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TAJIKISTAN: the next front in the Iranian-Saudi proxy war?

There are signs that this pivotal Central Asian country is turning into the next zone of rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which could have serious implications for Russia, China, and Pakistan’s national security.

Andrew Korybko

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The Iranian-Saudi rivalry is undoubtedly centered on the Mideast, but it’s also creeping into Central Asia, too. Largely ignored by both the Mainstream and Alternative Media, the impoverished but strategically positioned state of Tajikistan has suddenly emerged as a focal point of competition between these two Great Powers. Iran’s traditional legacy of historic, ethnic, and linguistic ties with Tajikistan is being “balanced” by Riyadh’s recent financial outreaches to Dushanbe, though it remains to be seen just how adroitly President Rahmon can manage his country’s relations with these two feuding parties.

The Roots Of Rivalry

The Diplomat published a useful article about Iranian-Tajik relations a few weeks ago titled “Iran Courts Tajikistan”, and it presents an impressively concise overview of the bilateral relationship since 1991. In a nutshell, Iran leveraged its civilizational ties with Tajikistan in order to make strategic inroads in the country, manifested most visibly by important infrastructure projects and soft power projection. However, Tehran may have irreparably harmed relations with the Rahmon government by hosting Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) “opposition” leader Muhiddin Kabiri in 2015 at the International Islamic Unity Conference in order to supposedly send a signal to Dushanbe that it should back off a bit from its rapprochement with Riyadh.

Relations with the Kingdom had previously been very frigid because of the Saudis’ support for fundamentalist rebels during the 1992-1997 Tajik Civil War, but Riyadh’s seemingly limitless checkbook was attractive for destitute Dushanbe. The two sides didn’t reach any significant deals until earlier this year in May when the Saudis gave their Tajik counterparts a $200 million grant for building new parliamentary and governmental complexes.  They also loaned them $35 million for constructing new schools, though it’s unclear whether or not these will be Wahhabi-run like just about all of Saudi Arabia’s international “educational” projects.

Tricky Sensitivities

Moscow-based Turkish political scientist and journalist Engin Ozer wrote at the time that Saudi Arabia is trying to influence Tajikistan and prevent its integration into the Eurasian Union. Moreover, he says that Riyadh might also be cultivating friendly elements of the Russia-based Tajik diaspora in order to craft a future instrument of pressure against Moscow. Ozer also believes that this is part of a joint US-Saudi plot to prepare for the destabilization of Central Asia. All told, his analysis is very accurate, and Rahmon’s attendance at the Riyadh Summit last month confirms that relations between the two sides are proceeding at a very fast pace. This therefore brings into question why Iran isn’t doing more to counter its regional-religious rival in the Central Asian state most closely related to its own ancient Persian civilization.

Like the earlier-referenced Diplomat article writes, Iran is indeed trying to recover some of its lost influence in Tajikistan, but the fact is that Tehran’s feting of Kabiri roughly 18 months ago couldn’t have come at a worse time. The IRPT had just been designated as a terrorist organization by the Tajik authorities after being accused of complicity in a violent attempted coup, so Dushanbe unofficially interpreted Tehran’s hosting of the banned party’s leader as “supporting terrorism”, which obviously played well to Riyadh’s ears and created the much-needed opening that it desired to re-enter the Central Asia space via its weakest and most desperate country. It’s presently difficult to quantify the level of Iranian and Saudi influence in Tajikistan, but it can safely be assumed that both Great Powers are jostling for control there, while Dushanbe is trying to do its best to “balance” between both of them.

Russian And Chinese Stabilizing Influence

Amidst the Iranian-Saudi competition for Tajikistan, one certainly can’t forget the Russian factor, since it’s Moscow which exerts the greatest degree of influence on the Central Asian state. The Russian-based Tajik diaspora contributed to more than half of the country’s GDP in 2014 through remittances, and Russia’s largest military base outside of its own borders is the 201st Motor Rifle Division near Dushanbe. In addition, Russia reached an agreement with Tajikistan earlier this year to return to jointly patrolling the long and porous riparian border with Afghanistan, which Moscow used to do until Dushanbe asked it to stop in the mid-2000s under what is suspected to have been heavy American pressure. Understandably, Russia is always suspicious of Saudi “educational” investments anywhere in the post-Soviet space, but at the same time it also doesn’t trust any foreign country such as Iran implying political support to “Islamic opposition” forces such as the now-banned and terrorist-designated IRPT.

Moscow understands that there are certain religious (Sunni) and civilizational (Persian) identity variables which play more to Riyadh and Tehran’s respective advantages when it comes to harnessing soft power, which is why Russia concentrates its efforts on presenting itself as the secular- and security-focused actor ensuring stability in the post-civil war country. China is also involved in this as well, albeit in different capacities. The People’s Republic is Tajikistan’s top trading partner because of the dominant position that it holds in as the country’s main source of imports, with Russia only providing half of amount that China does and neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia anywhere in the top five for either imports or exports. Furthermore, China unveiled the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) last summer between itself, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, though this is more complementary to Russia’s mutual defense arrangements with Tajikistan through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) than a competitor to it.

Tajik Trouble

Historical Claims:

For the most part, Russia and China’s partnerships with Tajikistan are overall a stabilizing factor for the country, whereas Iran and Saudi Arabia’s competition for the Central Asian state could become destabilizing, therefore most directly harming Russia, China, and also Pakistan’s interests vis-à-vis the spillover effect that any potential proxy conflict could have for Central Asia and Afghanistan, respectively. It should be noted that Tajikistan has a sizeable diaspora in neighboring Afghanistan which is actually larger than the Tajiks living in their namesake state, while an unconfirmed number of them live in the country’s chief rival Uzbekistan. About this latter fact, The Diplomat correctly chronicles in its September 2016 article about “The Tajik Tragedy Of Uzbekistan” how this people’s historic lands of Samarkand and Bukhara were administratively annexed to Uzbekistan by Josef Stalin during the national delineation of Central Asia in the 1930s, which created a tense post-independence situation after 1991 that prompted Tashkent to suppress the Tajik minority and intimidate them into publicly disowning their identity.

The Afghan Connection:

The reason why this largely forgotten historical-demographic fact is being brought up in the context of the present analysis is to demonstrate to the reader how far-reaching the geographically contiguous Tajik population of Central Asia is, as it already dominates northern Afghanistan and is present to an uncertain extent in the western regions of Uzbekistan. There are thus very concrete geopolitical motivations behind the Iranian-Saudi competition for Tajikistan since this could by extended degree allow them to exert influence in either of these two states, though most immediately in Afghanistan. That war-torn country has seen the Tajiks become a disproportionately influential political force following the 2001 ousting of the Taliban from power, and this was all done intentionally by the US with the intent of dividing and conquering the country along the same “favored minority” colonial model that the British skillfully employed for centuries across the world.

Quite expectedly, this has led to furious resentment from the Pashtuns, who are the largest group in Afghanistan and feel shut out of the political process, which has in turn led them to support the Taliban’s very successful national liberation campaign in the country and undermine American ephemeral ‘gains’ there. All of a sudden, though, the Saudi-linked Daesh terrorist organization popped up in Afghanistan as the rebranded “Islamic State Khorasan Province” (ISKP) and began offering up stiff resistance to the Taliban, which has ultimately worked to America’s relative interests and those of its in-country Tajik partners. Therefore, it wouldn’t be ungrounded to suggest that the rock-solid US-Saudi military-strategic relationship might also be expanding to Afghanistan, with Washington supporting the Tajiks while Riyadh does the same with ISKP.

Only this year have the Saudis come to deepen their influence in Tajikistan proper, as evidenced by Dushanbe’s presidential presence at the Riyadh Summit and the $200 million grant that the Kingdom gave to the country (in exchange?) right around that time, but this is a troublesome development for the Russians, Chinese, and Pakistanis.

The US-Saudi Partnership:

Saudi Arabia’s unstated but significant entrance as a key player in the War on Afghanistan is hampering the prospects for peace between Kabul and the Taliban, which therefore creates security problems for Pakistan along the lengthy Durand Line border by giving cover to Indian RAW operatives active in this transnational space. Accordingly, it also means the prolongation of New Delhi’s Hybrid War on CPEC. As for Russia, Moscow has recently prioritized the peace process in Afghanistan and has even hosted three high-level conferences to this effect because it’s worried about a potential Central Asian spillover if the war doesn’t end in the near future. It’s not the Taliban that Russia fears, however, but ISKP, which aside from receiving US-Saudi assistance, even enjoys the backing of Kabul and India. It’s at this point where the Uzbek direction of the Iranian-Saudi rivalry comes into play, because one of the most “logical” first steps that the terrorist group could make in Central Asia would be through operating under the disguise of a “Tajik freedom movement” in western Uzbekistan.

Iran vs Saudi Arabia:

Whether this scenario comes into play, a “Greater (Islamic) Uzbek” one does, the two clash, or perhaps another ISKP-influenced geopolitical development occurs, the inevitable outcome would be the triggering of large-scale refugee flows to Russia if the crisis isn’t immediately contained, perhaps through coordinated SCO and CSTO interventions. That’s why Russia is so concerned about developments in Central Asia, which brings the focus back to Tajikistan, the state that functions as the pivot space between Afghanistan and Central Asia by virtue of its geography and diaspora.

As such, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also interested in this country as well. Iran’s grand strategy vis-a-vis Tajikistan is to extend its influence over the historical Persian cultural space as far east as possible (going through Afghanistan first, of course), which could therefore give Tehran a foothold in deeper foothold in Central Asia. Saudi Arabia, for its part, wants to thwart its rival’s ambitions and simultaneously create complications for Iran’s soft power projection in the region. The contradiction between these two is best summed up as a clash between Tajiks’ Persian identity and their Sunni one.

Russia and China provide the “third way” – a secular identity in an integrated Eurasia – though this might become increasingly difficult to ensure in the midst of an uncertain and potentially turbulent political transition in Tajikistan following the inevitable end of aging President Rahmon’s rule, which isn’t likely to be as smooth as in neighboring and much more stably (in a relative sense) cohesive Uzbekistan. The Iranian-Saudi competition for Tajikistan as fought out through the Tehran-supported IRPT and the Saudi-backed ISKP spikes the chances that this interim period could result in profound instability, thereby endangering everyone’s interests except the US’.

Concluding Thoughts

Looking forward, Tajikistan is without question the weakest and most vulnerable state in Central Asia to Hybrid Warfare, which stands the chance of being waged via proxy by Iran and Saudi Arabia through the IRPT and ISKP, respectively, during the country’s inevitably forthcoming political transition. In addition, the existing competition between the two Great Powers over this tiny state could see either of them make destabilizing outreaches to the Tajik diaspora in neighboring Uzbekistan or Afghanistan, both of which could undermine those states and create further security complications for Russia, China, and Pakistan.

Given the existing state of affairs in the region as regards Iran and Saudi Arabia’s core interests, Tehran would do well to follow Moscow, Beijing, and Islamabad’s lead in promoting the Taliban as the most effective anti-terrorist fighting force in Afghanistan in order to offset Riyadh’s plans for using the country as a launching pad for ISKP attacks inside of Iran. It’s understandable that Iran wants to preserve its civilizational influence in Tajikistan, but it might have blown its best opportunity to do so until Rahmon leaves office because of its provocative support of the IRPT in late-2015, which opened the door for Saudi Arabia to approach the country with a “balancing” offer that it evidently couldn’t refuse.

This in turn made Tajikistan the ultimate variable in determining the stability of the interconnected Central Asian-Afghan space, bridged as it is by the large Tajik diaspora on both sides. Instead of functioning as the ‘glue’ for ensuring stability in this transnational region, it’s ever more looking to be one of the forces which could pull it apart as Iran and Saudi Arabia compete for the Tajiks’ loyalty, which carries with it serious implications for Russia, China, and Pakistan’s security. It’s difficult to forecast how all of this will play out, but it’s nevertheless likely to be contingent on whether Iran behaves responsibly by disowning the IRPT and cooperates with its natural Eurasian partners to drive Saudi influence out of Tajikistan.

 

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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Every dirty Democrat trick shows in bid to oust Kavanaugh

American democracy truly is mob rule now, and the mob is stupid, with no one taking a moment to truly consider the situation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The most amazing thing about what is ostensibly the last minute “Hail Mary” smear campaign by the left against Judge Brett Kavanaugh is how utterly transparently partisan it is. Let’s look at the list of tactics used thus far in this very dirty escapade:

  • Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein sat on this allegation for three months, until after the confirmation hearings were over (and after no other barnstorming tactic during the confirmation hearings worked against the nominee).
  • The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is a registered Democrat, and a feminist. RT notes that she appears to have a strong interest in politics.
  • Reports of “death threats” against Dr. Ford have been reported. This is a common feature of any anti-Trump attack, to relate him to some sort of “right-wing” radicalism. This radicalism does not exist among conservatives, but the media is determined to say otherwise.
  • Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, naturally, believes Ford’s story.
  • Every Democrat senator is in agreement that this matter should table the confirmation vote. Some Republicans were at first but appear to be backing away.
  • A woman Democrat senator,  Mazie Hirono, went on record telling men to “shut up and step up.” It seems abundantly clear that this assumes that there can only be one “step” that the men are expected to do. A second lady senator , Patty Murray of Washington, gave all men a warning against stepping off the plantation by saying “Women are watching.”
  • The Senate Republicans offered a chance for Dr Ford to testify on Monday. She refused, but now she is offering to come “next Thursday” – this is ten days later, past the October 1 start date of the US Supreme Court, and closer to the November Midterm elections.

We interrupt this list to make this point. The issues at hand are threefold.

First, the Democrats and other left-wing activists are terrified that they will lose the “Warren Court”, which is the name of the Supreme Court Justice who was a major left-wing judicial activist that enabled the Court to “legislate from the bench” along liberal policy lines since 1969. If Kavanaugh comes in, even if President Trump is somehow magically removed from office, his mark will remain on the Court for at least a generation. Of course, the removal of President Trump is predicated on the Democrats regaining control of the House, which actually looks somewhat likely if polling data is to be believed, and of course a Democrat Senate. (The actual tiny caveat that the President has done absolutely nothing which warrants impeachment will not be taken into consideration. He is to be eliminated. That is Democrat point number one, and make no mistake.)

Second, if the Judge is confirmed, it will look great on the President’s achievement list and energize his voter base even more than it already is. The result could be that the Senate expands its Republican majority, and gains Trumpian conservatives in its ranks, which would likely help the President continue his really great agenda. A defeat in the House that holds or expands GOP, again with Trumpian conservatives, would solidify this, and make it more difficult to stop Trump’s re-election and further solidification of reforms in 2020.

Third, and probably even more important, is that the possibility of a third seat getting vacated on the Court in the time period between now and 2024 is relatively high. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest Justice on the Court, and she is a raving liberal. If she retires (which she promises not to do), or if she is retired by the processes of old age, Trump can score a three-peat and get a third constitutionalist justice into the Court and that will signal the closure of one of the biggest avenues of liberal activism.

To return to the list, some of the further characteristics that make this situation patently obvious are these:

  • As reported in The Duran, the smear job is looking a bit ragged around the edges as time goes by. President Trump called Dr Ford’s bluff by saying he is interested in having her come to testify and that it would be “unfortunate” if she didn’t do so. Ford’s response was as shown above, to try and delay this testimony.
  • The Hollywood “sisterhood” is on record defending Dr Ford. For them, she’s right. She said Kavanaugh did this, so she is right. And why? Because she is a woman, a feminist and a Democrat. She is one of them. It would very interesting to know if the sisterhood would stand behind a conservative woman raising such a concern against a Democrat, but we have President Clinton to show how well that all went.

This by no means concludes the list of characteristics, but as noted earlier here, anyone that does even just a little critical thinking about this can see that this issue is no moral outrage, it is strictly partisan hackery, making use of the greatest weapon against conservative men put in use over the last fifty years – the sexual allegation from a woman, who must always be believed, because the woman is always right. 

The unfortunate truth is that this tactic works. It works because most men are actually gentlemen. We honor women, and we are taught to defer to them in America, because that is what a gentleman does. Feminism takes this characteristic of men, especially in modern times who really want to make sure they treat the ladies right, and it throws it back in their face in contempt. It is so bad it even has a physiological effect on men, who are now marrying less, and having fewer kids. There are even physiological changes that result from this abuse.

Further, there is an appalling lack of critical thinking in our society. The British news site, The Independent offers a poll with questions about the Kavanaugh case. The astonishing lack of critical thinking is clearly evident as the reader votes his or her thought and then sees the results for that question. Going through the questions and observing their responses can be very illuminating.

Dr Ford is demanding an FBI investigation, but she has no date, time or location attached to the incident she accuses now-Judge Kavanaugh of perpetrating. Rush Limbaugh did a great job at showing just how absurd this demand actually is, given these glaring areas of non-knowledge and we include some of that transcript below:

What would happen, let’s say — I don’t know — in the last 10 years up to last week if any woman had walked into any FBI office in the country and said the following: “Hi. I’m here to report that I was abused 35 years ago. I was — I was — I was at a party. Uh, I was 15, a little bit to drink, and a 17-year-old guy pushed me down on top of a table and laid on top of me. And then — and then and then I think — I think — a friend came in and did something and anyway they left and I was left locked in the room. And I want to you to investigate.”

Do you think if somebody shows up at an FBI office with that story, if they show up in person with that story, that the FBI is gonna give it any time whatsoever? The agents are gonna look at each other with kind of wary eyes and they’re gonna crack silent jokes to one another. I’m not kidding. You take this out of the realm of a letter to a crazed, partisan United States senator, Dianne Feinstein, and just move this into the victim walking into an FBI office, “It was 35 years, 34 years. I’m not sure where. But I know that when I was 15, I was at a party, and some guy jumped on top of me.”

So let’s say the FBI agent decides to actually take this further and in a very respectful way says, “Well, Miss, were you raped or injured?”

“Uh, no, not really.”

“Did you report this or tell anyone at the time, 36, 35 years ago?”

“Uh, no.”

“What year was this, again, that this happened?”

“Uhhh, I’m not — I’m not sure. I think it was 1982.”

“Where did this happen?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know. I was so traumatized; I don’t remember any of it. I just remember some guy jumping on me and I was drunk and — and I don’t know. But I want you to investigate it.”

“Okay. Ma’am, were there any witnesses?”

“Just the one friend of his that pushed him off, and then they left before he could do anything.”

What would the FBI do with this, if that scenario happened in one of their field offices? I will tell you what they would do: Zip, zero, nada. And the reason for bringing it up this way is to try to shine some kind of a different light on this and try to put this kind of allegation in some kind of context. The president is handling this in a quite fascinating way. He’s saying, “I hope she shows up. I want to hear what she has to say. I really hope she shows up. I’m very interested in what she has to say. We all are. And if she shows up and if she’s credible, why, then we’re gonna have to do something about that.”

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Russian Hierarch explains Ukrainian issue in detail (VIDEO)

A Russian Orthodox Hierarch explores the incursion of earthly politics into the life, pastoral activity and needs of the Orthodox Church.

Seraphim Hanisch

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RT’s “Worlds Apart” interview program recently interviewed Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), a hierarch who heads the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. The Duran has covered the crisis in Ukraine surrounding the activity of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, of Constantinople, intended to create a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This effort falls completely outside the normal and authorized operating procedures of the Orthodox Church, but to the lay listener it is difficult to understand what the fuss really is all about.

Metropolitan Hilarion and Oksana Boyko do an excellent job with both the answers, but more importantly, the questions, since Ms. Boyko asks the questions that someone who knows nothing about the Church might ask. This situation is completely about politics and not about the true work of the Church, and Met. Hilarion answers these questions very completely and thoroughly.

One of the really interesting points that Met. Hilarion makes is the idea that the Ecumenical Patriarch seeks to bring about the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church from these four groups:

  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (which is canonical and which has not requested self-rule, called autocephaly
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church “Kyiv Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko, which is a completely schismatic group. This group, and Filaret, are leading the charge.
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church – another schismatic group that is not in communion with Filaret’s church
  • The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine – and this is truly interesting, because this group is not even Orthodox, but is an Eastern Rite group under the Pope of Rome, and is in fact Roman Catholic.

The notion of bringing together such a disparity of groups is stunning to the Metropolitan, and yet he understands the motives of the men driving this idea, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Filaret Denisenko.

While the United States is not mentioned in this interview in any prominent sense, it should be noted that this move also does have strong US support as the American political leadership has been advocating for the Poroshenko government in an effort to continue to surround and isolate Russia. As we have noted elsewhere, this series of moves may well create more problems for Russia, by design.

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James Woods Suspended From Twitter Over Satirical Meme That Could “Impact An Election”

James Woods crushes Jack Dorsey: “You are a coward, @Jack.”

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Outspoken conservative actor James Woods was suspended from posting to Twitter over a two-month-old satirical meme which very clearly parodies a Democratic advertisement campaign. While the actor’s tweets are still visible, he is unable to post new content.

The offending tweet from July 20, features three millennial-aged men with “nu-male smiles” and text that reads “We’re making a Woman’s Vote Worth more by staying home.” Above it, Woods writes “Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible.”

According to screenshots provided by an associate of Woods’, Twitter directed the actor to delete the post on the grounds that it contained “text and imagery that has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election.

In other words, James Woods, who has approximately 1.72 million followers, was suspended because liberals who don’t identify as women might actually take the meme seriously and not vote. 

In a statement released through associate Sara Miller, Woods said “You are a coward, @Jack,” referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “There is no free speech for Conservatives on @Twitter.

Earlier this month, Woods opined on the mass-platform ban of Alex Jones, tweeting: ““I’ve never read Alex Jones nor watched any of his video presence on the internet. A friend told me he was an extremist. Believe me that I know nothing about him. That said, I think banning him from the internet is a slippery slope. This is the beginning of real fascism. Trust me.”

Nu-males everywhere non-threateningly smirk at Woods’ bad fortune…

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