Sunday, December 22, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #34

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.

As discussed two weeks ago, Russia reacts to NATO's relentless expansion and Cold War-style military exercises by deploying more missile systems near its threatened borders. This week, the first division of Iskander-M missiles was delivered to Russia's Southern Military District but the reported deployment of the same ballistic missile system in another part of Russia made the headlines and caused concern in several countries:
Russia missile deployment causes concern abroad
The United States, Poland and three Baltic states have all voiced concern at reported missile deployment by Russia in its exclave of Kaliningrad. Washington urged Moscow not to increase political tensions in the region. 
On Saturday, the German mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported that secret satellite imagery showed Iskander-M missiles stationed near the Polish border.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #33

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.

After several members of a Central Asian criminal group supposedly financing Hizb ut-Tahrir were recently arrested in Russia, the Russian authorities stepped up their activities against the terrorist organization. In the Republic of Dagestan, Russia's epicenter of Islamist insurgency, a large special operation was carried out. Police conducted raids on 47 apartments of suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members and detained dozens of people:
Police Arrest Dozens in Operation Against Banned Group in Dagestan

Three leaders of the local Hizb-ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party of Islamic Liberation) movement were among 52 people detained in the special operation, the ministry said in a statement. The international Islamist group was banned as a “terrorist organization” by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2003.

Among those detained was Kazimzhan Sheraliyev, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan who is alleged to be an international representative of the organization. Others were being investigated for possible involvement in crimes in the North Caucasus, the ministry said.
© Photo ITAR-TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #32

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.

Ukraine, the largest country in the post-Soviet space, aroused Brussels' and Washington's anger by refusing to sign the European Union Association Agreement. Instead Kiev gave in to pressure from Russia and preferred to renew talks on joining the Moscow-led Customs Union. However, because the country is eyed not only as a future EU member but more importantly as a significant addition to Washington's North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Ukrainian government has now to deal with Orange Revolution 2.0. So another Russian neighbor of great interest to the EU and NATO, Georgia, assured its friends in the west that they will not have to worry about similar developments in the South Caucasus:
Georgian president says Russia cannot stop moves towards EU

The Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili says Russia has no means of influence that could divert Georgia from its course toward integration with Europe and interrupt the signing of the Association Agreement next year.
© Photo EPA/Zurab Kurtsikidze

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #31

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.

While the Tiananmen Square attack is still a main topic of conversation in China and the Chinese government is mullling new measures for its war on terror, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) deemed it necessary to remind everyone of its successful strike in the center of Beijing by releasing a new video. As usual, U.S.-based Israeli disinformation website SITE discovered the video, in which the ETIM, also known as Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), claimed responsibility for the deadly crash, describing it as a "jihadi operation by holy warriors", and threatened more attacks:
TIP jihadi video ‘proves group’s terrorist nature’

The eight-minute video is in the Uyghur language and includes a speech by the TIP leader Abdullah Mansour, according to a Reuters report. In the video, Mansour said such operations were "only the beginning of attacks on Chinese authorities."

Mansour said that future targets would include the Great Hall of the People, where legislative meetings and ceremonial activities are usually held in China, according to SITE.
© Photo SITE Intelligence Group

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #30

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.

Negotiations between Washington and Kabul about the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 dragged on for quite some time with immunity for the Americans being the most contentious issue. This week, the corrupt Karzai government gave in and agreed that U.S. forces will be under the jursidiction of the United States and not subject to Afghan courts. As seen in Iraq, denial of immunity is the only way to get the Americans to leave. Since this obstacle has been removed, Afghanistan will be occupied for several years to come:
US troops could stay in Afghanistan until 2024 - security pact

The US and Afghanistan have reportedly agreed on the draft of a mutual security pact indicating that US troops could remain in the country until 2024, according to Afghanistan. However, the US insists that some final details still need to be clarified.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #29

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.

After Ilham Aliyev won the heavily rigged presidential election in Azerbaijan and consolidated his power, the Azerbaijani leader decided to visit close ally Turkey on his first trip abroad. Baku and Ankara maintain very good relations and plan to increase cooperation in various areas. With the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway near completion, the Azerbaijani and Turkish governments are focusing on the next major project, the construction of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), which is set to begin in early 2014:
Turkey and Azerbaijan cement bilateral ties

“We are taking steps on the area of energy which has strategic importance,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, speaking at a press conference with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Turkey and Azerbaijan would work to bilaterally boost trade up from the current level of $4.2 billion per annum to $15 billion by 2020, Erdoğan noted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #28

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.

After the Aliyev regime had already made a mockery of democracy in the Azerbaijani presidential election a few weeks ago, it was now the turn of Tajikistan's President Emomalii Rahmon to get the election in his country over and done with. Rahmon did not have a hard time staying in power since the Tajik people as well as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were not impressed with his "opponents" in the presidential poll:
OSCE slams lack of choice in Tajikistan poll

In power for more than 20 years, Rakhmon won over 83 percent of the vote according to official figures. He faced five little-known, mainly loyal challengers. His only serious rival was barred from running.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #27

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.

Last Monday, China's famous Tiananmen Square became quite unexpectedly the scene of another tragic event. Three individuals drove an SUV with a Xinjiang license plate through a crowd of people. The horror ended when the car crashed and burst into flames. Two innocent bystanders were killed along with the three occupants of the vehicle and 40 people were injured. Chinese police later identified the SUV driver as Usmen Hasan and his two passengers as his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and his wife Gulkiz Gini. Doubts about the nature of this incident were quickly dispelled when police searched the SUV and rounded up several suspects in connection with the attack:
Police identify Tiananmen car crash as terrorist attack

Chinese police have identified Monday's deadly crash at downtown Beijing's Tiananman Square as a terrorist attack and five suspects have been detained.


Police found gasoline, equipment full of gasoline, two knives and steel sticks as well as a flag with extremist religious content in the jeep.
© Photo BBC

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #26

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.

While China is building a New Silk Road and wrapping up deal after deal in Central Asia, India has so far failed to secure much-needed energy supplies from the region. Instability in Afghanistan and problematic relations with neighboring Pakistan complicate India's efforts even more since the country lacks direct access to Central Asia. New Delhi still dreams of the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline but this project has for now been suspended. In order to strengthen relations with the Central Asian states and to increase the current trade volume of merely $700 million a new, more pro-active approach is desperately needed, as Dr. Arvind Guptar, Director General of India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, recently argued. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed this issue during his visit to Russia this week and made the case for closer cooperation between the two countries in Central Asia:
India looks forward for closer cooperation with Russia in Central Asia - India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Events in central and southern part of Central Asia are important for security of both Russia and India. Currently India is strengthening its historical ties with Central Asian states and looks forward for closer cooperation with Russia in the region, he said.

The minister said that cooperation between Russia and India can play an important role in promoting peace, stability and economic development in Afghanistan. It may also be effective in dealing with common challenges such as extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking, he added. 

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. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #24

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.

This week's presidential elections in Azerbaijan ended with the expected result. Incumbent President Ilham Aliyev was officialy reelected, winning almost 85 percent of the vote. Few would have mentioned the fraudulent elections and the crackdown of the Aliyev regime on the opposition if the Azerbaijani authorities had not committed a blunder [emphasis mine]:
Oops: Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started

Even still, one expects a certain ritual in these sorts of authoritarian elections, a fealty to at least the appearance of democracy, if not democracy itself. So it was a bit awkward when Azerbaijan's election authorities released vote results – a full day before voting had even started.
© Photo AP/Sergei Grits

So even Aliyev's close allies in Washington were forced to back the observations made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Unimpressed by the Azerbaijani version of democracy, monitors of the pan-European rights watchdog criticized "serious" and "overwhelming" violations during the elections:
Observers Find Violations at 'All Stages' of Azerbaijan Elections  
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe identified voter intimidation, a restrictive media environment during the election campaign and violations at all stages of the voting process in a preliminary report on the elections released Thursday.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #23

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.

Afghanistan's northeastern province of Badakhshan and its role in Washington's plans for the region has been one of the major issues discussed in the weekly round-ups. In the last few days Badakhshan was again making the headlines with heavy clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces erupting in the remotely located province. Taliban fighters succeeded in taking control over Kuran wa Munjan District which sparked new concerns about of the security of the upcoming Afghan elections:
News Analysis: Security to remain major threat ahead of Afghan elections
To demonstrate its ability to disrupt the polls, the Taliban fighters overran Kuran-o-Manjan District in the relatively peaceful Badakhshan province over weekend, prompting the Interior Ministry to promise that necessary preventive measures would be taken ahead of elections.
© Photo AP/Rahmat Gul

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #22

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.

As anticipated last week, the CSTO leaders agreed on Monday during the Collective Security Council meeting in Sochi to provide Tajikistan with joint assistance in order to reinforce the Tajik-Afghan border. Tajikistan's President Emomalii Rahmon gave further details of the projects which will be supported by the Collective Security Treaty Organization [emphasis mine]:
CSTO to help Tajikistan strengthen control of its common border with Afghanistan

“The government of republic and its relevant bodies will solve a number of tasks related to strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border. Among these tasks are constructing new buildings of frontier posts, restoring warning and signaling systems and providing border troops with means of air patrol and surveillance as well as radar aids,” Rahmon said.
© Photo Presidential Press & Information Office, Russia

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #21

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.

At the beginning of this week, a series of terror attacks shook Russia's North Caucasus and proved that President Vladimir Putin's concerns about security in this region are definitely justified:
3 police dead, 6 wounded in suicide bombing, attempted attacks in Russia’s south
A suicide attacker set off a powerful bomb near a police station in Russia’s Chechen Republic, killing three officers. His possible accomplice injured two policemen in neighboring Ingushetia while a third one wearing a suicide vest was detained.
© Photo AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev
Local law enforcement officials suspected that the attacks in Chechnya and Ingushetia were organized by the same militant group. The men of Beslan Makhauri's gang, who operate from mountainous forests at the Chechen-Ingush border, were identified as the likely perpetrators. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed this and accused NATO's favorite Chechen freedom fighter, Doku Umarov, of ordering the terror campaign:
Russia's FSB Says Umarov Loyalist Behind Attacks
The head of Chechnya's FSB branch, Andrei Seryozhnikov, accused Umarov of ordering the attacks but said the commander of the Sunzha wing of the North Caucasus insurgency, Beslan Makhauri -- who was reportedly killed three years ago -- actually organized the bombings.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #20

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.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan's threat, to unleash the Chechen terrorists under his command during the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year, is taken seriously in Moscow. So Russian President Vladimir Putin was particularly enraged by accusations of "so-called widespread abuse of citizens’ rights in the North Caucasus" voiced in the Western media and by human rights organizations. Putin blasted the biased coverage and highlighted Russia's struggle against foreign-funded terrorists:
Russia Must Respond to ‘Baseless’ Reports on Caucasus – Putin
“We also face destructive anti-Russian activities by certain foreign countries and non-governmental and international organizations under their control that still see the North Caucasus as a foothold for their attempts to destabilize all of Russia, to damage our economy, to undermine Russia’s influence and to limit our activities on the international arena,” Putin told Russia’s Security Council.
"Certain foreign countries" translates obviously into the United States and its allies. President Putin emphasized that attempts aimed at destabilizing Russia should be crushed. While there have been some positive changes according to the Russian leader, the situation in the North Caucasus has to be further improved ahead of the Olympic Games: 
Putin Says Security Not Improving Fast Enough in North Caucasus 
President Vladimir Putin ordered intelligence agencies Monday to step up efforts to secure a volatile region near next year's Winter Olympics, saying the situation was not improving fast enough.
© Photo AFP/Sergei Karpukhin

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #19

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.

This week, China's President Xi Jinping started his Central Asia tour in Turkmenistan where he met with Turkmen leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, to cement ties between the two countries. Xi and Berdymukhamedov attended the opening ceremony for the Galkynysh gas field, the second-largest natural gas deposit in the world:  
Turkmenistan Opens Huge Gas Field to Supply China – Reports
Chinese President Xi Jingping and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguli Berdymukhammedov opened a giant natural gas field in Turkmenistan that will vastly increase the ex-Soviet nation’s energy supplies to Beijing, Turkmenistan media reported Wednesday.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #18

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.
   
While U.S. President Barack Obama is waiting for Congress approval and pondering if he could win another Nobel Peace Prize by killing more people with Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of drones (maybe that is the promised change), it is important to highlight the close connection between the conflict in Syria and developments in the Caucasus region.
Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, travelled recently to Moscow where he met among others Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Saudi spymaster wanted to persuade the Kremlin with favorable oil and arms deals as well as other "incentives" to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [emphasis mine]:
Russian President, Saudi Spy Chief Discussed Syria, Egypt
Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values ​​and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. ... As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”
© Photo RIA Novosti/Alexey Druzhinin

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #17

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.

After the recent U.S. visit of Azerbaijan's Defense Minister, it was now the turn of his Georgian counterpart. DM Irakli Alasania's meeting in Washington with United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resulted in a new agreement:
Georgia and USA expand cooperation in defense sector
© Photo Georgian Ministry of Defense
Alasania continued his trip at the Johns Hopkins University where he spoke at an event organized by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute addressing Georgia's acession to NATO:
Alasania on NATO, Ties with Russia and Internal Politics
Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said he expects active discussions to start later this year and early in 2014 about specifics of what should be “next step” on Georgia’s path to NATO integration in the context of NATO summit in 2014.
The Georgian Defense Minister highlighted Tbilisi's stance towards the Kremlin with respect to this issue [emphasis mine]:
“We have to demonstrate that Russia does not have any say in relationship between NATO and Georgia,” he said. “We will have exemplary [presidential] election [on October 27] that will demonstrate that we are ready for the next step for integration.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #16

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.
 
Since Azerbaijan is getting dangerously close to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Russian President Vladimir Putin deemed it best to visit Baku with a large delegation including Foreign Minister Lavrov, Defense Minister Shoigu and Energy Minister Novak:
In Baku, Putin Brings Gunboats Along With Diplomacy
Rasim Musabekov, a member of parliament and political analyst, told reporters that one aim of Putin's visit was to give Baku a warning not to cooperate too closely with the U.S.
According to him, Russia cannot but have a certain wariness toward Baku becoming an important logistics center, through which Afghanistan transit is conducted. For that reason, Moscow needs a strong guarantee that American armed forces will not appear here [in Baku] tomorrow.
© Photo RIA Novosti

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."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #14

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.
 
The disput between the United States and Russia about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden serves as perfect pretext for Washington to expedite NATO's Cold War Revival. U.S. Senator John McCain, famous for his warmongering and staunch support of terrorists from Libya to Syria, is leading the way:
McCain: Expand NATO, Missile Deployments To Punish Russia
US Senator John McCain disapproves whistleblower Edward Snowden’s newly-acquired asylum, and demands that Washington re-examine its relations with Moscow and `strip away the illusions that many Americans have had about Russia.`
`We should push for the completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe, and move expeditiously on another round of NATO expansion, including the Republic of Georgia,` the statement published on the Senator`s official website says.
© Photo AP

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #13

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.

Since Russia and China will be confronted with a terror campaign at their doorsteps in the near future, joint efforts to prepare for this situation are underway:
Chinese soldiers leave for anti-terror drills in Russia
The drill involves 1,500 soldiers from both sides and will be held from next Saturday until August 15th. Over 100 pieces of equipment and military hardware, and over 20 aircraft and helicopters will take part in the manoeuvres.
During the exercises, the parties will train in joint operations on planning, training and conducting military actions in the course of a counter-terrorism operation.
© Photo xinhuanet.com
Beijing is justifiably concerned about the security of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with groups like the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) now reaching out to more parts of the population for its operations [emphasis mine]:
Turkistan Islamic Party trains women for jihad
The al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party is actively training female recruits to wage jihad in South and Central Asia.
A short, one-minute-long video by the Turkistan Islamic Party shows five burka-clad women training with pistols, assault and sniper rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers. A male trainer is seen directing the women. The Turkistan Islamic Party's distinctive light blue flag is seen flying in the background.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #12

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.

Azerbaijan's interest in the largest Chinese administrative division, Xinjiang, was scrutinized last week. Now we will take a closer look at Baku's dealings on the opposite side of the Eurasian Balkans:
Azerbaijan, Turkey discuss cooperation in defense industry
Notorious NATO proxy Azerbaijan and NATO member Turkey maintain very good relations. Both countries work together in various sectors with the defense industry especially worth mentioning. This is furthered by the close military cooperation:
Turkish side approves MoU on military training with Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, Turkey launch joint military drills
Eyvaz Jafarov also said that these exercises are very important from the viewpoint of increasing the combat readiness of Azerbaijan's Armed Forces, achieving coordination of operations as well as ensuring the security and stability in the region.
From now onward Azerbaijani-Turkish joint military exercises will be held each year in turns in Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Which is very profitable for Turkey's military-industrial complex:
More than 20 Turkish defense industry companies have cooperation and commercial relations with Azerbaijan.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #11

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.

When the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, recently vowed to eliminate insurgency leader Doku Umarov before the Sochi Olympics, he was apparently dead serious about it:
Rebel Warlord’s Bodyguard Killed in Chechnya
Rustam Saliyev, who from 2008 to 2011 served as a personal protector of “the leader of the North Caucasus bandits,” according to the anti-terrorism committee, was reportedly killed in a special operation in the rural Achkhoi-Martanovsky district of southwestern Chechnya.
Foreign companies will certainly factor the highly volatile situation in the North Caucasus into their decision about investments in Chechnya's energy sector:
Foreign energy companies will be intrigued to learn that Russia’s turbulent Caucasian republic of Chechnya is now open for investment in its hydrocarbon industry. 
Because they could be facing some problems with the local terrorists:
On 18 June the Russian Prosecutor General's Office announced that the Supreme Court of Chechnya has handed down guilty verdicts on five terrorists who planned to derail an oil train in Chechnya received sentences ranging from 9 to 16 years in a high security prison camp, telling journalists, "In June 2011, the conspirators, who planned to derail an oil train, made a barrel bomb that they placed under the rails in the Grozny District of the Chechen Republic" before being discovered by security guards.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #10

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.

The defeat of Nabucco West is seen by many as a heavy blow to the Southern Gas Corridor. In particular, Ashgabat's plans to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to Europe are affected. While Nabucco West could have accommodated significant volumes of Turkmen gas, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline lacks the sufficient capacity. So some members of the European Commission are still talking about the realization of both projects:
EU Commissioner: Both TAP and Nabucco West are needed in medium term
Vladimir Socor explains why this won't work:
Gazprom one winner from Nabucco demise
"During the Nabucco-TAP contest, the European Commission had insisted that the winner project would "open" the Southern Corridor, strongly implying that the other project would be implemented next. According to this logic, the two projects could be sequenced; the contest over Shah Deniz gas would merely determine the order of sequencing Nabucco-West and TAP; and they would coexist in the future, each supplying Caspian gas to different parts of the European market, once a trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenistan materialized. 
That logic, however, is not being borne out now. There will not be another iteration of Nabucco-West without guaranteed supply sources and financing. Connecting the Caspian basin with Central Europe will be a matter for a post-Nabucco project. This will require a stronger consortium and more credible leadership than has been the case until now."
According to his prediction, especially one company will profit from Nabucco's demise:
"The Continental European Gas Hub at Baumgarten near Vienna will continue to suffer from limited competition to the Russian gas flooding the terminal. Nabucco gas would have introduced a greater element of competition, contributing to the development of spot-market pricing. With Nabucco's defeat, however, Gazprom will continue to dominate the price-setting process in Central Europe."
 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #9

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 the wake of the recent terror campaign in China's autonomous region of Xinjiang, the Global Times published an interesting article about the arrest of Muslim Uyghur Memeti Alili and the connection between unrest in Xinjiang and the proxy war in Syria [emphasis mine]:
Xinjiang terrorists finding training, support in Syria, Turkey
From a foreign student studying in Istanbul to a soldier receiving training in Syria's Aleppo, to a terrorist plotting attacks in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, 23-year-old Memeti Aili said he felt like his dream was turned into a nightmare.

Memeti Aili was recently caught by the police when returning to Xinjiang to complete his mission to "carry out violent attack and improve fighting skills" assigned by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). ETIM is a terrorist group that aims to create an Islamist state in Xinjiang, which works alongside the East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA), an Istanbul-based exile group.
Istanbul-based? Considering Turkey's involvement in recruiting Central Asian militants and funneling them into Syria, this is hardly surprising. Last year the Global Times already provided more information about ETIM and ETESA:
Xinjiang jihad hits Syria
Leaders from "East Turkestan" terror organizations have organized for members to head for Syria to participate in their quest for jihad, the Global Times has learned from Chinese anti-terrorism authorities.

The organizations include the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) that push for "independence" for China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Since May, ETIM and ETESA members have been going to Syria and linking up with organizations like Al Qaeda to fight against the Syrian government, according to China's anti-terrorism authority.
The headquarters of ETESA, located in Istanbul, are quite extensive and include research, media, social affairs, education and women's affairs departments. It aims to "educate and train Muslims" in Xinjiang and "set them free" by forming a Muslim state, according to a second official.
© Associated Press/Ibrahim Usta

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #8

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.

Last week's round-up dealt with the power struggle in Georgia and the interesting discovery of several arms caches. After the Georgian authorities found more weapons and surveillance videos, President Saakashvili came clean a few days ago and admitted that the caches were set up on his order:
President Saakashvili said on June 23 that arms caches, which the Interior Ministry says it found in Samegrelo region, were in fact those secret storages which he instructed to create after the August, 2008 war as part of a broader defensive plan in case of resumption of aggression against the country.
This prompted some talk about an impeachement of the Georgian President and Prime Minister Ivanishvili mentioned the possibility of an arrest following October's presidential election, when Mikheil Saakashvili will leave office after his second term as President.
The struggle is apparently taking its toll on the Prime Minister and Ivanishvili announced his plans to leave after the next election as well. But until then, he is debunking the claim of being a Russian puppet. During this week's visit of NATO's senior political governing body, the North Atlantic Council, Georgian PM Ivanishvili reinforced that "joining NATO as soon as possible" is a priority for his country.
Thus Tbilisi is is cementing its military ties with Washington and Prime Minister Ivanishvili headed to Israel to talk with the closest ally of the United States:
Georgia, Israel discuss intensification prospects of bilateral relations
Georgia, Israel discuss regional security
"Today vital topics are the preservation of peace and the fight against terrorism, and the experience of Israel in this area are very important for Georgia, and we intend to cooperate in this field," Ivanishvili said.
Israeli PM Netanyahu emphasized the great relations between the two countries and expressed his desire to "to expand this relationship in every way".

Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli government’s press office

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The New Great Game Round-Up #7

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.

At the beginning of this week Georgia was rocked by an extremely interesting discovery:
Interior Ministry: Large Arms Cache Uncovered
Underground cache included “large amount of explosives and explosive devices; hand grenades; firearms and other weapons and military munitions; communications gear, as well as large amount of narcotics and psychotropic medicines including heroin, opium, cocaine, subutex etc,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The Interior Ministry said that the cache also included video tapes showing “brutal torture, sexual abuse, beating and inhuman treatment of individuals by representatives of the law enforcement agencies.”
Photo released by Georgian Interior Ministry (Police.ge.)