Blood in the Streets of Bishkek
Kyrgyz protestor: "The Jews are Kaput"
Is the Kyrgystan upheaval bad for the US?
Maksom Bakiev appears online -- from the US evidently
Trouble in the Stans: Which is the next country to blow up?
Let's break this down.
The corruption that pissed people off in Kyrgystan -- mainly the president using his position to enrich himself and his family -- also happens in Uzbekistan, except that it's worse. (Independent UK)
In Uzbekistan, a similar process has been under way. The president’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, is a glamorous, Harvard-educated socialite based in Geneva, and, according to Mr Murray and others, controls the regime’s billions of dollars of assets through the Zeromax company. She has her own jewellery and fashion lines, and occasionally releases saccharine pop songs. She is also said to have provided the money for one of the regime’s biggest vanity projects – the Bunyodkor football club, based in the capital Tashkent. The side, which plays in the obscure Uzbek League, has paid millions to lure stars such as the Brazilian Rivaldo to play for them, and last year recruited former Brazil and Chelsea boss Luis Felipe Scolari to manage the team, giving him the highest salary of any football manager in the world.
Last month we learned that international organized crime rings cooperate and use legitimate businesses, including sports teams among other things, to launder money. This is from a Telegraph UK story.
In July last year, police arrested seven alleged mafia members suspected of attempting to buy into the Lazio soccer team [to launder money - ed.]. ... After the offer was turned down, the Casalesi allegedly tried purchasing shares in the club through front companies based in Switzerland or Hungary. Police said the attempt to acquire a soccer club was "a new phenomenon".Vanity projects in Uzbekistan. Vanity projects in organized crime rings. Do vanity projects reliably indicate the presence of organized crime? We do not know.
Speaking of presidential daughters, next door in Kazakhstan the president's daughter Dinara has an important role in the business of the country, particularly in the oil and gas sector, through her marriage to Timur Kulibayev.
An intelligent and ambitious President and CEO of the KMG group since June 2006, Kulibayev is married to President Nazarbayev's second daughter Dinara. Until his promotion, he used to be KMG's first vice president of KMG. In his 30s, he began his career in the finance ministry's division which was once in charge of the petroleum sector. In March 1997, as Nazarbayev made Balgimbayev president of KazakhOil, the latter made Kulibayev the financial boss and vice president of the company. The oil and gas firms then were transferred from the finance ministry to KazakhOil.Timur Kulibayev, the president's son-in-law, has reportedly fathered a "love child" with Goga Ashkenazi. Goga has also dated Prince Andrew. And, come to find out, they're all good buds, helping each other with selling mansions and what-not! Turns out that moneyed people and British royals just love to hang out in Kazakhstan. Who knew?!?
Goga Ashkenazi and Prince Andrew, from News of the World
Does any of this matter? We do not know. It sure is interesting though.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is actually "Israel's Partner in Eurasia" according to Ariel Cohen, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (source) (source: http://tinyurl.com/yfw6d8h)
- Israel and post-communist, resource-rich states have similar geopolitical priorities in opposing terrorism and radical Islam.
- By developing closer ties with Kazakhstan - and with Eurasian countries in general - Israel can expand its ties to the secular Muslim Turkic states and its role in the new "great game" of Eurasia: economic development fueled by exports of the region's massive natural resources.
- Israel and the countries of Eurasia are economically complimentary: Central Asian countries are rich in natural resources, and can benefit from Israeli solar, irrigation/agricultural, medical and other know-how. Israel can offer high-tech, military, and advanced agricultural technology, cutting-edge medical sciences, and educational opportunities. As always in international relations, common interests define strong ties.
- On occasion, President Nursultan Nazarbayev used his good services to appeal to Iran on behalf of missing Israeli servicemen or call on Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons, as Kazakhstan did in 1994. Unfortunately, these appeals usually fall on deaf ears.
- With oil prices rising, Kazakhstan may have left the nadir of economic decline behind, although banking and construction sectors were hurt particularly hard.
The "Stans" -- click to enlarge (source)
So far we have established:
- a culture of corruption in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan
- a culture of nepotism and the strong presence of moneyed people from the UK
- connections to Israel
So now that things have gone wrong, Kyrgystan presidential son-in-exile Maksim Bakiev may have fled to the US, according to State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley.
As for Maksim Bakiev, Crowley said, “We believe he is in Washington.” He had no further details.Bakiev, or someone claiming to be him, then appeared online posting from New York, muttering something about the Rule of Law....
Livejournal, one of the Russian-language blogosphere’s leading platforms, showed that a user named “maksimbakiev” had created a profile today, and has posted two entries.Whenever powerful people start invoking the Rule of Law, that's a pretty reliable indicator that they've been bagged. I have noticed that they rarely show the slightest concern for the Rule of Law until they get in some trouble, and then they suddenly become legal experts.
The first was a link to his father’s defiant interview with Ekho Moskvy.
The second, posted just minutes later, was a statement allegedly written by the deposed president himself.
In it, Bakiev Sr. writes, “I am ready to take responsibility for my guilt in the tragic events taking place if my guilt is proven by objective and impartial investigation.”
Why did the Kyrgyz people expel Bakiev? Because they were sick of his corruption.
Why did Bakiev reportedly flee to the US? Because his corruption is safe with us.
Azimbek Beknazarov, the new government’s vice prime minister responsible for legal matters, said that U.S. officials were apparently indifferent to Bakiyev’s human rights violations, while providing the means for the Bakiyev family to become extraordinarily rich.Now the US military might lose access to Manas Air Force Base. The US and NATO use Manas as an important logistical hub for the Afghanistan operations.
“The last two-three years, Kyrgyzstan’s democratic values have been destroyed,” Beknazarov said in an interview with GlobalPost amid the debris of the looted presidential administration building, which was the focus of Wednesday’s violence. “America closed its eyes to this,” he said. “That’s why the majority of people now think that America only needs its military base and nothing else interests it.”
Beknazarov said that the provisional government has not yet formally started to discuss whether to keep the base open, although many ordinary people are asking them take up the question. “My own personal opinion is that Kyrgyzstan doesn’t need such a base,” he said.
Meanwhile, operations at Manas air base have been curtailed sharply. A press spokesperson there said that troop transport flights have been temporarily suspended, although other “normal operations,” such as re-fueling, continue. He did not provide details why the troop flights were halted.The truth is that Kyrgystan unrest poses a dilemma for US military.
Losing Manas would have been a major setback for U.S. operations. In 2005, Air Force Col. Randy Kee, then the commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, said the Kyrgyz base had become the "primary logistics hub" for Operation Enduring Freedom. That same year, neighboring Uzbekistan cut off U.S. access to Karshi Khanabad (also known as "K2"), a former Soviet airbase that had been an important staging area for operations in Afghanistan, and many of K2's operations shifted to Manas.
Since then, Kyrgyzstan's importance to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan has only grown. Among the chief reasons: As rising violence in Pakistan threatens U.S. and coalition supply lines, the U.S. is keener than ever to ensure that northern supply routes to Afghanistan remain open. Underscoring Kyrgyzstan's strategic role, Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, paid a visit last month to the country.
Continued unrest in Kyrgyzstan could pose a serious problem for U.S. military planners. After Wednesday's events, Bakiyev fled the capital. His whereabouts are not confirmed, although news reports say he flew to southern Kyrgyzstan, where he maintains a regional power base.
The US government is very supportive of business opportunities in Kyrgystan.
On November 10,  the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy held a seminar "Doing Business with the USA" providing information to Kyrgyz companies on how to conduct business with U.S. partners and identifying future business opportunities. U.S. Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller and Maksim Bakiev, the newly appointed Head of the Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovation, opened the Bishkek seminar with comments on the importance of expanding bilateral business ties (the Ambassador’s remarks appear below). The seminar attracted over 120 participants, and stimulated many companies to explore possible ways of increasing business ties with the U.S. This was the fifth “Doing Business with the USA” conference held in Kyrgyzstan.Very cozy. Happy hours and Christmas celebrations, etc.
...On November the 12th 2009, AmCham in the Kyrgyz Republic in partnership with U.S Department of Commerce held the Second Annual Conference “Trade and export in Kyrgyzstan: how to strengthen capacity?” in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Over 100 guests participated in this event....Glen Lockwood, Board Chair and President of TFI opened the Second Annual Conference and stressed the importance of the conference, strengthening the connection between governmental authorities and business. The keynote addresses were delivered by U.S. Ambassador in Kyrgyz Republic Tatiana Gfoeller (whose remarks appear below) and Aidar Mokenov, Deputy Minister of Economic Regulation in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The other day I came across a story from a newspaper on the Texas border, the Del Rio News Herald. Del Rio is next to Laughlin AFB. The story was reported on April 6, 2010. The Kyrgystan unrest took off the very next day.
A man was found dead in his hotel room. He apparently worked for a company called TolTest in the Indianapolis area.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Fred Brockwell identified the man found in the room as Alvin L. Lehman, 46, a resident of Indianapolis, Ind. Brockwell pronounced Lehman dead at 2:45 p.m. Monday and ordered an autopsy of the body to determine the cause and manner of Lehman’s death. Brockwell said Lehman was found sitting in the bathtub inside the motel room, but added there was no trauma to the body and no obvious signs of foul play.So, probably nothing. But I looked up TolTest and it's a very large defense contractor. (You would never know this from the news item.) For example, it was awarded part of a $4 billion contract to the USAF in 2004. TolTest has locations throughout the world including Guantanamo Bay, the Azores, Spain, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan and Guam. (http://www.toltest.com/?event=locations)
So not a rinky-dink operation. In fact TolTest comes in above Lockheed Martin on this list of top 100 contractors:
So this guy, Alvin Lehman, just happens to die mysteriously while on business for TolTest, down in Texas right next to Laughlin AFB. And the next day the Kyrgystan people toss out their president and his son. Again, I'm sure it's probably nothing. But it got me thinking about the accusations of corruption in Kyrgystan, and Manas, and the logistics of running NATO operations. Because one of TolTest's core business is bulk fuel services. (http://www.toltest.com/?event=news.read&newsid=169)1 KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root)2 DynCorp International (Veritas Capital).....
12 Blackwater USA....
17 Toltest18 Lockheed Martin
Services include asbestos; lead abatement/demolition; bulk fuel services; construction; design/build; environmental consulting & remediation; general contracting; operations & maintenance (OM); site engineering; telecommunications installations; transportation and disposal; underground/above-ground storage tank management, removal & installation; and value engineering.So anyway, for the third time, it's all probably neither here nor there. It just flicked my whiskers. The point is that some people are making a lot of money in Central Asia. And those people probably know each other, because let's face it, that's how business is done. It's all about who you know, and there aren't all that many people mixing it up in Kyrgystan based on the reports of these US Department of Commerce conferences. So when we start talking about corruption, the problem can flash over very quickly and engulf others. Thus whenever we see people dying mysteriously or getting tossed off buildings or committing "suicide," like all those bankers, then we must ask whether these deaths are really fire doors slamming shut to prevent the corruption exposures from spreading.
Getting back to this story about trouble in the Stans and which one is next to blow, we learn a little more about Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan:
...Ordinary Uzbeks live in crushing poverty, with no free press and in fear of the rapacious security services. The country's border with Kyrgyzstan has been shut off since the unrest began last week, and the Uzbek authorities have ensured that local media do not cover the uprising. Nevertheless, the fear for the Uzbek regime will be that news of the collapse of the Kyrgyz regime may put thoughts of revolution into the heads of Uzbeks.That is pretty much exactly the method covered in yesterday's post about state-sponsored violence in Guatemala: refusing to hold inquiries, blaming the violence on terrorists:
In May 2005, roughly two months after the Tulip Revolution that brought Mr Bakiyev to power in Kyrgyzstan, protests erupted in the Uzbek town of Andijan, not far from the border with Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek troops fired into the crowds, and it is estimated that several hundred people died. The government refused to hold an independent inquiry into the events at Andijan, and claimed that the uprising was organised by terrorists, but those who were there speak of unarmed civilians being sprayed with machine gun fire and later buried in mass graves.
Social cleansing and state-sponsored violence does not get investigated.As for the border between Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan, a company called TFI (Task Force Innovation Internation) reported in their December 2007 newsletter the completion of two projects in Kyrgystan. The president of TFI is Glen Lockwood, the guy who chaired the U.S Department of Commerce Second Annual Conference “Trade and export in Kyrgyzstan: how to strengthen capacity?” on November 12, 2009.
What may arguably be the strongest indication of the state’s role in the current violence is an absolute void of effective homicide investigations. Null or non-existent forensic investigations are a textbook indication of social cleansing. They allow for complete impunity, a heightened culture of terror, and increased powerlessness of victims’ family members, and more widely, civil society.
Lockwood's company completed several Kyrgystan projects in 2007. One was a border crossing.
On the 1st of October 2007, the official opening ceremony of Bekabad Border Crossing Point (Kyrgyzstan –Uzbekistan border) was held and attended by Glen Lockwood, The President of TFI International; Marie Yovanovich, The US Ambassador in Kyrgyzstan; Zlatko Zigic, The Head of Mission of International Organization for Migration in Kyrgyz Republic; Zamir Moldoshev, The Head of Kyrgyzstan Border Services; Jusupjan Jeenbekov, The First Deputy Minister of Emergency Situation of Kyrgyzstan, and other border and customs control officials. Construction of Bekabad Crossing Point was funded by US Department of State within the bounds of EXBS program implemented by IOM in Kyrgyzstan, and successfully completed by TFI International.
The second project involved the construction of showers and latrines at Manas AFB.
Glen Lockwood got married in Kyrgystan on September 11, 2001.
After his marriage, Lockwood planned to work for John Dawkins, who attended the wedding and was part owner and General Director of a Moscow technology company called IPSOTEL. But without explanation Russian authorities denied Lockwood entrance and sent him back to Kyrgystan.
Those crazy Russians. Who would think such a thing?
Anyway, a fascinating story thus ensues involving money, military people, contractors, Turkey, Iraq, intelligence operatives, etc. People coming in and out, companies changing names, giant egos, bitter grudges ending in a death and a disappearance.
In 2004, eight months after the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and six months after the death of Ryan Manelick, it appeared that the US Army had finally begun an aggressive investigation into what had happened to the two men. Initially the investigation was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division, based in Tikrit, Iraq. By May, the case had moved to the Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (HQCID) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The general assumption is that the Army’s renewed interest was the result of Greg Manelick’s tireless efforts to uncover the truth of who killed his son. In August of 2005, Geoff Nordloh met with agents of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division for a second time. The investigation into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick was said to be close to “wrapping up.“Pretty serious. And somehow Glen Lockwood managed to survive all that because he's still the president of TFI and up until last week, he was presumably acquainted with Maksim Bakiev.
Let's recap. From this one incident in Kyrgystan we can detect the following:
- a culture of corruption in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan
- a culture of nepotism and the strong presence of moneyed people from the UK
- connections to Israel
- Bakiev hiding in the US and Manas now at risk
- US government and business personnel exposed to the fallout of Bakiev's corruption
- the possibility of other contractors deeply involved in corruption
- the possibility of state-sponsored violence and intelligence operatives at work