21 February 2016

Pan-Turkism, Russia, China and Tibet

Pan-Turkism was actively promoted by US backed interests in Turkey during the Cold War but especially in the days following the collapse of the USSR.

The idea was to unify the various Turkic peoples which extend from Turkey proper all the way to the Uighurs who inhabit Xinjiang in China. This is but one of many foreign policy moves intended to generate strife and grief for China and Russia as well as create a political situation in Central Asia and its surrounding districts that would grant the United States/NATO an opening to establish relationships and project power.

There is a mad rush for resources. Keeping them out of the hands of adversaries is just as important as having them available for yourself. Right now the United States has no viable way to extract the resources, the prize of Central Asia. But making exploitation difficult if not unviable for the Chinese and Russians may be enough.

There are Turkic populations in Russia, namely the Tatars and some of the leftover Central Asian populations that relocated into Russia proper during the USSR period. The Tatars are being subjected to grief in Crimea but at the same time the US media is failing to report the role of at least some of the Tatars in waging war against Russia.

In Central Asia, the main groups are the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kirghiz, Turkmen and of course the Uighurs. The Tajiks are an Iranic people related to both the Persians proper as well as the Pashtuns. All of the countries they inhabit were created by Stalin and specifically drawn in order to divide the populations. Stalin's legacy looms over the region today as the states are increasingly subject to ethnic strife and problems generated by these artificial boundaries.

The Uighurs constitute the Turkish element in China and have resisted Chinese incursion and rule in the region known as Xinjiang. The CIA has been backing imams and is suspected of backing militants. This is nothing new.

The US has backed Tibetan guerillas for many years and at least in the past was actively training them in the United States. The US officially dropped the guerilla training programme in1974 in light of the rapprochement with Beijing. Yet, the US has by no means ceased all activities. They have continued to back the Tibetan dissident movement and are believed to have a hand in some of the uprisings at least into the 1980's.

The newly ascendant relationship with India (where the Dalai Lama lives) will afford further opportunities to stir the pot. The Pivot to Asia will most certainly include Tibet. There are continued rumours of weapons caches and the India-China-Nepali border region is filled with intrigue. I can only imagine this is on the rise.

The Dalai Lama himself is interesting. It's not entirely clear what his legacy will be. He may in the end shift the nature of Tibetan Buddhism and Nationalism in an attempt to bring peace. His life story is pretty fascinating. From a Christian perspective he is course a representative of evil but in countering the evil of Beijing he and modern Tibet make for a compelling story.

With regard to the Uighurs there are some tensions and overlaps that are both problematic and interesting. Some of the Uighurs groups could be labeled as more 'Salafi' than Turkic in their consciousness and have allied with ISIS and al Qaeda. This does not mean they would be exempt from Western backing. Far from it.

On the other hand the notorious Grey Wolves, a neo-fascist Turkic organisation with roots in Turkey itself are known to be involved in the region and they are also known for having ties to American intelligence and the Turkish Deep State.

In 2015 there was a rather stunning attack in Thailand that was believed to have been perpetrated by the Grey Wolves. The attack was in retaliation against the Thai government which had repatriated Uighurs to China where they most certainly faced torture and imprisonment.

The Grey Wolves are also becoming quite aggressive toward Chinese tourists in Turkey itself. Their record within in Turkey is a dark one, a story of attacks on journalists, assassinations and collaborations with the military and drug running. For those who familiar with these topics and CIA operations in Latin America and Southeast Asia... it's pretty much in keeping with the norm.

This is all part of the murky 'Great Game' afoot in Central Asia. Pennsylvania based cleric Fethullah Gulen is also very active in Central Asia, where he has established numerous schools and other institutions including a bank. There was a scandal a few years ago where a bunch of English teachers were expelled from his schools in Central Asia. They were suspected of being American intelligence agents.

Gulen is believed to be backed by the United States and has also been accused of attempting to overthrow the Erdogan government.

Now it grows even more confusing as the US-Erdogan relationship continues to shift and reconstitute itself. One moment the NATO allies are almost enemies and then recently it's almost as if they've become friends again.

The Grey Wolves militias on the one hand would be expected to be against the mild Islamism of Erdogan and be active proponents of the Kemalist legacy, in line with the military. Yet, when it comes to the new hostile situation with Russia, they have earned Erdogan's qualified praise and it is believed they are making their way into Crimea and Ukraine. There's little doubt Putin is worried they will continue to make inroads among the Tatar communities in Russia itself. They are also believed to be active in Syria in support of the Turkmen fighters. There are also suggestions they were involved in the shooting down of the Russian jet back in 2015.

It's difficult to confirm the information. It's too soon. And, if you've ever waded into Turkic politics you'll soon realise it's pretty murky, especially when it comes to the Grey Wolves. In a world of shifting alliances and shadowy organisations it's difficult to pin down who's a part of what.

There are so many angles to the growing world conflict, there are so many pieces on the board. Everyone is scheming against everyone. The old 'stability' (ironic as it sounds) that was present during the Cold War is long gone. This new age is a free-for-all, privatised contractors, militias, schools, banks, NGO workers, factions, schemers and back-stabbers. Everyone is using everyone else and yet what is disturbing is that so many plots are being hatched, cans of worms being opened, it's hard to imagine how these actions and their consequences will be contained.