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Afghan Insurgent Faction Says Backs Gas Pipeline

December 19, 2010 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington D.C. 20036.

Afghan Insurgent Faction Says Backs Gas Pipeline
©  RFE/RL
December 19, 2010

An Afghan insurgent faction has reportedly voiced its backing for construction of a multibillion-dollar pipeline through Afghanistan to take Turkmen gas to India and Pakistan.

Hezb-i Islami, an insurgent force led by former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was said to have announced its full backing for the so-called TAPI pipeline project on December 18 and volunteered to help protect it.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India this month signed a preliminary agreement to push ahead with the pipeline.

Hezb-i Islami does not control most of the proposed route, which runs through the Taliban heartland in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

The government says it would bury the pipeline up to two meters underground there to ensure its safety.

compiled from Reuters reports

[End.]

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Categories: AFG, IND, PAK, TURKMENISTAN

Anti-American propaganda in Turkmen schools

December 17, 2010 Comments off

The following article is from Chronicles of Turkmenistan, a publication of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR).

Anti-American propaganda in Turkmen schools
©  Chronicles of Turkmenistan
December 16, 2010

In Turkmen schools a film is being demonstrated to teachers of foreign languages featuring the U.S. as the enemy of independent countries including Turkmenistan. According to the film’s authors, cultural exchange programs in the area of education are detrimental to the youth. Using democracy and promotion of freedom as the cover, the Americans are training senior graders and students for “colour” revolutions, i.e. riots and destabilization campaigns, which might ruin the country’s well-being.

As a negative example of the U.S. influence, the documentalists refer to Georgia and its President Mikhail Saakashvili – they believe that the revolution in Georgia was caused by the “harmless” programs designed for senior graders and students who during one academic year spent in the U.S. absorb “revolutionary” ideas and then bring them back to their home country.

The film’s audience did not understand who the author of the film was, though it was available in Russian. However, there is an open appeal to the teachers not to succumb to the American tricks and take a principal stance when working with young people. School principals and officials from the Education Boards added some more comments: “Be vigilant and keep an eye on those students who visit the U.S. centres and those schoolchildren who are seeking to take part in exchange programs”.

It is no coincidence that the film was shown in Dashoguz in November, in the run-up to the visit of ACCELS representatives to the velayat to conduct two rounds of testing to select FLEX program finalists among local senior graders. School principals have been instructed to discourage students from applying to the program using all available means and methods.

“A class supervisor said bluntly to my daughter, who has been dreaming about going to the U.S. and who completed a course of English in the ‘Bashkent’ centre that the Americans will not teach her anything good and upon arrival back home she will not be admitted to any Turkmen university”, – says a mother of a ninth grade female student from Dashoguz.

A sister of another schoolgirl, an alumnus of an exchange program, says that the school principal warned her sister and other schoolchildren referring to the students from the American University in Central Asia (AUCA), who had been barred from heading to Bishkek to pursue educational opportunities. According to the principal, all of them are potential participants of color revolutions and “therefore they had been barred from studying at the AUCA and leaving the country”.

At the same time, school principals do not explain to children why the Turkmen students are studying in another American university in Bulgaria and how it is different from its fellow university in Kyrgyzstan. However, the campaign carried out by the teachers did take effect and many senior graders in the Dashoguz velayat did not dare to disobey and refused to take part in the testing.

It is an open secret that the goal of the U.S. exchange program for Turkmen high school students is identifying leaders. The testing which is arranged in three stages, as well as the extensive questionnaire filled up by an applicant, allows a local selection committee and subsequently the Washington office to select potential leaders among hundreds of 14 to 16-year old teenagers. It is expected that upon their arrival, after spending 12 months in the U.S. schools, they would become activists in their home country.

However, year after year it is getting more complicated to implement the objective of the program. Upon arrival, alumni are immediately closely watched by special services, who keep an eye on what the young people do, how they behave upon arrival from the U.S. and what universities they seek admission to after completing secondary education in order to continue their education.

As a rule, the so-called “American corners”, the velayat’s offices of the ACCELS headquarters become the venues for the alumni and senior graders to get together. They have been operating for almost ten years. Any information devoted to the U.S. is available here: books, video resources about the U.S. history, culture, sports and other aspects of American life. Moreover, one can find education-related information, for instance, recommendations on how to seek admission to the U.S. universities, apply for a scholarship, who to contact etc.

Internet access is available at “American corners”, which is rigidly controlled. For example, every user has to register in a special log-book filling out their personal data, computer number, the precise time and the purpose of using Internet resources. The time is limited to 30 minutes only and taken into account low Internet connection speed in the country, it is next to impossible to find the information young people are interested in.

The events arranged by the “corners” are also rigidly controlled. As witnessed by a executive of one of the velayat’s “corners”, draft agendas of events should be submitted to the local khyakimlik’s office (municipal administration) in advance. The latter have the authority to impose a ban on organizing the event, for instance, a seminar.

Three years ago the alumni decided to celebrate a merry Halloween festival, which is extremely popular in the U.S.  A room was leased at the disco bar using the money from a foreign grant. However, at the scheduled date, the club owner informed that the Sanitary and Public Health Service allegedly prevented them from arranging the event. The attempts to find a new venue and celebrate the holiday did not bring about any results. Moreover, the schoolchildren who came to celebrate Halloween were patrolled by an unknown car and the person in the car cynically made photos of children’s faces.

A Global Youth Service Day was scheduled to be held this spring in Mary. Two alumni and one activist from each velayat were invited to participate. No sooner the event had started, the people who introduced themselves as officials from the local education office appeared and began to interrogate the kids in an attempt to find out what the purpose of the gathering was, who let them come in, who covered travelling expenses etc. Eventually, a verdict was reached – similar events must not be held during study time!

Recently school teachers have been exerting pressure on visitors of the “corners”.

“My teacher of English tells me openly not to attend the ‘American corner’, – confesses an 8th grade female student from a municipal Dashoguz school.– When asked why not, she says that the Americans are our enemies and they do not wish us well”. The girl is frustrated as this teacher took part in the exchange program for teachers several and spent 7 weeks in the States!

The unofficial sabotage of all American-related things started when the Turkmen authorities refused to host a group of the Peace Corps volunteers. This was followed by the shut-down of Counterpart Consortium offices, which had collaborated with the community and civil activists. Now the authorities are creating obstacles for exchange programs.

[End.]

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Categories: TURKMENISTAN, USA

Central Asia: U.S. Military Buildup On Chinese, Iranian And Russian Borders

August 11, 2010 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from Rick Rozoff.

Central Asia: U.S. Military Buildup On Chinese, Iranian And Russian Borders
©  Rick Rozoff
August 11, 2010

On August 4 the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, concluded an official visit to Australia during which he met with the nation’s acting Chief of Defence and officials from the Department of Defence. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, despite its name, has strayed far from its point of origin 61 years ago, extending its grasp from North America and Western Europe to Asia and the South Pacific.

Di Paola’s deliberations with his Australian counterparts centered on “the need for NATO to work together with strategic partners like Australia, given that Euro-Atlantic security is more and more interconnected to Euro-Asian and Asian-Pacific regions.”

Australia is the largest troop contributor among non-NATO states to the Alliance’s war effort in South Asia, providing 1,550 troops for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

In an address he delivered at the Australian National University in Canberra, the head of NATO’s top military body (whose first head was General Omar Bradley) spoke on the bloc’s “New Strategic Concept and the relationship with Global Partners”:

“In this new context, because of the vulnerabilities created by globalization and the rapid pace at which it occurred, it is all the more essential for us to maintain global connectivity if we are to successfully tackle 21st Century challenges and trends.”[1]

NATO, the world’s only and history’s first international military bloc, now counts among its members and global partners at least 70 nations on five continents, and has troops from seven Asia-Pacific nations (Australia, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Tonga) serving under its command in Afghanistan.

It has expanded from the northern Atlantic Ocean region over the equator to the Antipodes and the reach of its operations extends from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic, from Africa’s Gulf of Guinea to the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.

As Admiral Di Paola maintains, securing the safety of Washington and Brussels requires the expansion of a U.S.-dominated military alliance into “the Euro-Asian and Asian-Pacific regions.” Having subdued and subordinated almost all of Europe through membership and partnership expansion over the last eleven years, at its Lisbon summit this November NATO will formalize its 21st century Strategic Concept in respect to placing the European continent under a U.S.-controlled interceptor missile system and expanding military partnerships into those corners of the planet so far left unincorporated into the network of the global, expeditionary military formation among other initiatives.

NATO troop deployments, utilization and upgrading of bases, armed combat operations, air patrols, naval surveillance and interdiction, armed forces training programs and regular military exercises now occur on the borders and off the coasts of China (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan), Iran (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iraq, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkmenistan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates) and Russia (Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine). There are no longer buffer states between the Western military alliance and major non-NATO nations in Eurasia.

At the same time the Pentagon is escalating at an unparalleled pace military provocations near China – the recently concluded Invincible Spirit war games in the Sea of Japan with the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS George Washington, the same aircraft carrier docking in central Vietnam along with the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain on August 8 for unprecedented naval exercises in the South China Sea, the Pentagon announcing that the George Washington will soon enter the Yellow Sea near China’s coastline – and leading the largest-ever Khaan Quest military exercises in Mongolia with the participation of, for the first time, troops from fellow NATO nations Germany and Canada along with France, as well as four Asian NATO candidates that were included in Khaan Quest 2009: India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Mongolia shares borders with China and Russia.

Russia, China and Iran are the only major nations outside Latin America that serve as serious barriers to American worldwide military expansion and dominance. By driving into former Soviet territory in the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia, the Pentagon and NATO are completing their military advance on all three nations. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are situated in a compact zone between China, Iran and Russia, and all but Uzbekistan border one or more of the three nations.

Notwithstanding the deadly upheavals in Kyrgyzstan this April and June, the U.S. and NATO have substantially increased the deployment of troops – at least 50,000 a month – and equipment through the nation for the West’s 150,000-troop, nine-year war in Afghanistan. Washington and Brussels have activated the Northern Distribution Network to transport supplies to the Afghan war front from ports on the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas through the Caucasus and Central Asia, pulling Azerbaijan and the five Central Asian states deeper into the Western military phalanx.

This year leading Pentagon, State Department and NATO officials have paid visits to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, including the first trip by a U.S. secretary of defense in five years and a secretary of state in eighteen years to the first-named state. In April President Obama secured military overflight and transit rights from his Kazakh opposite number, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in a nation adjoining China and Russia.

U.S. ambassador-designate to Azerbaijan, preeminent post-Soviet space hand Matthew Bryza, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 20 that his future host country, “located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, and bordering Iran,” immediately after September 11, 2001 “offered us unlimited overflights… for our military aircraft.”

He added: “Today, Azerbaijan continues to provide valuable overflight, refueling, and landing rights for U.S. and coalition aircraft bound for Afghanistan.

“Azerbaijan has also contributed troops to U.S. and coalition military operations in Afghanistan, as well as Kosovo and Iraq… Azerbaijan has also remained a steadfast supporter of Israel.”[2]

At the same hearing the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, connected the war in Afghanistan and beyond with America’s trans-Eurasian energy campaign against Russia and Iran: Troops and military equipment go to the east and oil and natural gas to the west by the same route.

“I am concerned that the continuing absence of a Senate-confirmed U.S. representative there [Azerbaijan] could impede progress toward several U.S. national security goals. Our Committee has worked closely with our Envoy for Eurasian Energy, Ambassador Richard Morningstar, to promote the expansion of the Nabucco pipeline, the key element of a southern energy corridor that would stretch from the Caspian region to Europe.

“Progress on this measure will allow our allies to diversify energy supplies, while providing nations in the region with a focus for closer cooperation. The Nabucco pipeline’s commercial and political viability will depend on both Azerbaijan’s commitment of its indigenous resources and its willingness to serve as a transport hub for Central Asian energy across the Caspian from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and possibly other countries.

“A close partnership with Azerbaijan and other nations in the South Caucasus will also be essential to ensure the transit of supplies to our troops in the Middle East and to resolve complex disputes concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.”[3]

Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH in charge of the Western natural gas project from Kazakhstan to Europe, underscored Lugar’s point this June in stating “Europe is interested in the purchasing of natural gas from Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkmenistan via the Nabucco pipeline. We came into agreement. Iran’s participation in this project is not a point at issue.”[4]

In the same month Agence France-Presse quoted the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, Ken Gross, confirming that the Pentagon plans to construct a new military facility in the Central Asian nation: “The plan [includes] almost $10 million to build [a] national training center for the Tajik armed forces.” The new base is to be called the Karatag National Training Center and, according to Gross, could house U.S. military personnel.[5]

The August 7 edition of the Washington Post substantiated earlier reports that the U.S. plans to establish a comparable base in Kyrgyzstan, which like Tajikistan borders China.

The article revealed that “The United States is planning to move ahead with construction of a $10 million military training base in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, the site of a bloody uprising in June… Called the Osh Polygon, the base was first proposed under former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev as a facility to train Kyrgyz troops for counterterrorism operations. After the ouster of Bakiyev… discussions continued under the new Kyrgyz president, Roza Otunbayeva, with whose government Washington is trying to broaden relationships… Osh Polygon will consist of a secure garrison compound with officers’ quarters and barracks for enlisted personnel, plus range facilities, firing pistols, rifles, crew-served weapons and explosive ordnance…”[6]

Earlier this month the EurasiaNet website posted a feature titled “Is the U.S. Violating Turkmenistan’s Neutrality with the NDN?” Quoting a Russian source, the piece describes the role of the U.S. and NATO Northern Distribution Network (NDN) in the Turkmen capital: “U.S. freight transited through Ashgabat is in fact military in nature and even constitutes criminal contraband. Airport employees claim they saw armored vehicles, combat helicopters and crates of ammunition. These reports challenge both the notion of Turkmen neutrality and the supposed nature of the bilateral agreement between Turkmenistan and the U.S.”

Turkmenistan is a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace program, but its government doesn’t acknowledge supporting U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention those being prepared against Iran, its neighbor to the north.

However, “The U.S. has gained access to use almost all the military airfields of Turkmenistan, including the airport in Nebit-Dag near the Iranian border, which was reconstructed at American expense. In September 2004, at the Mary-2 airfield, U.S. military experts appeared and began reconstructing the facility with the help of Arab construction companies, which provoked the protest of Moscow… An American military contingent is located in Ashgabat to oversee the operations related to refueling of military airplanes. NATO is also trying to open up a land corridor to bring freight by road and rail…”[7]

With regards to Uzbekistan, where German NATO troops remain at the Termez airbase although the U.S. military was ousted in 2005, Leonid Gusev of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations was cited last month maintaining that “The U.S. is interested in close cooperation with Uzbekistan, as the Central Asian country is strategically important for the U.S.” and that “Uzbek authorities have recently strengthened cooperation with the U.S. and other Western countries.”

Gusev added: “Now non-military goods are delivered through Uzbekistan to Afghanistan for NATO troops.

“There is a free industrial and economic zone, ‘Navoi,’ in Uzbekistan on the border with Afghanistan. It is the main transit point for shipments of goods to Afghanistan.

“This zone may soon be transformed into a transcontinental forwarding air point, which will link the Far East, South-East Asia, South Asia and Europe… [T]he U.S. plans to build a new military base near the Uzbek border to turn Uzbekistan into an important transit point for access to Afghanistan… It is planned to build an operational center, living accommodation, [a] tactical operations center, warehouses, [a] training complex, logistics center… etc. within this project.”[8]

Last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted Afghan and Tajik presidents Hamid Karzai and Emomali Rahmon in Tehran and, according to a Reuters report, “Iran’s president told the leaders of Afghanistan and Tajikistan… that the three neighbors could provide a counterweight to NATO in Asia once foreign troops quit the region.” Advice that China and Russia would also be wise to heed.

Ahmadinejad was quoted during a meeting with his counterparts stating “The Europeans and NATO are not interested in the progress of our three countries. Those who put pressure from abroad are unwanted guests [and] should leave, sooner or later.”[9]

With the announcement of new U.S. military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in addition to the indefinite maintenance of those in the latter country, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and with American and NATO military strength in Afghanistan at a record 150,000 troops, there is no indication that the Pentagon and the North Atlantic military bloc intend to leave the strategic arc that begins in the South Caucasus and ends at the Chinese border.[10]

1)  North Atlantic Treaty Organization Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, August 5, 2010
2)  Azeri Press Agency, July 22, 2010
3)  Ibid
4)  Azeri Press Agency, June 23, 2010
5)  Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2010
6)  Walter Pincus, U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan remains on track despite tensions, Washington Post, August 7, 2010
7)  EurasiaNet, August 1, 2010
8)  Trend News Agency, July 15, 2010
9)  Reuters, August 5, 2010
10)  NATO Pulls Pakistan Into Its Global Network

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/nato-pulls-pakistan-into-its-global-network

Afghan War:  Petraeus Expands U.S. Military Presence Throughout Eurasia
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/afghan-war-petraeus-expands-u-s-military-presence-throughout-eurasia

Pentagon Chief In Azerbaijan: Afghan War Arc Stretches To Caspian And
Caucasus
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/1761/

Kazakhstan:  U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/kazakhstan-u-s-nato-seek-military-outpost-between-russia-and-china

Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/kyrgyzstan-and-the-battle-for-central-asia

Mongolia:  Pentagon Trojan Horse Wedged Between China And Russia
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/mongolia-pentagon-trojan-horse-wedged-between-china-and-russia

NATO’s Role In The Military Encirclement Of Iran
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/natos-role-in-the-military-encirclement-of-iran

Broader Strategy:  West’s Afghan War Targets Russia, China, Iran
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/broader-strategy-wests-afghan-war-targets-russia-china-iran

West’s Afghan War And Drive Into Caspian Sea Basin
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/wests-afghan-war-and-drive-into-caspian-sea-basin

Azerbaijan And The Caspian:  NATO’s War For The World’s Heartland
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/azerbaijan-and-the-caspian-natos-war-for-the-worlds-heartland

Mr. Simmons’ Mission:  NATO Bases From Balkans To Chinese Border
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/mr-simmons-mission-nato-bases-from-balkans-to-chinese-border

[End.]
__________

Rick Rozoff publishes the blog, Stop NATO.

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Categories: AFG, AZR, Caucasus, CHN, IRN, KAZ, KYR, NATO, TAJ, TURKMENISTAN, USA, UZB

Turkmenistan: Multi-party politics as a means of strengthening President Berdymukhammedov’s regime

May 15, 2010 Comments off

[Blogmaster note:  I wrote the following commentary for my Ruhnama blog. It may be of interest to IntelTrends’ readers. “Ruhnama” refers to a book written by Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmyrat Niyazov, in which he outlines his political and philosophical beliefs.]

Turkmenistan:  Multi-party politics as a means of strengthening President Berdymukhammedov’s regime
By Steve in Wisconsin
©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
May 15, 2010

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is advocating the formation of a second political party in Turkmenistan, which, in effect, would make the country a “multi-party democracy” – at least on paper. Addressing the Council of Elders yesterday in the town of Dashoguz he said that Turkmenistan is ready for a multi-party system, reports the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

President Berdymukhammedov, perceived by many as a pro-Western stooge, illegally assumed the presidency after the mysterious death of Saparmyrat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy the Great), the country’s first president and author of Ruhnama. Speculation is rife that Niyazov was poisoned in retaliation for shifting natural gas exports towards the East, notably China, and his disinclination to support Western ventures – everything from criticism of the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline project to refusing to allow Afghanistan-bound military hardware and “coalition” troops to use his country as a staging and transit hub. Niyazov’s alleged assassination paved the way for “regime change” whereby Berdymukhammedov, the Minister of Health, became president after having the rightful successor, Ovezgeldy Atayev (the Speaker of Parliament), imprisoned immediately after Niyazov’s fatal “heart attack”.

The Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council consisting of elders and representatives from throughout Turkmenistan – and loyal to Niyazov) confirmed Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s presidency after he kissed the Ruhnama and promised to stay the course. After receiving confirmation, however, he disbanded the Halk Maslahaty. He then wrote a new constitution (because his actions were illegal under the original constitution) and began belittling the importance of Ruhnama (which says that any actions that violate the original constitution – such as the presidency passing to someone other than the Speaker of Parliament under these circumstances – are also illegal).

Berdymukhammedov’s presidency has been characterized by purging government of any officials who may, however remotely, be “suspected” of disloyalty. His predecessor’s appointees are no longer there – including numerous “career employees” whose only fault was being hired during Niyazov’s administration. Whereas the president tolerates no opposition, it is foolish to think he is committed to multi-party democracy. Rather, a second political party would serve as a means of identifying those individuals who are not 100% supportive of his rule.

A presidential declaration advocating a second political party is, however, not without an ulterior motive. To make such a statement and then fail to implement it would be counter-productive to Berdymukhammedov’s pro-Western image. Therefore, it is likely that a second political party will be formed (with members’ names on file with the government) as:

1)  a public-relations stunt for foreign consumption

2)  a justification for NATO and Western intervention to rescue President Berdymukhammedov’s fledgling “democracy” should Turkmenistan (and her vast natural gas reserves) be under threat, and

3)  to prevent a Kyrgystan-style people’s revolution by identifying and neutralizing potential individual and group (associative) threats in advance.

Absent from the president’s multi-party plan, however, is how to address the issue of Islamic fundamentalism. Just like Afghanistan’s puppet Karzai administration – which held “national elections” without the participation of the Taliban – President Berdymukhammedov is laying the groundwork for a home-grown insurgency by establishing a multi-party “democracy” through which change can never occur. Sham democracy is theatrics designed to placate foreign interests; to justify global investment and military intervention under the guise of “public good” whenever strategic locations or exploitable natural resources are under threat.

But even a sham democracy needs a measure of credibility. Afghan president Hamid Karzai, for example, was not about to repeat the mistake made by Algeria in 1991 when the pro-Western government allowed the Islamic Party to participate in – and WIN – the election, only to have the military seize power within days and nullify a legitimate Islamic victory.

President Berdymukhammedov was likely wiping perspiration from his forehead (and not caused by the heat) as he made his call for a multi-party system while in Dashoguz – near the border with Uzbekistan, a nation with an established Islamic insurgency and a corrupt president. Contrary to most analysts I believe that Turkmenistan already has a radical Islamic element, small and unorganized perhaps, but there just the same. Saparmyrat Niyazov kept this element “in check” through his neutralist foreign and trade policies (as set forth in Ruhnama) – but this cannot be said of President Berdymukhammedov who is moving closer to the West, which is perceived in Central Asia as an enemy of Islam. Mohammad Mohaddessin, in his book Islamic Fundamentalism, mentions that “Turkmen youths were reported especially vulnerable to Tehran’s fundamentalist propaganda.” That said, merely creating a sham multi-party democracy is insufficient to stem the potential for religious-fueled violence.

It is this writer’s opinion that President Berdymukhammedov is hoping to “buy time” by re-branding his illegal regime as a democratic government (in a limited sense) – and aligning himself with foreign military muscle – while ignoring a root cause that motivates jihad: collusion with nations, businesses and individuals believed to be detrimental to the cause of Islam.

[End.]

Categories: TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Multi-party politics as a means of strengthening President Berdymukhammedov’s regime

May 15, 2010 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  May 15, 2010

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is advocating the formation of a second political party in Turkmenistan, which, in effect, would make the country a “multi-party democracy” – at least on paper. Addressing the Council of Elders yesterday in the town of Dashoguz he said that Turkmenistan is ready for a multi-party system, reports the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

President Berdymukhammedov, perceived by many as a pro-Western stooge, illegally assumed the presidency after the mysterious death of Saparmyrat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy the Great), the country’s first president and author of Ruhnama. Speculation is rife that Niyazov was poisoned in retaliation for shifting natural gas exports towards the East, notably China, and his disinclination to support Western ventures – everything from criticism of the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline project to refusing to allow Afghanistan-bound military hardware and “coalition” troops to use his country as a staging and transit hub. Niyazov’s alleged assassination paved the way for “regime change” whereby Berdymukhammedov, the Minister of Health, became president after having the rightful successor, Ovezgeldy Atayev (the Speaker of Parliament), imprisoned immediately after Niyazov’s fatal “heart attack”.

The Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council consisting of elders and representatives from throughout Turkmenistan – and loyal to Niyazov) confirmed Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s presidency after he kissed the Ruhnama and promised to stay the course. After receiving confirmation, however, he disbanded the Halk Maslahaty. He then wrote a new constitution (because his actions were illegal under the original constitution) and began belittling the importance of Ruhnama (which says that any actions that violate the original constitution – such as the presidency passing to someone other than the Speaker of Parliament under these circumstances – are also illegal).

Berdymukhammedov’s presidency has been characterized by purging government of any officials who may, however remotely, be “suspected” of disloyalty. His predecessor’s appointees are no longer there – including numerous “career employees” whose only fault was being hired during Niyazov’s administration. Whereas the president tolerates no opposition, it is foolish to think he is committed to multi-party democracy. Rather, a second political party would serve as a means of identifying those individuals who are not 100% supportive of his rule.

A presidential declaration advocating a second political party is, however, not without an ulterior motive. To make such a statement and then fail to implement it would be counter-productive to Berdymukhammedov’s pro-Western image. Therefore, it is likely that a second political party will be formed (with members’ names on file with the government) as:

1)  a public-relations stunt for foreign consumption

2)  a justification for NATO and Western intervention to rescue President Berdymukhammedov’s fledgling “democracy” should Turkmenistan (and her vast natural gas reserves) be under threat, and

3)  to prevent a Kyrgyzstan-style people’s revolution by identifying and neutralizing potential individual and group (associative) threats in advance.

Absent from the president’s multi-party plan, however, is how to address the issue of Islamic fundamentalism. Just like Afghanistan’s puppet Karzai administration – which held “national elections” without the participation of the Taliban – President Berdymukhammedov is laying the groundwork for a home-grown insurgency by establishing a multi-party “democracy” through which change can never occur. Sham democracy is theatrics designed to placate foreign interests; to justify global investment and military intervention under the guise of “public good” whenever strategic locations or exploitable natural resources are under threat.

But even a sham democracy needs a measure of credibility. Afghan president Hamid Karzai, for example, was not about to repeat the mistake made by Algeria in 1991 when the pro-Western government allowed the Islamic Party to participate in – and WIN – the election, only to have the military seize power within days and nullify a legitimate Islamic victory.

President Berdymukhammedov was likely wiping perspiration from his forehead (and not caused by the heat) as he made his call for a multi-party system while in Dashoguz – near the border with Uzbekistan, a nation with an established Islamic insurgency and a corrupt president. Contrary to most analysts I believe that Turkmenistan already has a radical Islamic element, small and unorganized perhaps, but there just the same. Saparmyrat Niyazov kept this element “in check” through his neutralist foreign and trade policies (as set forth in Ruhnama) – but this cannot be said of President Berdymukhammedov who is moving closer to the West, which is perceived in Central Asia as an enemy of Islam. Mohammad Mohaddessin, in his book Islamic Fundamentalism, mentions that “Turkmen youths were reported especially vulnerable to Tehran’s fundamentalist propaganda.” That said, merely creating a sham multi-party democracy is insufficient to stem the potential for religious-fueled violence.

It is this writer’s opinion that President Berdymukhammedov is hoping to “buy time” by re-branding his illegal regime as a democratic government (in a limited sense) – and aligning himself with foreign military muscle – while ignoring a root cause that motivates jihad: collusion with nations, businesses and individuals believed to be detrimental to the cause of Islam.

[End.]

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Vremya novostei: “Ashgabat shifts the focus from Europe to America”

June 22, 2009 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  June 22, 2009

Russian news agency Feghana.ru reports today that Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, is making an urgent trip to Washington, D.C. The purpose of the trip is to “awake the interest of such American energy companies as Shell, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron in accessing [the] Turkmen market with their investment and technologies. Ashgabat hopes that Americans will help Turkmenistan sign the agreement on division of the Caspian Sea as well as provide support at the negotiations on financial conditions of Turkmen participation in Nabucco project and construction of TransCaspian gas pipeline.”

Ferghana.ru quotes Russian newspaper Vremya novostei noting that “Ashgabat shifts the focus from Europe to America” because of new “cash inflow transparency requirements” in Europe that require gas revenues be redistributed within Turkmenistan’s budget. This European action is in response to information that former Turkmen president, Saparmyrat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy the Great), diverted a sizeable amount of gas revenue into a personal account at Deutsche-Bank. The Ferghana.ru article states that Arkadiy Dubnov, who monitors Vremya novostei, writes that “the conditions, set up by the European Commission, threatened the main secrets of Turkmen regime. The point is that [the] defunct ‘father of all Turkmens’ explained [to] his Turkmen children that all gas revenues will be safer in his own treasure rather than state treasury due to protective reasons…”

Needless to say, the global media had a field day when this bank account came to light.

But the phrase “protective reasons” should not be construed as dishonest motives. I find no evidence that Turkmenbashy used any of these funds to buy or maintain personal properties in foreign lands. Rather, the Deutsche-Bank account appears to have been ‘insurance’ against a future coup by placing significant funds outside the reach of whomever assumed power under such circumstances. Turkmenbashy’s suspicious death, which I believe was assassination by poison, was, of course, unexpected and thus the funds remained at Deutsche-Bank. After his death, however, it is my understanding that none of his family attempted to withdraw any of these funds – thereby supporting my assertion that this money was banked in Germany mostly to keep it out of Turkmenistan.

The point of my blog post today is to comment that this “urgent trip to the United States” by Rashid Meredov – for the purpose of toadying up to U.S. oil companies – is yet one more example of Turkmenistan’s shift into the Western orbit. It is abandonment of Turkmenbashy’s neutral policies as written in Ruhnama.

See my earlier post:
Is Turkmenistan shifting to the West?, Jan. 16, 2009

[End.]

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Turkmenistan government shake-up with ties to ‘defense’ and ‘security’

January 22, 2009 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  January 22, 2009

A purge is occurring within Turkmenistan’s government – and at least some of the changes have links to ‘defense’ and ‘security’ matters.

An article yesterday on the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty website reads:

Turkmenistan’s Top Military Officials Dismissed
©  REF/RL
January 21, 2009

ASHGABAT – Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has dismissed Defense Minister Agageldi Mammetgeldiev and the head of the State Border Agency, Bayram Alovov, RFE/RL‘s Turkmen Service reports.

They were replaced, respectively, by the former chief of Turkmenistan’s Customs Agency, Yaylim Berdiev, and the former chief of the State Agency Against Drug Trafficking, Islam Orazov.

The moves came after Berdymukhammedov harshly criticized the activities of the Defense Ministry and the State Border Agency at a televised session of the nation’s Security Council.

Last week, Berdymukhammedov fired one-third of the country’s government, as well as the head of the state oil company.

[End.]

This follows an earlier report last week:
Turkmen President Sacks Cabinet Members, Oil Company Director
©  REF/RL
January 16, 2009

ASHGABAT – Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has fired one-third of the country’s government, as well as the head of the state oil company, RFE/RL‘s Turkmen Service reports.

Berdymukhammedov was shown on TV late on January 15 accusing top officials of “committing unforgivable mistakes and miscalculations.”

He then fired the ministers of energy, communications, sports and tourism, and the heads of the Turkmenneft state oil company and the state geological agency.

The dismissals were the biggest changes made in the government by Berdymukhammedov since he came to power in December 2006.

[End.]

Interestingly, Russian information agency Ferghana.ru reports today:
Turkmenistan:  New military doctrine allows for no foreign military bases on the territory of the country
©  Ferghana.ru
January 22, 2009

President of Turkmenistan Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov signed the new military doctrine on January 21.

The new military doctrine proclaimed non-alignment and banned establishment of foreign military bases on the territory of Turkmenistan. Neither does it stand for procurement, production, proliferation, or transit of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction across the Turkmen borders.

Defensive in nature, the military doctrine is centered around maintenance of peace in the country, inviolability of its borders, solidarity of the people, protection of its peaceful prosperity, strengthening of the Armed Forces, improvement of the image of [Turkmenistan] in the eyes of the international community, and advancement of friendship with neighbors.

Berdymuhammedov sacked the defense minister that same day. Web site Turkmenistan – Golden Age reported Defense Minister Mammetgeldiyev relieved of his duties with the president’s thanks for service to the Motherland.

[End.]

Central Asian News Services quotes the State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) and reports the following new appointments:
Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov appoint high ranking officials
©  CA-NEWS
22 January 2009, 15:39

CA-NEWS (TM) – In accordance with the Decree of President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov following appointments were made:
– Yaylym Yagmyrovich Berdiev is appointed Minister of Defence of Turkmenistan, Yaylym Yagmyrovich Berdiev is appointed Secretary of the State Security Council of Turkmenistan;
– Myrat Yslamov is appointed Chief of the State Border Service of Turkmenistan, Commander-in-Chief of Frontier Forces of Turkmenistan
– Serdar Gurbangulyevich Batyrov is appointed Acting Chief of the State Agency for Drugs of Turkmenistan and relieved him from the post of First Deputy of Chief of the State Agency for Drugs of Turkmenistan
– Seyitnyyaz Gurbanmammedovich Ballyev is appointed Acting Chairman of the State Migration Service of Turkmenistan
– Orazgeldi Taganmyradovich Esenov is appointed Acting Chairman of the State Customs Service of Turkmenistan, reports the Turkmen State News Agency (TDH).

[End.]

Some of these changes are likely related to the Ruhnama Day 2008 shootout in Ashgabat which may have been a coup attempt against President Berdymuhamedov’s illegal rule – possibly orchestrated either by internal elements within government or Islamic fundamentalists. Skeptics deny the official story that the incident involved an encounter with ‘drug traffickers’.

Although Berdymuhamedov’s predecessor, Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy the Great, also ‘replaced’ government officials as deemed necessary, this was not done on the scale that it has occurred under the new president. While Gurby may believe that he is purging his administration of rogue, incompetent or untrustworthy elements he is simultaneously creating uncertainty in the minds of those who remain in place. This presents its own set of problems as career military, police and other officials become edgy wondering if “they’re next” on the president’s hit list. This type of underlying fear – particularly if some of the discharged employees did nothing to deserve termination – breeds contempt for the Head of State.

As Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy the Great penned in Ruhnama:

Mankind is not always full of virtue or conscious of virtue; arrogance may triumph sometimes. Why does arrogance lead to calamity?

Ruhnama I, p. 192
(English hardcover edition.)

[End.]

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Is Turkmenistan shifting to the West?

January 16, 2009 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  January 16, 2009

The following article was published this date on Bishkek’s CA News website:

The new commander of U.S. Central Command visits Turkmenistan
©  Central Asian News Service
16 January 2009, 11:11

CA-NEWS (TM) – Yesterday, 15 January, General David Petraeus began his first official visit to Turkmenistan in the new post of head of the Central Command of the United States, informed the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat.

General Petraeus is planning to meet with representatives of the Government of Turkmenistan to discuss issues of mutual interest in maintaining peace and security throughout the region of Central Asia. General Petraeus arrived in Turkmenistan immediately after the official visit to Kazakhstan.

This is the first visit of General Petraeus to Central Asia, as a part of overall assessment, knowledge and responsibility associated with the new post, informed the General’s press secretary. General Petraeus hopes for constructive meeting with the President of Turkmeniatan.

General Petraeus took a post of commander of U.S. Central Command in October 2008, after serving as Commander of Multi-National Force troops in Iraq for 19 months. U.S. Central Command headquarters are located in Tampa, Florida. U.S. Central Command is responsible for the U.S. Army coordination in the Middle East and Central Asia.

[End full text.]

I titled this post “Is Turkmenistan shifting to the West?” – not because of General Petraeus’ visit to Turkmenistan (which in itself has only limited significance) but in view of this recent visit being another piece of a perceived ‘larger puzzle’.

Prior to Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s illegitimate succession to the presidency there was little doubt about Turkmenistan’s status as a ‘neutral’ country. Gurby’s predecessor, Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy the Great, cherished his country’s neutrality enough to secure United Nation’s recognition for Turkmenistan as the world’s only officially neutral state. He shunned military alliances, entered into business deals with a variety of parties (Russia, China, the West, Iran, etc.) and restricted the use of Turkmen airbases to Western forces operating in Afghanistan to “humanitarian aid” only.

Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy’s suspicious death in December 2006 ultimately led to Berdymukhammedov’s ascension to the presidency after imprisoning the rightful successor, Ovezgeldy Atayev. As mentioned in earlier Reflections’ reports, aside from ‘lip service’ the new president has not demonstrated a sincere commitment to his country’s continued neutrality – even going so far as to direct the dismantling of “Neutrality Arch” (a prominent Ashgabat landmark) and ordering its relocation to the outskirts of the city. Surely the symbolism associated with this directive is not lost on analysts.

In April 2008, President Berdymukhammedov attended the NATO Summit in Bucharest – something unimaginable under Turkmenbashy’s leadership – and this visit also included a personal meeting with U.S. president George W Bush. Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, quoted the Gazeta newspaper in its issue of April 7, 2008 as reporting:

Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has proposed opening NATO training camps and deploying NATO stores and logistics bases in Turkmenistan.
In May 2008 an article published by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty openly speculated on Berdymukhammedov’s pro-Western shift:
Turkmenistan: NATO Finds New Partner In Central Asia
By Bruce Pannier
May 30, 2008

NATO has a new and, some might say, unexpected partner in Central Asia – Turkmenistan. Just two years ago, the country was a reclusive place that few foreigners were allowed to visit, with UN-recognized status as a “neutral” nation.

The country’s strongman leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, used that status as a reason to keep Turkmenistan from participating in any international groupings except those with a purely economic agenda.

Niyazov died in late 2006 and was replaced by Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, whose foreign policy is much more dynamic. But reports of NATO cooperation with Turkmenistan is a huge step away from neutrality, especially given how quickly the new relationship has evolved.

[End excerpt.]

Not surprisingly General Petraeus, during his nomination hearings for reappointment as head of the U.S. Central Command, specifically noted his interest in Central Asia as follows:
“In Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan, and Kazakhstan, abundant opportunities exist for building security, political, and economic partnerships, and for pursuing common interests. To varying degrees, we have, in fact, partnered in security efforts in encountering terrorism with these countries in the past, and we will have similar opportunities in the future.

“U.S. partnerships can also help these countries’ efforts to build governmental capacity and continue economic growth, while also reducing the prospects that extremism will gain influence and be exported.”

Gen. David Petraeus,
Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services
May 22, 2008

The latest ‘spin’ given by the United States and its allies for its interest in Central Asia is establishing an alternate supply route to Afghanistan – one that doesn’t involve Pakistan and its security problems. As Stratfor notes in a recent [members only] analysis:
“With little infrastructure to the east, the Pentagon is forced to go north, into Central Asia. Though some fuel is shipped to Western forces in Afghanistan from Baku across the Caspian Sea, there is little indication that existing shipping on the Caspian could expand meaningfully. Additionally, there would be the challenge of transferring cargo from rail to ship back to rail on top of the ship-rail-truck transfers that are already required in Afghanistan.

“But even if Caspian shipping was not a problem and if there was sufficient excess seaworthy capacity, there remains the problem of Georgia. Though politically amenable at the moment, it is unstable; furthermore, with some 3,700 Russian troops parked in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian military forces are poised to sever the country’s east-west rail links.

These realities will likely drive the logistical pathway farther north, through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and through Kazakhstan to Russia proper (some U.S. transports already utilize Russian airspace).”

[End excerpt. Underlined emphasis added.]

Of course, Turkmenistan’s huge natural gas reserves – and the prospects of an undersea Caspian pipeline to Baku – are important considerations as well. But the bottom line is that all of the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia fall well within Russia’s sphere of influence – and any transit of goods through Russia itself ultimately depends upon Russia’s whims and good graces.

Under the policies of the late president, Turkmenbashy the Great, military and other alliances of the type contemplated under Berdymukhammedov were largely avoided. Turkmenbashy wrote in Ruhnama:

We have no grudge against anybody, and we have no foe burning with a great passion for revenge. So, when the general situation is like that, where is the logic in us entering and founding various political, economic, and military unions?

Ruhnama I, p. 54.

Turkmenistan has been largely unaffected by the troubles in neighboring Afghanistan and Iran, and experienced few problems with Islamic fundamentalism as is increasingly the case in neighboring Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia. This relative peacefulness at home is a result of his predecessor’s foreign policy – which was based on neutrality – including a willingness to engage in dialogue with Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.

As I concluded in an earlier Reflections’ report:

Turkmenistan’s shmoozing with the United States and NATO appears likely to continue. With the U.S. and Western allies battling the Taliban in Afghanistan – combined with American criticism of Uzbekistan’s government and threats against Iran – any Central Asian nation cozying up to America becomes an increasingly likely terrorism target.

Turkmenbashy writes:

We ourselves are forming our history, present and future because Allah gave us mind and will.

Ruhnama I, page 66.

Turkmenbashy is reminding us that today’s actions may carry future consequences.

[End.]

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Great Turkmenbashy’s philosophy: Safeguarding the economy

November 6, 2008 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  November 6, 2008

Turkmenistan largely avoided the recent global financial crisis that has befallen many of the world’s economies. It is fair to say, in view that current Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been in power for less than 2 years, that Turkmenistan’s ability to withstand economic turmoil can be credited to the policies of his predecessor, Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy the Great, – policies which continue to be upheld by the new leader.

A recent article had this to say:

While other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia grapple with the global financial crisis, Turkmenistan seems set to sidestep trouble. But this is not because Turkmenistan’s leaders have been particularly savvy, prudent or even lucky, analysts say. Rather it is the insular attitude of the gas-rich state’s leadership – past and present – that is protecting Ashgabat.

“The global economic crisis will have a much lesser effect in Turkmenistan. The simple reason for this is the country hasn’t integrated with the global economy,” said Michael Dennison, a global risks analyst with Control Risks, an independent consultancy group based in London. “The financial sector [in Turkmenistan] is much less developed than in other states of the Former Soviet Union and as such global currents are less applicable.”

“The country hasn’t borrowed heavily and it’s used its external rents gained from gas exports to finance development. It’s not indebted like other states, most notably Kazakh banks, which are likely to owe anything up to $10-billion by the end of the year,” he added.

Ref: “Ashgabat Sidesteps Global Credit Crisis, But Faces Inflation Fight
EurasiaNet, 30-Oct-2008

The above article mentions that Turkmenistan’s financial sector is ‘less developed’ than elsewhere in the former Soviet Union – but this is not necessarily a deficiency, in fact it is what saved the Turkmen economy in this recent global downturn.

In the Ruhnama, Great Turkmenbashy emphasizes self-reliance:

Our ancestors did not say in vain, “If your brother has much wealth, you are rich too; but if you are able to live by your own means then you are also rich.”

Ruhnama I, p. 54.

Turkmenbashy embarked on an ambitious modernization program designed to increase his country’s level of self-sufficiency. Large agricultural projects, more responsible use of domestic oil and gas reserves, conservation of natural resources and lands, new manufacturing facilities – all designed to diminish reliance on foreign sources and this includes avoiding the pitfalls of becoming a debtor nation.

The scheduled meeting in Ashgabat of the Islamic Development Bank in June 2009 will undoubtedly strengthen regional reliance and cooperation. But one also needs to consider the principles of Islamic Banking vs. Western banking – and understand how the former banking system, based on the Qur’an, has escaped the recent failures of Western financial institutions and the subsequent grandiose bail-out schemes to rescue them.

Great Turkmenbashy writes:

If spring water is contaminated, it will be because of the spring itself. If a brook gets contaminated, the source will be the reason behind that!

Ruhnama II, p. 86

Turkish intellectual and Muslim scholar, Mr Adnan Oktar (a.k.a. Harun Yahya), has written an analysis of the matter: The Solution To The Economic Crisis, which I have reprinted with his permission. [Removed from my previous site by Blogger/Google].

Great Turkmenbashy writes:
We should get rid of the idea of living a life of dependency, so embedded in us during the Soviet era. We should digest the spirit of sovereignty and freedom that independence has brought.

Once our independent state consolidated, some politicians, economists, and journalists who viewed themselves as the guardians of democracy, knowing that I made natural gas, electricity, water, and salt free for my people, advised me: “Nothing is free in a free market ecomony. Economics prefers transaction. That is the rule of economics.”

Indeed, economics does have rules. For we are humans after all. However, I absolutely believe that man should not be a slave to the rules of economics. On the contrary, the rules of economics must serve mankind.

Ruhnama II, p. 226.

Great Turkmenbashy “thought outside the box” – and his disinclination to obediently walk the path expected of him by Western and international financial institutions has, even today, shielded his country’s economy from adversity.

[End.]

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New Turkmenistan constitution abolishes Halk Maslahaty

September 26, 2008 Comments off

©  Reflections on the Ruhnama
By Steve in Wisconsin
Publication date:  September 26, 2008

Turkmenistan’s President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, ushered in a new constitution today – dealing a blow to the country’s late president Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy’s legacy by abolishing the Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council).

Turkmenbashy writes:

The highest representative body of popular power is the People’s Council (Halk Maslahaty) of Turkmenistan.

The state is the essence of the national spirit. That is why the nation state is the realization of the moral and spiritual values that belong to the nation and a symbol of the combination of unity with political will.

Our ancestors had the custom of all coming together and building a house for one of their number. Similarly, in the establishment of the foundations of the state, we came together and established the structure of our state following the same custom. It is the essential duty of every citizen of ours now to consolidate this structure, which will disseminate its light to the whole world, and to exert all their efforts for it to reach its goal – to enter the Golden Age.

To give priority to, show respect for, and refer to the opinions, intelligence, wisdom and experience of the elderly has been one of the ethical values of the Turkmen state since ancient times. This value is one of the main principles of the modern Turkmen state we have established. The most essential element in establishing the state is to take into account national values, history, worldview and so on. That is why the Halk Maslahaty, the People’s Council, is the principal organ of the state administration, and it should remain so in the future. In this way, we will have retained the experience of state which belongs to our national history.

Ruhnama I, pp. 254-256
(English hardcover edition. Underlined emphasis added.)

Turkmenbashy established the Halk Maslahaty in the early 1990s as a ‘council of elders’ to draw upon the wisdom and experience of older Turkmens. Its 2,057 members – from all parts of Turkmenistan – gathered annually to participate in the legislative process and this allowed them to report back to their villages and representative regions the affairs of state. In 2003, Turkmenbashy elevated the Halk Maslahaty to the country’s highest legislative body.
[Ref. “New Turkmenistan constitution abolishes People’s Council”
RIA Novosti 26/09/2008.]

After Great Turkmenbashy’s mysterious death on 21 December 2006 the Minister of Health, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, quickly assumed power in violation of the existing constitution and after the designated successor, Ovezgeldy Atayev, was imprisoned. This necessitated a “new” constitution – the one enacted today – to legitimize Berdymukhamedov’s illegal presidency. Furthermore, it was the Halk Maslahaty that rubber-stamped changes to the former constitutionwhich allowed him to assume power in the first place. Thus, the Halk Maslahaty demonstrated its ability to manipulate the country’s constitution – and presumably (had it not been disbanded today) it could authorize the replacement of Berdymukhamedov himself at some point in the future. It is indeed ironic that the same legislative body that allowed this man to become president should be disbanded by him.

The international media, as to be expected, has accepted the premise of the new constitution as another step forward by Turkmenistan’s “progressive” president. But, was this new constitution enacted as a reform – or is it the result of Berdymukhamedov’s fear that his own position in charge of Central Asia’s natural gas mecca is uncertain at best?

In a U.S. Army War College publication dated September 2007 titled “Turkmenistan and Central Asia after Niyazov” author Stephen J. Blank writes:

[T]here are numerous signs that Berdymukhamedov knows his position is weak and insecure. One example may be his call for reforms in January 2007. Second, the constitutional manipulations that were needed to ensure Berdymukhamedov’s ascension to power were notably crass, for example, changing the order of succession so that he, a Deputy Premier and Vice-Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, became the heir designate as the Speaker, Atayev, was “no longer capable” of assuming that role. Indeed, Berdymukhamedov had not attained the age necessary under the original constitution to be named President. So they had to change the constitution to let anyone from 40 to 70 years old be eligible.

[pp. 23, 24.]

Turkmenbashy, Berdymukhamedov’s predecessor, was very protective of the country’s constitution and believed it would ensure Turkmenistan’s continued neutrality and advancement towards the envisioned Golden Age. He wrote in Ruhnama:
The Turkmenistan Constitution is the supreme Law of the state. The norms and provisions stipulated therein have direct effect. Laws and other legal acts that contradict the Constitution do not have legal force.

Ruhnama I, p. 250.

This means that the new constitution itself is illegal. Turkmenbashy believed that the former constitutional provisions would prohibit the rise to power of someone like Berdymukhamedov – who clearly has an alternate agenda, whether it be his own or at the behest of an international puppet-master.

The Halk Maslahaty, while portrayed by foreign media as a legislative organ created by Turkmenbashy to rubber-stamp his decisions, has instead proven itself quite the opposite – both in its decision to proclaim Turkmenbashy as president for life, and in its ability to waive constitutional clauses. In one sense this was the ultimate form of “checks and balances” – an assembly of more than 2,000 elders from throughout Turkmenistan with the ability to replace the president with someone deemed more suitable.

From Berdymukhamedov’s standpoint the Halk Maslahaty was a threat to his position and therefore must be disbanded. Although the Council can be said to have participated in its own demise by approving the new constitution, this disbandment is a loss for the people of Turkmenistan.

[End.]

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