Sunday, October 20, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #25

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.

Millions of labor migrants, in particular from Central Asian countries, travel to Russia in search of work. This has triggered xenophobia and hate attack, as once again demonstrated by this week's mass riot in Moscow after the stabbing of a 25-year-old Russian:
Over 380 detained after anti-migrant riot in southern Moscow

Moscow police said they detained some 380 people during the mass rioting in a southern district of the city. A mixed crowd of nationalists and locals attacked a warehouse run by natives of the Caucasus, blaming a migrant for the fatal stabbing of a local.
© Photo RIA Novosti/Anton Denisov

Local authorities responded by closing the attacked warehouse and arresting 1.200 migrants. Sergey Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, supports tougher measures against illegal migration and there have been several raids targeting migrant workers in the Russian capital in recent time. 


Clashes, Terror Attack Foiled In Russia

Although the suspected murder, a 30-year-old Azerbaijani cab driver, was arrested shortly thereafter, the situation in Moscow is still tense. City officials revoked the earlier-granted license for a nationalist rally and police tightened security during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha to prevent riots. Moscow's Muslim migrants are concerned about their safety and public prayers marking the beginning of Eid al-Adha were therefore not as crowded as usual. There is a reasonable fear among the Muslim community that they could be targeted by nationalist groups which try to exploit the current situation. Police in St. Petersburg foiled a plot aimed at inciting inter-ethnic clashes: 
St. Petersburg Police Foil Attempted Race-Hate Clash Provocation

According to police, unidentified leaders of nationalist movements paid two young men to pretend they were the injured victims of attacks by Muslim migrants. One of the young men inflicted a knife wound on himself while the other was shot in his back with a non-lethal firearm by an accomplice.
In response to these developments and in order to contain inter-ethnic tensions, the Kremlin is considering to introduce new legislation barring foreigners from owning or renting real estate in Russia without official permission:
Russia Preparing Property Restrictions for Foreigners – Paper
The proposed legislation has been designed to prevent the emergence of ghettoes based on racial or ethnic lines in Russian cities, Izvestiya newspaper reported Tuesday. Senior officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, have expressed their opposition to such neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, the first reading of a counterterrorist bill, recently submitted to the parliament on the initiative of President Putin, has been approved by Russia's State Duma. This new bill forces relatives of terrorists to pay compensation for the inflicted damage. It is modeled after similar laws in Germany, France and China which have proved their effectiveness by using strong family ties as leverage. The main objective of the new legislation is to make terrorism "unprofitable and unappealing":
New bill forces terrorists’ relatives to pay compensation for attacks

The bill consists of a set of amendments to the Russian Criminal Code and the Law on Terrorism. Apart from making terrorists and their relatives pay damages, including the moral damages, resulting from terrorist attacks, it simplifies the legal procedures allowing punishment for terrorists’ recruiting and training as well as for forming terrorist groups.
But even the laws currently in place were sufficient to put one of the most infamous terrorists, Ingush separatist commander Ali Taziyev, in prison for the rest of his life. A Russian court sentenced Doku Umarov's top lieutenant to life imprisonment this week. Umarov and his Caucasus Emirate continue to destabilize the North Caucasus where, according to the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, 98 percent of all terror-related crimes in Russia are committed. However, two Wahhabi terrorists tried to change the routine by planning a major attack on an interesting target in Russia's Kirov Oblast:
Russia thwarts plot to bomb chemical weapons facility

Russian authorities have arrested two men from the North Caucasus for planning a suspected terror attack on a chemical weapons destruction facility. Investigators said the attack could have led to hundreds of deaths in the city of Kirov.

Investigators believe the two men were plotting to bomb a chemical weapons storage and destruction facility in Russia’s Kirov Region, 1,000km east of Moscow. The suspects are thought to belong to the fundamentalist Wahhabi Islamist movement.
© Photo from gorodkirov.ru

One has to wonder how the two suspects came up with this idea. After all, there is hardly any better way for Saudi spymaster Bandar bin Sultan to show his discontent with current developments in Syria than bombing a chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia. 


IMU Targets U.S. Enemies 

So terrorism is by no means limited to the North Caucasus and Russian authorities have to be vigilant in other parts of the country as well. In another terror-related incident this week three members of the increasingly popular Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were detained in Russia's Sverdlovsk Oblast [emphasis mine]:
Three Suspected Terrorists Detained In Sverdlovsk

The Prosecutor-General's Office in the Urals Federal District said on October 16 that the apprehended men are members of the Islamic Party of Turkestan (IPT). Investigators say they found guns, munitions, explosives, and drugs at the detainees' home in the Sverdlovsk region. 

The IPT, which is also known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is believed to have links to Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants. It has been banned in Russia and Central Asia and is on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Almost simultaneously Tajik media reported the arrest of three suspected IMU terrorists in Sughd Province and indicated that there might be a connection between the IMU's activities in Russia and in Tajikistan [emphasis mine]:
Three alleged IMU members detained in Sughd

Three residents of the Tajik northern province of Sughd have been arrested on suspicion of being members of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

According to the Sughd organized crime control directorate (RUBOP), two of them – F.M., 30, and D.Z., 30 – were arrested in the Asht district and the third one – A.E., 27 – was arrested at the Khujand airport after arriving from Russia.
In the last round-up the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan's success in Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province was highlighted. Now we see that IMU terror cells pose an additional threat. But Central Asia and Russia are not the only targets of the terrorist group. The IMU wants to expand its activities even further and has very ambitious plans, as explained by Jacob Zenn, analyst for the CIA's Jamestown Foundation [emphasis mine]:
"The IMU is also threatening to attack Central Asia, despite the fact that the Afghan Taliban has promised to focus only on Afghanistan and not neighboring countries as long as they do not support the Karzai government. After IMU members carried out suicide bombings in Panjshir, north of Kabul, the IMU announced in a martyrdom video that its “future conquests are very near in the Mawarounnahr region” (the ancient name for modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan). In addition, the Uzbek-speaking IMU mufti, Abu Zar al-Burmi, said in a video with Kazakh and Caucasian Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) fighters that after the U.S. war in Afghanistan, China will become the “number one enemy.” Before 2001, the IMU and Uighur militants were under the control of the Afghan Taliban, but now they are under the Pakistani Taliban, which may not have the same political interests as the Afghan Taliban to prevent Central Asian militants from attacking their home countries."

It is no coincidence that the plans of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are consistent with Washington's objectives and we can assume that this terrorist group is not being directed from some distant cave in Waziristan. 


East Turkestan, Terrorists & The Dalai Lama

Even the most popular and influential terrorists are rather working for Washington than on their own behalf or for some guy in a cave. The IMU, the rising star of militant Islamist groups, is another tool for the United States and its allies to further their geopolitical objectives and will join the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in destabilizing China's Xinjiang. Richard Lourie outlined in a recent commentary for Al Jazeera America why Xinjiang is in the crosshairs and what targets Washington's terrorists will try to destroy:
"Xinjiang is important to China not only because of what is beneath the ground — the country’s largest gas deposits and considerable oil — but also because of what moves across the ground. Much of China’s imports and some of its exports must pass through Xinjiang. A new rail line, already dubbed the Silk Road after the ancient trade routes that linked China and the Mediterranean world more than two millennia ago, is faster than shipping through the Suez Canal. Just as important, China increasingly gets its gas and oil through pipelines that cross Xinjiang west to east. If a reasonable, just and humane solution to the “East Turkestan” problem is not found, China can expect the Uighur rebels to graduate from knives to explosives that can cut those rail and pipe lines." 
Lourie focuses in his article on a man who knows a thing or two about destabilizing China with the help of the CIA and advocates the "liberation of East Turkestan", the Dalai Lama:
"Central Asia is as ripe for a “spring” as the Middle East was two years ago. The Uighurs will no doubt seize the moment to attempt a definitive break from China.

Crises usually seem to emerge out of nowhere. This one, however, comes as close to being predictable and inevitable as such things ever are. It even has the blessing of the Dalai Lama."

What better way to justify terrorism than to have the blessing of the Dalai Lama?! Beijing is confronted with an extensive propaganda campaign, which is now gaining steam, led by media outlets like The Diplomat. The Tokyo-based magazine already attracted negative attention last week and did not waste any time before launching another attack on the Chinese government. Beijing is reluctant to address this issue and one editorial in the China Daily is not enough to counter the Western propaganda, no matter how accurate it is [emphasis mine]:
China’s Brutal Crackdown in Xinjiang
The spring and summer this year were also marred by attacks, with violent outbursts that have a number of causes and epicenters, but Beijing's clarion call is always the same: it's the West's fault. China Daily even ran an editorial in August that literally called the Western media "worthless" and a "propaganda machine for the Uyghur separatists."
The Diplomat's Tyler Roney tries to ridicule the China Daily editorial but proves its point by citing CIA's Radio Free Asia and defending the NED-funded World Uyghur Congress
While the Chinese authorities fail to come up with an adequate strategy in the information war, at least additional measures against the terror threat are being taken: 
Minister calls for better border defense in Xinjiang

Defense Minister Chang Wanquan has called for a strengthened border and national defense in northwest China's Xinjiang at the end of a week-long inspection tour in the region on Tuesday.

He told military units to lay a solid basis for Xinjiang's long-term peace and stability by consolidating political power in grassroots governments and stepping up the fight against encroachment, separatist and terrorist activities.
China and Russia have conducted several large-scale joint military exercises in the last few months and one drill is particularly noteworthy with regard to the terrorism problem both countries are facing. From the end of July to mid-August, Russia hosted Peace Mission 2013. The vehicles and heavy weaponry used during the anti-terror exercise raised some questions. Major General Pan Liangshi of the People's Liberation Army responded to these concerns and explained that the Chinese military learned a lesson from previous conflicts [emphasis mine]:
China-Russia Relations: Summer Heat and Sino-Russian Strategizing

The virtual force and the types of weaponry involved in Peace Mission 2013 provoked some questions from both foreign sources and from China and Russia. A Chinese reporter used the term “using a knife for butchering cattle to kill a chicken” [杀鸡用牛刀] in his question to Maj. Gen. Pan Liangshi, Chinese commander of the Sino-Russian joint campaign command post and commander of the 39th Group Army. Pan responded saying that it was imperative to use regular forces for such actions because terrorist groups are “extremely cruel and sinister” and may gain various types of weapons, including heavy weapons. Anti-terror action therefore must be “rapid and decisive, and cannot be a protracted battle.” If the battle lasted long and becomes indecisive, Pan believed that “people will suffer exponentially growing danger from terror.” In addition, the activities of the terrorist organizations “are international in nature, so anti-terror operations cannot use only one service, but require joint strikes in all domains.” For this, Pan cited the Chechen War as a case in point. Elsewhere, Pan also cited Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia as a case for the Chinese military to learn from Russia’s experience. The PLA obviously pays close attention to Russia’s combat experience in both regular and counter-insurgency operations against Chechnya’s separatist movement that have cost Russia dearly.
Russia's wars against NATO's Chechen freedom fighters clearly showed Beijing that the danger of terrorism must not be underestimated and that a hard-line approach is necessary to preserve territorial sovereignty. 



NATO's South Caucasus Conquest

Speaking of territorial sovereignty, the consequences of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war are still a major issue in the Caucasus. The disput about Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is far from over and Washington continues to meddle in Moscow's and Tbilisi's affairs:
Triumvirate: U.S., NATO, EU Blast Russia Over South Caucasus

The United States and its allies on Wednesday called on Moscow to dismantle barriers erected by Russian border guards between Georgia and its de-facto independent republic of South Ossetia, saying the so-called “borderization” violates Tbilisi’s sovereignty. 
Furthermore, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, once again criticized Moscow's policies regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Unfortunately for Rasmussen, hardly anybody in Russia pays attention to his statements [emphasis mine]:
Sergei Mikheyev: Rasmussen's speech on Abkhazia and South Ossetia is ritual statement

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's appeal to Russia about the need to review its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be considered "a ritual statement, which does not have any effect," director of the Institute for Caspian Cooperation Sergei Mikheyev told VK. "There have been hundreds of such statements made, including by NATO members, but they have no significance," the expert said.
However, the latest activities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the South Caucasus were certainly not ignored by the Kremlin. In an effort to expand cooperation between the U.S.-led military alliance and Russia's close ally and CSTO member Armenia, NATO's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, visited this week Yerevan and met among others Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan:
NATO Expands Military Integration of Armenia: Caucasus Representative

Mr Appathurai noted that NATO wishes to expand and deepen cooperation with Armenia and the Armenian leaders have said that there is no problem between membership to CSTO and cooperation with NATO.
© Photo from president.am

Although the majority of the South Caucasus is already being controlled by NATO, Washington will not stop before every Russian ally has been removed from Moscow's sphere of influence. In order to reach this goal, the United States and its allies are prepared to use any means necessary, as demonstrated in Azerbaijan. 
With NATO's conquest of the South Caucasus continuing and Ukraine's EU membership looming, the timing for Steadfast Jazz could not be any better: 
Nato war games on Russian border come at tricky time in EU-Russia relations

Nato is to hold large-scale war games on Russia’s border a couple of weeks before the EU, at an event in Lithuania, plans to take away a former Soviet jewel: Ukraine.
The military exercise, called Steadfast Jazz, will see the Western alliance put 6,000 of its soldiers, mariners and airmen through their paces in Poland and in the Baltic Sea region from 2 to 9 November.