In his testimony to Congress last month, the chief of U.S. Central Command, General James Mattis, said that he had instructed the U.S.'s intelligence officers to draft "releasable products" to give to its "most trusted partners" in regions including Central Asia:
As I travel throughout the [CENTCOM area of responsibility] and see the promise of new initiatives and the risk posed by numerous challenges, I receive requests from military leaders across the region to increase intelligence sharing between our militaries. Many show determination to make tough decisions and prioritize limited resources to oppose antagonists seeking to destabilize their countries or use them to plan and stage attacks against the U.S. homeland. With this in mind, and in order to demonstrate our commitment, I requested the Intelligence Community to begin drafting releasable products for our most trusted partners in the Levant, on the Arabian Peninsula, in the Central Asian States, and in South Asia as a standard practice rather than the exception.
I am encouraged by the personal attention the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is giving these matters. Director Clapper’s strong emphasis and encouragement for the intelligence community to produce intelligence in a manner that eases our ability to responsibly share information with our military counterparts creates a stronger, more focused front against our common enemies and builds our partner nations’ confidence. We are grateful for the nimble manner in which our intelligence community has strengthened our efforts to checkmate more of our enemy’s designs.
The recent cancellation of the first Turkish-run flight from Yerevan to Turkey underlines for many Armenians the persistent difficulty of normalizing ties with their longtime foe. But where business interests lie, hope seems hard to quash.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvii and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have been named as owners of companies registered in the offshore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands, according to a 15-month investigation by the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The list of such owners, published in an April 3 report called "Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze," names Ivanishvili as the director of the Bosherton Overseas Corporation, registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2006 and "still in existence," according to the report. Aliyev and his wife, Mehriban, were listed as directors of Rosamund International as of 2003, the year Aliyev first came to power.
Their daughters, Arzu and Leyla, are registered as the director and a shareholder in Arbor Investments, and in LaBelleza Holdings Ltd and Harvard Management Ltd, respectively.
A spokesperson told Georgian media on April 5 that the prime minister had disposed of the shares before his campaign for public office began in 2011, though noted that "in the past" he had had "a business link" with the company." Georgian law forbids public officials to have a controlling stake in companies.
Turkey’s potential as a regional energy hub could help alleviate the financial turmoil hitting the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, analysts say. But before any steps are taken, Ankara would like to see movement toward a resolution of the decades-long conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. And that is a long shot over the short term.
Armenia has had various firsts in its history -- from establishing Christianity as a state religion to setting up a winery-- but now, it has scored the lesser honor of being named in a Gallup poll as the post-Soviet country residents are most eager to leave.
Based on personal interviews with 41,072 people throughout 12 former Soviet republics between 2010 and 2012, the survey found that 40 percent of the Armenian respondents would like to move permanently to another country. (The number of respondents was not provided. Online data sets reflected numbers only for 2005 and 2006.)
Moldova, at 32 percent, followed in second place.
By comparison, Armenia's Caucasus neighbors, Georgia and Azerbaijan, were far less inclined to acknowledge their willingness to seek greener grass for good -- a mere 14 percent of the respondents in both countries. Respondents in Caucasus player Russia expressed the same level of wanderlust.
Armenia long has topped the charts for labor migration; most particularly to Russia, but also to Europe and the United States. After a brief economic rally, malaise set in for good with the 2009 international financial crisis. Despite various attempts by the government to kickstart the economy, unemployment, according to unofficial estimates, remains dizzily high, at well over 50 percent.
The Gallup survey reflects that trend. Fifty-two percent of the respondents polled throughout all 12 countries cited improving standards of living as their main reason for wanting to move abroad. At 13 percent of those interviewed, securing a better future for their children trailed far behind as a reason.
As a second round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program opens in Almaty on April 5 analysts are not expecting major breakthroughs, but international negotiators will be pushing a proposal advanced when they met in the same venue in February.
Although there was no breakthrough, those talks in Kazakhstan – regarded as a fitting host due to its own non-proliferation efforts – unlocked an eight-month negotiations deadlock.
The six-nation P5+1 group (the five UN Security Council permanent members – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – plus Germany) had been pressing Iran to end medium-level uranium enrichment, close its Fordow underground enrichment facility, and hand over stockpiles of medium-enriched uranium – production of which marks a critical stage in bomb making – for international safe-keeping.
Tehran insists it is not pursuing nuclear weapons and that its program is for peaceful purposes. It has pushed for crippling international sanctions to be lifted without preconditions.
Negotiators have been tight-lipped about the February proposal. Reuters reported on April 3, citing unidentified Western officials, that the six-nation group has offered to ease gold sanctions and relax a petrochemicals embargo in return for Iran suspending medium-level uranium enrichment.
The agency claimed that negotiations in Moscow with its Russian counterpart, succinctly known as Rosselkhoznadzor, went well and that, after some changes in agricultural regulations, a taste of Georgia will soon reappear in Russian salads and pirogis.
But, of course, Russian officials want to be the first to get that taste. In what is slowly turning into supra diplomacy, they've been invited back to Georgia to munch on tomatoes and cucumbers at an unspecified date in the future.
Wine-tasting is a serious procedure that brooks no haste, especially when it comes as a form of post-conflict diplomacy and, also, when there is so much wine to taste. For months now, Russian federal wine-tasters have gotten to sniff, slurp, roll the wine around their mouths, look quizzically at each other and make sure the political terroir is acceptable for the Kremlin.
Kyrgyz media outlets have been full of accusations and counter-claims about low-quality medicines, corruption and conflicts of interest, raising concerns about government oversight of the lucrative pharmaceuticals sector.