Ships from Russia's Caspian Flotilla may make a visit to Iran next year, and the two navies may cooperate in the future, the head of the flotilla said. Admiral Sergey Alekminsky, commander of the flotilla, gave a 40-minute interview to Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy over the weekend, discussing the state of the fleet and answering listeners' questions about it.
Most reports on interview highlighted the mention of a potential port call in Iran. From RIA Novosti:
"I hope that next year, by decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it will be possible to organize a visit of our ships to Iran... There is a wish to see [the Iranian navy], because they are also developing," the commander said.
In his words, mutual relations between the Russian and Iranian flotillas "unfortunately doesn't exist yet, but there is a possibility."
(Side note: none of the print reports on the interview used the word "unfortunately," even though that's probably the most interesting word in the passage. So I added it in that translation. But I'm not making it up: Check for yourself -- around 11:40.)
Admiral Alekminsky also gave an update on the development of the navy, and mentioned the possibility of drones and "mini-submarines."
Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meet in October.
It's been sporadically little to gain by such an adventure. But Iran's leadership may believe otherwise, reports Michael Moran at Global Post:
According to intelligence officials, Iran’s security services have concluded that Azerbaijan, its Muslim neighbor to the north, has been enlisted by Israel in a campaign of cyber attacks, assassinations and detailed military planning aimed at destabilizing and ultimately destroying Tehran’s nuclear research program.
That Iranian perspective, described by a range of current and former US intelligence officials who asked that their names remain confidential, has led to a crackdown on Iran’s sizeable ethnic Azeri minority and the launch of an Iranian counter espionage offensive to destabilize the government of President Ilham Aliev...
“What I can say is that Iran believes the link is much more substantial — to the point where they fear Israeli aircraft or special ops guys could be based on Azeri territory,” the official said. “In many ways, what Iran perceives is as important as anything else.”
Three women in Uzbekistan have been sentenced to long prison terms for spying on behalf of neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbek state television reported, in a special program called "Betrayers of the Motherland."
The three women all lived in the Surxondaryo region of southern Uzbekistan, bordering Tajikistan. One of them married a police officer from Tajikistan in 1998, a wedding that was planned by Tajiikistan's State Committee on National Security for the purpose of making her into a spy, the program said.
The three women allegedly worked in cooperation, passing on information about:
"[T]he military unit in Surxondaryo Region, including equipment and weapons being kept there; the prosecutor's office, the police department and customs complex of Sariosiyo District. She also provided information on employees and servicemen working in these facilities, their combat readiness and number plates of their cars."
The BBC Monitoring report on the TV program notes:
The programme dubbed "Betrayers of the Motherland" featured interviews with the women all whom said that Tajik security bodies forced them into spying. TV, however, dismissed these claims by saying that the three took money for the information they provided. "If they were forced into spying in Tajikistan, why did not they appeal to relevant state bodies after returning to Uzbekistan?" the programme asked.
At the conclusion of the broadcast, TV strongly condemned the women for"betraying" homeland, relatives and compatriots.
For the past few years, representatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have generally shied away from talk that the group is a competitor for the West, trying to play down its original inception as a "NATO of the East." But it sounds like the youth are talking a little more loosely and ambitiously. At an "SCO Youth Forum" in Barnaul, Russia, the organization's representatives spoke bluntly about challenging the West, taking control of the Internet and -- perhaps most audaciously -- taking on Eurovision.
The modest proposal on the internet came from Denis Tyurin, the director of the SCO's "Business Club":
"In the Russian and international expert community there are plenty of questions about the current structure of the management of the internet. For the most part, a situation persists in which the 'switch' of global information networks is located in the US. Regardless of the efforts of the international community to give that system of management more balance, the Americans don't intend to give up the levers of control," Tyurin said.
The members of the SCO can exert influence on these processes. "Many of the countries in the SCO have compatible approaches to this problem," Tyurin noted. "The SCO, acting as an example for other international organizations, could become a prototype of a global system of management of the internet."
A Cobra 4x4 armored vehicle, of the type that will be built in Kazakhstan.
Turkish defense manufacturer Otokar has announced it will start producing its Cobra armored vehicles in Kazakhstan. The deal seems to follow precisely the model that Kazakhstan has been imposing on its foreign military contractor vendors: Kazakhstan will buy their stuff if they set up a local joint venture, manufacture in Kazakhstan, and arrange for Kazakhstan's engineers to eventually be able to produce the product themselves. From Hurriyet:
Under the deal, Otokar will launch a joint venture with NK Kazakhstan Engineering to produce Otokar’s 4x4 Cobra armored vehicles. The number of vehicles and the size of the contract have not yet been announced...
The agreement is a follow-up deal on an earlier contract Otokar won last May to sell scores of vehicles to the Kazakh army....
NK Kazakhstan Engineering has been tasked with building the production facility for the Cobra vehicles, while Otokar will transfer production know-how and deliver all parts and components for production, officials said.
The deal was signed October 12 during a visit by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Turkey, and represents the first Turkish armored vehicle to be produced outside that country. The company says that it has already sold 25,000 Cobras to 30 countries around the world, among them Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Uzbekistan may have suspended its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization this summer, but the CSTO wants the final word: the organization's collective security council is holding a meeting in Moscow on December 19, where the presidents of member states "will make the final decision and we will state our position on that step" by Uzbekistan. That's according to CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Borduyzha, on a visit to Belarus, adding that he hoped Uzbekistan's suspension was temporary.
And Russia's representative to the CSTO, Igor Lyakin-Frolov, said "the door was open" to Tashkent: "We are moving toward a suspension of Uzbekistan's membership, bu we would hope that the door would not be closed for the return to the organization in the case of a change in the political situation in that country," he said.
And he added that Uzbekistan's move "wasn't unexpected," and had to do with Uzbekistan's concern about where the organization was heading:
"The fundamental reason for Uzbekistan's suspension of its membership in the CSTO is principally different views toward the development of the organization. Uzbekistan's leadership put the fundamental accent on rendering support in the case of aggression against one or several CSTO members," the diplomat said.
But lately, a course was discussed and supported by the majority of governments, including Russia, on turning the organization into a multi-profiled structure not only acting against external aggression, but also repelling contemporary threats and challenges -- terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal migration, and cyberterrorism, said Lyakin-Frolov.
US officials are happy with a program that helps steer Pentagon contracts to local businesses in Central Asia. But Central Asian governments are grousing that they aren’t making enough of a profit off of the Afghan war.
Turkey's protracted shopping for a long-range air defense system has been a sort of geopolitical bellwether for the country: in addition to considering systems from NATO allies U.S. and Italy, Ankara has been looking at Russian and Chinese options. If it goes for the latter, NATO has reportedly promised to cut Turkey out of its air defense monitoring system. But now it looks like Turkey may be abandoning the purchase altogether, reports Defense News:
Turkey's highest defense body might decide to indefinitely postpone the country's $4 billion air defense program, effectively killing it, sources and observers said.
In addition to analysts' criticism that the long-range air and missile defense system is too expensive, other recent developments have raised questions about the project.
This month, for example, MBDA of Italy, one arm of bidder Eurosam, arranged a tour for several Turkish journalists to observe firing tests at two Italian land and naval installations. Turkish defense authorities at the last minute declined to permit reporters to visit the Italian sites, and MBDA had to cancel the tour.
This led to speculation that the program was going to be canceled or indefinitely postponed.
(Not really germane to the main point, but it's remarkable that the Turkish government could forbid reporters from visiting Italy to see an Italian company exhibition.)
The problem is that Turkey may not need such a system:
Before the "New Silk Road" was ever official U.S. policy, there was talk among Washington wonks and U.S. policymakers of transforming the military Northern Distribution Network -- the system of supply routes the Pentagon uses to get its equipment to Afghanistan -- into a civilian, commercial trade network. But when the U.S. State Department rolled out its New Silk Road Initiative last year, there was never any connection made between that idea and the NDN.
That looks like it's changing, however. In a speech last week, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, made that connection explicit:
[W]e should not overlook the economic potential of the NDN. The existing infrastructure and transit routes used to transport military cargo can and should be used by the private sector to continue trade across the region, where there is ample opportunity for growth. The economic potential of a more open and integrated region – full of untapped human and natural resources – is virtually unlimited.
And at an event last week at the Open Society Foundations Washington office, Blake's deputy Lynne Tracy made the same point, calling the NDN a "proof of principle" for the New Silk Road.
Kyrgyzstan's president Almazbek Atambayev has repeatedly said he wants to create a "civilian transport hub" at the country's main airport in Manas after the U.S. moves its air base out (at an as-yet-undetermined time). And it looks like the U.S. government is trying to help Kyrgyzstan in that effort: the U.S. Trade and Development Agency is seeking bids for a business plan for just such a proposal. From the call for proposals:
As the Manas Transit Center and the U.S. military reduce operations at Manas International Airport, Manas International Airport Company is now considering how best to use the existing assets that will become available for civilian operation. Kyrgyzstan’s President Atambayev has expressed an interest in trying to make the Manas International Airport into a hub airport.
Recent statistics would support greater civilian passenger and cargo operations; from 2007 to 2011, civilian passenger traffic increased nearly 175% to nearly 1.6 million passengers per year. General operations increased by 118%, however, total civilian cargo volume (in tons) dropped about 16% to nearly 21,500 tons (which is consistent with the worldwide air cargo decline resulting from the recession). Manas International Airport is expected to share in the general air cargo volume growth in Asia, which is projected at more than 6% annually through 2029.
The contractor will assess "assess the regulatory and market conditions, as well as the developmental impacts associated with the Project, including infrastructure improvement projects needed to support the business plan" and "work directly with the Ministry of Transport and Communication of the Kyrgyz Republic and Manas International Airport company."