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

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

Uzbekistan may provide Khanabad Airfield to U.S. to replace Kyrgyzstan's Manas

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

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

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

U.S. Military Not Leaving Central Asia

"Support of local radicals" translates into criticism of the actions of the Uzbek regime during the May 2005 unrest in Uzbekistan. Washington learned the hard way that Tashkent does not like to be lectured about human rights. After learning its lesson, the U.S. is now willing to disregard Uzbekistan's atrocious human rights record in favor of a comeback at the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. Representatives of the State Department and other U.S. agencies have become quite frequent guests in Tashkent. Two weeks ago, Celeste Wallander, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council, met with Uzbek leader Islam Karimov to discuss bilateral cooperation in various spheres as well as the situation in Afghanistan. Wallander also visited Kyrgyzstan during her Central Asia tour to make sure that Kyrgyz-U.S. security cooperation continues after the closure of Manas [emphasis mine]:

Kyrgyzstan, U.S. discuss further ways of security cooperation after closure of Transit Center at Manas

Vice Prime Minister Abdyrakhman Mamataliyev on June 18 met with with Celeste Wallander, Assistant to the U.S. President, Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Security Council, reported the government's press service.

Vice Prime Minister Mamataliyev thanked the U.S. Government for assistance and equipment provided to law enforcement agencies.

Celeste Wallander in turn said the main goal of her visit to Kyrgyzstan is to determine further ways of cooperation between two countries after closure of the Transit Center at Manas, which completed its mission in Kyrgyzstan.

Although the Americans have left Manas, they will retain some sort of military presence in the country and they have demonstrated in the past that this can be done without a formal military base. According to well-known analyst Alexander Knyazev, the U.S. and NATO are setting up a base for covert operations in the remote Batken region of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley. Interestingly enough, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) used to have a very strong presence in Batken Province. The region served as a refuge and recruitment ground for the IMU and especially the two enclaves So'x and Vorukh have been hotbeds of IMU support. But given the fact that the U.S. government is supporting the renovation and construction of police stations in the Batken region and other parts of the Fergana Valley, the Kyrgyz authorities will hardly have to worry about a comeback of the IMU in the region. After all, the U.S. is known for its benevolence and Knyazev's concerns about the dozens of Western NGOs working in Batken Province are therefore completely unfounded as well. For some inexplicable reason, the deep mistrust towards NGOs, which are financed from abroad, is not limited to Russia:

Kyrgyzstan: Nationalists Again Pushing "Foreign Agents" Bill

Nationalists are renewing efforts in Kyrgyzstan to secure vague legislation to require non-profit organizations that receive money from abroad to register as foreign agents.

MP Tursunbai Bakir uulu, one of the new bill’s sponsors, told on June 17 that he hopes parliament will consider the measure before it adjourns for its summer recess at the end of June. “NGOs need to be more transparent,” Bakir uulu said. “Society needs to know how the money sent from abroad is spent.”

Bakir uulu’s initiative marks the second attempt to pass ““oreign agents” legislation targetting organizations that engage in "political activities." The first attempt stalled in parliament.

Considering that some NGOs are doing their best to thwart Kyrgyzstan's accession to the Russia-led Customs Union, there is some evidence to support the 'foreign agent' accusations. In order to counter these efforts, the Kyrgyz government has launched a large-scale campaign to convince the public of the planned accession. Bishkek is also trying hard to get the best possible deal from Moscow and Astana before the country joins the soon-to-be Eurasian Economic Union by the end of this year. This will further strengthen Russian influence in Kyrgyzstan, much to the dismay of the United States. Meanwhile, China is not standing idly by either. Since Kyrgyzstan borders China's vital Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the stability of the Central Asian state is of prime importance to the Chinese authorities. Beijing offered Bishkek to support infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan and a delegation of the China Development Bank (CDB), led by the head of the Xinjiang office, visited the Kyrgyz capital this week to discuss the matter with Kyrgyz officials:

Kyrgyz government reaches agreement with China Development Bank concerning support of projects in Kyrgyzstan

Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Joomart Otorbayev on June 25 met with the delegation of the China Development Bank, reported the government's press service.

“We are grateful to China Development Bank for a prompt reaction to our request of intensification of cooperation, as well as assistance provided by the Bank to its Kyrgyz partners – RSK Bank and Aiyl Bank – in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Interbanking Association,” Joomart Otorbayev added.

The sides agreed to produce a master plan for Issyk-Kul region development, considered several priority infrastructure projects included into the National Sustainable Development Strategy until 2017.

East Turkestan Project Threatens Russia-China-India Pipeline

China's interest in the stability of the region is primarily based on the need to supply the Chinese economy with an ever-increasing amount of energy via Central Asian pipelines, which run to Xinjiang. This month, the third line of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline started to transport natural gas from the Turkmen-Uzbek border through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to Xinjiang and the construction of another line of the pipeline is expected to be launched at the end of this year. Xinjiang's importance in Pipelineistan will only increase in the future, as more and more countries eye pipeline projects involving China's Far West. The new Indian government was apparently inspired by the recent Russia-China 'gas deal of the century' and is now looking to get in on the act, which means more trouble for the United States and another pipeline for Xinjiang: 

Gas pipeline to China: India to talk to Russia for extension

India is set to start negotiating with Russia the extension of a $30-billion gas pipeline Moscow plans to build to China till the Indian border. If the proposed pipeline from Russia via China's Xinjiang province materialises, it will be among the world's most expensive gas pipelines.

Sources said given Narendra Modi government’s intent to bolster sourcing of oil and gas to meet the country’s rising energy demand, an Indian delegation would take up discussions on the proposed pipeline’s extension with Moscow and Beijing during the BRIC summit in July.

The proposal would also be in focus when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India later this year.

India and Russia are also planning to construct a similar oil pipeline through Xinjiang, a project which has been on the drawing boards for years. Due to Russia's eastern energy pivot, the implementation of these major pipeline projects is more likely than ever before and Xinjiang's stability will play a decisive role in this regard. Last month's terrorist attack on a market in Urumqi, which shocked China just hours after the historic gas deal with Russia had been signed, serves as a warning that the destabilization of the autonomous region will continue. Washington vehemently opposes Russia-China-India pipelines for obvious reasons and might be tempted to expedite its East Turkestan project. The situation in Xinjiang is already very tense. Beijing responded to the Urumqi attack by launching a one-year-long no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign and the first month was quite eventful:

32 terror groups busted in Xinjiang

A total of 32 gangs were busted; over 380 suspects apprehended; and 315 people convicted in the first month of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region anti-terror campaign.

Public security departments seized 264 explosive devices, 3.15 tonnes of explosives and 357 controlled knives, Wang Qianrong, deputy head of the regional public security department, told a news briefing.

Last Monday, thirteen people were executed for organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups; murder; arson; theft; and illegal manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives,in Aksu, Turpan and Hotan. On the same day, three people were sentenced to death by Urumqi Intermediate People's Court for an attack in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square in October 2013.

This week, Chinese authorities released graphic video footage of several terrorist attacks in China, including the Tiananmen Square attack last October and the Urumqi attack in May. The footage has been included in a 24 min documentary about online terrorist propaganda of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The documentary, which was released by the State Internet Information Office to "educate Internet users on the consequences of spreading terror and violent videos", emhpasizes that most perpetrators of attacks in China had watched videos or listened to recordings made by the ETIM. Therefore, China has launched a crackdown on online terrorist propaganda and urged the international community to support these efforts. Furthermore, the Chinese government is trying to engage the population more in its War on Terror. As previously discussed, citizens in Xinjiang who provide information about terror-related activities and other "potential hazards to society”, such as growing a beard, are being rewarded with up to 50.000 yuan. This reward system is now being extended: 

China to reward terror informants

China's Ministry of Public Security has promised substantial rewards for those who give information to the "people's war" against terrorism.

Rewards will be according the value of the information in preventing terrorist attacks or catching suspects. The actual amount will be decided by local police according to the regional financial situation.

Among the areas which have already made public their rewards, the ceiling is 500,000 yuan (80,000 U.S. dollars) in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 200,000 yuan in Yunnan Province, and there is no ceiling in Shenzhen City.

EU Embraces Terrorist State Georgia

Some people in Russia's North Caucasus, which faces similiar problems like Xinjiang, are considering to take a different approach, punishment instead of rewards. Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the head of the Russian Republic of Ingushetia, threatened last month to punish the family members of insurgents if they fail to convince the jihadi relatives to lay down their arms. This would be done by distributing the photos of terrorist suspects across the republic so that the relatives of victims could retaliate against the suspects' families. Lately, Ingushetia saw an increase in terrorist activites and if Yevkurov decides to allow traditional blood feuds it might eventually challenge even Dagestan in terms of violence:

Warlord killed in Russia's troubled Republic of Dagestan

A warlord was killed in an attempt to escape in the city of Makhachkala, the capital of Russian North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, the information centre of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee told ITAR-TASS.

“On Thursday morning, Makhach Taimudarov, born in 1976, a warlord of gangs rampaging in Dagestan was killed in an attempt for an armed breakthrough from the private house blocked by commandoes in a combat operation in the city of Makhachkala,” the committee’s information centre said.

“In 2005 Taimudarov was ousted from a local mosque for spreading extremist religious views,” the information centre reported. According to the Federal Security Service department, he has been abetting to bandits since 2007 and has recently got in close ties with Aliaskhab Kebekov who led all North Caucasian gangs after warlord Umarov was killed.

As regular readers of the New Great Game Round-Up will know, the North Caucasus insurgency is being enabled and fueled by several states on behalf of the United States. The role of Russia's southern neighbor Georgia in supporting NATO's jihadi mercenaries has been discussed before and is now again in the spotlight due to the ISIS offensive in Iraq. While the media prefers to ignore the real masterminds of the ISIS campaign, there has been some interest in ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili who leads us directly to a joint US-Georgia terrorist recruitment and training program: 

​ISIS in Iraq stinks of CIA/NATO ‘dirty war’ op

Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for the US-based Veterans Today (VT) website, told me that Batirashvili “is a product of a joint program of the US through a front NGO called Jvari, which was set up by US Intelligence and the Georgian National Security Council, dating back to the early days of the Pankisi Gorge.”

Jvari is the name as well of a famous Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century. According to Silverman, David J. Smith—head of something in Tbilisi called the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as well as the Potomac Institute in Washington where he is listed as Director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Centerr—played a role in setting up the Jvari NGO.

Silverman maintains that Jvari in Rustavi, near the capital, Tbilisi, gathered together Afghan Mujahideen war veterans, Chechens, Georgians and sundry Arab Jihadists. They were sent to the infamous Pankisi Gorge region, a kind-of no-man’s lawless area, for later deployment, including Iraq and Syria.

Georgia is doing its best to please the U.S. and NATO but even the willingness to host various terrorists on its territory has been not enough to obtain NATO's much-desired Membership Action Plan (MAP). Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised the Georgian government a "substantive package" ahead of the NATO summit in September to help Georgia "come closer" to the U.S.-led military alliance but due to stong opposition from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tbilisi will have to wait for the MAP a little longer. Nevertheless, Georgia is moving closer to the West with the signing of the EU Association Agreement, much to delight of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who immediately celebrated that Washington is one step closer to realizing a "Europe whole and free", which means the consolidation of a unified Europe controlled by Brussels on behalf of the United States:

EU signs association accords with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova

The European Union on Friday signed association accords with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as the three former Soviet republics committed themselves to a future in Europe.

"This is a great day for Europe... the European Union stands by your side today more than ever before," European Council head Herman Van Rompuy said at the ceremony with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and prime ministers Irakli Garibashvili of Georgia and Iurie Leanca of Moldova.

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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: June 22, 2014

Azerbaijan: Gülen Schools & NATO Seminar Cause A Stir, Russia Steps Up Fight against Washington's Fifth Column & 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.

The power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen continues to dominate the headlines in Turkey. At the beginning of this week, Turkish police detained 11 suspects, including Erdogan's former chief bodyguard and an ex-police chief, in a probe into the wiretapping of the Turkish PM. Gülen's shadowy network has tried to topple Erdogan by all available means, one of which was the leaking of incriminating conversations. Up to this point, all efforts have failed and Erdogan is fighting back with a vengeance. Ever since the conflict intensified, the Turkish PM has made the case for a retrial of the military officers, who were purged in a joint AKP-Hizmet operation, fueling speculation that Erdogan intends to join forces with his old enemies against Gülen. On Wednesday, Turkey's highest court paved the way for this alliance by ordering the release of 230 military officers convicted in the Sledgehammer trial. The power struggle has spread to several countries affecting even the annual Washington conference of the infamous American-Turkish Council (ATC). As previously discussed, the main battleground besides Turkey is Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani authorities did Erdogan another favor this week:

Azerbaijan shuts down ‘Gülen-linked’ schools

Azerbaijan’s government-run energy company has announced that private schools run by affiliates of the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been closed down.

From February to April, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) took over dozens of private high schools, university exam preparation centers and universities run by a Turkish education company called Çağ Ögretim, which is thought to be linked to the Gülen movement. 

SOCAR announced on June 18 that it had decided to close the schools, which were operated by the company now known as Azerbaijan International Education Center, due to “high maintenance costs and difficulties in project management.”

Azerbaijan: Gülen Schools & NATO Seminar Cause A Stir

SOCAR's cozy relationship with the Gülen movement was highlighted in a recent round-up. Given the fact that Baku's decision to place the Gülen schools under the control of SOCAR did not amount to the crackdown Turkish PM Erdogan had demanded, there have been some questions about the stance of the Azerbaijani government with regard to the Erdogan-Gülen conflict. The shutdown of Gülen's schools certainly answers these questions but Ilham Aliyev will be careful not to overplay his hand by antagonizing Gülen's puppeteers in Langley, who have enough kompromat on the Azerbaijani President. Although Aliyev is regularly criticized by Washington for his crackdown on the U.S.-backed opposition and the like, he should be fine as long as he stays in line regarding two most important issues, energy and NATO: 

NATO PA seminar kicks off in Baku with exchange between Azerbaijani, Armenian MPs on Nagorno-Karabakh

The first day of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Rose-Roth seminar in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 16 June 2014, was marked by exchanges between Azerbaijani and Armenian parliamentarians on the protracted conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. This was the first time an Armenian delegation was able to attend a NATO PA seminar in the Azerbaijani capital.

The attendance of the Armenian delegation was indeed noteworthy but it did not result in closer cooperation between Armenia and NATO or a rapprochement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, quite the contrary. Armenia's delegation defended the Armenian point of view on Nagorno-Karabakh prompting outrage among the Azeris, who voiced their indignation about several speeches, including the speech of Matthew Bryza, former U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani authorities are easily provoked when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh and they do not support closer Armenia-NATO cooperation. Hence, it did not take long before the head of the Azerbaijani delegation, Ziyafat Asgarov, demanded the withdrawal of the Armenian delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly because "cooperation of such a terrorist state with NATO is unacceptable." According to Asgarov, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is the "number one terrorist in the region." Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been increasing in recent weeks and the NATO seminar in Baku did few to ease these tensions. The conflict could escalate at any time: 

Armenia Says Two Soldiers Killed In Fresh Border Skirmishes

Armenia's Defense Ministry says two Armenian soldiers were killed in the latest skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani military forces.

According to the ministry, one soldier was killed near the border with Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on June 19, while another one died in a shoot-out near Armenia's border with Azerbaijan's Naxcivan Autonomous Republic.

Meanwhile, media reports in Azerbaijan say two Azerbaijani women and a girl were wounded after being shot by Armenian solders in Tovuz district near Nagorno-Karabakh.

One principle of both NATO and the European Union had once been to hold out the prospect of membership only to states which do not have conflicts with other states. Nowadays, no NATO or EU official cares about such ludicrous principles. Last week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visited Azerbaijan to propose closer cooperation with the EU. Barroso emphasized Azerbaijan's role in reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas and both sides agreed to accelerate the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor. Since the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will hardly challenge Gazprom, the EC President is already pushing another pipeline project involving Azerbaijan:

EU moves forward with Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline: Barroso

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso declared that EU will resume the development of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCP),
Tengrinews reports citing IA Novosti-Kazakhstan.

In an interview published by Azeri
Turan Barosso said that the EU will move forward with the project, which is a part of the Southern Gas Corridor, an ambitious plan to bring gas from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to Europe. “The EU is interested in receiving additional volumes [of gas] that TCP could bring and its positive impact on the security of supplies to Europe, and will continue to work constructively to make this happen,” Barroso said.

Barroso called TCP a “mutually beneficial project that serves the strategic and commercial interests of all the partners”. He also pointed out that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan were strongly committed to the project. “We are still in the planning phase and we hope that the laying of the Southern Gas Corridor will contribute to accelerating the discussions for the TCP as well,” EU Commission President said.

Russia Steps Up Fight against Washington's Fifth Column

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are indeed strongly committed to the Trans-Caspian pipeline and they have been talking about it since the 1990s but the implementation of the project is still highly unlikely due to strong opposition from Russia and Iran. Just last year, Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom threatened war with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over the pipeline project. Unfortunately, the recent actions of Washington's lackeys in Brussels suggest that the EU will do its best to provoke a war with Russia. It is hard to imagine a more provocative move than sending notorious warmonger John McCain to Bulgaria in order to force the Bulgarian government to halt the construction of Gazprom's South Stream pipeline. While Barroso & Co. do not care about the consequences for Europe since they are not serving European interests, some European governments refuse to endorse this declaration of war. On the initiative of Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria are preparing to write a joint letter to Brussels in support of South Stream. One of the most vocal supporters of the project has been Gerhard Roiss, the CEO of Austria's oil and gas company OMV, who called on the EU to speed up the implementation of the pipeline instead of blocking it. Austria is not willing to give up on South Stream after the Nabucco debacle:

Russia to sign deal on South Stream laying in Austria June 24

Russia will sign a contract to lay the South Stream pipeline across Austria during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country on June 24, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov told reporters Friday.

Austria initially planned to cooperate with Gazprom in the South Stream, but later decided in favour of the Nabucco pipeline, pushing Gazprom to plan the South Stream route through neighboring Slovenia.

Russia and Austria resumed their talks on the issue, when the Nabucco West project lost Shah Deniz gas pumping rights to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline.

In the light of Kiev's repeated threats to disrupt the deliveries of Russian gas to Europe and the recent gas pipeline explosion in the central Ukrainian Poltava region, Brussels' fight against South Stream looks even more silly but Brussels and Washington are apparently determined to impede Gazprom's business in Europe. The Russian energy giant is reacting accordingly and will start laying the Power of Siberia gas pipeline to China as early as August. The developments in Pipelineistan are very much connected to the conflict in Ukraine and more and more Russians are beginning to realize what is at stake. Sergey Glazyev, President Putin's aide in developing the Customs Union, explained it last week in plain terms for those who were still having illusions about the current situation. Another Russian politician who does not mince his words when it comes to American interference in Ukraine and Russia is Yevgeny Fyodorov. Due to NATO's intensifying anti-Russian campaign, Fyodorov's National Liberation Movement (NLM) is gaining steam. He tends to see Washington's fifth column everywhere and is therefore spearheading efforts to curb American influence in Russia:

MP readies ban on US consulting for Russian state companies

A ruling party MP is preparing a bill banning state-owned companies from using the services of US consulting firms and their subsidiaries. The sponsor claims it would protect the Russian economy from direct foreign influence and hidden manipulation.

The idea belongs to Yevgeniy Fyodorov of the United Russia caucus who is known for his earlier suggestion to outlaw the use of US accountancy firms to financially audit state corporations.

“The Russian economy is only growing 0.5 percent a year because foreign consultants are lobbying for their own state. A few days ago we discussed the Central Bank’s report and the deputy chairman directly stated that the mass bankruptcy of Russian banks were a result of foreign consultations,” the MP said in an interview with mass circulation daily Izvestia.

A few weeks ago, Fyodorov was involved in bringing a new foreign agent law to the Russian State Duma. If the bill is passed, media outlets which receive more than 25 percent of their funding from abroad and engage in political activities, will be forced to register as foreign agents. Similar legislation for NGOs is already in place shedding light on the subversive activities of the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western countries in Russia. Last month, the Russian authorities launched a new wave of raids on NGOs and the Federal Security Service (FSB) is keeping a sharp eye on the individuals working for these NGOs. Washington's fifth column in Russia is coming under increasing pressure:

Justice Ministry Adds 5 More Russian NGOs to 'Foreign Agent' List

Russia's Justice Ministry has added five nongovernmental organizations to its list of "foreign agents" just days after President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing organizations to labeled as such without their consent.

An official statement on the ministry's website said the decision was made based on "court decisions confirming that the organizations are conducting political activities using foreign sources of funding."

Among the new additions are election monitoring organization Golos as well as the regional Golos organization, the Saratov-based Center for Social Policies and Gender Studies, the Kostroma Center for Support of Civil Initiatives and rights group Don Women.

Pakistan Cozies Up To Russia-China Axis

Due to the Ukrainian conflict and NATO's new Cold War, the Kremlin can ramp up its efforts against 'foreign agents' without having to worry about the opposition in Russia. Despite the tireless efforts of CIA's Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to keep Alexei Navalny in the headlines, the ratings of the Russian opposition have hit rock bottom. However, if the genocide in eastern Ukraine is not stopped, Russian President Putin will lose his all-time high approval ratings sooner rather than later and politicians like Fyodorov and Glazyev will get more support. Glazyev emphasized that the developments in Ukraine are part of a larger campaign by Washington aimed at consolidating U.S. hegemony over Eurasia. Russia and China, which recently formed a symbiotic, strategic alliance, lead the opposition to this campaign and efforts to isolate the Russia-China axis stand no chance:

Pakistan wants full-fledged membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Pakistan wants to be a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the potential of which is growing, Sartaj Aziz, an advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan on national security and foreign affairs, told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is playing an ever growing role, especially in the area of regional security,” he said. “That is why Pakistan is taking an active part in its work even in the status of observer.”

“The next SCO summit due in September in Dushanbe is expected to adopt admission rules for new members, so we will exert more efforts to further our application for full-fledged membership in this organization,” he noted.

At the beginning of this month, Russia lifted an embargo on sales of weapons and military hardware to Pakistan in order to pave the way for the delivery of a batch of Mi-35 helicopters. Since Moscow and Islamabad are eyeing closer cooperation, Russia's Foreign Ministry immerdiately assured India that arms supplies to Pakistan are "not directed against third countries" but intended to strengthen the "counterterrorist and anti-drug potential of Islamabad." Pakistan's armed forces are currently demonstrating their counterterrorist potential in the 'Zarb-e-Azb' operation, which is primarily targeting the foreign terrorists in North Waziristan, namely the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM):

Karachi airport attack mastermind killed in N Waziristan: Sources

Intelligence and military sources told that Abu Abdur Rehman Almani is considered a key commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), also now famous by the name of Islamic Movement of Turkestan. The IMU, an organisation of militants mostly from the central Asian Uzbek state, had claimed that its suicide bombers carried out the attack on the Karachi airport.

There are also reports of some East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorists also killed in the strikes, considered a big blow to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the ETIM network in the North Waziristan Agency. However, there was no confirmation from the military on the identity of the deceased.

The statements of the Pakistani military ought to be taken with a grain of salt considering the absurd claim that 250 "terrorists" and zero civilians have been killed during the first week of military operations. Many foreign insurgents managed to escape the offensive with the help of the "good Taliban" groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, which are not being targeted in the operation. So the success of 'Zarb-e-Azb' is highly questionable, and to make matters worse, more than 300.000 Pakistanis were forced to flee the tribal areas creating a huge refugee problem. Nevertheless, some people applaud the anti-terror operation, first and foremost the Chinese government, which is delighted to see the Pakistani military "fighting against ETIM terrorist forces." China's support comes as no real surprise given the fact that the "ETIM terrorist forces" continue to cause trouble in Xinjiang:

13 dead, 3 injured in Xinjiang police station attack

Thirteen mobsters were killed and three policemen were injured Saturday morning in an attack on a police station in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the local government said.

No civilians were hurt, according to the regional information office.

The gangsters drove a truck to ram the building of the public security bureau of Yecheng County in southern Xinjiang and set off explosives.

Police shot and killed 13 attackers at the scene. Three policemen were slightly injured.

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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: June 15, 2014

Georgia: Grooming & Fighting Terrorists, China's Secretive Corps & Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Makes the Headlines

*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.

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

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Claims Karachi Airport Attack

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

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

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Makes the Headlines

Shahidullah Shahid, the TTP spokesman, confirmed that the attack on Jinnah International Airport was a joint operation of TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and he emphasized that the Pakistani Taliban will not abandon their foreign brothers in arms saying: "The foreigners are also our Muslim brethren and we all are Muslim Mujahideen." Karachi's police got the message and arrested 17 foreign nationals who were illegally staying in the city, among them several Uzbeks. Since foreign jihadists have always been sheltered by both the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, joint operations have a long-standing history. For example, one third of the Taliban force of roughly twelve to fifteen thousand men, which attacked the headquarters of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Taloqan in the summer of 2000, was made up of non-Afghans. Six hundred IMU fighters, as well as Pakistani, Uyghur, Chechen and Arab jihadists took part in the operation, which was coordinated by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistani commandos from its Special Services Group. At this time, the IMU was based in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz in northern Afghanistan and although the group does not have carte blanche today like under Taliban rule, the security forces have so far failed to shut down the IMU bases around the northern Afghan city of Kunduz:

Afghan Police Detain Two Ethnic Uzbek Fighters From Tajikistan

Afghan media reports say that police in the northern province of Kunduz have detained two Taliban fighters from neighboring Tajikistan.

According to Hussaini, the two confessed to being ethnic Uzbeks from Tajikistan who had arrived in Afghanistan from Russia.

A third Taliban fighter, who had accompanied the two Uzbeks, was from Pakistan. He blew himself up after refusing to surrender. 

Last week, Tajik authorities said that a Tajik citizen was arrested while trying to illegally cross the Tajik-Afghan border with the intention of joining Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. 

Fighters from Tajikistan are regularly seen among the insurgents in northern Afghanistan. The IMU is active in Kunduz and it also gained a foothold in Afghanistan's strategically located Badakhshan Province. If things take a turn for the worse in Afghanistan, the Central Asian terrorists can always seek shelter in Pakistan's tribal areas. According to Pakistani journalist and former militant Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani jihadists supply the group with arms, money and recruits. Furthermore, as Rashid has outlined in his book "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia", the ISI has supported the IMU from the very beginning and there was never a shortage of Saudi funds. As long as there is no solution to the Kashmir conflict and no improvement of the socioeconomic conditions, Pakistan will have a strong Islamic movement, which will support the IMU and similar terrorist organizations. The IMU-TPP joint operation in Karachi demonstrates this widespread support well, given the fact that the attack could not have been planned and executed without inside information. The Pakistani government prefers to ignore the key issues and since the U.S. government is eager to keep the 'War on Terror' charade alive, Pakistan and the United States decided to respond to the Karachi attack with the tried and tested drone strikes in North Waziristan: 

Drone strikes: 16 killed in successive attacks

At least 16 people have been reportedly killed in two separate drone strikes in North Waziristan within the last 24 hours.

According to details, at least six people were killed when a predator drone fired two missiles, targeting a vehicle and a compound in Dargah Mandi village in North Waziristan, around 10 kilometres west of the main town of Miramshah in first attack late Wednesday night.

Six suspected militants were killed, four of whom were said to be of foreign descent. “Four of them were Uzbeks and two were Punjabi Taliban,” said an intelligence official in Miramshah.

These were the first drone strikes in 2014 ending a six-month pause in Pakistan just one day after the shootout at Karachi's airport. However, if the latest military offensive of the Pakistani army in North Waziristan is any indication of the overall modus operandi, the drone strikes will not threaten the TTP or IMU. Pakistan's government had used this latest offensive to demonstrate its support of China's War on Terror by going after some of the Uyghur fighters in the region. But the success was negligible to say the least. In the future, Beijing might have to exert more pressure on Islamabad to take action because the Uyghurs in Pakistan's tribal areas are not the only problem for China: 

What next after Karachi Airport terrorist attack - something big in China?

Now it looks like the morale of militants is very high, but the Pakistan Air force is striking their hideouts, and US drones are following them. There are fears that they may move out of tribal areas to avoid losses, and then may move to Xinjiang by crossing the Pak-Afghan border or to Tajikistan by crossing through the Nooristan/Kunar route, as Nooristan is under the virtual control of the Chief of TTP, Mullah Fazlullah, who is living in Kunar Afghanistan. There are fears among security analysts that they will try something big if they reach Xinjiang, because IMU is dead set against China for SCO formation that is stopping it from wreaking havoc in the Central Asian Ground - the dream of IMU, which is to establish a Turkman Islamic region covering entire Central Asia and ending at the Indus River in Pakistan.

Anti-Terror Campaign Sheds Light on China's Secretive Corps

The IMU has already vowed to fight against its "number one enemy" China and this will entail more cooperation with the Uyghurs in the region who usually operate under the banner of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Chinese government and media emphasize regularly that the insurgency in Xinjiang is fueled from abroad and after the recent high-profile attacks, Jacob Zenn of the CIA's Jamestown Foundation also made this point arguing that these attacks "are part of coordinated militant campaign against China, which is likely organized from outside China and that employs the tactics of jihadists in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan." Of course, he forgot to mention the real masterminds behind the destabilization of Xinjiang, who are to be found in Washington. According to CIA's Radio Free Asia, China's one-year-long anti-terror campaign has not stopped the violence up to this point:

Six Killed, Two Injured in Fresh Xinjiang Clashes

Police shot dead five ethnic minority Uyghurs and lost one of their own in fresh clashes in China’s restive northwestern Xinjiang region amid stepped up security checks in an anti-terror clampdown imposed after deadly attacks in the capital, according to police. 

Four of the men were shot in Kashgar prefecture’s Konasheher (in Chinese, Shufu) county in a confrontation triggered when local officials lifted a woman’s veil during a house check in her village a week ago, police there said.

The men, armed with knives and sticks, killed a policeman, also a Uyghur, before they succumbed to gunshots in the June 4 clash while two village officials were injured, the local police said. 

In a separate incident a week earlier, a man was shot dead in neighboring Aksu prefecture’s Awat county while fleeing from authorities pursuing him for alleged involvement in a “social stability” crime, police said.

But such incidents will hardly change Beijing's approach to the issue. The Chinese authorities are counting more and more on the deterrent effect. Three death sentences were handed out during the mass trial at a sports stadium in Yining City a few weeks ago and nine more people were sentenced to death for terrorism last week. Moreover, Xinjiang's police continues to round up suspects. 29 people were arrested in the regional capital Urumqi in just one week on charges of "inciting secession from the state, gathering a crowd to disrupt social order and inciting racial hatred." China's escalating anti-terror campaign and especially the role of the secretive Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) have reportedly caught the interest of Russia and Kazakhstan:


Secretive corps to play key role in Xinjiang war on terror

One of the tasks assigned to the Corps was said to be moving residents of China's Han majority to the region to protect the government's ruling status and to balance out the ethnic minority population, in particular the Uyghur ethnic group who have been blamed for the majority of the region's terror attacks in recent times. Over the years, the Corps have assisted in quelling ethnic violence, riots and other incidents in the region, and have plated a role in attacking the proponents of Xinjiang independence.

The current nature and tasks of the highly secretive Corps, which has expanded to 2.6 million in membership–or one-seventh of Xinjiang's total population–is unclear, though analysts believe its main mission is still to ensure regional stability and to protect the country's western border while being prepared to support the People's Liberation Army at any time.

The Corps has its own separate three-tier education system and has two universities, Shihezi University and Tarim University. It also has its own official daily newspaper, the Bingtuan Daily, as well as TV stations at both the Corps and division levels. It had previously run labor camps in the region until 2013, when the camps were scrapped by law. In 2012, the Corps accounted for more than 10% of Xinjiang's regional GDP.

Given the increasing activities of the XPCC and the crackdown in Xinjiang, the situation keeps getting worse for the Uyghur population. In order to distract the Uyghurs from their plight, a local news portal in Xinjiang has decided to stream all 2014 World Cup matches in the Uyghur language. While this is only a cold comfort, the new free education policy for students in Xinjiang has actually been the first good news for Uyghurs for a long time. Although the Chinese authorities focus on the 'War on Terror', Xinjiang's other problems are not being neglected. China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced last week that it will direct investment into Xinjiang in an effort to ensure social stability:

NDRC gears up to support Xinjiang development

China's top economic planning body will work to implement a variety of support policies in employment, education and poverty reduction for northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, it said on Wednesday.

In the near term, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will focus on promoting economic and social development and improving living standards in southern Xinjiang, which has difficult geography and lower living standards, it said in a statement.

The agency also vowed to speed up the building of major transport, water conservation and agricultural infrastructure.

These actions will be taken to "continuously enhance equality of basic public services and make sure people of all ethnic groups enjoy the fruits of reform and opening up," said the statement.

Georgia: Grooming & Fighting Terrorists

Whether China succeeds in pacifying Xinjiang will also depend on the situation in neighboring Afghanistan. Beijing should keep a close eye on the activities of the IMU and affiliated terrorist groups in the region as well as on NATO's so-called "withdrawal" from Afghanistan. In addition to the countless contractors, nearly 14.000 U.S., NATO and other international troops will remain in Afghanistan. Georgia, NATO's proxy in the South Caucasus, currently has over 1.500 troops deployed in Afghanistan, making it the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF, and a significant amount of Georgian soldiers will stay in the country after the "withdrawal":

Over 700 Georgian servicemen to stay in Afghanistan after withdrawal of NATO forces

The contingent of Georgian Armed Forces in Afghanistan will be reduced to 700 servicemen after the withdrawal of NATO forces from this country, Secretary of the Council for State Security and Crisis Management, Mindia Dzhanelidze told reporters on June 9.

While the huge military drills of NATO and Russia in the Baltic region attracted a lot of attention, the start of the annual joint Georgia-U.S. military drills Agile Spirit-2014 did not even raise an eyebrow. The Georgian army is a prime example of Washington's efforts to maintain proxy armies all across the globe and one interesting character who served in this army is currently making headlines in Iraq:

The Ginger Jihadist of Mosul: Omar al-Shishani the Chechen 'General'

Following the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams' (Isis) capture of Mosul, which caused 500,000 Iraqis to flee the city and propelled the group to the
richest terror force in the world status, pictures of Omar al-Shishani, an Isis Emir has emerged on social media inspecting stolen US-supplied humvees.

The photos of al-Shishani, a Georgian-born ethnic Chechen, suggest that he was the mastermind of the siege as the commander of the northern sector of Isis in Syria and Iraq.

After being raised by a Christian father and a Muslim mother in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, al-Shishani served in the US-funded Georgian army, rising to the rank of sergeant.

With a deep hatred for the Kremlin, he played a role in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, spying on Russian tanks and relaying their positions back to Georgian artillery.

Tarkhan Batirashvili aka Abu Omar al-Shishani had already fought against Russia before his time in the Georgian army and his career is somewhat reminiscent of Ali Mohamed's intriguing career. Al-Shishani supported NATO's "Chechen rebels" in the Second Chechen War, afterwards he joined the Georgian army, where he was recruited into a special reconnaissance group, and now he is a leading member of ISIS, one of the most famous jihadi mercenary forces working for the House of Saud. In the light of these facts, it is important to note Georgia's role as the new CIA-NATO Arab terrorist training center. After all, somebody has to groom the terrorists whom the Georgian soldiers are supposed to be fighting all over the world:

Georgian Troops Heading to EU Mission in Central African Republic

A company from the Batumi-based infantry battalion will head this week to join EU military mission in the Central African Republic (EUFOR RCA).

About 140 Georgian soldiers will be part of the EU mission which is mandated to secure the capital city of Bangui and create the conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid. France’s Major General Philippe Pontiès is the mission commander. EUFOR RCA forces will be concentrated on Bangui airport and capital’s two districts.

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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: June 8, 2014

The Gülen-SOCAR Network Exposed, Brussels' Reckless South Stream Sabotage & Much 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.

With the exception of Uzbekistan's leader Islam Karimov, the presidents of all Turkic countries travelled to Turkey this week for the 4th summit of the Turkic Council. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov attended the summit personally for the first time indicating that Turkmenistan is ready to upgrade its status in the organization from observer to full member. Berdimuhamedov had already arrived a few days before the summit to discuss the strengthening of Turkey-Turkmenistan ties with top officials in Ankara. The two countries are set to sign a few trade agreement next year and Turkish President Abdullah Gül stressed during his meeting with Berdimuhamedov that Turkey "is ready to carry Turkmen gas to European markets." Both Ankara and Ashgabat have repeatedly voiced their interest in delivering gas from the Central Asian republic to Europe, which has so far lost out to China in the quest for Turkmen gas. In the light of recent events, Europe and Turkmenistan have ample reason to finally implement this project:

Turkic leaders pledge energy, tourism cooperation

"Trying to reduce its dependency on Russian natural gas, Europe wants Turkmen gas supplies more than ever," said Guner Ozkan, Caucasus and Caspian regions expert at the Ankara-based think-tank International Strategic Research Organization told the Anadolu Agency in an interview.

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

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

News from Pipelineistan & the Gülen-SOCAR Network Exposed

As Ozkan notes, one of the biggest obstacles to the Trans-Caspian pipeline is Russia's strong opposition. Furthermore, up to this point, the European Union has failed to come up with a unified energy policy and it does not look like as if this will change anytime soon. Relations between Turkey and Russia are fairly complex and resilient but if the Turkish government continues to push ahead with the Trans-Caspian project, Ankara's ties with Moscow could be damaged beyond repair. In recent weeks, Turkey was remarkably silent about the crisis in Ukraine, much to the dismay of its NATO allies.

According to the Kremlin, Turkish PM Erdogan even praised "the decisions made by the Russian president to improve the situation of Crimean Tatars." With Turkish-Russian relations apparently unaffected by the Ukraine crisis, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev used the Turkic Council summit to make the case for closer cooperation between the Turkic countries and the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and he invited Turkey to join the newly formed trade bloc. Although the Erdogan government will hardly take the offer, there seems to be a rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow. Dr. Vitaly Naumkin explained recently the reason for this:

Russia, Turkey agree on Gulen

Paradoxically, what today promotes the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey is Moscow’s extremely negative attitude toward the activities and ideas of Fethullah Gulen. In the past, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) were allied with the leader of this Islamic sect — which is taking root in many countries around the world and in which a significant portion of Turkey’s population is involved, including prominent officials and, in particular, members of the security structures and the judges — Moscow’s position acted as an irritant for Ankara. Now, however, with the Cold War flaring up between the leader of the AKP and Gulen, who resides in the United States, Moscow’s position creates an interest in joint actions to limit his influence. Recall that all Gulenist schools have been closed in Russia, and in 2012 numerous books by this ideologue were included in the federal list of extremist literature by a Russian court decision

Russia was one of the first countries to ban the CIA-backed Gülen movement and, in contrast to other governments, the Kremlin will not rethink this decision. Experts such as Vasily Ivanov, an associate at the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, warn against the nefarious cult. In his paper "Fethullah Gulen’s Movement: an extremist organization masquerading as supporters of 'the dialogue of civilizations'" Ivanov argues that the Gülen movement "glamorizes the idea of armed jihad." A few weeks ago, more and more people in Azerbaijan came to the same conclusion. The crackdown of the Aliyev regime on the Gülen movement was somewhat surprising considering Baku's subservience to Washington and some things did not add up, as mentioned in a previous round-up:

"A published list of alleged Azerbaijani Gülenists also included Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and, ironically, SOCAR’s vice-president Khalik Mammadov, which has prompted some speculation whether Baku is really cracking down on Hizmet by placing its schools under SOCAR's control or if the Gülenists are in league with the state-owned oil and natural gas corporation."

This week, a new article exposing the extensive lobbying efforts of the Azerbaijani authorities in the United States shed more light on the relationship between the Sate Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and the movement of CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen. According to the report, since early 2013, American lawmakers in 17 states have introduced resolutions or memorials relating to Azerbaijan, all of which had one thing in common:

Inside Azerbaijan’s Bizarre U.S. Lobbying Push

What the initiatives had in common was they nearly all had at least one sponsor who
attended a conference in the capital Baku in May 2013 organized by the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians. The council is a Houston-based group connected to Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the moderate Islamist Hizmet movement who fled Turkey in 1999 after clashing with secular Turkish authorities who accused him of trying to turn Turkey into a religious Islamist state.

The Turquoise Council, headed by a Gulenist follower named Kemal Oksuz, paid for the travel of lawmakers who went on the trip, according to congressional records. Oksuz also chairs the Assembly for the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ), a Houston group sponsored by SOCAR, which hosted a U.S.-Azerbaijan convention in Washington at the end of April attended by many of the same lawmakers who went on the trip to Baku, as well as other members of Congress and former administration officials. The Assembly’s vice president is Milla Perry Jones, the sister of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and its treasurer is Rauf Mammadov, the chief of SOCAR’s U.S. branch.
Oksuz also owned TDM Contracting, a construction firm in Texas that worked to build a network of Gulenist charter schools there.

So the Gülen movement and SOCAR are definitely working hand in hand, which means that Azerbaijan's move to place the Gülen schools under SOCAR's control did not really amount to a crackdown. Besides the Gülen-SOCAR network, the Aliyev regime is also using the Azerbaijan America Alliance as a conduit to lobby in the United States. The fairly new group is run by Anar Mammadov, the son of Azerbaijan’s Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov, and Dan Burton, former U.S. Congressman from Indiana. Burton demonstrated his abilities as a lobbyist already during his time in Congress. He did not shy away from taking bribes from the government of Turkey or Pakistan's ISI and has earned himself a place in Sibel Edmonds' State Secrets Privilege Gallery. Having friends like Burton in its pocket enables the Azerbaijani government to influence resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh and the like but it will not solve Baku's latest problem. A few days after French energy giant Total decided to sell its stake in Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II gas project to Turkey's state oil company TPAO, both Total and E.ON announced their plans to withdraw from the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP):

Total, E.ON to exit pipeline to bring Azeri gas to Italy

France's Total and Germany's E.ON plan to withdraw from a pipeline scheme to bring Azerbaijan's gas to Italy, an Azeri official said, as falling Italian demand puts energy projects there into doubt.

The move comes less than a month after Russia's Gazprom said that it would re-route its massive South Stream pipeline, which plans to bring Russian gas to Europe later this decade, to Austria instead of Italy.

Europe sees Azeri gas as an alternative to its reliance on Russia, but analysts say commercial issues cloud the picture.

Brussels' Reckless South Stream Sabotage

With Italian gas demand falling 15% since 2005, E.ON is pulling out of the ailing Italian market and plans to sell its 9% share in TAP. Total's share is 10% and the remaining shareholders are BP (20%), SOCAR (20%), Statoil (20%), Fluxys (16%) and Axpo (5%). One day after the bad news, TAP's managing director reaffirmed that construction work on the pipeline will start next year. After all, TAP has been hailed as the answer to Gazprom's South Stream gas pipeline and Europe's first major step in reducing its dependence on Russian gas. This is of course a bunch of baloney. TAP was never a challenge for Gazprom and the Russians had no reason to complain, when the project was chosen over Nabucco-West. Despite the latest blow to the Southern Gas Corridor and the uncertain future of Russian gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine, Washington's lackeys in Brussels are doing their best to sabotage South Stream. Russian President Vladimir Putin is clearly fed up with the antics and has suggested re-rerouting the pipeline via non-EU countries if Brussels continues to play Cold War. But Russia wants to build the pipeline in any case, that much is clear:

Gazprom to build South Stream regardless of sanctions - CEO

Gazprom and its partners will build the South Stream gas pipeline to Europe regardless, despite the negative statements against this project by EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, the Russian gas giant's CEO, Alexei Miller said on television station Rossiya 24.

"No one can prohibit us from building South Stream, so construction will continue," Miller said, adding that there are regulatory issues [concerning a number of restrictions according to European legislation], "but this applies to the operation of the gas pipeline."

He said the first line of the pipeline is scheduled to be put into operation at the end of 2015, and there is still time to discuss these issues with the European Commission.

Gazprom is prepared to implement the project even if no external funds can be attracted. Some EU countries are also determined to proceed as planned. A few days ago, Brussels demanded that Bulgaria suspends construction work on the pipeline prompting the government of neighboring Serbia to state that there are no plans to delay the construction of Serbia's South Stream leg, which is scheduled for July. While the Serbian government also added that it is prepared to change its position depending on further developments, the Bulgarian government was less cooperative in this regard. Therefore, Brussels and Washington decided to get tough with Sofia. The EU withheld 90 million euros for a completely unrelated development program and the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria threatened to impose sanctions on certain Bulgarian companies, sparking outrage in the Bulgarian business community. Furthermore, the wannabe cold warriors got a coalition partner in the Bulgarian government to do their bidding:

South Stream project threatens to bring down Bulgarian government

A junior coalition partner in the Bulgarian cabinet has called for early elections today (5 June), after publicly opposing the government's policy to continue construction of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, despite European Commission warnings that it infringes EU rules.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a liberal party, said it disagreed with its senior coalition partner, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, over plans to continue building South Stream.

Lyutvi Mestan, the leader of DPS, a mainly Turkish ethnic party affiliated with the liberal ALDE group, told parliament that Bulgaria “shouldn’t do anything against Brussels”, saying the country should defend its national interest “in cooperation, not in confrontation” with Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hit the nail on the head this week when he accused the United States of doing everything to prevent an alliance between Russia and the EU. Unfortunately, Washington can count on the top officials in the EU to go along with it and act against European interests. This will have dire consequences for Europe sooner rather than later. Russia's eastern energy pivot is just beginning and if the country becomes a swing natural gas supplier between Europe and Asia, the EU will be on the losing end. When asked about the next major deal between Russia and China, Keun-Wook Paik, an expert on Sino-Russian energy issues and a fellow at Chatham House, put it bluntly: "If it materializes, it will be a dream situation for Russia but will be a nightmare for Europe." Brussels would be well-advised to reconsider its Cold War policies before it is too late:

Russia, China Could Agree Upon Altai Gas Pipeline

Just weeks after a historic $400-billion deal, Russia and China are now inching towards a second major gas project to build a pipeline to export natural gas from Russia's western Siberia to north-western China, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday.

“Considering the pace of China’s economic growth and the agreed pricing formula I’d say it is very likely that we will soon conclude a contract to build a western [pipeline] before long that will run across the Siberian Federal District,” Ivanov said.

Putin’s chief of staff said the project to build the so-called Altai natural gas pipeline was a particularly “huge” endeavor. “It might be less capital-intensive than the eastern one, but it’s no doubt going to cost us tens of billions of dollars,” he explained.

Turkmen-Afghan Border Sees More Violence

The new Cold War will backfire on the United States as well. Gazprom Neft has convinced most of its clients to sign agreements on a possible switch from dollars to euros. Moreover, Moscow and Beijing agreed to increase their cooperation in the monetary policy sector and to set up a joint rating agency. Russia and China seek to strengthen the BRICS as well as the CSTO and SCO. Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council and former director of the FSB, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week to discuss joint security cooperation. Patrushev emphasized that the increased activity of terrorist groups in Xinjiang in recent months "is not accidental" and the "Afghan factor and its impact on regional security" were also high on the agenda during his talks in the Chinese capital. In recent months, Moscow and Beijing have often warned against a possible spillover of violence from Afghanistan to the neighboring Central Asian states. Although these concerns have been ridiculed in the Western media, recent developments along the Turkmen-Afghan border lend credence to the spillover theory. At the end of last month, Turkmenistan's Foreign Minister paid an unscheduled visit to Afghanistan following the killing of three Turkmen border guards: 

Ashgabat, Kabul discuss situation on Turkmen-Afghan border, murder of Turkmen soldiers

Turkmenistan has taken the issue of murder of its border guards with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai as constant criminal activities have been reported in border areas of Faryab and Badghis provinces on the Turkmenistan-Afghan border.

Turkmenistan believes that Afghan criminal groups are involved in killing Turkmenistan border guards with the support of Afghan border security staff. The matter has been discussed between President Karzai and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov during their
meeting in Kabul.

Karzai assured the Turkmen Minister that Afghanistan would start probes into the border incidents. He regarded the extensive cooperation between intelligence and security agencies of both the countries as important for thwarting criminal activities in the frontiers, and articulated that more Afghan security forces would be deployed in areas bordering Turkmenistan.

It was the second time this year that Turkmen border guards were killed by Afghanistan-based insurgents. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was outraged about the incident but instead of blaming the Afghan authorities or the insurgents he threatened to dismiss Turkmenistan’s border police chiefs and slammed them for their "improper" work and "shortcomings." Meanwhile, the violence along the Turkmen-Afghan border is escalating:

Afghan Village On Turkmen Border Comes Under Attack

Six Afghan border guards have been wounded in an attack on the northern village of Marchak, along the border with Turkmenistan.

The chief of security in the Afghan district, Daulat Mawin, said the attack started late on June 4, when militants launched an assault on the village, which is located in Afghanistan's Baghdis Province.

Mawin said the security situation in the region had been deteriorating for several months.

Turkmen border guards have reportedly increased their surveillance and are now flying regular helicopter patrols along the border. It is not entirely clear whether the attacks in this region are perpetrated by the Taliban or some other group. CIA's RFE/RL linked the latest killing of Turkmen border guards to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and has started to promote the terrorist group. The rise of the IMU in the region might coincide with NATO's "withdrawal" from Afghanistan. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a plan to withdraw all but 9.800 American troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and the rest by the end of 2016. As usual, Obama forgot to mention a few crucial points [emphasis mine]: 

When 9,800 Doesn't Equal 9,800

An invisible army of American diplomats, intelligence personnel, civilian government officials, and contractors will remain in Afghanistan well in the future, likely outnumbering the 9,800 troops that will be there next year and the smaller numbers of troops that will be there in the years to come.

By the Pentagon's latest count, there are 61,452 contractor personnel supporting the Defense Department in Afghanistan, including 20,865 civilians. (This is down from 113,491 near the height of the Afghan war in January 2012.) These figures represent the current contractor support network for U.S. military forces, at a ratio of roughly two contractors for every U.S. service member. After the military withdrawal, our diplomatic footprint will likely rely even more on contractors than the military, because the State Department and other civilian agencies don't have the same logistics, communications, and security force structure as the military. A diplomatic mission of 1,000 to 2,000 could require as many as three to five times its number in support contractors, depending on the extent of its movements around the country and the amount of security risk it wants to take in Afghanistan. (Today, more than 5,000 contractors support the U.S. diplomatic mission in Iraq.) 

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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: June 1, 2014

Birth of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia's Terror Problems & the Furious Start of China's Anti-Terror Campaign

*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.

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

Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan sign ‘epoch' Eurasian Economic Union

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

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

The troika of countries will cooperate in energy, industry, agriculture, and transport. 

Citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will have the right to work freely throughout the member states without having to be issued any special work permits, Putin said.

Birth of the Eurasian Economic Union

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was the only one to mention the difficult process of finalizing the EEU treaty and he highlighted the absence of Ukraine saying: "We lost some [potential members] along the way." Lukashenko has not shied away from criticizing the project but in the end he went along with it after both Minsk and Astana had won some concessions from Moscow. The presidents of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, who attended the Astana summit as well, are also trying to get the best possible deal. Armenia is set to join the EEU by June 15 at the latest and Kyrgyzstan plans to follow suit by the end of the year. Moscow wants to make sure that Yerevan and Bishkek will not have second thoughts: 

Russia To Allocate $1.2 Billion To Help Kyrgyzstan Join Customs Union

Kyrgyzstan's economy minister says Russia will allocate $1.2 billion to help Bishkek join a Moscow-led customs union. 

Temir Sariev told RFE/RL on May 30 that $1 billion would be given to Kyrgyzstan by Moscow as a long-term loan, while an additional $200 million will be classfied as a Russian grant to help implement a "road map" for Kyrgyzstan joining the customs union.

According to Western media and analysts, the Eurasian Economic Union is just a "realization of Putin’s geopolitical dream", which "won’t really register on the radar of the global economy." Some countries are apparently not sharing this assessment. India, Vietnam, New Zealand, Turkey and Israel have reportedly evinced interest in signing free trade pacts with the EEU and Russian President Putin stated that an agreement was reached in Astana to set up “expert-level groups to work out preferential trade regimes with Israel and India.” Furthermore, owing to the turbulent developments in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia in the last few days, another unlikely candidate for the EEU has emerged:

Abkhazia's Rebel Opposition Sets Sights on Customs Union

Protesters in breakaway Abkhazia on May 29 called
for joining Russia's Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus in an apparent bid to win Moscow over to their side as they push for the ouster of the Black-Sea territory's de-facto government.

“We count on Russia’s support in this matter,” declared a joint statement of the opposition groups who have defied the rule of de-facto President Alexander Ankvab,
Kavkazsky Uzel news service reported.

On Tuesday, some 1.000 opposition supporters gathered in Abkhazia's capital Sukhumi and called on the government to resign over alleged corruption, mismanagement and stagnation in the republic. Dozens of demonstrators eventually stormed the presidential headquarters forcing Abkhaz leader Ankvab to seek refuge at a Russian military base. With the parliament in the hands of the Abkhaz opposition and Ankvab refusing to resign, the Kremlin quickly sent presidential aide Vladislav Surkov to the region to mediate between the two sides. So far, the talks have yielded no results and the opposition decided to hold early presidential elections regardless of Ankvab's opinion. Despite all that, the power struggle in Abkhazia is not a major cause for concern in Moscow [emphasis mine]:

Abkhazia's parliament votes for early presidential elections

The parliament of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia has voted to hold early presidential elections in August, a deputy said on Saturday, in a move denounced by the prime minister as "revolutionary" after the opposition seized control.

"We asked him (Ankvab) to step down two days ago. Today we decided that we can simply set up new elections," opposition deputy Beslan Butba told Reuters by telephone.

Whoever leads Abkhazia, it will continue to have close ties with Moscow, on which it depends for political and economic assistance. The opposition describes the unrest as a local issue and draws no parallels with events outside the province.

Russia's Terror Problems in Crimea, Dagestan & Moscow

The Russian authorities are currently focusing on more important issues primarily related to the mess in Ukraine and the new Cold War. One of Moscow's main objectives is to prevent any destabilization of the Crimean peninsula while Chinese investors are preparing to pour lots of money into the construction of a deepwater port and required infrastructure in Crimea. This project had already been eyed by the Chinese before the coup d'état in Kiev and Crimea's subsequent accession to the Russian Federation. The House of Saud has also been interested in Crimea early on but for other reasons, namely to encourage the local Tatar population to fight against those 'Russian infidels'. Two weeks ago, this idea was taken up by Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh, who has some experience in fighting alongside jihadists against Russia. In a pre-election TV debate, Yarosh made the case for a guerilla war on the peninsula using the Crimean Tatars but apparently his call for jihad fell on deaf ears among the Tatars because the neo-Nazi leader had to send his own men to get the job done: 

Federal Security Service detains members of Right Sector plotting attacks in Crimea

Officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) have detained members of Ukraine’s Right Sector terrorist group in the Republic of Crimea, the agency reported on Friday.

“The group plotted terrorist attacks in the cities of Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol, and later on they planned to destroy several facilities, railway bridges and electricity lines,” the source said.

“As we searched the places where the participants in the terrorist community lived, we found and confiscated explosives, guns, ammunition, canisters with incendiary mixtures, construction helmets (similar helmets were used in riots in Kiev’s Maidan), respirators, gas masks, tinned paint, nationalistic attributes,” the source said.

Southern Russia is very much involved in the conflict in Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens are trying to cross the border into Russia in order to escape Kiev's so-called "anti-terror-operation" and some volunteers from the North Caucasus are heading in the opposite direction to join the Donbas self-defense forces. The presence of Chechen fighters in eastern Ukraine was immediately picked up by Western media and used for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly denied sending troops to Ukraine but he warned the regime in Kiev that this might change in the future: "If the Ukrainian authorities want so much to see 'Chechen units' in Donetsk, why go to Donetsk if there is a good highway to Kiev?" Kadyrov has plenty of time to focus on Ukraine since he has defeated the foreign-backed insurgency in Chechnya almost completely. However, this does not apply to some of the neighboring republics with Dagestan now being the terror hotspot in Russia. In a move most likely inspired by the struggle of the Ukrainian people in Donbas, a few Dagestani citizens recently decided to take matters into their own hands:

Villagers of Sogratl in Dagestan start forming self-defence units

The decision to establish self-defence units was made at a rally on May 22 by residents of the village of Sogratl, Gunib District of Dagestan. The units will reveal persons involved or helping the activities of illegal armed formations (IAF).

More than 300 participants of the rally condemned the execution of policemen in the outskirt of the village on May 15, as well as the criminals who
blew up on May 8 the monument to the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War (WW II). Villagers demanded from law enforcement bodies to investigate these two crimes as soon as possible, the RIA "Dagestan" reports.

According to the villagers, in recent years the situation in the village is strained by the members of the local Salafi unit. The residents of Sogratl who spoke at the rally noted that this problem is ignored by the population, which is "passively watching the events." Some of them called to resettle Salafis out of the village.

Some experts have questioned the decision to form self-defense units but given the increasing violence in Dagestan's Gunib district, the local police can use some assistance. Dagestani terrorists are also trying to expand their activities to other parts of Russia. This week, Russian media reported the arrest of ten ethnic Dagestanis in the Moscow region, which had already taken place on May 7. The group was supposedly planning a terrorist attack on Victory Day and had attracted attention by purchasing bomb-making materials. Police found an improvised bomb made from a five-liter container filled with projectile elements as well as a map of a town outside Moscow and a list of events scheduled there on May 9. Another notheworthy arrest in the Moscow region was made at the beginning of this week, when Russia's Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) carried out a joint operation in the city of Noginsk:

Moscow Police Arrest Suspected Head of Uzbek Islamist Terrorist Group

The leader of an outlawed terrorist group from Uzbekistan has been detained near Moscow with a stash of weapons and a phony passport, news reports said.

The suspect, believed to be the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, had in his possession an AK-47 assault rifle, an altered traumatic pistol, a homemade silencer and large quantities of ammunition, Interfax said Wednesday, citing the Interior Ministry's press service.

The leader of the group was identified in the report as a 27-year-old citizen of Tajikistan who "was actively involved in recruiting migrants from Central Asia."

The Furious Start of China's Anti-Terror Campaign

Moscow has often been named when it comes to terrorist recruitment of Central Asian migrants. At the end of last year, an investigation by the Kyrgyz authorities revealed that six Kyrgyz citizens had been recruited by Russian-speaking jihadists after their arrival in Moscow. The Kyrgyz men were subsequently sent to Syria via Turkey to fight for the NATO-GCC-Israel axis. It comes as no real surprise that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is involved in this scheme, considering the IMU's track record in doing Washington's bidding. By the group's own admission, China will become the "number one enemy" of the IMU. This spells more trouble for China's Xinjiang, which was recently struck by a series of high-profile attacks. The Chinese authorities have decided to respond with a no-holds-barred one-year-long anti-terror campaign. In the last month, police reportedly busted 23 terror or extremist groups and detained more than 200 suspects who can look forward to humiliating trials:

China Sentences 55 In Xinjiang Mass Trial

Local officials in China's western Xinjiang region held a public rally for the mass sentencing of criminals on Tuesday, handing out judgments for 55 people and at least three death sentences for crimes such as "violent terrorism", state media said.

The public sentencing, reminiscent of China's revolutionary era rallies, attracted a crowd of 7,000 at a sports stadium in Yining city in the northern prefecture of Yili.

Since the Chinese authorities are great believers in the deterrent effect, this was probably not the last public sentencing in Xinjiang. China's elite Politburo endorsed the crackdown in the autonomous region and the anti-terror campaign started with a show of force, as armed police, helicopters and the military were deployed in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai. On Monday, police carried out several raids all over Xinjiang leading to the arrest of several suspects. The biggest success was the dismantling of a bomb-making network in Hotan:

Police hail 'major victory' after foiling plot to launch new bomb attack in Xinjiang

Anti-terror police in Xinjiang claimed to have scored a “major victory” after officers swooped on a “significant terrorist group” and raided two bomb factories, according to the local Communist Party mouthpiece, the Xinjiang Daily.

Police arrested five suspects who allegedly planned to bomb a crowded public place in the troubled region’s Hotan prefecture, the report said. Officers seized 1.8 tonnes of explosive material.

The planned attack, allegedly to be led by Abuliz Dawut, was said to have been modelled on the deadly explosions that rocked an open-air market in Urumqi last week, according to the Xinjiang Daily.

According to local police, Dawut and his group were planning to drive into a crowd before detonating their explosive devices in an attack similar to the one in Urumqi a few days earlier. In the wake of the horrific attack in Urumqi, the anti-terror strategy previously considered by Beijing, which was more focused on economic growth than military crackdown, seems almost forgotten. But Chinese President Xi Jinping reminded Communist Party leaders this week that China must strengthen education and work to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang in order to solve the terror problem. The Chinese authorities face many challenging tasks in this regard, one of which is to revive the tourism industry in the autonomous region:

Xinjiang to offer $80 subsidy to tourists

The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region plans to offer a cash subsidy of 500 yuan ($80) to every tourist to the region, in a bid to revitalize a tourism industry that has been damaged by recent violent terror attacks.

Xinjiang’s tourism has suffered since early this year after a March 1 terrorist attack at Kunming railway station in Yunnan province and a stabbing spree and explosion at Urumqi railway station on April 30, said Inam Naiserdin, director of the Xinjiang Tourism Bureau.

"Last winter we welcomed many tourists coming to ski or skate," the director said. "But since March, inbound tourists have dropped by about 40 percent compared with the same period last year."

# # # #

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- November 10, 2013

Sochi Hosts 'Gulag Olympics', China Frustrated With Terrorism, Drugs-Immigration & Terrorism Threaten Russia & 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.

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

The New Great Game Round Up- November 3, 2013

ETIM Attacks Tiananmen Square, Inspired By Al-Qaeda's "Inspire", Kazakh Terrorists Practice in Syria & 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.

Last Monday, China's famous Tiananmen Square became quite unexpectedly the scene of another tragic event. Three individuals drove an SUV with a Xinjiang license plate through a crowd of people. The horror ended when the car crashed and burst into flames. Two innocent bystanders were killed along with the three occupants of the vehicle and 40 people were injured. Chinese police later identified the SUV driver as Usmen Hasan and his two passengers as his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and his wife Gulkiz Gini.

Doubts about the nature of this incident were quickly dispelled when police searched the SUV and rounded up several suspects in connection with the attack: [Read more...]

The New Great Game Round Up- October 27, 2013

China Counters Obama's Asia 'Pivot', Witting & Unwitting Suicide Bombers in Russia & 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.

While China is building a New Silk Road and wrapping up deal after deal in Central Asia, India has so far failed to secure much-needed energy supplies from the region. Instability in Afghanistan and problematic relations with neighboring Pakistan complicate India's efforts even more since the country lacks direct access to Central Asia. New Delhi still dreams of the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline but this project has for now been suspended. [Read more...]

The New Great Game Round Up- October 20, 2013

Clashes & Terror Attack Foiled in Russia, NATO's South Caucasus Conquest, IMU Targets U.S. Enemies & 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.

Millions of labor migrants, in particular from Central Asian countries, travel to Russia in search of work. This has triggered xenophobia and hate attack, as once again demonstrated by this week's mass riot in Moscow after the stabbing of a 25-year-old Russian: [Read more...]