Sunday, June 29, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #57

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 month, the United States handed back its only Central Asian air base to the government of Kyrgyzstan, after the Kyrgyz authorities had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to extend the lease on the Transit Center at Manas. Symbolizing the rocky relationship between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan, a U.S. civilian contractor at the base, who had attempted to rape a local woman, was sentenced to four years in prison on the same day the Americans officially closed the Manas base. Romania is now hosting the Pentagon's Afghanistan air logistics hub but since the Americans do not plan to leave Afghanistan or Central Asia anytime soon, a new Central Asian air base is needed as well:
Uzbekistan may provide Khanabad Airfield to U.S. to replace Kyrgyzstan's Manas

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov and U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the processes within the region, according to an official statement of the press service of the Uzbekistan's Ministry.

Experts believe that the U.S. is looking for a new platform to support its troops in Afghanistan upon the withdrawal from the Kyrgyzstan's Transit Center at Manas Airport.


In Uzbekistan, the U.S. is interested in Khanabad Airfield that had been already provided to them in 2001. However, after the 2005 events in Andijan, the U.S. was expelled from the country for their support of local radicals. In response, Washington imposed a series of sanctions against Tashkent. Five years later, the U.S., however, realized what they had lost and began to seek the resumption of cooperation with Tashkent. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #56

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 power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen continues to dominate the headlines in Turkey. At the beginning of this week, Turkish police detained 11 suspects, including Erdogan's former chief bodyguard and an ex-police chief, in a probe into the wiretapping of the Turkish PM. Gülen's shadowy network has tried to topple Erdogan by all available means, one of which was the leaking of incriminating conversations. Up to this point, all efforts have failed and Erdogan is fighting back with a vengeance. Ever since the conflict intensified, the Turkish PM has made the case for a retrial of the military officers, who were purged in a joint AKP-Hizmet operation, fueling speculation that Erdogan intends to join forces with his old enemies against Gülen. On Wednesday, Turkey's highest court paved the way for this alliance by ordering the release of 230 military officers convicted in the Sledgehammer trial. The power struggle has spread to several countries affecting even the annual Washington conference of the infamous American-Turkish Council (ATC). As previously discussed, the main battleground besides Turkey is Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani authorities did Erdogan another favor this week:
Azerbaijan shuts down ‘Gülen-linked’ schools
Azerbaijan’s government-run energy company has announced that private schools run by affiliates of the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been closed down.
From February to April, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) took over dozens of private high schools, university exam preparation centers and universities run by a Turkish education company called Çağ Ögretim, which is thought to be linked to the Gülen movement. 
SOCAR announced on June 18 that it had decided to close the schools, which were operated by the company now known as Azerbaijan International Education Center, due to “high maintenance costs and difficulties in project management.”

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #55

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 Sunday, Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, became the focus of attention, when ten terrorists dressed in uniforms of the Airport Security Force stormed Pakistan's largest and busiest airport sparking a five-hour gun battle with security forces that killed at least 39 people, including the ten attackers. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as the Pakistani Taliban is formally known, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack citing the killing of former emir Hakimullah Mehsud and government airstrikes in North Waziristan as motivation. Just a week before the commando-style assault on Karachi's airport, Pakistani media had talked about a split within the Taliban. One of the Mehsud factions led by Said Khan Sajna made public that they are leaving the TTP. Pakistan's government, sensing weakness, announced a group of tribal elders in Waziristan to evict all the foreign fighters from the region giving them an ultimatum of 15 days. Within these 15 days, the TTP responded in its own way and it did so with the help of some foreign fighters:
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Claims Karachi Airport Attack

A statement attributed to the IMU began circulating online on June 10. It included photos of 10 men wearing turbans and holding Kalashnikovs, claiming they were IMU fighters who carried out the attack in Karachi as revenge for "bombardments and night attacks with fighter jets" by Pakistani armed forces in the northwestern Waziristan region.

The attack left at least 39 dead, including the 10 militants. After securing the airport, Pakistani security forces claimed the gunmen were ethnic Uzbeks. "The militants appear to be Uzbek," Reuters quoted one official as saying.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #54

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 exception of Uzbekistan's leader Islam Karimov, the presidents of all Turkic countries travelled to Turkey this week for the 4th summit of the Turkic Council. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov attended the summit personally for the first time indicating that Turkmenistan is ready to upgrade its status in the organization from observer to full member. Berdimuhamedov had already arrived a few days before the summit to discuss the strengthening of Turkey-Turkmenistan ties with top officials in Ankara. The two countries are set to sign a free trade agreement next year and Turkish President Abdullah Gül stressed during his meeting with Berdimuhamedov that Turkey "is ready to carry Turkmen gas to European markets." Both Ankara and Ashgabat have repeatedly voiced their interest in delivering gas from the Central Asian republic to Europe, which has so far lost out to China in the quest for Turkmen gas. In the light of recent events, Europe and Turkmenistan have ample reason to finally implement this project:
Turkic leaders pledge energy, tourism cooperation
"Trying to reduce its dependency on Russian natural gas, Europe wants Turkmen gas supplies more than ever," said Guner Ozkan, Caucasus and Caspian regions expert at the Ankara-based think-tank International Strategic Research Organization told the Anadolu Agency in an interview.

However, Ozkan pointed out that Russia is the strongest player in the Caspian region and it would be wrong to believe that Russia would not "intervene" in a project that will go through the Caspian and reach Europe to supply an alternative to Russian gas.

"The recent $400 billion agreement between Russia and China, will soften up Turkmenistan’s gas price negotiations with China," Ozkan said, adding, "Turkmenistan needs alternative markets as well and reaching Europe through Turkey is imperative from this perspective."
© Photo Ministry of Foreign Affairs Turkey

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The New Great Game Round-Up #53

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 Western elites are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss the Russia-China 'gas deal of the century' and other pressing issues at their annual Bilderberg meeting, the Anglo-Americans' worst nightmare, closer Eurasian integration, is coming true. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed his counterparts from Russia and Belarus in Astana this week to finally implement the idea of creating a regional trading bloc, which was first proposed by Nazarbayev in a speech at Moscow State University two decades earlier. Although the Western propaganda machine is busy covering up the war crimes committed by the Kiev regime and its forces in Donbas, it did not miss this opportunity to remind everyone of the fact that Ukraine will not join the new economic union due to NATO's successful coup d'état in Kiev. So for now, the Eurasian Economic Union consists of three countries: 
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan sign ‘epoch' Eurasian Economic Union

Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed the historic Eurasian Economic Union which will come into effect in January 2015. Cutting down trade barriers and comprising over 170 million people it will be the largest common market in the ex-Soviet sphere.

"The just-signed treaty is of epoch-making, historic importance," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

The troika of countries will cooperate in energy, industry, agriculture, and transport. 
Citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will have the right to work freely throughout the member states without having to be issued any special work permits, Putin said.