The New Great Game Round-Up
original post date June 8, 2014, CHRISTOPH GERMANN
The Gülen-SOCAR Network Exposed, Brussels’ Reckless South Stream Sabotage & Much More!
*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.
With the exception of Uzbekistan’s leader Islam Karimov, the presidents of all Turkic countries travelled to Turkey this week for the 4th summit of the Turkic Council. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov attended the summit personally for the first time indicating that Turkmenistan is ready to upgrade its status in the organization from observer to full member. Berdimuhamedov had already arrived a few days before the summit to discuss the strengthening of Turkey-Turkmenistan ties with top officials in Ankara. The two countries are set to sign a few trade agreement next year and Turkish President Abdullah Gül stressed during his meeting with Berdimuhamedov that Turkey “is ready to carry Turkmen gas to European markets.” Both Ankara and Ashgabat have repeatedly voiced their interest in delivering gas from the Central Asian republic to Europe, which has so far lost out to China in the quest for Turkmen gas. In the light of recent events, Europe and Turkmenistan have ample reason to finally implement this project:
Turkic leaders pledge energy, tourism cooperation
“Trying to reduce its dependency on Russian natural gas, Europe wants Turkmen gas supplies more than ever,” said Guner Ozkan, Caucasus and Caspian regions expert at the Ankara-based think-tank International Strategic Research Organization told the Anadolu Agency in an interview.
However, Ozkan pointed out that Russia is the strongest player in the Caspian region and it would be wrong to believe that Russia would not “intervene” in a project that will go through the Caspian and reach Europe to supply an alternative to Russian gas.
“The recent $400 billion agreement between Russia and China, will soften up Turkmenistan’s gas price negotiations with China,” Ozkan said, adding, “Turkmenistan needs alternative markets as well and reaching Europe through Turkey is imperative from this perspective.”
News from Pipelineistan & the Gülen-SOCAR Network Exposed
As Ozkan notes, one of the biggest obstacles to the Trans-Caspian pipeline is Russia’s strong opposition. Furthermore, up to this point, the European Union has failed to come up with a unified energy policy and it does not look like as if this will change anytime soon. Relations between Turkey and Russia are fairly complex and resilient but if the Turkish government continues to push ahead with the Trans-Caspian project, Ankara’s ties with Moscow could be damaged beyond repair. In recent weeks, Turkey was remarkably silent about the crisis in Ukraine, much to the dismay of its NATO allies.
According to the Kremlin, Turkish PM Erdogan even praised “the decisions made by the Russian president to improve the situation of Crimean Tatars.” With Turkish-Russian relations apparently unaffected by the Ukraine crisis, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev used the Turkic Council summit to make the case for closer cooperation between the Turkic countries and the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and he invited Turkey to join the newly formed trade bloc. Although the Erdogan government will hardly take the offer, there seems to be a rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow. Dr. Vitaly Naumkin explained recently the reason for this:
Russia, Turkey agree on Gulen
Paradoxically, what today promotes the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey is Moscow’s extremely negative attitude toward the activities and ideas of Fethullah Gulen. In the past, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) were allied with the leader of this Islamic sect — which is taking root in many countries around the world and in which a significant portion of Turkey’s population is involved, including prominent officials and, in particular, members of the security structures and the judges — Moscow’s position acted as an irritant for Ankara. Now, however, with the Cold War flaring up between the leader of the AKP and Gulen, who resides in the United States, Moscow’s position creates an interest in joint actions to limit his influence. Recall that all Gulenist schools have been closed in Russia, and in 2012 numerous books by this ideologue were included in the federal list of extremist literature by a Russian court decision
Russia was one of the first countries to ban the CIA-backed Gülen movement and, in contrast to other governments, the Kremlin will not rethink this decision. Experts such as Vasily Ivanov, an associate at the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, warn against the nefarious cult. In his paper “Fethullah Gulen’s Movement: an extremist organization masquerading as supporters of ‘the dialogue of civilizations’” Ivanov argues that the Gülen movement “glamorizes the idea of armed jihad.” A few weeks ago, more and more people in Azerbaijan came to the same conclusion. The crackdown of the Aliyev regime on the Gülen movement was somewhat surprising considering Baku’s subservience to Washington and some things did not add up, as mentioned in a previous round-up:
“A published list of alleged Azerbaijani Gülenists also included Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and, ironically, SOCAR’s vice-president Khalik Mammadov, which has prompted some speculation whether Baku is really cracking down on Hizmet by placing its schools under SOCAR’s control or if the Gülenists are in league with the state-owned oil and natural gas corporation.”
This week, a new article exposing the extensive lobbying efforts of the Azerbaijani authorities in the United States shed more light on the relationship between the Sate Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and the movement of CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen. According to the report, since early 2013, American lawmakers in 17 states have introduced resolutions or memorials relating to Azerbaijan, all of which had one thing in common:
Inside Azerbaijan’s Bizarre U.S. Lobbying Push
What the initiatives had in common was they nearly all had at least one sponsor who attended a conference in the capital Baku in May 2013 organized by the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians. The council is a Houston-based group connected to Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the moderate Islamist Hizmet movement who fled Turkey in 1999 after clashing with secular Turkish authorities who accused him of trying to turn Turkey into a religious Islamist state.
The Turquoise Council, headed by a Gulenist follower named Kemal Oksuz, paid for the travel of lawmakers who went on the trip, according to congressional records. Oksuz also chairs the Assembly for the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ), a Houston group sponsored by SOCAR, which hosted a U.S.-Azerbaijan convention in Washington at the end of April attended by many of the same lawmakers who went on the trip to Baku, as well as other members of Congress and former administration officials. The Assembly’s vice president is Milla Perry Jones, the sister of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and its treasurer is Rauf Mammadov, the chief of SOCAR’s U.S. branch. Oksuz also owned TDM Contracting, a construction firm in Texas that worked to build a network of Gulenist charter schools there.
So the Gülen movement and SOCAR are definitely working hand in hand, which means that Azerbaijan’s move to place the Gülen schools under SOCAR’s control did not really amount to a crackdown. Besides the Gülen-SOCAR network, the Aliyev regime is also using the Azerbaijan America Alliance as a conduit to lobby in the United States. The fairly new group is run by Anar Mammadov, the son of Azerbaijan’s Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov, and Dan Burton, former U.S. Congressman from Indiana. Burton demonstrated his abilities as a lobbyist already during his time in Congress. He did not shy away from taking bribes from the government of Turkey or Pakistan’s ISI and has earned himself a place in Sibel Edmonds’ State Secrets Privilege Gallery. Having friends like Burton in its pocket enables the Azerbaijani government to influence resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh and the like but it will not solve Baku’s latest problem. A few days after French energy giant Total decided to sell its stake in Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II gas project to Turkey’s state oil company TPAO, both Total and E.ON announced their plans to withdraw from the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP):
Total, E.ON to exit pipeline to bring Azeri gas to Italy
France’s Total and Germany’s E.ON plan to withdraw from a pipeline scheme to bring Azerbaijan’s gas to Italy, an Azeri official said, as falling Italian demand puts energy projects there into doubt.
The move comes less than a month after Russia’s Gazprom said that it would re-route its massive South Stream pipeline, which plans to bring Russian gas to Europe later this decade, to Austria instead of Italy.
Europe sees Azeri gas as an alternative to its reliance on Russia, but analysts say commercial issues cloud the picture.