By Paul Goble
In order to reinforce its secular image abroad, the Kyrgyz Provisional Government has adopted a hands off approach to religious issues, one that has already led to the opening of a split “between the secular powers that be and the religiously inclined majority of the population” and could spark an “Islamic revolution,” some analysts say.
In a commentary on Portal-Credo.ru, Yekaterina Shtolts argues that Rosa Otunbayeva and her regime have compounded this danger by the way in which they have dealt with those charged and in some cases incarcerated for a mass fight that took place in the Kyrgyz city of Nookat in 2008 (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=comment&id=1744).
In October of that year, Shtolts recounts, a group of Muslims clashed with local officials during the Orozo-Ayt (Uraza-Bayram) religious holiday when the authorities refused to allow the celebrants to hold their meeting in the city center. As a result, approximately 100 people threw stones at the militia and city hall.
Following these clashes, the local militia detained 32 people, charging them with involving minors in the commission of crimes, mass disorders, intentional destruction of property, and attacks on government officials. “As a result,” the Moscow analyst says, “all the arrested were given gigantic prison terms – from five to 20 years incarceration.”
After the Bakiyev government was overthrown, the Provisional government agreed to amnesty these people. Aziza Abdirasudolova, head of the Kylym Shamy Human Rights Center, said that was appropriate because Nookat officials used this occasion not to punish those directly involved but to arrest those suspected of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
As a result of the Provisional Government’s actions in this case, that Muslim party, which officially calls for “the peaceful construction of a caliphate,” not only recovers some of its leaders who likely were radicalized while in prison but also “more than 100 others,” who will no longer be pursued abroad.
According to Shtolts, “a great many specialists on Islam viewed and continue to view the Nookat events” as a reflection of “the irresponsibility of local officials. One who holds that view, she says, is Kadyr Malikov, director of the Religion, Law and Politics Center at the University of Madrid.
Malikov told her, Shtolts continues, that the Nookat officials acted as they did because “they complete failed to take into account that already 98 to 99 percent of the population of the South defines themselves as Muslims.” If the authorities had allowed the official Islamic leadership to be involved, things might have been different, but the powers that be didn’t.
And by their actions, these officials made the Hizb ut-Tahrir Party a hero in the eyes of the people, who the Madrid-based scholars says, began as a result of the Nookat events “to sympathize with the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders and were converted into the potential supporters” of this movement. The release of such people will only strengthen those feelings.
Because of poverty and the Kyrgyz state’s inability to fund many parts of the social sector, the population already has a reason to turn to the Hizb ut-Tahrir. Government institutions of social support are completely inactive, Shtolts points out, and the Muslim party is winning backers by filling in the gap and could do well in any upcoming elections as a result.
Trying to contain Hizb ut-Tahrir by arrests or repression is “ineffective,” Shtolts says. Instead, she and Malikov argue, the government must address social problems and ensure that pro-Provisional Government meetings are not marked by drunkenness, something never found in Hizb ut-Tahrir actions.
Obviously, the Provisional Government is aware of the importance of dealing with Muslims, but to date, she writes, it has “consistently avoided making contacts with the religious sphere, thus spiritually cutting itself off from the people. As a result, a civilizational split has taken place between the secular powers and the religious majority.”
The only way out, Shtolts argues, is for the Government to build its ties with “official Islam,” something it has not yet done, and do more in the social sphere, something Bishkek appears to lack the money for. But if it does not take those steps, others like Hizb ut-Tahrir or even more radical groups are going to gain and the current regime is going to lose support.
Unfortunately, as M.Nurmagambetov, a Kyrgyz blogger observes today, the regime is under pressure to burnish its secular credentials with foreign governments. Indeed, it has no choice but to do so if it hopes to get the funds it needs to deal with the enormous social problems of Kyrgyzstan (www.centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1273475640).
Given its desperate situation, the Provisional Government will say whatever it has to, but as it does, Nurmagambetov continues, “the character of the dissatisfaction of the Kyrgyz crowd has begun to acquire a religious dimension,” and that in turn means “a spectre is haunting Kyrgyzstan, the spectre of religious extremism.”
And given the weakness of Bishkek, “in a large part of the country, religious fanatics striving for power dominate the scene,” a situation that he too suggests in the near future “could lead to the next revolution,” one in which people like Otunbayeva and her colleagues would be swept away.
Iran’s Navy Already Threat To Oil Tankers, Moscow Analyst Says
lunes, 10 de mayo de 2010 15:27
Despite its efforts over the last several years, Iran is not yet the naval power it hopes to become, according to a Moscow analyst, but Tehran already has sufficient capacity to disrupt shipments of oil in the Persian Gulf, an ability that already “represents a serious danger and requires an adequate response from the international community.”
In an assessment of “The Naval Power of Iran: From Intention to Reality” prepared for the Moscow Near Eastern Institute, V.V. Yevseyev argues that most of what Iran has done in this sector to date represents “a cover” for plans to engage in “diversionary activity” in the Persian Gulf against shipping (www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2010/06-05-10.htm).
But both because that alone represents a serious problem and because Iran continues to purchase naval equipment abroad and develop its own domestic ship-building capacity, Yevseyev continues, the Iranian naval effort deserves far more attention from foreign governments than it has normally received.
Last February, the Moscow analyst says, “took place an important event in the development of the naval forces” of Iran: the launch of the first, 1420-ton minesweeper that Iran had produced on its own, one armed with “Noor” cruise missiles, “the Iranian version of the Chinese S-802.
This ship, the “Jamaran,” Yevseyev reports on the basis of Iranian statements, has a helicopter pad and places for rocket complexes, something that would allow it “simultaneously to carry out a fight with submarines, aircraft, and weapons of an opponent under conditions of radio-electronic struggle.”
But the analyst continues, “an analysis of the information available permits the conclusion that in reality, the Iranian specialists have constructed a multi-purpose guard ship” for its coastal waters, the kind of ship that NATO governments refer to as a corvette and one that is intended to work together with shore batteries.
As such, Yevseyev points out, the new Iranian ship represents only a slight updating of the Alvand, built by Britain’s Vosper Yards and sold to Tehran “at the end of the 1960s.” And that in turn suggests that despite all claims to the contrary, the “Jamaran” is “in it essential features at the technological level of the 1960s and 1970s,” rather than later.
But if most of the ship’s equipment is thus relatively primitive, Yevseyev says, the weapons systems it carries are far more modern. The “Jamaran” has already this year carried out successful tests of the cruise missiles adapted from China’s S-802, a system created about two decades ago.
Iran “had planned to purchase in China a large number” of such missiles and was able to buy approximately 80 of them before “under American pressure, China was forced to stop further shipments” of this technology to Tehran. Iran is now seeking to produce its own on the basis of copying this technology, but it is uncertain whether it has achieved its goal.
Taking everything into consideration, Yevseyev says, “it becomes obvious that Iran’s Jamaran has sufficiently current rocket technology [to inflict serious harm on its opponents]” but that its other systems are out of date, at least compared to the most advanced guidance and tracking systems available.
Those shortcomings, he says, will significantly “limit” the ability of Tehran to use with success its anti-ship cruise missiles. Besides, the Iranian ship does not have serious anti-aircraft (anti-rocket) defense.” Thus, it becomes “an easy target for a strong opponent,” such as those Iran might expect to face during a serious crisis.
But the Jamaran and the nine other corvettes in Iran’s inventory, even if most of them were built or reflect the technologies of the 1960s, are already sufficient “to demonstrate its emerging naval power [to neighboring countries] and to support [Tehran’s] pretensions to regional leadership.”
And such ships, Yevseyev says, suggest that “Iran in fact is really preparing for something completely different,” a “diversionary war.” That conclusion is suggested both the fast cutters Tehran has purchased from Italy and its continuing construction – with a total fleet approaching 20 — of new rocket cutters.
Also providing support for that conclusion, the Moscow military analyst says, are Iran’s purchases of “super-small submarines” displacing about 100 tons from North Korea and its own development of three diesel-powered mini-subs which have a displacement of approximately 500 tons.
Such ships, working together with shore facilities, like the one created in Jask near the Straits of Hormuz in October 2008 and the “not fewer than four analogous points” that Tehran is planning to open, could inflict enormous damage, all the more so, Yevseyev points out, because Iranian commanders have focused on “the negative experience of the Iran-Iraq war.”
During that conflict, Iranian commanders sent their fleet out against Iraq all at once, something that made it “an easy target” for Iraqi aviation. Now, Yevseyev says, Tehran is developing a naval strategy based on “decentralization” and the launching of “disinformation” campaigns against its opponents, something that makes even its small fleet dangerous.
Moscow Patriarchate Signals New Interest In Unity With Rome
lunes, 17 de mayo de 2010 5:55
A senior Russian hierarch close to Patriarch Kirill said in Rome last week that “the time has come to take decisive steps in the direction of full unity” between Russian Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church, the latest indication that Kirill wants at a minimum far closer ties with the Vatican than did any of his predecessors.
Speaking to a meeting of Orthodox and Catholic hierarchs and activists, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal exarch of Belarus, said that the “commonality of views” of the two churches “on many questions” means that “the time has come to take decisive steps toward full unity.”
Filaret’s words were reported by the Vatican and reproduced in the Russian-language “Sibirskaya Katolicheskaya gazeta” which focused on his call for taking “joint steps toward unity” and reported as well that he hopes Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict XVI will meet soon (sibcatholic.ru/2010/05/07/nastalo-vremya-predprinyat-sovmestnye-shagi-k-edinstvu/).
The paper also noted that later in May, the Vatican will host “Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality, at which among other things, there will be a performance of music composed by Metropolitan Ilarion Alfeyev, the head of the Patriarchate’s External Relations Department, the post which Kirill occupied for many years before his elevation.
Since becoming patriarch, Kirill has repeatedly suggested that he is interested in closer ties with the Vatican so that the two churches can work together in opposition to secularism and modernism in Europe and elsewhere. And he and his aides have indicated that he views the conservative German pope as someone he can work with.
But just how far either side is in fact prepared to proceed with efforts to overcome a split that has lasted almost a thousand years is far from clear. Kirill faces opposition within the Orthodox Church from those who believe that ecumenism is bad, even if most observers grant that the Patriarch benefits from establishing such ties.
And the Pope also faces internal opposition in the Curia and from many Catholics who are suspicious of Russian intentions regarding Catholics and especially Uniate groups in the East but also who view Orthodox positions on a variety of theological and moral questions as problematic.
Consequently, it is quite possible, as one religious news portal headlined its report about Filaret’s remarks, that the metropolitan’s words are simply a form of “church politeness” rather than a real breakthrough, all the more so because Orthodox sites did not report them in the same way (www.religiopolis.org/news/474-tserkovnyj-polites-ili-intermedija-k-vossoedineniju.html).