Sunday, August 11, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #15

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 between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

With the Russia-Georgia war approaching its fifth anniversary, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev used the opportunity to discuss the relationship between the two countries. He voiced his optimism for an improvement of the relations as soon as Georgian President Saakashvili will leave office and praised Prime Minister Ivanishvili:
Medvedev praises Georgian prime minister for courage to say that Saakashvili was guilty of starting a conflict in South Ossetia
But as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts noted, Saakashvili did not act on his own:
"Most analysts regard it as unlikely that Saakashvilli on his own would violate the peace agreement and attack Russian troops. Certainly Saakashvilli would have cleared the aggression with his Washington sponsor.
Saakashvilli’s attempt to recover the territories was an opportunity for Washington to test Russia. Washington saw the attack as a way of embarrassing the Russian government and as a way of testing Russia’s response and military in action. If Russia did not respond, the government would be embarrassed by its failure to protect its interests and the lives of those Russia regards as citizens. If Russia did respond, Russia could be denounced, as it was by President George Bush, as a bully that invaded a “democratic country” with a Washington-installed president. Especially interesting to Washington was the ability to observe the Russian military’s tactics and operational capabilities."


South Caucasus Under NATO's Control

Since Washington is again threatening Moscow with military expansion at Russia's southern borders, Dmitry Medvedev emphasized that Georgia's accession to NATO would complicate matters significantly:
NATO Membership Would Strain Georgia’s Ties with Russia – Medvedev
“This would give nothing to Georgia as a sovereign and dynamically developing state, but would create a long-term source of tensions between our countries,” Medvedev said in an interview with Georgia’s Rustavi-2 television channel.
Meanwhile, the close cooperation is proceeding unaffected by this warning:
U.S. Marines Train Georgian Instructors For NATO’s Afghan War
To make things worse, Russia's other neighbor in the Caucasus follows Georgia's example. Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev met with his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel in Washington this week to discuss Azerbaijan's participation in North Atlantic Treaty Organization programs and the establishment of a NATO military base in Nakhchivan, very close to the Iranian border [emphasis mine]:
Report: U.S. Plans NATO Base In Azerbaijan
In the interview given to the Yeni Musavat newspaper, Azerbaijani military expert Uzeir Jafarov stated that the most important agreement made during the visit of the Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan Safar Abiyev to the United States of America is the establishment of a NATO military base in Nakhchivan. “The issue of passing the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan to Turkey’s guardianship to protect it is in the agenda. It is possible that during the next year Turkey will establish a military base in Nakhchivan or open a military representative unit. The entrance of Turkey to Nakhchivan is also provided by the NATO presence in that territory”, said Azerbaijani military expert Uzeir Jafarov.
Due to its geographical location, Turkey has always been a vital member of the military alliance and is the ideal tool for expansion in the South Caucasus. With the Ergenekon trial ending, the Erdogan-led AKP government keeps on consolidating its power over NATO's second-largest army:
Turkey appoints new military commanders as government asserts control
Turkey appointed new military commanders on Saturday in an overhaul of its top ranks that underlined the government's control over armed forces which once dominated political life.

Ankara and Baku want to cement their close military ties even further:
MP: Azerbaijan, Turkey start creating single army
Azerbaijan and Turkey have begun forming a unified army, member of the Azerbaijani parliamentary committee on security and defense, MP Zahid Oruj told Trend today.
There are opportunities to improve the army and to use NATO standards. After Azerbaijan's power increases, its influence will also increase in the region.
So Azerbaijan starts its transition from a proxy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to a full member and will continue to play a central role in the global drug trade as well as in the support of terrorism from Russia's North Caucasus to Syria.

 

NATO's Encirclement Of Russia & China

Washington's promise to Gorbachev never to expand NATO beyond Germany's borders is looking downright ridiculous at this point while the leading members of the organization already eye Central Asia:
Russian, Chinese Neighbor: U.S., Britain Lead NATO Exercise In Kazakhstan
The Steppe eagle exercise is aimed at implementation of the individual action and partnership plan between Kazakhstan and NATO signed on January 31, 2006 and is a part of Partnership for Peace program between Kazakhstan and NATO.
The owner and manager of Stop NATO, Rick Rozoff, explained in an interview with John Robles how the United States and its NATO minions plan to justify further expansion [emphasis mine]: 
"There are two points. The North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, which again I have to give you credit, you mentioned in your article, is the largest – in terms of membership, in terms of its military capability, military alliance or bloc in history, it’s one that is growing daily through partnerships and eventually will expand yet further with full members. But it is one which came into existence in 1949 under the guise of protecting Europe from the Soviet menace, so that the Russian Federation being the successor state to the Soviet Union, I suppose it is incumbent on NATO to keep it around as a boogieman to justify military expansion of the United States into Eastern Europe, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and eventually if they have their way into the Caspian Sea.
They will make sure that Russia is an enemy. They will do it by baiting it, by intimidating it, by encircling it militarily."

Furthermore, Mr. Rozoff went on to highlight that Russia is not the only target of encirclement as openly admitted by the U.S. Armed Forces publication Stars and Stripes:
US deploying jets around Asia to keep China surrounded
For a major chunk of America's military community, the so-called "pivot to Asia" might seem like nothing more than an empty catchphrase, especially with the Middle East once again in flames. But for the Air Force at least, the shift is very real. And the idea behind its pivot is simple: ring China with U.S. and allied forces, just like the West did to the Soviet Union, back in the Cold War.

 

Conspiracy Theories In Central Asia

Central Asia gains importance in the struggle between NATO, Russia and China. U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, outlined Washington's concept for the region in his report to Congress:
U.S. introduces concept of its presence in Central Asia
“Central Asia becomes more and more important to the United States, and we are working with each country on a wide range of policy priorities,” says Blake. Among the strategic priorities of the U.S., U.S. Assistant Secretary of State called: energy cooperation, joint work in the field of human rights and democracy, as well as the joint fight against drug trafficking and extremism.”

The importance of Central Asia is extremely high: a secure and stable Afghanistan must be integrated into a stable, secure and prosperous region.
If the United States and its allies would really start to fight against drug trafficking and extremism instead of supporting it, Afghanistan might have the chance to become a stable and secure country but its current prospects are very grim. However, as Sayfullo Safarov has pointed out, stability is not in the interest of the United States and the creation of new states in Central Asia is in the works. EurasiaNet, funded by color revolution expert George Soros, tried to dismiss Safarov's comments: 
Are Outside Forces Conspiring To Create "Great Badakhshan"?
Anyway, one wonders what "forces" and "countries" Safarov is implying are behind this separatist movement. The Aga Khan is probably one of them; many in Dushanbe seem to believe that the Aga Khan (the London-based spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, including the people of Badakhshan) harbors some secret political ambition, and his foundation has been very involved in both Tajik and Afghan Badakhshan.
It is not hard to guess which "forces" and "countries" Safarov is alluding to and the answer was provided later in the same article [emphasis mine]: 
UPDATE: A reader writes in to note that this conspiracy theory has been mooted before in Afghanistan. This is from 2012:
According to the current leader of Afghanistan’s National Congress Party Abdul Latif Pedram, the US and Britain aim to combine Pakistan’s Gilgit and Chitral regions, parts of the historical Badakhshan region in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and a section of China’s territory to form a new country.
Several members of Afghanistan’s parliament have noted that the US and UK have been trying to establish a new independent nation in the mountainous region of the northeastern Afghanistan and its adjacent parts in Tajikistan.
Afghan MP Fouzia Kofi says subsequent to recent unrest in the Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, certain domestic and foreign political circles are trying to prevent reconstruction of the historical Silk Road which can be the biggest economic highway for Afghanistan.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, favorite Mujahideen leader of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during Operation Cyclone, recently admitted to be one of these crazy conspiracy theorists.

Ever since the CIA issued its directive #1035-960, "conspiracy theories" concerning various events have been spreading like wildfire. So we should really give Washington and London the benefit of the doubt. After all, they did not already elect a puppet government in exile for Great Badakshan like they usually do for planned states. Nevertheless, there is reasonable concern in Tajikistan about violence spreading from Afghanistan:
Tajik national arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of planning a terrorist act
Tajik national was arrested in Fayzabad, the capital of Afghan Badakhshan Province on August 6 on suspicion of planning a terrorist act.
“The detainee said he arrived in Afghanistan for jihad and he was involved in fighting against the Afghan government forces and international coalition forces in the Paktia province.  The suspect also said that he was planning to return to Tajikistan and to begin his activities on Tajik territory,” Osmani said.
Governor of Tajikistan's southern region concerned about possible escalation of destabilizing factors in Afghanistan

According to official data, seven attempts of illegal border crossing were registered in the first half of 2013 in Hamadoni and Farkhor districts bordering with Afghanistan. Three offenders were killed and eight others were wounded in those incidents. More than 200 kg of various types of drugs were seized in the districts.
Therefore, Tajik President Rahmon offered the Afghan government to address these problems together:
Tajikistan, Afghanistan jointly resolve border issues
Tajikistan and Afghanistan are stepping up co-operation to prevent terrorist acts and to combat smuggling. 

Central Asia's Islamization

Besides the chaos in Afghanistan, unrest in Xinjiang could also become a destabilizing factor for Central Asia and bordering Kyrgyzstan in particular:
Will unrest in China’s Xinjiang region expand to Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia?
On several occasions in the past, the unrest in Xinjiang has been a precursor to some sort of protest and violence in Kyrgyzstan. Generally the spring and summer and early fall seasons have been the period of protest. This was the case in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan for the revolutions of March 2005, the one of April 2010, and the tragic events of June 2010.
Beijing invests in key infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan to promote stability in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Bishkek wants strengthen the protection of the state borders. But security in the region will also depend on the socioeconomic conditions which could fuel religious extremism [emphasis mine]:
What happens in Xinjiang is certainly watched by political analysts and governments of Central Asia, especially from Kyrgyzstan, but also in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that already in the past have had unstable situations often develop into bloodshed and violent tragic reaction. With the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan everybody is talking about the risk that an unstable situation may be generated. This is of course a risk that all Central Asian countries are considering, together with the possibility that external terrorist groups may take advantage of the situation and jump on the possibilities to destabilize further the local scenario with violence. In any case whatever is happening in Xinjiang, although restricted to China, should always be carefully watched since the matrix of the unrest, primarily of an economic nature, may easily find its justification in religious extremism of an Islamic nature, and all of Central Asia is an Islamic region.
The influence of Islam among the population is growing: 
Political Islam in Central Asia – Opponent or Democratic Partner?
The Islamization of the population is expressed not only in numbers, but also in the growing readiness to follow Islamic behavioral rules.
And since poverty has become the major social problem in Central Asia, dangerous Islamic movements are able to exploit these conditions: 
This has also stimulated the strong revitalization of the entire system of clans and extended families in the last decade and a half.[22] Integral components of these structures are madrases, private Koran schools and other questionable forms of providing an Islamic education, which is characterized mostly by its low intellectual level and even its underground character. There, both Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami[23] and Salafiyya[24], with their agitation for social justice - supported by the critical socioeconomic conditions - and against violence and corruption, await the people. From them, the believers also learn about Islamic alternatives, Islamic asceticism and Islamic ways of life.

Hizb ut-Tahrir serves as conveyor belt for terrorists and is the perfect tool if you are trying to radicalize the Muslim population like CIA agent Graham Fuller:
“The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against [the Russians]. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”
So the Central Intelligence Agency continues to guide the evolution of Islam. The Islamization of Central Asia plays a decisive role in Operation Gladio B and Washington's strategy is apparently working well: 
Uzbek customs registers fourfold surge in seizing banned religious literature
The amount of illegal religious and extremist literature and materials seized in January-July 2013 is twice as high the amount seized during all of 2012, the Uzbek State Customs Committee press office told Interfax.
Kazakh state bodies receive over 350 reports on terrorism financing
As reported earlier, Kazakhstan's financial police have prevented activities of 16 companies involved in the financing of radical religious movements over six months in 2013. 68 criminal cases were initiated against supporters of extremism and terrorism.

The Governor of Khatlon region, Tajikistan's southern region, Gaibullo Afzalov announced that the security and border troops stationed on the territory of a region should be prepared to strengthen protection of the state border.
“It is necessary to conduct thorough preparation for the protection of the state border with the neighboring country by withdrawal of the international coalition force from Afghanistan in 2014,” Afzalov said on a meeting with Farkhor district population.
The Governor of Khatlon region expressed fears that with the withdrawal the international coalition forces, “some groups will gain power on the territory of Afghanistan and can be dangerous for the Tajikistan's security.”
Afzalov highlighted that the relevant authorities have to be prepared to deal with various groups taking into consideration the fact that in future Farkhor district will be connected with Afghanistan by a bridge over the Panj river.
Khatlon region of Tajikistan borders with northern regions of Afghanistan. There are four cities and 21 regions in Khatlon area, one third of which borders with Afghanistan.
According to official data, seven attempts of illegal border crossing were registered in the first half of 2013 in Hamadoni and Farkhor districts bordering with Afghanistan. Three offenders were killed and eight others were wounded in those incidents. More than 200 kg of various types of drugs were seized in the districts.
- See more at: http://en.ca-news.org/news:526461/#sthash.E7xNAR9I.dp