Obama & The Merchants of Death

On this edition of The Geopolitical Report, we look at Barack Obama’s legacy as a record breaking arms dealer. Obama has enabled Saudi Arabia to wage an illegal war in Yemen and has gifted the merchants of death with billions of dollars in new contracts with Taiwan and Vietnam. We also cover the Nye Commission and its investigation into the munitions industry after the First World War. Finally, we look at how the new Trump administration has promised to radically expand the US military and make the merchants of death billions more in profit from war and death.

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Show Notes

The Obama Administration Has Brokered More Weapons Sales Than Any Other Administration Since World War II

U.S. Exports Arms to the World

Arms Policy: Farewall to Nixon Doctrine

Report: Ties that Bind: Arms Industry Influence in the Bush Administration and Beyond

Bush Delivers Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

Just the Facts: U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Obama administration offered $115bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia: report

The US may be aiding war crimes in Yemen

The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals

US Arms Deal To Saudi, UAE, Morocco Approved Among Yemen Concerns

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

Obama administration authorizes $1.83-billion arms sale to Taiwan

Vietnam Arms Embargo to Be Fully Lifted, Obama Says in Hanoi

Sen. Nye assails ‘Merchants of Death' on Sept. 4, 1934

Bush the First, Hating Saddam, Selling Him Weapons

Teledyne and Chilean Indicted in Iraq Bomb Sales

Iraq Weapons Inspections Fast Facts

10 companies profiting the most from war

Trump: National Defense

BFP Roundtable Video- Graham’s So-Called Smoking Gun, Saudi Arabia & Yemen

In this introductory episode Sibel Edmonds, Guillermo Jimenez and Pearse Redmond introduce the new BFP Roundtable Season and discuss new ideas and possibilities for coming shows. From there the panel quickly moves on to its first topic: Senator Graham’s so-called smoking gun (The infamous redacted 28-pages), the possible reasons for and timing of this old pickled issue’s circulation, in conjunction with the Saudi Arabia-Yemen angle and connections. The panel heatedly debunks more than one widespread spin used by mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets in reporting Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen with the carefully-designed Iran element. And finally, the panel invites BFP activist community members to join and expand this discussion and provide their ideas for coming roundtable discussion topics.

*This is our introductory episode for the new BFP Roundtable season. The coming episodes will be here at Boiling Frogs Post, and will be available only to BFP activist members. You can subscribe and join our community here.

Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Saudi Strikes Killed Yemen Peace Deal

Peter B. Collins Presents Journalist Joe Lauria

Adding important context and dimensions to the war in Yemen, Joe Lauria reports that a UN-led effort was very close to completing a cease-fire agreement and power sharing deal in Yemen that sould’ve included the recently-deposed president, Hadi. But when Saudi Arabia started its aggressive bombing raids at the end of March, it killed the deal. Lauria’s sources indicate that the Saudis would not permit a secular, democratic government that included women in the leadership to emerge on their border; he also thinks the Saudis were sending the US a message of disapproval of the Iran talks and Obama’s bluff about Syria in 2013. He offers many interesting insights, like Egypt’s reluctance to send ground troops because Egypt lost thousands of soldiers in its Vietnam-style quagmire in Yemen in the 1970’s. And he agrees with Gareth Porter’s recent report that the Houthi rebels are not getting guns and ammo from Iran, despite the inferences in American media.

*Joe Lauria is an independent reporter who publishes in the Wall Street Journal and other outlets. His recent story on Yemen is here

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Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Former Intel Chair Fights to Release Saudi Memo

Peter B. Collins Presents Senator Bob Graham

Over 3 terms in the US Senate, Bob Graham (D-FL, ret) rose to chair the Intelligence Committee, and ran the initial hearings into the events of 9/11/01. Ever-cautious and overly diplomatic, Graham nevertheless continues to demand the full, unredacted release of the 28-page memo that purportedly details funding of alleged hijackers by top royals in Saudi Arabia. He calls FBI actions “aggressive deception” and labels key FBI reports “factually not true”, but is unwilling to call them “lies”. He acknowledges that the FBI and “other agencies” misled and obstructed his inquiry and the 9/11 Commission, but is restrained in his reaction.

*Bob Graham retired from the US Senate in 2005 after 3 terms. Before that, he was twice elected Governor of Florida.

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Shia Killing & Pakistan Demonic Dogma

By all standards, human rights abuse in Pakistan particularly against the Shia population is taking a horrendous momentum with the government keeping silent on the ongoing bloodbath.

On Friday, over 60 worshippers were martyred and 60 others injured in an explosion inside a central Imambargah Shia mosque in Shikarpur district of Sindh province in Pakistan.

The Takfiri group Jundallah, a splinter group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the carnage.

“Our target was the Shia mosque ... They are our enemies,” said Jundallah spokesman Fahad Marwat.

Intimately affiliated with the ISIL in carrying out their brutalities including beheading and blinding their victims, Jundallah forged an alliance with its sister group ISIL after meeting a three-man delegation representing the group led by al Zubair al Kuwaiti.

"They (Islamic State) are our brothers, whatever plan they have we will support them," Jundallah spokesperson Fahad Marwat said.

The same terrorist group is also affiliated with Mossad.

In January 2012, Mark Perry revealed the link between Jundallah and Mossad and how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two US intelligence officials, “the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a false flag operation.”

It is deplorable to see that the Shia population is getting weaker and weaker every day as the government is not making any concrete steps to put an end to this inhumane catastrophe. Is the government unreservedly defending the massacres? What is the role of ISI in fermenting this plight?

Owing to the government’s tacit agreement to otherize the Shia Muslims, the Shia leaders have acquired conviction that the government is not to be trusted and that they need to form a united front against the Takfiri terrorists in the country.

Hasan Zaffar, a prominent Shia cleric, has taken a blistering swipe at the Pakistani government, saying, “The government has proven to be utterly useless and the Shia community is very vulnerable. We need to raise a community of volunteers and scouts for security duties.”

Amin Shaheedi, another prominent Shia cleric who has organized public protests to demand greater protection for the community, said: “The questions are, where was the police at the time of the attack? We have no protection. We have to protect ourselves.”

The 92,000 classified US military documents released by the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks and subsequently splashed on many websites in 2010 reveal the role of Pakistani government in conducing to chaos and extremism in Afghanistan and naturally in Pakistan. According to the reports, “The Taliban are stronger than ever and a crucial component of their success is the support they receive from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The military spy agency nurtured the Taliban in the 1990s and has maintained ties to the group ever since.”

The root causes of extremism are traceable in the emergence of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) founded by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who spearheaded the anti-Shia campaign in the 1980s under the aegis of Pakistan's former military leader, General Zia ul-Haq. And they have been killing the Shia Muslims since then. And groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), and ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba are ideologically interrelated and follow the same perverse policies.

In June 2011, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) in alliance with Al-Qaeda released an open letter in which they declared that all Shias deserve to be killed: “All Shias are wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of killing). We will rid Pakistan of [this] unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure, and the Shias have no right to be here. We have the fatwa and signatures of the revered ulema in which the Shias have been declared kaafir [infidel].”

In point of fact, Saudi Arabia was an ardent supporter of Zia ul-Haq’s government and his radicalization policy. Besides, the leaked US cables show that extremist groups operating on Pakistani soil, such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) "probably raise millions of dollars" each year in Saudi Arabia.

Under Mohammad Zia-ul-Ha, the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were immeasurably expanded. A dictator who had usurped power through staging a coup and overthrowing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 with the support of CIA, Zia-ul-Haq, an affiliate of the Deobandi School, was financed by Riyadh to help spread Wahhabism in the country. During his long tenure, he visited Saudi Arabia 27 times. To promote Wahhabism, the Saudis funded new mosques and seminaries and employed Pakistani labor in Arab countries in the country.

The legacy of Zia ul-Haq is still clearly discernible in Pakistan. To crown it all, the anti-Shia campaign which Zia al-Haq started is still being financed by Saudi Arabia.

Further to that, there are tangible efforts by western media to depict the Shia killing in Pakistan as the consequence of an appalling rift deepening between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the country.

Wahhabism is exacting an inconceivable human toll in Pakistan and other parts of the world corrupted by this mindset. Wahhabism is a far cry from Islam and any attempts to ascribe this ideology to the faith which is lexically and essentially rooted in peace are doomed to fail.

The Shia Muslims in Pakistan are victims of a demonic dogma called Wahhabism and as long as the Pakistani government turns a deaf ear and eye to the plight of this persecuted population, there is little hope for them and this irresponsibility on the part of the government will categorically turn into a tragedy of epic proportions.

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Dr. Ismail Salami is an internationally published author, literary scholar, Quranologist, political commentator, and lexicographer. He writes extensively on the US and Middle East issues and his writings have been translated into a number of languages. Salami is a former editor-in-chief of the Tehran Times International Daily. He currently teaches English literature at the University of Tehran.

The Secret Stupid Saudi-US Deal on Syria

The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal & An Oil-Gas Pipeline War

The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called IS. It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil. Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.

One of the weirdest anomalies of the recent NATO bombing campaign, allegedly against the ISIS or IS or ISIL or Daash, depending on your preference, is the fact that with major war raging in the world’s richest oil region, the price of crude oil has been dropping, dramatically so. Since June when ISIS suddenly captured the oil-rich region of Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, the benchmark Brent price of crude oil dropped some 20% from $112 to about $88. World daily demand for oil has not dropped by 20% however. China oil demand has not fallen 20% nor has US domestic shale oil stock risen by 21%.

What has happened is that the long-time US ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. [1] That Saudi financial discounting operation in turn is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading. The result is a market panic that is gaining momentum daily. China is quite happy to buy the cheap oil, but her close allies, Russia and Iran, are being hit severely.

The deal

According to Rashid Abanmy, President of the Riyadh-based Saudi Arabia Oil Policies and Strategic Expectations Center, the dramatic price collapse is being deliberately caused by the Saudis, OPEC’s largest producer. The public reason claimed is to gain new markets in a global market of weakening oil demand. The real reason, according to Abanmy, is to put pressure on Iran on her nuclear program, and on Russia to end her support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.[2]

When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas.

The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least, because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.

The Kerry-Abdullah secret deal

On September 11, US Secretary of State Kerry met Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. The King invited former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar to attend. There a deal was hammered out which saw Saudi support for the Syrian airstrikes against ISIS on condition Washington backed the Saudis in toppling Assad, a firm ally of Russia and de facto of Iran and an obstacle to Saudi and UAE plans to control the emerging EU natural gas market and destroy Russia’s lucrative EU trade. A report in the Wall Street Journal noted there had been “months of behind-the-scenes work by the US and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh US commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority." [3]

For the Saudis the war is between two competing age-old vectors of Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, claims de facto supremacy in the Islamic world of Sunni Islam. The Saudi Sunni form is ultra-conservative Wahhabism, named for an 18th Century Bedouin Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahha. The Taliban derive from Wahhabism with the aid of Saudi-financed religious instruction. The Gulf Emirates and Kuwait also adhere to the Sunni Wahhabism of the Saudis, as does the Emir of Qatar. Iran on the other hand historically is the heart of the smaller branch of Islam, the Shi’ite. Iraq’s population is some 61% majority Shi’ite. Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad is a member of a satellite of the Shi’ite branch known as Alawite. Some 23% of Turkey is also Alawite Muslim. To complicate the picture more, across a bridge from Saudi Arabia sits the tiny island country, Bahrain where as many as 75% of the population is Shi’ite but the ruling Al-Khalifa family is Sunni and firmly tied to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the richest Saudi oil region is dominated by Shi’ite Muslims who work the oil installations of Ras Tanura.

An oil and gas pipeline war

These historic fault lines inside Islam which lay dormant, were brought into a state of open warfare with the launching of the US State Department and CIA’s Islamic Holy War, otherwise known as the Arab Spring. Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood. As I detail in my most recent book, Amerikas’ Heiliger Krieg, the CIA had cultivated ties to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood death cult since the early 1950’s.

Now if we map the resources of known natural gas reserves in the entire Persian Gulf region, the motives of the Saudi-led Qatar and UAE in financing with billions of dollars the opposition to Assad, including the Sunni ISIS, becomes clearer. Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar.

The world’s largest known natural gas reservoir sits in the middle of the Persian Gulf straddling part in the territorial waters of Qatar and part in Iran. The Iranian part is called North Pars. In 2006 China’s state-owned CNOOC signed an agreement with Iran to develop North Pars and build LNG infrastructure to bring the gas to China.[4]

The Qatar side of the Persian Gulf, called North Field, contains the world’s third largest known natural gas reserves behind Russia and Iran.

In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.[5] As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline - if it's ever built - would solidify a predominantly Shi'ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”[6]

Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria. [7] Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.[8]

Qatar, today the world’s largest exporter of LNG, largely to Asia, wants the same EU market that Iran and Syria eye. For that, they would build pipelines to the Mediterranean. Here is where getting rid of the pro-Iran Assad is essential. In 2009 Qatar approached Bashar al-Assad to propose construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s north Field through Syria on to Turkey and to the EU. Assad refused, citing Syria’s long friendly relations with Russia and Gazprom. That refusal combined with the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline agreement in 2011 ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power, financing al Qaeda terrorists, recruits of Jihadist fanatics willing to kill Alawite and Shi’ite “infidels” for $100 a month and a Kalishnikov. The Washington neo-conservative warhawks in and around the Obama White House, along with their allies in the right-wing Netanyahu government, were cheering from the bleachers as Syria went up in flames after spring 2011.

Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal. The true aim of the US and Israel backed ISIS is to give the pretext for bombing Assad’s vital grain silos and oil refineries to cripple the economy in preparation for a “Ghaddafi-”style elimination of Russia and China and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad.

In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.

Religious wars have historically been the most savage of all wars and this one is no exception, especially when trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues are at stake. Why is the secret Kerry-Abdullah deal on Syria reached on September 11 stupid? Because the brilliant tacticians in Washington and Riyadh and Doha and to an extent in Ankara are unable to look at the interconnectedness of all the dis-order and destruction they foment, to look beyond their visions of control of the oil and gas flows as the basis of their illegitimate power. They are planting the seeds of their own destruction in the end.

# # # #

F. William Engdahl, BFP contributing Author & Analyst
William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order. He is a contributing author at BFP and may be contacted through his website at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net where this article was originally published.

<Endnotes:


[1] M. Rochan, Crude Oil Drops Amid Global Demand Concerns, IB Times, October 11, 2014     http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/crude-oil-drops-amid-global-demand-concerns-1469524

[2] Nihan Cabbaroglu, Saudi Arabia to pressure Russia Iran with price of oil, 10 October 2014, Turkish Anadolu Agency, http://www.aa.com.tr/en/economy/402343--saudi-arabia-to-pressure-russia-iran-with-price-of-oil

[3] Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Deal With Saudis Paved Way for Syrian Airstrikes: Talks With Saudi Arabia Were Linchpin in U.S. Efforts to Get Arab States Into Fight Against Islamic State, Wall Street Journal, September. 24, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/deal-with-saudis-paved-way-for-syrian-airstrikes-1411605329?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

[4] POGC, North Pars Gas Field, Pars Oil and Gas Company website, http://www.pogc.ir/NorthParsGasField/tabid/155/Default.aspx

[5] Imad Fawzi Shueibi , War Over Gas--Struggle over the Middle East: Gas Ranks First, 17 April, 2012. http://www.voltairenet.org/article173718.html

[6] Pepe Escobar, Why Qatar Wants to Invade Syria, Asia Times, September 27, 2012, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32576.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8] F. William Engdahl, Syria Turkey Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War, Global Research, October 11, 2012, http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-turkey-israel-and-the-greater-middle-east-energy-war/5307902

 

 

The New Great Game Round-Up: October 6, 2014

Terrorist Attack in Chechen Capital Spells Trouble for Russia, Azerbaijan's Real & Not-So-Real Crackdowns and More!

*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.

At the beginning of this week, the presidents of the five Caspian littoral states gathered in the Russian city of Astrakhan to attend the fourth Caspian Summit. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question of how the Caspian shelf should be divided has been dispute and although Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan made some progress at the recent summit, they remain divided on this key issue. While Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbajev were talking about a "breakthrough", Turkmenistan's leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow reminded everyone of the disagreements when he reiterated that "Turkmenistan believes that the construction of pipelines under the Caspian Sea is the sovereign right of the states through whose section of the seafloor they pass." Berdimuhamedow was of course referring to the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, which is vehemently opposed by Russia and Iran. Moscow and Tehran will have a hard time convincing Berdimuhamedow and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev to give up on this pipe dream but they accomplished another important objective in Astrakhan:

Russia and Iran Lock NATO Out of Caspian Sea

Iran and Russia have built unanimous consensus among the Caspian states, which also feature Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, over the inadmissibility of a foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea, ruling out any future possible deployment of NATO forces in the basin.

A political declaration signed by the presidents of the five Caspian states at the IV Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan, Russia, on September 29, “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian,” according to a
statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of the summit.

Azerbaijan's Real & Not-So-Real Crackdowns 

Especially Azerbaijan, close U.S. ally and NATO proxy, had long resisted any notion of formally banning external forces from the Caspian. After Baku had finally given in to pressure from Moscow and Tehran, the United States and Azerbaijan lost no time in pushing back against the Caspian Five joint statement. The Aliyev regime downplayed the statement and the U.S. State Department said it doesn't intend to change anything about its military cooperation with Baku. So it remains to be seen how much this declaration is actually worth. The U.S. and Azerbaijan maintain very close ties. Last week, Azerbaijan Airlines successfully inaugurated its first direct flight to the United States marking "the culmination of several years of close cooperation" between the two countries. As previously discussed, Baku relies on the Gülen movement to remind American lawmakers of Azerbaijan's importance and Hizmet's promotional work for the Aliyev regime has not been affected by Azerbaijan's "crackdown" on the CIA-backed movement:

Azerbaijan: Wary of Breaking Ties with Gülen in US?

Azerbaijan’s recent
crackdown on institutions and individuals allegedly linked to the influential Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen may not have halted promotional work by Gülen-associated organizations in the United States for the Azerbaijani government.

But why the Gülen movement would continue to promote Azerbaijani causes in the US despite the takeover of Gülen-associated educational operations in Azerbaijan remains unclear.


As yet, small and mid-size Turkish businesses in Azerbaijan identified by researchers as run by Gülen sympathizers do not appear to have been similarly targeted.

This demonstrates once again that there was no real crackdown on the Gülen movement in Azerbaijan. SOCAR, the state-owned oil and natural gas corporation of Azerbaijan, which works hand in hand with Hizmet, is reportedly already trying to reopen the Gülen schools in the country after they had been placed under SOCAR's control and eventually closed down a few months ago due to pressure from Turkish President Erdogan. Aliyev doesn't want to disgruntle either his close ally Erdogan or Gülen's puppeteers in Langley but, currently, he is probably more concerned about what his friends in Langley and Washington think of him. The crackdown on the U.S.-backed Azerbaijani opposition has not gone unnoticed in the United States, some people are even calling for sanctions on Baku. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Azerbaijan's crackdown on NGOs and while Obama was trying to pronounce the name "Azerbaijan", the Azerbaijani authorities were trying to divert attention from the fact that they have made more politically motivated arrests this year than ever before by arresting a few actual criminals:

Azerbaijan Arrests Alleged ISIS and Other Islamic Fighters

The arrest of 26 Azerbaijanis for allegedly joining armed Islamic groups in Syria and the wider region may help Azerbaijan place its strategic importance to the United States above criticism of its growing autocratic reputation.

The September-23 detentions mark this Caspian-Sea country’s largest operation against alleged Islamic extremist fighters since reports began to circulate over the past year about
a steady flow of recruits from Azerbaijan for the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of National Security said that the detainees have joined several paramilitary groups in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. Some were alleged members of Azeri Jamaaty, a jihad group in Syria made up of Azerbaijani nationals.

The arrests were reported on the same day that
US President Barack Obama mentioned Azerbaijan among the countries notorious for crackdowns on civil society.

Given that there is no shortage of Azerbaijani veterans of the Syrian conflict, the Azerbaijani authorities could probably conduct more operations like this if they wanted to but Baku is doing its best to support NATO's war against Syria and prefers to go after dissidents. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) recently called on the Aliyev regime to release the jailed civil society activists and, much to the dismay of Baku, honored one of them, Anar Mammadli, with the Vaclav Havel prize for civil society activism. Ali Hasanov, a key aide to Aliyev, immediately condemned this "outside pressure on an independent state." The mounting criticism is not having the intended effect and seems to encourage the Azerbaijani authorities to come up with new police state measures and to ignore the critics: 

Azerbaijan Questions its Future with "Failed and Unfortunate" Euronest Parliamentary Assembly 

Azerbaijan has branded the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly a "failed and unfortunate initiative" and has challenged its fellow member states to explain why it should remain a member.  

The Chairman of the Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA, Elkhan Suleymanov, has written to his colleagues as a "last resort" telling them that the body, constituted in 2011, is now "bogged down by indecision, platitudes and double standards."

Azerbaijan was last week angered by a European Parliament motion calling for the release of activist Leyla Yunus, who is presently embroiled in a criminal case involving the alleged embezzlement of tens of thousands of euros from a string of NGOs with which she was involved with in Azerbaijan.

Bad News for Georgia's Ex-President Saakashvili

Neighboring Georgia is facing criticism from Europe as well. Georgia's efforts to hold former president Mikheil Saakashvili accountable for some of his crimes are not met with approval in most European capitals, where a few equally corrupt and criminal individuals hold a protecting hand over their friend Saakashvili. Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe criticized not only Azerbaijan's crackdown on civil society activists but also Georgia's "political prosecution" of members of the previous government. During his time in office, Saakashvili has gone to great pains to please his friends in the West, first and foremost his "friends" in Washington, and he is now reaping the benefits of his work. At least that was Saakashvili's plan but his friends in Washington have apparently other plans:

Saakashvili denied to get business visa in the U.S.

The U.S. has denied a business visa to Georgia's ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian Alia newspaper reported on September 30, citing Saakashvili's United National Movement party.

"The veracity of the information will soon be cleared. Supporters of the ex-president's party are disappointed. The U.S. political elite is disillusioned with Saakashvili, he has, in fact, no support at the White House anymore," the paper wrote.

Saakahsvili lives in his uncle's house in one of the skyscrapers in Brooklyn's Willaimsburg district. Saakashvili has recently hosted the ex-head of CIA David Petraeus at his house, and plans to meet with the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Perhaps, Saakashvili should consider a move to France to support the comeback of his friend Nicolas Sarkozy. Returning to Georgia is not an option. Although there are still some Saakashvili supporters who are willing to take a hit for their former president, Saakashvili's return to his home country would most likely end in jail. The criminal charges against him keep piling up with no end in sight. Georgian officials are now wondering how Saakashvili managed to amass a fortune of between $200 and $300 million and, even worse, the exhumation of Saakashvili's prime minister is going ahead:

Georgia Orders Zhvania Exhumed

A prosecutor in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has ordered the body of the late prime minister Zurab Zhvania to be exhumed, nearly a decade after his death in murky circumstances.

Zhvania was a top leader of the Rose Revolution protests that paved the way for Mikhail Saakashvili to become president in 2004. Zhvania died a year later. An autopsy determined that he died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty space heater in the Tbilisi apartment where his body was found, but suspicions of foul play have persisted.

Predictably, the Associated Press failed to mention the noteworthy video with the title "Saakashvili killed Mr. zurab zhvania", which was leaked in March of this year. The video shows photos from Zhvania's autopsy and highlights suspicious marks on the dead bodies of both Zhvania and Raul Usupov, a young regional official who was found dead in the same Tbilisi apartment along with Zhvania. Therefore, the exhumation of Zhvania could spell more trouble for Saakashvili. The Georgian authorities are always good for a surprise. Usually it is an unpleasant surprise for the opposite side. The Russians can tell you a thing or two about it. Only recently, Foreign Policy's report about Georgia's offer to host a training camp for "Syrian rebels" and other "anti-IS fighters from multiple countries" caused a stir in Russia: 

Moscow Opposes Idea of Training Camp for Syrian Opposition Fighters in Georgia

The creation of a training camp for
Syrian opposition fighters in Georgia will damage security in South Caucasus, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

“Moscow noted recent media reports about plans to create a US training camp for Syrian opposition fighters in Georgia,” the ministry said in a statement. “Such a decision, if made by Tbilisi, will do serious damage to stability and security in South Caucasus.”

Terrorist Attack in Chechen Capital Spells Trouble for Russia

Russia's Foreign Ministry took note of Tbilisi's subsequent denial of the training camp offer but reminded the Georgian authorities that Russia will follow this issue very closely. Battle-tested Chechen jihadists are the driving force behind the battlefield successes of the ISIS mercenary army, which is wreaking havoc in the Middle East, and Moscow fears that a similar force could be unleashed in the North Caucasus. As Veronika Krasheninnikova, the head of the Center for International Studies and Journalism at Russia Today, pointed out, there has been an "exceptional level of military and political activity in the South Caucasus" in recent months with Georgia's offer to host a training for "Syrian rebels" being the icing on the cake. According to Krasheninnikova, this indicates "that a second anti-Russian front is being created in the South Caucasus." Something is brewing in the Caucasus and those who were not convinced of the threat until fairly recently changed their mind most certainly after the attack in Chechnya:

At least 5 police killed in suicide blast outside concert hall in Chechnya, Russia

At least five police officers have been killed and another three sustained injuries in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya as they attempted to detain a suspected suicide bomber. The young man detonated improvised explosive when police attempted to search him.

The incident happened ahead of a concert dedicated to City Day in Grozny, which is home to over 280,000 people, most of them Chechens. According to the Internal Affairs Ministry, police forces noticed a suspicious man outside a concert hall. 

"Police officers who were manning metal detectors at the entrance of the concert hall noticed a suspicious young man. When the police officers decided to check the individual, the man blew himself up," a local police officer told RIA Novosti news agency.

Although the man did not succeed in perpetrating a devastating attack inside the concert hall, this incident sends a very strong message to the Russian authorities. For one thing, the attack occured during Eid al-Adha and for another, it struck the capital of the relatively calm and stable Chechen Republic. In contrast to neighboring Dagestan and other republics in Russia's North Caucasus, which are still struggling to contain the violence, Chechnya had not seen any terrorist attacks in over a year and Grozny has become the symbol of Russia's victory over the foreign-backed insurgency. In a recent Voice of America article, Mike Eckel described the situation in Russia's North Caucasus as follows: "After two wars waged by Russia since 1994, the North Caucasus has become relatively stable, free of all-out war and major terrorist attacks." The suicide blast in Grozny indicates that this is going to change and the attack is not the only worrying sign in this regard:

Fears of Radicalization Among Muslim Youth Rising in Russia

There is an increasing risk of
radicalization among Muslim youth in Russia, Russian News Paper Kommersant reported on Wednesday.

A large group of Muslim youth attacked a police bus on September 26, as the police arrested a man, who drove into an officer, after being told to move his car, parked in a no-parking zone, Kommersant reported. As a result of the riots, 30 people have been arrested, World Bulletin reported.

“30 people were detained to prevent a breach of the peace and because they resisted police officers. A court imposed on them an administrative penalty and fine”, said Andrei Galiakberov, Chief of the Moscow Police Department, as quoted by World Bulletin.

The North Caucasus is of course not the only region in Russia, which is vulnerable to Islamic extremism. Crimea's Tatar population is currently experiencing first-hand how serious the Russian authorities take this threat. Lately, a Crimean Tatar news channel was cautioned for broadcasting extremist content and two Crimean Tatars were kidnapped under mysterious circumstances by unknown men in military uniforms. Members of the Crimean Tatar community have pressured the local authorities to launch an investigation into the abduction but it would not be surprising if the Russian security services had something to do with it. The Russian authorities take no chances when it comes to the radicalization of the Tatar population, regardless of whether it concerns Crimea or other parts of Russia, and they spare no-one, not even the "grandmother of Tatar nationalism":  

Nationalist Sentenced for Urging Tatars to Oppose Moscow's Crimea Annexation

A court in Russia's republic of Tatarstan has handed down a one-year suspended sentence to a radical nationalist who had called for fellow Tatars in Crimea to oppose the Russian annexation of the peninsula, claiming violent persecution of Muslims in Russia.

Fauziya Bairamova, 63, nicknamed the "Grandmother of Tatar nationalism" by Russian media for her decades-long radical stance, was also banned from changing her residence without informing the authorities, according to a city court verdict Thursday, which she posted on her Facebook page.
   

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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

The New Great Game Round-Up: September 29, 2014

Training camp for "moderate Syrian rebels" in Georgia? , Central Asia Boosts Ties with Saudi Arabia- Qatar & More!

*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.

Since the start of China's year-long anti-terror campaign in May of this year, every week new measures are being introduced to contain the terror threat. Of course, the focus is on China's far-west province of Xinjiang, which has seen the most violence. Earlier this month, Chinese prosecutors, especially those in Xinjiang, were asked to fast-track cases involving terrorists, religious extremists and manufacturers of firearms and explosives. Considering that the rewards for people who tip off local authorities about "suspicious activity related to terrorism and religious extremism" are being increased every other day, this anti-terror measure will most likely land a few innocent citizens in jail. But the Chinese authorities are determined to curb the violence in Xinjiang at all costs and they do not want to take chances given the growing influence of extremists among the Muslim population:

China says 'rescues' more children from Xinjiang religious schools

A sweep on illegal religious activity in the capital of China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang has resulted in 190 children being "rescued", along with the detention of dozens of people, a state newspaper said on Monday.

Last month the government said it had "rescued" 82 children in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi from religious schools known as madrassas, and that campaign appears to be continuing.

Children in Xinjiang are prohibited by the government from attending madrassas, prompting many parents who wish to provide a religious education to use underground schools.

Increasing Violence in Xinjiang Seals Fate of Uyghur Scholar

Rian Thum, professor at Loyola University New Orleans and researcher of Uyghur historiography recently summarized the growing religiosity in the region as follows: "There’s a lot more veil wearing than there used to be; a lot more face covering than there used to be; a lot more beards than there used to be." Much to the dismay of Beijing, this development coincides with the sidelining of moderate forces, as demonstrated by the murder of the imam of China's largest mosque in late July. A few days ago, 17 officials and police officers were punished for being accountable for this murder as well as for the huge riots in Xinjiang's Yarkant County two days earlier, which had resulted in the killing of almost 100 people. Officials and police officers in Xinjiang are now probably wondering who is going to held accountable for the latest attack last Sunday:

China State Media Say 50 Killed in Far West Attack

Chinese state media reported Thursday that 50 people, including 40 assailants, were killed in a series of explosions over the weekend in the far western region of Xinjiang, in what officials called a severe terror attack.

Regional authorities had earlier said that the explosions Sunday in Luntai county killed at least two people and injured many others.

The news portal Tianshan Net said bombs exploded at two police stations, a produce market and a store. It said the attack killed two police officers, two police assistants and six bystanders, and that 54 others were injured. It said police took swift action and 40 assailants were either shot dead or died in explosions.

Although the incident occurred already last Sunday, the true scale of the attack only became known on Thursday, when Chinese state media reported that not just two but 50 people had been killed. The Chinese authorities try to keep a lid on terrorist attacks until the government-approved version of events is released to the public. This provides Western media and Washington's Uyghur exile groups with ample opportunity to challenge Beijing's narrative. Rebiya Kadeer & Co. use every opportunity to complain about Chinese oppression and they do not have a hard time finding something to criticize given the fact that China's fight against the "three evils" is marked by dubious decisions: 

China jails prominent Uighur academic Ilham Tohti for life

A court in China has found a prominent Uighur scholar guilty of separatism and jailed him for life, his lawyer says.

Ilham Tohti had spoken out on China's policies towards the Muslim Uighur minority in the restive Xinjiang region, but had denied being a separatist.

Correspondents say China is taking a tougher line amid rising Xinjiang-linked violence.

While some people are pointing out why this harsh sentence was a bad idea, World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer is already talking about "a declaration of war against Uyghurs" and Western media is making sure that the next terrorist attack in Xinjiang will be blamed on Tohti's imprisonment. As usual, the NED-funded Uyghur exile groups are being quoted as often as possible and, interestingly enough, the WUC is being described as the self-professed Uyghur government in exile in a few articles, despite the fact that this applies rather to the East Turkestan Government in Exile, which was established in Washington D.C. ten years ago. Predictably, the U.S. government lost no time in condemning Tohti's life sentence and called for his immediate release. But the Chinese government is not in the mood for the usual games and blasted the "foreign interference in China's judicial sovereignty." China maintains that Tohti encouraged fellow Uyghurs to use violence and the Chinese authorities are currently cracking down on everyone and everything related to the violence in Xinjiang. Even the ISIS-Xinjiang connection is now being taken seriously [emphasis mine]: 

Chinese militants get Islamic State 'terrorist training' - media

Chinese militants from the western region of Xinjiang have fled from the country to get "terrorist training" from Islamic State fighters for attacks at home, state media reported on Monday.

The report was the first time state-run media had linked militants from Xinjiang, home to ethnic minority Uighur Muslims, to militants of the Islamic State (IS), a radical Sunni Muslim group which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

"They not only want to get training in terrorist techniques, but also to expand their connections in international terrorist organizations through actual combat to gain support for escalation of terrorist activities in China," the Global Times cited an unidentified Chinese "anti-terrorism worker" as saying.

Central Asia Fears ISIS, Boosts Ties with Saudi Arabia & Qatar

At the beginning of this month, the first Chinese ISIS fighter was captured in Iraq and a few days later four Uyghurs were arrested in Indonesia on suspicion of being ISIS members. It is unclear how many Uyghurs have joined Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi & Co. but even if they survive their trip to the Middle East, they will have a hard time "liberating East Turkestan." Nevertheless, China is concerned about the growing popularity of ISIS in the region. As previously discussed, the pledge of the former leader of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, to support al-Baghdadi's Caliphate does not bode well for China and some insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan are also eager to join forces with ISIS:

Islamic State expanding activities in Ghazni province

Local officials in southeastern Ghanzi province of Afghanistan have warned that militants linked with Islamic State are expanding their activities in parts of this province.

Deputy provincial governor, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi has said that the Taliban militants linked with the Islamic State have raised the flags of the group in various districts.

He said the militants are campaigning in favour of the Islamic State and have closed numerous routes to Ghazni province since they are busy with planning their activities.

A few days ago, Taliban fighters seized control of a strategic district in Ghazni province, which is an important gateway to Kabul from the south-east. Meanwhile, the situation in northern Afghanistan is equally alarming. Turkmenistan was even forced to send troops across the border to drive back Taliban forces that had settled on the border between the two countries. The comeback of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the rise of ISIS have caused a serious problem in the jihadist universe but this does not affect the ISIS fearmongering, which has now reached Central Asia: 

Islamic State will come to Central Asia

The catastrophic wave of violence at the hands of the Islamic State will repeat itself in Afghanistan and then move on to Central Asia, forecasts the president of the Russian Institute for the Middle East Studies.

Speaking recently about the emergence of the new wave of extremism in the Middle East, Erlan Karin, a Middle East expert from Kazakhstan, reported on the creation of an Uzbek unit of militants called Imam Bukhari Jamaat.

Additionally, according to his findings there are about 250 Kazakh citizens, 100 Kyrgyz, 190 Tajiks, 500 Uzbeks, and about 360 Turkmens fighting alongside ISIS extremists.

The Central Asian states are happy to promote ISIS as a serious threat but they would not dream of cutting their ties to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the terrorist group's biggest bankrollers. This week, Tajikistan's top Muslim cleric issued a fatwa against the participation of Tajiks in conflicts in Syria and Iraq (he also issued a fatwa against government critics) never mind that the Saudis have reportedly been recruiting Tajiks for ISIS with impunity for quite some time. Only a few days earlier, Tajikistan and Qatar had agreed to step up their cooperation. The House of Thani will also give neighboring Kyrgyzstan a hand, for example in the field of education. And while a famous Kazakh political analyst is warning that ISIS poses a serious threat to Kazakhstan, the Kazakh government is boosting cooperation with the House of Saud:

Kazakhstan ready for further cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has met with Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh, the chairman of the Majlis ash-Shura (Consultative Assembly) of Saudi Arabia.

“Kazakhstan is ready to develop the cooperation with Saudi Arabia in various spheres, including in the trade and economic field,” the president said.

The president said that a number of buildings were constructed in Astana with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, which is a proof of the friendly relations between the two countries.

Training camp for "moderate Syrian rebels" in Georgia?

According to Western media, Saudi Arabia and those other paragons of democracy in the Gulf are now leading the fight against the same terrorists they have been arming and financing for years on behalf of the United States and NATO. Saudi Arabia has agreed to host a training camp for 5000 "moderate Syrian rebels" in an effort by the U.S. and its allies to build another mercenary army, which is supposed to fight the ISIS mercenary army but will ultimately be used to topple the Syrian government. And Saudi Arabia is apparently not the only country, which is willing to host a training for "moderate Syrian rebels":

Exclusive: Georgia Offers to Host Training Camp for Syrian Rebels

In a potential boost for the Obama administration, the former Soviet republic of Georgia has offered to host a training facility for the Syrian rebels as a part of the U.S.-led war against Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq, according to an American administration official.

"[The training center] was something we offered, but is still under consideration," Georgian Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze told Foreign Policy, confirming the U.S. official's remarks.

The potential scale of the Georgia-based training program remains unclear, but Gegeshidze noted that it could host anti-IS fighters from multiple countries, not just Syria. "It's a counterterrorism training center for any nationality," he said.

Foreign Policy reports that Georgian officials made the offer to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in closed-door meetings during his recent visit to Georgia in the wake of the NATO summit. The Foreign Policy article caused a stir in Tbilisi. Georgia's Defense Ministry immediately released a statement, which did neither deny or confirm anything, but Georgia's State Securtiy Council later said that the report was "not true." The quote of Georgia's ambassador to the U.S. was allegedly "inaccurate." Foreign Policydenies this and stands by its story. Tbilisi's statements have to be taken with a grain of salt, as Joshua Kucera pointed out: "Given Georgia's obvious skittishness about news of this getting out, if such a base does in fact get set up, we probably won't be hearing much more about it." After all, it makes perfect sense to set up a training camp for "moderate Syrian rebels" in Georgia given the fact that some Georgian jihadists have already joined the "Syrian rebels":

Sixth Georgian from Pankisi Gorge dies in Syrian war

An 18 year old Georgian has died in the Syrian civil war. He is the sixth fighter to die in the war who is a native of Pankisi Gorge.

Pankisi Gorge in the northeast of Georgia was used as a jihadist base during both Chechen wars, and this was where the United States went in for the first time with military aid to Georgia in 2002, to counter the threat of islamic extremism.

Kakheti Information Center reported that Besik Kushtanashvili is the sixth Pankisi native to die while fighting in the Syrian war.

Relatives of Kushtanashvili said he left for Turkey together with his siblings this summer, soon after graduating from school, ostensibly to work there. Going to Turkey to work is common among Pankisi residents. His family had no suspicion that anything was wrong before they received information that their boy had died.

The United States has been quite successful in "countering" Islamic extremism in the Pankisi Gorge. As recently discussed, Georgia is still being used to recruit and train jihadi mercenaries for NATO's terror operations in the region. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that one of the most influential ISIS leaders, Tarkhan Batirashvili, is also from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Batirashvili's dubious background raises the question as to whether he is really a jihadist or an intelligence operative. Given Batirashvili's growing popularity, it is probably worth the trouble to take a closer look at Georgia's most famous terrorist: 

U.S. Puts Georgian National on Terrorism Sanctions List

The U.S. placed on September 24 a Syria-based Georgian national among 21 individuals in “specially designated global terrorists” list, freezing their assets and prohibiting Americans from having any commercial transactions with them.

Tarkhan Batirashvili, 28, who is known as Omar al-Shishani and is native of Birkiani village in Georgia’s Pankisi gorge, is one of the senior Islamic State military commanders.

There are reports that Batirashvili is not the only Georgian national fighting in Syria. According to a local news agency in Kakheti region, where Pankisi gorge is located, there are about 50 individuals from Pankisi gorge fighting in Syria. News agency, Information Center of Kakheti (
ICK), reported on September 25 about death of an 18-year-old native of Omalo village of Pankisi gorge while fighting in Syria; ICK said that the report was confirmed by relatives of the young man.

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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

Empire, Power & People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 123

America to the Rescue... of Dictators!!

EPPSo, America has begun bombing Syria with the support of an "international coalition" made up of five Arab dictatorships, all of which have been involved in plunging Syria into civil war and in some cases, even supporting the creating of ISIS in the first place. When it comes to the Middle East, to the Arab world, to ISIS, Syria and America's relationship with and actions in that world, we have a game of power politics, leverage, back-room deals, deep state secrets, terrorism, tyranny, drugs and guns. As American bombs fall on Syria, it's important to remind ourselves that they fall with the empty rhetoric of "humanitarian" considerations. The US is not bombing ISIS and Syria to help the populations of the region, but to help the most ruthless dictators in the region.

Listen to the full episode here:

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The Emperor’s Rage: Let Chaos Envelop the World!

Obama: A Liar of Munchausen Proportions with a Bad Case of Political Paranoia, War Hysteria & Megalomania

Chaos reigns and spreads as enraged leaders in the US, Europe and their clients and allies pursue genocidal wars. Mercenary wars in Syria; Israel’s terror bombing on Gaza; proxy wars in the Ukraine, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia.

Tens of millions of refugees flee scenes of total destruction. Nothing is sacred. There are no sanctuaries. Homes, schools, hospitals and entire families are targeted for destruction.

Chaos by Design

At the center of chaos, the wild-eyed President Obama strikes blindly, oblivious of the consequences, willing to risk a financial debacle or a nuclear war. He enforces sanctions against Iran; imposes sanctions on Russia; sets up missile bases five launch minutes from Moscow; sends killer drones against Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan; arms mercenaries in Syria; trains and equips Kurds in Iraq and pays for Israel’s savagery against Gaza.

Nothing works.

The Chaos President is blind to the fact that starving one’s adversaries does not secure submission: it unites them to resist. Regime change, imposing proxies by force and subterfuge, can destroy the social fabric of complex societies: Million of peasants and workers become uprooted refugees. Popular social movements are replaced by organized criminal gangs and bandit armies.

Central America, the product of decades of US direct and proxy military interventions, which prevented the most basic structural changes, has become a chaotic, unlivable inferno for millions. Tens of thousands of children flee from their ‘free market’- induced mass poverty and militarized state and gangster violence. Children refugees at the US border are arrested in mass, and imprisoned in makeshift detention camps, subject to psychological, physical and sexual abuse by officials and guards on the inside. On the outside, these pitiful children are exposed to the racist hatred of a frightened US public unaware of the dangers these children are escaping and the US government’s role in creating these hells.

The US-backed Kiev aviation authorities re-directed international passenger airlines to fly over war zones bristling with anti-aircraft missiles while Kiev’s jets bombed the rebellious cities and towns. One flight was shot down and nearly 300 civilians perished. Immediately an explosion of accusations from Kiev blaming Russian President Putin flooded Western media with no real facts to explain the tragedy/crime. War-crazy President Obama and the slavering prime ministers of the EU ejaculated ultimatums, threatening to convert Russia into a pariah state. ‘Sanctions, sanctions, everywhere . . . but first… France must complete its $1.5 billion sale to the Russian navy.’ And the City of London exempts the Russian oligarchs from the ‘sanctions’, embedded as they are in London’s money-laundering, parasitical FIRE (Fire, Insurance and Real Estate) economy. The Cold War has returned and has taken an ugly turn… with exceptions…for business.

Confrontation among nuclear powers is imminent: And the maniacal Baltic States and Poland bray the loudest for war with Russia, oblivious to their positions on the front lines of incineration…

Each day Israel’s war machine chews up more bodies of Gaza’s children while spitting out more lies. Cheering Israeli Jews perch on their fortified hills to celebrate each missile strike on the apartments and schools in the densely populated Shejaiya neighborhood of besieged Gaza. A group of orthodox and secular entrepreneurs in Brooklyn have organized group tours to visit the Holy Sites by day and enjoy the Gaza pyrotechnics by night . . . night goggles to view the fleeing mothers and burning children are available at a small extra charge…

Again the US Senate votes unanimously in support of Israel’s latest campaign of mass murder – no crime is depraved enough to ruffle the scruples of America’s leaders. They hew close to a script from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. Together they embrace a Beast from the Apocalypse gnawing on the flesh and bones of Palestine.

But, Sacre Bleu! France’s Zionists have prevailed on the ‘President-Socialiste’ Hollande. Paris bans all anti-Israel demonstrations despite the clear reports of genocide. Demonstrators supporting the Gazan resistance are gassed and assaulted by special riot police – ‘Socialist’ Hollande serves the demands of powerful Zionist organizations while trashing his country’s republican traditions and its sacred ‘Rights of Man’.

The young protestors of Paris fought back with barricades and paving stones in the finest traditions of the Paris Commune waving the flags of a free Palestine. Not a single ‘red banner’ was in sight: The French ‘left’ were under their beds or off on vacation.

There are ominous signs away from the killing fields. The stock market is rising while the economy stagnates. Wild speculators have returned in their splendor widening the gap between the fictitious and real economy before the ‘deluge’, the chaos of another inevitable crash.

In industrial America’s once great Detroit, clean water is shut-off to tens of thousands of poor citizens unable to pay for basic services. In the midst of summer, urban families are left to defecate in hallways, alleyways and empty lots. Without water the toilets are clogged, children are not washed. Roscoe, the master plumber, says the job is way beyond him.

According to our famed economists, the economy of Detroit is ‘recovering . . . profits are up, it’s only the people who are suffering’. Productivity has doubled, speculators are satisfied; pensions are slashed and wages are down; but the Detroit Tigers are in first place.

Public hospitals everywhere are being closed. In the Bronx and Brooklyn, emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Chaos! Interns work 36 hour shifts . . . and the sick and injured take their chances with a sleep-deprived medic. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, private clinics and ‘boutique’ practices for the elite proliferate.

Scandinavians have embraced the putschist power grab in Kiev. The Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt bellows for a new Cold War with Russia. The Danish emissary and NATO leader, Rasmussen, salivates obscenely at the prospect of bombing and destroying Syria in a replay of NATO’s ‘victory’ over Libya.

The German leaders endorse the ongoing Israeli genocide against Gaza; they are comfortably protected from any moral conscience by their nostalgic blanket of ‘guilt’ over Nazi crimes 70 years ago.

Saudi-funded Jihadi terrorists in Iraq showed their “infinite mercy” by… merely driving thousands of Christians from ancient Mosul. Nearly 2,000 years of a continuous Christian presence was long enough! At least most escaped with their heads still attached.

Chaos Everywhere

Over one hundred thousand agents of the US National Security Agency are paid to spy on two million Muslim citizens and residents in the USA. But for all the tens of billions of dollars spent and tens of millions of conversations recorded, Islamic charities are prosecuted and philanthropic individuals are framed in ‘sting operations’.

Where the bombs fall no one knows, but people flee. Millions are fleeing the chaos.

But there is no place to go! The French invade half a dozen African countries but the refugees are denied refuge in France. Thousands die in the desert or drown crossing the Med. Those who do make it, are branded criminals or relegated to ghettos and camps.

Chaos reigns in Africa, the Middle East, Central America and Detroit. The entire US frontier with Mexico has become a militarized detention center, a multi-national prison camp. The border is unrecognizable to our generation.

Chaos reigns in the markets. Chaos masquerades as trade sanctions: Iran yesterday, Russia today and China tomorrow. Washington, Watch out! Your adversaries are finding common ground, trading, forging agreements, building defenses; their ties are growing stronger.

Chaos reigns in Israel. War-obsessed Israelis discover that the Chosen People of God can also bleed and die, lose limbs and eyes in the alleyways of Gaza where poorly armed boys and men stand their ground. When the cheers turn to jeers, will they re-elect Bibi, their current kosher butcher? The overseas brethren, the fundraisers, the lobbyists and the armchair verbal assassins will automatically embrace some new face, without questions, regrets or (god forbid!) self-criticism –if it’s ‘good for Israel and the Jews’ it’s got to be right!

Chaos reigns in New York. Judicial rulings favor the pirates and their vulture funds demanding one-thousand percent returns on old Argentine bonds. If Argentina rejects this financial blackmail and defaults, shock waves will ripple throughout global financial markets. Creditors will tremble in uncertainty: Fears will grow over a new financial crash. Will they squeeze out another trillion-dollar bailout?

But where’s the money? Printing presses are working day and night. There are only a few life boats . . . enough for the bankers and Wall Street, the other ninety-nine percent will have to swim or feed the sharks.

The corrupted financial press now advises warlords on which country to bomb and politicians on how to impose economic sanctions; they no longer provide sound economic information or advise investors on markets. Their editorial rants will incite an investor flight to buy king-sized mattresses for stuffing as the banks fail.

The US President is on the verge of a mental breakdown: He’s a liar of Munchausen proportions with a bad case of political paranoia, war hysteria and megalomania. He’s gone amok, braying, ‘I lead the world: its US leadership or chaos’. Increasingly the world has another message: ‘It’s the US and chaos.’

Wall Street is abandoning him. The Russians have double-crossed him. The Chinese merchants are now doing business everywhere we used to be and we ought to be. They’re playing with loaded dice. The stubborn Somalis refuse to submit to a Black President: they reject this ‘ML King with drones’ . . . The Germans suck on their thumbs in total stupor as Americans monitor and record their every conversation…for their own safety! “Our corporations are ingrates after all we have done for them”, the First Black President whines. “They flee from our taxes while we subsidize their operations!”

Final Solutions: The End of Chaos

The only solution is to move on: Chaos breeds chaos. The President strives to project his ‘Leadership’. He asks his close advisers very hard questions: “Why can’t we bomb Russia, just like Israel bombs Gaza? Why don’t we build an ‘Iron Dome’ over Europe and shoot down Russian nuclear missiles while we fire upon Moscow from our new bases in Ukraine? Which countries will our ‘Dome’ protect? I am sure that the people of East Europe and the Baltic States will gladly make the supreme sacrifice. After all, their leaders were at the very front frothing for a war with Russia. Their reward, a nuclear wasteland, will be a small price to ensure our success!”

The Zionist lobby will insist our ‘Iron Dome’ covers Israel. But the Saudis may try to bribe the Russians to spare the oil fields as Moscow targets the US missile bases near Mecca. Our radio-active allies in the Middle East will just have to relocate to a new Holy Land.

Do Obama and his advisers imagine reducing the Asian population by a billion or two? Do they plan several hundred Hiroshimas because the Chinese crossed the President’s ‘red lines’: China’s economy and trade grew too fast, expanded too far, it was too competitive, too competent, too successful at gaining market shares, and they ignored our warnings and our unparalleled military might.

Most of Asia will inhale nuclear dust, millions of Indians and Indonesians will perish as collateral damage. Their survivors will feast on ‘radiated fish’ in a glowing sea.

Beyond Chaos: The New American Way:

Because our ‘Iron Dome’ will have failed us, we will have to re-emerge out of toxic ashes and crawl from our bunkers, dreaming of a New America free from wars and poverty. The Reign of Chaos will have ended. The ‘peace and order’ of the graveyard will reign supreme.

The emperors will be forgotten.

And we never will have found out who fired that missile at the doomed Malaysian airliner with its 300 passengers and crew. We will have lost count of the thousands of Palestinian parents and children slaughtered in Gaza by the Chosen People of Israel. We will not know how the sanctions against Russia panned out.

It won’t matter in the post-nuclear age, after the Chaos…

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Foundation of the US Empire: Axes of Evil

The US Empire’s Three Regional Axes of Power in the Middle East

Empires are not easy to sustain given the multiple enemies that they provoke: at the international level (imperial rivals and emerging new powers), at the national level (national resistance movements, unreliable clients and untrustworthy ‘Sepoy’ armies) and at the local level (boycotts, sabotage and strikes).

Imperial difficulties are multiplied when an empire is in economic decline, (loss of market shares with growing debt), facing domestic unrest as the economic costs to the taxpayers exceed the returns by a substantial margin; and when the political elite is internally divided between ‘militarists’ and ‘free market’ advocates.

The US Empire today is in the midst of a long-term decline, during which it has suffered a series of costly defeats. In addition, Washington has assumed long-term burdensome commitments to allies who have imposed their own ambitions of seeking ‘mini empires’ (Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia).

The US White House has increasingly adopted a military definition of ‘imperial leadership’ at the expense of reconfiguring imperial relations to accommodate potential new political and economic partners.

As the empire slides, the political elite, operating with a highly militarized mind set, has expanded its intrusive global intelligence networks to spy on allies, adversaries and its own citizens. Washington has risked deepening hostilities among key allies (Germany and Brazil), and exacerbating conflicts with conciliatory competitors (Russia), by refusing to curtail its massive espionage. Spying is a clear hostile act and part of the policy of military-driven empire building.

Empires Depend on Alliances

The entire edifice of the US Empire, like the earlier British Empire, is sustained through a series of complex alliances.

US military forces are injected into a country to orient and ensure that local military and police forces efficiently control their population and become available as mercenaries to fight overseas wars for the US Empire.

In the past two centuries, European colonial empires, especially the French and English, invaded and subjugated nations using colonial solders of color under the command of European imperial officers.

Today, the US empire builders are making their transition back to the 19th century colonial model. The Pentagon has been moving from reliance on US ground troops to recruiting colonial troops under US military command.

To that end, Washington’s empire has turned toward creating alliances with regional powers to sustain imperial pre-eminence. These ‘alliances’ are in place in Africa, Latin America, Asia and, in particular, in the Middle East. The Empire’s Middle East alliances have been operative for decades, but in recent years, they have absorbed the greatest resources with devastating consequences to the Empire as we shall see.

The Empire today operates and can only be sustained by these alliances or ‘axes of regional power’, which are therefore worth analyzing in greater detail.

The Axes of Power: The Middle East

The US Empire builders have constructed three regional axes of power in the Middle East. In order of importance, they are: the US-Israeli axis of power, the US-Saudi axis and the US-Turkey axis of power.

The US-Israel axis of power is based on a longstanding agreement. The US militarily and financially supports Israel’s colonial expansion into Palestine and Syria, while Israel backs US projections of military and political power throughout the region. Thanks to US military and financial aid, Israel has become the dominant military power in the Middle East and the only nuclear power in the region. The US has used Israel’s wars and invasions of its neighbors to secure several Arab collaborator client states (notably Jordan and Egypt). More recently the US-Israeli power axis has been expanded to include the client regime in Kurdistan (northern Iraq). In addition, the US-Israeli axis has been deeply involved in financing and promoting collaborator opposition forces in Lebanon (currently the Hariri political formation), sectors of the armed mercenaries in Syria, Kurdish Peshmerga militias in Iraq and the so-called ‘Mujahedeen al Khalq’ terrorists in Iran. The US CIA and Israel’s Mossad engage in clandestine violent operations directly intervening to destabilize secular and Islamic nationalist regimes like Iran, to disrupt their communications and to assassinate Iranian scientists and leaders. Israel has secured political and intelligence agreements with Egypt and Jordan to isolate and dispossess the Palestinians. The US has secured military bases and operational platforms in Egypt and Jordan to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon, President Bashar al Assad in Syria and the Iranian government.

However, while in the past each country benefited from the US-Israel axis of power, recently it has turned into a costly, asymmetrical relation, a zero-sum game, where Israel’s regional power increases as the US Empire deteriorates.

This turn of events is easily understood if one examines the way in which Middle East policy is formulated in the US. Over the past three decades, Israel has constructed the most formidable organized power configuration in the United States that has ever penetrated an imperial state in history. Linked by tribal loyalties and blind obedience, over a half-million Jewish Zionists have embraced Israel’s interests and pursued them with a zeal and single-mindedness that is unmatched by any other foreign-based lobby. Prominent Zionists have permeated key state institutions, from the US Treasury, Commerce and the Pentagon, to the White House and the National Security Council. They dominate the US Congress, the ‘two party’ system, especially the nomination and electoral process, ensuring that only candidates who swear allegiance to Israel are allowed to run and be elected. That way no political debate regarding Israel’s subversive influence is permitted. They dominate the mass media ensuring that all news and commentary is favorable to Israel and all criticism of the Jewish state is excluded.

Here we have the paradox of an imperial ally, Israel colonizing an imperial power and extracting tribute, with foreign aid to Tel Aviv exceeding $3.6 billion this year. More importantly the Zionist power configuration plays a key role in waging wars against Israel’s designated enemies and providing diplomatic cover for the Jewish state’s ethnic slaughter of the people of Palestine.

The Israel-US alliance has been set up wholly on Israel’s terms. Even as Israel rains thousands of tons of bombs on the captive people of Gaza, to the horror of world public opinion, the White House applauds and the US Congress unanimously approves resolutions supporting Israel’s war crimes at the behest of the powerful Zionists ensconced in Washington.

Whatever the US Empire has gained from Israel in the way of intimidating and humiliating Arab leaders in the region it has lost in economic terms. Major oil companies have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in trade and investment from the wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya and from sanctions against Iran. The US domestic economy has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in income and investment as a result of the high cost of oil imports resulting from the wars.

Strategically, the asymmetrical US-Israeli alliance has turned the US into an ‘empire’ dominated by militarists, and one exclusively focused on the Middle East. This transformation into a ‘military-driven’ Empire has resulted in neglect, decline and displacement of the imperial influence in the most dynamic growth sectors of the world economy – Asia, Latin America and Russia.

It is a paradox where the lop-sided strength of the US-Israeli axis in the Middle East has profoundly undermined the US global economic and domestic foundations of empire. Moreover, the brutal ‘colonial-style wars’ in the Middle East promoted by US Zionist strategists in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have destroyed any possibility of re-constructing viable client states and markets out of these conquered nations. Israeli military strategists have long wanted these regimes destroyed, their state institutions dismantled and their societies embroiled in sectarian, tribal strife. As a result, the US wars have not produced a single functioning client state: the US military invaded, occupied and destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan while losing the wars in political terms. This came at no cost to Israel, the unchallenged regional hegemon, while the US Treasury will struggle with a trillion dollar price tag and the US public will experience economic decline for generations.

The US-Saudi Axis of Power

The second most important axis of power in the Middle East is the US-Saudi alliance. From the perspective of the US Empire, the Saudi connection has many advantages, as well as costs. Saudi financing, in collaboration with the US, was instrumental in recruiting, arming and financing the Islamist guerrillas, which overthrew the secular pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan. Saudi links to the Pakistani intelligence services and military has ensured Pakistan will remain a client-state of the US Empire. Saudi intervention in Yemen and Bahrain propped-up the pro-empire, anti-democratic puppet regimes while ensuring US access to its strategic military bases.

Saudi Arabia is the principle backer of US sanctions and confrontation with Iran. It provides air bases, military intelligence operations and the funding of anti-Iranian terrorists, like ‘Mujahedeen al Khalq’. Saudi Arabia is the biggest market for US military exports. Saudi increased its oil output to compensate for a decline of oil in world markets due to the US embargo against and the destruction of oil production following the US attacks and devastation of Iraq and Libya. In exchange Saudi Arabia’s absolutist monarchy obtains US protection, security and assistance in repressing its domestic unrest. Saudi billionaires, no matter how brutal and corrupt, have full access to lucrative financial markets in the US. The Saudi theocratic-monarchic dictatorship has clearly benefited from the US destruction of secular nationalist Arab regimes in the region. Indeed, secular nationalism has been the Saudi’s primary target since its monarchy was set up by the British.

Nevertheless, the Saudi-US axis is fraught with tensions. The Saudi regime actively promotes Sunni extremist jihadi movements in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon undermining Washington-backed neo-liberal clients. The Saudi-backed terrorists in Libya have destabilized the US proxies. The Saudis promoted and financed the bloody military coup in Egypt of General Sisi. The Saudi Royals support the brutal military overthrow of the elected President Morsi and the suppression of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood because of Morsi’s rapprochement with Iran. This has ruined Obama’s more ‘moderate’ goal of setting up a Muslim Brotherhood-Egyptian military power sharing arrangement in Cairo.

In other words, the US and Saudi axis converge in opposition to secular-nationalist regimes but diverge on the alternatives. The Saudis tend to choose the most retrograde Islamic extremist groups excluding and antagonizing all other tendencies, from conservative-secular neo-liberals to democratic, nationalist and socialist parties and movements. They end up with political polarizations unfavorable to US long-term imperial interests. The Saudi choice of political alternatives tends to be minorities incapable of sustaining or overtly hostile to the US imperial order. Moreover, Saudi Arabia opposes Israel on religious grounds, the principle US political partner in the region, even as it works with the Jewish state against the secular or nationalist governments Syria, Iran and Lebanon.

Like its alliance with Israel, the US-Saudi axis comes at a very high cost. Saudi financing of the Taliban and other Islamic groups has cost the US empire builders hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of military casualties and a humiliating retreat after a thirteen year war.

Saudi funding for Sunni terrorists in Syria has decimated US-backed neo-liberal armed groups. Equally damaging, the same Saudi-backed jihadi groups have severely destabilized the US-imposed Maliki regime in Iraq. Saudi attacks on the US-Iranian nuclear negotiations have strengthened the Zionist-led opposition in the US Congress.

In other words the US-Saudi axis has buttressed the US Empire in the short-run, but has become a strategic liability. Saudi’s overseas projection of its most reactionary internal politics undermines the US effort to create stable imperial clients. Not to be overlooked is the Saudi role in financing Al Queda and its operatives in the attack on the US on September 11, 2001.

The US Turkey Axis

Turkey has been a major US-NATO asset especially during the Cold War. The secular-military regimes in Ankara mobilized the largest number of combat troops on the USSR’s border and provided the US with numerous air bases and intelligence centers. In recent times, under an Islamist regime, Turkey has become the axis for the US and EU-backed mercenary invasion of Syria, providing military sanctuaries, training, arms and financing to overthrow the secular Baathist regime in Damascus.

The Erdogan regime has sought to regain a pivotal role within NATO by backing the Empire’s effort to topple nationalist leaders and movements in the region.

Turkey has worked closely with the US and Israel in building up the political, economic and military capacities of the Iraqi Kurds. They are seen as a counter-force to the Saudi-backed jihadis, the failed Shia regime in Baghdad and Iraqi petrol-nationalists.

While pursuing neo-liberal policies congruent with US imperial design and collaborating with Washington’s clients in ‘Kurdistan’, Turkey has its own regional ambitions. President Erdogan supported the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and opposed the military coup of General Sisi, fearing, perhaps, a similar coup by the Turkish military. Up until quite recently Turkey had its own ‘mini-imperial’ agenda via trade and investment in Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan and Afghanistan. The recent imperial conflicts and regional instability have undermined Erdogan’s dreams of a neo-Ottoman revival. 95% of Turkish public opinion supports the rights of the Palestinian people; this has forced Erdogan to pull away from the Israeli-US axis, at least temporarily. Likewise the Turkish regime, while not in opposition to the Saudi dictatorship, has refrained from overt collaboration apart from trade and Gulf investments.

With the US-EU in the process of isolating and demonizing Russia, it remains to be seen whether Turkey will once again become the military axis for NATO. Russia is an important energy supplier and market for Turkish goods. If Turkey decides to join the new US axis confronting Russia, it will lose out economically and will have to find alternative markets and energy sources in an increasingly unstable region. A weakened Turkey may be more submissive to empire but it will be more vulnerable to internal opposition.

Conclusion

The US Empire, like previous ones, depends on a host of alliances and axes of power to sustain it and compensate for military, political and economic limitations in resources and personnel. With regard to the main region of direct US involvement, the Middle East, Washington has embraced three sets of alliances with partners who have played a paradoxical role in both sustaining and eroding the US Empire.

Israel, the primary ally of the US, is largely a political and military construct of US policymakers over the past years. It was originally designed to serve and police the region for the US. Instead, over the years, the relationship has been totally reversed: US imperial power has been subordinated to serve Israel’s ambitions to impose unchallenged regional superiority over the Middle East. For the first time in the history of empires, a satrap of empire has systematically penetrated the principle imperial institutions. Decision-makers and elites loyal to Israeli interests have expended vast amounts of US military resources and American soldiers to wage wars with the goal of decimating Israel’s enemies. Five hundred thousand well organized and financed American Jewish-Zionist activists have directed the global empire into focusing on one region: the Middle East. The mass media, US Congress and the principle advisory bodies (dubbed ‘think tanks’) in Washington are engaged in formulating US policies in line with Israel’s colonial interests with disastrous consequences for the American people. In effect, the US state and society are ‘colonized’ by unconditional supporters of Israel. The Zionist power configuration’s influence finds its most macabre expression in the US Congress unanimous endorsement of the Israeli slaughter of hundreds of trapped Palestinian civilians and children during the July 2014 terror bombing of Gaza. This repugnant act is the culmination of the forced servility of an ostensibly global imperial power subject to the dictates of its lawless, genocidal ally.

The Israeli-US axis has led the Empire into a blind ally: A totally one-sided relation has inflated the military dimensions of empire in Israel’s interests. Economically, this has become the most perverse of all imperial partnerships, where the satrap extracts billions of dollars a year in political tribute and advanced weaponry in return for nothing! Strategically, the global decline of the US Empire, its loss of market shares and political influence in the most dynamic regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa, can be wholly attributed to its sustained focus on the Middle East.

The disastrous ‘exclusive Middle East focus’ can be attributed to the leadership, organization and policies of the Empire.

The US political leadership, beholden to unconditional supporters of Israel, has committed the most damaging policies in US history. First and foremost, these elite-educated policymakers have degraded the entire economic dimensions of empire by pursuing a relentless military agenda – destroying oil producers, raising world prices, sowing instability and by bleeding the US Treasury of trillions of dollars - with few returns.

This self-proclaimed ‘best and brightest’, with advanced degrees from the most prestigious universities, includes policymakers who have committed the US to endless wars which only benefit Israel. Most of these key policymakers, including Wolfowitz, Emmanuel, Feith, Libby, Abrams, Greenspan, Levy, Cohen, Frohman, Lew, Fischer, Bernanke and Yellen have deliberately pillaged the US Treasury in order to sustain Middle East wars for Israel and Wall Street bankers. The ‘leading lights’ among the Zionist policy-makers, occupying influential positions in the imperial power structures, are responsible for an unmitigated disaster: they have initiated failed wars, dismantled whole societies, fomented financial crises and promoted a one-way ‘partnership’ with a genocidal state. If only they had pursued respectable and successful careers as dentists, doctors, investors, bankers or ivory tower academics – millions of precious lives would not have been destroyed….

However, it is not only the empire’s alliance with Israel which is driving the empire to crisis. The Saudi-US axis has given immense power to the most retrograde satraps and barbaric armed insurgents running amok in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. An empire, associated with the most parasitic Arab ‘rentiers’ who send their own fanatical offspring to self-immolate for a head-beheading new world order has scarce resonance in the modern world.

An empire, organized around axes of evil and directed by political leaders loyal to satraps, has no material or moral foundations to justify its existence.

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Obama- “Remaking the Middle East”: The American Gulag

The Scale & Scope of Political Repression in Each US Backed Police State

During the beginning of his first term in office President Obama promised “to remake the Middle East into a region of prosperity and freedom”. Six years later the reality is totally the contrary: the Middle East is ruled by despotic regimes whose jails are overflowing with political prisoners.

The vast majority of pro-democracy activists who have been incarcerated, have been subject to harsh torture and are serving long prison sentences. The rulers lack legitimacy, having seized power and maintained their rule through a centralized police state and military repression. Direct US military and CIA intervention, massive shipments of arms, military bases, training missions and Special Forces are decisive in the construction of the Gulag chain from North Africa to the Gulf States.

We will proceed by documenting the scale and scope of political repression in each US backed police state. We will then describe the scale and scope of US military aid buttressing the “remaking of the Middle East” into a chain of political prisons run by and for the US Empire.

The countries and regimes include Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Turkey . . . all of which promote and defend US imperial interests against the pro-democracy majority, represented by their independent social-political movements.

Egypt: Strategic Vassal State

A longtime vassal state and the largest Arab country in the Middle East, Egypt’s current military dictatorship, product of a coup in July 2013, launched a savage wave of repression

subsequent to seizing power. According to the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, between July and December 2013, 21,317 pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested. As of April 2014, over 16,000 political prisoners are incarcerated. Most have been tortured. The summary trials, by kangaroo courts, have resulted in death sentences for hundreds and long prison terms for most. The Obama regime has refused to call the military’s overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government a coup in order to continue providing military aid to the junta.In exchange the military dictatorship continues to back the Israeli blockade of Gaza and support US military operations throughout the Middle East.

Israel: The Region’s Biggest Jailer

Israel, whose supporters in the US dub it the “only democracy in the Middle East”, is in fact the largest jailer in the region.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselm, between 1967 and December 2012, 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point, over 20% of the population. Over 100,000 have been held in “administrative detention” without charges or trial. Almost all have been tortured and brutalized. Currently Israel has 4,881 political prisoners in jail. What makes the Jewish state God’s chosen… premier jailer, however, is the holding of 1.82 million Palestinians living in Gaza in a virtual open air prison. Israel restricts travel, trade, fishing, building , manufacturing and farming through air, sea and ground policing and blockades. In addition, 2.7 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (West Bank) are surrounded by prison-like walls, subject to daily military incursions, arbitrary arrests and violent assaults by the Israeli armed forces and Jewish vigilante settlers engaged in perpetual dispossession of Palestinian inhabitants.

Saudi Arabia: Absolutist Monarchy

According to President Obama’s ‘remaking of Middle East’ Saudi Arabia stands as Washington’s “staunchest ally in the Arab world”. As a loyal vassal state, its jails overflow with pro-democracy dissidents incarcerated for seeking free elections, civil liberties and an end to misogynist policies. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission the Saudis are holding 30,000 political prisoners, most arbitrarily detained without charges or trial.

The Saudi dictatorship plays a major role bankrolling police state regimes throughout the region. They have poured $15 billion into the coffers of the Egyptian junta subsequent to the military coup, as a reward for its massive bloody purge of elected officials and their pro-democracy supporters. Saudi Arabia plays a big role in sustaining Washington’s dominance, by financing and arming ‘jailer-regimes’ in Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

Bahrain: Small Country – Many Jails

According to the local respected Center for Human Rights, Bahrain has the dubious distinction of being the “top country globally in the number of political prisoners per capita”. According to the Economist (4/2/14) Bahrain has 4,000 political prisoners out of a population of 750,000. According to the Pentagon, Bahrain’s absolutist dictatorship plays a vital role in providing the US with air and maritime bases, for attacking Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of pro-democracy dissidents are jailed for seeking to end vassalage , autocracy, and servility to US imperial interest and the Saudi dictatorship.

Iraq: Abu Ghraib with Arab Characters

Beginning with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and continuing under its proxy vassal Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been tortured, jailed and murdered. Iraq’s ruling junta, has continued to rely on US military and Special Forces and to engage in the same kinds of military and police ‘sweeps’ which eviscerate any democratic pretensions. Al-Maliki relies on special branches of his secret police, the notorious Brigade 56, to assault opposition communities and dissident strongholds. Both the Shi’a regime and Sunni opposition engage in ongoing terror-warfare. Both have served as close collaborators with Washington at different moments.

The weekly death toll runs in the hundreds. The Al-Maliki regime has taken over the torture centers (including Abu Ghraib), techniques and jails previously headed and run by the US and have retained US ‘Special Forces’ advisers, overseeing the round-up of human rights critics, trade unionists and democratic dissidents.

Yemen: A Joint US-Saudi Satellite

Yemen has been ruled by US-Saudi client dictators for decades. The autocratic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh was accompanied by the jailing and torture of thousands of pro-democracy activists, secular and religious, as well as serving as a clandestine torture center for political dissidents kidnapped and transported by the CIA under its so-called “rendition” program. In 2011 despite prolonged and violent repression by the US backed Saleh regime, a mass rebellion exploded threatening the existence of the state and its ties to the US and Saudi regimes. In order to preserve their dominance and ties to the military, Washington and Saudi orchestrated a ‘reshuffle’ of the regime: rigged elections were held and one Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a loyal crony of Saleh and servant of Washington, took power. Hadi continued where Saleh left off: kidnapping, torturing, killing pro-democracy protestors… Washington chose to call Hadi’s rule “a transition to democracy”. According to the Yemen Times (4/5/14) over 3,000 political prisoners fill the Yemen prisons. “Jailhouse democracy” serves to consolidate the US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula.

Jordan: A Client Police State of Longstanding Duration

For over a half century, three generations of reigning Jordanian absolutist monarchs have been on the CIA payroll and have served US interests in the Middle East. Jordan’s vassal rulers savage Arab nationalists and Palestinian resistance movements; signed off on a so-called “peace agreement” with Israel to repress any cross-border support for Palestine; provide military bases in support of US, Saudi and EU training, arming and financing of mercenaries invading Syria.

The corrupt monarchy and its crony oligarchy oversee an economy perpetually dependent on foreign subsidies to keep it afloat: unemployment is running over 25% and half the population is subsisting in poverty. The regime has jailed thousands of peaceful protestors. According to a recent Amnesty International Report (Jordan 2013), King Abdullah’s dictatorship “has detained thousands without charges”. The jailhouse monarchy plays a central role in buttressing US empire-building in the Middle East and facilitating Israeli land grabbing in Palestine.

Turkey: NATO Bulwark and Jailhouse Democracy

Under the reign of the self-styled “Justice and Development Party” led by Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has evolved into a major military operational base for the NATO backed invasion of Syria. Erdoğan has had his differences with the US; especially Turkey’s cooling relations with Israel over the latters’ seizure of a Turkish ship in international waters and the slaughter of nine unarmed Turkish humanitarian activists. But as Turkey has turned toward greater dependence on international capital flows and integration into NATO’s international wars, Erdoğan has become more authoritarian. Facing large scale public challenges to his arbitrary privatization of public spaces and dispossession of households in working class neighborhoods, Erdoğan launched a purge of civil society ,class based movements and state institutions. In the face of large scale pro-democracy demonstrations in the summer of 2013, Erdoğan launched a savage assault on the dissidents. According to human rights groups over 5,000 were arrested and 8,000 were injured during the Gezi Park protests. Earlier Erdoğan established “Special Authorized Courts” which organized political show trials based on falsified evidence which facilitated the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of military officers, party activists, trade unionists, human rights lawyers and journalists, particularly those critical of his support for the war against Syria. Despite conciliatory rhetoric, Erdogan’s jails contain several thousand Kurdish dissidents, including electoral activists and legislators (Global Views 10/17/12).

While Erdoğan has served as an able and loyal Islamist anchor against popular democratic and nationalist movements in the Middle East, his pursuit of greater Turkish influence in the region, has led the US to deepen its political ties with the more submissive and pro-Washington , pro-Israel Gulenist movement embedded in the state apparatus ,business and education. The latter has adopted a permeationist-strategy: purging adversaries in its quiet march to power from within the state. The US still relies on Erdoğan’s “jailhouse democracy” to repress anti-imperialist movements in Turkey; to serve as a military anchor for the war against Syria; to back sanctions against Iran and to support the pro-NATO Maliki regime in Iraq.

The Middle East Gulag and US Military Aid

The police state regimes and the long-term authoritarian political culture in the Arab world is a product of long-term US military support for despotic rulers. The absence of democracy is a necessary condition for expanding and advancing the US imperial military presence in the region.

A small army of US Islamophobic academics, “experts”, journalists and media pundits totally ignore the role of the US in promoting, sustaining and strengthening the ruling dictators and repressing the profoundly democratic mass movements which have erupted over a prolonged period of time. Spearheaded by long-time pro-Israel Middle East scribes and scholars, in Ivy League universities, these propagandists, claim that Arab dictatorships are a product of “Islamic culture”,or the “authoritarian personality of Arabs” in search of a ‘strongman’ to guide and rule them. Ignoring or distorting the history of working class struggles, pro-democracy protests and affirmations, in all of the major Arab countries, these scholars justify the US ties to the dictatorships as “realistic policies” given the “available options”. Wherever real democracy begins to emerge, where political rights begin to be exercised, Washington provokes coups and intervenes to bolster the repressive apparatus of the state (Bahrain 2011-14, Yemen 2011 to 2014, Egypt 2013, Jordan 2012 among numerous other cases). While the bulk of the Middle East “experts” blame the Arab citizens for authoritarian rule, they completely ignore and cover-up Israel’s racist majority which solidly backs the incarceration and torture of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy Palestinians.

To understand the Middle East gulag requires a discussion of US ‘aid policy’ which is central to sustaining the ‘jailhouse regimes’.

US Aid to Egypt: Billions for Dictators

The Egyptian police state anchors the US ‘arc of empire’ from North Africa to the Middle East. Egypt has been actively engaged in destabilizing Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and collaborating with Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians. The Mubarak dictatorship received $2 billion dollars a year from Washington – nearly $65 billion for its imperial services. US aid strengthened its capacity to jail, and torture pro-democracy and trade union activists. Washington continued its military support of dictatorial rule after the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected government, to the tune of $1.55 billion dollars for 2014 . Despite “expressions of concern” over the murder of thousands of pro-democracy protestors by the new military strongman General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, there was no cut in funding for so-called “counter-terrorism” and “security”. To continue funding the dictatorship under US Congressional legislation, Washington refused to characterize the violent seizure of power as a coup . . . referring to it as a “transition to democracy”. The key role of Egypt in US foreign policy is to protect Israel’s ‘eastern flank’. US aid to Egypt is product of the pressure and influence of the Zionist power configuration in Congress and the White House: US aid is conditioned on Egypt’s ‘policing’ of the Gaza border, ensuring that Israel’s blockade is effective. The White House supports Cairo’s repression of the majority of nationalist, anti-colonial Egyptians opposed to Tel Aviv’s dispossession of the Palestinians. Insofar as Israel’s interests’define US Middle East policy, Washington’s financing of Egypt’s jailhouse dictatorship is in accord with Zionist Washington’s strategy.

Israel: The US “Pivot” in the Middle East

Most independent and knowledgeable experts agree that US Middle East policy is largely dictated by a multitude of Zionist loyalists occupying key policymaking positions in Treasury, State Department, the Pentagon and Commerce as well as Congressional dominance by the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations and their 171,000 full time paid activists. While there is some truth in what some critics cite as the divergence of the ‘real’ US ‘national interest’ from Israel’s colonial ambitions, the fact is that US leaders in Washington perceive a convergence between imperial dominance and Israeli militarism. In point of fact a submissive Egypt serves wider US imperial and Israeli colonial interests. Israel’s war on Lebanon against the anti-imperialist Hezbollah movement served US efforts to install a docile client as well as Israeli’s effort to destroy a partisan of Palestinian self-determination. Washington’s divergence with Israel over Israel’s dispossession of all Palestine does run counter to Washington’s interest in a Palestinian mini-state run by neo-colonial Arab officials. As a result of Zionist influence, Israel is the biggest per-capita US aid recipient in the world, despite having a higher standard of living than 60% of US citizens. Between 1985-2014, Israel received over $100 billion dollars, of which 70% was military, including the most advance high technology weaponry. Israel ,the country which has the world record for political prisoners and military attacks on its neighbors over the past forty years, holds the record for US military aid. Israel as the premier ‘jailhouse democracy’ is a key link in the chain of gulags extending from North Africa to the Gulf States.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia competes with Israel as an incarceration center of pro-democracy dissidents; the Saudi’s recycle hundreds of billions of petro-rents through Wall Street, enriching local Saudi despots and overseas pro-Israel investment bankers. The Saudi-US-Israeli convergence is more than incidental. They share military interests in warring against pro-independence, pro-democracy Arab movements throughout the Middle East. Saudi houses the major US military base and the biggest intelligence operations in the Gulf. It backed the US invasion of Iraq. It finances thousands of Islamic mercenaries in the US-NATO proxy war against Syria. It invaded Bahrain to smash the pro-democracy movement. It intervenes with Washington in support of the Yemen police state. It is the biggest and most lucrative market for the US military-industrial complex. US military sales between 1951 – 2006 totaled $80 billion. In October 2010 it signed off on a $60.5 billion purchase of US arms and services.

Bahrain: A US Aircraft Carrier called a Country

Bahrain serves as the naval base for the US Fifth fleet – and an operative base for attacking Iran. It has been servicing the occupation of Afghanistan and US control of oil shipping routes. The Al-Khalifa dictatorship is extremely isolated, highly unpopular and faces constant pressure from the pro-democracy majority. To bolster their vassal rulers, Washington has increased its military sales to the tiny statelet from $400 million between 1993-2000 to $1.4 billion in the subsequent decade. Washington has increased its sales and military training program in direct proportion to the growth of democratic discontent, resulting in the geometrical growth of political prisoners.

Iraq: War, Occupation, and the Killing Fields of a Jailhouse Democracy

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the slaughter of nearly 1.5 million Iraqis (mostly civilians, non-combatants) at a cost of $1.5 trillion dollars and 4,801 US military deaths. In 2006 the US engineered ‘elections’ led to the installation of the Maliki regime, buttressed by US arms, mercenaries, advisers and bases. According to a recent study for the Congressional Research Office (February 2014), by Kenneth Kilzman, there are 16,000 US military personnel and “contractors” currently in Iraq. Over 3,500 US military contractors in the Office of Security Cooperation bolster the corrupt Maliki police state. The jailhouse democracy has been supplied with US missiles and drones and over $10 billion dollars in military assistance :this includes $2.5 billion in aid and $7.9 billion sales between 2005 – 2013. For 2014 -2015 Malaki has requested $15 billion in weapons, including 36 US F-16 combat aircraft and scores of Apache attack helicopters. In 2013 the Malaki regime registered 8,000 political deaths resulting from its internal war.

Iraq is a crucial center for US control of oil, the Gulf and as a launch pad to attack Iran. While Maliki makes ‘gestures’ toward Iran, its role as an advanced link in the US imperial gulag defines its real ‘function’ in the Gulf region.

Yemen: The Desert Military Outpost for the American Gulag

Yemen is a costly military outpost for Saudi despotism and US power on the Arabian Peninsula. According to a study, Yemen: Background and US Relations by Jeremy Sharp for the Congressional Research Service (2014), the US has supplied $1.3 billion in military aid to Yemen between 2009-2014. Saudi Arabia donated $3.2 billion in 2012 to bolster the Saleh dictatorship in the face of a mass popular anti-dictatorial uprising. Washington engineered a transfer of power from Saleh to “President” Hadi and ensured his continuity by doubling military aid to keep the jails full and the resistance in check. According to the New York Times (6/31/13) Hadi was “a carry-over of dictator Saleh”. The continuity of a jailhouse democracy in Yemen is a crucial link between the Egypt-Israel-Jordan axis and the Saudi-Bahrain imperial gulag.

Jordan: Eternal Vassal and Mendicant Monarchy

Jordan’s despotic monarchy has been on the US payroll for over a half century. Recently it has served as a torture center for kidnapped victims seized by US Special Forces engaged in the “rendition” program. Jordan has collaborated with Israel in assaulting and arresting Palestinians in Jordan engaged in the freedom struggle. Currently Jordan along with Turkey serves as a training and weapons depot for NATO backed mercenary terrorists invading Syria. For its collaboration with Israel, Washington and NATO, the corrupt jailhouse monarchy receives large scale long-term military and economic aid. The monarchy and its extended network of cronies, jailers and family, skim tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid, laundered in overseas accounts in London, Switzerland, Dubai and New York. According to a Congressional Research Service Report (January 27, 2014), US aid to the Jordanian royal dictatorship amounts to $660 million per year. An additional $150 million for military aid was channeled to the regime with the onset of the NATO intervention in Syria. The fund was directed to build-up the infrastructure around the Jordan-Syria border. In addition, Jordan serves as a major conduit for arms to terrorists attacking Syria: $340 million destined for “overseas contingencies” probably is channeled through Amman to arm the terrorists invading Syria. In October 2012, Jordan signed agreements with the US allowing a large contingent of Special Forces to establish airfields and bases to supply and train terrorists.

Turkey: A Loyal Vassal State with Regional Ambitions

As the southern military bulwark of NATO, on Russia’s frontier, Turkey has been on the US payroll for over 66 years. According to a recent study by James Zanotti Turkey – US Defense Co-Operation: Prospects and Challenges (Congressional Research Service, April 8, 2011) in exchange for bolstering the military power of Turkey’s “jailhouse democracy”, the US secured a major military presence including a huge air base in Incirlik a major operational center housing 1,800 US military personnel. Turkey collaborated with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and supported the NATO bombing of Libya. Today Turkey is the most important military operational center for jihadist terrorists invading Syria. Despite President Erdoğan’s periodic demagogic nationalist bombast, the US empire builders continue to have access to Turkish bases and transport corridors for its wars, occupations and interventions in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. In exchange the US has stationed missile defense systems and vastly increased arms sales, so-called “security assistance”. Between 2006 – 2009 US military sales exceeded $22 billion dollars. In 2013-14, tensions between Turkey and the US increased as Erdoğan moved to purge the state of the Gulenists, a US backed fifth column, which permeated the Turkish state and used its position to support closer collaboration with Israel and US military interests.

Conclusion

The expansion of the US Empire throughout North Africa and the Middle East has been built around arming and financing vassal states to serve as military outposts of the empire. These vassal regimes, ruled by dictatorial monarchies, and authoritarian military and civilian rulers, rely on force and violence to sustain their rule. The US has supplied the weapons, advisers, and financing allowing them to rule. The US arc of imperial military bases stretching from Egypt through Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq , Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is protected by a chain of prison camps containing tens of thousands of political prisoners.

The US engagement, its pervasive presence throughout the region, is accompanied by a chain of jailhouse democracies and dictatorships. Contrary to liberal and conservative policy pundits and academics, US policy for over 50 years has actively sought out, installed and protected bloody tyrants who have pillaged the public treasury, concentrated wealth, surrendered sovereignty and underdeveloped their economies.

Pro-Israel academics at prestigious US universities have systematically distorted the structural bases of violence, authoritarianism and corruption in the Islamic world: blaming the victims, the Turkish and Arab people, and ignoring the role of US empire builders in financing and arming the authoritarian civilian and military rulers and absolutist monarchies and their corrupt military, judicial and police officials.

Contrary to the mendacious tomes published by the prestigious University presses and written mostly by highly respected pro-Israel political propagandists, the remaking of the Middle East depends on the strength of the democratic currents in Islamic society. They are found in the student movements, among the trade unionists and unemployed, the nationalist intellectuals and Islamic and secular forces who oppose the US Empire for very practical and obvious reasons. Along with Israel the US is the main organizer of the vast chain of political prison camps that destroy the most creative and dynamic forces in the region. Greater Arab vassalage provokes the periodic explosion of a vibrant democratic culture and movement; unfortunately it also results in greater US military aid and presence. The real clash of civilizations is between the democratic aspirations of the Eastern popular classes and the deeply embedded authoritarianism of Euro-American- Israeli imperialism.

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

The New Great Game Round-Up: April 6, 2014

NATO Eyes Ex-Soviet States-Russia Eyes Iran, the Struggle for Tajikistan & More

*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.

Thanks to the Ukraine crisis, the Cold War military alliance NATO does not need to pretend anymore that it is fighting terrorism and can continue its never-ending struggle against Russia right out in the open. The terror threat was quickly replaced by the Russian threat and NATO is non-stop fear-mongering about a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's top military commander, is leading the way and if he is to be taken seriously, Russian troops will have conquered Ukraine by now. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss an appropriate response to the non-existent buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine's eastern border. The U.S.-led military alliance considers, among other things, to expedite the encirclement of Russia: 

NATO plans stronger military ties to ex-Soviet states south of Russia

Before the meeting, a Nato committee drafted plans "for promoting stability in eastern
Europe in the current context" by increasing military co-operation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova – all in Russia's "near abroad" and considered by Moscow as falling within its sphere of influence.

A confidential seven-page paper leaked to the German news weekly Der Spiegel proposed joint exercises and training between Nato and the three countries, increasing the "interoperability" of their militaries with Nato, and their participation in Nato "smart defence" operations.

The paper also proposed opening a Nato liaison office in Moldova, military training for Armenia, and projects in Azerbaijan aimed at securing its Caspian Sea oil and gas fields.

NATO Eyes Ex-Soviet States, Russia Eyes Iran

While Azerbaijan and Moldova have been eyed as future NATO members for quite some time, Armenia is a vital member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Russia's only ally in the South Caucasus. The above-mentioned NATO committee must have missed that the Armenian government has decided to join Russia's team in the new Cold War and demonstrated this during the recent vote in the UN General Assembly, when Armenia was one of only 11 nations rejecting the anti-Russian resolution. Armenia's arch-enemy Azerbaijan, on the other hand, enjoys a very close relationship with NATO and the Aliyev regime is definitely interested in further cooperation:

Number of Azerbaijani officers increases in NATO

Azerbaijan plans to increase the number of the officers serving in NATO in summer, the press service of the Defense Ministry reported on March 25.

At the present time, seven officers of the Azerbaijani Armed forces serve at several NATO headquarters.

Furthermore, about 900 servicemen's are expected to participate at 90 events in the framework of the Individual Cooperation Program with NATO in 2014. Some 81 of the events are scheduled to be held in foreign countries and nine of them in Azerbaijan. Over 1000 Azerbaijani soldiers attended 100 events in this program last year. Most attention was paid to the issues of defense strategy, military training , military education, material-technical supply, logistics , international humanitarian law , budget and resource management and others.

Due to its strategic location, Azerbaijan is of pivotal importance to Washington and Brussels. The country in the South Caucasus serves as base for NATO's regional jihadi operations and Azerbaijani gas is expected to lessen Europe's dependence on Russian gas. Therefore, Azerbaijan might benefit significantly from the Ukraine crisis but, to the dismay of Washington, the same goes for neighboring Iran: 

Iran, Russia working to seal $20 billion oil-for-goods deal: sources

Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions, people familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

A Russian source said Moscow had "prepared all documents from its side", adding that completion of a deal was awaiting agreement on what oil price to lock in.

The source said the two sides were looking at a barter arrangement that would see Iranian oil being exchanged for industrial goods including metals and food, but said there was no military equipment involved. The source added that the deal was expected to reach $15 to $20 billion in total and would be done in stages with an initial $6 billion to $8 billion tranche.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that it is prepared to change its stance on Iran if the warmongers in Washington and Brussels are determined to play Cold War. The oil-for-goods deal could be the first step towards a strategic partnership between Moscow and Tehran, considering that some voices in Russia are already calling for closer military cooperation with Iran. At the latest when the first S-300 air-defense systems are delivered to Iran, the Obama administration will be starting to realize that provoking Russia was not the best idea. Faced with the sanctions-busting oil deal, the United States, concerned about the future of the Petrodollar, is threatening to impose new sanctions against Russia but this will not deter the Kremlin from doing business with Iran [emphasis mine]:

Russian Government Working on New Iran Oil Deliveries Scheme

The Russian Cabinet of Ministers is discussing a new scheme for possible Iran oil deliveries via an independent trader, instead of Russia's oil giant Rosneft, the Kommersant business daily said Friday, citing Russian government sources.

"This will be a company registered in Russia, which does not work on the international markers, as opposed to Rosneft. In other words, there will be no pressure tools on it," Prime business news agency cited Kommersant sources as saying.

Afghanistan Troubles CSTO, SCO

Washington's new sanctions would certainly have more teeth than the previous travel bans, which have targeted, among others, Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's anti-drug service. Ivanov was not amused and accused the United States of deliberately obstructing further anti-trafficking cooperation in order to hide its responsibility for the drug crisis in Afghanistan. It is a debatable point whether Russia is interested in fighting drug trafficking or in getting its share of the multi-billion dollar opium business in Afghanistan. However, the biggest achievement of the United States and NATO in Afghanistan is beyond dispute:

Afghan H-bomb: Record opium harvest, billions burn in 'war on drugs'

Since the US came down on the Taliban and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, heroin production in the country has surged almost 40-fold. One year ago the estimated number of heroin addicts dying due to Afghan heroin in the preceding decade surpassed well over one million deaths worldwide.

Last year, Afghanistan harvested a record quantity of opium. The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board maintains that Afghan poppy fields now occupy a record 209,000 hectares, a 36 percent increase from 2013.

NATO's efforts in "combating" Afghan drug trafficking and the reluctance of the military alliance to cooperate with other players were also heavily criticized by CSTO chief Nikolai Bordyuzha this week, when he met with CSTO foreign ministers in Moscow to discuss the precarious situation in Afghanistan. In the run-up to the presidential elections, foreigners have been leaving the country like never before during an election period and although the violence did not stop the Afghan people from voting, the prospects for Afghanistan are bleak. Hence the CSTO is concerned about the security of its neighboring member states:

CSTO expecting Afghan armed gangs' breakthrough attempts

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is expecting breakthrough attempts by Afghan armed gangs across member-states' borders, but rules out a large-scale invasion, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said in an interview with ITAR-TASS.

According to the CSTO secretary general, the number of clashes on the Tajik-Afghan border has increased by several times to 35 in the past six months. "These are attempts by armed gangs to break through the state border of Tajikistan, they are drug mafia and armed groups engaging in other things, such as politics," Bordyuzha said.

On top of that, CSTO is expecting attempts to ideologically influence the population of Central Asia countries and set up underground extremist groups in CSTO member-states which would be led by Afghan emissaries.

CSTO Secretary General Bordyuzha also addressed concerns regarding the planned deployment of Iskander-M missile systems near the Kazakhstan-Russia border and emphasized that the Russian-led military alliance does not intend to deploy any Iskanders in Central Asia because the powerful missile system is obviously not the appropriate weapon to deal with threats emanating from Afghanistan. Instead the CSTO will join forces with the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to pursue a more reasonable strategy. At the beginning of this week, SCO defense ministers met in the Tajik city of Khujand to discuss plans for post-2014 Afghanistan:

Russia, Uzbekistan Floating Plans To Create "Buffer State" In Afghanistan

The most intriguing suggestion to come out of the meeting, though, is that regional countries are apparently discussing plans to strengthen regional power brokers in northern Afghanistan as a means of combating the spread of instability into Central Asia and Russia. "Russia and its allies in the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, after the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, will create on its borders with the [post-Soviet states] several buffer territorial formations, which will prevent the infiltration of instability from that country into other governments," Russian newspaper
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported, citing "military-diplomatic sources," saying that plan was discussed in the closed session of the Khujand meeting. "Similar mini-governments existed in Afghanistan in the 1990s."

As previously discussed, especially Uzbekistan's government is in favor of creating "mini buffer states" in northern Afghanistan and there have already been talks with Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is one of the preferred regional power brokers. If CSTO and SCO go ahead with these plans, this will most likely entail a rapprochement between Uzbekistan and Russia. Relations between the two countries have been problematic in the past, as demonstrated by Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the CSTO in 2012.

The Struggle for Tajikistan

Neighboring Tajikistan enjoys a far better relationship with Russia and hopes that the meetings within the framework of the SCO will further improve Tajik-Russian military cooperation. Moscow has already vowed to assist the Tajik authorities in protecting the Tajik-Afghan border. Furthermore, Dushanbe can count on Beijing's support. Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, who travelled to Tajikistan this week to attend the SCO meeting, assured Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon that China will support the Central Asian country in strengthening its defense power and counterterrorism capability with some serious military aid:

China Promises Tajikistan "Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars" In Military Aid

China's defense minister, on a visit to Tajikistan, has promised the Central Asian country "hundreds of millions of dollars" in military aid which -- if true -- would be a dramatic policy change for Beijing, which has focused more on economic ties in Central Asia.

The defense minister made the comments at a joint appearance with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe, reported ITAR-TASS:

“China is satisfied with the level of bilateral cooperation in all spheres, including military and military-technical and guarantees assistance to Tajikistan in the strengthening of its defense capacity,” Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said. He said China would supply military uniforms and help in the training of military personnel, adding that this would involve “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

Whether China's defense minister was alluding to the expensive Chinese-sponsored training exercises under SCO auspices or really meaning "hundreds of millions of dollars" in military aid for Tajikistan is not entirely clear. At any rate, the United States will keep a close eye on China's activites in Tajikistan because Washington plans to remove the country from Beijing's and most importantly Moscow's sphere of influence:

US's New Silk Road: attempt to re-orient Tajikistan from ties with Russia

Already in April Tajikistan will witness a substantial inflow of American politicians and experts. Washington and Dushanbe are planning to conduct bilateral political consultations in the area of economy and security. But the main goal of the US delegation is to offer Tajikistan a chance to participate in the American program the New Silk Road. 

According to Alexander Knyazev, an oriental studies specialist, another hidden goal of the American concept of the New Silk Road is to change the format of relations on the post-soviet territory. Washington's plan assumes a gradual re-orientation of Tajikistan from its traditional economic ties with Russia and Kazakhstan towards developing contacts with Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the analyst doubts that the American project would be economically beneficial for Dushanbe.

Moreover, the CIA considers to relocate its drones to Tajikistan in the unlikely event that all U.S. forces are forced to leave Afghanistan and the United States attaches great importance to the relationship between its Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and the Tajik Special Operations Forces. After SOCCENT Commander Michael K. Nagata had visited Tajikistan earlier this year to meet with senior U.S. and Tajik officials, his deputy Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer did the same on April 1st. If the Russians are to be believed, he was one of the American visitors who will make an appearance in Tajikistan in order to steer the country away from Russia. However, the Russians will be concerned about some non-American visitors as well. Tajik President Rahmon recently invited the President of Azerbaijan, U.S. puppet Ilham Aliyev, and Saudi King Abdullah to visit Tajikistan [emphasis mine]:

Tajik president invites Saudi King to visit Tajikistan

Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov yesterday met in Riyadh with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia.

According to the Tajik MFA information department, Aslov conveyed President Rahmon’s official message for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

In his message, President Rahmon reportedly expresses readiness for expansion of bilateral cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and invites Saudi King Abdullah to pay visit to Tajikistan. The invitation was accepted with gratitude.

# # # #

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

Abby Martin Grills Senator Graham on 9/11, CIA Cover Ups, Waterboarding & Much More!

The EyeOpener Report- Bandar Bush & the Syrian Subversion

BFP VideoIt has long been acknowledged that the Saudis have been one of the key players funding, arming, training and smuggling terrorists into Syria during the conflict. But the Saudi connection to the fighting in Syria took on a new dimension in the wake of last month's chemical attack on Ghouta. The Saudis are now being blamed for supplying the chemical weapons that the rebels used in the attack. In one key report, veteran AP correspondent Dale Gavlak and on-the-ground reporter Yahyah Ababneh interviewed rebels in Ghouta who alleged that the weapons had been supplied by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief.

Find out more about the Bandar Bush and the Syrian Subversion in this week's EyeOpener report with James Corbett.

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