KYRGYZ ELECTIONS AND THE DEFENDERS OF DEMOCRACY


Mizgin's Desk Reports:

What's happened to all the defenders of democracy?

Surely you remember them? They were the ones crying foul in the immediate aftermath of the 12 June presidential elections in Iran. The defenders of democracy twitterized the ensuing protests, including some twitters from questionable sources. This leads one to wonder how much outside support for a Moussavi-faced regime change had to do with actual democracy, particularly since the same defenders of democracy, just a week before the elections, were calling for the vaporization by nuclear weapons of the very same protesters.

As the twitters tweeted out over the results in Iran, another presidential election rounded the corner in another part of the globe--on 23 July in Kyrgyzstan. In the absence of massive twitterers in the case of the Kyrgyz presidential elections, we had to rely on more mundane sources of information, like the NY Times:

The leading opposition candidate in Kyrgyzstan essentially withdrew from the presidential race on Thursday even before voting had concluded, asserting that widespread fraud had assured the incumbent’s victory.

The candidate, Almazbek Atambaev, a former prime minister, called on the public and international organizations to reject the election as unlawful. Mr. Atambaev instructed supporters who were working as observers at polling and vote-counting stations to leave, and he demanded that a new election be organized.

[ . . . ]

Mr. Bakiyev has accused the opposition of airing phony charges of vote-rigging in an effort to explain away its lack of popularity. Voting on Thursday, he declared that the voting would be fair, saying that the Kyrgyz people cared about democracy.

As noted in the piece, the OSCE monitored the election process in Kyrgyzstan and published their observations:

The observers noted instances of obstruction of opposition campaign events as well as pressure and intimidation of opposition supporters. The shortcomings observed contributed to an atmosphere of distrust and undermined public confidence in holding genuinely democratic elections.

Election day was marred by many problems and irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists, and multiple voting. The process further deteriorated during the vote count and the tabulation of results, with observers evaluating this part of the process negatively in more than half of observations.

The VOA has more:

He [OSCE spokesman Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer] said observers noted incidents of ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, and even vote buying. In addition, he said, OSCE representatives were not allowed to monitor the vote count.

"The observers were not allowed to be present and monitor the count. There were two cases for examples where the ballots were not counted at all and just packed," he said. "The form was filled in with the result but the votes were not counted. We had three observer teams who saw people in front or near polling stations handing out money in exchange for promises to vote for a candidate," he added.

Why did the great defenders of democracy fail to twitterize this obviously questionable election? Could it be they remain on tenterhooks with regard to the extension of the lease to the US of Manas Airbase?

“You know what this is for,” Emilbek Kaptagaev recalled being told by the police officers who snatched him off the street. No other words, just blows to the head, then all went black. Mr. Kaptagaev, an opponent of Kyrgyzstan’s president, who is a vital American ally in the war in nearby Afghanistan, was found later in a field with a concussion, broken ribs and a face swollen into a mosaic of bruises.

[ . . . ]

The United States has remained largely silent in response to this wave of violence, apparently wary of jeopardizing the status of its sprawling air base, on the outskirts of this capital, which supports the mission in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Obama administration has sought to woo the Kyrgyz president since he said in February that he would close the Manas base.

In June, President Obama sent a letter to Mr. Bakiyev praising his role in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bakiyev allowed the base to stay, after the United States agreed to pay higher rent and other minor changes.

The lack of criticism of Mr. Bakiyev underscores how the Obama administration has emphasized pragmatic concerns over human rights in dealings with autocratic leaders in Central Asia.

Kurmanyek Bakiyev came to power after the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-sponsored "Tulip Revolution", from Pepe Escobar at Asia Times in 2005:

One thing is already certain: the Tulip Revolution will inevitably be instrumentalized by the second Bush administration as the first "spread of freedom and democracy" success story in Central Asia. The whole arsenal of US foundations - National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, Ifes, Eurasia Foundation, Internews, among others - which fueled opposition movements in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, has also been deployed in Bishkek. It generated, among other developments, a small army of Kyrgyz youngsters who went to Kiev, financed by the Americans, to get a glimpse of the Orange Revolution, and then became "infected" with the democratic virus.

Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by these US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans.

The US State Department has operated its own independent printing house in Bishkek since 2002 - which means printing at least 60 different titles, including a bunch of fiery opposition newspapers. USAID invested at least $2 million prior to the Kyrgyz elections - quite something in a country where the average salary is $30 a month.

For more on the neoconservative NED, check RightWeb. Among the neoconservative luminaries directing the great defenders of democracy at the NED are former senator-turned Turkish lobbyist Richard Gephardt; Obama's "special representative" for the current Af-Pak disaster, Richard Holbrooke; former PNAC member Vin Weber; and Mr. "End-of-History" himself, Francis Fukuyama.

That should be enough to scare anyone's socks off right there but wait--there's more. There are other great defenders of democracy working to secure US hegemony in Kyrgyzstan and the rest of Central Asia. Among those is the Fethullah Gulen movement.

A year ago, Gulen, who's resided in the US since 1998, petitioned the Federal District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania to obtain a permanent residency card which had been denied by both the USCIS and Administrative Appeals Office. Apparently, the USCIS believed that the CIA was funding, at least partially, some of the global Fethullahci activity, from Turkish daily Milliyet:

Among the reasons given by the US State Department's attorneys as to why Gülen's permanent residence application was refused, is the suspicion of CIA financing of his movement.

[ . . . ]

"Because of the large amount of money that Gülen's movement uses to finance his projects, there are claims that he has secret agreements with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkic governments. There are suspicions that the CIA is a co-payer in financing these projects," claimed the attorneys.

[ . . . ]

Among the documents that the state attorneys presented, there are claims about the Gülen movement's financial structure and it was emphasized that the movement's economic power reached $25 billion. "Schools, newspapers, universities, unions, television channels . . . The relationship among these are being debated. There is no transparency in their work," claimed the attorneys.

At the time, Luke Ryland covered the case extensively. However, the fact that the court ruled in favor of Gulen should come as no surprise since others who worked hand=in-glove with The Agency also received green cards--people like Mehmet Eymür, who ran the Turkish intelligence service's (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı - MİT) Special Intelligence Department (Özel İstihbarat Dairesi-ÖİD) under Tansu Ciller at the time the Susurluk scandal broke open.

Or to Abdullah Catli, a state assassin who was wanted by Interpol and was found dead in the crashed Mercedes at Susurluk. Catli was an international heroin trafficker as well as a member of the Gray Wolves, an extreme Turkish nationalist organization that had its roots in the CIA's Turkish Gladio program. As a Gray Wolf, Catli was an old acquaintance of Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be assassin of John Paul II. In fact, it was Catli who gave Agca the gun that Agca used in the papal assassination attempt. Catli went by the name Mehmet Ozbay on his green card and lived in Chicago for about 10 years, from the mid-1980s until 1995.

Fethullah Gulen is definitely in august company.

But what does Fethullah Gulen, our second great defender of democracy, do in Central Asia? Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Fethullahci (followers of Gulen, sometimes more loosely referred to as "Nurcular") expanded Gulen's educational system into Central Asia. His high schools and universities can be found throughout the region, including Kyrgyzstan. But what is their purpose? Gülen schools aim to educate the children of the elites:

Although revenues raised by school fees are often used to enable access by less-privileged students, it remains an inescapable fact that the movement's educational model is elitist. In Turkey this is contributing to the creation of a parallel and Gulen-inspired elite. In post-communist Central Asia, the main location of Gulen's overseas educational activities, successful applicants are usually the children either of the wealthy or of government officials.

[ . . . ]

Although Gulen schools represent only around ten percent of Central Asia's education system, it could be that--in a tacit partnership with the Turkish state--the movement's activities will over the longer term intensify the emotive and material bonds between Turkic peoples--or their elites--and states. The Gulen network's Central Asian elites could in time take on the forms of their Turkish counterparts, thereby encouraging the emergence of a pan-Turkic world linked by overlapping and fused identities. This could in turn ease the development of economic interactions, and even encourage closer state-to-state relationships. Such an evolution would not quite accord with the kind of "Turkish model" that Ankara's secularists have sometimes hoped might be adopted in Central Asia, but it might dovetail with the pan-Turkic aspirations of nationalist elements in Turkey.

That would be the expansion of "pan-Turkic aspirations of nationalist elements" of NATO's Turkey in a region whose countries enjoy overwhelming membership in the SCO. In addition, education of the children of the elites helps to ensure a pro-Turkish--and pro-NATO--indoctrination in the next generation which will eventually come of age and step into positions of power. By 2006, the Gulen's ideology had diffused throughout the Kyrgyz educational system:

Foreign Islamic groups are becoming increasingly active in Kyrgyzstan, such as Tablighi Jamaat from Pakistan, and followers of the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, (Assistant professor of politics and government at George Mason University Eric)McGlinchey said. Gulen’s thinking was "pervasive" throughout the Kyrgyz educational system, especially Manas University and the Osh Theological Institute. "Kyrgyz are turning elsewhere to define who they are as Muslims and it’s a wide-open playing field and we’re not quite sure where they’re going to turn in the future," he said.

The Russians, suspicious of the activities of the Fethullahci in Russia, closed Gulen schools in 2007 and, in 2008, banned Gulen's movement from the country altogether, citing connections to the Gray Wolves. Apparently, the Russians didn't want a CIA-backed Turkish-style stay-behind program established among them. Perhaps they remembered how Zbigniew Brzezinski baited them into Afghanistan in 1979 and are now more wary of falling into an American-backed Islamist trap.

Since Russia's ban, Turkish schools in Central Asia, including Gulen's, have become more and scrutinized as regional governments suspect a hidden agenda. For more on the Fethullahci and how the movement is becoming the third power in Turkey, see this analysis (PDF) from Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst.

The US and Turkey are not the only powers aiming to create a Strategy of Tension in Central Asia. We shouldn't forget that the great defenders of democracy from the NED are neoconservative PNAC'ers who were also behind the 1996 "Clean Break Strategy" that went on to forge a tight military relationship between Turkey and Israel--united with the bond of US military hardware "sales". "Sales" of course is a very loose term particularly when one realizes that 80% of US military sales to Turkey under the Clinton administration were paid for by the US taxpayer. In this case, the term "military gifting" might be a more appropriate choice of words.

The third of our great defenders of democracy at work in Central Asia is Israel, coming to the region since the fall of the Soviet Union:

Israeli officials and business leaders find Central Asia attractive as an investment opportunity for a variety of reasons, including the region’s abundant natural resources, and its large pool of relatively cheap but skilled labor. The region also represents a potentially important market for specialized goods, such as machinery, chemicals and plastics. And in helping to build local economic opportunities, Israel additionally hopes to reduce the desire for Jews in Central Asia to emigrate. At the same time, Israel can offer Central Asian officials a unique trade conduit to world markets. Israel has free trade relationships with the United States and the European Union, as well as with Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Jordan and Turkey.

[ . . . ]

[Avigdor] Lieberman’s visit to Kyrgyzstan sought to establish parameters for trade. The two sides discussed the establishment of direct air links between the two states, as well as the possible opening of a Kyrgyz Embassy in Israel. Israeli delegation members explored potential deals in transport communication and tourism.

Israel’s relations with Central Asian states continue to focus on conditions for Jews living in the region, including the Jewish community in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archives]. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse and subsequent economic upheaval, many Central Asian Jews have emigrated. Israel was among the first states to recognize the independence of the Central Asian states. Kyrgyzstani President Askar Akayev was the first Central Asian leader to visit Israel in 1993. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev has visited Israel twice, most recently in April [2001].

According to that piece, the Israeli government also engages in education through an organization that falls under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MASHAV. Somewhat like the Clinton arrangement with "military gifting", it would appear the US taxpayer is funding MASHAV through USAID:

Through the MASHAV Cooperation Agreement, recently developed and funded by USAID/CAR, Agriculture Consulting Centers devoted to agribusiness development have been established in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

And this isn't just in Kyrgyzstan but throughout most of Central Asia. Even the Peace Corps has gotten a piece of the USAID-MASHAV action:

In 1999 the U.S.-Israeli-Kyrgyz MASHAV Agri-Business Consulting Program was established to address the agricultural side of the region's income problem. The program led to the construction of a greenhouse at the Oasis Agricultural Site where agricultural producers in the region receive both formal and one-on-one training from agricultural experts.

[ . . . ]

After much study, the owner of Oasis Site and a group of farmers in the region concluded that constructing a fish farm was the answer. The farm would host regular sessions where experts and local residents could meet and learn how fish farms are constructed, maintained and managed to reach sustainable profitability. Unfortunately, the group did not have the funds to build such a farm.

To resolve the problem, the Oasis owner and a local professor took their concern to a Peace Corps volunteer serving in the area. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which collaborates with individuals across America and facilitates their donations to specific community development projects, funds were raised to build the fish farm and buy fish to fill it.

However, agricultural support for small- and medium-sized businesses and Peace Corps-sponsored fish farms aren't the only capitalistic enterprise at work in Kyrgyzstan. There's a lot more going on--like the arming of Kyrgyz commandos by Israel:

Several private Israeli companies have agreed to render technical assistance to the special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan. This assistance will include equipment, police jeeps, and also special gear used for dispersal of demonstrations and in operations against terrorists, in particular in mountainous area. Moreover, the Israelis will take part in creation of the educational antiterrorist center in the territory of republic. It will train and prepare officers of the commando of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Security Service (SNB). An option to involve Israeli instructors ex-servicemen of the elite divisions of police, army and Israeli General Security Service (SHABAQ) in the process of training is also considered. AIA was informed of that by the personal secretary of one of members of the Israeli delegation, which visited Bishkek this month.

Both sides tried to avoid publicity of such negotiations in every possible way. As a result, neither in Israeli, nor in Kyrgyz mass-media there were no information published on the issue. The reason of such privacy is dictated both by the level and the agenda of negotiations, and the person, who was behind the organizing of the meeting.

This secretive arrangement took place in 2006. How many more secretive military-type agreements have been reached by now is anyone's guess,

US involvement in Central Asia, along with the involvement of its two most powerful allies in the region, should come as no surprise to anyone. Just as Adolf Hitler publicly announced his intentions for Germany's future when he published Mein Kampf, so the Americans have done the same with a small book published in 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard (the entire book available for download here). The goal of US Eurasian policy, according to Brzezinski, is as follows:

"For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia... Now a non-Eurasian power is preeminent in Eurasia - and America's global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.

[ . . . ]

". . . [H]ow America 'manages' Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe's largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world's central continent. About 75 per cent of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world's GNP and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources." (pp. 30 - 31)

Earlier I mentioned that Russia's ban on the Gulen movement was, perhaps, a sign of Russia's refusal to take more American-sponsored Islamist bait like it did when Brzezinski and the Carter administration offered it in 1979. Perhaps Russia and the rest of the SCO countries remember Operation Gladio and are taking action to ensure that a similar stay-behind program does not become established in their territory or sphere of influence. Perhaps Russia, along with Kyrgyzstan, is offering bait of its own by allowing the US to continue to occupy the Manas Airbase. This time around, though, it's the Russians making the offer and it may very well turn out to be that Afghanistan becomes America's second Vietnam.

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Comments

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    [1]
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