The New Great Game Round-Up: August 5, 2015

Turkish Meddling in Xinjiang Overshadows Erdogan's China Visit, Russia: ISIS Comes- NED Goes & 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.

On July 31, representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban were scheduled to meet in Pakistan for the second round of the recently launched Afghan peace talks. The first round of talks in the hill resort of Murree just outside Islamabad was hailed as a "breakthrough," raising hopes that the warring parties could come to an agreement. Pakistan's efforts to facilitate the meeting and the attendance of Chinese and U.S. officials signaled widespread support for the peace talks. But just as people were getting their hopes up, two days before the next meeting in Pakistan, BBC's Afghan Service dropped a bombshell by reporting the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Two weeks earlier, the Taliban leader had purportedly endorsed the peace talks in a statement posted on the Taliban's official website, making the reports of his death all the more surprising. It was not the first time that Mullah Omar's death has been reported but this time everyone agreed that Mullah Omar was dead:

Afghan government formally confirms death of Mullah Omar The government of Afghanistan formally confirmed the death of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. A statement by the President Palace said “The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan.” The statement further added “The government of Afghanistan believes that grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.”

Mullah Omar's Death Spoils Afghan Peace Talks

Pakistan reportedly confirmed the death as well and the U.S. deemed the reports credible. According to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), Mullah Omar died in a hospital in Karachi in April 2013. A former Afghan Taliban minister and member of the central leadership mentioned the same time of death and added that Omar died of tuberculosis. Last but not least, Mullah Omar's family and the Taliban leadership officially confirmed the death after Taliban deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor had been chosen as Omar's successor. As usual, the Taliban put their own spin on the whole story by claiming that "Mullah Omar never visited Pakistan or any other country except Afghanistan" but all parties agreed to finally acknowledge the death of the long-time Taliban leader and move on. However, the choice of Mullah Omar's successor didn't go down well with everyone:

Mullah Omar's son says he cannot support new Taliban leader

No sooner had the Taliban selected a new chief to replace Mullah Omar than deep fractures emerged on Friday, as the former leader's son said he rejected the choice of successor. Mullah Yacoob, Mullah Omar's oldest son, said he and three other senior leaders walked out of a meeting called to elect a leader, and were demanding a wider vote. “I am against the decision to select Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as leader,” he told The Associated Press.

Signs of deep fractures within the Taliban movement have already surfaced during the Afghan peace talks. Mansoor endorsed negotiations with Kabul, whereas battlefield commander Abdul Qayyum "Zakir" went as far as threatening to join ISIS if the talks continued. Zakir is now spearheading efforts to form a new leadership council that would replace the existing Quetta Shura because he wants to see Mullah Omar's son Yacoob as the new supremo. With the Taliban in disarray, the prospects for the Afghan peace talks are bleak. Although Mansoor is clearly more inclined toward dialogue, he felt the need to pander to his audience by distancing himself from the peace process. Moreover, he offered to meet his critics and address their grievances. Mansoor emphasized the "need for unity" as "the world tried its best to create rifts in our ranks." His top priority is to stop the factionalism that has been fueled by Mullah Omar's death. Otherwise, the Taliban are also going to lose more fighters to ISIS:

IMU Pledges Allegiance to Islamic State Only days after the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar was announced, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorist group has reportedly sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. In a video posted by the IMU-controlled Furqon TV on July 31, a figure identified as the group’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Muhammad Ali, stands in front of the black flag of IS and pledges loyalty to the organization. The rest of the 16-minute video shows IMU militants carrying out attacks on Afghan army posts in Zabul province, which borders Pakistan. Usman Ghazi, the IMU’s leader since 2012, features in the clip. This is the first time the IMU’s central leadership has formally sworn allegiance to ISIS. But it is not the first report of IMU-linked militants allying themselves with ISIS.

Mullah Omar's jihadist credentials have long prevented more insurgents from joining ISIS. The confirmation of his death is going to have profound ramifications for the Taliban movement and the Afghan peace process. Remarkably enough, shortly after his death was finally confirmed, Pakistani media reported that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani network, has also been dead for some time. Members of the Haqqani family and the Taliban immediately denied the reports and published a statement purportedly quoting Jalaluddin Haqqani as mourning the loss of Mullah Omar and giving his backing to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Jalaluddin Haqqani's son Sirajuddin was recently named as Mansoor's deputy. Considering that the Haqqani network is a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, there is some evidence to suggest that Pakistan used Mullah Omar's death to put more easily controllable leaders in charge of the Taliban. After all, the Pakistani authorities don't want to take any chances in light of the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor [emphasis mine]:

Any attempt to obstruct, impede CPEC will be thwarted: COAS The army chief on Friday reiterated that any attempt to obstruct or impede the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be thwarted. According to a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday evening,, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif congratulated the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) on its 88th anniversary. He also commended the deep ties between Pakistan and China. Gen Raheel also fired broadsides at state and non-state actors trying to destabilise Afghanistan. “Our cooperation for regional stability will squeeze space for state and non-state actors for a stable Afghanistan,” the statement added.

Turkish Meddling in Xinjiang Overshadows Erdogan's China Visit

It remains to be seen whether or not the 'all-weather friends' Pakistan and China will be able to walk the talk. Given that new Taliban leader Mansoor has to put his house in order first, it is unlikely that the Afghan peace talks will resume anytime soon. As the Taliban are already killing each other over Mansoor's appointment, China is also getting worried about how Mullah Omar's death will affect previous understandings with the Taliban regarding Xinjiang. Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura normally promised Beijing not to allow Uyghur jihadists to operate autonomously or launch attacks against China from Afghan territory. These kind of guarantees are more difficult to obtain when dealing with various warring factions. The Chinese authorities spare neither trouble nor expense to convince other state and non-state actors of supporting China's war on terror. Mullah Omar and the Taliban more or less kept their promises but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not to be trusted in this regard:

Turkish president opposes terror against China Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to cooperate with China to fight against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) during his visit to Beijing, a clear signal that observers say indicates Turkey is ready to remove obstacles in Sino-Turkish ties and seek closer economic cooperation. 

During his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Erdogan said that Turkey will respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, oppose any terrorist acts against China, including those launched by ETIM, and will not allow any force to harm Sino-Turkish ties. He added that Turkey is also a victim of terrorism, China Central Television reported.  Zan Tao, an expert on Turkey affairs and an associate professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that Erdogan's remarks about ETIM are very clear and strong, compared with his previous remarks over similar matters.

Erdogan's visit to China came at a crucial moment in Sino-Turkish relations. China is Turkey's second-largest trade partner and both countries want to boost economic cooperation in order to build a new Silk Road but disagreements over China's Uyghur minority have strained the relationship significantly in recent months. Beijing publicly reprimanded Ankara twice for its support of the East Turkestan independence movement by revealing damning information about Turkey's role in Uyghur smuggling and terror operations. The latest disclosure was prompted by an ongoing row over Uyghur refugees in Thailand and a vicious propaganda campaign during Ramadan, which has given rise to anti-China sentiments in Turkey. In the run-up to his China trip, Erdogan eventually tried to defuse the situation as Asians in Turkey were about to get lynched. A few days ago, the Turkish President then continued his reconciliation efforts in Beijing, much to the dismay of the East Turkestan crowd at home:

Erdoğan’s ’terrorism’ reference regarding Uighurs draws public criticism Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's use of the term “terrorism” in reference to Uighurs -- an ethnic Turkic minority in western China -- while in Beijing where he pledged to cooperate with the Chinese government to combat terrorism, including activities by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have drawn fierce criticism from the Turkish public as well as opposition lawmakers. "For the president of Turkey, these remarks were not proper. Just to make a gesture to China, Erdoğan's remarks are not only misleading and wrong, but also will encourage Chinese officials to treat Uighurs as they used to do in the past," veteran Turkish diplomat and former deputy for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Faruk Loğoğlu told Today's Zaman. "Considering the fact that Uighurs have been subjected to restrictions and pressure over their identity and religion, this reference to ETIM would likely to undercut righteous struggle of Uighurs to fully realize their cultural and religious rights," said Oktay Vural, deputy chairman of opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The far-right MHP and its paramilitary youth wing, the Grey Wolves, have been leading Turkey's fight against Asian tourists and "China's brutality in East Turkestan" but Erdogan and the Turkish government are doing their bit as well. Ankara's support of the East Turkestan independence movement is being exposed more and more. A few weeks after Beijing complained that Turkish diplomats in Southeast Asia are handing out travel documents to Chinese Uyghurs, Reuters revealed lately that the documents even list "East Turkestan" as their nationality. Erdogan's pledge to respect China's territorial integrity and to support Beijing's war on terror should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. Even Ankara's flirt with a Chinese air defense system cannot disguise the fact that relations between the two countries remain uneasy. To make matters worse, Turkey's favorite terrorist group has recently called on China's Uyghurs to join its "caliphate," which means more work for Turkish border guards:

Turkey detains 457 Syria-bound 'foreign terror' suspects Almost half of the 457 people detained by Turkish authorities on the Turkish-Syrian border between January 1 and June 30 are Chinese nationals, Turkish Armed Forces sources told Anadolu Agency Wednesday. According to the sources, out of the 457 people detained, 241 are Chinese, 13 British, seven Afghans, five Germans, two Americans, one Australian, five Azerbaijanis, one Bangladeshi, five Belgians, one Brazilian, two Bulgarians, one Danish, one Moroccan, 12 French, 30 Palestinians, six South Koreans, five Dutch, one Kazakh, two Maldivian, one Egyptian, one Romanian, 56 Russians, two from Trinidad and Tobago island, one Slovakian, nine Saudis, six Tajiks, two Tunisians, 29 Turkmen, three Uzbeks, two Iranians, two Spanish and two Italians.

The suspects were detained at the Turkish border when they tried to enter Syria illegally and were being treated by authorities as suspected “foreign terrorist fighters", the sources added.

Russia: ISIS Comes, NED Goes

The exceptionally high number of Chinese nationals detained on the Turkish-Syrian border suggests that either the Turkish authorities are deviating from standard operating procedure by actually preventing Uyghurs from crossing into Syria or previous estimates of Uyghur fighters in Syria were dead wrong. Turkey has now officially declared war on ISIS but wannabe caliph al-Baghdadi and his minions don't have to be afraid because the Kurds are the real target. Only a small fraction of the more than 1000 "terrorist suspects" recently detained in Turkey were ISIS supporters while over 80 percent of the suspects were linked to the PKK. The Russian authorities can consider themselves fortunate to have convinced the Turks of arresting two suspects linked to ISIS recruitment in Russia. LifeNews just reported that the man in charge of ISIS recruitment in Russia has been identified and that two of his subordinates in Turkey were detained. This comes shortly after ISIS made headlines in the North Caucasus:

Russia says security forces kill 14 Islamist militants Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) forces killed eight Islamic State militants on Sunday and six other Islamist rebels on Monday in the North Caucasus, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said. NAK said the rebels killed on Sunday in the republic of Ingushetia were involved in "terrorist crimes" including killing law enforcement officials and extorting money. NAK identified one of those killed in Ingushetia as Adam Tagilov, who it said was behind fighting in the city of Grozny, capital of Chechnya, that killed more than 20 people — policemen and militants — in December 2014.

The killing of eight ISIS "rebels" on Sunday was one of the first major incidents involving ISIS in Russia. Given that ISIS has taken over from the Caucasus Emirate as the leading terrorist group in the North Caucasus, it was certainly not the last one. Russian officials have been hyping the ISIS threat from day one and the actual emergence of ISIS supporters in the North Caucasus provides the perfect pretext for ramping up the war on terror. Human rights activists have their work cut out but they have to look for new sources of funding if they don't like the "foreign agent" label. After the Kremlin has long been threatening to go after organizations that receive funding from abroad, they are now finally walking the talk. The Russian NGO "Committee Against Torture," which has long been a thorn in the side of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was one of the first groups to adapt to the new circumstances:

Igor Kalyapin announces creation of "Committee to Prevent Torture" The "Committee against Torture" (CaT), liquidated because of being put on the registry of "foreign agents", will be replaced by the "Committee to Prevent Torture" (CPT). The new organization will continue working in Chechnya, said its chairman Igor Kalyapin. "This week we'll submit documents (to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of the Russian Federation – note of the "Caucasian Knot") on the liquidation of the organization; and on the following week, the CaT ceases to function. On August 3, another interregional organization – the "Committee to Prevent Torture" – will start working," the TASS quotes Mr Kalyapin as saying. He stressed that the new organization will not receive any foreign funding and will exist "solely on donations of Russian citizens," the RIA "Novosti" reports.

Russian NGOs will now have to make do without grants from the U.S. government, George Soros and other generous foreign sponsors. Although Russia is just following the example of the Foreign Agent Registration Act in the U.S., the West is of course freaking out. On July 21, Russia's Justice Ministry issued warnings to the Committee Against Torture and 11 other Russian NGOs that were identified as "foreign agents." The MacArthur Foundation, which is one of the foreign NGOs on Russia's "patriotic stop list," announced shortly thereafter that it is closing its branch office in Moscow because the new regulations make it "impossible to operate effectively" in Russia. George Soros' Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are just two of the many high-profile NGOs on the "patriotic stop list." The Khodorkovsky Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Jamestown Foundation and others could join them soon. These organizations are at risk of being banned from Russia:

U.S. National Endowment for Democracy Becomes Russia's First 'Undesirable Organization' The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S.-based international organization that exists to promote democracy, was declared an “undesirable organization” Tuesday by Russia's Prosecutor General's Office, meaning all its activities are banned on Russian soil. “Using the capabilities of Russian commercial and non-commercial organizations under its control, the National Endowment for Democracy participated in work to recognize election results as illegitimate, to organize political action with the goal of influencing government policy, and to discredit Russian army service,” the Prosecutor General's Office said in an online statement. Earlier this month, senators of the Federation Council — the upper chamber of the Russian parliament — proposed a list of 12 foreign NGOs whose work they said posed a threat to national security and who should therefore be declared undesirable. The NED was one of them.

# # # #

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: August 10, 2014

Xinjiang Investigates U.S. Links to Recent Violence, Anti-Russian Campaign Gives Birth to Eurasian Alliance & 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.

A few days ago, Russia responded to the ridiculous Western sanctions and announced retaliatory measures, which will hurt first and foremost the European Union. The Kremlin had given European governments ample opportunity to distance themselves from the reckless U.S. campaign against Russia and was clearly disappointed, when the EU agreed to impose broad economic sanctions on Russia on July 29. During the Ukraine crisis, European leaders have repeatedly acted against European interests by doing Washington's bidding and the EU will now have to pay the price for this. According some estimates, the trade bloc might end up losing about 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) if the economic war escalates. With Russia banning food and agricultural products from the U.S., the EU, Norway, Canada and Australia for one year, some EU countries are already getting a foretaste of what is to come, while Russia is starting talks with more friendly countries to replace the banned products: 

Putin in Trade Talks With Belarusian, Kazakh Presidents in Wake of Food Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev the coordination of trade and economy after Russia imposed food import embargo against a number of Western countries, the Kremlin’s press center said on Thursday.

Russia is going to rely on its economic partners outside the European Union for agricultural imports. At present, it is seeking to replace essential EU deliveries by products from blocs that Russia is a member of, including the fledgling Eurasian Economic Union (EAU) and the BRICS group of emerging economies.

Anti-Russian Campaign Gives Birth to Eurasian Alliance

Many countries are lining up to replace the banned imports. Especially Central Asia and Belarus stand to gain from the trade ban. The same applies to Turkey, which has been asked to boost its fruit and vegetable supplies to Russia in order to replace imports from Poland and Moldova. Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci could barely contain his joy about the dispute between Russia and the West. Turkey considers strengthening its ties with Russia anyway and even offered to switch to national currencies in mutual payments. Washington is confronted with a dangerous trend as more and more U.S. allies agree to "de-dollarize" their trade with Russia, the latest example being India. The new Indian government has made it perfectly clear that it will maintain the good relations with Russia, no matter what the U.S. says. Washington should think twice before pressuring New Delhi to choose sides in the new Cold War because this will end with an unpleasant surprise:

Delhi gears to join China-Russia club

India is preparing to join the influential Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) strategic grouping, currently led by China and Russia, just days ahead of the Prime Minister’s September visit to the US where his bonhomie with Moscow has already triggered unease.  

The SCO has informed New Delhi that it plans to approve documents making India a full member at a September 11-12 summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, senior officials have told The Telegraph.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to travel to Dushanbe for the September meeting where India’s membership will likely receive a formal stamp of approval.

Following the election of Narendra Modi, there has been a rapprochement between India and China causing Beijing to rethink India's admission to the SCO. After making substantial progress at the recent meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Tajikistan, the SCO is expected to adopt the documents, which will give the green light for admitting the four observer-states, India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia to the organization, at the upcoming SCO summit in Dushanbe next month. Serious talks about the accession of new member states are set to begin after the documents are approved with India and Pakistan being the first candidates for membership, while Iran will reportedly have to wait until the sanctions are lifted. The SCO could obviously change its stance on Iran's admission given that Russia is now facing similar sanctions, which have only recently helped Moscow and Tehran to overcome their differences in negotiating an oil-for-goods deal:

Vladimir Putin signs historic $20bn oil deal with Iran to bypass Western sanctions

Vladimir Putin has agreed a $20bn (£11.8bn) trade deal with Iran that will see Russia sidestep Western sanctions on its energy sector.

Under the terms of a five-year accord, Russia will help Iran organise oil sales as well as “cooperate in the oil-gas industry, construction of power plants, grids, supply of machinery, consumer goods and agriculture products”, according to a statement by the Energy Ministry in Moscow.

Washington tried to torpedo the deal by threatening both Russian and Iranian companies with sanctions, to no avail. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak emphasized that the deal does not violate the UN Security Council's resolutions restricting cooperation with Tehran. Obama's triple containment of Russia, China and Iran did not work out as planned but it succeeded in establishing closer Eurasian integration led by the symbiotic China-Russia strategic alliance. Further Western sanctions are only going to strengthen this alliance. Up until now, Russian aerospace and military industries used to buy their electronic components in the West but due to sanctions, Russia is now looking to purchase components worth several billion dollars from China. At the latest when the payments for these components are not made in dollars anymore, Americans should start to get worried. Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov mentioned during his China trip last month that it will take some time to switch to payments in rubles and yuan. Over 75 percent of payments in Russia-China trade settlements are still made in dollars but this will change sooner rather than later:

Russia, China agree more trade currency swaps to bypass dollar

The Russian and Chinese central banks have agreed on a draft currency swap agreement, which will allow them to increase trade in domestic currencies and cut the dependence on the US dollar in bilateral payments.

“The draft document between the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China on national currency swaps has been agreed by the parties,” and is at the stage of formal approval procedures, ITAR-TASS quotes the Russian regulator’s office on Thursday.

The Russian Central Bank is not giving precise details on the size of the currency swaps, nor when it will be launched. It says this will depend on demand.

Xinjiang Investigates U.S. Links to Recent Violence

While U.S. President Obama tries to assure the public that tensions between the U.S. and China are "manageable", Kremlin advisor Sergey Glazyev is convinced that the conflict in Ukraine and other regional wars organized by the Americans center "on the U.S. securing control over all of north Eurasia to bolster its position against China." Washington's East Turkestan project plays a pivotal role in this regard and the authorities in China's Xinjiang province are currently looking for evidence linking the U.S.-based, NED-funded Uyghur Amercian Association (UAA) to the recent clashes in Xinjiang:

Is Uyghur American Association involved in recent wave of terrorism in Xinjiang? 

“We are working to find out who was behind this recent wave of terrorism. This new wave is different than previous sporadic incidents. It looks an organized attempt with the support from outside China to spread violence in other parts of Xinjiang province. United States is habitual to sponsor groups that are against Chinese government to destabilize exceptional growth of China. UAA is one of such groups. There are strong links between Turkestan Islamic Movement and Saudi Arabia and United States. But diplomacy forbids China to raise such issues officially. This time China is gathering maximum information how this wave of terrorism is organized and sponsored. Links of UAA with terrorists working in region are clear but China does not want to place information in media unless it unearths whole networking spreading from China to Pakistan, central Asia and linked with Saudi Arabia and United States. ”, claimed a terrorism expert working closely with Xinjiang authorities.

Washington's favorite Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, claimed this week that "at least 2000 Uyghurs have been killed by Chinese security forces" citing "evidence" from the ground. Predictably, Kadeer failed to mention the killed Han Chinese civilians as well as the eyewitness accounts and video footage, which contradict her claims. Residents of Xinjiang, who helped the police to get the situation under control, were handsomely rewarded with local authorities handing out more than 300 million yuan ($49 million) to "those who helped hunt suspected terrorists." The support of the population is crucial to ensure the stability of Xinjiang. Last month, the U.S.-backed insurgents did their best to plunge the autonomous region into chaos and violence:

Uyghur Judicial Official, Five Han Chinese Traders Murdered in Xinjiang

A Uyghur judicial official and five Han Chinese businessmen have been murdered in separate incidents in China’s troubled western Xinjiang region, local officials said this week, blaming a group of ethnic minority Muslim Uyghur suspects for the brutal slayings.

Nurmemet Rozi, 37, the director of a township level justice department, was killed on July 18 when he was tracking down the identities of Uyghurs who had attended special prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at a village mosque in Aktokay township in Uchturpan (in Chinese, Wushi) county in Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture, the officials said.

The five Han Chinese businessmen were stabbed to death after the suspects waylaid their car in Aksu city on July 12, they said.

Chinese state media has not reported the two incidents so far, possibly to prevent the suspects from fleeing the prefecture or to avoid undue publicity that could deter Han Chinese from taking up jobs in Xinjiang, the homeland of the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, local residents said.

The Chinese authorities respond to the recent increase in violence by perfecting their police state. When China's Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun stated that the terrorism crackdown "should reach every single village and household" he could have mentioned "every smarthphone" as well. Lately, China told South Korea that it had blocked "some foreign messaging applications through which terrorism-related information" was circulating. Since mobile messaging apps and video websites are used to plot attacks, China decided to block some services altogether. The latest anti-terror measures in Xinjiang are even more excessive: 

China bans beards, veils from Xinjiang city's buses in security bid

A city in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has banned people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses, as the government battles unrest with a policy that critics said discriminates against Muslims.

Authorities will prohibit five types of passengers - those who wear veils, head scarves, a loose-fitting garment called a jilbab, clothing with the crescent moon and star, and those with long beards - from boarding buses in the northwestern city of Karamay, state media said.

The crescent moon and star symbol of Islam features on many national flags, besides being used by groups
China says want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan.

Azerbaijan's Aliyev Postpones Recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh

Coincidentally, the government of "East Turkestan" was already set up in Washington ten years ago. The U.S. promotes the right to self-determination when it suits its own interests. Therefore, it is legitimate to call for the independence of East Turkestan but not to call for the independence of the Federal State of Novorossiya or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. If NATO proxy Azerbaijan tries to restore control over Nagorno-Karabakh by force, the U.S. and its allies will have Azerbaijan's back. After clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops escalated last week, Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev tried to show that he is serious about recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh but his statements during this week's morale-raising visit to the front line suggest that the recent fighting was provoked in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict: 

Azerbaijan's Aliyev, On Karabakh Front Line, Rallies Troops

On Wednesday, Aliyev visited troops near the Aghdam region (which overeager Azerbaijani media had
reported that its forces had already won back) and, in a military uniform, delivered a stemwinder of a speech, which he the next day summarized on twitter.

He also seemed to support the theory that the uptick in fighting was intended to sharpen international attention on the conflict. "Azerbaijani citizens are not pleased with the activity of mediators because the main mission of mediators is to settle the conflict, not to keep it in a frozen state and conduct confidence building measures," he said. "The Azerbaijani army is showing its strength, which is having an impact on the talks... If the Azerbaijani army starts an offensive, the enemy will find itself in a very difficult situation. This is known to us, the enemy and the mediators. Therefore, I believe that the developments of recent days will prompt mediators to take some action."

The summary of Aliyev's speech on Twitter was interpreted as a declaration of war and Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry went as far as threatening the destruction of Armenia's capital Yerevan. Despite all that, the Armenian authorities did not buy into Baku's bellicose rhetoric and dismissed concerns about a large-scale war between the two countries from the very beginning. Meanwhile, fighting has died down and the Kremlin managed to organize a trilateral meeting in Sochi, although Aliyev reportedly did not want to talk with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, whom he had called a "fascist" just a few days earlier:

Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia agree: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved peacefully

Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed that the renewed violence in Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the South Caucasus should be settled “in a peaceful way.” Leaders of the three states held a joint meeting as tensions worsened in the disputed area.

“I am glad to state that the President of Azerbaijan drew attention to the necessity of resolving the problem peacefully, and you [the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan] has agreed. This is, in fact, most important, because there is no greater tragedy than the death of people," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has also showed eagerness to resolve the conflict through negotiations “in the near future.”

It remains to be seen how long the two sides will try to solve the conflict "in a peaceful way" but Aliyev seems to have lost interest in recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh for now. As mentioned last week, the escalation of violence in the embattled enclave has diverted attention from Baku's crackdown on the U.S.-backed Azerbaijani opposition. This week, another Azerbaijani human rights activist was jailed and the bank accounts of several NGOs and civil society activists were frozen [emphasis mine]:

More seven NGO bank accounts frozen

By the decisions of the district courts, bank accounts of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO) were frozen upon the application of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

A pplications of the General Prosecutor’s Office to the court regarding the NGOs are mainly in the same context. According to the applications, the criminal case is investigated with the Criminal Code’s articles #308.1 and #313 on the facts of the violation of law in the activities of Azerbaijan’s some NGOs and branches and representative offices of foreign NGOs. As the representations of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation of the Principality of Liechtenstein in Azerbaijan and the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan transferred large amount of funds to the bank accounts of these NGOs and there are evidences that those funds are subject of crime, it was demanded to arrest these bank accounts within the criminal procedure course to ensure complete, comprehensive and objective investigation, further confiscation of criminally obtained funds and to prevent the alienation. District courts also made judgment on the arrest of these bank accounts within the criminal procedure course.

# # # #

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: August 2, 2014

Preparing for Future Challenges in Central Asia, NED-funded Propaganda Falling Apart as Takfiris Show Their True Colors & 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.

In recent weeks, China has introduced a number of extreme measures, such as banning matches and imposing airline-like restrictions on bus passengers, to prevent further terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. Although the one-year-long anti-terror campaign is in full swing and countless suspects have been imprisoned, there is no end in sight to the violence, as demonstrated by several incidents this week. On Monday, "dozens of people" were killed or injured in what has been described as a "premeditated terror attack" by local police. Since the Chinese authorities have tried to release as few information as possible, it is still not exactly clear what happened in Yarkant County in Xinjiang's Kashgar Prefecture. According to several reports, a group of assailants armed with knives and axes attacked a police station and government offices in the town of Elixhu, with some later moving on to the town of Huangdi. A source told the Global Times that the attack occurred after police officers found suspicious explosives and other reports confirmed that the incident began when a group of Uyghurs impeded a police investigation:

20 Uyghurs and 13 Chinese police and officials killed in Yarkant incident

Over 20 Uyghurs and 13 Chinese officials and police officers were killed during an incident on Monday morning in Yarkant county in the Kashgar prefecture of China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

According to Chinese media reports the incident began when 30 Uyghurs impeded an investigation by police officers into "a potential terrorist attack." The resistance soon turned into a massive riot, in which five government buildings and 31 cars were attacked or destroyed.

When around a hundred police officers rushed to the area to contain the riot, they encountered 30 knife-wielding men, which they tried to run over with their cars. Several of the men were reportedly shot dead by police at the scene while others fled to nearby villages. Around 300 people from the villages are then reported to have put up armed resistance to the police, resulting in dozens of civilian injuries and deaths.

NED-funded Propaganda Falling Apart as Takfiris Show Their True Colors 

The Chinese authorities only mentioned "dozens" of casualties until the results of the police investigation were published earlier today. Chinese police stated that they "shot 59 terrorists and arrested 215 others", while 37 civilians (35 Han Chinese and two Uyghurs) were killed and another 13 injured during the clashes. Washington's Uyghur exile groups emphasized shortly after the incident that "nearly 100 people" were killed or injured in Yarkant County but, as usual, they came up with a totally different account of the incident. Our old friend Dilxat Raxit, Sweden-based spokesman of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), toldAgence France-Presse (AFP) that the Uyghurs "were met with armed repression" when they "rose up to resist China's extreme ruling policy." The US-based Uyghur American Association (UAA) blamed China's "heavy-handed Ramadan crackdown" for the violence and UAA President Alim Seytoff, who is also acting as a spokesman for the WUC, propagated this narrative in an interview with the Deutsche Welle(DW):

Uighur Congress disputes Beijing's account of Xinjiang clash

A day after dozens of people were killed in clashes in China's restive Xinjiang region, the Uighur World Congress' Alim Seytoff tells DW Beijing's account of events intends to depict peaceful protesters as "terrorists."

"According to local Uighurs, heavily-armed Chinese security forces opened fire and killed and wounded nearly 100 Uighurs after hundreds of them protested en masse against China's heavy-handed Ramadan crackdown for the past month and the extrajudicial killing of a Uighur family in Yarkant County in early July. Since Xi Jinping became president, Chinese security forces have been given the order to shoot and kill Uighur protestors with impunity. As a result, the Uighurs have been witnessing more and more killings and even massacres."

Neither the fact that both the WUC and the UAA are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) nor that the so-called "Ramadan crackdown" was debunked weeks ago, have stopped Western media from promoting this anti-Chinese propaganda. But despite the strenuous efforts of NED-funded Uyghur exile groups, it is increasingly difficult to portray the takfiris in Xinjiang, who are not representative of the Uyghur population, as peaceful protesters. Two days after the deadly clashes in Yarkant County, the Uyghur imam of the largest mosque in China was assassinated and nobody has any doubts about the motive:

Imam's killing in China may be aimed at making Muslim Uighurs choose sides

The murder of a state-backed imam in China's Xinjiang region underscores an escalation in 18 months of violence and could be part of a bid by extremists to persuade moderate Muslim Uighurs to turn against Beijing's controlled current of Islam.


Jume Tahir, the imam at China's largest mosque, Id Kah, in the Silk Road city of Kashgar, was killed on Wednesday by three suspected Islamist militants armed with knives. His predecessor narrowly survived a knife attack in the same spot in 1996.


"Part of the motivation is not simply to remove and put pressure on the state-backed officials, but also to make an impact on those who attend these mosques, the stability minded Uighurs," said Michael Clarke of Australia's Griffith University.


"In a sense, it is attempting to signal that this is a conflict that is now society wide. You have to now choose sides."

Jume Tahir had been highly critical of violence by Uyghurs and he had backed the Chinese government after the 2009 Urumqi riots. So it is not difficult to imagine why he was killed. Moderate religious leaders are frequently murdered by NATO's jihadi mercenaries, regardless of whether it concerns the Middle East, Russia's North Caucasus or in this case China's Xinjiang. Chinese police located three suspects in the killing shortly afterwards. Two were shot dead after they "resisted arrest with knives and axes" and one was captured alive. Predictably, the murder of the Uyghur imam did not raise any concerns in Washington, in contrast to the indictment of Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was charged with separatism on Wednesday. The U.S. government is only concerned about the Uyghurs who are doing its bidding. Beijing is fed up with this game and urged the U.S. to "stop interfering into China's sovereignty" after U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf had called on the Chinese government to release Tohti and six of his students one day earlier. Chinese media also heavily criticized Marie Harf's statement and warned that Washington's stance "will encourage overseas Uyghur separatists to create more troubles." There is already lots of trouble in Xinjiang but Washington's efforts to drive a wedge between the population and the authorities are nevertheless failing: 

30,000 locals join mass hunt for Xinjiang terror suspects

Nine terror suspects were killed and one was captured in Hotan prefecture, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Friday with the help of more than 30,000 volunteers, police said.

Local police began a search Friday of a suspected terrorist group identified on July 27 according to clues provided by over 70 local residents, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The suspects were spotted by local residents in a corn field in Moyu county at around 12:15 pm on Friday. 


More than 30,000 residents joined the police search team upon hearing of the move, and cordoned the suspects in an abandoned house.

Preparing For Future Challenges in Central Asia

Overshadowed by all the violence was the discovery of a large gold deposit worth a potential $6.46 billion in Xinjiang. The deposit adds to Xinjiang's abundance of natural resources, which is of course one of the reasons for Washington's East Turkestan project. Therefore, Beijing is always keeping a very close eye on the "East Turkestan elements", even if they are currently fighting in the Middle East. Most Uyghur fighters abroad are still to be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the current offensive of the Pakistani military in North Waziristan is not going to solve this problem. The region will continue to be an Eldorado for jihadi mercenaries and, thanks to the Pentagon, the insurgents will not be running out of weapons anytime soon:

Pentagon running out of time to find mass of missing weapons in Afghanistan

A government oversight agency says the
Pentagon has lost track of more than 40 percent of the $626 million in firearms it has provided to Afghanistan’s security forces, prompting officials to contemplate a “carrot and stick” approach to arming the fledgling military.

Although the oversight agency cannot say at this point whether any of the arms have made their way into neighboring countries such as
Pakistan, the flawed tracking methods are fostering fears that militants could gain control of Pentagon-supplied weapons.

Over the past decade, the
Pentagon has provided what the report describes as more than 747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment to the Afghan National Security Forces at a cost of $626 million. Small arms, such as rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns, account for the majority of those weapons.

As previously discussed, China has chosen a few dubious partners for its 'War on Terror', such as Pakistan and the United States, but in the wake of the latest violence, China is also looking to step up cooperation with Russia in this regard. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the two countries "will multiply their efforts in the struggle against terrorism" on the sidelines of this week's meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Tajikistan. Moreover, Lavrov proposed to the SCO to cooperate in defending the borders of SCO countries against threats from Afghanistan. Russia's Foreign Minister was quite busy during his visit to the Tajik capital but he did not miss the opportunity to promote the Eurasian Economic Union:

Lavrov Says Tajikistan Welcome To Join Eurasian Economic Union

Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Tajikistan is welcome to join the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan that comes into being in January.

Lavrov, speaking after talks with Tajik counterpart Sirojiddin Aslov in Dushanbe on July 30, also expressed thanks to Tajikistan for its implementation of the Russian-Tajik agreement on keeping Russian troops at military bases in Tajikistan.

Although Tajikistan is now very much in Russia's sphere of influence, the United States is determined to maintain close military ties with the Central Asian republic. This week, U.S. CENTCOM commander Lloyd Austin met with Tajik leader Emomalii Rahmon to discuss further bilateral cooperation between the two countries. General Austin had also visited Uzbekistan a few days earlier and his meetings with the Uzbek leadership attracted way more attention than his trip to Tajikistan. Uzbekistan news website uzmetronom.com, which is well connected to the Uzbek security services, reported that Austin's visit was aimed at convincing Tashkent to allow the U.S. to "deploy an American contingent and military equipment, including aviation, in the Uzbek city of Termez." Furthermore, the Uzbek site mentioned that the U.S. was offering Uzbekistan $1 billion annually for the base and that Germany was opposing it behind the scenes. A few weeks ago, there was already some speculation about a comeback of the Americans at Uzbekistan's Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. The U.S. Army immediately denied the latest report but Uzbekistan seems to be the most likely candidate for a new U.S. military base in Central Asia: 

US Not Discussing New Military Base in Uzbekistan

The United States Central Command is not holding negotiations with the Uzbek government on opening a new
military base in the country’s south, the CENTCOM press service said in a statement Friday.

“Gen. [Lloyd] Austin has no knowledge of any plans for a possible US base in
Uzbekistan. He did not discuss any such options with the Uzbeks during his trip,” CENTCOM spokesman Army Maj. Brian Fickel stressed.

Earlier a number of media reports suggested that the commander of the US Central Command, Gen. Austin during his recent visit to Uzbekistan discussed with the leadership of the country a possibility to deploy a US contingent in the Uzbek city of Termez.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Escalates

While the U.S. is still looking for a reliable proxy in Central Asia, one of its proxies in the South Caucasus is playing a very dangerous game. Azerbaijan has been preparing for war with arch-enemy Armenia for a long time and given the recent clashes, this might happen sooner rather than later. Over the last decade, Azerbaijan's defense expenditure nearly quintupled reaching $3.44 billion last year. By way of comparison, Armenia spent only $427 million on its military in 2013. Lately, tensions have been running high between the two countries and this week's fighting resulted in the largest number of fatalities since 1994 when the two sides signed a ceasefire over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh:

Fifteen die in clashes over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh

The worst clashes in years over the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan have left 15 soldiers dead in recent days.

Azerbaijan says 12 of its troops were killed in the past four days while the enclave's ethnic Armenian authorities say three of their soldiers died.

Armenia says the presidents of the two countries are to meet next week to try to calm the situation.
 

It remains to be seen if the two sides are interested in calming the situation. Last month, Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev presented his new foreign policy doctrine of "power is everything" and according to Armenian analyst Sergey Minasyan, Azerbaijan has shown a pattern of provoking events like this in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict. Reports about Azerbaijani fighter jets flying along the frontline and the deployment of military vehicles have certainly succeeded in attracting a lot of attention. Moscow voiced its concern about the escalation in violence and urged the two parties to "take steps towards stabilizing the situation in the region." Russia has of course done its part to fuel the conflict by supplying both sides with weapons, much to the dismay of CSTO ally Armenia:

More Russian Arms Deals With Azerbaijan Add Insult To Armenia's Injury

Just as Armenia was digesting the
news that its ally, Russia, was offering a large batch of top-of-the-line tanks to its foe, Azerbaijan, it's emerged that there are other such deals in the works, as well.

APA
reported that Russia will shortly deliver another batch of TOS-1A “Solntsepyok”multiple-launch rocket systems to Azerbaijan. The deal to buy those systems was announced last year, but at the time it was reported that it would be for six; now the number has grown to 18.

Naturally Armenia, not having any navy, will not be threatened by the anti-ship missiles. But the Solntsepyoks, on top of the earlier offer of 100 T-90 tanks, is rankling in Yerevan. “I can’t be happy with that but I have no right to stop it,” said Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, reported
RFE/RL.

A few days ago, Azerbaijani media reported that Russia is planning to sell Yakovlev Yak-130 fighters to Azerbaijan. In the light of the current situation, it is probably a good idea to put this deal on hold. After all, the commander of Russia's troops in Armenia assured the Armenian authorities last year that these troops will intervene "if Azerbaijan decides to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno-Karabakh by force." So Azerbaijan should be warned. Baku is perhaps really just trying to exploit the conflict for political purposes. Last week, the Aliyev regime continued its crackdown on Washington's "activists" by charging Leyla Yunusova and her husband with "betrayal of the motherland." Yunusova is accused of working for Armenia, although the evidence indicates that she was working for a different country:

Azerbaijani human rights activists accused of cooperation with Armenia

Human rights activist Leyla Yunusova and her husband Arif Yunusov are accused of secret collaboration with some citizens to coordinate with representatives of Armenian special services, according to the joint information disseminated by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office and the Ministry of National Security.

Leyla Yunusova wrote false information in the official registration documents of the NGO "Azerbaijani women for peace and democracy in the Caucasus" on November 21, 2002, which passed the state registration on March 27, 1996. She wrote that she was allegedly the director of the NGO and was entitled to conduct banking transactions with the account of the organization in "Unibank", according to the report.

She received checkbooks from "Unibank" in accordance with the forged documents. These checkbooks are accounting documents. A total of 167,199 manat, $620,878,263,745 euros were transferred to this NGO from such donor organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the German Marshall Fund and others from 2006 to 2014. These funds were illegally cashed, according to the report.

# # # #

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

Why Washington Wants ‘Finito’ with Putin

The Shady National Endowment for Democracy &The Prime Agenda of ‘Whoever’ is Next US President

By F. William Engdahl
Putin Washington clearly wants ‘finito’ with Russia’s Putin as in basta! Or as they said in Egypt last spring, Kefaya--enough!  Hillary Clinton and friends have apparently decided Russia’s prospective next president, Vladimir Putin, is a major obstacle to their plans. Few however understand why. Russia today, in tandem with China and to a significant degree Iran, form the spine, however shaky, of the only effective global axis of resistance to a world dominated by one sole superpower.

On December 8 several days after election results for Russia’s parliamentary elections were announced, showing a sharp drop in popularity for Prime Minister Putin’s United Russia party, Putin accused the United States and specifically Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of fuelling the Russian opposition protesters and their election protests. Putin stated, “The (US) Secretary of State was quick to evaluate the elections, saying that they are unfair and unjust even before she received materials from the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (the OSCE international election monitors-w.e.) observers.”[1]

Putin went on to claim that Clinton’s premature comments were the necessary signal to the waiting opposition groups that the US Government would back their protests. Clinton’s comments, the seasoned Russian intelligence pro stated, became a “signal for our activists who began active work with the US Department of State.” [2]

Major western media chose either to downplay the Putin statement or to focus almost entirely on the claims of an emerging Russian opposition movement. A little research shows that, if anything, Putin was downplaying the degree of brazen US Government interference into the political processes of his country. In this case the country is not Tunisia or Yemen or even Egypt. It is the world’s second nuclear superpower, even if it might still be an economic lesser power. Hillary is playing with thermonuclear fire. [Read more...]

KYRGYZ ELECTIONS AND THE DEFENDERS OF DEMOCRACY


Mizgin's Desk Reports:

What's happened to all the defenders of democracy?

Surely you remember them? They were the ones crying foul in the immediate aftermath of the 12 June presidential elections in Iran. The defenders of democracy twitterized the ensuing protests, including some twitters from questionable sources. This leads one to wonder how much outside support for a Moussavi-faced regime change had to do with actual democracy, particularly since the same defenders of democracy, just a week before the elections, were calling for the vaporization by nuclear weapons of the very same protesters.

As the twitters tweeted out over the results in Iran, another presidential election rounded the corner in another part of the globe--on 23 July in Kyrgyzstan. In the absence of massive twitterers in the case of the Kyrgyz presidential elections, we had to rely on more mundane sources of information, like the NY Times:

The leading opposition candidate in Kyrgyzstan essentially withdrew from the presidential race on Thursday even before voting had concluded, asserting that widespread fraud had assured the incumbent’s victory.

The candidate, Almazbek Atambaev, a former prime minister, called on the public and international organizations to reject the election as unlawful. Mr. Atambaev instructed supporters who were working as observers at polling and vote-counting stations to leave, and he demanded that a new election be organized.

[ . . . ]

Mr. Bakiyev has accused the opposition of airing phony charges of vote-rigging in an effort to explain away its lack of popularity. Voting on Thursday, he declared that the voting would be fair, saying that the Kyrgyz people cared about democracy.

As noted in the piece, the OSCE monitored the election process in Kyrgyzstan and published their observations:

The observers noted instances of obstruction of opposition campaign events as well as pressure and intimidation of opposition supporters. The shortcomings observed contributed to an atmosphere of distrust and undermined public confidence in holding genuinely democratic elections.

Election day was marred by many problems and irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists, and multiple voting. The process further deteriorated during the vote count and the tabulation of results, with observers evaluating this part of the process negatively in more than half of observations.

The VOA has more:

He [OSCE spokesman Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer] said observers noted incidents of ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, and even vote buying. In addition, he said, OSCE representatives were not allowed to monitor the vote count.

"The observers were not allowed to be present and monitor the count. There were two cases for examples where the ballots were not counted at all and just packed," he said. "The form was filled in with the result but the votes were not counted. We had three observer teams who saw people in front or near polling stations handing out money in exchange for promises to vote for a candidate," he added.

Why did the great defenders of democracy fail to twitterize this obviously questionable election? Could it be they remain on tenterhooks with regard to the extension of the lease to the US of Manas Airbase?

“You know what this is for,” Emilbek Kaptagaev recalled being told by the police officers who snatched him off the street. No other words, just blows to the head, then all went black. Mr. Kaptagaev, an opponent of Kyrgyzstan’s president, who is a vital American ally in the war in nearby Afghanistan, was found later in a field with a concussion, broken ribs and a face swollen into a mosaic of bruises.

[ . . . ]

The United States has remained largely silent in response to this wave of violence, apparently wary of jeopardizing the status of its sprawling air base, on the outskirts of this capital, which supports the mission in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Obama administration has sought to woo the Kyrgyz president since he said in February that he would close the Manas base.

In June, President Obama sent a letter to Mr. Bakiyev praising his role in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bakiyev allowed the base to stay, after the United States agreed to pay higher rent and other minor changes.

The lack of criticism of Mr. Bakiyev underscores how the Obama administration has emphasized pragmatic concerns over human rights in dealings with autocratic leaders in Central Asia.

Kurmanyek Bakiyev came to power after the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-sponsored "Tulip Revolution", from Pepe Escobar at Asia Times in 2005:

One thing is already certain: the Tulip Revolution will inevitably be instrumentalized by the second Bush administration as the first "spread of freedom and democracy" success story in Central Asia. The whole arsenal of US foundations - National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, Ifes, Eurasia Foundation, Internews, among others - which fueled opposition movements in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, has also been deployed in Bishkek. It generated, among other developments, a small army of Kyrgyz youngsters who went to Kiev, financed by the Americans, to get a glimpse of the Orange Revolution, and then became "infected" with the democratic virus.

Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by these US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans.

The US State Department has operated its own independent printing house in Bishkek since 2002 - which means printing at least 60 different titles, including a bunch of fiery opposition newspapers. USAID invested at least $2 million prior to the Kyrgyz elections - quite something in a country where the average salary is $30 a month.

For more on the neoconservative NED, check RightWeb. Among the neoconservative luminaries directing the great defenders of democracy at the NED are former senator-turned Turkish lobbyist Richard Gephardt; Obama's "special representative" for the current Af-Pak disaster, Richard Holbrooke; former PNAC member Vin Weber; and Mr. "End-of-History" himself, Francis Fukuyama.

That should be enough to scare anyone's socks off right there but wait--there's more. There are other great defenders of democracy working to secure US hegemony in Kyrgyzstan and the rest of Central Asia. Among those is the Fethullah Gulen movement.

A year ago, Gulen, who's resided in the US since 1998, petitioned the Federal District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania to obtain a permanent residency card which had been denied by both the USCIS and Administrative Appeals Office. Apparently, the USCIS believed that the CIA was funding, at least partially, some of the global Fethullahci activity, from Turkish daily Milliyet:

Among the reasons given by the US State Department's attorneys as to why Gülen's permanent residence application was refused, is the suspicion of CIA financing of his movement.

[ . . . ]

"Because of the large amount of money that Gülen's movement uses to finance his projects, there are claims that he has secret agreements with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkic governments. There are suspicions that the CIA is a co-payer in financing these projects," claimed the attorneys.

[ . . . ]

Among the documents that the state attorneys presented, there are claims about the Gülen movement's financial structure and it was emphasized that the movement's economic power reached $25 billion. "Schools, newspapers, universities, unions, television channels . . . The relationship among these are being debated. There is no transparency in their work," claimed the attorneys.

At the time, Luke Ryland covered the case extensively. However, the fact that the court ruled in favor of Gulen should come as no surprise since others who worked hand=in-glove with The Agency also received green cards--people like Mehmet Eymür, who ran the Turkish intelligence service's (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı - MİT) Special Intelligence Department (Özel İstihbarat Dairesi-ÖİD) under Tansu Ciller at the time the Susurluk scandal broke open.

Or to Abdullah Catli, a state assassin who was wanted by Interpol and was found dead in the crashed Mercedes at Susurluk. Catli was an international heroin trafficker as well as a member of the Gray Wolves, an extreme Turkish nationalist organization that had its roots in the CIA's Turkish Gladio program. As a Gray Wolf, Catli was an old acquaintance of Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be assassin of John Paul II. In fact, it was Catli who gave Agca the gun that Agca used in the papal assassination attempt. Catli went by the name Mehmet Ozbay on his green card and lived in Chicago for about 10 years, from the mid-1980s until 1995.

Fethullah Gulen is definitely in august company.

But what does Fethullah Gulen, our second great defender of democracy, do in Central Asia? Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Fethullahci (followers of Gulen, sometimes more loosely referred to as "Nurcular") expanded Gulen's educational system into Central Asia. His high schools and universities can be found throughout the region, including Kyrgyzstan. But what is their purpose? Gülen schools aim to educate the children of the elites:

Although revenues raised by school fees are often used to enable access by less-privileged students, it remains an inescapable fact that the movement's educational model is elitist. In Turkey this is contributing to the creation of a parallel and Gulen-inspired elite. In post-communist Central Asia, the main location of Gulen's overseas educational activities, successful applicants are usually the children either of the wealthy or of government officials.

[ . . . ]

Although Gulen schools represent only around ten percent of Central Asia's education system, it could be that--in a tacit partnership with the Turkish state--the movement's activities will over the longer term intensify the emotive and material bonds between Turkic peoples--or their elites--and states. The Gulen network's Central Asian elites could in time take on the forms of their Turkish counterparts, thereby encouraging the emergence of a pan-Turkic world linked by overlapping and fused identities. This could in turn ease the development of economic interactions, and even encourage closer state-to-state relationships. Such an evolution would not quite accord with the kind of "Turkish model" that Ankara's secularists have sometimes hoped might be adopted in Central Asia, but it might dovetail with the pan-Turkic aspirations of nationalist elements in Turkey.

That would be the expansion of "pan-Turkic aspirations of nationalist elements" of NATO's Turkey in a region whose countries enjoy overwhelming membership in the SCO. In addition, education of the children of the elites helps to ensure a pro-Turkish--and pro-NATO--indoctrination in the next generation which will eventually come of age and step into positions of power. By 2006, the Gulen's ideology had diffused throughout the Kyrgyz educational system:

Foreign Islamic groups are becoming increasingly active in Kyrgyzstan, such as Tablighi Jamaat from Pakistan, and followers of the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, (Assistant professor of politics and government at George Mason University Eric)McGlinchey said. Gulen’s thinking was "pervasive" throughout the Kyrgyz educational system, especially Manas University and the Osh Theological Institute. "Kyrgyz are turning elsewhere to define who they are as Muslims and it’s a wide-open playing field and we’re not quite sure where they’re going to turn in the future," he said.

The Russians, suspicious of the activities of the Fethullahci in Russia, closed Gulen schools in 2007 and, in 2008, banned Gulen's movement from the country altogether, citing connections to the Gray Wolves. Apparently, the Russians didn't want a CIA-backed Turkish-style stay-behind program established among them. Perhaps they remembered how Zbigniew Brzezinski baited them into Afghanistan in 1979 and are now more wary of falling into an American-backed Islamist trap.

Since Russia's ban, Turkish schools in Central Asia, including Gulen's, have become more and scrutinized as regional governments suspect a hidden agenda. For more on the Fethullahci and how the movement is becoming the third power in Turkey, see this analysis (PDF) from Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst.

The US and Turkey are not the only powers aiming to create a Strategy of Tension in Central Asia. We shouldn't forget that the great defenders of democracy from the NED are neoconservative PNAC'ers who were also behind the 1996 "Clean Break Strategy" that went on to forge a tight military relationship between Turkey and Israel--united with the bond of US military hardware "sales". "Sales" of course is a very loose term particularly when one realizes that 80% of US military sales to Turkey under the Clinton administration were paid for by the US taxpayer. In this case, the term "military gifting" might be a more appropriate choice of words.

The third of our great defenders of democracy at work in Central Asia is Israel, coming to the region since the fall of the Soviet Union:

Israeli officials and business leaders find Central Asia attractive as an investment opportunity for a variety of reasons, including the region’s abundant natural resources, and its large pool of relatively cheap but skilled labor. The region also represents a potentially important market for specialized goods, such as machinery, chemicals and plastics. And in helping to build local economic opportunities, Israel additionally hopes to reduce the desire for Jews in Central Asia to emigrate. At the same time, Israel can offer Central Asian officials a unique trade conduit to world markets. Israel has free trade relationships with the United States and the European Union, as well as with Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Jordan and Turkey.

[ . . . ]

[Avigdor] Lieberman’s visit to Kyrgyzstan sought to establish parameters for trade. The two sides discussed the establishment of direct air links between the two states, as well as the possible opening of a Kyrgyz Embassy in Israel. Israeli delegation members explored potential deals in transport communication and tourism.

Israel’s relations with Central Asian states continue to focus on conditions for Jews living in the region, including the Jewish community in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archives]. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse and subsequent economic upheaval, many Central Asian Jews have emigrated. Israel was among the first states to recognize the independence of the Central Asian states. Kyrgyzstani President Askar Akayev was the first Central Asian leader to visit Israel in 1993. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev has visited Israel twice, most recently in April [2001].

According to that piece, the Israeli government also engages in education through an organization that falls under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MASHAV. Somewhat like the Clinton arrangement with "military gifting", it would appear the US taxpayer is funding MASHAV through USAID:

Through the MASHAV Cooperation Agreement, recently developed and funded by USAID/CAR, Agriculture Consulting Centers devoted to agribusiness development have been established in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

And this isn't just in Kyrgyzstan but throughout most of Central Asia. Even the Peace Corps has gotten a piece of the USAID-MASHAV action:

In 1999 the U.S.-Israeli-Kyrgyz MASHAV Agri-Business Consulting Program was established to address the agricultural side of the region's income problem. The program led to the construction of a greenhouse at the Oasis Agricultural Site where agricultural producers in the region receive both formal and one-on-one training from agricultural experts.

[ . . . ]

After much study, the owner of Oasis Site and a group of farmers in the region concluded that constructing a fish farm was the answer. The farm would host regular sessions where experts and local residents could meet and learn how fish farms are constructed, maintained and managed to reach sustainable profitability. Unfortunately, the group did not have the funds to build such a farm.

To resolve the problem, the Oasis owner and a local professor took their concern to a Peace Corps volunteer serving in the area. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which collaborates with individuals across America and facilitates their donations to specific community development projects, funds were raised to build the fish farm and buy fish to fill it.

However, agricultural support for small- and medium-sized businesses and Peace Corps-sponsored fish farms aren't the only capitalistic enterprise at work in Kyrgyzstan. There's a lot more going on--like the arming of Kyrgyz commandos by Israel:

Several private Israeli companies have agreed to render technical assistance to the special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan. This assistance will include equipment, police jeeps, and also special gear used for dispersal of demonstrations and in operations against terrorists, in particular in mountainous area. Moreover, the Israelis will take part in creation of the educational antiterrorist center in the territory of republic. It will train and prepare officers of the commando of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Security Service (SNB). An option to involve Israeli instructors ex-servicemen of the elite divisions of police, army and Israeli General Security Service (SHABAQ) in the process of training is also considered. AIA was informed of that by the personal secretary of one of members of the Israeli delegation, which visited Bishkek this month.

Both sides tried to avoid publicity of such negotiations in every possible way. As a result, neither in Israeli, nor in Kyrgyz mass-media there were no information published on the issue. The reason of such privacy is dictated both by the level and the agenda of negotiations, and the person, who was behind the organizing of the meeting.

This secretive arrangement took place in 2006. How many more secretive military-type agreements have been reached by now is anyone's guess,

US involvement in Central Asia, along with the involvement of its two most powerful allies in the region, should come as no surprise to anyone. Just as Adolf Hitler publicly announced his intentions for Germany's future when he published Mein Kampf, so the Americans have done the same with a small book published in 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard (the entire book available for download here). The goal of US Eurasian policy, according to Brzezinski, is as follows:

"For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia... Now a non-Eurasian power is preeminent in Eurasia - and America's global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.

[ . . . ]

". . . [H]ow America 'manages' Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe's largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world's central continent. About 75 per cent of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world's GNP and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources." (pp. 30 - 31)

Earlier I mentioned that Russia's ban on the Gulen movement was, perhaps, a sign of Russia's refusal to take more American-sponsored Islamist bait like it did when Brzezinski and the Carter administration offered it in 1979. Perhaps Russia and the rest of the SCO countries remember Operation Gladio and are taking action to ensure that a similar stay-behind program does not become established in their territory or sphere of influence. Perhaps Russia, along with Kyrgyzstan, is offering bait of its own by allowing the US to continue to occupy the Manas Airbase. This time around, though, it's the Russians making the offer and it may very well turn out to be that Afghanistan becomes America's second Vietnam.