News from Nowhere—Episode 11: Against the Fascist Creep (with Alexander Reid Ross) – SoundCloud

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Ukraine material (Lobster & Wikispooks)

https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:British_Interests_in_Ukraine

Introduction

What are we doing in Ukraine, who is doing it, why are they doing it and for whose benefit? Simple questions but to answer them, even to begin to answer them, we have to take a step back from the official drivel of championing democracy, respecting the will of the people and protecting the integrity of established national borders. We are always told, these days, that our interventions in other countries are motivated by the purest of concerns. Sometimes mention might be made of ‘national interests’. But are the interests that we intervene to protect really ‘national’, that is pertaining to and benefiting us all as a nation? Or are they more likely to be the interests of a smaller group of people?

When we in the West look at other countries, especially those we assume are corrupt, such as Russia or Ukraine, we have no trouble seeing through the customary claims of ‘being democratic’ and ‘respecting the rule of law’, and clearly perceive that in reality it is the shady coalitions of wealthy men and their political allies who shape what goes on and for whose material benefit policies are formed, actions are taken, people are arrested and wars started. We all think we know an Oligarch when we see one. We understand that the sudden appearance of hugely wealthy men, out of the creaking bureaucracy of a dysfunctional country, is that special form of corruption that fosters the incest of power and wealth, such that the wealthy can buy the political favour that will guarantee they will become even wealthier, and those who bestow that political favour can then line their pockets with some of their lord’s money for as long as they remain in favour.

Such factions do, of course, exist in places like Russia and Ukraine. The question is, do they exist, perhaps in a slightly more nuanced form, in our countries? Can we ever catch sight of them at work? And if so, is this evidence that our countries are actually similarly dysfunctional? Are our ‘national’ policies and actions swayed by the interests of a coterie of the wealthy and the powerful in too close contact? Of course it is easy to proclaim that the answer is obvious. And sometimes it is obvious. Halliburton under the ‘W’ regime was a case in point and Cheney is, in my opinion at least, undoubtedly an American Oligarch. [2] But generally, especially in Europe it is harder is to catch actual sight of them. Particularly because ours are less obvious, more litigious, and usually operate within the wonderfully permissive laws they have often had a hand in framing. What we are looking for are ‘unofficial groupings’ of wealthy people, in close association with those in political power, who together have access to money and either the official or the less official organs of State power. Such grouping are not illegal and to find them does not indicate any wrong doing. But I think it is always prudent to know about them because when power and wealth do associate too intimately it is always a danger.

Business Clans

One Russian analysis of Ukraine by Andrei Fursov of the Centre of Russian Studies at the Institute of Fundamental and Applied Research of Moscow University for the Humanities, described the coalitions in Ukraine as “Business clans”. I like the name. It suggests groupings which are more than purely business, there being some sort of ‘one-of-us’ -ness about them.

So do we too have Business Clans of wealth and political influence, and are their interests a hidden part of what decides what our State does?

It turns out Ukraine is not a bad place to look.

Let’s first briefly look at the Ukrainian clans. According to Fursov there are four – though confusingly he describes more than four. According to Fursov there are:

  1. The Donetsk Clan. Wealthiest member is Rinat Akmetov worth $16 billion from Steel and heavy industry. Much of his empire involves European trade.
  2. The Yanukovych Clan. A long time political clan whose main sponsors have been Rinat Ahkmetov (see no.1 above) and Dimtry Firtash ( See no. 4 below).
  3. The Privat Clan whose ‘owner’ is Ihor Kolomoysky. Privat is Ukraine’s largest bank and Mr Kolomiosky is one of its two owners.
  4. The Firtash Clan. The main man is Dmytro Firtash. He owns the Ukrainian half of RosUkrEnergo (which controls the flow of Russian gas to and through Ukraine to Europe) and Centragas as well as many, many other companies. He is very much more closely tied to Russia.

Fursov also mentions Victor Pinchuk. Pinchuk is another billionaire who, along with Firtash has come recently to support and fund Ukraine’s new president, Mr Yatsenyuk. (Although Fursov’s description of the clans and their political front men is more detailed, it does cross reference nicely with briefer, more Western based analyses from Germany’s Speigel [3] and America’s Foreign Affairs. [4])

So these are the business clans to which the politicians we hear about on the news belong and the Godfather’s who run them. To give you an idea of the relationship between these oligarchs and their money on the one hand and the politicians and ‘political’ events in Ukraine on the other, let’s look at recent changes of government in Ukraine in relation to these men.

In 2007 Yulia Tymoshenko became Prime Minister of Ukraine for a second time, beating and replacing Firtash’s man, Yanukovych. As this article in Quartz relates,

When Tymoshenko came to power, she did away with Rosurkenergo’s sweetheart deal in a new natural gas arrangement with Russia. It is that transaction for which she was imprisoned—in a scripted trial, she was accused of cutting a bad deal for Ukraine. Once Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, Firtash was back in a powerful, behind-the-scenes role in charge of the country’s natural gas industry. [5]

Did Firtash have an interest in what happened? Of course he did. Would elements within Russia have been interested and pleased? Most certainly. Did either have an actual hand in it? Who can say. It is certainly a striking a coincidence of interests.

More recently Yanukovych himself fell from power. Of course his fall was due to a popular uprising. and had nothing to do with the fact that he had just refused to sign an economic ‘association’ deal with the EU. Here is how that event was reported in the Telegraph:

European Union leaders have lashed out at Russia after missing a major opportunity to spread its influence deep into eastern Europe and bluntly accused Moscow of pressuring Ukraine from signing a landmark deal on closer association.

Even if the EU extended its geopolitical reach eastward by initialing association agreements with Georgia and Moldova, the belated refusal of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to sign up to a similar deal largely spoiled the two-day summit with the EU’s eastern partners.

Most EU leaders accused Russia of using threats and bullying to keep Ukraine in step with Moscow.

The EU clearly saw the refusal, of the until then fairly compliant Mr Yanukovych, as a clear indication of Russian ‘meddling’. What about Mr Yanukovych’s sudden fall at the hands of a well organized uprising? Would that be European or American meddling. Or are we above that sort of thing? I personally think the meddling was primarily American. The Americans had the most to gain by Yanukovych’s departure and had the least invested – if you’ll pardon the expression – in his survival. The British had much more invested in Yanukovych and the clans which supported him, indeed had created him. Yanukovych was once a car mechanic who had been convicted of robbery and assault. [3] But he met Mr Akhmetov and a little later Mr Firtash and those men made Yanukovych who and what he became.

The British position has therefore been a balancing act. They were well integrated with Yanukovych and his wealthy protectors and thus not keen to see him go, but when he seemed to back off from cooperation with Europe in favour of Putin’s Russia they might well have thought it better to look for a new man. And of course the American’s had already chosen one in Yatsenyuk. Among the Europeans the Germans and Austrians would have had to tread very carefully in any meddling that might upset Putin. My reasoning is the delicate position of German and Austrian banks in regards to Russian and Turkmenistan Oligarch money.

Nevertheless there has been a lot of meddling in Ukraine – from all sides. Within the Ukraine, the clan which Yanukovych’s refusal to sign tehe European accord, would have hurt most was the large, rich and powerful Donetsk/Akhmetov clan whose businesses are oriented towards Europe. Might Mr Akhmetov have helped or funded a popular uprising that his European and, I suspect, in particular his American friends, would have been delighted with? It would have been in his interests. But again we don’t know. It is another striking coincidence of interests.

It might be worth noting at this point that Mr Firtash has been arrested in Austria at the bidding of the Americans on grounds of all sorts of alleged economic ‘irregularlties’. [5] While Mr Akhetov has remained at his ease. My oligarch is a business genius. Yours is a crook.

British interests in Ukraine – a very British clan?

It was with this picture of Ukrainian economics and politics in mind that I wondered what interests my country’s wealthy and powerful ‘clans’ might have in Ukraine. If indeed we could be said to have that sort of ‘clan’ at all. I leave it to you to decide the answer to that question. Here is what I found.

You might not know it, I didn’t, but there is a British Ukrainian Society (BUS). It’s aim, to “strengthen relations”.

 

Promotional graphic of the British-Ukrainian Society

It turns out that its board is just full of interesting people: [6]Lord Risby, Lord Oxford , Robert Shelter-Jones, John Wittingdale MP, Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill and Mr Anthony Fisher.

Now before looking at any of these people in more depth it is perhaps worth noticing that Lord Risby has been a Conservative MP since 1992, till he joined the Lords in 2010, has served in the Treasury and the Ministry of Defense, and from 2005 to 2010 was Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with special responsibility for business links to the City of London. John Wittingdale is a also very senior Conservative being vice chair of the key, 1922 committee. Robert Shelter-Jones is a Conservative Party donor via his company Sythian Ltd. As the Indepedent Newspaper reported,

The money from Mr Shetler-Jones has gone to the highest echelons of the party. Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the career diplomat who is now the shadow security minister, revealed in the latest Register of Members’ Interests that she receives £5,000 a quarter or £20,000-a-year from Mr Shetler-Jones.

Another senior Tory, the former armed services minister Nicholas Soames, also declares on the register that he receives an undisclosed sum as a strategic adviser to Scythian Limited, which has had listed assets of no more than £2 since 2006 and has given a total of more than £27,000 to Conservative Central Office. [7]

When Lord Risby was at the ministry of Defense Nicholas Soames was the Minister.

The odd one out at the British Ukrainian Society is Baroness Smith (listed as a patron) who was married to the former leader of the Labour party. Despite her presence, having strong ties to the Conservative party does seem to be quite a common theme at the BUS. Just an inocent coincidence of course. But we do already seem to have quite a grouping of political power. Likewise it may be just a coincidence that another common theme among BUS board members is having close ties to Mr Firtash of RosUkrEnergo gas company. Robert Shetler-Jones was the former CEO of Group DF which is Mr Firtash’s main holding company. Mr Shelter-Jones is now on Group DF’s supervisory board. Lord Oxford is also on Group DF’s supervisory council. While Mr Anthony Fisher is a former director of the Firtash Foundation. And one more BUS board member, Vladimir Granovski, is also on the board of Mr Firtash’s television company.

So I think it is fair to say that the BUS is not a cultural organisation. It has no artists or poets on its board, nor any human rights activists either. It has mainly people who are interested in business (which businesses I will come to shortly), are closely associated with Mr Firtash, and many of whom are members of or donors to the Conservative party. There are two other things which link three of the BUS members which are not emphasized on the BUS web site.

Both Lord Risley and Lord Oxford are non-executive board members of Oil and Gas companies whose main interests lie in Ukraine. While both Lord Oxford and Richard Shetler-Jones have been reported as having links (in Lord Oxford’s case very senior links) with MI6.

So now we have a group of people who are linked by interests in Ukrainian gas, close ties to Ukrainian oligarch Mr Firtash as well as two other Ukrainian business clans, close and senior connections to the Conservative party, ditto for MI6 and they are members of the British Ukrainian Society. If this grouping were in Ukraine and the people were all members of the Ukrainain British Society, with business interests in the UK, ties to Ukrainian intelligence and many of them were senior members of one politcal party as well, would we have difficulty seeing them as on their way to being a business clan?

Gas companies

Lord Oxford, or as he is known to his friends, Raymond Benedict Bartholomew Michael Asquith, 3rd Earl of Oxford and Asquith, is an hereditary peer and was a senior British diplomat stationed at one time in Moscow. In fact, according to the Telegraph newspaper he was the MI6 Station Chief in Moscow. He is now a non-executive Director of JKX Oil and Gas which has large oil and gas rights in Ukraine.

According to its Wikipedia entry,

JKX is the dominant private enterprise in exploration and production, accounting for over three-quarters of all oil and almost half of all gas produced by non-state-owned companies.[8][9]

So along side Mr Firtash’s RosUkrEnergo, JKX is a pretty big player in Ukraine. The Russian state bank VTB owns 6.4% of JKX while Ihor Kolomoyski (see clan no. 3 above) who is co-owner of Pivat Bank, which is Ukraine’s largest private bank, owns 27%. So JKX has ties to the Russian state, to Ukraine and one of its business clans, via Ukraine’s largest bank, and Lord Oxford is, as mentioned, also on the board of one of Mr Firtash’s ( Clan no.4, co-owner of RosUrkEnergo which handles all the state owned gas, and who was just arrested in Austria at the behest of the Americans on charges of corruption) companies.

Lord Risbey is also on the board of an oil and gas company operating in the Ukraine. He is a non-executive director of Hawkley Oil and Gas. Which is a very interesting company.

Hawkley Oil and Gas is small and relatively new. It’s birth was, in my opinion, rather odd and worth looking a little into. Back in 2010 an immunology company called Inceptive announced that:

While the Company [Inceptive] has historically focused on its science/ biotechnology business, the Company has reached an agreement to acquire a private BVI oil and gas exploration company, Hawkley. [10]

An obvious development, I am sure you’ll agree, immunology to gas exploration. The three board members of Inceptive were replaced with new men.

The private BVI (British Virgin Island) company mentioned was Janita Global Ltd which was trading as Hawkley. And when Incitive said it was going to acquire, it was actually,

…an agreement to merge with Janita Global Limited (Janita), an oil and gas company, with assets in the Dnieper-Donets Basin in the Ukraine. The merger was treated as a reverse acquisition by Janita of the Company [Incitive] which results in Janita being the in substance acquirer. [11]

So actually Incitive didn’t buy anything in the ordinary sense. But of course Janita now traded as Hawkley and so Hawkley emerged as a new company now based in Australia in the shell of what used to be Incitive minus everyone who ever worked for Incitive. The question is why? Why not simply create a new company rather than merge with and then gut an old one? Creating a new company costs pennies. The merger and creation of the new Hawkley, according to their own filings, created a loss for the company, for the twelve months ending 30th June 2010, of just over $6 million! The only person who is a constant in all this, from Janita and Incitive to Hawkley is a Mr Richard Reavley who is one of the founding members of Janita and then became and still is, the CEO of the new Hawkley Oil and Gas. Clear? Don’t worry these sorts of things, one gets the strong impression, are not meant to be clear.

As all these mergers and name changes were happening and a $6 million loss was being accumulated, nevertheless lots of shares were bought and sold from and between a whole nest of UK shell companies, and other private companies registered in BVI and the Bahamas. Why invest in a company earning little and with a large loss is not quite clear. However, names that pop up as investors included Ballure Trading Ltd [12]which is a UK shell company that lists Darion Ltd as its sole director and Sultan Services Ltd as its secretary. Darion has previously appeared in filings for and resigned as director or secretary of other companies 23 times. [13] Sultan services has also resigned from companies 23 previous times. If I have read the filings properly, and I am not an expert so I may have misunderstood, I think these companies and a host of others listed have even acted for each other as secretary or director in the past. The result is that no one, not even Companies House, the tax man nor the police know who is the actual beneficial owner of any of these companies.

Two other tax-haven companies also appear in the listings for Hawkley, which are Avenger Investment and Acetone Ltd, at one point owning nearly a quarter of Hawkley between them. These companies too don’t make it clear who owns them. But in what are called 601 filings the names of their directors do appear. On the filing for Avenger Investments [14]we find the signatures of Claudio Buhler and Kin Chui Tang as directors.

 

Signatures on the Avenger Ltd Company Statutory form 603

The odd thing is that Claudio Buhler and Kin Chi Tang are also listed as the directors of Acetone Ltd and Avenger is listed as the named company on Acetone’s filing. Which suggested that perhaps Acetone and Avenger too are just shell companies for whoever Mr Buhler and Kin Chi Tang are representing. [14]

Buhler and Tang were actually both partners in Caldwell & Partners. They are now both founder members of CKP fiduciaries along with Philip Caldwell which offers fiduciary services to high net worth individuals. Mr Buhler is, quite interestingly, also on the board of Georgia Oil and Gas Company Ltd. [15]Another BVI company operating in the gas fields of the former Soviet Union. Kin Chui Tang is listed as a UK citizen but the listed address is in Zug in Switzerland.

So much for Hawkley’s murky origins. What about now? Well if you look at how it is doing now you find statements like this one from investment site MacroAxis

The company has return on total asset (ROA) of (68.02) % which means that it has lost $68.02 on every $100 spent on asset. This is way below average. Similarly, it shows return on equity (ROE) of (104.79) %meaning that it generated substantial loss on money invested by shareholders. [16]

So we have a company whose origins were …odd, involved lots of shell companies and a multi million dollar loss and the company is now…making a loss. Though it is still solvent due to the money it raised from its investors. It does have assets but there is something distinctly…odd about the company. Nothing illegal – just odd.

Put together Lord Oxford’s interests and those of Lord Risley and between those interests in gas, the ties of various British Ukrainian Society members to Mr Firtash, to MI6 and to the Conservative party and is there anything we should be asking ourselves?

Oh one last thing – Lord Risley is not only a member of the British Ukrainian Society but also of the British Syrian Society. Two countries where we are involved in changes of regime and both central to struggles over gas and gas pipelines.

 

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-view-from-the-bridge.pdf#search=”ukraine

Cold War 3

The new Cold War is now established. And just as in the previous two there is a complete mismatch between the account of events presented by the opposing sides. And just as in the previous two there are people in the NATO countries trying to create an alternative narrative in which it’s not just good guys (NATO) and bad guys (Russia). Take Ukraine. Introducing an essay on Ukraine by Jonathan Marshall, Robert Parry at the Consortiumnews wrote:

Few Americans understand the ugly history behind the Nazi-affiliated movements that have gained substantial power in today’s U.S.–backed Ukrainian regime. Western propaganda has made these right-wing extremists the “good guys” versus the Russian “bad guys.”’ 39

None of this is mentioned in Elizabeth Pond’s ‘How Vladimir Putin lost Ukraine’, which appeared in the New Statesman recently. Pond’s essay is a good example of the sophisticated end of the good guys/bad guys position;4 0 and she makes no reference to the coup run there by the Americans and their local allies.4 1

One minor difference between Cold War 2 and this one is the attitude of the New Statesman. In the early 1980s, with Bruce Page as editor, the New Statesman would not have opened its columns to so such an openly pro-American version of events. The neo-con delusions are alive and well there.39

40 In the New Statesman 5 February 2015 at . Pond is representative of the higher end – Foreign Affairs, Chatham House et al – of the wilfully and/or career-mindedly naive pro-American writing on the subject at present.

41 She listed as among those briefed by the MOD. See near the bottom of the list at .

 

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster69/lob69-view-from-the-bridge.pdf#search=”ukraine

It’s that old left-meets-right thing again

Though “Bibi” Netanyahu won re-election last week, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will still look into whether the State Department financed a clandestine effort to defeat him.

Reportedly, State funnelled $350,000 to an American NGO called OneVoice, which has an Israeli subsidiary, Victory 15, that collaborated with U.S. operatives to bring Bibi down.

If we are now secretly pumping cash into the free elections of friendly countries, to dump leaders President Obama dislikes, Americans have a right to know why we are using Cold War tactics against democracies…..

Hopefully, after looking into OneVoice and V15, the Senate will expand its investigation into a larger question: Is the U.S. using NGOs to subvert regimes around the world? And, if so, who decides which regimes may be subverted?

What gives these questions urgency is the current crisis that has Moscow moving missiles toward Europe and sending submarines and bombers to probe NATO defenses.

America contends that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and backing for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine is the cause of the gathering storm in Russian-NATO relations.

Yet Putin’s actions in Ukraine were not taken until the overthrow of a democratically elected pro-Russian regime in Kiev, in a coup d’etat in which, Moscow contends, an American hand was clearly visible.

Not only was John McCain in Kiev’s Maidan Square egging on the crowds that drove the regime from power, so, too, was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

In an intercepted phone call with our ambassador in Kiev, Nuland identified the man we preferred when President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted. ‘Yats,’ she called him. And when Yanukovych fled after the Maidan massacre, sure enough, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was in power.

Nuland also revealed that the U.S. had spent $5 billion since 1991 to bring about the reorientation of Ukraine toward the West.

Now, bringing Ukraine into the EU and NATO may appear to Nuland & Co. a great leap forward for freedom and progress.

But to Russia it looks like the subversion of a Slavic nation with which she has had intimate ties for centuries, to bring Ukraine into an economic union and military alliance directed against Moscow.

And if NATO stumbles into a military clash with Russia, the roots of that conflict will be traceable to the coup in Kiev that Russians believe was the dirty work of the Americans.’

No, that wasn’t written by William Blum, Chris Floyd or Robert Parry (though they have written something similar), or any of the other commentators on the American left, but by sometime Nixon speechwriter Patrick J. Buchanan, whom I suppose we might describe as bearing the torch of American isolationism.17

 

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster68/lob68-view-from-the-bridge.pdf#search=”ukraine

 

UKraine and the major media

Recent events in Ukraine illustrate the gap between the mainstream media’s version of events and what we can find out for ourselves. The American-EU attempt to detach the Ukraine from the Russia orbit is stupid and dangerous. A comparison might be the Russians seeking to sign Mexico or Canada into an economic and military alliance. But the standard moves were made: the IMF offered a big loan to Ukraine with the usual conditions, ‘restructuring’ – i.e. unemployment and economic devastation. Unless the IMF analysts are incredibly stupid and completely misread the economic data on Ukraine, the real plan was that Ukraine would be unable to repay the loan and thus would have to repay in kind. This would entail giving large chunks of Ukraine to the American agri-chemical giant Monsanto,6 to seed the Ukrainian plains with its GM wheat; and so, when Ukraine eventually joined the EU, an end run would have been made around the widespread objection to GM crops within the union: GM wheat would already be growing there.

That was the plan but the Russians initially topped it with a better offer than the IMF/EU deal. So the Americans overthrew the Ukrainian government and installed one of their people.

That’s about it, isn’t it?

And how much of this has made it into the British mainstream media?

The IMF loan has since been made but Ukrainian politics is so corrupt7 the loan is probably long gone into off-shore accounts,8 it won’t be repaid and Monsanto will duly get their hands on what used to known as ‘the breadbasket of Europe’.

Despite the presence in Russia of a kleptocracy not dissimilar to that running the US, the American weapons lobby wants Russia as an enemy and Obama’s people cannot think of a way to resist this.

 

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster67/lob67-view-from-the-bridge.pdf#search=”ukraine

Reporting the Ukraine

The major Anglo-American media are not giving us much information about the back story of EU and US machinations in Ukraine prior to recent events. Such information is available elsewhere.18 How not to write about the Ukraine is illustrated by F. William Engdahl’s ‘Ukraine: Secretive Neo-Nazi Military Organization Involved in Euromaidan Sniper Shootings’.1 9 Engdahl discusses the snipers who opened fire on the crowd in Independence Square on 22 February, scuppering the diplomatic deal which had been arranged and says they were members of an ‘ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO)’, which is ‘part of a secret NATO “GLADIO” organization, and not a Ukraine nationalist group as portrayed in western media’. As the Gladio network was officially wound-up after being exposed in the late 1980s, these striking claims need some documentation. But Engdahl offers us as his sources: ‘veteran US intelligence sources’ and ‘Source report, Who Has Ukraine Weapons, February 27, 2014, private to author.’ Big claims backed by anonymous and private sources? This isn’t good enough.20

20 I have been sceptical about Engdahl ever since I discovered that he had been a member of Lyndon Larouche’s org.

 

Ukrainia

I hadn’t been paying much attention to events in the Ukraine and when the government fell I was struck by comments from sources sympathetic to the Yanukovych regime which referred to the insurgents as ‘pogromists’ and ‘Banderists’. Why were the regime’s supporters referring back to the events of WW2? Bandera, I remembered, had been the leader of the group within Ukraine which had collaborated with the invading German army, and whose members had taken part in the massacre of Ukrainian Jews.3 8 I did a quick Google. Only one piece, on Global Research,3 9 was required to explain the Bandera/pogromist comments: as the photographs there show, the UKrainian nazis never went away.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland said on 13 December 2013:

‘Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government – all that is necessary to achieve the objectives of Ukraine’s European. [Something missing here? – RR] We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals.’ 40

Some of those $5 billion dollars, no doubt, went to Canvas, which used to be known as Otpor, formed during the first of the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ sponsored by the US, and which has been operating in Ukraine.41 Depending on your political perspective, Otpor/Canvas is a grass roots democracy-building group or a destabilising tool of the Americans.

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Info about ‘Spiked’

Just gathering together some material on the history and prehistory of the libertarian shockjock website ‘Spiked!’, and the wider ‘Spiked Network’.

This is a comprehensive account of their origins as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP):

https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/a-platform-for-working-class-unity-the-revolutionary-communist-partys-red-front-and-the-1987-election/

This is everything I could find in the Lobster Magazine archives:

lm1lm2lm3lm4

This is everything I could find about them and their network on Companies House:

Phil Mullan

29 Whitfield Street

W1P 5RE

020 768 14114

@spiked-online.com

Robert Lyons

Spiked Limited

Signet House

49-51 Farringdon Road

EC1M 3JP

020 740 40470

Dr Helene Ingrid Mary Guldberg (Secretary since 2005, Director since 2000)

Patrick Kieran Hayes (Director since 2017, born 1990)

Resigned:

Jennie Bristow (“writer”, Secretary & Director till 2005)

LSG Services Ltd (Secretary till 2000)

Frank Furedi (Director till 2017)

Michael Samuel Philip Garvin (solicitor, Director till 2000)

Michael Hume (journo, Director till 2005)

David Pollacchi (solicitor, Director till 2000)

LSG Services Ltd used to be Gillbray Services Limited

Harold Goulden

Jonathan Lass

Michael Samuel Philip Garvin – (has 39 appointments)

David Pollacchi

Hal Branch

Nigel Mark Salt

(both high-end property solicitors http://lsga.co.uk)

Lass Salt Garvin Limited:

Nigel Mark Salt

Jonathan Lass

Michael Samuel Philip Garvin

LICHTER SCHWARTZ INVESTMENTS LIMITED

Sunil Chopra

Abraham Schwartz

LSG Services Ltd

Hal Branch

Steven Richard Daultry

Michael Garvin

David Pollacchi

JOURNALISM EDUCATION LIMITED

Patrick Kieran Hayes (Director, born 1980, Director at British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA))

Michael Hume (Director)

(previously, Helene Guldberg)

Journalism Education Limited managed the Young Journalists Academy.

Contact: Viv Regan

Seemingly affiliated with “News Academy”, which is owned by News Corp UK & Ireland Limited.

And finally, a megathread linking the Spiked network back to a recent, weird push for the government to lift the ban on… hitting children:

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FOIA requests

Back in September I put in a few FOIA requests to the FBI, and I checked back in today to see their progress…

Disappointingly, the request for records on Henry Crown produced nothing. In the FBI’s letter they explained this was due to the records in question having been destroyed. So there ya go. To be honest I’m not that surprised, since he seems to be the most contentious figure, with the most ties to the mob and – quite possibly – to the assassination of JFK.

The Delbert Webb files are overdue for release since my request, and still classed as ‘AWAITING RESPONSE’. The nature of his relationship with Hoover (J. Edgar) and his lobbying efforts in Washington in the runup to WW2 still seem to be a great unknown, so I’m keen to see what’s in the files. I’ve already pieced together a more complete picture of his wartime affairs than anything I’ve found from a single source elsewhere, and any revelations from the FBI files could really add meat to the bones.

Last but by no means least, I got my first successful document release! In response to my request, 440-odd pages of information on David Bazelon have now been released. Having skimmed it (and saved some of the most relevant seeming stuff into separate files for easier consumption) I have to say it’s illuminating. The Feds did a great job of piecing together the truth about whichever *specific* questions they were asked. On these questions, comprehensive answers were diligently sought. Reading through it, though, it seems that with every answer there are more questions. The matter was effectively closed when it was concluded there’s nothing to indicate that Bazelon, while running the Office of Alien Property (it might have been called something else), auctioned off the businesses and land that had been seized from ‘enemy’ aliens (i.e. German, Italian and Japanese Americans) at mates’ rates, or otherwise used his role for profiteering. The FBI effectively disregarded the allegations about what he did with Japanese property, and focused on a particular real estate deal in downtown LA. After a lot of prodding and probing, they established that he was a kind of silent partner who had purchased shares in the development, despite the previous insistence that the shares were given to him as a present, and that his name wasn’t stated on any document since it was common for his friend to invest on his behalf. All this was established by about October 1952. A new file was opened in ’56, prompted by allegations that the shares were given to him as a delayed repayment for selling the seized Haas chemical business to some preferred buyers at sub-market rates. This later investigation established that this didn’t occur, or at least not in the manner that the redacted informant alleged. The final file was the telephone report of a senior Fed, LB Nichols, calling Bazelon. Nichols was apparently pally with Bazelon, and the files contained a report of his from back in 51 or 52, when B apparently approached him after hearing rumours that he was being investigated. LBN’s report back then had consistently referred to B as ‘Dave’, and was full of promises that he wouldn’t allow such a fine fellow to be ‘smeared’. His boys club approach seems to have been beaten down by J Edgar Hoover, who in a handwritten scrawl beneath this report made clear that they should by no means put a word in on Bazelon’s behalf, as they may yet have cause to investigate the issue further. Which they did. Anyway, the boys club tone was back with a vengeance as LBN reported telling Bazelon that he’d gone a little dissappointingly deep in certain murky affairs, but now it was all resolved it would just be rude to turn B down for lunch. Case closed, evidently.

Having revisited the relevant passages on Bazelon in Gus Russo’s book ‘Supermob’, it’s clear he had access to the same FBI reports that I’ve just read, and he summarised their contents accurately, with additional critique and information that’s very useful. At least the records are now online and easily accessible, so I’m pleased about that. It’s just a shame that no one gave enough of a shit to look into his other affairs, particularly regarding property confiscated from Japanese families. All that’s left are the allegations. Which are better than nothing.

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Geopolitics points to explore

I’ve seen the name of Halford Mackinder pop up a few times recently. He’s credited as the father of ‘geopolitics’ and the notion that:

“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

In his account, the heartland is Eurasia, so it’s not surprising that ‘Eurasianists’ like Aleksandr Dugin credit him as one of their influences. He was also influential on the thinking of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has argued that Ukraine is such an important ‘geopolitical pivot’ because Russia needs control of this territory in order to become a properly ‘Eurasian’ power. Hence the uproar over Crimea.

The ‘Great Game’ was a struggle between the British and Russian Empires in the 19th Century, each attempting to control the other’s expansion and control over Central Asia. The Brits were terrified that Russia would extend their reach down to India, and Afghanistan was where this confrontation came to a head.

Jump forward to the present day, and a Russia-India trade route is finally almost complete. Mackinder must be spinning in that grave of his.

Anyway, here are a couple of thinkers who’ve run with Mackinder’s theory:

https://www.academia.edu/10035574/CLASSICAL_TEXTS_OF_THE_GEOPOLITICS_AND_THE_HEART_OF_EURASIA_Jeopoliti%C4%9Fin_Klasik_Metinleri_ve_Avrasya_n%C4%B1n_Kalbi_

https://uottawa.academia.edu/DimitriKitsikis

The latter seems to be some strange kind Greek fascist who loves Turkey, but I might be getting confused. For whatever reason, the study of geopolitics seems to be popular with cryptofascists. Dugin’s ‘Katehon’ think tank marries these tendencies unpredictably.

Also keen to give this by Alfred McCoy a read:

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176007/tomgram%3A_alfred_mccoy,_washington%27s_great_game_and_why_it%27s_failing_/

McCoy’s written compellingly about the Vietnam war and was one of the first Westerners to report on the ‘Golden Triangle’ drug trade in SE Asia.

Plenty to chew on.

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Logistics update

Re: the previous post, I’ve just been reminded how quickly things change. The Central Asianist podcast in question is about a year old, and a lot seems to have happened since then. With a view to making sense of all this, here are some articles detailing what’s been going on in the world of Central Asian logistics over the last year:

December 13, 2015

https://www.voanews.com/a/construction-of-natural-gas-pipeline-underway-in-turkmenistan/3100894.html

The so-called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project aims to export up to 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year through the approximately 1,800-kilometer pipeline.

Experts say TAPI presents an opportunity for regional cooperation at an unprecedented scale linking the economies of the four countries together and enhanced energy trading between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

India will pay up $250-million in transit fees to Pakistan which will pay the same amount in transit fees to Afghanistan.

The project is considered a key opportunity to help ease growing energy deficits in India and Pakistan. Officials in Turkmenistan expect gas link will be fully operational by the end of 2019.

Pakistani officials say they expect to receive gas via TAPI in 2019.
But ensuring security of the proposed pipeline remains a major challenge as it would pass through insurgency-hit parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

24 August, 2016

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201608241044604789-russia-syria-us-obama/

Citing Nicolas Gvosdev, a Russia expert at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., LaFranchi explains what lies at the root of Russia’s success in Syria.

“Russia has been able to reassert itself in the region partly because it set out limited goals — something the US might consider taking a cue from,” the US journalist writes, adding that these limited goals “are part of a much broader vision for Russia’s presence in the Middle East.”

Indeed, while Turkey is a key element of Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline project, aimed at delivering natural gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine, Iran plays an important role for both North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC) and the China-led One Belt One Road (New Silk Road) initiative championed by Russia.

Remarkably, online media outlet PolitRussia.com noted recently that Middle Eastern stability is of ultimate importance for Moscow in the context of bold infrastructural projects kicked off by Russia and other major Eurasian powers in the continent.

 

14 October, 2016

https://www.reuters.com/article/turkmenistan-pipeline/turkmenistan-borrows-700-mln-for-tapi-pipeline-state-news-agency-idUSL8N1CK4S8

Turkmenistan has borrowed $700 million from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to finance the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India

The $10 billion TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline, originating at the giant Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan would carry 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year.

Turkmenistan will use the 15-year IDB loan to finance construction work and equipment purchases, the country’s state news agency said.

 

3 January, 2017

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-turkmenistan-gas-violation/turkmenistan-limits-natural-gas-supplies-to-iran-over-arrears-idUSKBN14N1T9?il=0

Turkmenistan has limited natural gas supplies to Iran since Jan. 1 over unpaid past deliveries, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, a day after Iran said supplies through a cross-border pipeline had been cut off.

The ministry said Ashgabat, which exports to Iran about 9 billion cubic metres of gas a year, made the move after trying unsuccessfully to collect debts from the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) since 2013. It did not disclose the amount owed.

However, Iran’s National Gas Company (NIGC) condemned the move by Turkmenistan as a violation of a bilateral accord.

“Cutting the gas flow is an obvious violation of the deal … Referring the dispute to international arbitration is on Iran’s agenda,” it said in a statement published on the Iranian Oil Ministry’s website SHANA.

 

5 January, 2017

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/economy/article9461744.ece

Backed by the US, TAPI was conceptualised in 1995. However, the project failed to take off due to geopolitical tensions among the member-countries.

Additionally, Taliban insurgents, who control vast swathes of territory in Afghanistan, threatened to disrupt the project.

In recent years, though, the project gained some traction, largely owing to the Obama administration’s Afghanistan redevelopment programme.

It also obtained funding support of $700 million from the Islamic Development Bank last November.

Trump’s stance on TAPI will be a “deciding factor” for the project, official sources told BusinessLine. It seems that the Indian government will adopt a wait-and-watch approach, according to an official.

The official said that since the project has security concerns, the decision to resume talks on obtaining the Turkmenistan gas from Pakistan rests on the new Army chief. The Army’s official position is crucial, given the security implications.

However, during the recent ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, India had asked Afghanistan to explore the option of routing the Turkmenistan gas from Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar Port, effectively bypassing Pakistan, said another official, who refused to be identified.

 

26 January, 2017

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-turkmenistan-gas/turkmenistan-says-ready-for-more-talks-with-iran-in-gas-dispute-idUSKBN15A0MV

Tehran said in December that Turkmenistan had threatened to stop gas exports because of arrears in payments, which amounted to about $1.8 billion and dated back more than a decade. Iran wanted to refer the issue to arbitration.

Iran has its own major gas fields in the south of the country but has imported gas from Turkmenistan since 1997 for distribution in its northern provinces, especially during the winter.

Turkmenistan in turn faces a foreign currency shortage after Russia, once a major buyer of its gas, halted purchases last year, leaving China as its biggest customer.

 

18 May, 2017

http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/28470/INSTC+International+North+South+Transport+Corridor++Express+Corridor+from+India+to+Russia

An stakeholders conference on the subject INSTC-Express Corridor from India to Russia was held at Foreign Service Institute on May 18, 2017 at 1100 hours. The attendees at FSI were members of diplomatic community, freight forwarders, media, representatives of various ministries, officers and staff of Foreign Training Institute. Online attendees included members of Indian Embassy in Eurasian region, ICWA and members of business community.

The opening remarks were delivered by Joint Secretary Shri G V Srinivas (Eurasia) of MEA and by Mr Alexey Pogonin, Counsellor (Political) of the Russian Embassy in New Delhi. The keynote speakers were Shri Shankar Shinde from Federation of Freight Forwarder’s Association of India (FFFAI) and Shri Balachandran, Shri Behuria and Amb Stobdan from IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses). The discussion centred around possible routes of INSTC, its popularization, development and optimal utilisation of Chabahar port to complement INSTC and to provide connectivity to Central Asia, modalities of and impediments to multi-modal transport, way ahead, Indian decision to join TIR Convention and advantages of moving beyond to e-TIR etc.

This was followed by a presentation from Kalinga Motors Sports Club (KMSC), Bhubaneswar on a proposed motor rally between India and Russia as part of 70th anniversary celebrations of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Russia. Kalinga Motors agreed to put up the details of motor rally shortly on its website.

 

23 May, 2017

https://thediplomat.com/2017/05/will-uzbekistan-join-tapi/

The latest bit of regional glad-handing came this week when Mirziyoyev visited his Turkmen counterpart along the Caspian coast… As Fergana News noted, “Uzbekistan intends to participate in the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline,” adding that Mirziyoyev “said that he ‘voiced a proposal’ about the participation of the Uzbek side in the TAPI project.”

Everything from Indian-Pakistani relations to security in Afghanistan continue to beleaguer TAPI’s prospects. And now, as The Diplomat’s Paolo Sorbello recently noted, Turkmenistan’s own gas industry is on its heels, tossing that many more questions at TAPI’s feasibility.

Mirziyoyev’s pronouncement shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand; if nothing else, there’s no harm in nodding toward improving regional relations. But Tashkent’s participation is not the silver bullet TAPI needs — even if it could bring a few more photo-ops along the way.

 

1 June, 2017

http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/pm-modi-in-russia-how-fastracking-north-south-corridor-will-help-india-counter-chinese-obor/696639/

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Russia at a time when Delhi-Moscow relationship appears to have taken a dip. Modi faces two-pronged challenge. First, to strengthen the confidence India and Russia have enjoyed as strategic partners for decades. Second, take measures to bring Moscow out of the worrisome China-Pakistan-Russia triangle, more so after the start of Beijing’s imperialistic ‘One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project.

Much before the launch of China’s OBOR, India, Russia and Iran had signed an agreement to establish the INSTC in September 2000. It entered into force on May 16, 2002 following ratification by the three countries. Later, 11 other countries joined the project. They are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria (observer status), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ukraine.

INSTC is a 7200-km-long proposed multi-modal (ship, rail and road) transportation system connecting Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran to Russia and North Europe. If complete, the INSTC would allow faster movement of goods from India to these countries.

According to ‘Russia & India Report’, the INSTC project was first proposed at the start of 21st century, when the three countries– India, Iran and Russia — discussed the possibility of reviving the ancient transport route.

The report says that “the main ITC route begins in the ports on the west coast of India (particularly Mumbai), passes along the sea to the Iranian ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas, and from there by land to Iran’s Caspian Sea coast and beyond – or across the Caspian Sea to Astrakhan, or overland to Central Asia or the Caucasus to Russia and northern Europe.”

Here are some important features of INSTC:

INSTC will provide India speedy access to central Asia, Europe, and Eurasia.

The route of INSTC passes through Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, which can later be linked to Terhran’s Chabahar Port, where India has set up some major infrastructure projects.

INSTC will help connect India with five central Asian countries and also to the Eurasian nations, helping in improving India’s trade with countries like Kazakhstan, Turmenistan and Uzbekistan.

INSTC can aslo be aligned with Trans-Afghan rail line being developed by India, Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Seventeen years have passed since the start of the project but it is yet to be started. While the scale of China’s OBOR is bigger than INSTC, the latter, coupled with the proposed Asia-Africa sea corridor by India and Japan, would help New Delhi present an effective counter to China’s OBOR.

Reports say that India is also exploring the possibility of developing a 700-km rail line between Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat in Afghanistan. This will help link central Asia with Chabahar. It is believed that India aims to use Chabahar port in Iran in the same way as China wants to use Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is just 72 km east of the Iranian port. Considering the rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics in the world, India needs to take steps for the faster completion of the ambitious INSTC project.

 

20 June, 2017

http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/proposed-7200-km-long-corridor-instc-to-boost-exports-slash-transport-cost-by-2500-per-15-tn-of-cargo-study/728371/

The proposed 7,200 km long international corridor INSTC will support the growth of Indian exports by reducing transport cost by USD 2,500 per 15 tonnes of cargo, a study has claimed. International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi-mode network of sea, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. As per a study conducted by the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI), moving cargo over the INSTC will be 30 per cent cheaper and 40 per cent shorter than the current traditional route. The traditional Suez Canal route takes 45-60 days whereas the INSTC would take 25-30 days. The INSTC is likely to increase trade connectivity between major cities of Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali. According to Subhasis Ghosh, Director of Maritime World Services, the progress on cargo movement on INSTC would be discussed on September 16, 2017 on the final day of the three- day Maritime Nation India 2017 Tradeshow which commences in Mumbai on September 14, 2017.

The INSTC International Conference -2017 is being conducted by the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) and is supported by the Ministry of Commerce.
Ghosh said INSTC could be viewed as an alternative to the Suez Canal route, which takes longer and is more expensive for Indian cargo destined for trade with Eurasian countries. Ghosh said the INSTC, on its implementation, would also boost bilateral trade between Russia and India. The successful activation of the corridor will help connect India to Russia within 16-21 days at competitive freight rates leading to development of trade on the INSTC. At present, one has to either use Rotterdam port or land route via China to reach Russia and Central Asia. These are long, expensive and time-consuming.

The plan is to move goods from Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla ports on India’s west coast to Bandar Abbas (Iran) by sea. From Bandar Abbas, the goods will be transported to Bandar-e-Anzali (Iranian port on Caspian Sea) by road and from there to Astrakhan (a Caspian port in Russia) by sea. The goods would then be transported into Russian Federation and Europe by Russian railways. India and Russia have fixed a target of USD30 billion trade volume to be achieved by 2025. Presently, bilateral trade between both nations is extremely low and it was just $9.51 billion.
If India partners with Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), it will further boost and expand its economic, trade and investment opportunities in more countries in this region.

 

30 July, 2017

http://ifpnews.com/exclusive/iran-no-need-turkmenistans-gas/

As of next week, the Islamic Republic will no longer need to import natural gas from Turkmenistan, Iranian lawmaker Assadollah Qarehkhani said.

According to a Farsi report by ICANA, a new pipeline is to become operational in northern Iran in the coming days, which would obviate the need for imports of natural gas from Turkmenistan.

The 175-km pipeline, which measures up to environmental standards, will meet the need for natural gas in north of the country, said Qarehkhani, who sits on the Parliament’s Energy Commission.

With the pipeline coming on line, he said, there will be no drop in the pressure of the supplied natural gas anymore.

The MP then touched upon a lawsuit filed by Iran with the International Court of Justice against Turkmenistan for its breach of commitment, and said the country will demand damages from Ashgabat.

“Turkmenistan has pulled out of the agreement unilaterally without any justifiable excuse and has illogical demands from Iran,” he said.

In its lawsuit, he added, Iran has also called on the court to get Turkmenistan to reduce the price of its natural gas exports.

“Turkmenistan put Iran in a bind by increasing the price of natural gas in 2007 when Iran had no other alternative for the gas imports; hence, Turkmenistan should pay fines for its breach of obligations,” said the legislator.

“If Iran’s demands related to natural gas imports from Turkmenistan are met and the two countries reach a compromise on natural gas imports, we can import natural gas from Turkmenistan, and, instead, export Iran’s natural gas to western neighbours via swap deals,” said the lawmaker.

 

14 August, 2017

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/policy/india-turkmenistan-hold-talks-on-crucial-transit-corridor-via-iran-oman/article9818197.ece

India and Turkmenistan on Monday discussed ways to establish a transport transit corridor between Iran, Oman and Turkmenistan.

Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Shipping, met Rashid Meredov, Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister of Turkmenistan, on Monday.

The two sides discussed India’s joining the Ashgabat Agreement that envisages establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor between Iran, Oman and Turkmenistan, said an official source. They also discussed ways to expand and deepen bilateral cooperation.

In 2016, the Indian government decided to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement, a move that would enable the country to utilise this existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interaction with the Eurasian region. India would become party to the agreement after consent from the founding members.

Further, this move would also be in synch with India’s efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity. INSTC-Express Corridor is a transport link between India and Russia.

 

15 August, 2017

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-moves-to-revive-tapi-gas-pipeline/article19498526.ece

India will host the next steering committee meeting of the proposed 1,814 kilometre-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

“I strongly believe in this project, and this is the position of Turkmenistan,” Mr. Merodov said at a small interaction.

Officials told The Hindu that the pipeline, that had its ground-breaking ceremony in December 2015, has seen flagging interest since then for a number of reasons. India’s effort is to tap Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh gasfields, which are the fourth largest in the world.

The move is also an effort by the government to stave off any Chinese interest in the project, given that Turkmenistan is a close partner of China in its Belt and Road initiative across Central Asia, and Beijing is the largest buyer of its gas. Even the Galkynysh gas basin is being developed under a loan from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB).

Responding to Indian sovereignty concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Mr. Meredov said Turkmenistan was “open to all economic cooperation, which is how all such projects should be seen. India is and will be one of the most important countries for Turkmenistan.”

 

20 September, 2017

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/world/indiaturkmenistan-to-try-expanding-international-northsouth-transport-corridor/article9866509.ece

India and Turkmenistan will explore the possibility of expanding the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) by linking it to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail link.

This was decided at the the 13 th meeting of the India-Kazakhstan Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC).

 

24 October, 2017

https://www.railfreight.com/corridors/2017/10/24/missing-link-international-north-south-transport-corridor-almost-complete/

The Rasht-Astara line connecting Iran and Azerbaijan is almost complete and operations may commence early next year. The connection is the missing link on the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200 kilometer-long freight route connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.

The Astara-Astara line links the two cities of the same name via ten kilometer of rail, of which eight kilometers lie in Azerbaijan and two in Iran. The construction of the section in Azerbaijan is already complete, while the Iranian stretch nears completion, deputy director general for international affairs at the National Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) Mozhgan A. Kordbacheh recently said.

The railway, with a total cost of 51 million Euros includes the construction of a bridge over the Astarachay River and four terminals for the handling of containers, oil, grain and general cargo. It was expected to become operative in January this year, but due to several delays the current expected launch date is in February 2018.

The Astara-Rasht is the longest section on the line, with 164-kilometers of railway connecting the Iranian cities. Currently, 162 kilometer has already been completed, Kordbacheh said. RAI is actively negotiating with foreign partners about the financing scheme of the project, totalling a cost of 425 million Euros. In the coming weeks, talks in this regard are held in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.

The Rasht-Qazvin section comprises of 163 kilometers of railway, of which 95 per cent has been completed. The remaining construction work is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, Kordbacheh revealed.

The Astara-Qazvin line forms an integral part of the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), as it will reduce journey times between Mumbai and Moscou from forty to fourteen days. Test runs have already been carried out, while a dry run was conducted a few months ago. It is anticipated that in the future ten million tonnes of freight will be transported within the network.

Apart from constructing the missing link, parties involved aim to apply competitive tariffs in order to support growth on the corridor. Moreover, up-to-date transport services and simplified customs clearance of cargoes must be realised, the Iranian and Azerbaijani rail companies agreed at a recent meeting. The main objective of the INSTC is to provide an alternative to the traditional routes carried out by sea through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. A south-west offshoot is also under consideration, connecting Iran, Azerbaijan, the Black Sea and Europe.

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The Iran deal and TAPI

A genuinely brief one:

The other day I listened to a Central Asianist podcast episode, recorded when the ‘Iran deal’ was about to be signed. This was when Obama was still President, and long before Trump would call it the worst deal in history.

One implication of the deal was that it would turn Iran into a prospective trading partner with Turkmenistan, who are sitting on a huge amount of natural gas. If a Turkmenistan-Iran gas route was worked out, it would directly threaten a gas route the US has been pushing for years: TAPI. This is a gas pipeline that goes Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India.

Iran threatens TAPI because Turkmenistan doesn’t actually have enough gas to export in both directions.

So it might be worth checking up on TAPI and considering whether (behind the scenes) this has some influence on Trump’s comments. Bear in mind the EU would be the ultimate recipient of gas pumped down to Iran, and EU spokespeople have made clear they don’t want Trump screwing up the Iran deal.

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