Monday, December 14, 2015

Porkins Great Game: Episode #11 - Gladio B Heats Up in Syria

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I start off by looking at some recent developments in Georgia. We discuss the latest attempt by Ukrainian governor Mikheil Saakashvili to cause trouble in his home country and we talk about Georgia's plans to purchase gas from Russia and Iran. Afterwards, we move on to Syria. Pearse and I examine whether or not there is any truth to the claim that China is getting involved in Syria. After breaking down Beijing's concerns with regard to the increasing number of Uyghur jihadists in Syria, we discuss Turkey's motivations for shooting a down a Russian jet and Russia's response. Last but not least, our favorite segment of weird terrorism stories deals with claims that North Korea and the Dalai Lama are supporting ISIS. We close out this month's episode by touching upon the new media project that Sibel Edmonds is working on and that both of us will be a part of.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris Attacks: Western Intelligence’s Vision Blinded by Allah?

When the United States and Saudi Arabia decided to curb Iranian influence in the Middle East by embarking on a strategy that involved bolstering Sunni extremist forces, Prince Bandar bin Sultan and other Saudi officials told Washington not to worry about religious fundamentalists. Their message was plain and simple:

“We’ve created this movement, and we can control it. It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”[1]


Read the full article on Boiling Frogs Post
“We’ve created this movement, and we can control it. It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”[1]
- See more at: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/11/17/bfp-exclusive-paris-attacks-western-intelligences-vision-blinded-by-allah/#sthash.aOpqzunL.dpuf

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Russia’s Syria Intervention Enrages US-led Coalition, ISIS & Al-Qaeda

Russia’s intervention in Syria has whipped up feelings across the region and around the world. As soon as Russian aircraft began conducting airstrikes in Syria, Western media started complaining that Russia is bombing the wrong terrorists.[1]

After the Pentagon failed to find more than a few dozen “moderate rebels” for its much-publicized training program,[2] Russian bombs supposedly managed to find countless “moderate Syrian rebels” and U.S. officials suddenly remembered that the CIA has been running a much more effective training program than the Pentagon.[3] 

Read the full article on Boiling Frogs Post

Friday, October 30, 2015

Georgia Now Wants Gas From Russia & Iran

On September 25, Georgian footballer-turned-energy minister Kakha Kaladze met with Gazprom’s Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller in Brussels to discuss Russian gas supplies to Georgia and the transit of Russian gas to Armenia. Understandably, the meeting raised a few eyebrows

Two weeks later, Kaladze shocked the West and neighboring Azerbaijan, when he announced that Georgia is not only planning to purchase additional supplies from Russia but also from Iran. 

Read the full article on Russia Insider

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #113

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his nemesis Mikheil Saakashvili have left Georgian politics some time ago, one more voluntarily than the other, but the conflict between Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream and Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) continues to shape the country's political landscape to this day. In an effort to curtail the UNM's influence in the media, the Georgian Dream-led government is currently trying to shut down the influential pro-UNM private TV broadcaster Rustavi 2. This amounts to a declaration of war from the UNM's point of view. The Saakashvili party responded by calling for the resignation of the government and snap elections, to no avail. After Tbilisi's flirt with Gazprom added more fuel to the fire, the exchange of blows then escalated into all-out war a few days ago, when another Saakashvili-era rape video found its way onto the Internet:
UNM regional offices assaulted amid rape video scandal

United National Movement’s several regional offices were attacked in Georgia on Monday, in the wake of publication of disgusting video depicting rape of a detainee allegedly during the previous government.

Small crowds of 30 to 100 protested at Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, and Ozurgeti offices demanding to ban the UNM. In several occasions a violent squabble happened between the protesters and UNM members. In Kutaisi protesters broke into the office but police managed to drive them out.
The UNM, former ruling party and currently the main opposition power, claims the protests have been masterminded by the authorities, as many members of the local authorities and local offices of the ruling Georgian Dream were present during the rallies.
“These groups have been mobilized by the authorities, which try to mitigate outrage for its attempts to seize Rustavi 2 (TV),” Nugzar Tsiklauri, MP, said to journalists. 
© Photo Transparency International Georgia

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #112

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Islamabad's recent offer to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table for renewed peace talks with the Afghan government is just one example of Pakistan's influence over the Taliban movement in general and its new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in particular. According to some Taliban sources, Pakistan is now taking a two-pronged approach in dealing with the movement. On the one hand, the Pakistani authorities are backing Mansoor and negotiations with Kabul but, on the other hand, they are also supporting the hawkish anti-Mansoor faction in order to keep the new supremo in check and continue the fight in Afghanistan. A senior Afghan intelligence official confirmed this, pointing out that Pakistan recently helped Mansoor's rival Abdul Qayyum "Zakir" launch large-scale offensives in the south of the country, which prompted Mansoor to offer Zakir to become his first deputy or Taliban shadow defense minister. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to note that the United States is now implicating Pakistani intelligence in the Taliban's takeover of Kunduz as well:
APNewsBreak: US analysts knew Afghan site was hospital

American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, The Associated Press has learned.
The special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site. The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons.

After the attack — which came amidst a battle to retake the northern Afghan city of Kunduz from the Taliban — some U.S. analysts assessed that the strike had been justified, the former officer says. They concluded that the Pakistani, believed to have been working for his country's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, had been killed.
© Photo Najim Rahim/AP

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #111

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

New Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor faced a lot of opposition within the movement, when he officially took over from Mullah Omar two months ago. Several leading Taliban commanders decided to go their own ways and Mullah Omar's family only reluctantly endorsed the new supremo. Despite all that, the Taliban have stepped up their game in the first few weeks of Mansoor's reign, dashing Kabul's hopes that the confirmation of Mullah Omar's death would weaken the group. It seems like an eternity ago that Kabul and the Taliban were holding peace talks to stop the fighting. At the end of July, the two sides were about to meet in Pakistan for the second round of talks when Afghan intelligence leaked Omar's death to the press, thereby unleashing a new wave of violence. After the Taliban demonstrated their power in Kunduz, Pakistan renewed its offer to restart the talks and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reminded his Afghan colleagues that they should have kept their mouths shut:
Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif says working for revival of Afghan peace talks

The Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he is trying to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group which was stalled by the announcement of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death.

In televised remarks to the media Nawaz said “The news of Mullah Omar should not have been broken just before the start of the second round of talks.”

Sharif further added “We are now trying to resume the (peace) process and pray to God to crown our efforts with success.”
© Photo Ahmad Kamal/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Monday, October 12, 2015

Porkins Great Game: Episode #10 - Rebellion in Tajikistan

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I take a look at the rebellion of Tajikistan's former Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda and explain how this is being exploited by the Tajik authorities to crush the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). After giving a few updates on the situation in Afghanistan, we talk about the whole Kunduz debacle, ranging from the Taliban takeover to the U.S. airstrike on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Last but not least, we focus on the biggest story at the moment: Russia's intervention in Syria. Pearse and I discuss Ramzan Kadyrov's idea to go to Syria, Moscow's reasons for intervening and Qatar's threat to create a "Syrian Taliban". We close out this month's episode with the latest heroics of everyone's favorite "moderate Syrian rebels" from 'Division 30'. 



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #110

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After the Taliban shocked the world by seizing the northern Afghan provincial capital of Kunduz, the Afghan government pulled out all the stops to retake the city. Leaving the strategic city of 300,000 in the hands of the Taliban would create major problems for Afghanistan and neighboring countries, given the fact that Kunduz is an important transport hub for the north of the country and a gateway to Central Asia. For example, the distance to Tajikistan is only about 70 kilometers (44 miles). Aware of city's importance, Taliban fighters tried to win residents over with a "charm offensive" but they quickly fell back into old patterns. As government forces were struggling to launch a successful counterattack, U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani was coming under increasing pressure. He tried to shift the blame on others and replaced the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar Safi, who had just reappeared after watching the fall of the provincial capital from abroad. But despite rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, Ghani could not hide the fact that the Afghan security forces are unable to cope with the situation and that they need help to retake the city:
More US airstrikes as special forces join fight against insurgents outside Kunduz

American special operations troops joined the battle around Kunduz on Wednesday, exchanging fire with Taliban fighters near the airport where Afghan forces withdrew after ceding control of the city two days before, the U.S.-led coalition announced.

U.S. aircraft carried out more airstrikes against Taliban forces threatening the Kunduz airport, where Afghan government are regrouping after fleeing the city Monday.

The increased American support follow signs that Afghan forces are struggling in the face of the massive Taliban assault, which has plunged the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani into the deepest crisis of its first year in office.
© Photo Reuters

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #109

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

With the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine dominating the headlines, the latest escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has gone largely unnoticed. It all started on September 24, when Azerbaijani forces shelled Armenian villages in the northeastern Tavush region close to the border. Mortar and gunfire killed three civilian women, aged 41, 83 and 94, and wounded four other residents. It was the highest number of civilians killed in one day for quite some time. Moreover, targeting villages with mortar fire is not a common tactic and has only rarely been seen since the end of the war in 1994. As Armenia called on the international community to get involved and prevent a further escalation of the conflict, Azerbaijan tried to play the innocent by using Israel's tried and tested 'human shields' rhetoric. But it quickly became clear which side is provoking an escalation:
Four Armenian Servicemen Killed by Azerbaijani Fire

Four Armenian servicemen were killed today in an offensive operation launched by Azerbaijan on Sept. 25. Norayr Khachatryan (b. 1995), Robert Mkrtchyan (b. 1995), Harout Hakobyan (b. 1997), and Karen Shahinyan (b. 1997) of the Artsakh Armed Forces were killed in the Azerbaijani attack, announced the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) Ministry of Defense.

According to the Ministry, Azerbaijani forces used Turkish-made TR-107 rocket launchers in the attack. Intensive shelling reportedly took place on Sept. 24 and 25.

A day earlier, 83-year-old Parakavar resident Baydzar Aghajanyan and Berdavan residents Shushan Asatryan, 94, and Sona Revezyan , 41, were killed by Azerbaijani artillery fire targeting Armenian border villages in Armenia’s Tavush province. Four other residents were also wounded in the attack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #108

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of last week, the leaders of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gathered in the Tajik capital Dushanbe for a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The summit came at an inconvenient time for host Emomali Rahmon, who was struggling to quell a small rebellion led by former Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda. Rahmon had sacked Nazarzoda immediately after identifying him as the mastermind of the attacks that rocked the country on September 4. The renegade general subsequently fled with his supporters toward Romit Gorge, about 45 kilometers east of Dushanbe, and kept the Tajik authorities on their toes for several days. Nazarzoda's rebellion overshadowed Tajikistan's 24th independence anniversary as well as the CSTO summit and left dozens of people dead until the general was eventually eliminated on September 16:
Tajik Mutineer And Special Forces Commander Killed In Battle

Tajikistan's authorities say they have killed the fugitive general who mutinied two weeks ago. In the fight, however, the commander of the most elite special forces unit in the country, the Alfas, was killed as well.

The former general, Abduhalim Nazarzoda, was killed on September 16 at 14:00 local time after a day-and-a-half-long battle in the Romit Gorge at an altitude of 3,700 meters above sea level, Tajikistan's Interior Ministry and State Committee on National Security said in a joint statement.

During the fighting, the chief of the Alfas, Colonel Rustam Khamakiyev, and three other officers of the Alfas and OMON (a special forces unit of the Interior Ministry) were killed, the statement added.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Porkins Great Game: Episode #9 - The Death of Mullah Omar

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I start off by looking at Kyrgyzstan's decision to renounce the 1993 cooperation treaty with the United States. Afterwards we move across the border to Xinjiang and break down why China has revealed more explosive information about Turkish meddling in "East Turkestan." Our third and biggest story is Afghanistan. Pearse and I give a few updates on the alarming developments in the north of the country before we discuss in detail the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and its many ramifications. We close out this month's episode with the immensely popular story of the U.S.-trained "moderate Syrian rebels" from Division 30, which has been used to play down U.S. involvement in the war on Syria.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #107

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The recent confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar has aggravated the alarming situation in Afghanistan. New Taliban supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is struggling to stop the factionalism that has been fueled by Omar's death and the Afghan peace talks have been put on hold for the time being. Many of Mansoor's critics oppose the talks with Kabul and favor Mullah Omar's son Yaqoob as Taliban leader. A few days ago, Afghan parliament member Abdul Zahir Qadir created a stir when he claimed that Yaqoob was assassinated in the Pakistani city of Quetta on behalf of Mansoor and Pakistani intelligence agencies. The Taliban immediately denied the claims but Yaqoob's whereabouts are still shrouded in mystery. As more and more leading Taliban figures come out in opposition to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, senior members of the movement are meeting in Pakistan to resolve the dispute: 
Taliban Hold Open Meetings in Pakistan to Discuss Leadership
Senior members of the Taliban are reportedly holding open meetings in Pakistan to discuss the disputed appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the group's new chief in the wake Mullah Omar's death.

Several top Taliban leaders have expressed strong opposition to Mansour's leadership, calling him a puppet of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

Sources within the Afghan government told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity on Thursday that scores of Taliban members - including both those who agree and disagree with Mansour's appointment - met with clerics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan on Wednesday to resolve the dispute over Omar's successor.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Corbett Report Interview on the Kyrgyzstan-US Rift

James Corbett invited me back on his show to discuss Kyrgyzstan's recent decision to renounce the 1993 cooperation treaty with the United States and how this fits into a larger trend in U.S.-Kyrgyz relations.



You can find the show notes for our discussion on James' website:
https://www.corbettreport.com/interview-1070-christoph-germann-on-the-kyrgyzstan-us-rift/

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #106

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

On July 31, representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban were scheduled to meet in Pakistan for the second round of the recently launched Afghan peace talks. The first round of talks in the hill resort of Murree just outside Islamabad was hailed as a "breakthrough," raising hopes that the warring parties could come to an agreement. Pakistan's efforts to facilitate the meeting and the attendance of Chinese and U.S. officials signaled widespread support for the peace talks. But just as people were getting their hopes up, two days before the next meeting in Pakistan, BBC's Afghan Service dropped a bombshell by reporting the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Two weeks earlier, the Taliban leader had purportedly endorsed the peace talks in a statement posted on the Taliban's official website, making the reports of his death all the more surprising. It was not the first time that Mullah Omar's death has been reported but this time everyone agreed that Mullah Omar was dead:
Afghan government formally confirms death of Mullah Omar

The government of Afghanistan formally confirmed the death of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

A statement by the President Palace said “The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan.”

The statement further added “The government of Afghanistan believes that grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #105

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

As the situation in northern Afghanistan deteriorates further, the neighboring Central Asian states as well as Russia and China are becoming increasingly worried about a possible spillover of violence. The United States, on the other hand, has dismissed these concerns from the beginning and continues to insist that the security situation in Afghanistan poses no threat to the neighboring 'stans. This is a bold claim in light of the territorial gains by the Taliban and other militant groups in Faryab province, which borders Turkmenistan. A few days ago, insurgents blew up an electricity tower in Faryab, disrupting electricity supply to the provincial capital Maymana and four other districts. It was the second time in one week that the power supply lines have been cut due to the fighting. Since pro-government militias are retreating in most areas and Maymana is in danger of falling to militants, the Afghan government wants to launch a major military operation in the province as soon as possible:
Major operation on the way in northern Faryab province

A major military operation is due to kick off in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan to clear the under the control of the Taliban militants.

The operation is expected to be launched jointly by the Afghan national security forces including Afghan special forces along with the anti-Taliban public uprising forces.

A lawmaker representing northern Faryab province in the Lower House of the Parliament – Wolesi Jirga, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the operation will be conducted as per the instructions of the First Vice President. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #104

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is now fighting on multiple fronts after the neo-Nazis from Pravyi Sektor recently turned their attention from the evil Russkies to the regime in Kiev. As the west of the country descends into chaos as well, the Odessa region under the leadership of Poroshenko's buddy Mikheil Saakashvili is becoming Kiev's showcase project. Odessa is supposed to show the world that Ukraine is headed in the right direction and the former Georgian President and his minions are tasked with guiding "Ukraine's reforms path away from Russia." After bringing in several of his compatriots, Saakashvili is now looking for other "talents" to improve his team. The 25-year-old Euromaidan activist Yulia Marushevska, who became famous for her appearance in the "I Am a Ukrainian" propaganda video, was the obvious choice and Saakashvili's next appointment was even more fitting:
Russian shock therapy reformist's daughter to work for Saakashvili

Chairman of Odesa Regional State Administration Mikheil Saakashvili on Friday introduced as his new deputy the Russian opposition politician, journalist, social activist Maria Gaidar, who is a daughter of Yegor Gaidar, the architect of the controversial shock therapy reforms in post-Perestroika Russia, according to local news portal Dumskaya.

"All Ukrainians, all Europeans and all Russians are looking at Odesa. The successful changes in Odesa will influence the situation in the world," Gaidar said, Dumskaya wrote.

According to Saakashvili, she will be in charge of social issues. Her official appointment should be enacted by President Petro Poroshenko in the near future.
© Photo Gazeta.Ru

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #103

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Turkey's far-right National Movement Party (MHP) and its paramilitary youth wing, the Grey Wolves, have been leading the protests against "China's brutality in East Turkestan." Korean tourists and the Uyghur cook of a Chinese restaurant in Istanbul were the first ones to learn that Turkish ultranationalists don't flinch from using violence to protest China's "Ramadan ban" or other Chinese misdeeds. Even after Turkish police had to rescue the Korean tourists, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli tried to play down the recent wave of ultranationalist attacks and defended the attackers by pointing out that Chinese and Koreans both "have slanted eyes." While MHP-linked groups began openly printing death threats against Chinese, Beijing warned Chinese citizens traveling in Turkey to be on guard and stay away from anti-China protests. Amid rising tensions, Thailand further aggravated the situation by sending 173 Uyghur women and children to Turkey and then returning about 100 Uyghur migrants to China:
Thailand sends nearly 100 Uighur migrants back to China

Thailand confirmed on Thursday it had forcibly returned nearly 100 Uighur migrants to China, heightening tensions between Ankara and Beijing over the treatment of the Turkic language-speaking and largely Muslim minority.

"Thailand sent around 100 Uighurs back to China yesterday. Thailand has worked with China and Turkey to solve the Uighur Muslim problem. We have sent them back to China after verifying their nationality," Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.
A group of more than 170 Uighurs were identified as Turkish citizens and sent to Turkey, and nearly 100 were identified as Chinese and sent back to China. Fifty others still need to have their citizenship verified.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #102

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the entire country was widely celebrated in the U.S. and many other countries but not everyone welcomed the decision. Western media, which is more concerned about LGBT rights in Russia than in any other country, awaited eagerly how Russians would react to the ruling. The Washington Post was dumbfounded when influential journalist Dmitry Kiselyov and other prominent Russian figures didn't react as expected but fortunately Western journalists still got the reaction they were looking for. What went largely unnoticed is that Russians are not the only ones who see the U.S. Supreme Court ruling as a "big mistake." Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili assured his compatriots that he will do his best to prevent legalizing same-sex marriage in Georgia. This resonates with many people in his country. More and more Georgians are wondering whether Euro-Atlantic integration is really worth the trouble:
Spurned by the West, Georgians look to Russia despite past quarrels

In this fiercely pro-Western nation that fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, few thought the Kremlin could ever regain a toehold. But with the West backing away from Georgia’s path to E.U. and NATO membership after a year of conflict in Ukraine, pro-Russian sentiments are on the rise.

“More and more Georgians are feeling they haven’t gotten anything tangible from the West,” said Shorena Shaverdashvili, a prominent Georgian journalist. “There isn’t more love for Putin and Russia. It’s just a realization that we’re left face-to-face with Russia and we have to deal with it.”

“Georgia should be neutral, and it should be militarily free,” said Archil Chkoidze, the leader of Georgia’s Eurasian Choice, a coalition of pro-Russian groups that says it has nearly 16,000 members. Among the warnings about Europe that he passes to his members, he said, was that E.U. leaders are more concerned with cultural issues such as gay rights — deeply unpopular in a socially conservative nation — rather than the everyday lives of Georgian citizens.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The New Great Game Round-Up #101

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

When the Armenian authorities reluctantly approved a request by the country's energy monopoly, Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), to increase electricity tariffs from the beginning of August by 7 Armenian dram (1.5 U.S. cent), President Serzh Sargsyan and his government didn't expect that this could turn into a huge problem. They knew full well that ENA was trying to compensate for its losses, which had been caused by graft, but figured that the people would put up with yet another rate increase - the third one over the past two years. However, this time many Armenians decided that enough was enough. What started with a small sit-in in the center of Yerevan on June 19 soon evolved into huge protests on Baghramyan Avenue. As more and more people joined "Electric Yerevan," the government began to understand the gravity of the situation and tried to nip the protests in the bud:
Armenian Police Forcefully Disperse Yerevan Protesters, 18 Injured

Armenian police used force and water cannons to clear a demonstration in central Yerevan overnight after a standoff with activists protesting against rising electricity prices.

In the early hours of June 23, special police forces moved to disperse hundreds of protesters who spent more than nine hours seated in the street not far from the presidential compound.

The protesters insisted that their actions were peaceful and demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian revoke the decision made by state regulators to raise electricity prices by 16 percent beginning August 1.
© Photo PHOTOLURE News Agency/Demotix/Corbis

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porkins Great Game: Episode #8 - Proxy War in Transnistria

On this edition of Porkins Great Game, Pearse Redmond and I discuss the appointment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Ukraine's Odessa region and how this ties in with recent developments surrounding the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria. We also take a look at the European Games in Azerbaijan and OMV's plans to build a 'Russian Nabucco' before we move on to Afghanistan. Pearse and I discuss what has been going on in northern Afghanistan recently and explain why the rivalry between the Taliban and ISIS spells more trouble for the war-torn country. We close out this month's episode with two weird terrorism stories involving Tajikistan's OMON commander, ISIS, "Syrian rebels" and British intelligence agencies.