Created on Sunday, 24 December 2006 08:31
Written by Mike Whitney
by Mike Whitney
Was the Bush administration involved in the death of Turkmenistanâ€™s President, Saparmurat Niyazov?
After all, Niyazov met all the criteria for Bushâ€™s policy of â€œregime changeâ€. He controlled massive natural gas reserves and he refused to take orders directly from Washington. Typically, these are the only factors that are weighed when considering whether a change of leadership is in order.
Naturally, Niyazov was on the same â€œtarget listâ€ as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and Saddam Hussein, the other foreign leaders whose only real crime is that they control vital supplies of dwindling resources. This puts themat odds with the American oil giants whose plansto expand their corporate empire throughout Central Asia and the Middle East is now a matter of public record.
Turkmenistan has reserves which amount to 22.5 trillion cubic meters, the second largest supplies in all of Asia. At this point nearly all of Turkmenistanâ€™s gas is pumped through Russian energy giant Gazpromâ€™s pipelines. As economist Mikail Delyagin said, â€œBecause of Gazpromâ€™s mismanagement, the European part of Russia cannot exist without Turkmen gas. Control over it is a categorical imperative for Russiaâ€™s development during the next 10 yearsâ€. (Victor Yasmann RFE/RL Current Affairs)
Disruption of supplies from Turkmenistan would be a severe blow to Gazpromâ€™s economic vitality.
The Bush team wants to build a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to pump natural gas reserves to the West through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and out the Mediterranean corridor or down through Bushâ€™s â€œnew colonyâ€ in Afghanistan through Pakistan to the coast.If the Bush plan goes forward it would be a major setback to Gazprom which depends on Turkmenistanâ€™s gas to supply Ukraine and Europe. As Stratford says, â€œWithout those shipments, Russian state energy firm Gazprom would find it impossible to satisfy both domestic Russian natural gas demand and fulfill its export contracts to Europe and Turkeyâ€.
It would also sabotage Niyazovâ€™s prior commitments to China
which hassigned contracts for a pipeline to bring natural gas through
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Chinaâ€™s future depends heavily on
Turkmenistan. According to Alex Nicholson of the AP, â€œNiyazov promised
to pipe 30 billion cubic meters of gas beginning January 2009. (China)
also won an invitation last month to tap the giant Iolotan fields,
which the late president declared, contained 7 trillion cubic meters of
natural gasâ€”or more than even Saudi Arabiaâ€™s proven reserves.â€
â€œ7 trillion cubic meters of natural gasâ€?!?
No wonder the Bush administration is paving the way for intervention.
At the very least, Niyazovâ€™s death has turned out to be another â€œgreat
opportunityâ€ for Uncle Sam and it looks like Bush may have already put
the pieces in place to take full advantage of it.
For example, as soon as Niyazovâ€™s death was announced,his second in
command, Ovez Atayev, was removed from power by Deputy Prime Minister,
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, under trumped charges of â€œharassing and
humiliating his daughter in lawâ€ or some other such nonsense.
Now, thereâ€™s a fortunate coincidence.
So, now the president is dead, his successor is under indictment and
there are reports that a number of prominant ex-patriots will soon be
returning to Turkmenistan to take part in the political â€œfree-for-allâ€.
Havenâ€™t we seen this performance before?
If this sounds like a script written in Washington, itâ€™s probably
because it was. Most of Bushâ€™s stooges in Iraq were assembled outside
of the country before the 2003 invasion and still have the
administrationâ€™s unfailing support. The upcoming circus in Turkmenistan
will probably be more of the same.
The media, of course, has played its traditional role of championing
Washingtonâ€™s interventions by demanding â€œfree electionsâ€; another
comical part of the Bush-kabuki which never seems to change.
Turkmenistan has no history of free elections, but the western press
can be expected to follow the directives of their political overlords
who will doubtless insist that Turkmenistan participate in Bushâ€™s
â€œGlobal Democratic Revolutionâ€. (excluding democratically-elected
Hamas, of course)
But Bush is facing fierce headwinds in Turkmenistan. If we look back at
the â€œcolor codedâ€ revolutions which were orchestrated by American NGOs
and American intelligence agencies, we can see that (despite the
planning and huge commitment of financial resources) they accomplished
nothing of lasting value. Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan are back within
Russia's orbit and Georgia will soon follow. (or freeze to death in the
cold without access to Russia's natural gas)
Eurasia is Russia and Chinaâ€™s backyard and theyâ€™ve build up
the necessary defenses to keep Washington out. Bush can waste-away in
Afghanistan for another 5 or 6 years dreaming of "victory", but his
â€œGrand Planâ€ for the region is basically in ruins. The United States
will not prevail in Central Asia any more than it will in Iraq.
Nevertheless, the plan is going forward and Bush apparently has the
requisite agents in place to give him hope for success. According the
RIA Novosti, â€œMany people in the former presidentâ€™s inner circle were
oriented towards Europe.â€
The power struggle is bound to be ferocious and Washington will be
right in the â€œthick of itâ€. At this juncture, Bush has no choice but to
pull out the stops and do everything in his power to establish an
American client in Turkmenistan. The geopolitical stakes are too high
to ignore. The country is perfectly situated between Russia and Iran on
the Caspian Sea, the epicenter of the worldâ€™s remaining resources. In
fact, the Pentagonâ€™s own maps show Turkmenistan at the very center of
CENTCOMâ€™s global resource war; a pivotal location for military
installations and pipeline corridors. It provides ready-access to an
estimated 2 trillion in oil reserves in the Caspian Sea, as well as the
massive natural gas supplies. At the same time, a change of leadership
could block arch-rival Gazprom from extending its dominance throughout
the region by handing over control to western energy corporations.
This is not a battle that the Washington warlords can afford to lose,
but victory will not come easily. Neither Iran nor Russia can allow
Bush to take over Turkmenistan without a fight. Iran would be
surrounded on all sides by the US and cut off from its neighbors to the
northbyhostile American forces. At the same time, US military bases
would be set up evencloser to the Iranian capitalof Tehran.
For Russia, an American client in Turkmenistan wouldbe a stiff challenge
to its role as the regionâ€™s superpower; creating the looming possibility
that NATO would get an even bigger foothold in Central Asia and threaten
the delicate balance of power.
Turkmenistan is a key piece in the new â€œGreat Gameâ€; the ongoing
struggle for dominance in Central Asia. Whether Washington played a
part in Niyazovâ€™s untimely death or not is almost irrelevant. The
Bush-Cheney oiligarchy have demonstrated a willingness to
fight-to-the-death for every thimbleful of oil or natural gas left on
planet earth. This makes the likelihood for a sudden eruption of
violence Turkmenistan all the more probable.
As the weeks and months go by, we can expect to see the usual trappings
of US involvement; the CIA-funded public demonstrations, the
American-friendly "democracy promoting" coverage in the media, and the
comical parade of ex-patriots who matriculated in US right-wing think
tanks. The whole charade is being cobbled together as part of the
failed strategy to control the worldâ€™s remaining resources.
The faces may vary, but the routine is always the same.