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Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

Before the recent outbreak of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, many people had probably never heard of the country or were barely aware of it. Now however, what has occurred in the Central Asian republic is a matter of international interest and importance. Last week, there was what appears to have been a spontaneous eruption of ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh, which led to the deaths of hundreds of Uzbeks, of which 400,000 have been displaced, and 80,000 of which have fled to Uzbekistan.

To understand the current situation we must rewind the clock a couple of years. In 2005, after rigged elections were held, the Kyrgyz people overthrew their increasingly corrupt president in what was known as the Tulip Revolution. The new leader was Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came from the country’s Uzbek south, and who though installed on a platform of reform and transparency, soon ran afoul of the country’s democrats through his involvement in the murders of several politicians and journalists, for initially refusing to curb his expansive executive powers, and for purportedly stealing the 2009 election. All this discontent culminated in his ouster this April, which the BBC gives a good account of. Bakiyev fled to Kazakhstan and then Belarus, while a new provisional government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, came to power.

People protesting during the Tulip Revolution.

The provisional government had not yet consolidated its hold on power and was dependent on the military to keep it afloat. It is rumored that the armed forces had a hand in the violence and the UN has said it might have been orchestrated, while Otunbayeva has accused Bakiyev of stirring up the trouble in his southern power base. Meanwhile, in the afflicted area, many have fled to Uzbekistan, which yesterday shut its borders to anymore refugees, and other Uzbeks have blockaded themselves in their homes and neighborhoods. A worsening humanitarian crisis has also ensued with shortages of food, a lack of medical care, and a dearth of clean drinking water accompanying the violence.

This situation has wider implications for the world’s major actors in the region, the United States, Russia, and China, because of the country’s strategic location. Kyrgyzstan used to be in the USSR and it is today viewed by Russia as part of its “near-abroad,” its post-Soviet sphere of influence, where it continues to have military installments. America has a huge military base at Manas, in the Central Asian republic, which supplies soldiers and military personnel fighting in Afghanistan. China has also been vying for influence in the region, in its quest for resources and as its tries to take on the US’s hegemonic position in Asia. This instability threatens the interests of all parties. Just recently, rumors circulated that the Kyrgyz government would close America’s vital base if Britain did not hand over Bakiyev’s son to the provisional government. Russia, which has been asked by Otubayeva to deploy troops to the country, does not want to be forced to commit soldiers to the Central Asian republic, and China, with its characteristic emphasis on stability and social harmony, can see no benefit in the current situation.

That is why all three countries must act to bring this violence end and once again establish peace in the area. Russia and the US could perhaps send a limited number of troops to the country on a peace-keeping mission, while China could provide economic assistance to Kyrgystan. This way the two pillars of stability; economic prosperity and a solid political system could be erected. Nonetheless, any solution that is implemented should involve the actions of all of these players, the Kyrgyz government, and most of all the people.

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The New Iran Sanctions

A vote at the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran.

Yesterday the United Nations’s Security Council levied new sanctions on Iran for its quickly-progressing nuclear program. The sanctions — which were agreed to with Turkey and Brazil voting no and Lebanon abstaining — black-listed some companies that do business with the theocratic regime and are aiding its attempts to make atomic bombs. However, the Security Council’s actions do not go far enough because they do not target all the corporations that help Iran get around international isolation and the resolution fails to take aim at the heart of the Iranian economy; oil and gas exports. This failure is mostly the responsibility of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, who capitalized on every opportunity to weaken the draft and assented to sanctions that were much less strong than the ones the United States had originally sought.

The Iranian regime also has Brazil and Turkey to thank, which to thumb their nose at the United States and in Turkey’s case, to ingratiate itself with the Muslim world, have not only voted against the sanctions but have tried to strike a horrible deal with the so-called Islamic Republic. This bargain struck last month and sealed by hugs — in a scene resembling the Munich Conference of 1938 — would leave Iran with enough uranium to manufacture one nuclear bomb, with which it could wreak grievous harm on the world. This is unacceptable and was appropriately rejected by yesterday’s Council vote.

Lula of Brazil, Erdogan of Turkey, and Ahmadinejad of Iran hugging each other in May.

That being said, the United States and Europe need to lead by example and go beyond the sanctions approved in the UN. The EU and the US should crack down on American and European companies that engage in behind-the-scenes dealing with the Iranian government and its lackeys and affiliates, America should divest itself of the theocracy’s oil, and European governments should freeze the assets of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is classified as a terrorist organization and is responsible for much of the regime’s nuclear program. Iran must not be allowed to acquire weapons with which it will menace mankind, theocrats with bombs are never safe.

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