The New Great Game Round-Up: August 24, 2014

NATO's Conquest of the South Caucasus Put on Hold, SOCAR Trying to Reopen Gülen Schools in Azerbaijan & China's War on Terror

*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 in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Both the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have started large military exercises with interesting scenarios in the last few days. 3000 soldiers from CSTO members Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan participated in the "Interaction 2014" drills of the CSTO's Collective Rapid Reaction Force, which took place in Kazakhstan this week and involved a scenario with some parallels to the conflict in Ukraine. The CSTO's rapid reaction forces were asked to prevent the destabilization of CSTO member state "Karania" following the coup d'état by "'brown' forces supported by the military-political leadership of several leading governments of the West" in a country bordering Karania. This scenario was most likely promoted by Moscow and Beijing's hand in the scenario of the SCO exercise is equally visible [emphasis mine]:  

SCO exercise Peace Mission 2014 to involve 7,000 troops

The Peace Mission 2014 antiterrorist exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be the largest ever in the organizations’ history, a Chinese military official said on Tuesday.

“It’s the first time that so many troops and so much weaponry have been deployed in joint drills under the SCO aegis,” Wang Ning, chief director of the drilla and deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, told the China Daily newspaper. Drones, Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, air-defense missiles, tanks and armored vehicles have joined the anti-terrorist drills in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region that will be held from August 24 to 29.

The joint exercise scenario involves a separatist organization in a certain country, supported by an international terrorist organization, plotting terrorist attacks and hatching a coup plot to divide the country, Wang said.

China's War on Terror: Drills, Drones & Anti-Terror Cities

Wang Ning emphasized that the Peace Mission 2014 anti-terrorist exercise "aims at deterring terrorist forces including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement" (ETIM). The only way to make this more obvious would have been to hold the exercise in Xinjiang. But given the fact that Inner Mongolia is one of the three regions in China, which are to be "liberated", it makes perfect sense to practice the fight against separatist and terrorist organizations there. Out of the 7000 troops participating in the drill, about 5000 are Chinese soldiers. Considering the escalating violence in Xinjiang in recent weeks and the bleak prospects for the future, the Chinese soldiers might have to apply what they have learned sooner rather than later. Since Beijing takes no chances when it comes to the destabilization of Xinjiang, the militarization of the region has reached worrying levels:

China Said to Deploy Drones After Unrest in Xinjiang
Three days after an eruption of violence in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang this summer left nearly 100 people dead, the region’s “antiterrorist command” asked the country’s biggest space and defense contractor for help. It wanted technical experts to operate drones that the authorities in Xinjiang had ordered last year in anticipation of growing unrest. The target was “terrorists,” according to the online edition of People’s Daily, a Communist Party media outlet.

On Aug. 1, the company sent a technical team to Yarkand County, in Kashgar Prefecture, where state media reported that on July 28 security forces had shot and killed 59 people described as terrorists and about three dozen others described as civilians.

There, the drones were deployed on multiple missions round-the-clock, operated by special forces in Yarkand but under the supervision of the space company team, state media reported, and provided “important intelligence in tracking down and arresting terrorists,” Legal Daily
reported, without elaborating.

The Washington D.C.-based, NED-funded Uyghur American Association (UAA) lost no time in criticizing this development and went as far as demanding "that Beijing fully disclose its deployment of drones" in Xinjiang. As usual, Western media did its best to promote the statements of the dubious "overseas Uyghur rights organization", of course without mentioning the UAA's funding. Beijing would be well advised to respond by funding a few organizations, which criticize every U.S. drone strike and demand that Washington fully disclose its deployment of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but the Chinese authorities are currently more focused on finding a solution to the terror problem in Xinjiang:

China plans to fight terror with ‘dozens’ of new cities

Dozens of new cities and towns will be built from scratch in China’s remote and restive far west as part of the country’s intensifying “people’s war” on terror, according to reports in the state media.

“Urbanisation serves as a fundamental solution to tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality in less-developed southern Xinjiang where religious conservatism is prevalent and terrorist attacks occur more frequently,” the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

“Measures such as creating jobs and improving education are seen as fundamental solutions to addressing the threat of terrorism.”

Many of the new anti-terror cities and towns will reportedly be built by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). This secretive corps plays a central role in China's War on Terror. Interestingly enough, The Economist recently advised Chinese President Xi Jinping to disband the XPCC if he wants to prevent Xinjiang from becoming "China's Chechnya." This suggestion fell apparently on deaf ears in Beijing. The Chinese authorities continue with their anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang and try to pacify the autonomous region by all available means: hiring thousands of patrollers, ordering real-name bus ticket purchases and telling local residents to use the "angry stare" as a way of intimidating terror suspects. Given that even harsh sentences do not deter attacks, the "angry stare" will hardly do the trick:

Eight terrorists executed in Xinjiang

Eight terrorists have been executed with the approval of the Supreme People's Court in Xinjiang, according to the publicity department of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Saturday.

Their crimes involved five cases including the terrorist attack in the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, the gun-seizing and police-assaulting case in Aksu, the illegal manufacturing of explosives and intentional killing case in Kashgar, and the establishment of terrorist organization, murder of government officials and incineration of checkpoint in Hotan.

NATO's Conquest of the South Caucasus Put On Hold

China's hard-line approach in dealing with the insurgency is being heavily criticized with some of the strongest criticism coming from Turkey. This week, leading Turkish civil society organizations pledged to take the issue of human rights violations in "East Turkestan" to international organizations and observers. The "liberation of East Turkestan" depends very much on NATO member Turkey. As FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds pointed out, terror attacks in Xinjiang were regularly orchestrated from a long distance, from Turkey to Brussels, the United Kingdom and the United States. Turkey and close U.S. ally Azerbaijan served as the main conduits for the Gladio B operations and they continue to play a key role in all kinds of NATO jihadi operations. NATO's grip on the South Caucasus is stronger than ever before - in large part thanks to the good relations between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey:

Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey Agree On Joint Military Exercises

The nascent alliance between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey took a big step forward this week when the defense ministers of the three countries met trilaterally for the first time and promised to carry out joint military exercises.

The three ministers, meeting in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan on August 19, agreed to work on "tripartite exercises to enhance the combat capability of the armed forces of the three countries and the achievement of mutual understanding during joint military operations, including the organization of joint seminars and conferences, cooperation in military education, development of military technology, the exercises for the protection of oil and gas pipelines,"
said Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov after the meeting.

The three countries are also looking to strengthen their joint defense capability. Although Azerbaijani Defense Minister Irakli Alasania emphasized that "these actions are not directed against anyone", Armenia should take the meeting as a warning. Yerevan downplayed all concerns, noting that Georgia would not risk its good relations with Armenia by supporting anti-Armenian initiatives. It remains to been seen how Georgia's accession to NATO will affect the ties between the two neighboring countries but the Armenian authorities do not have to worry about this anytime soon: 

West Reluctant to Let Georgia Into the Club

Few eastern European countries have pushed harder to ally with the West, and Georgia hopes to advance its membership prospects in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at a NATO summit in two weeks. Yet some NATO leaders are hesitant.

The EU issued a careful statement noting that the association deal requires an independent judiciary. But privately, European diplomats are concerned that Georgia could be setting a precedent of political vengeance. Mr. Saakashvili has rejected the charges and said he will not cooperate.

"Mikheil Saakashvili has a long list of friends in Western capitals," said Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace. "But I think there is a consensus that much will depend on the process against him and how fair it will be."

As previously discussed, Saakashvili can count on his friends in Western capitals to protect him from prosecution, no matter the charges. When Ukraine's most famous criminal, Yulia Tymoshenko, was finally put behind bars, the U.S. and the EU likewise warned the Ukrainian government that this could endanger Ukraine's European aspirations. Due to NATO's coup d'état in Kiev, both Tymoshenko and Saakashvili are now free to do their bit in the destruction of Ukraine. Saakashvili has stated repeatedly that he does not intend to cooperate with the investigation but a few days ago, Georgia's former President responded to the embezzlement charges by returning some suits, which he had purchased with taxpayers’ money while in office. The Georgian authorities were not impressed with this publicity stunt:

Georgian ex-president’s property can be seized

Tbilisi Mayor, David Narmania is not ruling out the possible seizure of Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's property.

"The mechanisms envisaged by the procedural legislation must be adhered to," Narmania said Aug. 20 commenting on a possible seizure on Saakashvili's property.

David Darchiashvili, an MP from Saakashvili's National Movement Party, also said today that the prosecutor's office is planning to seize the former president's property.

SOCAR Trying to Reopen Gülen Schools in Azerbaijan

While the prosecution of Saakashvili is the most contentious issue in relations between Georgia and the West, neighboring Azerbaijan is primarily criticized for the "worst crackdown on human rights in the country during recent years." A few months ago, the Aliyev regime also made headlines with its supposed crackdown on the CIA-backed Gülen movement. But given the fact that the state-owned oil and natural gas corporation of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) works hand in hand with the Gülen movement, Baku's move to place the Gülen schools in the country under SOCAR's control did not really amount to a crackdown. Shortly thereafter, SOCAR announced that the schools had been closed down in an effort to please Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. However, this closure seems to have been only temporary:

Azerbaijani Oil Company Protects Gülen Gang

The Yeniçağ, a newspaper from Azerbaijan known for being against the Gülen Gang, has reported that the oil company SOCAR is now trying to reopen Gülenist schools in Azerbaijan which had recently been closed down by the government.

Agil Alesger, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, wrote about the relations between the Gülen Gang and SOCAR. The Azerbaijani oil company is accused of financing the Gülenist schools in Africa and hiring the schools’ personnel to prevent their deportation when the schools were closed.

Part of the money shared by the Gülen Gang was allegedly transferred to Bank Asya while the rest was sent to a number of American banks.

The newspaper also claimed that the gang has close relations with the CIA through Paul Henze, Graham Fuller and Henri Barkey. The illegal organization is believed to be also linked to the intelligence organizations of Germany, Israel and the UK.

Paul Henze was a CIA station chief in Turkey and Ethiopia during the 1960s and '70s before he served in the Carter administration as a deputy to National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He became famous for spreading the conspiracy theory that Bulgarian and Soviet secret services were behind the attempted assassination of John Paul II. The CIA promoted this conspiracy theory in order to divert attention from the fact that Mehmet Ali Agca was working for Gladio operative Abdullah Catli. Henze died three years ago but Graham Fuller and Henri Barkey are of course alive and well. The above-mentioned Bank Aysa hit the headlines in Turkey quite recently due to insider trading. Needless to say that SOCAR is also involved in all kinds of shady business dealings. Last month, another SOCAR tanker was allegedly seized in Syria after a similar incident several months earlier:

ISIS claims seizure of one more SOCAR tanker in Syria

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has issued a statement on seizure of one more petrol tanker owned by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).

ISIS militants have also released the photo of the automobile.

Spokesman for SOCAR Nizameddin Guliyev told
APA-Economics that this information is false.

Azerbaijan is very much involved in the Syrian conflict. Countless weapons and fighters have made their way from Azerbaijan to Syria. Some of the Azerbaijani terrorists have already returned home, where they were immediately arrested. The Aliyev regime encourages jihad abroad but not at home. Considering that the Azerbaijani authorities blamed the Gülenists for the increasing number of jihadists only a few months ago, SOCAR's efforts to reopen the Gülen schools might arouse some opposition. Gülen's schools are met with suspicion in more and more countries. Turkmenistan just closed down the last one after most Turkish schools had been closed in 2011:

Officials close down Turkish school in Ashgabat

The Turkish school which operated pursuant to Turkmen-Turkish agreements has been closed down in Ashgabat. Among its students were children of Turkish diplomats, entrepreneurs and builders as well as local children. It had been announced earlier that, starting from the upcoming academic year, Turkmen children would no longer be admitted into the school.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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  1. CuChulainn says:

    Xymph reminds us of Ali Mohammed–
    “it’s like he just kinda vanished into thin air.”

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