The Tajik Shoot-Out Behind Rumors of “Islamization”

Islamist Political Party Faces Conflict in Tajikistan

February 21, 2008


Ivan Watson, NPR

Mirzokhujar Ahmadov, a former Islamist opposition commander who now heads the anti-organized crime police unit in the former rebel stronghold town of Garm, walks past his jeep, which was strafed with bullets during a clash with an elite Tajik police unit in early February. Many Tajiks feared the incident would reignite Tajikistan’s civil war.

What role should Islam play in the daily life and politics of Muslim countries? Almost all of the secular authoritarian governments in former Soviet Central Asia have settled this divisive question by outlawing and, in some cases, brutally repressing Islamist movements. Only Tajikistan, a small country bordering Afghanistan, allows an Islamist political party to operate.

Muhiddin Kabiri is the chairman of Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party, the only legal Islamic political party in the former Soviet Union.

“It [makes] us unique and, at the same time, it’s a very big responsibility to show a new face of Islam, especially political Islam, in our region,” he says.

Kabiri describes himself as a moderate caught between two political extremes. He says the Central Asian region needs a new model “because the people are tired from secular authoritarian regimes and [religious] radicalism — radical groups, extremist groups,” he says.

A Party Increasingly Marginalized

The Islamic Renaissance Party started out in Soviet days as an underground youth movement. During the 1990s, it became a leading faction in an opposition coalition that fought a bloody civil war against the Russian-backed Tajik government. As part of a peace deal in 1997, the party’s fighters laid down their arms and promised not to try to turn Tajikistan into an Islamic republic.

“They reiterated their intent that they would not restructure the state — that Islam was part of their agenda, but it was not the only element,” says Roger Kangas, a Central Asia expert at the National Defense University in Washington.

But the Islamic Renaissance Party has been increasingly marginalized in the decade since the war. Kangas says its leader, Kabiri, is one of only two party members to win seats in Parliament after what he called deeply flawed elections.

“They’ve faced some difficult challenges, but I would say even with that, they’ve not radicalized,” Kangas says. “One could almost expect that to happen, but they’ve not.”

The Tajik government has jailed several top IRP leaders on corruption charges, while many former opposition fighters have been gradually forced out of positions in the Tajik security services.

Many Tajiks feared that a deadly clash earlier this month between rival factions within the Interior Ministry could reignite the civil war.

Echoes of Civil War

In Dushanbe, more than a hundred uniformed officers turned out for the funeral of an elite police colonel who was killed while trying to capture another police officer, former Islamist opposition field commander Mirzokhujar Ahmadov, who now heads a police department in a remote mountain town north of the capital.

In Garm, Ahmadov gave a visitor a tour of his bullet-riddled headquarters, where he was still working weeks after the incident. Dressed in a fur hat and flashing several gold teeth, Ahmadov insisted his men fought in self defense when they found themselves suddenly surrounded by more than 30 masked Interior Ministry troops.

The commander demonstrated how he fought with a Kalashnikov assault rifle from a window on the second floor of his building.

Outside the building, blood still marked the snow where the slain police commander, Oleg Zakharchenko, was shot in the head. During the civil war, Zakharchenko fought with the pro-government faction.

“Our [police] unit is the only left from the former opposition in Garm,” Ahmadov said. “That’s why they want to capture or prosecute us like they did the others.”

The former rebel commander said he would not abandon his post, even if the government sends more troops to arrest him.

“If they do that, it will mean the start of another civil war,” Ahmadov said.

Claims of Government Oppression

Kabiri, of the Islamic Renaissance Party, denies any links to Ahmadov. Instead, he complains about what he says is government oppression of the young generation of devout Muslims in Tajikistan.

In recent years, the government has banned women from wearing Islamic headscarves in schools, closed a number of mosques and banned woman and children from attending mosques.

In the town of Vahdat, the Muslim cleric claims observant Muslims had more freedom during the last years of the Soviet Union than they do today. Why, the priest asks, are women prohibited from entering mosques while they are allowed to go to bars and nightclubs?

As for the ban on children in mosques, that decree is largely ignored at the mosque in Vahdat. Many young boys prayed and studied the Quran side by side with more than a hundred men.

Creeping Islamization?

Among many secular Tajiks, there is growing concern about what some describe as the creeping Islamization of Tajik society.

“We’re scared they want to take us back to the Middle Ages,” says Saifula Safarov, who runs a government think tank in Dushanbe. “After all, we’re not very far from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Parviz Mulujanov, a Tajik political analyst, worries that government pressure may drive politically active Muslims underground.

“If you put pressure on them … you would see new leaders coming up. New leaders of a more radical character,” Mulujanov says. “You would see a rise of confrontation between this political party and the government.”

That’s a view echoed by Western diplomats in Dushanbe — and by Islamic Renaissance Party leader Kabiri, who says he has come under fire from hard-line Islamists, who accuse him of not being Muslim enough.

“Any violation of rights, they will help radicalism and radical groups,” he says.

Tajikistan: The opposition braces itself for clashes with the regular army

04.02.2008 12:56 msk

Kommersant (Moscow)

Oleg Zakharchenko. Photo by Asia-Plus

Situation in Tajikistan took a definite turn for the worse last week-end. Colonel Oleg Zakharchenko, commander of the Interior Ministry’s OMON (special assignment police squad) was killed in a clash between representatives of two different security structures in Garm located 220 kilometers east of Dushanbe. The opposition claims that OMON was dispatched to Garm to deal with former activists of the United Tajik Opposition energetically hunted down all over the republic these days. Official Dushanbe denies the innuendo. What information is available indicates that the Tajik authorities prepare a major military operation to find the officer’s killers and avenge his death. Garm population braces itself for defense of the township. Threat of a new civil war is once again the talk of the day.

Preparations for a reporting back conference of law enforcement agencies lasted in Garm all last week. The authorities maintain hat Zakharchenko with some subordinates set out for conference in Garm on Saturday. When Zakharchenko with his men approached the Garm District Department of Internal Affairs, however, they were set upon by men wielding automatic weapons. The skirmish lasted 30-40 minutes. “Zakharchenko was killed right then and there. His four subordinates were wounded and hospitalized,” RIA-Novosti quoted a source in the Tajik Interior Ministry as saying.

The opposition meanwhile claims that participation in the conference was not what Zakharchenko intended. “They [OMON servicemen – Kommersant] rode up in two KamAZ trucks, formed a ring around the building of the district department of internal affairs, and told the people inside to lay down their weapons,” Dodojon Atovulloyev of the movement Vatandor said. According to the opposition leader, the visitors were particularly interested in Colonel Mirzohodja Ahmadov, Organized Crime Department Commander. Ahmadov himself confirmed it in an interview with the BBC Persian Service on Saturday. A field commander of the United Tajik Opposition in the civil war in Tajikistan (1992 – 1997), he commands vast respect from his former subordinates and the locals. Ahmadov said he knew for a fact that the republican OMON was coming to eliminate him for his past with the United Tajik Opposition.

Representatives of the opposition maintain that an undeclared war on former activists of the United Tajik Opposition is under way in the republic, mounted on President Emomali Rakhmon’s orders. “A great deal of them were imprisoned. Others are waiting for their turn,” Atovulloyev told this correspondent. The authorities began with ex-leaders of the opposition (people like former head of the Customs Committee Mirzohidji Nizomov, Tajikgaz ex-director and Democratic Party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov) and worked their way down to whoever had never occupied any key positions in the United Tajik Opposition. Mukim Muhabbatov, commander of a border guards detachment and the brother of a prominent opposition activist Salam Muhabbatov, was killed last summer under suspicious circumstances. Major Tohir Chorshanbiyev, commander of another border guards detachment and another ex-commander of the United Tajik Opposition, was arrested in Gorny Badakhshan last year. The order to collar Chorshanbiyev came from Dushanbe and it was to Dushanbe that he was promptly escorted. When Chorshanbiyev was taken to Dushanbe, however, his followers in Gorny Badakhshan took a hostage (the head of the local state security department), and the authorities were compelled to let Chorshanbiyev go. Last but not the least, arrest of another former activist of the United Tajik Opposition was attempted in Garm not long ago. This man, however, escaped.

Spokesman for the Tajik Interior Ministry claims that this structure and the State Committee for National Security set up an investigation panel and dispatched it to Garm. What information is available to this newspaper indicates that the authorities prepare a major military operation to avenge Zakharchenko’s death. Several rallies took place in the Garm district yesterday, their participants demanding from the authorities to put an end to provocations that might trigger a new civil war.

Source: Kommersant, February 4, 2008, p. 10. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru

Summer of Discontent

Summer of Discontent

A growing mass of energized, angry White people have shifted the political spectrum. From a pro-White perspective, this is a good thing.

Atlanta, Georgia

Writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cynthia Tucker connects the dotsbetween the Arizona immigration showdown, the Ground Zero Mosque debate, opposition to birthright citizenship, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, and the growing perception in America that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

White people are afraid of their impending minority status.

Changing racial demographics have created a season of “civic craziness.” It has provoked a “backlash against the browning of America” which is now “blowing” at “gale force.”

A broad economic recovery is needed to “drain the vicious energy from the backlash.” Economic prosperity will “restore faith” in the American Dream. Right now that “faith is fading” and Muslims are the “easiest targets.”

That’s not far off the mark.

First, there is an Implicit White Nationalist movement that is deformed in various ways by the reigning taboos of our society. The people involved in this movement yearn to return the more innocent days of White America while dodging uncomfortable questions about race.

Implicit White Nationalists are like nostalgic goldfish who demand to preserve their environment while failing to acknowledge the existence of an aquarium. They are animated by the same impulses as Explicit White Nationalists, but would never publicly admit it for fear of losing their respectability.

Second, the Implicit White Nationalist movement is fueled by the symbolism of a negro alien in the White House and the economic dislocation that has followed in the wake of his election. If the economy started booming again, as it did under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, “nativist sentiment” would undoubtedly subside, and would decline further still under a reassuring White president.

Third, Muslims and illegal aliens are soft targets, and White people can get away with attacking them in the mainstream without having to suffer much in the way of consequences. As Tucker points out, the number of illegal aliens coming to America has declined, but the perception that illegal immigration is a problem has grown.

White America has undeniably grown more sensitive about questions of identity. The terrible economy, a non-White president, changing demographics, and challenges to their cultural identity have all contributed to this insolent attitude.

This is also the exact opposite of the analysis that prevails in White Nationalist circles.

From the vantagepoint of the Far Left, White America is moving away from them in a reactionary direction. From the perspective of the Far Right, White America is still so far away from the radical position that it appears nothing has changed.

The mainstream Left has been discredited. Barack Obama’s coalition has collapsed and the Democrats will likely lose the House in November. The mainstream Right has been under attack from insurgent Tea Party candidates.

A growing mass of energized, angry White people have shifted the political spectrum. From a pro-White perspective, this is a good thing.

People who are mad as hell, politically engaged, feel like outsiders, and who are searching for answers to America’s national decline are already traveling down the road to radicalism.

The real question is this: are the existing radicals willing to build bridges to their peers, or will the purists continue to burn them?

Military Admits to Ultrasonic Mind-Control Devices

Standard Issue Mind Control DARPA wants ultrasound-enhanced helmets that allow soldiers to stimulate certain regions of their brains.

DARPA has been trying to crawl inside the minds of soldiers for a while now, but a new ultrasound technology could let them get deeper inside than ever. Working under a DARPA grant, a researcher at Arizona State is developing transcranial pulsed ultrasound technology that could be implanted in troops’ battle helmets, allowing soldiers to manipulate brain functions to boost alertness, relieve stress, or even reduce the effects of traumatic brain injury.

Manipulating the brain to enhance warfighting capabilities and maintain mental acuity on the battlefield has long been a topic of interest for DARPA and various military research labs, but the technology to do so remains limited. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), for instance, requires surgically implanted electrodes to stimulate neural tissues, while less-invasive methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) possess limited reach and low spatial resolution.

But Dr. William J. Tyler, an assistant professor of life sciences at ASU, writes on the DoD’s “Armed With Science” blog: “To overcome the above limitations, my laboratory has engineered a novel technology which implements transcranial pulsed ultrasound to remotely and directly stimulate brain circuits without requiring surgery. Further, we have shown this ultrasonic neuromodulation approach confers a spatial resolution approximately five times greater than TMS and can exert its effects upon subcortical brain circuits deep within the brain.”Tyler’s technology, packaged in a warfighter’s helmet, would allow soldiers to flip a switch to stimulate different regions of their brains, helping them relieve battle stress when it’s time to get some rest, or to boost alertness during long periods without sleep. Grunts could even relieve pain from injuries or wounds without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs. More importantly, in the periods after brain trauma ultrasound technology could reduce swelling and metabolic damage that is often the root cause of lasting brain damage.

The Overlooked Good Intentions of Turkmenistan

And no one, not an enemy, and so …

Bayram Kurbanov

The main foreign-policy doctrine of Turkmenistan is the so-called “permanent and positive neutrality.” In the photo: the presidents of the Caspian states summit in Tehran, October 2007

In addition to declarations of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and others, the proclamation of neutrality had a very specific motives.

It is no secret that many of the CIS leaders anxiously watching for the national-communist renaissance in Russia, believing that after this may be followed by the Russian overtures to restore the Soviet Union. Not wanting to risk and hedging of such risks before the State Duma elections in Russia, the government of Turkmenistan has decided to further strengthen its sovereignty, and in 1996 adopted a constitutional law on the “direct and positive neutrality of Turkmenistan”, was amended in the constitution but on one of the meetings of the General Assembly was submitted a declaration of sovereignty, which received unanimous approval, which was confirmed by the relevant resolution. In fairness it should be noted that no legal filling this resolution the General Assembly and does not imply any obligation in respect of Turkmenistan, the United Nations in accordance with it shall not be held.

Another motive was the fact that the armed forces of Turkmenistan at that time were the weakest in the region. Affected the mass exodus of military experts in Russia and other countries, the lack of proper skills and base their training. And this at a time when Iran has already become a strong and well-armed and ambitious regional player, who proclaimed messianic ideas. In neighboring Afghanistan, was the height of the civil war and a wave of Taliban, rather transparently hinted at the establishment of the Caliphate, including the territory of Central Asia.

Also remained many unresolved issues with neighbors in the former Soviet Union. If Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have been no serious disagreement over territorial and other problems, then to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, these problems were part of them remains to this day.

One of the main problems in Central Asia – access to water resources – both time and became the principal in the relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The main source of water – the Amu Darya enters the territory of Turkmenistan is from Uzbekistan, nourishes the Karakum Canal, and then plays the role of the border river between the two countries. The quantity and quality of water flowing into the territory of a State has always played the role of “powder keg”. And this issue is still unresolved, between the two countries do not have full agreement on the division of water and mutual guarantees of quotas and monitoring water quality. The existing intergovernmental commission annually produces the quota intake volume for each country, but alas, no full-fledged legal framework. Additional mutual suspicion and distrust is the fact of finding the head water intakes, carrying water into the country, the territories of neighboring states. It always leaves room for blackmail and speculation, especially because the Uzbek government has repeatedly hinted that they were ready to take control of strategic and vital facilities, even on the territories of neighboring states. Effect on the inter-state relations and the fate of a large Uzbek minority in Turkmenistan is exposed, and exposed hitherto national discrimination.

An even more serious situation around the Caspian Sea. Numerous speculations on commodities and transit potential of the Caspian Sea, has created a series of verbal and diplomatic conflicts and territorial claims. The quintessence of these disputes and conflicts have become words of the first President of Turkmenistan Niyazov at a meeting on the status of the Caspian Sea, that “… the Caspian oil does not smell, and blood …”. Things have gone so far that between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan until recently there was virtually no full diplomatic relations, including the lack of ambassadors and embassies. Was renewed dialogue between the countries after coming to power, the second president of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was again marred by a number of mutual claims and statements, which again postponed the decision of the territorial issues between countries. In this case, the Azerbaijani authorities are well aware that alternative routes for transporting Russian Turkmen main resource – natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe can now take place only through the waters of the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan. Using this fact, the authorities have taken the last fence, leaving the decision on determining the status of the Caspian Sea and the delineation of the disputed fields “for later”, waiting for concessions from Turkmenistan.

Paradoxically, it is now the strongest guarantor of stability in the region is a country which has no common borders with Turkmenistan – China. After commissioning of the pipeline Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China, the latter to build a pipeline for their money, managed to combine economic and partly political interests of suppliers and transit countries, thereby forcing the delay, suspend or eliminate the critical moments in the relationship. None of the leaders in the region will not dare to jeopardize its gas exports to China to deal with some bilateral issues, which is a serious limiting factor in international relations. Moreover, given the fact that China and Iran have a long-standing “strategic” relationship, China has already performed a counterweight to Iran’s desire to occupy a dominant position in Turkmenistan. In fact, already happened division of spheres of economic influence, in which Turkmenistan is more involved in China’s orbit. Numerous Chinese loans, supply of equipment and contracts for maintenance, guarantees on long-term and increasing purchases of natural gas, on the one hand, and the fundamental failure of China to intervene in the internal affairs of Turkmenistan, on the other hand, make it until a certain time is almost the ideal partner for Turkmen authorities.

But the main problem for Turkmenistan, as well as for the whole of Central Asia, Afghanistan is long. Threat of the spread of radical Islam, terrorism, drug trafficking and the refugee problem, all this makes the government of Turkmenistan seriously engage in relationships with this country. Based on the principles of the concept of positive neutrality, at all times of internal conflict in Afghanistan, the Turkmen authorities were able to find common language with all parties, whether they are representatives of the Taliban, the regional leaders in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. After the departure of the Taliban, the Turkmen leadership also adheres to this strategy – on the one hand developing relations with the central authorities in Kabul and negotiating with them to build a trans-Afghan gas pipeline to Pakistan and India, on the other hand, developing cross-border cooperation with local authorities.

Having, as they seemed undoubted success in building a “positive neutrality”, the Turkmen authorities have gone further and have hosted the country’s Centre for Preventive Diplomacy United Nations, which aims to play a role no one arbitrator and the center of peacemaking in the event conditions for conflicts and their prevention. However, neither local nor international observers did not note a significant activity and activities of the Centre for conflict resolution in the region and regard the existence of the Centre solely as another fetish in the frame so dear to the Turkmen authorities’ positive neutrality. “

Belarus Secret Mission to Turkmenistan Hunt for Resources or Anti-Soviet Allies?

Secret mission to Turkmenistan Viktor Sheiman

Edward Gevarkin

Ashgabat visited the Assistant to the President of the Republic of Belarus Viktor Sheiman roving (pictured), who conveyed greetings to President of Turkmenistan and a written message from his Belarusian counterpart.

Information on the meeting there was little if any. Internet newspaper leads only “semi-official”:

– During the meeting the sides expressed mutual interest in the development of traditionally friendly relations between Turkmenistan and Belarus, to discuss the main directions of cooperation. Among them – the purchase of Turkmenistan of Belarusian agricultural and other special equipment, and training of Turkmen specialists in Belarusian universities.

In addition, it is reported that Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov addressed the Belarusian partners a proposal for construction of a residential village for employees of ore processing plant for the production of potash, which Belarusians erected in Lebap Turkmenistan.

However, what this all was the extent of how I can not believe. It is unlikely that the Assistant President for Special Assignments Viktor Sheiman cost to fly thousands of miles away, to express “their mutual interest in the development of traditionally friendly relations.”

“We all try to keep secret from their people” – said the correspondent of news portal http://www.UDF.BY political commentator Roman Yakovlevsky. He believes that the visit to Ashgabat spetsporuchentsa with a personal letter to Lukashenko, could pursue the goal of “somehow gain access to Turkmenistan’s considerable resources, both natural and financial.”

In this regard, R. Yakauleuski, given that Sheiman, chief curator of the Venezuelan project, did not rule out “the strategic plans Lukashenko on the relationship of Turkmen gas from the Venezuelan oil (supply, production). As for the silence of this visit in the state media, then, according to the political observer, it “shows once again who and what floor the authorities identifies and pursues a foreign policy of Belarus.”

America’s Vast Fuel Pipeline Network

America’s Vast Fuel Pipeline Network

How Dangerous Is It For Communities Like San Bruno and Walnut Creek?

Deadly gas pipeline explosions in Walnut Creek in 2004 and now in San Bruno raise questions about how safe pipelines are, especially those that run near homes, schools and downtowns.

Nearly half a million miles of oil and gas transmission pipeline crisscross the United States. They carry volatile or flammable materials and alternately run through remote and densely populated regions–including through residential neighborhoods and near suburban downtowns.

This is certainly the case in two Bay Area towns–Walnut Creek and San Bruno–that have been rocked by deadly gas pipeline explosions in the past six years.

At least four people are now confirmed dead in Thurday evening’s explosion and fire in San Bruno, which erupted from a punctured natural gas pipeline. More than 50 people have been injured, and an entire neighborhood has been devastated.

That kind of hazardous incident, so close to where people live is sadly familiar to Walnut Creek residents. In 2004, a backhoe operator helping to install a water main along South Broadway breached a high-pressure gas pipeline. The backhoe operator and crew were working along a stretch of South Broadway a half mile from downtown, across the street from Las Lomas High School and adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The breach ignited a fireball that killed five construction workers and injured four others; it also badly damaged one nearby home.

There are roughly 180,000 miles of oil pipeline in the United States carrying more than 75 percent of the nation’s crude oil and around 60 percent of its refined petroleum, according to a 2004 congressional report, Pipeline Security: An overview of Federal Activities and Current Policy Issues. (PDF attached). The U.S. natural gas pipeline network consists of around 210,000 miles of interstate transmission, plus approximately 75,000 miles of intrastate transmission.

Despite this “staggering web of explosive gas wrapped up tightly in metal pipes,” catastrophes like the ones  in Walnut Creek and now in San Bruno “are surprisingly few and far between.” So says a report published Friday by MarketWatch.

Quoting U.S. Department of Transportation figures, Marketwatch said that over the past two decades, there have been 846 “significant” accidents from onshore gas transmission, resulting in 33 fatalities, 173 injuries and $757 million in property damage. “That comes to an average of 42 accidents per year dating back to 1990, with two deaths, nine injures and almost $38 million in damage.”

The transportation department defines significant accidents as incidents involving a fatality or serious injury or at least $50,000 in damage in 1984 dollars, MarketWatch says.

Similarly, the congressional report contends:

“Taken as a whole, releases from pipelines cause relatively few annual fatalities. Oil pipelines reported an average of 1.4 deaths per year from 1997-2001. Gas pipelines reported an average of 18.6 deaths per year during the same period.”

The most common causes of “pipeline releases” include third-party excavation, corrosion, mechanical failure, control system failure and operator error, the congressional report says. Natural forces, such as floods and earthquakes, can also damage pipelines.

The explosion that rocked San Bruno’s neighborhood of single-family homes was caused by the rupture of a 30-inch Pacific Gas and Electric Co. natural gas pipeline.

The National Transportation Safety Board will join local officials in determining the cause of the rupture. PG&E has acknowledged that a company gas transmission line was ruptured prior to Thursday night’s explosion. Some residents told reporters they had smelled gas in the neighborhood and had seen PG&E trucks in the area in the days before the explosion.

In the 2004 Walnut Creek explosion, a Houston-based energy company was found, under a 2007 criminal plea agreement, to be the “proximate cause of the puncture of the line and of the deaths and injuries that resulted,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Kinder Morgan, the nation’s largest underground fuel shipper, had failed to properly mark a bend in its Walnut Creek pipeline near where the crew was working on the water main.

The families of those killed and injured by the blast also reached separate civil settlements totaling at least $69 million with Kinder Morgan and other companies that were involved in the incident, including the Livermore contractor doing the water main installation for the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Colombia’s president unveils major offensive against guerrillas

Colombia’s president unveils major offensive against guerrillas

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (R) speaks with Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera during a meeting at the Defense ministry in Bogota

BOGOTA: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday he would “redouble” the military’s offensive against leftist guerillas after attack killed 40 police and military officers.

Colombia’s rebel groups have launched a string of deadly attacks in recent weeks following the inauguration of Santos, a former defense minister who has promised to keep pressure on the insurgents.

“We have decided to intensify the offensive… so that these criminals do not have time to plan their operations,” Santos said in Monteria, in Cordoba department.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — Latin America’s oldest and most powerful insurgency — and the National Liberation Army (ELN) traditionally carry out more violent attacks during government transitions. Santos took power on August 7.

Eight police officers were killed in clashes with leftist rebels Friday in southwestern Colombia near the border with Ecuador in a shootout with members of the Marxist FARC who tried to take over San Miguel town in Putumayo province.

Santos has rejected a rebel offer of peace talks, calling for them to first free hostages and stop recruiting minors.

– AFP/fa

No democracy for Russia

No democracy for Russia

Parliamentary democracy would be catastrophic for Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday, showing his suspicion of Western systems of government despite a drive to modernise the country.

Medvedev, who liberals hoped would prove a major political reformer when he took power in 2008, told a meeting of international experts that Russia’s system of government was not in need of major change.

“Nothing needs to be radically changed. Not because it is not allowed, but because there is no need,” Medvedev told the meeting at a forum in the Volga city of Yaroslavl.

Medvedev said Russia does not want a system like that of Kyrgyzstan, which is due to elect a strong parliament in October after agreeing constitutional changes that reduced the powers of the president.

“We are told about parliamentary democracy and our Kyrgyz friends have gone along that path,” he said.

“But for Russia — and I fear for Kyrgyzstan — parliamentary democracy is a catastrophe,” he added.

Russian politics is dominated by the president and his powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, with the pliant parliament usually only providing a loyal rubber stamp for legislation proposed from above.

Although touted by his supporters as a liberal moderniser, critics accuse Medvedev of doing nothing to dismantle the strong state control imposed on Russian politics over the last years.

Little serious criticism ever comes from parliament, police regularly break up even small-scale opposition protests and, crucially, changes that abolished the elections of regional governors in 2004 remain firmly in place.

Since former president Putin rose to power 10 years ago, Russian officials have insisted the country will develop its own political system sometimes called “sovereign democracy”.

State television pictures showed Medvedev addressing the experts next to the Kremlin’s shadowy chief idealogue Vladislav Surkov, seen as the architect of the current political system.

Medvedev admitted that Russia had endured a “difficult relationship” with democracy in its history and amid the chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s many had associated democracy with poverty.

But he said Russia did not want to go along the path of China by developing the economy and keeping all political reform in check.

But anyone who says that Russia has a totalitarian system is “either lying or has a terrible memory,” he said. Medvedev said protests were “normal” but had to take place “within the limits of the law”.

“There is democracy in Russia,” Medvedev said in a speech to the forum. “Yes, it’s young, immature and inexperienced but it is democracy. We are right at the start of the road.”

Medvedev has made the theme of his presidency an ambitious modernisation drive to end corruption and wean Russia off its dependence on hydrocarbon reserves by building an innovation-based economy.

A lawyer by training, he took over the Kremlin after ex-KGB agent Putin ruled Russia as president for the maximum two consecutive terms allowed by the constitution.

But the prime minister is allowed to stand in the next presidential elections and speculation is high that Putin might run, especially after he dropped a reference this week to four-term US president Franklin Roosevelt.

Medvedev’s spokeswoman said Friday his modernisation plans for Russia are not just for one presidential term, in a possible hint he is interested in a second mandate in 2012.

“Achieving these goals goes beyond the term of one presidential mandate,” Natalya Timakova told state English channel Russia Today.

Pro-Kremlin analyst Gleb Pavlovksy told Interfax that he now saw Medvedev as a candidate for the 2012 elections as he had “linked the development of society to freedom and linked himself to that concept.”cw

Evidence of Successful CIA/Special Forces Psyop On American Soil

[SEE: Islam divides angry America on 9/11 anniversary ]

Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque

By Mark Ames

Getty Images

So far, the debate over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has unfolded along predictable lines, with the man at the center of the project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, drawing attacks from the right painting him as a terrorist sympathizer with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But meanwhile, links between the group behind the controversial mosque, the CIA and U.S. military establishment have gone unacknowledged.

For instance, one of the earliest backers of the nonprofit group, the Cordoba Initiative, that is spearheading the Ground Zero mosque, is a 52-year-old Scarsdale, New York, native named R. Leslie Deak. In addition to serving on the group’s board of advisors since its founding in 2004 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Deak was its principal funder, donating $98,000 to the nonprofit between 2006 and 2008. This figure appears to represent organization’s total operating budget—though, oddly, the group reported receipts of just a third of that total during the same time period.

Deak describes himself as a “Practicing Muslim with background in Christianity and Judaism, [with] in-depth personal and business experiences in the Middle East, living and working six months per year in Egypt.” Born into a Christian home, Deak became an Orthodox Jew and married a Jewish woman before converting to Islam when he married his current wife, Moshira Soliman, with whom he now lives in Rye.

Leslie Deak’s resume also notes his role as “business consultant” for Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a private defense contractor with offices in Winter Park, Florida, and in Tucson. The only names listed on the firm’s website are those of its three “strategic advisers.” These include retired four-star General Bryan “Doug” Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command until 2007, where he headed “all special operations forces, both active duty and reserve, leading the Global War On Terrorism,” and James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he “managed the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of its multi-billion dollar budget” and “served as head of America’s Clandestine Service, the CIA’s operational response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Besides Pavitt, Brown and a third advisor, banker Alexander Cappello, the Patriot Defense Group is so secretive it doesn’t even name its management team, instead describing its anonymous CEO as a former Special Forces and State Department veteran, the group’s managing director as a former CIA officer experienced in counter-terrorism in hostile environments and the group’s corporate intelligence head as a “23-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service who worked on the personal security details of former Presidents Bush and Clinton.”

Leslie Deak and Moshira Soliman/ PanachePrive

Patriot Defense Group’s primary business involves leveraging its government connections and know-how. The firm is divided into two divisions: one that “focuses exclusively on the needs of the U.S. military and law enforcement communities as well as the requirements of friendly foreign governments,” and a corporate division, which “provides business intelligence and specialized security services to corporate clients and high net-worth family enterprises.”

So, to recap: From 2006 to 2008, R. Leslie Deak worked as a “business consultant” to this super-secretive security contractor with ties to the CIA and counterterrorism forces, and in those same three years he also donated nearly $100,000 in seed money to the foundation now advocating the construction of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

Interestingly, during the same three-year period during which the Deak Family Foundation was financing the Cordoba Initiative, Deak also donated a total of $101,247 to something called the National Defense University Foundation. The National Defense University is a network of war and strategy colleges and research centers (including the National War College) funded by the Pentagon, designed to train specialists in military strategy. The organization recently announced a November 5 dinner gala in honor of Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Robert Gates. Sponsors include Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and…the Patriot Defense Group.

Deak also sits on the NDUF’s board of directors, the chairman of which is Mark Treanor, the former general counsel for Wachovia bank from 1998 through its collapse in 2008 and a major bundler of campaign donations for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008. Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, was recently fined $160 million for laundering “at least $110 million” in Mexican drug moneybetween 2003 and 2008, while Treanor was Wachovia’s general counsel, though the figure is likely higher since Wachovia admitted it didn’t put any controls on at least $420 billion—that’s billion—in cash moved through its network of Mexico currency exchanges.

Which leads to another odd coincidence: Laundering money for drug lords is what brought down Deak & Co., the company run by Leslie Deak’s father, Nicholas Deak, years ago. The elder Deak, a former top intelligence commander during World War II for the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA), was the founder of Deak-Perera, which became for a time one of the world’s biggest foreign currency and gold dealers. But in 1984, a Presidential Commission on Organized Crime accused the firm of acting as a money laundering operation for Columbia drug cartels, who reportedly brought sacks of cash containing tens of millions of dollars into Deak’s Manhattan offices. By the end of 1984, Deak & Co. had declared bankruptcy, and a year later, Nicholas Deak was murdered in the company’s headquarters at 29 Broadway by a deranged homeless woman.

After the firm went bankrupt and Leslie Deak was left on his own, the corporation was broken up and sold off in pieces. One company that traces its beginnings to the defunct Deak empire is Goldline International, a business concern well known to fans of Glenn Beck as well as California investigators. Goldline is to Glenn Beck what General Electric was to Ronald Reagan: The company sponsors Beck’s TV and radio shows as well as his touring act, and Beck is its public face. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, along with the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office, are currently investigating Goldline for defrauding customers by railroading gullible customers into buying their most debased products.

Speaking of Glenn Beck, it has been reported that Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the second-largest shareholder in News Corp., the parent company Fox News, which airs Beck’s program, is also a major funder of Imam Rauf’s projects, as Jon Stewart viewers heard all about last week.

Coincidences happen, of course. (For instance, Pamela Geller, the blogger who’s become the leading voice denouncing the mosque project was once, bizarrely enough, associate publisher of The New York Observer.)

But add to this array of unexpected connections the work of Imam Rauf on behalf of the U.S. government—which includes serving as an FBI “consultant” and being recruited as a spokesperson by longtime George W. Bush confidante Karen Hughes, who headed up the administration’s propaganda efforts in the Muslim world—and a compelling picture begins to emerge. Bush’s favorite Imam, with backing from a funder with connections to the CIA, the Pentagon and the currency trading company that now sponsors rightwing firebrand Glenn Beck, proposes to build a mosque around the corner from the site of the most devastating terrorist attack ever visited on America. In the name of “[cultivating] understanding among all religions and cultures,” he puts forth a project that offends a majority of Americans and deals a significant setback to the broader acceptance of Muslim-Americans. It’s a little like Billy “White Shoes” Johnson claiming the only reason he moonwalks after scoring a touchdown is to lower tensions on the football field and raise the other team’s spirits.

Whether the Cordoba Initiative ever gets its way with the Ground Zero Mosque, it may well have a lasting legacy at odds with its stated intention: By damaging the very moderates and progressives who actually view New York, and the nation as a whole, as a tolerant melting pot, and strengthening the position demagogues on both sides, it will almost certainly deal a setback to interfaith relations. It will also help to hobble the Democratic party. Which just might have been the point all along.

Either that, or it’s merely a coincidence that this controversy has erupted now, during crucial mid-term elections. In which case we can all go back to what we were doing before—either denouncing the Park51 Mosque as an affront to Americans, or championing it as a symbol of our fundamental rights-playing our accustomed roles in a drama that seems too perfect, somehow, to believe.

Who, Besides Armenia, Would This Sale Threaten?

Purchase of S-300 defense complex to raise Azerbaijan’s defense capacity

Ruslan Pukhov
News.Az interviews Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Russian Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

Is it expedient for Azerbaijan to purchase S-300 air defense complex?

In the Soviet times Azerbaijan had a strong air defense system which degraded later. Therefore, if they have money, why not buy the new complex? Again if Americans decide to launch any military operation against Iran, by this complex Azerbaijan will be able to knock down rockets which will fly to its territory. In this connection, Azerbaijani servicemen take into account the duration of approaching of military targets to their borders. Considering these moments, I understand the logic of Azerbaijani servicemen. Yes, these complexes are certainly expensive but they will not save on security, especially because Azerbaijan’s budget affords buying such arms.

Is it militarily expedience to purchase such an expensive complex, when it is possible to get another missile defense system at the lesser price for such big sums?

The analogue of S-300 complex is only the US Patriot. I think Americans would hardly agree to sell Patriot to Azerbaijan considering the independent and balanced foreign policy conducted by Baku. As far as I know, the then president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev and later current President Ilham Aliyev have said on different levels that they will not provide support to Americans in case of military operations because Azerbaijanis live there. This is why, it would not be wise. Azerbaijan does not fully lie under Americans. It is trying to hold its own policy not against the United States but for the interests of its country. It is clear that the country which holds such policy will hardly receive the newest arms system from Americans. I have never heard of the facts of large purchases of arms from the United States by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan buys equipment from those who do not set political provisions.

Are Armenia’s concerns about purchase of S-300 complex by Azerbaijan true?

This complex is possibly excessive for Azerbaijan since Armenian side has no potential to strike Azerbaijan. Armenian aviation, at least the offensive, is in a poor state. However, the Azerbaijani servicemen are looking into the future and they cannot base on the possible shift in the balance of powers and the purchase of any arms by Armenians.

Certainly, the purchase of S-300 complex by Azerbaijan is a drama for Armenia, considering the ties with Russia and relations within CSTO. But Russia seems to believe that S-300 is a defensive weapon and “if you do not attack, it does not pose a threat to you”.

Will the purchase of this complex by Azerbaijan frustrate the military balance in the region?

As for the balance of powers between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it has long been not in favor of Armenia. Therefore, the purchase of S-300 complex by Azerbaijan will not change the balance of powers too much. Azerbaijan is gaining weight, while Armenia is at least stagnating if not losing it. Therefore, it is clear that the balance of powers is not in Armenia’s favor. However, the S-300 complex may raise the defense capacity of Azerbaijan.

Leyla Tagiyeva


Envoy: Eastern European, Baltic states want rift between NATO, Russia

Envoy: Eastern European, Baltic states want rift between NATO, Russia

Envoy: Eastern European, Baltic states want rift between NATO, Russia

Russia’s permanent envoy to NATO on Saturday accused “some Eastern European and Baltic states” of plotting to “sharply antagonize” Russia and NATO by seeking to make the NATO-Russia Council put Russia’s move to deploy S-300 surface-to-air missiles in Abkhazia on the agenda of its September 15 meeting.


Brussels, September 11 (Interfax) – Russia’s permanent envoy to NATO on Saturday accused “some Eastern European and Baltic states” of plotting to “sharply antagonize” Russia and NATO by seeking to make the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) put Russia’s move to deploy S-300 surface-to-air missiles in Abkhazia on the agenda of its September 15 meeting.

“It will be the first meeting of the [NRC] after the vacations, and we can see that active attempts are being made to sharply antagonize relations between Russia and the alliance. Those attempts are being made by some Eastern European and Baltic states,” Dmitry Rogozin told Interfax.

He argued that the S-300 issue was a mere pretext. “I am convinced that it is no more than pure scheming, an attempt to draw attention to themselves and force NATO to remain what it has been for all its past 60 years – a bloc spearheaded against the USSR and then Russia,” he said.

Russia is open to dealing with any issue in the NRC, including security for the South Caucasus and the situation in Georgia, Rogozin said.

“But the fact that such a negative move has been made, and in an emotional wrapping as well, means that there are certain forces within the alliance that are extremely unhappy with the atmosphere of conciliation – if you can describe it like this – that has taken shape today between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic bloc,” he said.

He expressed confidence that one reason for the alleged scheme was that NATO is due to finish work soon on its new strategic concept.

“In this connection, many Western European countries are pointing to the need to characterize Russia [in the new concept] as a new strategic partner of the North Atlantic alliance, one whose interests must be respected and one that should be interacted with in practical terms,” he said.

This “has caused a great stir among some of the professional well-wishers,” the envoy said. It explains what, according to him, are attempts to derail the NATO-Russia dialogue. He predicted that such alleged attempts might be quite intensive.

As for the Russian S-300 missiles in Abkhazia, he suggested raising the issue in a package with the U.S. plan to deploy missile defenses in southern Europe and the latest reports on the proposed deployment of missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“If our partners insist on raising those issues, we are open to it,” he said. However, this would hardly be appropriate today, in view of NATO’s work on its new strategic concept, he argued. “We shouldn’t dramatize our relations at a moment when such an important decision is being made,” he said.

NATO defense and foreign ministers are due to hold an informal meeting in mid-October to discuss the draft of the new concept, and Rogozin said that, most likely, one of the objectives of the initiative to raise the S-300 issue was to affect decisions to be made at that meeting.

The NRC is due to have an informal meeting on the fringes of the UN General Assembly session in New York on September 22, the envoy said.