The New Great Game Round Up- November 10, 2013

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

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

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

OSCE slams lack of choice in Tajikistan poll In power for more than 20 years, Rakhmon won over 83 percent of the vote according to official figures. He faced five little-known, mainly loyal challengers. His only serious rival was barred from running.

Tajikistan: "Elections" & Other Challenges

This serious rival is Oinihol Bobonazarova who was not able to participate in the election because she garnered only 201.000 of the required 210.000 signatures. Bobonazarova accused the Tajik authorities of interfering in her campaign. Law enforcement agencies allegedly arrested her supporters to prevent them from collecting signatures and Bobonazarova's campaign faced pressure from the state media, regional governors, neighborhood committee heads and even teachers. Tajik migrant workers in Russia and other countries, potential supporters of the Bobonazarova-led opposition, were disqualified from providing their signatures although they were still allowed to vote in the election. According to Fozil Mashrab, these efforts prove that the Rahmon regime was really afraid of Bobonazarova:

"The fact that Tajik authorities chose to disqualify the most vocal critic of the regime, who was trying to build her election platform on the single most important issue in the contemporary Tajik society - mass migration of the country's male population - demonstrated that she might have really frightened the regime even though, as some claim, she still did not stand a chance of unseating the incumbent in a heavily rigged election."

But, as Mashrab also stressed, opposing Rahmon can entail more serious consequences than not running in the presidential poll:

"The body of another vocal critic of Rahmon, Salim Shamsiddinov, who was the leader of the 1 million-strong ethnic Uzbek minority in Tajikistan, was found in a river in Uzbekistan several weeks ago after his disappearance earlier this year."

With dangerous opponents neutralized and the election easily won, Rakhmon's focus will shift to one of his biggest challenges, ensuring stability in the volatile region bordering Afghanistan. After the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan lately conquered a significant part of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province, Tajikistan's security is now even more threatened. IMU terrorists pose a threat to several countries in the region, as demonstrated by the activities of two IMU terrorists who were arrested in the Afghan capital this week [emphasis mine]: 

Afghan intel captures 2 IMU fighters in Kabul Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security announced that it captured two operatives from the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan during a raid in the capital city of Kabul. The fighters had trained in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan and were involved in recent fighting in the remote northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan. The NDS said the two IMU operatives had trained for 40 days in the Mir Ali and Miramshah areas of Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal agency, and that they then fought in the Wardoj district of Badakhshan prior to entering Kabul. It is unclear if the IMU operatives were in Kabul to conduct attacks.

Badakhshan's Warduj District, which serves as main base for the IMU, is not far from the Tajik-Afghan border. So Dushanbe is very interested in cooperating with Kabul to prevent the IMU and like-minded terrorist groups from spreading terror into Tajikistan. Since the Kremlin knows that plans to destabilize this region are ultimately aimed against Russia and China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan are not on their own in securing the border:

Tajikistan, Russia, Afghanistan sign border cooperation protocol Negotiations between chiefs of border services of Tajikistan, Russia and Afghanistan that took place at the Afghan border-crossing checkpoint, Sherkhan Bandar, on October 30 reportedly resulted in signing of a border cooperation protocol.

Khoushnoud Rahmatulloyev, a spokesman for the Border Guard Directorate, the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) of Tajikistan says the document provides for expansion of cooperation between the border services of the three countries, exchange of information and carrying out joint events.

Dushanbe already approved an agreement extending the presence of Russia's military base on Tajik territory until 2042. Now the Kremlin wants to complement the land forces base by renting Tajikistan's Ayni air force base:

Russia Starts Talks on Tajikistan's Ayni Air Base And Russia considers an air base in the country necessary to support Russian and CSTO military activities in Tajikistan to strengthen the border with Afghanistan, especially since Uzbekistan is refusing to cooperate with Russian efforts in the region and has effectively blockaded Tajikistan.

Drugs, Immigration, Terrorism Threaten Russia

Moscow is increasing its activities in the region and assuming a leading role in dealing with the mess in Afghanistan, which is directly affecting Russia. Afghan heroin, for example, is at the root of Russia's drug problem, one of the three main security challenges besides terrorism and illegal immigration. Russia holds the first place worldwide for the number of heroin addicts per capita and the supply is endless despite regular seizures of large quantities of drugs:

Russian Cops Seize $46M of Afghan Heroin Russia’s anti-drug agency said Wednesday that it had seized a total of $46 million worth of Afghan heroin, about 145 kilograms of the narcotic, during a recent series of raids. The drugs had been smuggled from Tajikistan inside trucks that passed through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in late October, the Federal Drug Control Service said in a statement.

Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), highlighted the existence of 2.000 drug-processing laboratories in northern Afghanistan specializing exclusively on the Russian market. And there is definitely no lack of criminal groups working to bring the Afghan products to Russia:

1,900 Gangs Smuggling Afghan Drugs to Russia – Anti-Narcotics Agency Almost 1,900 organized criminal groups and 150 major drug cartels in Central Asia are trafficking illicit drugs from Afghanistan to Russia, the head of Moscow's counter-narcotics agency said Friday.

Ivanov elaborated that 20.000 active members and 100.000 drug "mules" are employed by these drug gangs. As if this wasn't enough, not all Russian law enforcement officials are committed to the fight against drug trafficking and so heroin spreads even to the less populated parts of the country:  

Siberian Anti-Drug Police Chief Caught Selling Heroin The head of the Russian police’s anti-narcotics department in southwest Siberia has been arrested for selling heroin, local investigators said Monday.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is focused on another main security challenge. The recent anti-migrant riot in Moscow has triggered a debate about illegal immigration and new measures to handle the issue are being discussed. Proposals range from mandatory fingerprinting of everyone who enters Russia to using smart cameras to identify immigrants. For now the Russian authorities confine themselves to regular raids on apartments of supposed illegal immigrants:

Police to Raid Migrants' Apartments Every Friday

In the latest step by authorities to fight unlawful immigration following an anti-migrant riot earlier this month, the city's police chief said that Moscow police will raid apartments reportedly occupied by illegal migrants every Friday until the end of the year.

In the fight against terrorism, Russia's third main security challenge, there have been some noteworthy arrests in the last few days. After the terror attack in Volgograd drew attention to Russia's problem with female suicide bombers, law enforcement agencies intensified their efforts to identify the individuals behind the recruitment of women:

Radical Islamic organization's recruiter detained in Moscow Region A member of the Al Takfir wal-Hijra radical group has been detained in Balashikha, Moscow Region, on suspicion of recruiting young women for his organization, a Russian Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Female students recruited to extremist groups in Stavropol Territory Law enforcement services in the Stavropol Territory have carried out an operation, tracking down a "women's madrasah," where extremism was taught, the territorial security department has reported. "The information available suggests that some of the women who had undergone training at the madrasah went radical, or disappeared, or moved to Dagestan, while others travelled to the Middle East with their husbands to fight for the Muslims' freedom, where they vanished for good," the report said.

Sochi Hosts 'Gulag Olympics'

Dagestan is the preferred destination of male and female terrorists alike. Therefore it is hardly surprising that some female terrorists moved from the "women's madrasah" in Russia's Stavropol Krai to the Republic of Dagestan. With possibly more female suicide bombers hiding in the infamous region, local authorities specifically targeted Muslim women during the latest crackdown:  

Putin Targets Dagestan Insurgents as Olympics Loom Ahead of the Sochi Olympics in February, Russia is taking saliva samples from religiously conservative Muslim women, according to locals in the North Caucasus, gathering DNA so authorities can identify the body parts if any become suicide bombers. The move coincides with a drive by President Vladimir Putin to crack down on an Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, a province in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, east of Sochi.

President Putin does not want to take any risks with the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, the most expensive Games in history. Security is being prioritized especially after Prince Bandar's threat. Russian ground forces will be deployed around Sochi to protect the 22nd Winter Olympics. And this week, Russian security services announced that they had re-established the cooperation with British intelligence agencies, which had been halted after the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London:

Russia’s Spies Say Cooperating With British on Olympics

Russian security services said Friday that they are working with their British counterparts in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minster David Cameron said following a meeting in Sochi in May that they had agreed that their security services would cooperate over the Olympics.

But in the age of all-pervasive spying by NSA, GCHQ & Co., the so-called 'Gulag Olympics' in Sochi would not be complete without massive surveillance of 'all communications':  

Russia to monitor 'all communications' at Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia's powerful FSB security service plans to ensure that no communication by competitors or spectators goes unmonitored during the event, according to a dossier compiled by a team of Russian investigative journalists looking into preparations for the 2014 Games.

Edward Snowden's disclosures about the vast extent of NSA surveillance apparently shocked Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Russian spies realized that they have to increase their activities to catch up with the National Security Agency. The first step is the implementation of a new directive, which has immediately been criticized as unconstitutional:

FSB wants Russian internet communications to be recorded

Russia’s Communications Ministry, in cooperation with security services, is finalizing a directive obliging internet providers to record private internet communications. The major innovation of the new directive is that it would require internet providers to record constantly the last 12 hours or more of traffic coming through their servers, starting from July 1, 2014. This would allow the FSB secret service to control phone numbers, IPs, register entries, e-mails of social networks users etc.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is possible to have 100 percent security, 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. Let us see if the Russian population agrees with him and supports the new measures for the sake of fighting terrorism.

China Frustrated With Terrorism, CNN

Beijing knows a thing or two about mass surveillance as well. But in the last two weeks the Chinese government also had to experience that there is no such thing as 100 percent security when maximum safety precautions failed to prevent the fatal drive in Tiananmen Square and the latest attack near the provincial headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party in Taiyuan:

Coordinated IED blasts strike outside China Communist Party provincial HQ

At least one person has been killed and eight wounded after a series of improvised devices exploded outside an office building of a provincial headquarters of the Communist Party of China in Taiyuan.

Seven explosions occurred at around 07:40 local time near the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, South China Morning Post reports.

Police detained a 41-year-old Chinese ex-convict who confessed to planting the bombs in order to "take revenge on society" and so far there is no evidence implicating the East Turkestan forces in the attack. Analysts identify anger with local authorities and other grievances as motivation for a number of assaults on government offices and public facilities in recent years:

Attacks highlight contradictions of Beijing's 'stability' model

The root of all these incidents are linked to the increasing despair of locals at their failure to obtain justice in Chinese society, whether it is related to corruption, forced government acquisition of land, public health and safety hazards, unfairness in legal proceedings or dealing with party or government officials — especially the despised heavy-handed urban management officers known as "chengguan."

In dealing with societal problems, local governments have often acted contradictorily, opting for "stability" in favor of the needs of the public, crossing legal boundaries and using the police to stamp out civil unrest, further inflaming hostilities against the authorities.

At the same time, the deadly crash in Tianamen Square is still an important topic of conversation. This is above all due to Western media coverage of the incident and Washington's refusal to acknowledge it as a terrorist attack. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for fair and objective reporting of terrorist activity and warned against condoning terrorism. Especially one op-ed published by CNN was heavily criticized in the Chinese media [emphasis mine]:

CNN disrespects itself with terror sympathy

The US television channel CNN published an op-ed article on the jeep crash in Tiananmen Square last Monday on its official website recently. The article reviews the "repression" that the Chinese central government imposed on the Xinjiang Uyghur people and openly questions "whether Monday's alleged attack was a well-prepared terrorist act or a hastily assembled cry of desperation from a people on the extreme margins of the Chinese state's monstrous development machine." 

Western media likes expressing their sympathy and support for Xinjiang's violent terrorists through interviewing leading figures linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement such as Rebiya Kadeer.

The Global Times article echoes the observations made in the last round-up and it is important to take a closer look at Rebiya Kadeer and the various organizations associated with her.

Beijing reacted to the Tiananmen terror attack by strengthening security. China's Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun paid unannounced visits to subway stations in the Chinese capital, warned officers to be vigilant and asked commuters for their suggestions on further tightening security in the underground train network.

Furthermore, Beijing's Party chief Guo Jinlong outlined several measures, which will be adopted to contain the threat of terrorism:

Beijing braces to prevent future terror Guo said the Beijing government will improve supervision of rented housing, small- and medium-sized inns, and keep a closer eye on migrant people, especially those who "move suddenly."

Repercussion of the attack was not limited to Beijing and could be seen in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as well. General Peng Yong was removed from his position as chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Xinjiang six days after the deadly crash in Tiananmen Square and was subsequently replaced by Major General Liu Lei. While a leading Chinese terrorism expert is already predicting more terrorist attacks in China in the near future, the PLA joined forces with the Indian Army to prepare for this situation:

India, China begin 10-day anti-terror military drill India and China began a 10-day joint anti-terrorism drill on Tuesday. The first such exercise in southwestern China in five years comes days after the two countries signed a border defence cooperation agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing. 

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

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  1. Let’s see.

    1. I’m not sure Rahmon is afraid of Oinihol Bobonazarova who is essentially a pawn of Soros. He’s afraid of the people BEHIND Soros. And rightly so. Traditionally, post-Soviet Tajikistan has been handled by the State Department who controlled the local “Democrats” of Bobonazarova’s vintage and by the Nato’s cum Saudis’ Gladio structure in charge of the domestic and foreign Islamists and Aga Khan’s Ismailite thugs in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province. In the early 1990s, during the civil war, they all united against the pro-Russian Leninabad Clan who was in charge of this republic under Communists and the pro-Russian and pro-Soviet People’s Front formed in the Kulyab Region. The Front, led by glorious Sangak Safarov, liberated Dushanbe, stopped the pogroms of national minorities, beat the hell out of “Democrats” and Islamists and pushed them out of the country to Afghanistan. (This was when Amir Hattab of Al-Qaeda moved from Tajikistan to Chechnya. Sangak, who made Rahmon the first president of Tajikistan, was soon afterwards assassinated by the Russians on Yeltsin’s orders and Rahmon’s pleas. Sangak promised to restore the Soviet Union and they hated and feared him). It looks that Bobonazarova and IMU form a new tandem based on the old design. The puppet masters are the same, of course.

    2. What a wonderful, tongue-in-cheek name the Kremlin had chosen for its drug pushers: Federal Drug Control Service (Literally, “Control over the circulation of drugs.) And control they do, with their American comrades-in-arms taking good care of the production side of the business! The opening of Nato’s Russian transit corridor to Afghanistan sealed this friendship by creating new and exciting opportunities.

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