Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Staging a color revolution in Tehran is not like breaking an egg...

Staging a color revolution in Tehran is not like breaking an egg......

Western capitals must make a difficult choice: how long to pin hopes on the eruption of a "color" revolution in Tehran? The burden falls almost entirely on Europe, since Washington has different priorities.

The United States cannot afford to be spotted in the barricades on the frontline of any attempt to prise open the Iranian regime at this delicate point in Middle Eastern politics. Tehran will not forgive for another quarter century at least any such American folly, and the Barack Obama administration has no intentions of committing hara-kiri, either.

Within Europe, it is unclear who is spearheading the charge of the light brigade. No country seems to want to be seen up front - except the
Czech Republic, which has no choice, since it currently chairs the rotating European Union presidency. But then, most European countries would probably seldom fail the chance to be Tehran's bete noire, but will, true to a pattern, swiftly fall back the moment they estimate that the law of diminishing returns is at work and continued tirades might jeopardize lucrative commercial interests in Iran.

Tens of thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi planned to keep up their street protests in Tehran on Wednesday, even though the authorities have promised a partial recount of Friday's vote that saw incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad win another four-year term.

No scope for a color revolution...


Europe has no real experience in staging color revolutions. This has been the forte of the Americans - conceptualized in the post-Soviet space in Eurasia by the Bill Clinton administration and subsequently grasped by the neo-conservatives in the George W Bush team. Europeans were curious bystanders in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. France to some extent might have been on the inside track over Lebanon, but then the result turned out to be a mish-mash.

At any rate, to borrow Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin's famous words in a philosophical context, staging a color revolution in Tehran is not like breaking an egg. The signs are that the color revolution struggling to be born on the streets of Tehran has had a miscarriage. Ahmadinejad's participation at the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Tuesday was possible only with the tacit acquiescence of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It was an important decision to take at a critical juncture. Earlier reports in the Western media speculated that Ahmadinejad might stand down in view of the developing political situation.

Evidently, the regime decided that Tehran should not in any way project an atmosphere of crisis as that would only play into the hands of the proponents of a color revolution within Iran and abroad. To quote well-known Iranian dissident Ibrahim Yazdi, "Certainly, the gap inside Iran, politically, will be widened. Our main concern is how to keep the enthusiasm that was created for the election alive, in order to monitor and constrain the power of the government. The only way to counter it is the power of the people. We need to organize them."

How is the regime coping? Clearly, Khamenei is in the driving seat and is in control of the state apparatus. He is skillfully navigating the regime through the choppy waters. Khamenei's meeting with the principal opposition candidate in the election, Mousavi, merits attention. The official statement makes out certain key points. First, Khamenei indicated unambiguously to Mousavi that the regime would not tolerate any street protests and he must therefore "channel protests through legal bodies". It now becomes extremely difficult for Mousavi to be seen as defying the Supreme Leader's diktat.

Second, Khamenei suggested that there was nothing extraordinary about the present situation, insofar as "in previous elections also, there were some people and candidates who had some problems". But they pursued the matter through the Guardians Council, which in any case has to approve the conduct of the presidential election in Iran.

Mousavi's existential choice

However, it is the third point made by Khamenei that is most crucial. He pointed a finger at the "enemies' provocative actions" as well as "certain behind-the-stage plots" which aimed to "create chaos in Iran". Khamenei then went on most meaningfully to remind Mousavi that "your [Mousavi's] character is different from such people and it is necessary that you pursue the problems through calm".

The highly personal remark had a touch of admonition, but also the hint of a fulsome invitation to reasoning that could open up doors leading into pleasant pathways along which the two interlocutors known to each other for long, after all, could take a stroll. It was a very Persian remark.

Khamenei virtually reminded Mousavi of their old association, when the latter served as Iran's prime minister under him and the two were not only close comrades-in-arms for the preservation of the Iranian revolution through the critical years of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s but also worked together to frustrate the cunning ploys of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who as the powerful speaker of the Majlis (parliament) constantly conspired to arrogate state power.

During that period, Rafsanjani constantly sniped at Mousavi and tried to undercut him, although he enjoyed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's endorsement. On numerous occasions, Rafsanjani gave him hell on the floor of the Majlis, embarrassing him when he sought parliamentary approval for his moves, whittling down his authority to execute his policy and systematically undermining his political standing in public opinion.

Rafsanjani had already begun jockeying for position in expectation of the post-Khomeini era. As Khomeini fell ill, Rafsanjani became more assertive. Mousavi, in fact, found himself identifying with the Iranian revolutionaries (like Ahmadinejad), who were appalled by Rafsanjani's suggestion to Khomeini to "drink from the chalice of poison" and order a ceasefire to end the Iran-Iraq war that effectively meant allowing Saddam Hussein the escape route. Those were tumultuous times when the fate of the Iranian revolution of 1979 hung by a thread.

The main sticking point was the economic policy of the Mousavi government. Rafsanjani sought a policy that catered to the Tehran bazaar, which would benefit his family members as well as large sections of the corrupt clergy, who were aligned with him. But Mousavi opted for state control of the economy and insisted he was acting in accordance with the ideals of the revolution and Khomeini's wishes. What Rafsanjani proposed during those difficult years was to have the latitude for his clan and other hangers-on to do some war profiteering. Mousavi's answer was a firm "no", and he stuck to the austere economic policy.

When the eight-year war with Iraq ended in August 1988, Rafsanjani proposed that Iran should dilute its revolutionary ideals and take Western help for reconstruction. (The Rafsanjani family initially made its fortune by exporting Iranian products such as pistachio nuts and carpets to the US.) But Mousavi firmly disagreed and refused to go against the grain of the revolution. Finally, when the levers of power were passed into his hands as president, Rafsanjani's wrath knew no bounds. Vindictive by nature, he literally drove Mousavi into political exile. The ex-prime minister summarily abandoned politics and returned to his profession of architecture and teaching.

Thus, Khamenei all but jogged Mousavi's memory at their meeting in Tehran by suggesting that the latter should not join hands with Rafsanjani against him. He suggested that Rafsanjani and his circles are simply using him as a political ladder. Khamenei virtually reminded Mousavi of his old constituency. Indeed, as prime minister (1981-89), Mousavi had an impeccable reputation as a hardliner - every bit as much as the "international community" regards Ahmadinejad today. In a memorable article penned in 1988, the Economist magazine described him as a "firm radical".

Khamenei folded up his conversation with Mousavi by "admiring" the massive turnout in Friday's election and "once again underlining its healthy and calm nature". In a subtle way, he allowed Mousavi to have a peep into his thought processes about the current situation.
Khamenei rides a storm in a tea cup

Meanwhile, Khamenei has directed the Guardians Council to review the appeals about the election and to give its opinion within a week to 10 days. He also held a joint meeting with the representatives of the four candidates in the election and officials from the 12-member Guardians Council and the Interior Ministry. At the meeting, Khamenei used harsh language describing the street protesters as "vandals" for damaging state property. He told the candidates' supporters to distance themselves from the "vandals" and to support peace in the country as the election "should not cause divisions".

Khamenei added, "If the election result had been different, even then such incidents would have occurred" as "some people" are against the unity of the Iranian nation and the solidarity of the
Islamic system. He offered that a partial recount of the votes in the elections could be arranged, if necessary. But he concluded by passing his own judgment, "Those in charge of supervising the elections are always trustworthy people."

Tehran rebuffs Europe

Alongside, Tehran has rebuffed European attempts to interfere. This has been done at the appropriate diplomatic level with the Foreign Ministry calling in the envoys of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Besides, a "unity rally" held in Tehran by supporters of Ahmadinejad condemned "enemies, particularly the US, Britain and Israel ... [for] interfering in Iran's internal affairs, plotting against the government and giving media support to the enemy groups, rioters and social and political hooligans who are trying to fuel chaos in the Islamic Republic".

All in all, therefore, Western capitals will take note that the hope that a color revolution might overturn Ahmadinejad's victory or in a best-case scenario lead to the toppling of the Iranian regime is far-fetched and almost fanciful. The extent of the street protests has come down in Tehran, although uncertainties remain. The hope that there would be a countrywide popular uprising seems also to be far-fetched.

If Rafsanjani's astute political temperament is any guide, he will lie very low and generally avoid being noticed for a while. Meanwhile, he will do some intense networking with his contacts in the power apparatus, putting out his extraordinary political antennae and making a careful assessment as to the scope for compromise with the powers that be and when he should make his move. He should first live to fight another day. That may require making compromises. After all, politics is the art of the possible. So, without batting an eyelid, he may turn his back on Mousavi and former president Mohammed Khatami, who were, after all, his temporary allies in the recent saga.

Will he get another chance? That is a big question. Time seems to have run out for Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly projected an "anti-corruption" drive as a major plank of his new presidency. Was that mere election rhetoric, or will he go for the Rafsanjani family, which has many skeletons in its cupboard? Everything depends on what Khamenei thinks. He may assess that this time the "Shark" went too far to plot a lethal attack that might have succeeded. Or, he might let bygones be bygones.

Rafsanjani is undoubtedly the West's favorite poster boy - and of the "pro-West" Arab authoritarian rulers in the region. The difficult choice for European capitals is how much propaganda mileage to extract at this stage before moving on. Once US-Iranian engagement begins, European companies will scramble for oil contracts. If the European Union's ill-starred Nabucco gas pipeline project has a fighting chance to materialize, that will depend primarily on gaining access to Iranian gas.

Also, European capitals will have noted that there is great reticence on the part of Middle Eastern countries to point fingers at Tehran for not practicing Western style democracy. Autocratic Arab regimes will be nervous that if the contagious disease of the color revolution were to appear in Iran, it might eventually spread on the Middle Eastern political landscape. Unsurprisingly, the lone exception has been Israel (and its media friends), which has a vested interest in scuttling US-Iran engagement and will not easily pass up an opportunity to malign Ahmadinejad.

On the other hand, three important neighbors of Iran - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan - promptly greeted Ahmadinejad, quite ahead of protocol requirements to do so. Ahmadinejad was warmly greeted at the SCO summit, too.

"Iran, Russia and China are three major economic and political poles attending the [SCO] summit ... [They] play important roles in dealing with the world's current and upcoming developments," Ahmadinejad was reported as saying in the People's Daily and it also highlighted Ahmadinejad's tirade against the "unipolar world order" in his speech. On its part, Moscow said in a structured statement, "The Iranian elections are the internal affair of Iran. We welcome the fact that elections took place, we welcome the new president on Russian soil and see it as symbolic that he made his first visit [as newly-elected president] to Russia. This allows hope for progress in bilateral relations." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev scheduled a bilateral with Ahmadinejad at Yekaterinburg.

Khamenei has made it clear in recent weeks that the Obama administration will meet a resolute interlocutor when US-Iran direct negotiations begin shortly. No amount of Western pressure tactics on the democracy plank is going to soften up Khamenei. With Ahmadinejad continuing as president for a second term, Khamenei has his chosen team in position.

The Obama administration faces difficult choices. The stir in Tehran is fast becoming a "Twitter revolution". No such thing has ever happened there, despite the best efforts of former US vice president Dick Cheney and his covert team for well over four years for triggering "regime change".

The US is sensing the potential of a "Twitter revolution" in Iran. Earlier, in Moldova, the potential of Twitter to trigger convulsions in popular moods was studied. The US State Department confirmed on Tuesday it had contacted Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians. But a department spokesman denied that the contacts with Twitter amounted to meddling in Iran's internal affairs - US sensitivity about causing annoyance to the Iranian regime is self-evident.

At the same time, Obama has to worry that unrest in Iran may scuttle his plans to commence direct engagement with Tehran within the coming days or weeks. On the contrary, he must face the music from the influential Israel lobby in the US, which is unhappy that Washington is not pressing the pedal hard enough on a color revolution in Iran. But Obama is treading softly. He said late on Tuesday there appeared to be no policy differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. "The difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised. Either way, we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States."

That's a cleverly drafted formulation. Prima facie, Obama pleases the regime in Tehran insofar as he appears "stand-offish" as to what ensues through the coming days by way of the street protests or out of the deliberations of Iran's Guardians Council. Fair enough. But, on the other hand, Obama also is smartly neutralizing any allegation that the Rafsanjani-Khatami-Mousavi phenomenon is in any way to be branded by the Iranian regime as "pro-US". Obama's remark helps the Iranian opposition to maintain that its motivations are purely driven by Iran's national interests.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why the World Should Be Watching Central Asia

Simply do not believe Iran is a threat to Israel.... How can a country with no bombs (yet) be a danger to another one which has some 200 nukes already ?

Even when Iran does get a bomb eventually, why would they use it first ? An Iranian strike on Israel would hit the Palestinians and some of Islam's holiest sites in Jerusalem as well, but most important of all: Israel would retaliate and Iran would cease to exist....

So, the warmongers among us want us to believe that Iran's leaders hate Israel and Jews so much that they are willing to destroy Islam's third holiest place, commit mass suicide and have their country made inhabitable for a few centuries....?


When Pakistani troops began to pummel Taliban positions in the Swat Valley last month, there were other military advances against insurgent outposts – barely noticed by the global media – taking place in valleys not so far away. In late May, Uzbek soldiers and tanks patrolled parts of the troubled Ferghana Valley following shootouts with suspected Islamist extremists and a suicide bombing in the valley’s main city of Andijan. In neighboring Tajikistan, government forces fanned out across the remote Rasht Valley in a supposed attempt to hunt down a notorious militant commander named Abdullo Rakhimov. The veteran jihadi, according to some local reports, had recently abandoned Taliban allies in Pakistan to resume the struggle in his nearby native land.

While much of the focus of the U.S.-led war on terror now surrounds that theater of operations the Obama administration terms “Af-Pak,” the post-Soviet ‘Stans to the north present their own strategic quagmire. The tactical support of governments in the region is becoming increasingly vital for U.S. plans to bring stability to Afghanistan. Central Asian countries also sit atop a significant chunk of the world’s untapped oil and natural gas reserves, assets which are eyed covetously by both neighboring Russia and China, as well as the West. Yet the region – dominated by corrupt and repressive regimes – is itself precariously poised, home to its own native Islamist insurgencies vulnerable to domestic upheaval. “There is the possibility for really unpredictable change,” says Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow for Russian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. And

it’s change few Central Asia watchers expect to be positive. While great powers vie for resources and influence, countries that were once seen as a bulwark against more turbulent nations to the south and west are themselves lurching toward crisis. See pictures of the fight for water in Central Asia. Still, Central Asia exists on the periphery for most policy makers in the U.S. When not the illusory realm of Borat or an exotic waypoint of horse markets and mutton skewers, the region has been cast off as a dysfunctional Russian annex, easily manipulated by a Kremlin that still views these young republics as satellite states. From Ashgabat to Astana, the ruling elites are all holdovers from the Soviet era, and sometimes more fluent in Russian than their national tongues. “Their regimes operate,” says Eric McGlinchey, a Central Asia specialist and professor of politics and government at George Mason University, “along almost pathological networks of patronage” – and ones that Moscow knows how to navigate. That close working relationship has been on full display recently in Kyrgyzstan: spurred by a Russian promise of $2 billion in aid, the Kyrgyz government signaled its intent to shut down the U.S.’s pivotal Manas air base there in January, and reaffirmed that pledge this week despite recent overtures from the Obama administration.

Russia may be keen to deter an entrenched American presence in its traditional sphere of influence, but is more muted about China’s expanding role in the region. Resource-hungry Beijing has steadily made inroads west, tying up lucrative energy contracts in Kazakhstan, while committing tens of million dollars to infrastructure and hydropower projects in impoverished Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. China has also become the single largest investor in Afghanistan, building roads through Kabul and setting up a massive $3 billion copper mine. In 2001, China formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a geo-political grouping aimed at improving economic and political relations with Russia and other Central Asian nations – as well as a vehicle for Beijing to quash support for separatists in its restive Xinjiang province, whose Muslim Uighurs share ethnic ties with Central Asia’s Turkic populations. The SCO – which is set to convene at a summit in Yekaterinaburg, Russia this week – also declared in 2005 that there must be a timeline for withdrawing all U.S. military bases in Central Asia, a clear sign of Beijing and Moscow’s intent to limit U.S. influence. “Russia and China are both interested in maintaining the status quo,” says Sean Roberts, a Central Asia expert at George Washington University. See pictures of Chinese investment in Africa.

That translates into a somewhat depressing reality for the over 50 million people living in the region. The world’s “freedom rankings” compiled by Freedom House, a Washington D.C.-based human rights NGO, place all five of the post-Soviet ‘Stans near the bottom. Independent media is almost non-existent. Human rights activists are frequently detained and tortured, and many others live in exile. Even in Kyrgyzstan, where a so-called “velvet” revolution toppled the ruling president in 2005, the subsequent government has done little to distinguish itself from the past. “Central Asians tolerate an awful lot,” says Roberts. “They’ve inherited a mentality from the Soviet days where they don’t necessarily believe in politics, or have faith that turning over the government yields a lot of results.”

Yet they are hardly isolated from global events: the impact of the worldwide recession is pushing some Central Asian societies to the brink. Tajikistan, like other poor Central Asian nations, has over the years seen many of its able-bodied men leave to work in the more prosperous cities of Russia and oil-rich Kazakhstan – at least a tenth of the Tajik population of 7 million is migrant labor. Remittances sent home comprise some 40% of the country’s total GDP, according to UN figures, and account for only slightly less in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Now, with the collapse of the Russian economy and the drying up of its construction boom, tens of thousands are returning to rugged homelands that offer few opportunities and to families that depended on their labor abroad. Observers in Tajikistan tell of depressed village after village where groups of unemployed men amble around. The situation “is a potential time bomb,” says the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, in a report earlier this year that labeled the country “on the road to failure.”

Analysts fear that the deteriorating economic climate, a legacy of ineffectual governance, and an increasingly frustrated population may feed into the designs of established militant groups in the region. The Ferghana Valley, the most densely populated pocket of Central Asia, straddles the Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz borders, and is home to the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a State Department listed terror organization. Militants are known to slip easily across the porous 1,300 km boundary between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which is also a chief thoroughfare for Afghan opium into the markets of the West. According to Pakistani media, the IMU has helped contribute some 4,000 Uzbek and Tajik fighters to the Taliban forces warring with Islamabad.

The specter of an Islamist threat has often worked in favor of the region’s governments. After 9/11, U.S. Central Asian strategy was dictated largely by the Department of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld. Uzbekistan, ruled its entire independent life by the iron-fisted Islam Karimov, was brought into the fold as a staging ground for American operations in Afghanistan, as well as a willing accomplice in the renditions of suspected terrorists. That cozy partnership ended in 2005 when the Uzbek army gunned down hundreds of civilians protesting for reform in the Ferghana Valley under the pretense that it was curbing an Islamist revolt. U.S. and European condemnation only led the government to turn to Moscow’s embrace and throw out numerous international NGOs and foreign aid agencies. The country’s dissidents receded further into the margins; the more pronounced opposition now tends to be radical and violent. “Islamic militancy here,” says McGlinchey, “has almost always more to do with the oppressiveness of the local governments than some kind of trans-national religious calling.”

With the anticipated loss of Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. has again turned to Karimov’s Uzbekistan for logistical assistance. Central Asia watchers in the U.S. say that part of the difficulty Washington now faces in the region stems from its own short-sightedness in engaging governments there. “The U.S. approach was one-dimensional,” says Mankoff of the Council on Foreign Relations. “A lot of attention has been paid to cooperating with military and security forces at the expense of a broader relationship.” The Obama administration has no dedicated Central Asia envoy nor is it willing to pursue a strong agenda for change and reform at the risk of provoking Moscow. “Many think it’s a battle not worth fighting,” says Roberts.

Events may soon outpace that calculus, given the alarming collapse of the region’s economies and spikes in militant violence. It’s unclear, though, what a beefed-up American role in the region could look like, and whether it would be in concert – or at odds – with Moscow or Beijing. Headlines in the international press tout the advent of the new “Great Game” in a region that for centuries has been at the whim of larger forces. Not many locals are that interested, though. “We waited and hoped for democratic change after the influence of America,” says Umida Niyazova, a journalist and prominent Uzbek activist living in exile in Germany. “But the years since have only brought more instability.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rafsanjani's political plotting backfires, the Shark is outfoxed...

Rafsanjani's political plotting backfires, the "Shark" is outfoxed....

"Democracy is always and above all nothing but the veil of the Jewish Dictatorship." -pg. 35 Trifles For A Massacre....

The Iranian revolution of 1979 started by students and hijacked by CIA/Khomeini, who was flown in from Paris by the CIA/West, which didn't want Iran run by the Commies.... He/CIA ex-SAVAK promptly slaughtered 50,000 students and intellectuals and usurped the moderate government....
US/CIA strategy of tension in OPEC countries which started with the assassination of King Faisal in SA, deposing of Shah, inciting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran. The 10 year Iran-Iraq war killed 1 million Iranians and almost as many Iraqis. I visited the huge cemetery outside Tehran many times, and all the tombstones of the dead, were just 18-20 year old kids....
This is the country of Iran, a kind, hospitable and proud people. Where the Rig Veda comes from. The country of Hafez and Rumi.
If you care about them, end the sanctions, return the $20 billion of their assets confiscated and placed in various NY banks, and start real diplomacy, instead of trying to destabilize the government....
My sympathies are with the people, and not their government. But they did vote for the AhmadiNajad; it was a fair election, and however you might dislike him, respect their choice. Anyone who knows the people could have told you the outcome...

Iranian politics is never easy to decode. The maelstrom around Friday's presidential election intrigued most avid cryptographers scanning Iranian codes. So many false trails appeared that it became difficult to decipher who the real contenders were and what the political stakes were.

In the event, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei won a resounding victory. The grey cardinal of Iranian politics Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been dealt a crushing defeat. Is the curtain finally ringing down on the tumultuous career of the "Shark", a nickname Rafsanjani acquired in the vicious well of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) where he used to swim dangerously as a political predator in the early years of the Iranian Revolution as the speaker?

By the huge margin (64%) with which President Mahmud Ahmedinejad won, it is tempting to say that like the great white
sperm whale of immense, premeditated ferocity and stamina in Herman Melville's epic novel Moby Dick, Rafsanjani is going down, deeply wounded by the harpoon, into the cold oblivion of the sea of Iranian politics. But you can never quite tell.

The administration of President Barack Obama in the United States could see through the allegorical mode of the Iranian election and probably anticipate the flood of destruction that would follow once vengeance is unleashed. It did just the right thing by staying aloof, studiously detached. Now comes the difficult part - engaging the house that Khamenei presides over as the monarch of all he surveys.

First, the ABC of the election. Who is Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmedinejad's main opponent in the election? He is an enigma wrapped in mystery. He impressed the Iranian youth and the urban middle class as a reformer and a modernist. Yet, as Iran's prime minister during 1981-89, Mousavi was an unvarnished hardliner. Evidently, what we have seen during his high-tech campaign is a vastly different Mousavi, as if he meticulously deconstructed and then reassembled himself.

This was what Mousavi had to say in a 1981 interview about the 444-day hostage crisis when young Iranian revolutionaries kept American diplomats in custody: "It was the beginning of the second stage of our revolution. It was after this that we discovered our true Islamic identity. After this we felt the sense that we could look Western policy in the eye and analyze it the way they had been evaluating us for many years."

Most likely, he had a hand in the creation of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Ali Akbar Mohtashami, Hezbollah's patron saint, served as his interior minister. He was involved in the Iran-Contra deal in 1985, which was a trade-off with the Ronald Reagan administration whereby the US would supply arms to Iran and as quid pro quo Tehran would facilitate the release of the Hezbollah-held American hostages in Beirut. The irony is, Mousavi was the very anti-thesis of Rafsanjani and one of the first things the latter did in 1989 after taking over as president was to show Mousavi the door. Rafsanjani had no time for Mousavi's anti-"Westernism" or his visceral dislike of the market.

Mousavi's electoral platform has been a curious mix of contradictory political lines and vested interests but united in one maniacal mission, namely, to seize the presidential levers of power in Iran. It brought together so-called reformists who support former president Mohammad Khatami and ultra-conservatives of the regime. Rafsanjani is the only politician in Iran who could have brought together such dissimilar factions. He assiduously worked hand-in-glove with Khatami towards this end.

If we are to leave out the largely inconsequential "Gucci crowd" of north Tehran, who no doubt imparted a lot of color, verve and mirth to Mousavi's campaign, the hardcore of his political platform comprised powerful vested interests who were making a last-ditch attempt to grab power from the Khamenei-led regime. On the one hand, these interest groups were severely opposed to the economic policies under Ahmadinejad, which threatened their control of key sectors such as foreign trade, private education and agriculture.

For those who do not know Iran better, suffice to say that the Rafsanjani family clan owns vast financial empires in Iran, including foreign trade, vast landholdings and the largest network of private universities in Iran. Known as Azad there are 300 branches spread over the country, they are not only money-spinners but could also press into Mousavi's election campaign an active cadre of student activists numbering some 3 million.

The Azad campuses and auditoria provided the rallying point for Mousavi's campaign in the provinces. The attempt was to see that the campaign reached the rural poor in their multitudes who formed the bulk of voters and constituted Ahmadinejad's political base. Rafsanjani's political style is to build up extensive networking in virtually all the top echelons of the power structure, especially bodies such as the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, the Qom clergy, Majlis, judiciary, bureaucracy, Tehran bazaar and even elements within the circles close to Khamenei. He called into play these pockets of influence.

Rafsanjani's axis with Khatami was the basis of Mousavi's political platform of reformists and conservatives. The four-cornered contest was expected to give a split verdict that would force the election into a run-off on June 19. The candidature of the former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Mohsen Rezai (who served under Rafsanjani when he was president) was expected to slice off a chunk of IRGC cadres and prominent conservatives.

Again, the fourth candidate, Mehdi Karrubi's "reformist" program was expected to siphon off support from Ahmedinejad, by virtue of his offer of economic policies based on social justice such as the immensely popular idea of distributing income from oil among the people rather than it accruing to the government's budget.

Rafsanjani's plot was to somehow extend the election to the run-off stage, where Mousavi was expected to garner the "anti-Ahmedinejad" votes. The estimation was that at the most Ahmedinejad would poll in the first round 10 to 12 million votes out of the 28 to 30 million who might actually vote (out of a total electorate of 46.2 million) and, therefore, if only the election extended to the run-off, Mousavi would be the net beneficiary as the votes polled by Rezai and Karrubi were essentially "anti-Ahmadinejad" votes.

The regime was already well into the election campaign when it realized that behind the clamor for a change of leadership in the presidency, Rafsanjani's challenge was in actuality aimed at Khamenei's leadership and that the election was a proxy war. The roots of the Rafsanjani-Khamenei rift go back to the late 1980s when Khamenei assumed the leadership in 1989.

Rafsanjani was among Imam Khomeini's trusted appointees to the first Revolutionary Council, whereas Khamenei joined only at a later stage when the council expanded its membership. Thus, Rafsanjani always harbored a grouse that Khamenei pipped him to the post of Supreme Leader. The clerical establishment close to Rafsanjani spread the word that Khamenei lacked the requisite religious credentials, that he was indecisive as the executive president, and that the election process was questionable, which cast doubt on the legality of his appointment.

Powerful clerics, egged on by Rafsanjani, argued that the Supreme Leader was supposed to be not only a religious authority (mujtahid), but was also expected to be a source of emulation (marja or a mujtahid with religious followers) and that Khamenei didn't fulfill this requirement - unlike Rafsanjani himself. The debunking of Khamenei rested on the specious argument that his religious education was in question. The sniping by the clerics associated with Rafsanjani continued into the early 1990s. Thus, Khamenei began on a somewhat diffident note and during much of the period when Rafsanjani held power as president (1989-1997), he acted low key, aware of his circumstances.

The result was that Rafsanjani exercised more power as president than anyone holding that office anytime in Tehran. But Khamenei bided his time as he incrementally began expanding his authority. If he lacked standing among Iran's clerical establishment, he more than made up by attracting to his side the security establishment, especially the Ministry of Intelligence, the IRGC and the Basij militias.

While Rafsanjani hobnobbed with the clergy and the bazaar, Khatami turned to a group of bright young politicians with intelligence or security backgrounds who were returning home from the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war - such as Ali Larijani, the present speaker of the Majlis, Said Jalili, currently the secretary of the National Security Council, Ezzatollah Zarghami, head of the state radio and television and, indeed, Ahmadinejad himself.

Power inevitably accrued to Khamenei once he won over the loyalty of the IRGC and the Basij. By the time Rafsanjani's presidency ended, Khatami had already become head of all three branches of the government and the state media, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and even lucrative institutions such as Imam Reza Shrine or the Oppressed Foundation, which have almost unlimited capacity for extending political patronage.

All in all, therefore, the power structure today takes the form of a vast patriarchal apparatus of political leadership. Thus, perceptive analysts were spot on while concluding that Ahmadinejad would never on his own volition have gone public and directly taken on Rafsanjani during the controversial TV debate on June 4 in Tehran with Mousavi.

Ahmadinejad said, "Today it is not Mr Mousavi alone who is confronting me, since there are the three successive governments of Mr Mousavi, Mr Khatami and Mr Hashemi [Rafsanjani] arrayed against me." He took a pointed swipe at Rafsanjani for masterminding a plot to overthrow him. He said Rafsanjani promised the fall of his government to Saudi Arabia. Rafsanjani hit back within days by addressing a communication to Khamenei demanding that Ahmadinejad should retract "so that there would be no need of legal action".

"I am expecting you to resolve the situation in order to extinguish the fire, whose smoke can be seen in the atmosphere, and to take action to foil dangerous plots. Even if I were to tolerate this situation, there is no doubt that some people, parties and factions will not tolerate this situation," Rafsanjani angrily warned Khamenei.

Simultaneously, Rafsanjani also rallied his base in the clerical establishment. A clique of 14 senior clerics in Qom joined issue on his side. It was all an act of desperation by vested interests who have become desperate about the awesome rise of the IRGC in recent years. But, if Rafsanjani's calculation was that the "mutiny" within the clerical establishment would unnerve Khatami, he misread the calculus of power in Tehran. Khatami did the worst thing possible to Rafsanjani. He simply ignored the "Shark".

The IRGC and the Basij volunteers running into tens of millions swiftly mobilized. They coalesced with the millions of rural poor who adore Ahmadinejad as their leader. It has been a repeat of the 2005 election. The voter turnout has been an unprecedented 85%. Within hours of the announcement of Ahmadinejad's thumping victory, Khatami gave the seal of approval by applauding that the high voter turnout called for "real celebration".

He said, "I congratulate ... the people on this massive success and urge everyone to be grateful for this divine blessing." He cautioned the youth and the "supporters of the elected candidate and the supporters of other candidates" to be "fully alert and avoid any provocative and suspicions actions and speech".

Khatami's message to Rafsanjani is blunt: accept defeat gracefully and stay away from further mischief. Friday's election ensures that the house of Supreme Leader Khamenei will remain by far the focal point of power. It is the headquarters of the country's presidency, Iran's armed forces, especially the IRGC. It is the fountainhead of the three branches of government and the nodal point of foreign, security and economic policies.

Obama may contemplate a way to directly engage Khamenei. It is a difficult challenge....

See you in the barricades

The biggest winner in all this seems to be the Supreme Leader - who else? This is how it all played out. When Mousavi said in the TV presidential debates that Ahmadinejad was a disgrace to Iran's global image, he did not get away with it. The slap came via the very influential Kayhan newspaper, very close to the Supreme Leader.

Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, went after billionaire Rafsanjani with all guns blazing, accusing him of corruption and nepotism. This still strikes a chord at the popular level, and especially strikes a chord with the IRGC.

Rafsanjani is the de facto number two most powerful player in the Iranian system, and has been so for more than 20 years now. He controls the Expediency Council and the Council of Experts (which has the power to depose the Supreme Leader). The IRGC fear him and are against him. It's no secret that those that really matter in the Iranian system are the top mullahcracy and the IRGC. (The name says it all; they are the guardians of the whole idea of the revolution. And they only respond to the Supreme Leader.)

With the Basij militia working as a kind of military cell in every one of the 90,000 mosques all over the country, and multiplying rapidly (they may number close to 13 million by now), these forces can do no wrong.

Ahmadinejad was very clever in the TV debates to equate Rafsanjani with Khatami and Mousavi. He painted them to his key constituency as a shock to the system. The system had to strike back. Game, set, match. For the Supreme Leader - the constituency that matters the most - Ahmadinejad even served the divine satisfaction of crushing Mousavi, who as prime minister in the 1980s (during the terrible years of the Iran-Iraq war) was played by Khomeini to control the power of then-president Khamenei.

Will Rafsanjani go for broke? As he prepares a Council of Experts counterpunch against the Supreme Leader and Mousavi plots the next resistance steps, the ball is now in the Iranian street's court. Much will depend on this Monday's peaceful march along Vali Asr street in Tehran and in 19 other cities, and a national strike on Tuesday, both called by Mousavi. Everyone remembers how a week ago the green revolution formed a chain down the entire 18 kilometer length of Vali Asr.

Ahmadinejad's show of force was his victory rally this Sunday - attended by a huge mass of true supporters in south Tehran, Basij in civilian dress and rent-a-mobs from all over the place. In a press conference earlier, Ahmadinejad hinted that in his second term he will be "more and more solid".

Ahmadinejad blamed the whole Iranian turmoil on foreign media - which not by accident are now being virtually persecuted by the security apparatus. The crackdown is assuming ultra-hardcore proportions. Yet the revolution continues to be broadcast to the whole world in English and Farsi, although the indispensable Tehran Bureau website was been taken down by the thought police. Riot police have fought students inside the dorms of the University of Tehran.

The Ministry of Interior is now protected by tanks. Many in Tehran believe that a lot of the motorbiked Basij are in fact Arabs doing the "dirty work" true nationalist Persians would refuse. Basij have been fighting hard for hours to subdue throngs of protesters. There are widespread reports of a "staggering" number of injured in Tehran hospitals. A Basiji center in north Tehran seems to have been captured by protesters on Sunday night. This means the green revolution having access to weapons.

This has nothing to do with the US-supported color-coded revolutions in Eurasia. This is about Iran. An election was stolen in the United States in 2000 and Americans didn't do a thing about it. Iranians are willing to die to have their votes counted. There is now an opening for a true Iranian people-power movement not specifically to the benefit of Mousavi, but with Mousavi as the catalyst in a wider struggle for real democratic legitimacy. The die is cast; now it's people power against "divine assessment". .....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

“Iran’s Political Coup is somewhat similar to OHIO 2004 and Florida 2000....”

“Iran’s Political Coup... a repeat of 1979 ?”

If the reports coming out of Tehran about an electoral coup are sustained, then Iran has entered an entirely new phase of its post-revolution history. One characteristic that has always distinguished Iran from the crude dictators in much of the rest of the Middle East was its respect for the voice of the people, even when that voice was saying things that much of the leadership did not want to hear.

In 1997, Iran’s hard line leadership was stunned by the landslide election of Mohammed Khatami, a reformer who promised to bring rule of law and a more human face to the harsh visage of the Iranian revolution. It took the authorities almost a year to recover their composure and to reassert their control through naked force and cynical manipulation of the constitution and legal system. The authorities did not, however, falsify the election results and even permitted a resounding reelection four years later. Instead, they preferred to prevent the president from implementing his reform program.

In 2005, when it appeared that no hard line conservative might survive the first round of the presidential election, there were credible reports of ballot manipulation to insure that Mr Ahmadinejad could run (and win) against former president Rafsanjani in the second round. The lesson seemed to be that the authorities might shift the results in a close election but they would not reverse a landslide vote.

The current election appears to repudiate both of those rules. The authorities were faced with a credible challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who had the potential to challenge the existing power structure on certain key issues. He ran a surprisingly effective campaign, and his “green wave” began to be seen as more than a wave. In fact, many began calling it a Green Revolution. For a regime that has been terrified about the possibility of a “velvet revolution,” this may have been too much.

On the basis of what we know so far, here is the sequence of events starting on the afternoon of election day, Friday, June 12.

* Near closing time of the polls, mobile text messaging was turned off nationwide
* Security forces poured out into the streets in large numbers
* The Ministry of Interior (election headquarters) was surrounded by concrete barriers and armed men
* National television began broadcasting pre-recorded messages calling for everyone to unite behind the winner
* The Mousavi campaign was informed officially that they had won the election, which perhaps served to temporarily lull them into complacency
* But then the Ministry of Interior announced a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad
* Unlike previous elections, there was no breakdown of the vote by province, which would have provided a way of judging its credibility
* The voting patterns announced by the government were identical in all parts of the country, an impossibility (also see the comments of Juan Cole at the title link)
* Less than 24 hours later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene`i publicly announced his congratulations to the winner, apparently confirming that the process was complete and irrevocable, contrary to constitutional requirements
* Shortly thereafter, all mobile phones, Facebook, and other social networks were blocked, as well as major foreign news sources.

All of this had the appearance of a well orchestrated strike intended to take its opponents by surprise – the classic definition of a coup.
Curiously, this was not a coup of an outside group against the ruling elite; it was a coup of the ruling elite against its own people.

It is still too early for anything like a comprehensive analysis of implications, but here are some initial thoughts:

1. The willingness of the regime simply to ignore reality and fabricate election results without the slightest effort to conceal the fraud represents a historic shift in Iran’s Islamic revolution. All previous leaders at least paid lip service to the voice of the Iranian people. This suggests that Iran’s leaders are aware of the fact that they have lost credibility in the eyes of many (most?) of their countrymen, so they are dispensing with even the pretense of popular legitimacy in favor of raw power.

2. The Iranian opposition, which includes some very powerful individuals and institutions, has an agonizing decision to make. If they are intimidated and silenced by the show of force (as they have been in the past), they will lose all credibility in the future with even their most devoted followers. But if they choose to confront their ruthless colleagues forcefully, not only is it likely to be messy but it could risk running out of control and potentially bring down the entire existing power structure, of which they are participants and beneficiaries.

3. With regard to the United States and the West, nothing would prevent them in principle from dealing with an illegitimate authoritarian government. We do it every day, and have done so for years (the Soviet Union comes to mind). But this election is an extraordinary gift to those who have been most skeptical about President Obama’s plan to conduct negotiations with Iran. Former Bush official Elliott Abrams was quick off the mark, commenting that it is “likely that the engagement strategy has been dealt a very heavy blow.” Two senior Israeli officials quickly urged the world not to engage in negotiations with Iran. Neoconservatives who had already expressed their support for an Ahmadinejad victory now have
every reason to be satisfied. Opposition forces, previously on the
defensive, now have a perfect opportunity to mount a political attack that will make it even more difficult for President Obama to proceed with his plan.

In their own paranoia and hunger for power, the leaders of Iran have insulted their own fellow revolutionaries who have come to have second thoughts about absolute rule and the costs of repression, and they may have alienated an entire generation of future Iranian leaders. At the same time, they have provided an invaluable gift to their worst enemies abroad.

However this turns out, it is a historic turning point in the 30-year history of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Iranians have never forgotten the external political intervention that thwarted their democratic aspirations in 1953. How will they remember this day?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Commission on Wartime Contracting interim report revelations

2009 -- Commission on Wartime Contracting interim report revelations.....

Si vous voulez savoir quels sont les vrais maîtres des sociétés démocratiques, posez-vous simplement cette question : Quels sont ceux que nous n'avons pas le droit de critiquer... ?

The Obama Enigma: Imperial Interventionism and Militarism: "We do not want a PAX Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time." President John F. Kennedy, 1963
[ . . . ]

The Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) interim report on fraud, waste, and abuse in contracts let by the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan contains a few surprise factoids.

The report, titled "At What Cost: Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," states: "According to command officials, 351 U.S. bases now exist in Iraq." The previous closure of some U.S. bases in Iraq indicates the number of bases has been higher.

On June 11, 2009, WMR reported on the links between two companies, with whom slain U.S. Iraq contractor Jim Kitterman had a relationship, and the Philippines. Kitterman had previously worked for Pergerine Development International of Kuwait, a spin-off of Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR)/Halliburton, which had a major gas field operation in the Philippines, and Corporate Training Unlimited (CTU), whose five employees in Baghdad, including the CTU president, were detained by Iraqi authorities in their investigation of the murder of Kitterman in the Green Zone in Baghdad on May 22. CTU operates an advanced weapons range at Clark airbase, where Peregrine is the lead contractor in a $2 billion re-development program that includes providing storage facilities for natural gas from the Halliburton operation. The Clark re-development project is a personal favorite of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is enmeshed in a number of scandals and is trying to re-write the Constitution to allow her to run for another term next year.

The Philippines appears to have become a center for dubious U.S. contractors who are operating in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The CWC report reveals that oversight for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts in Afghanistan is run from the USAID office in Manila. The USAID office in Manila is expected to establish a satellite office in Kabul before the end of this year with a staff of merely two employees to oversee USAID contracts in Afghanistan.

A USAID contract oversight office in Baghdad employs seven auditors and two investigators, according to the CWC report.

KBR also continues to support Defense Department operations in southwest Asia. The report states: "KBR, Inc., (formerly Kellogg, Brown, and Root) still provides support services in Southwest Asia under the Army’s single‐award contract (LOGCAP III). The U.S. Army recently awarded a follow‐on contract for its Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) requirements. The new LOGCAP IV contract now has three vendors—KBR, DynCorp International, and Fluor Intercontinental . . ." The report also reveals that there is very little in-country oversight of LOGCAP contracts and points out that "a military officer said he knew of contracts being performed in Afghanistan that were being 'monitored' by CORs [contracting officer's representatives] physically located in the United States."

The CWC report also reveals the number of Defense Department contractors working in southwest Asia: "U.S. Army Central Command’s second‐quarter fiscal year 2009 census reflected 242,657 active DoD contractor personnel in its Southwest Asia area of operations. This total includes 132,610 in Iraq, 68,197 in Afghanistan, and 41,850 in other Southwest Asia locations."

The report also points out that most of the private security companies in Iraq hire as security personnel for forward operating bases (FOBs) third‐country nationals (TCNs) . . . usually hired through labor brokers in countries such as Lebanon, Uganda, Philippines and Peru...."

Ross: failed diplomacy legitimizes Iran strike

[The Obama presidency has always represented the Zionist's back door into Iran.... These guys are just better liars than the Bushwackers were.... The behavioral specialists who devise the Obama lies know that we want to believe them. There is absolutely no difference between Obama and Bush, except for the racial ones. By abusing the faith of his black brothers and sisters, he has used them to buy time to escalate the wars of aggression and reinforce the shaky empire....]

Ross: failed diplomacy legitimizes Iran strike

Thu, 11 Jun 2009 21:53:52 GMT

Dennis Ross

A senior US diplomat and leading Zionist says Washington’s overtures to Tehran will legitimize military options against Iran in case diplomacy fails.

Dennis Ross has long been an advocate of utilizing military force against Iran. In a new book he co-authored, Ross has again raised the possibility of the use of military force against Iran to halt its nuclear program should negotiations lead to naught.

At present, Ross is heading US’s diplomatic efforts to engage Iran on a series of issues wrote “Myths, Illusions & Peace — Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East” which was released on Thursday.

The other author of the book is David Makovsky, a former journalist and a devout Zionist, and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The book contains a 30-page chapter that elaborates on the US options for dealing with Iran.

“Tougher policies — either militarily or meaningful containment — will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion,” they wrote.

“Such an approach may build pressures within Iran not to forgo the opportunity that has been presented, while also ensuring that the onus is put on Iran for creating a crisis and also for making conflict more likely,” they added.

Ross and Makovsky stressed that the US should pursue engagement without preconditions but with diplomatic pressures, such as European economic sanctions, to persuade Iran that “the costs of pursuing the nuclear option are real and will not go away, but that Iran has a door to walk through.”

China: “India is a Paper Tiger and Will be Trounced if it Uses Force Against China”, Experts Warn

By D. S. Rajan

(To be read with SAAG paper No.3247 dated11 June 2009,

Beijing’s official response to the Indian Prime Minister’s statement on Arunachal (9 June 2009) and India’s reported moves to dispatch additional troops to the Sino-Indian border, remains so far muted with no provocation to New Delhi. In contrast, the comments on the subject appearing in the country’s state-controlled media have been sarcastic with a rather threatening tone, towards India.

The PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang (11 June 2009), while reiterating that the Sino-Indian border has never been formally demarcated, has stated that China wants a ‘just and rational’ solution to the border issue through talks with India. He has hoped that both sides would follow the consensus and principles agreed upon and protect together the stability and security of the border region.

The authoritative Global Times, affiliated to the Party organ People’s Daily, has on the other hand, been choosing a hard-hitting line towards India. Following its article, “India’s Unwise Military Moves” (People’s Daily Online, English, 11 June 2009), it has published a highly provocative comment (Global Times, Chinese, 12 June 2009) entitled “India is a paper tiger, its use of force will be trounced, say experts”, which needs a close examination. The comment alleged that Indian politicians have always been seen adopting a contradictory stand on China – advocating cooperation on one side and creating incidents on the other as well as declaring support to ‘one-China policy’ on one side and supporting the Dalai Lama “clique” for more than half a century on the other. It singled out the actions of Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh in this connection by referring to his visit to the disputed territory in the Eastern sector of the Sino-Indian border soon after his visit to China and his statement on 9 June 2009, that India would not compromise on the border question.

Declaring that China is not ‘afraid’ of the dispatch of 60,000 additional troops to the border, the Global Times write-up has listed India’s real motives for provoking China – raise the bogey of ‘security threat’ to the border for diverting the attention of Indians from the daily sharpening internal clashes in the country, maintain India’s big brother status in the region and tell the US and other powers that it can play an important role in their attempts to ‘contain’ China. Reiterating China’s stand that it does not recognise the McMahon line, and that it wants to solve the border problem through peaceful and friendly talks, the article has said that India’s actions in the border like sending additional troops, improving firepower and building airfields only hint at New Delhi’s efforts to ‘legalise its territorial occupation’. It has concluded by saying that it is laughable for Mr. Manmohan Singh to talk about preparedness to deal with the ‘security threat’ from China, while simultaneously calling for strengthening of relations with China in the international arena.

The ‘paper tiger’ language takes one to the past, when Mao termed the ‘imperialists’ as a paper tiger, to which Khrushchev responded by saying that ‘paper tiger has nuclear teeth’. This exchange had then ideological and policy connotations. Is it the same situation now? Has Beijing started to reassess India’s role in policy terms? It is anybody’s guess, but to say the least, the epithets in the Global Times look very unfriendly to India, not to mention their criticisms against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by name.

How to interpret the apparent mixed signals emanating from China? Beijing’s official caution would only mean that it wants no escalation of tensions with India on the border issue. Qin Gang’s press comments above, illustrate this point. On the other hand, China has strategic concerns and hence its use of the state-controlled media to convey the same to India. Such a methodology is not unknown to other nations including India. Of immediate concern to India, would be any signal, which may point to the Chinese military moves in the border in retaliation to steps being taken by it. The fact, however, is that China has already strengthened its military and logistic system in the borders and India’s latest steps are only in response to that.

Caught in a circle, both India and China should now jointly work towards diffusing any border tension, in the overall interest of bilateral relations. The good atmosphere, marked by trade jump and the ‘shared vision for the 21st century’, should not be allowed to get eroded through any radical step by each side.

SCO maturing fast, a leap forward to multilateralism...

SCO maturing fast, a leap forward to multilateralism...

By the yardstick of Jacques, the melancholy philosopher-clown in William Shakespeare's play As You Like It, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has indisputably passed the stage of "Mewing and pucking in the nurse's arms".

Nor is SCO anymore the "whining schoolboy, with his satchel/And shining morning face, creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school". The SCO more and more resembles Jacques' lover, "Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad/Made to his mistress' eyebrow." Indeed, if all the world's a stage and the regional organizations are players who make their exits and entrances, the SCO is doing remarkably well playing many parts. That it has finally reached adulthood is beyond dispute.

But growing up is never easy, especially adolescence, and the
past year since the SCO summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, has been particularly transformational. What stands out when the SCO's ninth summit meeting begins in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in Russia on Monday is that the setting in which the regional organization - comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - is called on to perform has itself unrecognizably shifted since last August's gathering of leaders in Dushanbe. First, the big picture.

The locus shifts east

The world economic crisis has descended on the SCO space like a Siberian blast that brings frost and ice and leaves behind a white winter, sparking mild hysteria. The landscape seems uniformly attired, but that can be a highly deceptive appearance. Russia and China, which make up the sum total of the SCO experience, are responding to the economic crisis in vastly different terms.

For Russia, as former prime minister and well-known scholar academician Yevgeniy Primakov observed ruefully in a recent Izvestia interview, "Russia will not come out of the crisis anytime soon ... Russia will most likely come out of the recession in the second echelon - after the developed countries ... The trap of the present crisis is that it is not localized but is worldwide. Russia is dependent on other countries. That lessens the opportunity to get out of the recession in a short period of time." [1]

Primakov should know. It was he as president Boris Yeltsin's prime minister who steered Russia out of its near-terminal financial crisis 10 years ago that brought the whole post-Soviet edifice in Moscow all but tumbling down.

Russia's economic structure is such that 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP) is created through raw material exports, which engenders a highly vulnerable threshold when the world economy as a whole gets caught up in the grip of recession. But what about China?

This was how Primakov compared the Chinese and Russian economic scenario:
In China too, as in Russia, exports make up a significant part of the GDP. The crisis smacked them and us. The difference is that China exports ready-made products, while on our country [Russia] a strong raw material flow was traditional. What are the Chinese doing?

They are moving a large part of the ready-made goods to the domestic market. At the same time, they are trying to raise the population's solvent demand. On this basis, the plants and factories will continue to operate and the economy will work.

We [Russia] cannot do that. If raw materials are moved to the domestic market, consumers of such vast volumes will not be found. Raise the population's solvent demand? That merely steps up imports.
This is only one part of a complex story, but the short point concerns the vastly different prospects of economic stabilization in the current crisis that China and Russia face. To be sure, its impact on the geopolitics of the SCO space cannot be overlooked. Simply put, China's profile as the "donor" country in the SCO space is shining brighter than ever before. China has given US$25 billion as a loan
to Russia and $15 billion as a loan to Kazakhstan, the two big-time players in the SCO, during the April-May period.

Last week, in yet another breathtaking move, China offered a loan of $3 billion to Turkmenistan. The loan for Russia is a vital lifeline for its number one oil major Rosneft and its monopoly pipeline builder Transneft. The loan for Kazakhstan, which goes partly towards acquiring a 50% stake in MangistauMunaiGaz, increases China's share of oil production in Kazakhstan to 22%. Again, the loan for Turkmenistan ensures that China has the inside track on the fabulous Yolotan-Osman, which is reputed to be one of the biggest gas fields in the world.

No heartburn in Moscow

In short, if the law of nature is such that gravitation in life is inevitably towards where the money comes from, the locus of the SCO has shifted to Beijing more than ever before. In any other context, this would have straightaway introduced a high state of disequilibrium within the SCO. It took decades for France and Germany to figure out cohabitation within the European Economic Community. The China-Russia equilibrium within the SCO has always been delicate, but it may have prima facie become more so than ever before. But in actuality, it isn't so.

It goes to the credit of the leaderships in Moscow and Beijing that they have steered their relationship in a positive direction by rationally analyzing the imperatives of their strategic partnership in the overall international situation rather than in a limited sphere of who gains access to which gas fields first in the Caspian or who is a lender and who is a borrower in these extraordinary times.

Thus, the frequent tempo of Russia-China high-level exchanges has been kept up. Both sides are sensitive to each other's core concerns and vital interests. Russia's conflict in the Caucasus last August was a litmus test and Beijing passed the test. The Russia-China mutual understanding survived intact without bruises.

Despite China's highly principled position on the issue of political separatism and secessionism, and despite all efforts by Western propaganda, China kept a watchful position on Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and silently took note of Moscow's recognition of their unilateral declaration of independence, but on balance remained broadly sympathetic to Russia's concerns and predicaments, which Moscow duly appreciated.

Again, belying all Western expectations that Russian and Chinese priorities in energy security diverge, the two countries have finally begun taking big strides on the ground in energy cooperation. A variety of factors went into it - the fall in demand for energy in the recession-struck European markets; strains in Russia-European Union energy relations; Russia's own search for diversification of its Asian market; Russia's energy rivalries with the European Union and the United States in the Caspian and so on - but the fact remains that Moscow is increasingly overcoming its hesitancy that it might get hooked to the massive Chinese energy market as an "appendage", as a mere provider of raw materials for China's economy.

The 25-year $25 billion China-Russia "loan-for-oil" deal signed in April alone amounts to Russian oil supplies equivalent of 4% of China's current daily needs. Not bad at all. But it is in the sphere of natural gas that we may expect big news in the coming period. This is virgin soil. Russia at present does not figure as a gas exporter to the Chinese market. And natural gas is where the world's - and especially China's - focus is turning in the coming decades.

Powerful Kremlin politician Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin is on record that the Russian leadership will be making some major proposals to Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to Russia to attend the SCO summit. ("Whatever amount they [China] ask for, we [Russia] have the gas," Sechin reportedly said.) It cannot be lost on observers that the Kremlin has earmarked the SCO summit event for taking such a strategic step in energy cooperation with China.

Thus, it has become a moot point whether Moscow has or has not yet realized the then president Vladimir Putin's four-year-old idea of forming an "energy club" within the SCO framework. Effectively, a matrix is developing among the SCO countries (involving member countries as well as "observers") in the field of energy cooperation. It has several templates - China on the one hand and Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on the other; Russia-China; China-Iran; Russia-Iran; Iran-Pakistan; and, of course Russia's traditional ties with the Central Asian states. (If the current Iranian plan for an oil pipeline linking the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Oman materializes soon, yet another template may be formed involving Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.)

Arguably, so far these vectors have not collided with each other, despite the prognosis of Western experts that Russian and Chinese interests in the Central Asian and the Caspian region will inevitably collide [2]. Moscow seems to be quite comfortable with the idea that the Chinese are accessing the region's surplus energy reserves rather than the US or EU countries. As a commentator put it, "Russia is also doing its damnedest to keep Europe out of Central Asia ... In Central Asia, it's starting to look as if Moscow and, to a lesser extent, Beijing ... may have already outmaneuvered Europe." [3]

SCO gatecrashes the Hindu Kush

Less than three years ago, a leading American expert on the Central Asian region, Dr Martha Brill Olcott of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described the SCO as "little more than a discussion forum". Olcott said, "Today, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization does not pose any direct threat to US interests in Central Asia or in the region more generally." [4]

That was a debatable point even three years ago, more so now. What seems to have happened is that the US simply has had no choice but to learn to live with a unique regional organization that insists on keeping it excluded. Any regional body that includes Russia and China cannot but be of interest to Washington. No doubt, SCO has been an object of intense curiosity for US regional policies through the past decade. American diplomats did all they could to debunk it in its formative years. Finally, Washington reconciled. This was evident from the fact that eventually the US began making efforts of its own, vainly though, to gain observer status in the SCO.

The list of participants at the SCO summit in Yekaterinburg testifies to the SCO's steady evolution as an influential regional and international body. Curiously, the list of participants includes Mahinda Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka, as a "dialogue partner". In terms of realpolitik, SCO has broadened its reach to the Indian Ocean region. Clearly, it is a matter of time before Nepal, Myanmar Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are associated with the SCO processes one way or another. The SCO already has institutionalized links with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

A stage has come when the SCO's common stances on regional and international issues are widely noted by the international community and discussed threadbare by regional experts. Quite likely, this year's statement will reflect a common SCO position strongly endorsing the Sri Lankan government's policy of rebuffing the Western intrusive approach in terms of humanitarian intervention in the island's current problem affecting displaced Tamils.

For Colombo, the SCO support will come as a much-needed shot in the arm in warding off Western pressure in the period ahead. Already in the United Nations Security Council, Colombo depends on the robust support of Russia and China, both veto-holding powers from the SCO.

Again, the SCO's formulations this year on the North Korean and Iran nuclear problems will be read with interest. Last year's statement on the conflict in the Caucasus was widely discussed by regional experts.

During the past year, the SCO has virtually gatecrashed into the Afghanistan problem, so much so that it is going to be counter-productive for Washington to shut out the regional body altogether from the Hindu Kush. The SCO has rapidly built on its nascent

idea of a "contact group" with Kabul. It has maintained a smooth working relationship with the government led by President Hamid Karzai. If anything, Karzai's recent difficulties with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) capitals have prompted him to reach out to Moscow.

United States pressure on Karzai to keep him away from the SCO is unlikely to work again. Karzai will be present at the Yekaterinburg summit meeting. His vice presidential running mate, Karim Khalili, recently visited Moscow. Karzai's other running mate, Mohammed Fahim, has old links with Russia's security agencies.

The SCO conference on Afghanistan held in Moscow on March 27,
was primarily intended to challenge the US's monopoly over conflict resolution in Afghanistan, though its focus was on the problem of drug trafficking. It followed three years of futile efforts by the SCO to forge a partnership with NATO for the stabilization of the Afghan situation, which Washington kept frustrating.

Finally, the US was compelled to attend the Moscow conference lest Russia and China dissociate from similar American-sponsored forums on Afghanistan. The conference has opened a window of opportunity for regional powers to get involved with Afghanistan's stabilization, independent of US strategy. Countries like India, which are being left out of the loop, will find the SCO as a useful framework to work with. (India will be represented at the SCO summit for the first time ever at the level of the prime minister.)

The SCO conference also assumes significance in the context of the Barack Obama administration's AfPak strategy, which envisages "grand bargains" with regional powers. The SCO sized up that Washington's game plan would be to strike "grand bargains" individually and separately with each of the countries in the region, which would effectively ensure that the US retained the monopoly of conflict resolution and enabled the US to give new underpinnings to its regional policies aimed at broadening and deepening its influence in Central Asian and Southwest Asian geopolitics.

Bush's policies continue under Obushma...

NATO has officially invited Kazakhstan, a major SCO member country, to take part in its Afghan operations. [5] This is despite Kazakhstan being an active promoter and a prominent member of the Collective Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the SCO, both of which have repeatedly offered partnerships to the Western alliance for its Afghan mission. [6]

Robert Simmons, the NATO secretary general's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, is on record as saying that the Kazakh army has already achieved "interoperability" with NATO forces and could make a good showing in the Afghan mission. Clearly, NATO is sidestepping the CSTO and the SCO and would prefer to deal with Central Asian capitals individually. The US is striking similar "grand bargains" with other Central Asian capitals in terms of gaining access to new military base facilities.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated in April that Russia and China would strengthen their military cooperation through the SCO and engage in several joint military maneuvers. He implied that these plans were aimed at limiting the US's presence in Central Asia. From the Russian and Chinese point of view, it is obvious that the erosion of the US's economic foundations is not preventing Washington from pursuing with renewed vigor its project aimed at regaining lost influence in Central Asia.

The Obama administration's proposed budget for the State Department allocates aid of $41.5 million for Kyrgyzstan and $46.5 million for Tajikistan, whereas the corresponding figures for the current fiscal year are $24.4 million and $25.2 million, respectively. US military aid to the two countries will also similarly be increased under the new budget.

The justification given is that Central Asia's strategic importance has risen of late for US regional policies. According to budget justification documents released by the State Department in Washington on May 7:
Central Asia remains alarmingly fragile: a lack of economic opportunity and weak democratic institutions foster conditions where corruption is endemic and Islamic extremism and drug trafficking can thrive. For this region, where good relations play an important role in supporting our [US] military and civilian efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, the [budget] request prioritizes assistance for the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
The political rationale of the aid request makes no bones about the fact that geopolitics is a factor in Washington's decision to step up aid to Central Asia at a time when the Russian capacity to bankroll Central Asian economies is in serious doubt. "The United States rejects the notion that any country has special privileges or a 'sphere of influence' in this region; instead the United States is open to cooperating with all countries in the region and where appropriate providing assistance that helps develop democratic and market institutions and practices."

Curiously, Washington has lately made it clear that it has no intentions of vacating the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan in August without a last-ditch effort to get Bishkek to reconsider its decision. Apart from sustained US diplomatic efforts to persuade a rethink in Bishkek, Washington has also sought the good offices of Karzai to raise the issue with his Kyrgyz counterpart President Kurmanbek Bakiyev - interestingly enough, on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Yekaterinburg.

Therefore, it is against the backdrop of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which causes concern among the SCO member countries, as well as the robust US diplomacy in the Central Asian region to expand American influence that the Chinese and Russian decision to step up SCO military cooperation will be viewed. The SCO defense ministers' meeting held on April 29 in Moscow confirmed reports that China and Russia would hold 25 joint maneuvers this year. (In the entire period since 2002, China has held only 21 military exercises with foreign countries.)

Interestingly, all these proposed maneuvers will be focused on the "war on terror". The SCO war games for 2009 began with a joint "anti-terror" exercise in Tajikistan near the Afghan border. The main exercise, codenamed Peace Mission 2009, is planned for July-August. This year's exercises assume the nature of a conventional drill operation insofar as they will involve more than 2,000 Russian and Chinese troops with heavy weapons such as tanks, transport planes, self-propelled artillery and possibly including strategic bombers.

The exercises will be held in three stages inside Russia and in northeastern China. Unmistakably, closer Chinese-Russian military cooperation within the SCO framework has been prompted by their perception that the US is pressing ahead with its strategic plans to bring the energy-rich Eurasian region under its influence.

Can Obama become a heretic?

In a remarkably candid interview recently, well-known Russia scholar Professor Stephen Cohen at New York University said he didn't believe "anything substantially or enduringly good" is about to happen in US-Russia relations in the foreseeable future. Nor is a "real partnership" possible between the two countries.

More ominously, he warned that the US-Russia relationship was fast getting "militarized", as it used to be during the Cold War. He said, "NATO expansion has militarized the relationship between the US and Russia, between the United States and the former Soviet republics, and between Russia and the former Soviet republics. Remove NATO expansion, remove the military aspect, and let them compete otherwise." [7]

More startlingly, Cohen assesses that despite the Obama administration's call to "reset" ties with Russia, the "old thinking" prevails in Washington - "that Russia is a defeated power, it's not a legitimate great power with equal rights to the US, that Russia should make concessions ... that the US can go back on its promises because Russia is imperialistic and evil."

Cohen said Russia hands in the Obama administration - Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor General James Jones, National Security Council member Michael McFaul - are all in one way or another associated with the "old thinking" toward Russia. "So there are no new thinkers in Obama's foreign policy okruzhenie [circles]. There is enormous support in the US for the old thinking. It's the majority view. The American media, the political class, the American bureaucracy - they all support it. Therefore, all hope rides with Obama himself, who is not tied to these old policies. He has to become a heretic and break with orthodoxy."

Cohen added:
Now you and I might say that's impossible, but there is a precedent. Just over twenty years ago, out of the Soviet orthodoxy, the much more rigid Communist Party nomenklatura, came a heretic, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. It's not a question of whether we like Gorbachev's leadership or we don't. The point is that he came forward with something he called "new thinking", breaking with the old Soviet thinking, and the result was that he and [president Ronald] Reagan ended the Cold War, or came very close to doing so. So the question is whether Obama can break with the old thinking.
Thus, the extraordinarily high degree of mutual understanding that the Russian and Chinese leaderships have been able to work out in the recent period within the SCO has a much broader framework than appears at first sight. US policies towards Russia have significantly contributed to these regional compulsions felt by Moscow and Beijing. Chinese commentaries are consistently sympathetic towards Russia apropos the range of issues affecting US-Russia relations in Eurasia.

In an extremely meaningful political gesture on April 28, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guangalle, heading a military delegation and visiting Moscow in connection with the SCO defense ministers' meeting, traveled to Russia's North Caucasus Military District to discuss regional security with Medvedev. This happened just two days ahead of the formalization of the Russian decision to deploy troops for the defense of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

What emerges is that both Russia and China remain skeptical on Afghanistan, Izvestia wrote recently, "Today, despite their hypocritical talk of 'cooperation' (by which they mean the shipment of NATO military freight across Russia), the [US-led] coalition is keeping Russia away from Afghanistan as much as
possible, even though their own policies in Afghanistan are the worst possible example of a murderous neo-colonial regime." [8]

Izvestia continued the tirade:
Mass killings of the civilian population by the American army such as bombing wedding and funeral processions, extending the fighting to Pakistan and dragging it into Afghanistan's internal ethnic and political feud - all these and similar actions, which have been without any social or commercial investment in Afghanistan, threaten the whole world, Russia included.

The Afghans, sick and tired of the pointless presence of foreign military forces, have asked Russia to restore its clear-cut peaceful Afghan policy. A delegation of influential Afghan politicians will arrive in Moscow to attend the May 14 Russian-Afghan forum. The group mainly includes Pashtun leaders, who have shaped the country's political and state backbone for centuries. They are convinced that the way to peace and settlement in Afghanistan will depend on Russia's policy.
CSTO to counter NATO

Does all this add up to the SCO becoming a military alliance? This is a question that has come up frequently during the past decade. It still refuses to go away. There has been even some degree of characterization of the SCO at times as an "Asian NATO". But the answer is a firm "no'. The plain truth is that neither China nor Russia would be comfortable for the foreseeable future with the idea of a military alliance between them, although both have shared concerns over the US agenda for NATO's eastward expansion.

Besides, we should not overlook that Central Asian countries also have their own so-called "multi-vector" foreign policy, which places primacy on national autonomy and independence that precludes the possibility of their becoming part of a military bloc as such.

At any rate, Uzbekistan, the maverick of them all but a key country all the same in regional security, will forever keep everyone guessing whether its mind is on the same thing that it speaks about at any given time, or whether its actions are going to be in conformity with its own words. Tashkent stayed out of the SCO exercises in April in Tajikistan. It is right now having a slinging match with Kyrgyz border guards about recent incidents of violence in the Ferghana Valley.

However, Moscow has been steadily working on another option. The CSTO - Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - is transforming into a full-blooded military alliance. "The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation Until 2020", which was recently approved by Medvedev, says that Moscow views the CSTO as the key instrument to counter regional challenges, and political and military threats. The document says pointedly that the struggle for energy resources in the Caspian and
Central Asia
may conceivably lead to armed conflicts.

The special summit meeting of the CSTO held in February in Moscow decided to set up a collective rapid-response force to help bloc members to repulse aggression or to meet any emergency. Moscow has been focusing for some time on the strengthening of the CSTO and recent strides in this direction are a major foreign-policy success for the Kremlin. No doubt, the impetus is to keep "third countries" out of Central Asia. Medvedev has said that the rapid-reaction force "will be just as good or comparable to NATO forces". The CSTO's joint rapid-reaction force will hold military exercises in August-September in Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus.

The force will comprise an airborne division and an air assault brigade from Russia, and an air assault brigade from Kazakhstan. The other CSTO members (except Uzbekistan) will contribute a battalion-size force each. To quote a Russian expert, "A collective rapid-reaction force will give CSTO a quick tool, leaving no time for third parties to intervene." [9]

"The rapid-response force is a major but so far only one of the first steps toward creating a powerful military political organization," he added. Indeed, Kommersant newspaper broke the news on May 29 that Russia was planning to build a strong military contingent in Central Asia within the framework of the CSTO, which will be comparable to NATO forces in Europe. "Work is being conducted in all areas, and a number of documents have been adopted," the report said, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry sources.

The unnamed Russian official said, "It will be a purely military structure, built to ensure security in Central Asia in case of an act of aggression." It will include armored and artillery units and a naval flotilla in the Caspian Sea, according to the CSTO spokesman. The Russian news agency Novosti reported that the new force would comprise large military units from five countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It commented, "The creation of a powerful military contingent in Central Asia reflects Moscow's drive to make the CSTO a pro-Russian military bloc, rivaling NATO forces in Europe."

Interestingly, a summit meeting of the CSTO is scheduled for Moscow on Sunday on the eve of the SCO summit in Yekaterinburg. The million-dollar question is the co-relation, if any, between the CSTO and the SCO summits in the scheme of things in Moscow and Beijing. The political and diplomatic symbolism in the timing of the two summits on successive days cannot be lost on observers. There has been some talk that the CSTO and the SCO would eventually have an institutionalized back-to-back relationship of sorts. (All the SCO member countries except China are also CSTO members.)

Conceivably, Moscow and Beijing have been exchanging views on the CSTO's emergence as a coherent military bloc in Central Asia, with which China shares thousands of kilometers of border. What seems to be happening is that China tacitly welcomes the Russian initiative to build up the CSTO's capabilities as a military setup. At the very least, Beijing isn't doing anything to dampen Russia's enthusiasm, let alone counter the Russian move through countervailing steps. There could be several factors at work here.

One, any strengthening of security in Central Asia also benefits China. Two, to the extent that the CSTO becomes a bulwark against any NATO expansion into Central Asia, it also works to China's advantage. Three, Moscow's determination to stand up to the US's containment strategy serves Beijing's purpose. Four, the CSTO's build-up means the consolidation of Central Asian countries, which precludes opportunities for the US to expand its influence in the region, let alone roll back Russian and Chinese influence.

Five, the emergence of the CSTO in Central Asia virtually forecloses any future US attempts to place elements of its missile defense system in the border regions of China close to the Xinjiang autonomous region, where China has located important missile sites. Finally, the CSTO harbors no animus against China insofar as all the CSTO members except Armenia and Belarus are in any case SCO members. China's rapidly expanding influence in Central Asia ensures that the bulk of the CSTO countries will have high stakes in friendly relations with Beijing.

Thus, an intriguing security paradigm is developing in Central Asia. Quintessentially, the SCO will keep shying away from becoming a military bloc. This is not feigned posturing. It is real. At the same time, in political terms, the SCO is the facilitator of a regional security understanding that is leading to the full-blooded evolution of the CSTO as an anti-NATO military bloc.

Arguably, in the absence of the SCO, Moscow and Beijing would have to invent such a body. For, without the SCO, any such formation under Moscow's leadership of a NATO-like military bloc shaping up right on China's sensitive border regions would have been simply unthinkable.

1. Marina Zavada and Yuriy Kulikov, "Yevgeniy Primakov", Autopilot Does Not Work in a Crisis, Izvestia, May, 8, 2009.
2. According to the data from the US Energy Information Administration, the three “Stans” of Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - have more than 7 trillion cbm of proven gas reserves, or around 4% of the global share, and much of the has hasn’t yet been harvested. The "Stans" have committed much of their harvestable gas to Russia and China through the next decade.
3. S Adam Cardais, "Central Asian Gas Not a Panacea for Europe", Business Week, February 3, 2009.
4. Dr Martha Brill Olcott, "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Changing the Playing Field in Central Asia", testimony before the Helsinki Commission, September 26, 2006.
5. "NATO invites Kazakhstan to join Afghan peacekeeping operation", Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May, 14, 2009.
6. Significantly, the next round of the SCO joint military exercises will be held in 2010 in southern Kazakhstan.
7. "Interview with Stephen F Cohen on US-Russia Relations", Washington Profile, April 2009.
8. "Afghanistan: Russia’s chance to influence global politics again", Izvestia, May 13, 2009. 9. Ilya Kramnik, "CSTO: joining forces in a crisis", RIA Novosti, February 5, 2009.