The Alliance of Neutral States (ANS): Putin’s Anti-NATO Grand Design for the Balkans

Capitalizing on the popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political & economic status quo

For about two decades, it appeared that the end of the Cold War in Europe left the Balkan states with no long-term geostrategic option except the so-called Euro-Atlantic integrations underwritten by the ideology known as Atlanticism. This option reached the peak of its strength after NATO's military intervention in the Bosnian conflict in 1995 (which was its first out-of-area military operation since the founding in 1949) and NATO's 78-day long war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. More covertly, NATO forces also intervened in the Macedonian-Albanian conflict in 2001.

As the result of these offensive military undertakings, Bosnia and Kosovo essentially became NATO protectorates with the civilian administrations being supervised by the EU, while the U.S. military bases and auxiliary facilities were quickly established in both. In addition,  Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania became the members of NATO in 2004 and Croatia and Albania in 2009. All remaining Balkan states, surrounded by NATO members from all sides, rapidly developed close military and intelligence linkages with NATO headquarters in Brussels. This process was greatly helped by the fact that the ruling political elites in these states, except to some extent in Serbia and the Serb Republic (a political subunit within Bosnia), openly acted as NATO's agents of influence and advocated membership, even though this contradicted the political will of the majority of the population.

These Balkan political elites have been allowed to compensate for the obvious lack of internal democratic legitimacy by the endless praise from the high-level officials in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, and Washington, DC. Organized crime, corruption, lawless privatizations, massive unemployment, widespread poverty and hopelessness have simply been swept under the rug. The typically loud defenders of human rights and the rule of law have looked the other way. Evidently, the Atlanticist end justified all and any "dirty" means. Geography trumped democracy.

Progressive Resistance

It is true that even during this period there were political forces which advocated alternative scenarios, mostly based on the Titoist policy of non-alignment and the "third way" in international affairs. However, their activities were constantly being subverted by the well-oiled,  imported NATO propaganda machinery in the government, in the media, and in the non-governmental sector. Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans. They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the "line of fire" as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015.[1] They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world.[2] Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkan peoples.

However, even though these progressive groups still continue to be active with no less enthusiasm than before, they are being increasingly superseded in their anti-NATO efforts by the revival of the once vanquished (and left for dead) U.S. Cold War opponent. Since the beginning of conflict in Ukraine in early 2014, Putin's administration has returned to the Balkans with political force and funding not seen since the days of the tsar Nicholas II.

Enter Putin (in the footsteps of Nicholas II)

It is worth remembering that in summer 1914 Nicholas II entered what came to be known as the WWI in order to protect Serbia and the Serbian people from the Austro-Hungarian invasion. Some political circles in both Russia and Serbia understand the decades-long NATO's military activities in the very same historical key, especially with regard to the status of Kosovo. While the possibility that history will repeat itself in this respect is, thankfully, still far remote, it cannot be denied that recent developments go a long way in creating the ominous atmosphere for the eruption of localized violence in the near future.

These developments all relate to the declining popularity of the Atlanticist geopolitical narrative in the Balkans and the foremost among them is the public articulation of a new Balkan grand design by the Putin administration. Just as the fundamental component of the U.S. grand design for the Balkans is its eventual full integration into NATO, Russia has now articulated a clear and precise counter-design. Instead of joining NATO, the remaining non-NATO Balkan states (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Macedonia) are to form the alliance of neutral states (ANS).

The Lovćen Declaration

What the ANS means in practice can best understood if we examine the first formal document in which it has been articulated. This so-called Lovćen declaration was signed by the representatives of the United Russia party (founded by Putin and currently chaired by the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev) and the Montenegrin opposition party Democratic People's Party in the historically significant Montenegrin village of Njeguši on May 6, 2016.[3]

Njeguši is the birthplace of the Montenegrin royal dynasty of Petrović-Njegoš which ruled over Montenegro for more than 200 years and developed very close political and family ties with the long-ruling Russian dynasty of Romanovs. Moreover, the declaration was signed in the house in which one of the most famous rulers of the dynasty, Petar II, known as the Montenegrin Shakespeare, was born. The name of the declaration also has an important historical connotation as it comes from the nearby mountain Lovćen on the top of which the Petar II's mausoleum is located.

One of the most powerful political figures in Montenegro, the metropolitan Amfilohije, the chief bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was present at the signing and gave his blessing. Though in the past Amfilohije has been known to support the authoritarian and pro-NATO prime minister Milo Djukanović around the election time, he has always publicly opposed NATO membership and has given fiery speeches on its "evil nature" to the point of accusing NATO for continuing Hitler's anti-Slavic project.[4]

Even more importantly, Amfilohije's involvement with the Lovćen declaration reveals one of the fundamental components of Putin's overall geopolitical plan - the nurturing and intensification of the religious Christian Orthodox connection between the Russians and the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. This includes not the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, but also the Greeks and Bulgarians whose states are in NATO and whose religious "awakening" can easily subvert NATO from the inside. The strength of this connection and its future implications have seriously been underestimated by the Atlanticist circles. There are clear indications that these circles have been taken by surprise and now, in their first reactions, seek to minimize the importance of Putin's ANS efforts.

The Atlanticist Response

For example, the journalist Gennady Sysoev, Balkan correspondent for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, who is known in Montenegro for his NATO-friendly commentaries, claims that Putin's undertaking is bound to end in failure because the partners of the United Russia in the Balkans are in the political opposition and the ANS goes against the officially proclaimed policies of the Montenegrin and other Balkan governments.[5] However, Sysoev is intentionally silent on the fact that, given the present political instability in Montenegro, Bosnia, and Macedonia, the United Russia's political partners, which, it is true, are now in the opposition, might be able to come to power at some point in the not too distant future. Indeed, they have entered the partnership with Russia's ruling political party precisely because they intend not to be the opposition any longer and expect financial and logistical help from Putin in their electoral political activities. They will hardly be disappointed. The Lovćen declaration spells out in detail all aspects of political, economic, and social relations in which the Russian support will be forthcoming.

The NATO-controlled media in Montenegro quickly seized on Sysoev's article and summarized it under the title "Putin's party relies on marginal figures."[6] The speed of translation and publication suggest the high degree of coordination. However, the title of the article is misleading because the very same method has been used by the U.S. and NATO intelligence services to control the governments of East-Central European states since the collapse of communism. Countless small parties with just a handful of parliamentary deputies were formed with the money coming from the various "black budgets" with the task of entering the governing coalition and then steering the entire government in the direction charted by their foreign founders and mentors. These parties have had minimal public legitimacy, but have made a great political impact with their "blackmail" potential. As they also don't cost very much, the CIA, the MI6, and the BND regularly create them for every new election cycle.

Now the Russians (primarily, the SVR and the GRU) are using the same rulebook for their own geopolitical interests. In addition, however, Putin's grand design for the Balkans embodied in the ANS is also likely to prove durable not only because it builds on the traditional cultural and religious ties linking Russia and the Balkans, but also because it rides on the wave of the enormous present popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political and economic status quo.

# # # #

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

NOTES

[1] http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5a7_1425064348 ;  See also my previous BFP article on the destabilization factors in the Balkans, http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/03/03/bfp-exclusive-who-is-trying-to-destabilize-the-balkans/

[2] Consider for instance the activities of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro and similar organizations across the ex-Yugoslav political space, http://mnmne.org/

[3] http://ruskarec.ru/politics/2016/05/06/u-crnoj-gori-je-potpisana-lovcenska-deklaracija-sa-jedinstvenom-rusijom_591025

[4] http://www.dan.co.me/?nivo=3&rubrika=Drustvo&datum=2015-07-21&clanak=501981

[5] http://kommersant.ru/doc/2982518

[6] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/putinova-stranka-se-oslanja-na-marginalce-887562

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds: Syria & the Real Winners of a Synthetic Conflict

In this episode we are going to briefly discuss synthetic conflicts. In particular we’ll be looking at the real gains and the real winners- rather than getting lost in the distortion maze that has been designed by the deep state, and implemented via their propaganda tentacles-Media. With all the talk on the ISIL conflict, and with all the speculations surrounding Russia’s in-and-out of Syria maneuver, it is time to put aside the lenses provided by the media (aka the deep state propaganda machine), bring out the magnifier, and search for the truth of these matters by following the money.

With every war, battle and conflict we must engage in the following inventory-taking process: what will be gained, by whom; what are the dollars involved and who gets these dollars. Join me and let us explore the answers to these questions.

* Please do ‘Your’ share: Pledge and help us activate others to make Newsbud- A 100% People-Funded Media with Integrity a reality.

Listen to the full audio version here (BFP Subscribers Only):

Show Notes

Syrian Campaign Pays Off as Moscow Lands Military Contracts

How much money will Russia make off operations in Syria?

Who Will Profit From the Wars in Iraq and Syria?

Bombs Away! Lockheed Expanding Missile Factories, Quadruples Bomb Production for ISIS Long Haul

Book: The Lone Gladio- By Sibel Edmonds

Operation Gladio B

Corbett Report: Operation Gladio B Series with Sibel Edmonds

Secret Warfare Operation Gladio & NATO’s Stay Behind Armies

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds- False Flag Ops, the Morning After & the Profiteers

Terrorism: The Needed Juice that Expands Wars, Police-Surveillance State

This is our third episode in our coverage of the recent Belgium Bombing as another synthetic terror event carried out under Operation Gladio B. In this episode we’ll begin looking at reactions, events and actions that are taking place since the execution of this recent plot, and the ones that took place before that. We’ll look at objectives that are being pursued and pushed, and who benefits from it all.

We look at the chain of events following a synthetically created terror action. And with that we see the needed juice that expands our wars, and expands our police and surveillance practices. The existence and expansion of the Military and Intelligence industrial Complexes depend on terrorism. And what wouldn’t they do to ensure that we have plenty of that?

* Please do ‘Your’ share: Pledge and help us activate others to make Newsbud- A 100% People-Funded Media with Integrity a reality.

Listen to the full audio version here (BFP Subscribers Only):

Show Notes

Ex-Brussels mayor: We need a pan-European FBI to counter terror threat

How the Brussels attacks affect the global fight against terror

Terror Threats Thaw Budgets Across Europe

Brussels attacks rekindle privacy vs. security debate in Europe

How private firms have cashed in on the climate of fear since 9/11

The End of the Rainbow: The Intelligence-Industrial Complex

Booz Allen Hamilton: 70% of the U.S. Intelligence Budget Goes to Private Contractors

Operation Gladio B

 

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds- Belgium Bombing: All the Gladio’s Protected Terror Men

Full-immunity for & protection of terror implementers combined with scripted forewarnings issued by Operation Gladio hubs

This is a follow-up to our previous overview of the recent Belgium Bombing carrying every single hallmark of Operation Gladio B. I present one of the common trademarks present in all Gladio B synthetic terror operations since 9/11, and illustrate how Gladio’s terror operations always come with multiple forewarnings, and how, despite all the scripted and on-the-record forewarnings, the operatives are allowed to travel, communicate, and execute the intended and synthetically-created terror plots.

There will be more to discuss and analyze on this latest Operation Gladio B synthetic terror event. In our next episode I’ll be looking at what has already been taking place since the execution of the plot, which objectives are being pushed, and who benefits from it all.

* Please do ‘Your’ share: Pledge and help us activate others to make Newsbud- A 100% People-Funded Media with Integrity a reality.

Listen to the full audio version here (BFP Subscribers Only):

Show Notes

Operation Gladio B

Corbett Report: Operation Gladio B Series with Sibel Edmonds

Belgian Stay Behind Network

Secret Warfare Operation Gladio & NATO’s Stay Behind Armies

Algerian Killed in Belgium Terror Raid Matches ISIS Recruitment File

Khalid & Brahim El Bakraoui: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Ibrahim El Bakraoui was on US counterterrorism watch list before Paris attacks

Belgium terror incompetence laid bare

Who is Salah Abdeslam and who were the Paris terrorists? Everything we know about the Isil attackers

Corbett Report- Sibel Edmonds Shines A Light on the Brussels Attacks

Sibel Edmonds of Boiling Frogs Post & Newsbud.com joins us to discuss the Brussels attacks. We discuss Belgium's central role as the base of NATO/EU/Gladio headquarters and how the script of this event follows the script of previous false flags almost precisely. We also talk about the public's reaction to these events and how both the mainstream and alternative media are being divided and conquered to keep people from questioning the true roots of these events.

*SHOW NOTES & MP3: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=18217

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds- Belgium Bombing: The Missing Context, Facts & Interests

Probable Cause with Sibel Edmonds- Belgium Bombing: The Missing Context, Facts & Interests

This is a brief presentation on several important angles and facts on the recent bombings in Belgium. As always, the deep-state-mouth-piece media is presenting the entire incident with twists and omissions, so I am going to bring up at least a few things quickly here, and later, follow up with more in-depth analyses. There are, and will be, lots to discuss and analyze on this latest Operation Gladio B synthetic terror event. Also, keep in mind, what will take place afterwards, whether it is expanding the existing wars or starting new ones, whether it is furthering police state practices, is equally if not more important than the bombing itself.

* Please do ‘Your’ share: Pledge and help us activate others to make Newsbud a reality.

Listen to the full audio version here (BFP Subscribers Only):

Show Notes

Operation Gladio B

Corbett Report: Operation Gladio B Series with Sibel Edmonds

Belgian Stay Behind Network

Secret Warfare Operation Gladio & NATO’s Stay Behind Armies

Belgium Has Become Center for Extremists

Belgium Warned of Attacks

Who’s Behind ISIS?

Brussel Attack Suspects’ Images

BFP Exclusive- Will the Next U.N. Secretary-General Come From the Balkans?

The Chinese support will be decisive if Türk is to prevail over the intelligence networks backing Bokova

Seventy years ago, the organization of United Nations was officially founded in San Francisco, the city I live in at this time. A few days ago, I went to see the mural commemorating this event in the city's landmark cathedral, Grace Cathedral on California St. Painted by the Bolivian-American artist Antonio Sotomayor, the mural depicts all nations of the world coming together in the spirit of peace and cooperation.[1]

The question as to whether, and to what extent, the U.N. activities in its seven-decade-long existence helped or hindered the sustenance of that spirit is the subject of many polemics in both the mainstream and alternative media and cannot be addressed in the short space of this article. However, it is indicative that those currently opposed to the U.S.-NATO global hegemony are increasingly pointing to the Charter of the United Nations as a valid starting point for the more just reconfiguration of global affairs. Such is, for instance, the view of the Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed in the documentary "World Order," which was produced by the Russian state-controlled TV channel and aired at the end of December 2015.[2] Putin explicitly linked the roots of the prevailing chaotic political and economic situation in many parts of the world to the U.S. and its allies' open and blatant violation of the Charter in undertaking their military interventions, starting with NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Spring 1999.

It is interesting that both the current President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolić and the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić appeared in the documentary. This is something that will definitely cause the ire of the Washington Establishment, because the documentary gathered together many well-known critics of the U.S. foreign policy, such as the film director Oliver Stone and the Bundestag deputy Sahra Wagenknecht. The appearance of Vučić is all the more curious, considering that he is a good friend of the long-time U.S. deep state asset, Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, and has recently become a protégé of the U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden. No doubt there will be a political price for Vučić to pay for this escapade, if, of course, he was not assigned the role of a double-agent, passing on to the Americans what the Russians tell him in confidence.

The brief appearance in the film is also made by the current Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, which is a sign that the Russian foreign policy circles consider the position of the Secretary-General important in their efforts to generate and codify new international rules of behavior for what they see as the emerging multi-polar world. Of course, even a cursory look at Ban's almost ten years at the helm of the U.N. will reveal that he has favored the aims of the U.S.-NATO global hegemony. However, including him in the documentary signifies that the Russians intend to exert quite a lot of influence and pressure in the choice of his successor. In fact, not only the Russians, but also the elites of all the other BRICS countries (Brazil, China, India, and South Africa), will no doubt put their political and economic weight in play. In my opinion, this will be one of the key international political battles in the coming year.

The Process

Ban Ki-moon is the 8th U.N. Secretary-General since February 1946 when the Norwegian socialist politician Trygve Lie, a compromise candidate, was chosen for that post. Ban took office on January 1, 2007 and is now in the last year of his second five-year term. Needless to say, the process of choosing his successor has already begun behind the closed doors. In the past, the selection process was guided by regional considerations, though there are no written rules to that effect.

The only formal rule regarding the selection process is found in Chapter XV, Article 97 of the U.N. Charter and states that "the Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly [in which all 193 member states have one vote] upon the recommendation of the Security Council [which consists of 10 temporary members serving on a 2-year rotating basis and 5 permanent members with veto power - U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia, and China]."[3] Early on in the U.N. history, it was decided that only one candidate would be recommended to the General Assembly and so far the recommended candidate has always been voted in.

It is important to note that the only region which has yet to have its representative as the U.N. Secretary-General is Eastern Europe. This makes the question in the title of this article worth asking and answering in detail. And, in fact, most candidates put forth by this time come from the Balkan states.

In addition, it is likely that the selection process this time around will also include the gender dimension. No woman has ever been appointed to this position and there is a growing number of voices in support of breaking the "glass-ceiling" in this respect as well.[4]

The Candidates

One of the first Balkan politicians who declared his candidacy for this post was Vuk Jeremić, the Foreign Minister of Serbia from 2007 to 2012. At 32 years of age, he was one of the youngest foreign ministers in the history of diplomacy. The most challenging issue for the state of Serbia - the recognition of the autonomous province of Kosovo as an independent state by the U.S. and most EU countries - took place at the beginning of his term. Jeremić travelled to many African and Asian capitals in the effort to stop the wave of recognitions and many observers declare his mission a success for Serbian diplomacy. Even at this time, Kosovo is recognized by only about 60% of the world's states and there is no Great Power consensus about its membership in the key international organizations.

In addition, Jeremić was successful in being elected the President of the U.N. General Assembly in June 2012 for an one-year term starting in September 2012 and ending in September 2013. In the vote by the General Assembly, he was able to defeat the Lithuanian diplomat Dalius Čekuolis, the U.S-NATO candidate for the post, in what one analyst called "a basketball score" - 99:85.[5] Needless to say, this did not make Jeremić the friend of the hegemonists, but it definitely enhanced his reputation among the developing nations of the world. The representatives of these nations might potentiatially be his greatest allies in this candidacy as well.

It is important to note that Jeremić received the vote of Montenegro, was rejected by Croatia, while the representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina abstained from voting. This means that these three ex-Yugoslav republics, even 25 years after the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia, do not consider themselves to be on the same geopolitical page.

However, regardless of the international support it may have, Jeremić's candidacy has recently hit a major roadblock. It appears likely that the government of Serbia will not endorse his candidacy, which makes him ineligible to run. In an interview several days ago, President Nikolić was explicit about that,[6] while Prime Minister Vučić's response was more nuanced, but still in the same general direction.[7] The explanation for this is to be found in the Serbian domestic politics. Jeremić used to be a member of the opposition political party and is still an opposition member of the Parliament.

While Serbia has yet to endorse a candidate for the U.N. post, the neighboring Bulgaria has already endorsed Irina Bokova who has been the Director-General of UNESCO, the specialized U.N. agency for educational, scientific, and cultural matters, since 2009. Before being selected for this post, Bokova has held several influential positions in the Bulgarian foreign policy establishment.[8] It is interesting that she graduated from Moscow State University for International Affairs [МГИМО], the premier Soviet school for diplomacy as well as the most fertile recruiting ground for both the KGB and the SVR [the Soviet internal and external intelligence agencies], but in the 1990s became a NATO fellow and attended Harvard's JFK School of Government. In other words, it is very likely that Bokova is firmly enmeshed in the intelligence networks on both sides of the past and present Iron Curtain and this, in addition to the already time-tested globalist experience and commitments in her present post, in my opinion, makes her a possible winner. Obviously, she also brings in the needed gender dimension.

Still, there is one more candidate who is a very serious contender for the post. That candidate is Danilo Türk, the President of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012. He is a distinguished professor of international law and has already served in a high-level position at the U.N. He was Assistant U.N. Secretary-General for Political Affairs from 2000 to 2005 during the mandate of Kofi Anan.[9] While in this position, Türk had made a lot of diplomatic contacts around the world and, at this time, it appears that he is able to garner the support of BRICS countries. He visited China last year and gave a long interview on CCTV. His statements sounded thoughtful and impartial, which is a rarity in the current polarized geopolitical climate, and I discerned many similarities with the non-aligned policies of the long-time Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito. Türk was also the only male candidate mentioned by name in the recent NYT article on this topic.[10]

There are also several other candidates from the Balkans, but these are more "vanity" candidacies and have no serious chance of getting any votes. The most laughable among them is the candidacy of the Foreign Minister of Montenegro, Igor Lukšić, one of the most corrupt players of the repressive Djukanović regime. As is already clear, he won't get any support even from the countries bordering Montenegro, let alone from any others.[11] This does not mean, however, that the corrupt regime will not spend a lot of Montenegrin taxpayers' money on Lukšić's fruitless lobbying excursions around the world.

So, to conclude, I think that there is a high degree of probability that the next U.N. Secretary-General will indeed come from the Balkans and that the Chinese support will be decisive if Türk is to prevail over the intelligence networks backing Bokova.

# # # #

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

 

NOTES

[1] http://un70charter.org/location/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNhYzYUo42g

[3] http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xv/index.html

[4] http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/12/02/u-n-leaders-call-for-a-woman-to-replace-secretary-general-ban-ki-moon-in-2017/

[5] http://www.b92.net/mobilni/info/616909

[6] http://mondo.rs/a862061/Info/Srbija/Tomislav-Nikolic-Ne-podrzavam-kandidaturu-Vuka-Jeremica-za-generalnog-sekretara-UN.html

[7] http://www.pravda.rs/2015/12/28/vucic-o-kandidaturi-vuka-jeremica-za-generalnog-sekretra-un-a/

[8] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/biography/

[9] http://www2.gov.si/up-rs/2007-2012/turk-ang-arhiv.nsf/dokumentiweb/Zivljenjepis?OpenDocument

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/world/after-70-years-of-men-some-say-it-is-high-time-a-woman-led-the-un.html?_r=0

[11] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/kandidat-za-genseka-un-dacic-necemo-podrzati-ni-makedoniju-ni-cg-ni-hrvatsku/df904g4

 

Deadly Sarin Gas Delivered to Syria Was Provided by Certain Western Countries (AKA NATO)

The following is very good coverage by Spiro: A treason investigation has been launched against a Turkish MP who alleged in an exclusive interview with RT that Islamic State jihadists delivered deadly sarin gas to Syria through Turkey.

Turkish MP faces treason charges after telling RT ISIS used Turkey for transiting sarin

BFP Exclusive- Developing Story: Hundreds of US-NATO Soldiers Arrive & Begin Operations on the Jordan-Syria Border

BFP Exclusive: Syria- Secret US-NATO Training & Support Camp to Oust Current Syrian President

US Media: Distorters of Reality & Gravediggers of Truth

BFP Exclusive- What the New York Times Did Not Tell You About NATO & Montenegro

The New York Times throws its weight behind those whose global code of conduct is nothing else but the expression of the war-mongering slogan "might makes right."

On December 2, 2015, the foreign ministers of NATO member states, including the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, agreed to grant a membership invitation to Montenegro.[1]

In response to this indisputable historical fact, the New York Times published two articles, a front page article and an editorial, which, due to their selective and biased treatment of the issue at hand, make it impossible for the readers to gain an objective understanding of the complexity of the situation on the ground. Both articles are consistent with the goals of an expansionist U.S. foreign policy and show little desire to engage with the expansionism's destabilizing consequences not only in Montenegro and the Balkans, but also in Europe and beyond.

The NYT Front Page Article

The front page article, signed by Steven Erlanger, is entitled "NATO Unveils Plans to Grow, Drawing Fury and Threats from Russia."[2] As is evident, Montenegro is not even mentioned in the title, and this is the treatment of Montenegro and its citizens that Erlanger demonstrates throughout the article. Apparently, for Erlanger, looking down from on high, it does not really matter what the citizens of a sovereign state think about their country's future. He is more than willing to erase Montenegrin individual and collective subjectivities and present Montenegro as a mere pawn in the Great Powers' geopolitical chess game. According to him, all that matters is that NATO is on track in implementing "its plans" and that Russia reacted not only negatively, but "in fury."

The old Orientalist cliché, so well described by the Palestinian-American critical theorist Edward Said, is being repeated here. While the West is presented as cool and rational (making its plans into reality), the East is emotional and unpredictable (reacting with threats and fury). According to Erlanger's elitist account, here once again we have the case of the "mature" and powerful West scoring against the "immature" and powerless East.

The fact that the ultimate decision about joining NATO will not be made by NATO foreign ministers but by the people of Montenegro themselves is not only disregarded by Erlanger, but it is intentionally presented in the way that falsifies the reality on the ground. Namely, in the only reference to the Montenegrin internal politics in the entire article - and it is no more than a half-sentence -, Erlanger writes that Montenegro is "eager to join." This is very far from being true.

The majority of people in Montenegro actually prefer the option of military neutrality. However, the government of Montenegro, in order to preserve its undemocratic grip on power, has undertaken an immense and well-financed propaganda effort to convince the NATO decision-makers that the anti-NATO sentiment is losing ground. The Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, a corrupt opportunist well-connected to the shadowy networks of organized crime and intelligence services,[3] in power since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, even called those who are against NATO membership "the enemies of the state." However, the objective assessment of Djukanović's tenure can easily show that it is him who is the authentic destroyer of the Montenegrin state, considering that no state institution in Montenegro today is free from the control of his inner circle of family and friends.

Moreover, it is clear that Djukanović is ready to do anything it takes to stay in power. In late October 2015, the special police forces instructed by Djukanović brutally suppressed civic anti-government demonstrations. Anybody found on the street was tear-gassed and beaten without mercy.[4]

None of this is mentioned by Erlanger. It simply does not square well with his account in which NATO figures as the champion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights, protecting the world against evil dictatorships.

The NYT Editorial

The editorial article does not score much better on the scale of fairness and objectivity than Erlanger's geopolitical propaganda piece. It is entitled "Russia's Fury Over Montenegro and NATO."[5] Again, we have the issue of the Russian "fury" and NATO's "coolness." We have Vladimir Putin being made the centerpiece of the article, instead of the focus being directed to the people of Montenegro who are the only legitimate decision-makers on the subject of Montenegro's NATO membership.

Just like in Erlanger's article, there is only a brief mention of the internal political realities in Montenegro. It is tucked to the end of the article like an after-thought. It refers to the issue of the "sharply divided sentiments among Montenegrins" concerning NATO membership. While this comes closer to the reality on the ground than Erlanger's "eagerness to join," it is still misleading. Namely, the sentiments are not "sharply divided," because there is a clear majority of those who are against membership. The Djukanović's government is well-aware of this fact and that is why it is trying to find ways to block the initiative for holding the referendum on the subject.

Instead of promoting the right of ordinary people to have a say on matters that will significantly affect their lives, as one would expect from any liberal newspaper, the New York Times throws its weight behind those whose global code of conduct is nothing else but the expression of the war-mongering slogan "might makes right."

# # # #

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

NOTES

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/europe/nato-montenegro-membership-invitation/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/03/world/europe/kerry-nato-syria-russia.html?_r=0

[3] See my earlier BFT article - http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/02/05/bfp-exclusive-the-citizenship-policies-of-the-us-puppets-the-case-of-montenegros-milo-djukanovic/

[4] http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/violence-in-montenegros-capital-an-overview/

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/russias-fury-over-montenegro-and-nato.html

 

BFP Exclusive- Stoltenberg in Belgrade, Biden in Zagreb

The U.S.-NATO Diplomatic Offensive in the Balkans

The recent visits of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Belgrade and U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden to Zagreb within a week of each other show that both the U.S. and NATO are in the process of trying to augment their influence in the Balkans.

For more than a decade, after the overthrow of the regime of Slobodan Milosević in Serbia in 2000, the Balkans have been perceived by the U.S. and NATO decision-makers as their own fairly secure geopolitical playground. It is true that there has been a certain degree of displeasure with the behavior of various Serb political leaders both in the Serbian political entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Republika Srpska) and in Serbia proper. However, considering that these contrarian activities were essentially sui generis and did not depend on external support, they were criticized rhetorically, but were, in real terms, simply swept under the rug, hoping that in time they would go away by themselves. They were treated like the case of a bad cold. Sure it is obnoxious and slows you down, but if you just rest for a while, it will disappear even if you do nothing about it. And, after all, almost all politicians in contemporary Balkans have plenty of financial "skeletons" in their respective luxury closets, so that they are not all that difficult to keep on the short leash.

However, starting about two years ago, but intensifying after the outbreak of the violent confrontations in Ukraine in early 2014, the Balkan geopolitical chessboard suddenly became much more complex. Not only did the Chinese government institutions and banks begin to be active in financing various large-scale infrastructure projects in the Balkans,[1] but also the Russian government started to comment publicly on internal political developments in various Balkan countries. In many respects, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to play the role reserved since the end of the Cold War only for the U.S. State Department. This could hardly go unnoticed in Washington and Brussels and became the cause of an increasing concern.

The first time the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted in this way was during the wide-spread anti-government protests in Macedonia (FYROM) in the first months of 2015.[2] It sided with the official narrative of the government of Nikola Gruevski and against the activities of the opposition. It perceived the Gruevski government as favorable to Russia's own geopolitical interests and the opposition as doing the bidding of the Western powers, especially the U.S.

It is interesting to note that not long afterwards, reacting to an internal political crisis in another Balkan state, this time in Montenegro, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its public pronouncements took the side of the opposition as against the government. In fact, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanović, directly accused the Russian government of assisting the opposition protests in the country.[3] Most observers interpreted Djukanović's claim as a Machiavellian strategy to get support and sympathy from NATO and the U.S. despite the documented abuses of the corrupt, authoritarian regime he has been running for more than 25 years. Djukanović's accusations received a stinging rebuke from Moscow.[4] In fact, having read the original statement of the Ministry in Russian, I can say that I have not seen such a strongly worded statement issued by the Russian government against another state's leader since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It appears that the decision-makers in Brussels and Washington noticed the same thing and, as a result, decided to initiate the on-going diplomatic initiative in which the visits of high-level officials play a crucial role. That is the context in which the visits of Stoltenberg and Biden should be placed.

However, in addition to understanding the general context, it is also important to look at the specific content of these visits in order to be able to discern the shape of things to come.

Stoltenberg in Belgrade      

Jens Stoltenberg's visit to Belgrade was the first visit of a NATO General Secretary in ten years. As is well known, Serbia (at that time still a constituent component of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) suffered tremendous human and material damage during the 78-day long NATO bombing campaign in the spring of 1999. Even conservative estimates indicate that several hundred civilians, including children, were killed by the bombs. It is no surprise then that opposition to NATO and NATO-led activities runs high among the ordinary people in Serbia. This represents a big problem for NATO geopolitical expansionists who would like to assimilate Serbia into the fold.

If we examine the choreography of Stoltenberg's visit carefully, we begin to notice the cogs in the propaganda machinery to sway the "hearts and minds" of the Serbian citizens in favor of NATO. This effort centers on the figure of Stoltenberg and uses the facts of his personal biography in a manipulative way. Namely, Stoltenberg's father - Thorvald Stoltenberg - was a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade when Jens was a small child. So, in all his public appearances in Belgrade, Stoltenberg stressed the experiences of his early childhood.[5] He recited the Serbian children's song. He recalled his Serbian governess (and his first ice-cream) with a great deal of emotion. He confessed that he adored the Serbian cuisine. The culmination was when he twitted that, in his heart, he was in fact a person from Belgrade (Beogradjanin). No doubt, a true Hollywood scenario, but for a B-movie. The NATO PR specialists know well that the first step to accepting the message is to trust the messenger.

But, it did not stop there. The Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, actively wooed by NATO as well as by the U.S., announced with an air of triumph that NATO has "returned" 25 kilometers of the Serbian airspace to the Serbian control.[6] The fact that Serbia did not have a complete control over its airspace was not widely known and Vučić would probably have tried to avoid talking about it, if asked even a week earlier. Now, however,  NATO's "return" of the airspace was the front page news.

Was there anybody to ask the basic question as to under what legal authority NATO held on to this part of the Serbian airspace at all? The 1999 military intervention itself violated international law, including the Charter of the United Nations. In other words, this situation is equivalent to that of a thief returning a piece of your property after 15 years and, instead of reporting him to the police, you throw a party in his honor. Would any credible leader, committed to the well-being of  his or her country's citizens, do something like this? Obviously, Vučić has his own reasons, which appear to have little to do with the public interest, but, arguably, quite a lot with the issues he discussed privately with Biden during his visit to Washington in September.[7]

Biden in Zagreb

Biden himself has come to the Balkans yet again. I have chronicled his Balkan connections in two previous BFP articles.[8] On November 25, 2015, Biden came to Zagreb to take part in the summit of the Balkan presidents called the "Brdo-Brijuni Process." It is an annual summit organized jointly by the presidents of Croatia and Slovenia and the name comes from the two well-known conference resorts (Brdo kod Kranja in Slovenia and Brijuni in Croatia). It is a recent invention which started in 2013 and is a kind of the consolation prize for those Balkan countries which are not the full members of the European Union. The way things stand, however, it appears that they will remain in this status for a long time to come.

Biden was specifically invited by the president of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. As I have shown in my previous BFP articles, Grabar-Kitarović is the key champion of the U.S.-NATO power in the Balkans.[9] She has served both as the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Croatian Ambassador to the U.S. and her most recent function, before being elected president in January 2015, was NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy. In many respects, Croatia is NATO's hub for the Balkans and it plays a large role in NATO's anti-Putin designs. Croatia, for instance, granted citizenship to one of the most vocal Putin's critics, the former world chess celebrity Gary Kasparov.[10]

That there was a certain degree of urgency to this summit is exposed by the fact that the annual "Brdo-Brijuni" summit was already held in Budva, Montenegro in June 2015.[11] This is why this summit was labeled "extraordinary" even by the organizers. In other words, the geopolitical winds started blowing from the direction which is not particularly pleasant for the U.S.-NATO long-time "orderers" of the Balkans.

Biden's statement at the summit echoed the unabashedly expansionist spirit now under the increasing strain from both Russia and China. He admitted that the region was "of extraordinary significance" for the U.S. which should be interpreted to mean that the U.S. and NATO would protect their geopolitical gains using any and all means at their disposal.[12] The implication is that, in case it becomes necessary, this may also include the long-favored method of the "regime change" as well as the violation of the democratically expressed will of the majority. This strategy has already been put into practice in Montenegro where the majority of the population does not want NATO membership and yet the government of Milo Djukanović, in tight coordination with the embassies of several NATO states and the U.S.-based lobbyists, has been trying to shove it down their throats for years.

However, the most revealing statement at the summit was made by another new-Cold-War warrior against Russia, former Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk, now in the position of the President of the European Council (the figurehead EU President). He spoke more concretely about the "Euro-Atlantic" (NATO) future of the region than about its integration into the EU, even though he did express the opinion that all of the Balkans would eventually be invited in.[13] If we disregard Tusk's bureaucratic platitudes, the picture that emerges is that the EU expansion has definitely stalled and that those Balkan countries left out on the other side of the "Fortress Europe" should begin thinking about political alternatives. Otherwise, the augmented NATO militarization of the Balkans is imminent and, in the context of the deep economic and social crisis brought about by the anti-humanist neo-liberal model, this will likely lead to the flare-ups of violence all across the region.

# # # #

NOTES:

[1] For a more detailed analysis, see my earlier BFP article "China and the Balkans," http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/12/15/bfp-exclusive-china-the-balkans-this-geopolitical-battle-in-its-beginning-phases/

[2] http://www.suedosteuropa.uni-graz.at/biepag/node/156; http://balkanist.net/russia-macedonia-pan-slavism/

[3] http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/montenegro-says-russia-trying-to-force-regime-change/540359.html

[4] http://rbth.com/news/2015/10/27/moscow-perplexed-by-rusias-accusation-of-provoking-protests-in-montenegro_534477

[5] http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Politika/607535/BEOGRADjANIN-U-SRCU-Znamo-gde-je-sef-NATO-odrastao-ali-jednu-jos-vazniju-stvar-ne-znamo; http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Politika/607996/Vucic-Svaka-vrsta-naseg-loseg-odnosa-sa-NATO-moze-da-nam-steti

[6]http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/ci/story/1/%D0%9F%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/2111284/%D0%9A%D1%84%D0%BE%D1%80+%D1%83%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%83%D0%BE+%D0%BE%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%9A%D0%B0+%D0%B7%D0%B0+%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5+%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B4%D1%83%D1%88%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3+%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B0+%D0%A1%D1%80%D0%B1%D0%B8%D1%98%D0%B5.html

[7] http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Politika/590705/Vucic-i-Bajden-EU-ce-biti-cela-kad-Srbija-udje-u-nju

[8] See my BFP articles - "Joe Biden in Munich: Incentivizing the U.S. Balkan Vassals," http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/02/17/bfp-exclusive-joe-biden-in-munich-incentivizing-the-us-balkan-vassals/ and "Biden's Balkan Sphere of Influence," http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/06/07/bfp-exclusive-bidens-balkan-sphere-of-influence/

[9] See my BFP articles - "The Balkans Presidential December: A Test for the U.S.-NATO Empire, "  http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/12/23/bfp-exclusive-the-balkans-presidential-december-a-test-for-the-us-nato-empire/ and "The Balkans Elections Update: Croatia & Greece," http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/01/29/bfp-exclusive-the-balkans-elections-update-croatia-greece/

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/chess-champion-garry-kasparov-croatian-citizenship

[11] http://www.rtvbudva.me/vijesti/danas-u-budvi-pocinje-dvodnevni-sastanak-lidera-brdo-brioni-procesa/8766

[12] http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Politika/609053/SAMIT-U-ZAGREBU-Bajden-Ova-regija-je-od-izuzetnog-znacaja-za-SAD

[13]http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/11/Region/2116595/Lideri+Jugoisto%C4%8Dne+Evrope+u+Zagrebu.html; http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Politika/609254/Tusk-Nema-sumnje-da-je-buducnost-Zapadnog-Balkana-u-EU/komentari

 

BFP Exclusive- Paris Attacks: Western Intelligence’s Vision Blinded by Allah?

“…through its massacres in Paris, ISIS may now have dealt Assad the death blow.”

When the United States and Saudi Arabia decided to curb Iranian influence in the Middle East by embarking on a strategy that involved bolstering Sunni extremist forces, Prince Bandar bin Sultan and other Saudi officials told Washington not to worry about religious fundamentalists. Their message was plain and simple:

“We’ve created this movement, and we can control it. It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”[1]

At that time, the Bush administration began forging closer ties with the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood “to keep up the pressure” on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[2]

Four years later, the U.S. and its allies tried to capitalize on growing public discontent in Syria by launching an Operation Cyclone-style war against the Assad government. Western media played a decisive role in enabling the covert operations which inevitably led to an escalation of violence.[3]

While Western and Gulf media were trying to perpetuate the myth of the “moderate rebels,” U.S. intelligence knew full well that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) predicted early on that the insurgents “will try to use the Iraqi territory as a safe haven” and pointed out that “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria.” According to the DIA, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”[4]

As former DIA chief Michael Flynn emphasized in an interview with Al-Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan, the rise of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) came not as a surprise.[5]

What came as a surprise to U.S. intelligence was the resilience of the Assad government and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

Thanks to support from Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah, Assad and the SAA are still standing after 30,000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries have poured into Syria, turning parts of the country into a jihadist paradise.[6]

Reports of Western countries encouraging radicalized Islamists to join the fight cast doubt on claims that Western intelligence agencies have tried to stem the flow of jihadists to Syria.[7]

Moreover, NATO member Turkey has been instrumental in funneling fighters, weapons and all kinds of other supplies to anti-government forces in Syria, including ISIS.[8]

Parts of southern Turkey increasingly resemble Pakistan in the 1980s. The border region from Hatay to Gaziantep has already been dubbed the “Peshawar of the Middle East.”[9]

Turkey has paid a high price for its ill-fated policy vis-à-vis Syria and even the Saudis have gotten a taste of their own medicine,[10] but for the most part, the Salafis have thrown bombs at the “right” people.

Since the start of the conflict, terrorist attacks have become the new normal in Syria. When a car bomb rips through a residential area, Western media focuses on stressing that “the rebels have managed to infiltrate” an Assad stronghold, which “shows how the regime is losing ground.”[11]

Similarly, after ISIS suicide bombers recently targeted a busy residential district in southern Beirut, killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 200 in the worst attack in the city in decades, Western media turned the victims into Hezbollah human shields.[12]

When ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane which claimed the lives of 224 people, the West didn’t even bother hiding its Schadenfreude and gloated over Russia paying the price for “Vladimir Putin’s military adventurism in Syria.”[13] British foreign secretary Philip Hammond told The New York Times that he hoped the attack would persuade the Russian President “to take a more flexible posture in the Syria talks.”[14]

But on November 13, one day before the Syria talks in Vienna and one day after the bombing of a “Hezbollah stronghold” in Beirut, “everything changed” because the terror reached a Western capital.

The world watched in horror as at least 129 people were killed and more than 300 injured in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks and French President Francois Hollande left no doubt that this was "an act of war committed by Daesh that was prepared, organized and planned from outside [France]” with help from inside France.[15]

Investigators quickly found that the trail of the Paris killers leads to Belgium and Syria. Three of the seven suspected perpetrators are from Brussels’ Molenbeek district, which has “grown into a hub for jihadist networks,”[16] and according to French officials, six of the people directly involved in the attacks had spent time in Syria.[17]

The presumed mastermind of the Paris attacks, Belgian citizen Abdelhamid Abaaoud, returned to Belgium “at some point under the radar of authorities” after fighting with ISIS in Syria. He left again for Syria in January 2015 when Belgian police foiled a terrorist plot that he allegedly masterminded.[18] In February, the ISIS magazine Dabiq published an interview with Abaaoud, in which he boasted that Western intelligence agencies were neither able to prevent him from entering Belgium and establishing a terror cell nor from leaving the country:

“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave and come to Shām despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies. All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence. My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”[19]

Another Belgian citizen who has emerged at the center of the Paris probe can tell a similar story. Salah Abdeslam lived only a few blocks away from Abaaoud in Molenbeek and spent time in the same prison. Belgian officials have no doubt that the two men knew each other.

Abdeslam also tried to travel to Syria earlier this year but he was one of the few would-be jihadists that were stopped by Turkish authorities. Despite his attempt to cross from Turkey into Syria, the Belgian government concluded that he didn’t pose a risk. A Belgian official said that “the investigation showed no signs of him actively going to terrorism.” Perhaps he was just trying to join the “moderate rebels” and he is really as innocent as his family claims.[20]

The first Paris killer who was been identified by French police is French national Ismael Omar Mostefai. Like Abdeslam, Mostefai caught the Turkish authorities’ attention when he tried to travel to Syria. But in contrast to Abdeslam, he was more successful.[21] Turkey notified France twice in December 2014 and June 2015 about Mostefai but only heard back after the Paris attacks.[22]

Either French authorities didn’t view Mostefai as a major threat or their vision was “blinded by Allah.”

This would also explain how someone managed to steal 180 detonators, 40 grenades and 10 blocks of 250 grams of plastic explosives from the Miramas military site near Marseille in July although France had been on high alert for terrorism since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.[23]

As the military website SOFREP revealed, some of the stolen explosives were later found when terrorists tried to blow up industrial targets in France. French and German police and intelligence were reportedly meeting in the weeks prior to the Paris attacks “to discuss an imminent pre-planned terrorist attack in Paris.” French security services were only wondering “whether or not the target would be soft (civilian) or hard (military, government, industrial) in nature.”[24] The bomb threat that forced Germany’s national football team to evacuate their Paris hotel on the morning of the attacks should have raised red flags.[25]

Instead of holding intelligence agencies to account for failing to prevent terrorist attacks at home while supporting terrorists in Syria and elsewhere, the response to the Paris attacks will likely entail even greater powers for security services and more support for the “Syrian rebels” under the guise of fighting ISIS.[26]

There is a certain irony in the fact that individuals like former senior CIA official Graham Fuller are now calling for the elimination of ISIS.[27] After all, Fuller has been one of the leading proponents of using jihadists against adversaries of the United States. He is credited with saying, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvellously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”[28]

Fuller himself has been heavily involved in these operations.[29] Therefore, it came as a surprise when he called for ending Operation Cyclone 2.0 in Syria [30] and conceded that ISIS is “made in the USA.”[31]

After facilitating the rise of ISIS “in order to isolate the Syrian regime,” the U.S. and its allies are now stepping up their fight against the terrorist group. But as Graham Fuller noted, the real target is somebody else and the Paris attacks may prove very useful in this regard:

“Ironically the enormity of the ISIS/ al-Qaeda alternative to Asad had lately sparked some western hesitation in pursuing his overthrow, but now,  through its massacres in Paris, ISIS may now have dealt Asad the death blow.”[30]

# # # #

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

[1] Seymour M. Hersh, “The Redirection,” The New Yorker, 5 March 2007: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection.

[2] Jay Solomon, “To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers,” The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2007: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB118530969571176579.

[3] Sibel Edmonds, “What & When We Exposed, and the MSM- Quasi Alternative Culprits Who Fought Our Exposés,” Boiling Frogs Post, 29 August 2013: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/08/29/bfp-syria-coverage-track-record-what-when-we-exposed-and-the-msm-quasi-alternative-culprits-who-fought-our-exposes/.

[4] Brad Hoff, “2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State ‘in order to isolate the Syrian regime,’” Levant Report, 19 May 2015: http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/.

[5] Brad Hoff, “Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn Says Rise of Islamic State was “a willful decision” and Defends Accuracy of 2012 Memo,” Levant Report, 6 August 2015: http://levantreport.com/2015/08/06/former-dia-chief-michael-flynn-says-rise-of-islamic-state-was-a-willful-decision-and-defends-accuracy-of-2012-memo/.

[6] Eric Schmitt and Somini Sengupta, “Thousands Enter Syria to Join ISIS Despite Global Efforts,” The New York Times, 26 September 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/world/middleeast/thousands-enter-syria-to-join-isis-despite-global-efforts.html?_r=0.

[7] “Lethal exports - Germany admits to urging some Islamists to leave in past,” Deutsche Welle, 2 October 2014: http://www.dw.com/en/lethal-exports-germany-admits-to-urging-some-islamists-to-leave-in-past/a-17971327.

[8] “’IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” Deutsche Welle, 26 November 2014: http://www.dw.com/en/is-supply-channels-through-turkey/av-18091048.

[9] Kadri Gursel, “Has Turkey Become the ‘Pakistan of the Middle East?,’” Al-Monitor, 24 September 2013: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/09/time-act-al-qaeda-turkey-jabhat-al-nusra.html#.

[10] Kareem Shaheen, “Islamic State claims suicide bombing at Saudi Arabian mosque,” The Guardian, 6 August 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/06/suicide-bomber-attacks-mosque-in-saudi-arabia.

[11] David Blair, “Syria car bomb kills 10 in Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold,” The Telegraph, 2 September 2015: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11839761/Syria-car-bomb-kills-10-in-Bashar-al-Assads-stronghold.html.

[12] Ben Norton, “Media Turn Civilian ISIS Victims in Beirut Into Hezbollah Human Shields,” FAIR, 13 November 2015: http://fair.org/home/media-turn-civilian-isis-victims-in-beirut-into-hezbollah-human-shields/.

[13] Simon Tisdall, “Sinai plane crash may show price of Putin’s military adventurism in Syria,” The Guardian, 5 November 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/05/sinai-plane-crash-putin-military-adventurism-syria-analysis.

[14] Somini Sengupta, “Invitation List Looms as Test for Syria Talks,” The New York Times, 9 November 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/world/middleeast/invitation-list-looms-as-test-for-syria-talks.html.

[15] Tom Heneghan, “Hollande says Paris attacks ‘an act of war’ by Islamic State,” Reuters, 14 November 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/14/us-france-shooting-hollande-idUSKCN0T30JG20151114.

[16] Natalia Drozdiak and Julian E. Barnes, “Brussels District of Molenbeek Is Home to Some Suspects in Paris Attacks,” The Wall Street Journal, 16 November 2015: http://www.wsj.com/articles/brussels-district-is-home-to-some-suspects-in-paris-attacks-1447718699.

[17] Jethro Mullen and Margot Haddad, “’France is at war,’ President Francois Hollande says after ISIS attack,” CNN, 17 November 2015: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/16/world/paris-attacks/.

[18] Benoit Faucon, Matthew Dalton, Stacy Meichtry and David Gauthier-Villars, “Paris Attacks Suspect Was Monitored by Western Allies Seeking to Kill Him,” The Wall Street Journal, 17 November 2015: http://www.wsj.com/articles/french-authorities-raid-suspected-islamists-after-paris-attacks-1447661092.

[19] Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, “Key suspect in Paris attacks has been featured in Islamic State propaganda,” The Long War Journal, 16 November 2015: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/11/key-suspect-in-paris-attacks-has-been-featured-in-islamic-state-propaganda.php

[20] Ibid., Faucon et al.

[21] David Chazan and Rory Mulholland, “French suicide attacker ‘trained in Syria,’” The Telegraph, 15 November 2015: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11997470/French-suicide-attacker-trained-in-Syria.html.

[22] Orhan Coskun and Humeyra Pamuk, “Paris attacks: Turkey says it notified France twice about attacker, says senior official,” The Independent, 16 November 2015: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attacks-turkey-says-it-notified-france-twice-about-attacker-says-senior-official-a6736131.html.

[23] Jamey Keaten, “200 detonators, explosives stolen from French military site,” The Associated Press, 7 July 2015: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bbd903968f6142bfa1bd4225a9e9fee7/200-detonators-explosives-stolen-french-military-site.

[24] Jack Murphy, “Breaking: French and German Police Knew Paris Attack Was Coming a Month Prior,” SOFREP, 13 November 2015: http://sofrep.com/44480/french-and-german-police-knew-paris-attack-was-coming/#ixzz3rQM86ve0.

[25] Chuck Penfold, “Bomb threat forces Germany out of Paris hotel,” Deutsche Welle, 13 November 2015: http://www.dw.com/en/bomb-threat-forces-germany-out-of-paris-hotel/a-18847733.

[26] Phil Stewart, “Exclusive: U.S. delivers ammunition to Syrian Arab fighters battling Islamic State,” Reuters, 15 November 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/15/us-mideast-crisis-ammunition-exclusive-idUSKCN0T412O20151115.

[27] Graham E. Fuller, “ISIS- The Hour Has Struck,” grahamefuller.com, 14 November 2015: http://grahamefuller.com/isis-the-hour-has-struck/.

[28] Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Our terrorists,” New Internationalist, 1 October 2009: http://newint.org/features/2009/10/01/blowback-extended-version/.

[29] Sibel Edmonds, “Turkish Intel Chief Exposes CIA Operations via Islamic Group in Central Asia,” Boiling Frogs Post, 6 January 2011: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2011/01/06/turkish-intel-chief-exposes-cia-operations-via-islamic-group-in-central-asia/.

[30] Graham E. Fuller, “Embracing Assad Is a Better Strategy for the U.S. Than Supporting the Least Bad Jihadis,” The Huffington Post, 29 September 2014: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/graham-e-fuller/us-assad-isis-strategy_b_5898142.html.

[31] Ezgi Basaran, “Former CIA officer says US policies helped create IS,” Al-Monitor, 2 September 2014: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/09/turkey-usa-iraq-syria-isis-fuller.html#.

[32] Ibid., Fuller, 14 November 2015.

BFP Exclusive- Russia’s Syria Intervention Enrages US-led Coalition, ISIS & Al-Qaeda

‘Syrian Taliban’, Sinai crash & ‘Gladio B’ give Moscow food for thought

Russia’s intervention in Syria has whipped up feelings across the region and around the world. As soon as Russian aircraft began conducting airstrikes in Syria, Western media started complaining that Russia is bombing the wrong terrorists.[1]

After the Pentagon failed to find more than a few dozen “moderate rebels” for its much-publicized training program,[2] Russian bombs supposedly managed to find countless “moderate Syrian rebels” and U.S. officials suddenly remembered that the CIA has been running a much more effective training program than the Pentagon.[3]

U.S. government and media are still pretending that the CIA “began a covert operation in 2013 to arm, fund and train a moderate opposition to Assad” and that this secret program “is the only way the U.S. is taking on Assad militarily.”[4]

As Boiling Frogs Post exposed four years ago, U.S. covert operations started as early as April-May 2011 when a joint U.S.-NATO training camp was set up in Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.[5]

Moscow’s intervention is now complicating efforts to hide the true extent of U.S. involvement in the conflict as well as Washington’s real objectives. Even the neocon comedians at The Daily Beast couldn’t help but wonder why CIA-trained “rebels” were fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra against Syrian government forces instead of battling the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).[6]

To make matters worse, Russia’s move has scuppered U.S. coalition plans for a no-fly zone in Syria, as the Financial Times so aptly put it.[7] Under the guise of establishing an “ISIS-free zone,” the United States and Turkey had been leading efforts to set up a no-fly zone and wanted to seize Syria’s Aleppo Governorate. Turkish media was already cheerfully proclaiming Aleppo as the 82nd province of Turkey before the Russians ruined everything.[8]

Although it is not exactly a secret that “an imminent move to ramp up coalition activity in Syria” forced Moscow’s hand,[9] the very same countries that are operating illegally in Syria[10] tried to claim the moral high ground when the Russian Air Force joined the fight at the request of the Syrian government.

The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other coalition members called on Russia “to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians” and warned that Russian military actions “will only fuel more extremism and radicalization.”[11]

In case anybody had not gotten the message, a senior Qatari source told the Middle East Eye that the Russians “will be begging Qatar in 10 years time to negotiate a ceasefire with the ‘Syrian Taliban’” if they don’t back down.[12]

Both ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch Jabhat al-Nusra also called for jihad against Russia.[13] The terrorists apparently don’t share the U.S. government’s assessment that 85 to 90 percent of Russian airstrikes are hitting “the moderate Syrian opposition.”[14]

By now, the Islamic State has probably realized that The Daily Beast cannot be trusted.[15] Instead of giving air support to ISIS fighters, the Russian Air Force is actually targeting vital supply lines from Turkey after the U.S. had allowed “these supply lines to continue flowing.”[16]

This might explain why ISIS was so eager to claim responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt‘s Sinai peninsula. According to the Islamic State’s Aleppo “province,” the plane was attacked in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Syria.[17]

While investigators were still trying to figure out what caused the crash, a former U.S. diplomat with an interesting background,[18] who features in Sibel Edmonds’ The Lone Gladio, took the same line as ISIS and gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a little advice:

Matthew Bryza and the Kremlin clearly have a different interpretation of “truly fighting ISIS.” The Russians have no illusions about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS and the true nature of the so-called Islamic State.

After calling the U.S.-led coalition out for “pretending” to bomb ISIS,[19] influential Russian lawmaker Alexey Pushkov recently explained that Russia is fighting for its own security in Syria because “those behind Islamic State are the same people who were in the past destabilizing Central Asia and attempted to break Chechnya away from Russia.”[20]

Pushkov’s allusion to the Pentagon-led ‘Gladio B’ operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus region is particularly interesting in light of recent reports suggesting that al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who participated in these operations,[21] is now taking a more prominent role in the Syrian conflict.

In a newly released audio message, Zawahiri urged his “mujahideen brothers in all places and of all groups” to join forces against Russia and the West.[22] According to unconfirmed reports, he has already sent senior al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel to Syria to mediate between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.[23] Given Zawahiri’s background, it is safe to say that he is more interested in fighting Russia than the West.

As the U.S. and its allies are stepping up arms supplies to the non-existent “moderate Syrian rebels,”[24] the Russians might be wondering if there is any difference between the “Syrian Taliban” and their Afghan prototypes.

# # # #

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

[1] Nancy A. Youssef, “Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS,” The Daily Best, 30 September 2015: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/putin-orders-u-s-jets-out-of-syria.html.

[2] Tom Vanden Brook, “Pentagon’s failed Syria program cost $2 million per trainee,” USA Today, 5 November 2015: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/11/05/pentagon-isil-syria-train-and-equip/75227774/.

[3] Ken Dilanian, “Officials: CIA-backed Syrian rebels under Russian blitz,” The Associated Press, 10 October 2015: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/dfe1547ba36f4f968deee227d467dc08/officials-russian-bombs-cia-rebels-had-syrian-gains.

[4] Ibid., Dilanian.

[5] Sibel Edmonds, “What & When We Exposed, and the MSM- Quasi Alternative Culprits Who Fought Our Exposés,” Boiling Frogs Post, 29 August 2013: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/08/29/bfp-syria-coverage-track-record-what-when-we-exposed-and-the-msm-quasi-alternative-culprits-who-fought-our-exposes/.

[6] Nancy A. Youssef, Michael Weiss and Tim Mak, “U.S. Admits: We Can’t Protect Syrian Allies From Russia’s Bombs,” The Daily Beast, 1 October 2015: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/01/u-s-admits-we-can-t-protect-syrian-allies-from-russia-s-bombs.html.

[7] Sam Jones, “Moscow scuppers US coalition plans for no-fly zone in Syria,” Financial Times, 4 October: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cee6fcba-69bf-11e5-8171-ba1968cf791a.html.

[8] Selin Nasi, “Conquering Aleppo,” Hürriyet Daily News, 18 August 2015: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/conquering-aleppo.aspx?pageID=238&nID=87106&NewsCatID=396.

[9] Ibid., Jones.

[10] Theo Farrell, “Are the US-led air strikes in Syria legal – and what does it mean if they are not?,” The Telegraph, 23 September 2014: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11116792/Are-the-US-led-air-strikes-in-Syria-legal-and-what-does-it-mean-if-they-are-not.html.

[11] “Joint Declaration on Recent Military Actions of the Russian Federation on Syria,” Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 October 2015: http://www.mfa.gov.tr/no_-267_-02-october-2015_-joint-declaration-on-recent-military-actions-of-the-russian-federation-on-syria.en.mfa.

[12] David Hearst, “Putin’s Syrian bombing ‘will spark jihad against Moscow’: Qatar source,” Middle East Eye, 8 October 2015: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/russias-syrian-bombing-will-create-frankensteins-monster-qatar-source-634154673.

[13] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front Call For ‘Jihad’ Against Russia,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 October 2015: http://www.rferl.org/content/islamic-state-nusra-jihad-russia/27306477.html.

[14] Arshad Mohammed and Patricia Zengerle, “85-90 percent of Russian strikes hit moderate Syria rebels: U.S.,” Reuters, 4 November 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/04/us-mideast-crisis-usa-russia-idUSKCN0ST26920151104.

[15] Michael Weiss, “Russia’s Giving ISIS An Air Force,” The Daily Beast, 8 October 2015: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/08/russia-s-giving-isis-an-air-force.html.

[16] Angelo M. Codevilla, “U.S. And Russian Airpower In The Desert,” War on the Rocks, 5 November 2015: http://warontherocks.com/2015/11/u-s-and-russian-airpower-in-the-desert/.

[17] Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic State video congratulates Sinai ‘province’ for downing Russian airliner,” The Long War Journal, 6 November 2015: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/11/islamic-state-video-congratulates-sinai-province-for-downing-russian-airliner.php.

[18] Sibel Edmonds, “Obama Appoints a Not-Too-Long-Ago-Hatched Neocon Larva,” Boiling Frogs Post, 27 July 2010: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2010/07/27/obama-appoints-a-not-too-long-ago-hatched-neocon-larva/.

[19] Astrid Wendlandt, “Russian air strikes in Syria to last three-four months: Putin ally,” Reuters, 2 October 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/02/us-mideast-crisis-russia-strike-idUSKCN0RW0I020151002.

[20] “Lawmaker: IS sponsors once tried to break Chechnya from Russia,” TASS, 23 October 2015: http://tass.ru/en/politics/831336.

[21] Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Why was a Sunday Times report on US government ties to al-Qaeda chief spiked?,” Ceasefire Magazine, 17 May 2013: https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/whistleblower-al-qaeda-chief-u-s-asset/.

[22] Vasudevan Sridharan, “Al-Qaeda: Ayman al-Zawahiri urges jihadis to unite against Russia and West,” International Business Times, 2 November 2015: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/al-qaeda-ayman-al-zawahiri-urges-jihadis-unite-against-russia-west-1526714.

[23] J.J. Green, “Mysterious al-Qaida figure emerges in Syria,” Washington’s Top News, 5 November 2015: http://wtop.com/national-security/2015/11/mysterious-al-qaida-figure-emerges-in-syria/.

[24] Adam Entous, “U.S., Allies to Boost Aid to Syria Rebels,” The Wall Street Journal, 4 November 2015: http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-allies-to-boost-aid-to-syria-rebels-1446682624.

The New Great Game Round-Up: October 20, 2015

Turkmenistan to CIS: ‘Move Along Folks, Nothing to See Here!,’ United National Movement Protests Georgia's Talks with Gazprom & 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.

Islamabad's recent offer to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table for renewed peace talks with the Afghan government is just one example of Pakistan's influence over the Taliban movement in general and its new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in particular. According to some Taliban sources, Pakistan is now taking a two-pronged approach in dealing with the movement. On the one hand, the Pakistani authorities are backing Mansoor and negotiations with Kabul but, on the other hand, they are also supporting the hawkish anti-Mansoor faction in order to keep the new supremo in check and continue the fight in Afghanistan. A senior Afghan intelligence official confirmed this, pointing out that Pakistan recently helped Mansoor's rival Abdul Qayyum "Zakir" launch large-scale offensives in the south of the country, which prompted Mansoor to offer Zakir to become his first deputy or Taliban shadow defense minister. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to note that the United States is now implicating Pakistani intelligence in the Taliban's takeover of Kunduz as well:

APNewsBreak: US analysts knew Afghan site was hospital American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, The Associated Press has learned.

The special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site. The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons. After the attack — which came amidst a battle to retake the northern Afghan city of Kunduz from the Taliban — some U.S. analysts assessed that the strike had been justified, the former officer says. They concluded that the Pakistani, believed to have been working for his country's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, had been killed.

U.S. Keeps Troops in Afghanistan as Kabul Takes Desperate Measures 

The Associated Press emphasizes that it is unclear whether the responsible commanders knew about these reports or that the site was a hospital. But although the U.S. keeps changing its story every few days, it is becoming more and more evident that the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz was deliberately targeted. The American military's "unannounced and forced entry" into the hospital compound immediately after the bombing suggests that Washington is not telling the whole truth. Interestingly, there is no public evidence to suggest that a Pakistani was killed in the attack, which makes the allegations against the ISI even more curious. Meanwhile, government forces have managed to drive the Taliban out of Kunduz - the Taliban claim to have withdrawn by their own choice "to avoid further civilian casualties" - but the situation remains highly volatile. The fall of Kunduz has put Afghanistan back on the map and U.S. President Barack Obama used the opportunity to announce that thousands of American troops will stay in the country when he leaves office:

Citing 'very fragile' security in Afghanistan, Obama slows pace of U.S. troop withdrawal Reversing policy on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama announced on Thursday he will prolong the 14-year-old U.S. military engagement there, effectively handing off the task of pulling out troops to his successor. Calling it a "modest but meaningful" adjustment to winding down the American presence in Afghanistan, Obama said Afghan forces were not yet as strong as they needed to be given a "very fragile" security situation and the United States will maintain a force of 9,800 through most of 2016. Obama had previously aimed to withdraw all but a small U.S.-embassy based force in the capital, Kabul, before he leaves office in January 2017. Under the new plan, troops will be drawn down to 5,500 starting sometime in 2017 and will be based at four locations - Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.

It comes as no real surprise that Obama won't keep his promise to end the war in Afghanistan. First of all, Obama is not known for keeping his word, and second, it has long been painfully obvious that the Afghan security forces are unable to cope with the deteriorating security situation. U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani and the American military, which had been lobbying for slowing the withdrawal, immediately welcomed Obama's decision but the announcement also engendered criticism. The Taliban reacted as expected, emphasizing that this "means they aren't sincere about a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis." Russia's Foreign Ministry joined in the criticism as well and stressed that "this forced step is another graphical evidence of the full blunder of the 14-year Washington military campaign and its allies in Afghanistan." And nothing illustrates this better than Kabul's latest idea:

Afghan Plan to Expand Militia Raises Abuse Concerns With the Afghan security forces gravely challenged by Taliban offensives, the government is moving to rapidly expand the troubled Afghan Local Police program by thousands of members, Afghan and Western officials say. The move to expand the police militias, prompted by the disastrous loss of the northern city of Kunduz to the Taliban almost three weeks ago, is being described by officials speaking privately as an attempt to head off panic in Afghan cities threatened by the insurgents. But the expansion also amounts to an open admission that the United States’ main legacy in Afghanistan — the creation of nationalized police and army forces numbering more than 350,000 members — is failing under pressure even before any final American military withdrawal. On Thursday, President Obama called off that pullout, originally due at year’s end, leaving 9,800 American troops in the country for at least another year.

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) is part of the U.S. legacy in Afghanistan. U.S. planners created the ALP in 2010 to support the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). General David Petraeus modeled the program after the 'Sons of Iraq' initiative. Many ALP members are former Taliban who are now on the payroll of the United States. It is not difficult to imagine what will happen when the money dries up. But the biggest problem are the serious human rights abuses at the hands of ALP units, which are nothing more than village militias with AK-47s. Contrary to what the name suggests, Afghan Local Police members don't have police powers and don't care about the law. Although ALP forces have repeatedly been accused of all kinds of heinous crimes, including torture, rape and murder, Kabul is now planning to expand the program. This shows that the Afghan authorities are becoming increasingly desperate in the face of Taliban advances across the country:

Another Afghan district falls to the Taliban Reports from the northwestern province of Faryab indicate that the Taliban has overrun yet another district in Afghanistan. Ghormach, a district that borders Turkmenistan, is now effectively under Taliban control, according to the jihadist group and the Afghan press. The fall of Ghormach took place just 10 Days after the Taliban seized the districts of Garziwan and Pashtun Kot in Faryab; the Afghan government later claimed to have liberated Garziwan. On week prior, the Taliban attempted to seize control of Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab. The two districts are on the outskirts of Maimana, and control access from the east.

Turkmenistan to CIS: Move Along Folks, Nothing to See Here!

Ghormach's seizure by the Taliban is not only noteworthy because the district borders Turkmenistan but also because warlord-turned-vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum and his family are still being celebrated for the successful government offensive in Faryab province. As previously discussed, the success in Faryab was short-lived. The insurgents picked up where they had left off as soon as Dostum returned to Kabul. Faryab has long been one of the most contested provinces in Afghanistan and it looks as if this won't change anytime soon. To make matters worse, the situation on the Tajik border isn't much better either. In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Russia's possible return to the Tajik-Afghan border. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov fueled the speculations in the run-up to last week's Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) meeting, which focused on the issue:

Russia, ex-Soviet states to jointly defend borders in crisis The leaders of ex-Soviet states, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, responded to growing instability in Afghanistan on Friday by agreeing to create a joint task force to defend their bloc's external borders if a crisis arises. The move could mean that Russian troops, as part of collective forces, will be deployed to Afghanistan's borders as the U.S.-led coalition gradually withdraws from the country, leaving behind a power vacuum. They agreed on the creation of what is described in a summit document as a "grouping of border (forces) and other institutions from CIS member states designed to resolve crisis situations on the external borders".

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to convince his CIS colleagues that closer military cooperation is necessary because the situation in Afghanistan is "close to critical". However, it remains to be seen how much this agreement is actually worth. Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, for his part, remarked after the meeting that the CIS is pretty much useless and that the issues discussed "are detached from reality." Disagreements between CIS members have often rendered the organization useless. So Karimov might have a point. At any rate, Russian President Putin and Kazakh President Nazarbayev used the latest CIS meeting in Kazakhstan to draw attention to the alarming situation in Afghanistan and to call for closer cooperation in dealing with the problem. Whereas Tajikistan welcomed the initiative, Turkmenistan preferred to deny that there is any problem and to attack anyone who suggests otherwise:

Turkmenistan Strongly Denies ‘Incidents’ at Afghan Border Turkmenistan has registered no incidents at its border with Afghanistan, the Central Asian state's government said on Friday, denouncing as untrue a remark by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The strongly worded statement came ahead of a meeting of ex-Soviet nations to discuss the security of Afghan borders, among other issues, and followed comments by Nazarbayev who said he was aware of "incidents" that had happened at the Afghan-Turkmen border, but did not elaborate. "The Turkmen side expresses its extreme concern and incomprehension with regards to such a statement by the president of Kazakhstan about the situation on Turkmenistan's state border, which is untrue," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Turkmenistan's strongly worded statement indicates that Nazarbayev struck a nerve by bringing up the situation on the Afghan border. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry was not impressed by the harsh words coming from Ashgabat and defended Nazarbayev's remarks. After all, it is absolutely ludicrous to deny that there has been unrest on the Turkmen-Afghan border. Last year, Turkmen forces even crossed the border in order to drive the insurgents back and there have been several "incidents" ever since. According to the foreign-based website Alternative News of Turkmenistan, the Turkmen military has stationed up to 70 percent of its combat-ready military equipment along the Afghan border. The Turkmen government is obviously aware of the alarming situation in northern Afghanistan, but for some reason Ashgabat is now trying to play down the issue. Perhaps this has something to do with Turkmenistan's efforts to push the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, regardless of whether or not that makes any sense:

Hunt on for leader to lay $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline The four-nation consortium has revived the search for a leader to help lay the $10-billion TAPI gas pipeline, laying bare the lack of confidence among the countries to go ahead on their own and threatening to delay the project further. Just two months back, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India had agreed to co-own the project with TurkmenGaz, the state-owned firm of Turkmenistan, expected to make the majority investment in laying the 1800-km pipeline that would begin the construction work in December. Now again the timeline looks shaky. "The key challenge is to select a consortium leader or a partner. We are still looking for one," said BC Tripathi, chairman of GAIL, the state-run firm that represents India in the consortium. The top executives of GAILBSE 1.97 % and other state companies representing three other nations have been negotiating the terms between themselves and figuring out the nuances of the project for the last two months since the oil ministers of the four countries agreed in Ashgabat to go on their own without waiting for a firm with experience in laying and operating pipeline to lead the consortium.

United National Movement Protests Georgia's Talks with Gazprom

Although a TAPI consortium leader is nowhere to be found and the Taliban are making themselves at home on the Turkmen-Afghan border, Turkmenistan is already starting with the construction of the ambitious pipeline project in an attempt to diversify its gas exports. In order to lessen the increasing dependence on China, the Turkmen authorities are also turning to Japan and still promoting the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Russia's launch of cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea should serve as a warning to supporters of the Trans-Caspian project but Ashgabat and Baku refuse to give up on the pipe dream. Azerbaijan's efforts to strengthen its position in the energy market suffered recently an unexpected setback when close ally Georgia announced its plans to buy more gas from Russia and Iran. The words of Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze caused a great stir and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili had to travel to Baku to calm the waves:

Georgian PM Reaffirms ‘Friendly, Strategic’ Relations with Azerbaijan PM Irakli Garibashvili said on October 12 that Tbilisi’s relations with Baku will remain “friendly and strategic” and dismissed talk of “diversification, replacement of Azerbaijani gas” supplies as “utterly absurd”. 

Georgian Energy Ministry said late last week that Tbilisi was open for talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies for private entities in Georgia in order to, as Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze and his deputy put it, “diversify” energy supplies for the country. Kaladze, who met Gazprom chief executive in Brussels in late September, reiterated on October 12 that private entities might be interested in purchasing Russian gas if the price is acceptable. After the Georgian Energy Minister spoke about possible gas supplies from Gazprom last week, PM Garibashvili made a brief and unannounced visit to Baku on October 10, where he met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, triggering speculation in Tbilisi that the surprise visit aimed at mending ties after potential fallout caused by Tbilisi’s suggestions over Gazprom gas supplies.

Georgian opposition parties tried to exploit the situation and some people went as far as alleging that the government plans to revise the country's relations with Azerbaijan. Garibashvili vehemently denied this and assured everyone that things will stay as they are. The Georgian Prime Minister stressed that talks with Gazprom are just about a possible increase of transit of natural gas to Armenia. Neither President Giorgi Margvelashvili nor the Georgian opposition were entirely convinced by Garibashvili's words. Last Friday, Tbilisi police detained Tamar Chergoleishvili, the head of pro-Saakashvili TV channel Tabula TV, one of her producers and another activist when they were hanging up posters mocking former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Gazprom. One day later, a few hundred protesters gathered in front of the central government building to protest against the negotiations with Russia's energy behemoth:

Tbilisi Protests Russia’s Gazprom On Saturday, at the State Chancellery, the protest ‘No to Gazprom’ rallied against Gazprom’s possible entrance into the Georgian energy market. Energy giant Russia is believed to attempt to re-enter Georgia and is said by some to be a non-trivial tool for the Russian government to manage political processes on the ground. The concerns arose after the government initiated talks with Russian energy company Gazprom. The rally involved politicians, public activists and members of the National Movement, as well as concerned citizens from all over Georgia. Tabula, a political magazine, organized the protest action against Gazprom’s possible entrance into the Georgian energy market.

Tamar Chergoleishvili is not only the head of Tabula TV but also the editor-in-chief of the Tbilisi-based Tabula magazine. Tabula is known for its pro-United National Movement (UNM) views, which is hardly surprising considering that Chergoleishvili is the wife of senior UNM leader Giga Bokeria. As mentioned last week, the opposition party is currently trying to prevent the government from taking control of another important pro-UNM media outlet. According to the latest polls, neither the Georgian Dream ruling coalition nor the UNM have benefited from the endless fighting. Although many voters are disappointed by the government, the UNM isn't gaining any support as more and more Georgians don't know which party they should vote for. But more worrying for the West are the rising pro-Russian sentiment and the declining support for joining the European Union and NATO:

NDI Poll on Foreign Policy Issues

Number of Georgian respondents who support “government’s stated goal to join the EU” has dropped by 17 percentage points over the past year to 61%, according to a public opinion survey, commissioned by the NDI and fielded by CRRC in August. Asked whether they support or not Georgia joining Russia-led Eurasian Union, 31% responded positively, same as in April 2015, and 46% negatively, up by five percentage points from four months earlier. When the respondents were offered a choice between two answers – “Georgia will benefit more from joining EU and NATO”, and “Georgia will benefit more from abandoning Euro-Atlantic integration in favor of better relations with Russia” – 45% chose the former and 30% the latter.

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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: October 13, 2015

U.S. Tries to Keep Georgia in Line, Afghanistan Turns to Russia for Help as Taliban Gain Ground & 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.

New Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor faced a lot of opposition within the movement, when he officially took over from Mullah Omar two months ago. Several leading Taliban commanders decided to go their own ways and Mullah Omar's family only reluctantly endorsed the new supremo. Despite all that, the Taliban have stepped up their game in the first few weeks of Mansoor's reign, dashing Kabul's hopes that the confirmation of Mullah Omar's death would weaken the group. It seems like an eternity ago that Kabul and the Taliban were holding peace talks to stop the fighting. At the end of July, the two sides were about to meet in Pakistan for the second round of talks when Afghan intelligence leaked Omar's death to the press, thereby unleashing a new wave of violence. After the Taliban demonstrated their power in Kunduz, Pakistan renewed its offer to restart the talks and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reminded his Afghan colleagues that they should have kept their mouth shut:

Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif says working for revival of Afghan peace talks The Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he is trying to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group which was stalled by the announcement of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death. In televised remarks to the media Nawaz said “The news of Mullah Omar should not have been broken just before the start of the second round of talks.” Sharif further added “We are now trying to resume the (peace) process and pray to God to crown our efforts with success.”

Afghanistan Turns to Russia for Help as Taliban Gain Ground

Given that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) more or less controls Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the Pakistani government should be able to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, or at least the faction that is interested in talks with Kabul. Mansoor supported the reconciliation process and authorized the delegation for the first round of talks. That is why several top Taliban commanders turned against him. U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and allies forces in Afghanistan, just told the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee that 60 percent to 70 percent of the Taliban movement may ultimately be reconciled with Kabul but that is of course still a long way off. As for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, they will have no choice but to talk to Mansoor and his Pakistani backers if the Taliban continue to gain ground across the country:

Afghan Taliban’s Reach Is Widest Since 2001, U.N. Says The Taliban insurgency has spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to data compiled by the United Nations as well as interviews with numerous local officials in areas under threat. In addition, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan over the past two weeks has evacuated four of its 13 provincial offices around the country — the most it has ever done for security reasons — according to local officials in the affected areas. The data, compiled in early September — even before the latest surge in violence in northern Afghanistan — showed that United Nations security officials had already rated the threat level in about half of the country’s administrative districts as either “high” or “extreme,” more than at any time since the American invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001.

As The New York Times pointed out, the United Nations' assessment is at odds with Gen. Campbell's rosy assessment in his recent testimony to Congress. The top U.S. commander even had the nerve to play down the alarming situation in Kunduz, while at the same time, the U.S. was using the latest crisis to tell its NATO allies that they will probably have to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has already endorsed the idea. Meanwhile, the Afghan government is seeking help from other countries as well. Last week, Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum visited Grozny and Moscow to ask for Russian support in the fight against ISIS. During his meetings with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and top Russian officials, Dostum commended Russia's campaign in Syria and stressed that Kabul needs Moscow's support because "ISIS is trying to make Afghanistan into a bridgehead." This clearly resonated with his Russian hosts:

Afghanistan's Dostum Turns To Old Ally Russia For Help "The Russian side is committed to support and help Afghanistan in terms of helping its air and military forces," Dostum's spokesman, Sultan Faizy, told RFE/RL by telephone. "We're lacking air support, weapons, ammunition. We need a lot of backing and support to fight against terrorism." But Faizy said that would not mean direct military intervention by Russia, which is still mindful of the 1979-89 war that killed some 15,000 Soviet soldiers and has repeatedly said it would not send troops to Afghanistan. Faizy said that Moscow had promised to evaluate the situation in Afghanistan and "see what they can help with."

An Afghan parliamentary delegation also visited Moscow to ask for support. Russian Federation Council member Igor Morozov told TASS that the Afghans cited a lack of helicopters as the reason for the Taliban takeover of Kunduz and Morozov used the opportunity to have a dig at the Americans. Zamir Kabulov, President Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan, announced after the meetings that Moscow and Kabul are planning to sign a deal on the delivery of several Mi-35 helicopter gunships later this month. That is music to the ears of Afghan Air Force (AAF) commanders who have repeatedly complained about the useless MD 530F helicopters provided by the United States. Whether or not Russia considers extending its "anti-ISIS" bombing campaign to Afghanistan, remains unclear. Kabulov dodged the question when he was asked but he provided an explanation for the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan:

ISIS training militants from Russia in Afghanistan, 'US and UK citizens among instructors' Russian officials accused Washington of orchestrating the deterioration of security in Afghanistan and the expansion of Islamic State there. “It seems like someone’s hand is pushing freshly trained ISIL fighters to mass along Afghanistan’s northern border. They don’t fight foreign or Afghan government troops,” Kabulov said. He added that on several occasions Taliban groups that refused to join Islamic State were “set up” to be targeted by airstrikes. “The Afghan Army practically has no aircraft. Only the Americans do. These details bring some very bad thoughts and concerns. We have to take them into account and draw conclusions accordingly,” he said.

Russia Sends Helicopters to Alleviate Tajikistan's Border Woes 

Kabulov emphasized that the Afghanistan branch of ISIS numbers already 3,500 fighters despite emerging only one year ago. Russia's military intelligence chief Igor Sergun added that the Islamic State's expansion in Afghanistan is in line with Washington's long-term goal of destabilizing Central Asia and "surrounding Russia and China with a network of regimes loyal to America and hotspots of tension." As the situation in northern Afghanistan deteriorates, Russian officials seem to be stepping up their ISIS rhetoric in an effort to justify further military involvement in the region. Although the Russians are clearly exaggerating the threat posed by ISIS, the increasing activities of insurgents on the Tajik-Afghan border cannot be denied. Tajikistan's intelligence agency claims that more than 1,000 Taliban fighters have massed in close proximity the border and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon recently briefed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the latest developments during a meeting in Sochi:

Tajikistan 'Extremely Concerned' About Situation Along Afghan Border President Emomali Rahmon has said Tajikistan was "extremely concerned" about the situation along the Tajik-Afghan border. During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on October 6, Rahmon said the situation in Afghanistan was "getting worse by the day." "Practically, fighting is going on along more than 60 percent of the Tajik border with Afghanistan," he added.

Russian President Putin also voiced concerns about the deteriorating situation on the border but both leaders agreed that there was no need for boosting Russian military presence in Tajikistan. Apparently this didn't include helicopters. One day after the meeting between Putin and Rahmon, a Russian Defense Ministry official announced that Russia will reinforce its 201st military base in Tajikistan with Mi-24P attack and Mi-8MTV transport and combat helicopters. The helicopters will be stationed at Ayni Air Force Base, which was renovated with $70 million from India a few years ago. Both India and Russia have been trying to gain control of the base, to no avail. The Tajik Defense Ministry just clarified that Russia can use the base but it remains under Tajik control. Russia's military presence in the country is a controversial issue because Russian soldiers are not always on their best behavior:

Russian officer sacked for assaulting Tajik taxi driver A court at Russian’s military base in Tajikistan has delivered a judgment over the case of Russian officer Denis Borisenko, who was charged with assaulting a Tajik taxi driver and stealing his vehicle. Under a ruling handed down at the court at the Russian military base, Senior Lieutenant Denis Borisenko was sacked and he will pay compensation (60,000 Russian rubles (RR) to local tax driver Dilshod Khoushov. According to investigators, Borisenko was drunk when he attacked Khoushov and drove away in his car. Borisenko later hit another vehicle and was detained at the scene. 

A few weeks ago, two other Russian soldiers were convicted of killing a Tajik taxi driver and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Such crimes and similar incidents reignite the never-ending debate about Russia's military presence in the country from time to time but the Tajik government hasn't been swayed by the criticism. In fact, Dushanbe has never been easily swayed by criticism. Washington has apparently realized this and preferred to keep quiet while the Rahmon regime was cracking down on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). Even after the IRPT had been branded a terrorist organization, the U.S. only voiced mild criticism in an emailed statement, which went largely unnoticed. Meanwhile, the Tajik authorities are coming up with evermore charges against arrested IRPT lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov and the remaining top officials of the Islamic Renaissance Party:

Tajik Prosecutors Say 23 Islamic Party Officials Arrested Tajik prosecutors say 23 top officials of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (HNIT) have been arrested, many on suspicion of leading a deadly mutiny by a serving deputy defense minister in early September. The Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office said on October 6 that criminal probes are under way against the party officials who face charges including terrorism, inciting religious and racial hatred, and attempting to seize power by force. Many also face forgery, fraud, and other economic crime charges.

U.S. Tries to Keep Georgia in Line

As Tajikistan continues its crackdown on the IRPT without much resistance from the West, Georgia is probably wondering what the secret is. After the Georgian authorities recently tried to shut down pro-opposition private TV broadcaster Rustavi 2, the United States immediately reprimanded the government and U.S. Ambassador Ian C. Kelly met with Rustavi 2 executives to assure them that the U.S. Embassy "is closely following" the case. Rustavi 2 has long been a thorn in the side of the current government due to its close ties to former President Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement (UNM). Three opposition activists were detained for assaulting a lawmaker from Georgian Dream ruling coalition during a rally in support of Rustavi 2 in front of the parliament building. The UNM has tried to exploit this by calling for a snap election but even other government critics reject the idea:

Free Democrats against holding snap election The Free Democrats has rejected a proposal by the National Movement to hold a snap election one year before the next scheduled one. The Free Democrats has now ruled out supporting a snap election. The party was a member of the Georgian Dream coalition but withdrew in November, when party leader Irakli Alasania was dismissed as defense minister. Also the foreign minister and minister of Euro integration resigned in protest and are now active members of the Free Democrats. Maia Panjikidze, the former foreign minister, said Tuesday that the Free Democrats do not support holding a special election. She said there is indeed dissatisfaction about the government, but it is a signal for them to feel responsibility. However, she said, only one year is left until the parliamentary election. 

Irakli Alasania's Free Democrats would like to remove the "pro-Russian" government of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sooner rather than later but they won't join forces with the UNM to this end. In Georgia, the crimes of the Saakashvili regime haven't been forgotten. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is now considering to take a break from prosecuting Africans and Serbs to investigate one of these crimes: the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. Much to the dismay of Moscow, the statements coming from The Hague and Saakashvili's reaction suggest that an investigation is going to be every bit as "objective" as previous ICC "investigations." After all, the ICC would never dream of going after a would-be NATO member. Georgian Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli underlined Tbilisi's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration once again during recent meetings with EU and NATO officials in Brussels but the Georgians have no illusions:

Georgian Deputy FM: MAP Not Expected at NATO Warsaw Summit

Georgia is not likely to get NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the alliance’s summit next year in Warsaw, Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Dondua, said. According to him the Georgian officials and diplomats’ rhetoric abroad in communication with NATO partners is different from messages they try to use for domestic consumption in Georgia. He said that although knowing that there is a little chance for MAP, Georgia is still pushing the issue intensively in its talks with NATO partners as a “bargaining” tool in order to then get at least something; but domestically, he said, the authorities do not want to prioritize MAP in order not to create false expectations, because it will then cause frustration, which will be exploited by the “Russian propaganda” in Georgia.

Georgia's quest for NATO membership has played into the hands of the "Russian propaganda" and contributed to a rise of pro-Russian sentiments in the country, as more and more people began to realize that Georgian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan for nothing at all. Equally worrying for the West are Tbilisi's latest efforts to expand economic cooperation with Russia and Iran. Georgia wants to diversify its gas imports away from Azerbaijan, which provides about 90 percent of the country's gas imports at the moment. That is why Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze met last month with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to discuss Russian gas supplies. To make matters worse, Khaladze announced a few days ago that Georgia is not only talking about additional supplies from Russia but also "actively working in respect of Iran." This didn't go down particularly well in Washington:

Deputy FM Says Georgia Told by U.S. not to Rush into Full-Scale Cooperation with Iran Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Dondua, said the U.S. has asked Tbilisi to “refrain from full-scale cooperation” with Iran until Tehran fully complies with the Vienna nuclear deal reached in July. “We have permanent contacts with our American colleagues, who are asking us to refrain from full-scale cooperation with Iran and from becoming open [for Iran] for now – until all the commitments agreed in Vienna are fulfilled and until Iran is given final green light,” Dondua said on October 9. “We are telling our American and other friends that we remain committed to the policy and sanctions pursued by [the West] in respect of Iran, but you should also take into consideration specifics of Georgia’s situation. Iran is a regional state, our important partner, including from the economic point of view, and we want some sort of space for maneuvering,” Dondua said.

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

The New Great Game Round-Up: October 6, 2015

China Keeps Mum on Violence as Xinjiang Marks 60th Anniversary, If ISIS Won't Come to Kadyrov-Kadyrov Will Come to ISIS & More!

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

After the Taliban shocked the world by seizing the northern Afghan provincial capital of Kunduz, the Afghan government pulled out all the stops to retake the city. Leaving the strategic city of 300,000 in the hands of the Taliban would create major problems for Afghanistan and neighboring countries, given the fact that Kunduz is an important transport hub for the north of the country and a gateway to Central Asia. For example, the distance to Tajikistan is only about 70 kilometers (44 miles). Aware of city's importance, Taliban fighters tried to win residents over with a "charm offensive" but they quickly fell back into old patterns. As government forces were struggling to launch a successful counterattack, U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani was coming under increasing pressure. He tried to shift the blame on others and replaced the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar Safi, who had just reappeared after watching the fall of the provincial capital from abroad. But despite rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, Ghani could not hide the fact that the Afghan security forces are unable to cope with the situation and that they need help to retake the city:

More US airstrikes as special forces join fight against insurgents outside Kunduz American special operations troops joined the battle around Kunduz on Wednesday, exchanging fire with Taliban fighters near the airport where Afghan forces withdrew after ceding control of the city two days before, the U.S.-led coalition announced. U.S. aircraft carried out more airstrikes against Taliban forces threatening the Kunduz airport, where Afghan government are regrouping after fleeing the city Monday. The increased American support follow signs that Afghan forces are struggling in the face of the massive Taliban assault, which has plunged the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani into the deepest crisis of its first year in office.

U.S. Bombs Hospital to Help Afghans Retake Kunduz

After three days of intense fighting, Afghan forces, led by U.S.-trained special forces from the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) and supported by U.S. special forces, eventually managed to retake control of key areas in Kunduz on October 1. According to local officials, more than 300 insurgents, including Arab, Chechen and Pakistani jihadists, were killed during the battle. Afghanistan’s Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Murad Ali Murad, who was in charge of the operation, said that the Taliban had planned to stage a major propaganda coup by bringing their new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor to Kunduz. Security forces foiled this plan but government claims that the entire city had been cleared of insurgents were swiftly contradicted by residents who pointed out that the Taliban are still controlling several party of Kunduz. While ground forces were trying to eliminate the remaining pockets of resistance, the American military was ramping up its airstrikes across northern Afghanistan, with dire consequences:

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan At least 19 people were killed when a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike, sparking international outrage. The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” Accounts differed as to whether there had been fighting around the hospital that might have precipitated the strike. Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters in the hospital. 

Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini and other Afghan officials, on the other hand, insisted that Taliban fighters had entered the hospital and were using it as a firing position. Given that Afghan officials have a long history of distorting the truth to cover up their own crimes and the crimes of their Western partners, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) strongly denied the claims and pointed out that "these statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present." As MSF rightly noted, "this amounts to an admission of a war crime." Notwithstanding the obvious hypocrisy, the U.S. initially tried to play the 'collateral damage' card but Gen. John F. Campbell later confirmed that MSF was right:

US commander says Afghans requested US airstrike in Kunduz The U.S. airstrike that killed 22 at a medical clinic in northern Afghanistan over the weekend was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire, and was not sought by U.S. forces, the top commander of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan said Monday. Gen. John F. Campbell made the statement at a hastily arranged Pentagon news conference. He said he was correcting an initial U.S. statement that said the airstrike had been in response to threats against U.S. forces. "We have now learned that on Oct. 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," Campbell said. "An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from the initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf."

Afghan officials are probably having second thoughts about the "Taliban threat" after Campbell tried to shift the blame on the Afghans, basically admitting that U.S. and Afghan forces committed a war crime. As MSF emphasized, the Americans had the GPS coordinates of the hospital and knew exactly what they were bombing. But the attack comes as no real surprise considering that the hospital has previously been targeted by Afghan security forces who were "irked" by its policy of treating the wounded from all sides of the conflict. Thanks to the latest attack, they finally got what they wanted. Doctors Without Borders announced on October 4 that it was forced to withdraw from Kunduz after U.S. jets destroyed its facility amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the city. Security forces have now regained control of most of the strategic provincial capital but there is no end in sight to the fighting in northern Afghanistan:

Taliban overruns another 2 districts in Afghan north As fighting in the city of Kunduz continues, the Taliban seized two more districts in the Afghan north.`The district of Wardoj, which has switched hands in the past, and Baharak were overrun during Taliban assaults over the past two days, the jihadist group and Afghan officials reported. Dawlat Mohammad Khawar, the district governor for Wardoj, “confirmed that the Afghan security forces have retreated from Wardoj following hours of gun battle with the Taliban militants,” Khaama Press reported. Additionally, the Taliban overran the Baharak district in Badakhsan. “On Friday Mujahideen stormed the district and after intense fighting with the enemy and soon seized control of the district as well as overrunning a number of the checkpoints based near the district headquarters for the security arrangements,” the Taliban stated on Voice of Jihad. 

China Keeps Mum on Violence as Xinjiang Marks 60th Anniversary

Badakhshan was relatively stable as long as troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were stationed there but after they handed over control to the Afghan security forces, the province turned into one of the most contested areas in Afghanistan. Neighboring Tajikistan and China are keeping a close eye on the situation. Beijing's efforts to stop the violence by facilitating peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban suffered a major setback at the end of July when Afghan intelligence spilled the beans on Mullah Omar's death. It remains to be seen whether or not new supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansoor will stick to previous understandings that Omar reached with Beijing regarding Xinjiang. The Chinese authorities would prefer not having to worry about Uyghur jihadists on Afghan territory given that Uyghur jihadists on Chinese territory are already causing enough problems:

China slams a lid on news of violence from its western frontier Earlier this month, a knife-wielding gang attacked security guards at a coal mine in Xinjiang, a volatile region in the northwest of China. By the time the attack was repelled, at least 40 people had been killed or injured, according to a report by Radio Free Asia, which quoted a local state security chief about the incident four days after it occurred. Chinese state media still hasn’t reported on the Sept. 18 coal mine attack, more than two weeks later. It’s only the latest example of what appears to be a Chinese government news blackout on growing violence in Xinjiang, an oil-rich region crucial to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan for a Silk Road economic development belt stretching across Asia. Other unpublicized incidents include a police shooting of eight suspects in June; the police killing of two men in May after they reportedly attacked a patrol; and a Han Chinese town official knifed to death, also in May.

Whereas Chinese media tries to keep a lid on bad news from Xinjiang, U.S. propaganda outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA) continues to rub salt into the wound. Thanks to the help of the local authorities, RFA won't run out of useful material anytime soon. In addition to frequent terrorist attacks, there are plenty of absurd anti-terror measures to talk about. One of the more reasonable ideas is to teach Chinese soldiers Uyhgur folk dances and songs in an effort to improve relations between the military and the local population. As Chinese officials emphasize time and again, the military plays a vital role in safeguarding the stability of the autonomous region. At the end of September, Beijing released a 20,000-word white paper on ethnic equality, unity and development in Xinjiang, lauding the "tremendous achievements" in the region and highlighting the fight against terrorism and religious extremism. The white paper was issued on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Xinjiang's founding on October 1, 1955:

China stresses stability, security on Xinjiang's founding anniversary Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Thursday said that long-term stability and security is the top priority in Xinjiang, stressing counterterrorism as the focus of the current work. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks at a grand rally in Urumqi, the regional capital, marking the 60th anniversary of the autonomous region's founding. "The three forces (separatism, terrorism and extremism) are the biggest threats for Xinjiang and the common enemies for people of all ethnic groups. We must clench our fists tight and take the initiative to crack down on violence and terror activities strictly and lawfully and fight the three forces," Yu said.

Yu Zhengsheng and other central government officials toured Xinjiang ahead of the anniversary festivities to pose for a few photo ops and to check how the fight against the 'three evils' is going. During their tour, Yu made the case for expanding an aid program for Xinjiang in order to help the region fight terrorism. According to the Xinjiang white paper, Beijing has poured more than 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.2 trillion) into the autonomous region between 2010 and 2014. Yu's statements indicate that this is only the beginning, as the Chinese government spares neither trouble nor expense to ensure Xinjiang's long-term stability and security. If recent media reports are to be believed, these efforts could also include Chinese military involvement in Syria. Chinese naval expert Zhang Junshe dismissed the reports as rumors but the growing presence of Uyghurs in Syria has certainly not gone unnoticed in Beijing:

Uighur jihadist group in Syria advertises ‘little jihadists’ The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), an al Qaeda-affiliated Uighur jihadist group that is operating in Syria, recently released a video that includes photos of children with weapons and jihadist garb accompanied by an Uighur-language nasheed [A cappella Islamic music]. The children were described as “little jihadists” on the TIP’s official Twitter feed. This is not the first time that the TIP has shown children in training. In July, the group first publicized a training camp in Idlib, which appears to be in the same area. Several of those photos depict the children learning how to operate AK-47’s, sub-machine guns, and other handguns. In both cases, many of the children appear to be Uighur, but it is possible that some are native Syrians. The group’s former military leader was a native Syrian and the group has featured other Syrians in its ranks before.

If ISIS Won't Come to Kadyrov, Kadyrov Will Come to ISIS

Considering Turkey's meddling in "East Turkestan" and Syria, it is hardly surprising that the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) is being linked to Turkish intelligence. Much to the dismay of Turkish officials, Uyghurs in and around Jisr al-Shughur are now at risk of being killed by Russian airstrikes. As Ankara is seeing its hopes dashed, Turkish Islamist "charities," such as IMKANDER and Özgür-Der, took a break from supporting NATO-backed jihadists in Syria and elsewhere to protest against Russia's intervention. These protests won't stop Russia's campaign in Syria but they could encourage Moscow to make another attempt at putting IMKANDER on the Al-Qaida Sanctions List. However, Russian officials have no illusions about the West's "War on Terror." Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who keeps eliminating IMKANDER's beloved terrorist leaders, just emphasized again that "the main target of the West is Assad and not the 'Iblis State' terrorist organization." Therefore, Kadyrov asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for permission to take matters into his own hands:

Kadyrov asks Putin to allow Chechen infantry to fight in Syria The head of the Chechen Republic has asked the Russian president to send Chechen units to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, adding that his fighters have sworn to fight terrorists till the end. “This is not idle talk, I am asking for permission to go there and participate in special operations,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in the Friday interview with the RSN radio. “Being a Muslim, a Chechen and a Russian patriot I want to say that in 1999 when our republic was overrun with these devils we swore on the Koran that we would fight them wherever they are,” the Chechen leader said. “But we need the Commander-in-Chief’s decision to do this,” he emphasized. According to the Russian Constitution, the president is also the commander-in-chief of the military forces.

Ramzan Kadyrov's expertise in fighting terrorism is well-known. That is why another former warlord, Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, visited Chechnya the other day to get some advice from him and ask for Russian support in the fight against ISIS. The Chechen leader was immediately hooked and assured Dostum that Russia won't let Afghanistan down. Some people in Moscow want to get rid of Chechnya's "enfant terrible" and probably wouldn't mind sending him to Afghanistan or Syria but President Putin counts on Kadyrov to maintain order and stability in Chechnya, by all available means. This includes public naming and shaming of ISIS supporters. Although there have been a few isolated cases of attempted ISIS recruitment in Chechnya, the group has not been able to get a foothold in the Chechen republic. Local security forces are doing their best to nip the threat in the bud, forcing the Islamic State to focus on neighboring Dagestan:

IS's North Caucasus Affiliate Calls For Recruits To Join It In Daghestan The Islamic State extremist group's North Caucasus affiliate, Wilayat al-Qawqaz (Caucasus Province) has issued a call for would-be militants in Russia to join it and fight against Russian forces rather than joining IS in Syria. In a video message released last week by Furat Media, IS's official Russian-language media wing, the leader of IS's Caucasus Province in Daghestan, Abu Mukhammad Kadarsky (Rustam Asilderov), said this was the wish of IS's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Despite the propaganda, IS's Caucasus Province is weak and unlikely to attract large numbers of recruits to swell its ranks in the forests of Daghestan, particularly as winter draws near.

The Islamic State's Caucasus Province got off to a bad start. Its first official attack in Russia, allegedly targeting Russian army barracks in Dagestan, was just made-up and now the group is struggling to find new recruits. Wilayat Qawqaz owes its existence to the defection of several Caucasus Emirate (IK) commanders. This has crippled the once powerful terrorist organization and seems to have caused some bad blood between the groups. IK's affiliate in Syria was really upset when the Russian "kuffars" didn't target ISIS positions during their recent bombing campaign. It is not exactly a secret that Moscow's primary objective is to support the Syrian government against all terrorists, regardless of whether they belong to ISIS or "moderate" groups "vetted" and armed by the United States. And another important objective is to prevent Russian jihadists fighting in Syria from returning to Russia:

Russian Jailed For Fighting Alongside Islamic Militants In Syria A Russian man from the city of Tyumen has been sentenced to two years in jail for fighting with Islamic militants in Syria. The regional branch of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) says Vitaly Makarov, a convert to Islam, was found guilty by a court of taking part in military operations in Syria in 2013-2014 with an illegal armed group loyal to the Islamic State (IS) group. FSB First Deputy Director Sergei Smirnov said earlier this month that some 2,400 Russians are fighting alongside IS militants and other extremist Muslim groups in Syria and Iraq.

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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