A victory for Western designs on Capsian oil 20 years in the making, this heightens the regional contradictions in several ways. It places greater pressure on Turkey to crush the Kurdish PKK insurgents who are making trouble in precisely that section of Eastern Anatolia traversed by the pipeline. It places greater pressure on Russia to finally get Chechnya and the North Caucasus under control so a new Moscow-controlled alternative route can be built. And it places greater pressure on both Moscow and Washington to reshape the order in Central Asia in their favor before the next arm is built—across the Caspian Sea itself, incorprating the gas and oil fields of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan . Will that arm connect to the Baku-Ceyhan line, or to an alternate Russian-controlled route? From Turkey's Zaman, May 27:
How interesting. In an implicit acknowledgement that their hardcore Islamophobe policies are backfiring in Chechya, the Russian authorities are embracing the indigenous peace-loving Sufi tradition as an alternative to the violently intransigent Wahhabism imported from the Arab world. But this could also backfire—as the Sufis themselves also seek independence from Russia, even if they aren't willing to blow up civilians to acheive it. The implications are "unclear" indeed. And while it is good to see the Kunta-Haji Sufis on page 4 of the New York Times, we're not sure they would appreciate the writer's depiction of their chanting as "grunts."
One civilian was killed and several injured (both police and civilians) in a clash that erupted when police opened fire on protesters blocking a road in Dagestan's Dokuzpari district April 25. The protesters, who were demanding the dismisal of a local prosecutor accused of corruption, responded by hurling stones. (ITAR-TASS, April 26)
Insurgency and counterinsurgency grind on in the North Caucasus, with the world's attention elsewhere. Two police were killed and five wounded April 15 when gunmen ambushed their armored personnel carrier in Chechnya, Russia's RIA reported. One was killed by a roadside bomb and the second when gunmen with automatic weapons opened fire.
A victory for free speech and historical memory was declared last month when charges were dropped against Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who had dared to invoke the World War I genocide of the Armenians, as well as more recent persecution of the Kurds. But, as we noted at the time, the real victory would not be until the law he was prosecuted under, Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, was overturned. Now, once again, it seems the victory was a Phyrric one as five more writers face charges under the same law. From the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists:
A victory for historical memorydoubtless motivated by the Turkish state's desire to gain EU entry. But as this Jan. 23 press release from Amnesty International makes clear, the greater victory will be when the law under which Orhan Pamuk was charged is repealed.
Those traditional and bitter Caucasus enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan both appear to be headed for regime change at the moment. First Armenia. From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, Nov. 29:
Armenia's opposition supporters today took to the streets of Yerevan for the second consecutive day to protest the official results of last week's constitutional referendum.
Riot police dispersed an opposition rally in Azerbaijan's capital Oct. 23, beating and detaining protesters who defied an official ban on downtown demonstrations two weeks before parliamentary elections. Opposition groups say the government will try to rig the Nov. 6 vote and have been holding rallies nearly every weekend, clashing with police.