ago, Afghan parliament member Abdul Zahir Qadir created a stir when he claimed that Yaqoob was assassinated in the Pakistani city of Quetta on behalf of Mansoor and Pakistani intelligence agencies. The Taliban immediately denied the claims but Yaqoob's whereabouts are still shrouded in mystery. As more and more leading Taliban figures come out in opposition to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, senior members of the movement are meeting in Pakistan to resolve the dispute:

Taliban Hold Open Meetings in Pakistan to Discuss Leadership

Senior members of the Taliban are reportedly holding open meetings in Pakistan to discuss the disputed appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the group's new chief in the wake Mullah Omar's death. Several top Taliban leaders have expressed strong opposition to Mansour's leadership, calling him a puppet of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Sources within the Afghan government told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity on Thursday that scores of Taliban members - including both those who agree and disagree with Mansour's appointment - met with clerics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan on Wednesday to resolve the dispute over Omar's successor.

Taliban Strain Pak-Afghan Ties with New Wave of Terror

As many as 300 clerics or ulema reportedly met in Pakistan to mediate between the rival groups. Influential Pakistani cleric Sami ul-Haq, the "Father of the Taliban," was chosen by both sides to lead the reconciliation efforts. Haq has endorsed new Taliban leader Mansoor and he tried to convince Mullah Omar's family of doing the same by telling them that people would never forgive them if they "wasted sacrifices of thousands of Afghan Mujahideen by creating divisions within the Taliban movement." Mullah Omar's only surviving brother Abdul Manan Niazi, who is the anti-Mansoor faction's spokesman, said that they are willing to accept any decision taken by the ulema. The religious scholars are expected to announce their decision within the next few days. Predictably, the huge Taliban meetings didn't go unnoticed in neighboring Afghanistan. Many Afghans were furious about the fact that the Taliban were allowed to meet openly in Pakistan while unleashing a new wave of terror in Afghanistan:

Attacks on army, police and U.S. special forces kill 50 in Kabul A wave of attacks on the Afghan army and police and U.S. special forces in Kabul have killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader's death. The bloodshed began on Friday with a truck bomb that exploded in a heavily populated district of the capital and ended with an hours-long battle at a base used by U.S. special forces. It became the deadliest day in Kabul for years. The Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the U.S. special forces base, though not for the truck bomb.

Friday's attacks ended a period of relative calm in Kabul and heralded the start of a terror campaign shaking Afghanistan. One day after the attacks in the Afghan capital, up to 29 people were killed in the northern province of Kunduz when a Taliban suicide bomber targeted members of an irregular anti-Taliban militia and on Monday another Taliban suicide bombing struck Kabul, killing five people and injuring a least 16. Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh was quick to point out that new Taliban leader Mansoor is trying to show his critics that he remains committed to fighting the Afghan government. Considering that one of Mansoor's first actions was to distance himself from the peace talks, Saleh may have a point. Furthermore, Saleh emphasized Pakistan's role in enabling such Taliban attacks and this issue has also been highlighted by many other Afghans, including President Ashraf Ghani:

Afghan President Points Finger at Pakistan After Bombings in Kabul Under pressure after a wave of deadly bombings in the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani on Monday accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to mass gatherings of Taliban fighters in its territory, where such attacks are planned. Mr. Ghani’s words, a sharp break from the conciliatory tone he had taken toward Pakistan for much of his first year in office, came just hours after a suicide car-bomb struck a crowded entrance of the international airport in Kabul, leaving at least five people dead and 16 wounded. Attacks in the Afghan capital over the last four days have left nearly 70 people dead and hundreds wounded. After the news of Mullah Omar’s death, Mr. Ghani told his ministers that Pakistan had promised him that no new Amir ul-Momineen, as the Taliban call their leader, would be selected on its soil and that no large gatherings of the Taliban would take place to give him legitimacy. But within days, not only had Mullah Mansour replaced Mullah Omar and been endorsed in large ceremonies in Quetta, but also he had announced that his new deputy would come from the Haqqani network, an aggressive organizer of terrorist attacks that has strong links to the Pakistani military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

A senior Afghan official recently suggested that Sirajuddin Haqqani's was mainly promoted to Mansoor's deputy because of his networks in urban areas. It appears that he already used these networks. The attacks in Kabul bore many of the hallmarks of the Haqqani network, reinforcing Ghani's argument that "war is declared against us from Pakistani territory." Ghani essentially buried the peace process on Monday by saying that he no longer wanted Islamabad to bring the Taliban to the table. Instead he urged the Pakistani authorities to destroy the group's sanctuaries in Pakistan. As usual, the Pakistanis have other ideas. However, the overt influence over the Taliban also entails all kinds of problems. Mansoor's critics are trying to exploit this issue for their own political ends and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) cited the same point as a key reason for pledging allegiance to ISIS. Mullah Omar's death has been a gift from heaven for ISIS in Afghanistan and the group spares neither trouble nor expense to woo more fighters away from the Taliban:

ISIS release horrific execution video, claiming to be filmed in Afghanistan The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group has released a new execution video claiming to be filmed in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. A group of ten men is shown being blown up after forcing them sit on Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted beneath them in the ground. They have been accused of apostasy and supporting the Taliban militants in their fight against the ISIS affiliates and being the supporter of ISI.

Turkmenistan Refuses to Give Up on Pipe Dreams  

As ISIS and the Taliban are trying to outdo each other in terms of barbaric crimes, the violence is escalating all over the country. Women and children are dying in record numbers and the Afghan security forces have been suffering casualties at an "unsutainable rate" for quite some time. To make matters worse, Kabul is losing even more fighters due to desertions. That is why local militias are playing an increasingly important role, especially in northern Afghan provinces such as Faryab. Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is now personally leading the fight in Faryab to take the pressure of the local pro-government forces, which were unable to cope with the Taliban on their own. He would have preferred to bring his own 9,000-strong militia to the frontline but President Ghani didn't allow this for various reasons. Nevertheless, Dostum didn't travel to Faryab without support. He took his two sons along to show his determination. Not only Afghanistan is counting on the Dostum family to win the fight on the Turkmen border. Turkmenistan is already pushing ahead with ambitious plans:

Consortium Leader Picked for Trans-Afghan Pipeline The pipeline intended to forge a new export route through Afghanistan for Turkmenistan’s natural gas riches has made a fresh stride with the naming a consortium leader for construction. Turkmenistan’s state news agency reported on August 6 that state-owned Turkmengaz will be in charge of bringing TAPI — named for the initials of the four countries it crosses — into existence. Backers of the project, which include the United States and the European Union, appear to be unfazed by occasional and loosely sourced reports of unrest along the Turkmen-Afghan border that would stand to disrupt any major construction work. Security issues do not typically feature in official statements on TAPI, which suggests either that anxieties are overblown or that the parties to the project are simply hoping for the best.

French energy giant Total and several other foreign majors initially evinced interest in leading the consortium, but only on condition of getting a stake in the Turkmen gas field that will feed the pipeline. Turkmenistan refused to accept this condition, prompting one company after another to back out of the project. Even as Turkmenistan was coming under increasing pressure to diversify its gas exports, the Turkmen authorities didn't budge an inch. However, they didn't want to give up on the pipeline either. In a last-ditch attempt to implement the project, Ashgabat proposed to put Turkmengaz in charge of constructing the pipeline. The three other TAPI countries were apparently every bit as desperate as Turkmenistan and endorsed the idea despite Turkmengaz's lack of capacity and experience. Although the construction is scheduled to begin in December, TAPI's actual implementation remains highly doubtful and the same is true of Turkmenistan's other pipe dream:

NATO: We'll Help Protect Trans-Caspian Pipeline

NATO could get involved in protecting a potential trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which Russia strongly opposes, an alliance official has said. The idea of building a pipeline across the Caspian Sea to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan's massive reserves to Azerbaijan and then further on to Europe has been on the drawing board for a long time, but has been held back for a number of reasons, not least Russia's strong opposition. But now a NATO official has said that the alliance would play a part in protecting it. In an interview with Azerbaijani news website AzVision, NATO's South Caucasus Liaison Officer William Lahue weighed in on the pipeline and made some surprisingly bold endorsements of it...

Lahue pointed out that the construction of the Trans-Capsian gas pipeline is technically possible and suggested that NATO's "protection" could remove political obstacles. Given that Washington and Brussels are the driving forces behind the Trans-Caspian project, Lahue's bold statement comes as no real surprise. Russia and Iran, the project's opponents, have seen it coming. That is why they convinced the other Caspian states of rejecting a foreign military presence (i.e. NATO) in the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan desperately wants to diversify its gas exports, and even more so after the recent dispute with Gazprom over unpaid deliveries, but Ashgabat will think twice about asking NATO for "protection." Currently, Turkmenistan's only viable pipeline project is the fourth branch line of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline, which could yield at least a small-scale expansion into Kyrgyzstan's energy market:

Kyrgyz, Turkmen leaders discuss energy and transport issues Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to move forward in building a railroad and a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China via Kyrgyzstan during Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's official visit to Bishkek on August 5. It is Berdymukhammedov's first official visit to Kyrgyzstan. "The construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China via Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan will be implemented in the very near future," Berdymukhammedov said after his talks with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.

Russian Soldiers Cause a Stir in Tajikistan

Tajikistan will host the longest section of the new 1,000-kilometer Line D and is already looking forward to getting millions of dollars in transit fees every year. The poor Central Asian country needs the money more than ever after remittances from labor migrants in Russia, which account for almost half of the country's GDP, declined sharply in recent months due to Russia's economic problems. One could argue that Tajikistan is suffering from Western sanctions as much as Russia. But Tajikistan's close ties with Russia are also creating other problems. The never-ending debate about Russian military presence in the country was recently reignited after a group of drunken Russian soldiers in their underwear got into a brawl with local Tajik men who confronted them about their rude behavior. And just as the Tajik government was trying to assure its people that Russian soldiers don't enjoy "judicial impunity," Tajiks were reminded of another controversial incident last year:

Tajik Murder Trial Starts For Russian Soldiers Two Russian soldiers suspected in the killing of a Tajik taxi driver last year have gone on trial in the capital, Dushanbe. Russian army's deputy platoon commander Fyodor Basimov and former military unit commander Ildar Sakhapov were arrested in August last year after taxi driver Rahimjon Teshaboev, 36, was found dead near Dushanbe. An autopsy revealed that Teshaboev, a father of three, was severely beaten before his throat was slashed.

http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/081115_GGR4.pngAccording to the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Ildar Sakhapov admitted to killing the taxi driver. The judge said that Basimov had just assisted Sakhapov who had planned the murder. Two correspondents from RFE/RL's Tajik Service attended the trial and filmed a few minutes. The presiding Russian judge had granted them permission to do so but the present Russian officers were apparently not big fans of "anti-Russian U.S. propaganda tool" RFE/RL. As RFE/RL and others like to point out, hosting Russian military bases entails a few problems but that applies to foreign military presence in general. Moreover, the escalating violence in northern Afghanistan has reinforced Dushanbe's decision to let the Russians stay in the country for the foreseeable future. Instead of kicking out Russian soldiers, the Tajik authorities are going after Western-backed schools:

Tajikistan greenlights take over of Gulen-run schools Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has authorized the take over and renaming of a network of schools run by the U.S.-based preacher, Fethullah Gulen, in the country, according to Tajikistan's national news agency NIAT Hovar. In accordance with the decision signed by Rahmon, seven schools run by the Selale Educational Institution are going to be turned into public schools, and renamed as "schools for gifted children", the agency said. The decision to shut down the Gulen-run schools, and reopen them as state-run schools with different names was announced in May.

Gülen's schools in Tajikistan have been under high scrutiny for months, and with good reason. The Tajik regime sees the potential radicalization of the population as a major threat to its rule. This has led to some questionable decisions. The defection of Tajikistan's OMON commander to ISIS served as a warning that Dushanbe's war on Islam does more to fuel radicalization than to stop it but Rahmon & Co. didn't learn their lesson. Although experts are warning that the closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) will cause its members to go underground and join extremist groups, the regime is doing its best to destroy the IRPT. In doing so, the Tajik authorities risk boosting the terrorist recruitment that they are trying to stop. Tajikistan recently requested Interpol to put 16 Tajik ISIS fighters on the wanted list and announced that the list could be expanded significantly:

Tajikistan puts 16 people fighting for Islamic State on wanted list through Interpol

Interpol has put on the wanted list 16 Tajik citizens who are accused of involvement with the Islamic State terrorist group at the request of Tajikistan, a spokesman for Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security (SCNS) told TASS on Friday. He noted that "the list of wanted Islamic State supporters could grow to 600 and more people." "More than 600 our fellow countrymen are fighting in the ranks of Islamic State, their names and presumable locations in Syria, Iraq and partially in Afghanistan, are known to the country’s law enforcement agencies. Criminal cases against them have been opened under the "mercenary activities" article," the spokesman said. "Explanatory work is conducted among relatives of Islamic State supporters, other methods are used, which made it possible to return several young people to their home country."

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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

                                                       

BFP Exclusive- William Engdahl on Operation Gladio, Fethullah Gülen & One World Government

“CIA’s Graham Fuller: One of the early advocates of using Muslim Brotherhood & Gülen Cemaat to advance US foreign policy.”

The following is the translation of an interview with William Engdahl conducted by journalist Deniz Ülkütekin of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet:

  1. As I read you started to research about Gulen Cemaat when you came to Turkey for a conference. What was the thing that attracted your interest about Gulen and his members?
  2. WE: I am a geopolitical researcher and author now for more than thirty years. My prime theme is geopolitics or how power is organized in our world by whom, to what aim. When I was invited to Turkey on a speaking tour for one of my books, a Turkish journalist who since has become a trusted friend suggested if I wanted to understand what was going on in Turkey, a country I have long considered to have a far more positive role than she has played within NATO, I should look deeply into the Gülen Cemaat. That began a long process as I began to realize the deeper agenda behind the façade of Rumi that Gülen and his people project.

  3. Our first knowledge about Gülen is, his struggle against communism via a foundation (which was a NATO agenda indeed). So could we say that Gülen and his CIA relationship started long ago?
  4. WE: Yes, all evidence suggests that NATO Turkish Gladio networks picked up Gülen as a potentially useful asset years ago. As their agenda changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, their role for Gülen changed as well and doors were opened for him to play that role.

    So in a true sense we can say that the Gülen Cemaat is the nothing more than the projection of an idea from Langley Virginia CIA headquarters, an idea from essentially stupid people there who believed they could use him and they could abuse religion as a cover to advance their design for global control, what David Rockefeller calls One World Government.

    Unlike the CIA’s Mujahideen Jihadists like Hekmatyar in Afghanistan or Naser Oric in Bosnia, the CIA decided to give Fethullah Gülen a radically different image. No blood-curdling, head-severing, human-heart-eating Jihadist. No, Fethullah Gülen was presented to the world as a man of “peace, love and brotherhood,” even managing to grab a photo Op with Pope John Paul II, which Gülen featured prominently on his website. The Gülen organization in the US hired one of Washington’s highest-paid Public Relations image experts, George W. Bush’s former campaign director, Karen Hughes, to massage his “moderate” Islam image. 

    The ideas and manipulations of the CIA and US State Department are collapsing everywhere today, but they are blinded by their own arrogance. Just look at their absurd mess they created with the neo-nazis in Ukraine. 

  5. As it's a very conflicted subject, how do you certainly believe that Gülen and CIA work together?
  6. WE: This is not merely my view but that of very knowledgeable Turkish analysts and even the former Turkish MIT senior figure, Osman Nuri Gundes, former FBI Turkish-American translator Sibel Edmonds, and others have documented his deep links to very senior CIA people such as Graham Fuller.  When Gülen fled Turkey to avoid prosecution for treason in 1998, he chose not to go to any of perhaps a dozen Islamic countries which could have offered him asylum. He chose instead the United States. He did so with the help of the CIA. The US State Department tried to block a special “preference visa as an alien of extraordinary ability in the field of education” permanent visa status for Gülen, arguing he was basically a fraud with a fifth grade education and no special Islam scholar. Over the objections of the FBI, of the US State Department and of the US Department of Homeland Security, three former CIA operatives intervened and managed to secure a Green Card and permanent US residency for Gülen.

    Intervention by three current or “former” CIA people--George Fidas, who was US Ambassador to Turkey and an ex CIA Deputy Director; Morton Abramowitz who was described as at least “informal” CIA, and CIA career man who spent time in Turkey, Graham E. Fuller. They got Gülen asylum in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. That certainly suggests a strong tie at the very least.   

  7. Was the relationship between Gulen and the CIA depending on both parties’ benefits? If so what were their benefits? How did CIA support Gulen to develop and grow his foundation?
  8. WE: Yes, clearly. For the Gülen Cemaat it enabled a vast business empire to be created which gained more and more influence by placing its people inside the police, the courts and education ministry. He could build his recruiting schools across Central Asia with CIA support. In the USA and Europe, CIA-influenced media like CNN gave him beautiful free publicity to overcome opposition to open his schools across America. For the CIA it was one more tool to destroy not only an independent secular Kemalist Turkey, but to advance their Afghan drug trade worldwide and to use Gülen’s people to destabilize opponent regimes that CIA network in Washington, the “deep state” wanted to get rid of.

    Sibel Edmonds, former FBI Turkish translator and “whistleblower,” named Abramowitz, along with Graham E. Fuller, as part of a dark cabal within the US Government that she discovered were using networks out of Turkey to advance a criminal “deep state” agenda across the Turkic world, from Istanbul into China. The network that she documented included significant involvement in heroin trafficking out of Afghanistan.

    On retiring from the State Department, Abramowitz served on the board of the US Congress-financed National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and was a co-founder with George Soros of the International Crisis Group. Both the NED and International Crisis Group were implicated in various US Government-backed “color revolutions” since the 1990’s collapse of the Soviet Union, from Otpor in Serbia to the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the 2013-14 coup in Ukraine, to the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran, to the 2011 Lotus Revolution in Tahrir Square in Egypt. 

    Graham E. Fuller had been immersed in the CIA’s activities in steering Mujahideen and other political Islamic organizations since the 1980’s. He spent 20 years as CIA operations officer in Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and was one of the CIA’s early advocates of using the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist organizations like Gülen Cemaat to advance US foreign policy.

  9. How does CIA work via Gulen schools at Middle-Asia?
  10. WE: First it should be noted that Russia moved swiftly to ban the Gülen schools when the CIA began the Chechyn terror in the 1990’s. In the 1980’s when the Iran-Contra scandal broke in Washington (a scheme authored by Fuller at CIA), he “retired” to work at the CIA and Pentagon-financed RAND think-tank. There, under RAND cover, Fuller was instrumental in developing the CIA strategy for building the Gülen Movement as a geopolitical force to penetrate former Soviet Central Asia. Among his RAND papers, Fuller wrote studies on Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, in Sudan, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Algeria. His books praise Gülen lavishly.

    After the fall of the USSR, Fetullah Gülen’s cadre were sent to establish Gülen schools and Madrasses across newly-independent former Soviet states in Central Asia. It was a golden chance for the CIA, using the cover of Gülen religious schools, to send hundreds of CIA agents deep inside Central Asia the first time. In 1999 Fuller argued, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Russians. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”

    Gülen was named by one former FBI authoritative source as, “one of the main CIA operation figures in Central Asia and the Caucasus.” During the 1990’s the Gülen schools then growing up across Eurasia were providing a base for hundreds of CIA agents under cover of being “native-speaking English teachers.” Osman Nuri Gundes revealed that the Gülen movement “sheltered 130 CIA agents” at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone in the 1990s.

  11. Gulen migrated from Turkey to USA at 1999, 3 days after terrorist Kurdish movement leader Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped and brought to Turkey. What did it mean? Could Gulen co-operate better with CIA when he moved USA?
  12. WE: I think the CIA feared Gülen would end in prison and could be far more useful in US sanctuary where they could feed his image better and pump up his aura. Now clearly Gülen fears to return to Turkey even though he legally could. That says a lot.

  13. What does Gulen Foundation do for the benefits of CIA inside Turkey and Middle-East?
  14. WE: That would require a much longer discussion. What I find interesting is how a deep and now bitter split has emerged between Gülen Cemaat in Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I believe Erdogan began to pursue his own agenda and that came in collision with that of the CIA and State Department for Turkey in the larger world.

  15. Turkish goverment AKP currently running a huge police operation against Gulen members among justice and police organisation, on the other hand, public sceptic about these operations as AKP and Gulen were also allies before november 17th corruption scandal occured. So could we say that AKP, Tayyip Erdogan and CIA were also allies once?
  16. WE: Turkey is a NATO member so no Turkish government is permitted for long if it tries to be independent of NATO, i.e. Washington, for long, as you know. When Erdogan began going his own way, the US networks began to demonize him in media worldwide, and Gülen media attacked him fiercely. I believe the split between Erdogan and Gülen went long before Nov. 17 scandals. Who was behind the leaking of those accusations? What was US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone doing in that regard? Interesting questions for someone.

  17. You say that CIA is at Gulen's side in their fight against AKP. What could CIA do to stop Erdogan and AKP?
  18. WE: My opinion is that was what the scandals were for, to try to prevent Erdogan’s election as President but they failed. Keep in mind the “scandal”  was about how Erdogan allegedly violated US oil sanctions against Iran, so the scandals were intended to break that trade, a Washington goal. 

  19. Anything to add...

WE: I believe that Turkey today can play a very positive role in a new world that is emerging to replace the world of CIA wars, terror and chaos. Turkey is a geopolitical crossroads which has the possibility to play a very positive role in the emerging Eurasian system of China and Russia, the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in building energy and rail infrastructure. By herself, Turkey will be isolated and broken as Ukraine, and by the same people. In a principled economic and political alliance with Russia and China, she can play a pivot role in building a new world free of the debt of the collapsing Dollar System that also included the stagnating Europe. Turkey has a beautiful opportunity to partner with Russia and change the world power balance. It will require a lot of will. But if done in a good open way, Turkey could enjoy prosperity as never before and be a genuine “good neighbor.”

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*For the original article (PDF) published by Cumhuriyet click here

William Engdahl, BFP contributing Author & Analyst
William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order. He is a contributing author at BFP and may be contacted through his website at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net where this article was originally published.

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