Sunday, August 3, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #62

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.

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.
© Photo Sihai

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), told Agence 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.
 
© Photo AFP

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 stabilising 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.