Josh already had something to say about it, but let me harp on it some more.
I am sure that I have mentioned in the past that I find it rather unfortunate that people actually have to pay to read what Stratfor writes about Central Asia and the Caucasus. Perhaps their other content is better, but what I have read stinks and is a piss-poor advertisement for a company that wants to be seen as a “private CIA.”
Josh disagreed with plenty in Zeihan’s article on what will happen when other Central Asian leaders fall. I’ll just sum it up by saying it is dumb with an extra helping of stupid. I will not give the same benefit of the doubt regarding it being restrained to being a geopolitical report. It entertains laughably unlikely possibilities as likelihoods and it is hard to divine any deep understanding floating about under the surface. (Hooray for “zero-point analysis” I guess.)
If Iran moves, its military conquest of sparsely populated Turkmenistan after years of Turkmenbashi purges would be child’s play, and it would secure Tehran a springboard from which to influence all of Central Asia. The cost, however, would be Tehran’s placing itself in opposition to Moscow as well as to Washington. If Iran sits on its hands, the Russians will eventually call all the shots and Tehran’s chances of influencing Central Asia will dwindle to nothing.
Yeah, I guess. Were this said in passing, it would be forgettable. But of the 13 paragraphs under the Turkmenistan heading, 7 are about Iran and 0 are about China, Europe, or the United States, all of which, in my humble opinion, are more likely to devote time and energy to influencing post-Turkmenbashi Turkmenistan. (The US, I should note, does get mentioned in one sentence in relation to opposition politicians.)
Why should we seriously entertain the possibility of an Iranian invasion? Why can’t Iran-Turkmenistan relations develop as they already have been? They will never be over the moon, but they are not horrible. If I am not mistaken, Turkmenistan exports natural gas to northern Iran in a swap deal. Of course it might export straight on through Iran in larger quantities if the infrastructure actually existed. In fact, come to think of it, it seems rather odd that Iran would want to seize energy resources for which the only viable export route runs through the country that would be most antagonized by such seizure. But then again, I said we were dealing with dumb stuff here.
On top of that, Zeihan puts the smart money on Turkmenistan not determining its own future with Berdimuhammedov at the helm. The man has done fairly well for himself so far domestically, and I think this is a good indication that he will be able to handle himself internationally once his position is secure. But if not him, anyone firmly in place at the top will face much the same pressures as Turkmenbashi did, and short of a Persian invasion that, I assure you, will not come, expect little change. Turkmenistan has few export options, but has in the past been willing to simply not export to wait for better deals. One of Turkmenbashi’s problems in cutting energy deals is that he seemed too eager to promise everyone what they were looking for. A more competent successor, which is not too terribly hard to envision, will use Turkmenistan’s natural gas to guarantee its sovereignty, and may more eagerly pursue the construction of new export routes to give it more bargaining power with Russia.
Anyhow though, Zeihan’s article struck me as the kind of thing that I would hate to have to be a subscriber to see, especially when there is well-informed Turkmenistan analysis and good analysis of the region as a whole available for free out there.
On to part two…
Did Turkmenistan’s President Saparmurat Niyazov really die of cardiac arrest or is he just latest victim of Bush’s “regime change” epidemic?
Besides, Niyazov met all the criteria for regime change: he controlled massive natural gas reserves and he refused to take orders directly from Washington. Typically, these are the only factors which matter when Bush decides which leader is next on his “hit list.”
As the weeks go by, we can expect to see the usual indications of US involvement: the CIA-funded public demonstrations, the “democracy promoting” coverage in the media, and the comical parade of ex-patriots who matriculated in US right-wing think tanks. The whole charade is being cobbled together as part of a failed strategy to control the world’s remaining resources.
The faces may change, but the routine is always the same.
Because I will forget, someone please remind me to write to Mike Whitney in a few weeks to get his explanation for why pro-democracy protests led by a “comical parade of ex-patriots” (poor spelling does not inspire confidence…) have not materialized.
Also, please do read the whole thing. It is the funniest thing I have read all day, and chock full of the ign’ance (as we’d call this special class of ignorance where I grew up) that makes the “alternative press” ever so fun to read.