Islam Karimov

At the end of March, on the Internet, we found information according to which Islam Karimov [1] had survived a very serious heart attack, and was in fact close to death [2]. Since it was not denied by the main stream media, the scoop gave rise to great confusion. The opposition - based abroad - declared that the president would not be able to resume his functions. The official sources in Tashkent responded that, on the contrary, Islam Karimov was in perfect health, but they were not particularly convincing. It was as if they were hiding something. Even when the president’s eldest daughter, Gulnara – a person who is more than active on the political front, and who has some very long-term plans of her own – declared the same thing, few people believed her. On the contrary, rumours began to circulate about her probable abandonment of her responsibilities as ambassador for Uzbekistan to the UNO, since she was « preparing herself for a far more important political role in her country [3] ». Discussions on this subject continued to rage, since every day, the corridors of Tashkent echoed with « information from sure sources » and « testimony from well-informed people ». Afterwards, as usual, there was a flood of theories and analyses on the theme « What’s going to happen now? », « Who will take his place? » and, of course, « Is all this simply disinformation? ».

That went on for a good while.

Then the Uzbeki president issued a decree announcing the nomination of police general Ahmad Usmanov to the key post of hakim (governor) of the region of Tashkent. This news stopped the « prophets » dead in their tracks. General Usmanov is part of the president’s personal body guard, and in no way a sycophant, but on the contrary a field man in the most literal sense of the word. He is entirely devoted to the president and so firm in his positions that most of the Uzbeki elite clans, including the president’s supporters, opposed his progress towards political power. They rejected him so energetically that even God on earth finally had to accept their opinion. That is why the simple fact of Usamov’s nomination suddenly made everything clear, because no one could give such an order - which stuck in everyone’s craw - apart from the president, and what is more one in good health.

It was a move that was absolutely unexpected and particularly powerful. If we compare it with other political errors, we are reminded of those made by Karpov when he was on the way to becoming a national figure. He entirely destroyed the balance of power. The powerful figure of a « simple man », unconnected to any clan, was promoted to the very heart of the highest political spheres of a country where everything has long been stable and indestructible. All the clans who had always apparently been on their knees before the « shah » quickly assumed the combat position and prepared themselves – just in case – to share his inheritance, making sure they gathered all necessary advice. Usamov is a man who has been personally anointed by the Lord, who defends the president’s interests as if they were his own, who is capable of parrying any underhand manoeuvres, but who’s aim is also – after all he’s just a man – to create his own clan.

But all these intrigues and secrets of the Court of Tashkent would have no particular interest in themselves – except for specialists – if the subject did not have another side. According to people who are familiar with the situation, and not simply rumours, general Usmanov is amongst other things a devoted enemy of « political Islam » who considers that these tendencies should be nipped in the bud without taking into account any « foreign opinions » [4]. He proved this when he was hakim [governor] of Andijan by explaining to religious extremists that they had better behave themselves or suffer severe consequences. For the moment – and even Pentagon specialists recognise this – the « bearded » [5] underground opposition in the Ferghana valley, although still rife with tension, has been reduced to a minimum. Usamov is clearly no « friend of democracy » in fact, which is why he is not liked by the West, to say the least. Especially since he believes – as circumstances reveal – that Tashkent would be unable to halt the Islamist offensive unless it collaborates with Russia.

Finally, Islam Karimov made a public appearance.

He seemed focused and in excellent health. What is important to note is that he immediately left for an official visit to Moscow, where he spoke at length with his counterpart about Afghanistan and the possibility for his country to join the Customs Union [6]. After that discussion, a number of theories which had seemed set in stone suddenly crumbled.

First of all, it’s clear that Tashkent’s drift towards the West has ground to a halt. It had begun on the 4th of July 2012, when Uzbekistan announced that it was leaving the Collective Security Treaty Organization following what must have been an uncomfortable discussion with Russia.

If you remember, I wrote lot about this subject, and everything at that time seemed to indicate that Islam Karimov’s attitude could be summed up by the celebrated phrase « après moi, le déluge ». Which means that since he was afraid of the orange and green « revolution » [7] that the West was quite capable of organising for him, he was preparing to take shelter under the safety of the US umbrella, in order to guarantee the stability of his country for as long as he remained in power, or in other words, as long as he was still alive, while agreeing to the subsequent arrival of a form of « Uzbeki Saakachvili » destined to destabilize Central Asia, Russia’s soft underbelly.

But Mankind proposes, while God disposes.

It is difficult to explain why the United States decided to drop their ready-made plan. As reported by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, from an interview with Afghan president Hamid Karzai after his visit to Qatar, where he met with the diabetic emir to discuss the opening of a Taliban Embassy in Doha, « Mullah Omar has the right to run for president in next year’s Afghan elections, and the present government has nothing against it ». [8]

Really? The same Mullah Omar, who is the mastermind of the Taliban extremist wing, is the emir of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the sworn enemy of the United States. He is claimed to have been killed several times, but is in reality more alive than ever. If you remember, at one time he was supposedly one of the USA’s ten most-wanted terrorists, and the price on his head was 10 million dollars. In truth, as we already know, he is living quietly and in complete freedom in Karachi, and what’s more, commands a very powerful army which enjoys massive but mysterious funding.

Even better, the FBI declared once again in 2011, after 10 years of US interference in Afghanistan, that Mullah Omar has never figured on any « black list ». Then, in February 2012, the One-Eyed Man [9] wrote a letter to Obama, speaking as an equal, and proposed the opening of peace negotiations.

Since then, information concerning encounters of various types and in different locations between « unofficial representatives » of the Taliban and official representatives of the US State Department, appear from time to time in the media, So as you can see, Karzai’s declaration seems particularly pertinent. Clearly, they came to some agreement.

The result is very interesting.

There should be no doubt that the « military chief, the head of the resistance and leader of the Taliban », who is known for his piety, disinterest for money, equity, and also for his hatred of the unlimited disorder of feudalism, could win the elections if he runs as a candidate against Karzai, who is totally corrupt, and well-known as being a US puppet. There should also be no doubt that « the second coming of the Taliban » would take place under the protection of Qatar. Therefore it’s Qatar, and consequently the USA, who will be planning coming events in Afghanistan.

This will also therefore be the case in Central Asia, which is exactly what the Western powers want. Either by creating a zone of under-handed dispute with Iran, or by destabilizing the ex-Soviet republics, which would oblige Russia to concentrate on the front in Central Asia. There’s no possibility of avoiding this, since otherwise the tsunami would drown Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan where, taking into account the fact that Nazarbayev is just as lethal [10], the abscesses are ready to burst, and will finally affect Russia. China will also inherit a number of very serious problems. But since China makes no pretence of being a « civilised » country – unlike Russia – it knows no limits as to the means and most efficient possibilities for its self-defence.

In fact, much of what I have written has already been known for a while. Even a US retreat from Afghanistan (What? They have the right to do so!) would create a series of problems for Russia that it simply could not avoid. From this point of view, it is absolutely certain that Russia has been manipulated by the USA. But for the khans, emirs, padishahs and other fairy-tale post-Soviet politicians, this 180° turn is far more uncomfortable [11]. In such a situation, they would have no margin for the usual negotiations and bargaining, but will have to choose between two directions – either they continue to crawl under the Western boot, while waiting for the Taliban, or they turn to the North, providing acceptable guarantees of their submission. As it used to be fashionable to say – there’s no other possibility.

Pete Kimberley
Оdnako (Russia)

[1President of Uzbekistan since 1990, reelected several times in very non-democratic conditions. De facto, a life-term president from the alliance between the communist nomenklatura and the traditional aristocratic elites, who has created around himself a sort of post-modern oriental court, with its courtesans and secretive power struggles. The context - a country which produces huge quantities of cotton and is completely bereft of the benefits of democracy such as it is understood – and imposed – by the Western powers.

[4It’s the opinion of the Western world (UE, USA) which is the subject of this comment.

[5Bearded - Islamist. The Ferghana valley is the most densely populated region of Central Asia, with 11 million inhabitants sharing 22,000 km². Shared between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan, this very fertile valley is frequently submitted to strong inter-ethnic tensions which are stoked by revolutionary Islam. The last important episode to date gave rise to the Andijan massacres in 2005.

[6Russia is recreating an economic and civilisational union, the Eurasian Union, which is formed around a Collective Security Treaty Organization – in fact, a number of small countries which count on military assistance from their huge Russian neighbour – but also a Customs Union which is currently composed of Russia, Belarus and Kazakshtan. Apart from Kyrgyzstan, Syria and Tadjikistan, as well as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, may join this free-exchange Customs Union in the coming years.

[7An allusion to the possibility of a pseudo-democratic revolution stirred up from the exterior, copied from the « Arab spring ». Here we are referring to a mixture of an orange « revolution », such as that which handed Ukraine over to pro-Western power, and an « Arab spring » which relies on the Islamists (whose colour is green), traditionally powerful in the Ferghana valley. The aim of such a revolution would not be the installation of a pro-Western leader so much as to create a foyer of instability right on Russia’s doorstep, and endanger the Eurasian Union.

[8« Karzai Says Mullah Omar Can Run For President », Radio Free Europe, 2nd April 2013.

[9Engaged in the anti-Soviet war in 1979, mullah Omar was wounded four times, and lost an eye.

[10It was announced at the beginning of April 2013 that the president of Kazakhstan is suffering from an incurable disease. He has supposedly between 6 and 12 months to live.

[11« Талибан вновь готовится к схватке с шурави », by Andrey Ivanov and Sergey Ishchenko, SVPressa, 20th April 2013.