понеделник, 31 август 2015 г.

Public Analytica: News stories in Novaya Gazetta that cohere together

The first is an article in the Daily Beast, which builds on an extremely interesting research conducted by journalists in one of the few remaining independent media in Russia - the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, revealing a shady line in the relationship between the Russian FSB and Islamic terrorists. The article, narrates a story allegedly happening in Dagestan, where journalists managed to interview people close to radical Islamists circles and their intermediaries with the FSB - The Federal Security Service of Russia. The synopsis of the story - the FSB is trying to divert the energy and the focus of Islamic radicals in the Caucasian Republics away from Russia. The FSB has been offering money and logistical support for relocation of the islamists form Dagestan to the new jihad destination - the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq..

The story in the Novaya Gazetta is further dissected in the Daily Beast by US experts and secret services connoisseurs for credibility test - some agree, others do not. But it is an extremely poignant analogy and a reminder of what we have been recently witnessing as more frequent attacks on critical energy infrastructure in Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

In 2015 alone - all major pipelines running through Turkey have been hit in attacks and bombs - the BTC, the Baku- Erzerum gas pipeline, the gas pipeline from Iran and most notably the Kirkuk - Cyhan oil pipeline. In a marked contrast, there have not been reported attacks on gas pipelines carrying Russian gas on Turkish territory either from the Transbalkan route or the Samsun-Ankara gas pipeline which is the onshore segment of the Blue Stream.

The common denominator in most of the attacks is that they target projects that deliver non-Russian energy resources - from the Caspian sea, from Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. And this is what the Kremlin has been desperately trying to block from acceding Europe. In the case of the Ukrainian infrastructure bombings local pro-Russian separatists have been trying to prove a key Gazprom's thesis - i.e. that Ukraine is not a reliable transit country - hence the need for competing bypass projects like South Stream, Turk Stream and Nord Stream - 2.

The standby attributing of bombings in Turkey to the Kurdish PKK militants is easy yet somewhat fallacious as it runs counter to the whole rationale following the unqualified success of the lawful political representatives of the Turkish Kurds - the HDP in the last elections. Not only did the party generate the news headlines becoming a swing power in the Turkish Parliament, but it denied the seemingly omnipotent Erdogan's AKP full control over the destiny of Turkey and its Governments. The HDP gained unprecedented leverage which triggered Erdogan's decisions to end the ceasefire with PKK and renew attacks on its bases in Northern Iraq. Unable to digest the new "kid on the block" in a hung parliament the Turkish President forced snap elections.

Even if the attacks on the energy infrastructure come in retaliation for the aggressive attacks of the Turkish army against PKK, the argumentation base is mostly linear and trivial. Turkey offers the main access to the global markets to Iraqi Kurdistan oil and gas, which in turn forms the financial backbone of the Barzani government. Even if the PKK remain at odds with Barzani - fighting at too many fronts would have been suicidal for them and a hit on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline - a definite high risk - low reward exercise.

The HDP on its part has been all along trying to project itself as a systemic party, working for the national interests of Turkey. Although its leader paid a high profile visit to Moscow, which underscored the warm historic ties between Russia and the Kurds and raised some eyebrows, he never passed the red line.

President Erdogan chose to attack the PKK while sparing his bullets on ISIS targets. While Ankara-PKK hostilties are nothing new - the HDP's ability to consolidate support beyond the core Kurdish community shook the AKP at its roots.

The PKK and most notably its radical and military wing have maintained close historic relations with the KGB in Soviet times, which have been duly transferred to its successors in Moscow.

This backdrop adds another dimension and credibility to the story told by Elena Milashina of Novaya Gazetta on the operations of  FSB officers motivating pro-Islamic radicals and other foreign "assets" abroad to engage in support of ISIS and collaterally in other operations "en passant".

There is little secret that the Erdogan government did secure free and safe passage to and from Syria for thousands of islamic terrorists in return for the ISIS leaders sparing Turkish territory security threats.

Now that Erdogan has broken the truce and the ISIS leaders keep urging their followers in Turkey to raise against the Turkish government it is more than plausible that some of the more than 3,000 ISIS fighters crossing Turkey en route to their home bases in the Caucasians republics could have been motivated by Russian secret services along the lines described in Milashina's report following the demise of the Turkish Stream.

In the battle for blocking alternative gas supplies to Europe via Turkey it is fully conceivable that at some point the Kremlin's proxies could have been left without alternative but to use the matrix described in Novaya Gazeta and The Daily Beast to disrupt operations of critical energy infrastructure and dissuade investors from engaging in new developments in all transit countries from source to EU border. At this stage we tend to believe that it would probably be too risky even for Russian secret services to use Islamic radicals from the Caucasus for operations in EU countries - at least until all options to block Azeri, Turkmeni, Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan gas are exhausted en route to Turkish-EU borders. There is however little doubt that hybrid warfare tactics, the wide use of proxies, including refugees and islamic radicals, dramatically augment the capacity to inflict damage on critical transit infrastructure in Turkey, Georgia and the SEE countries - including the West Balkans.

If proven the news story in Novaya Gazetta will add further research into the secret web and overlay of interests between Caucasian residents, potentially motivated by the FSB, Syria based terrorist groups such as Al Nusra and the ISIS.

Oleg Kalugin, a former senior KGB officer, confirmed that the article in Novaya Gazeta reflects the actual situation on the ground, because according to him the relevant track record of the Soviet -Russian secret services is in place.

Some US experts contacted by the Daily Beast expressed, however, doubt that the FSB will risk with such operations, because that would mean them depending on the permanent existence of external alternative swap areas of the operations of radical Islamist in order to to distract military action on Russian territory.

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