JANET LEVY: James Corbett is a 9/11 Truther who is featured regularly on the KGB-controlled RT and Global Research. He has a marked anti-Western, anti-Semitic bias and appeared recently with Sibel Edmunds and Lew Rockwell (who works for Ron Paul and consorted with David Duke until he was publicly outed).
A Canadian security analyst wrote: “I suggest that you look at Mr Corbett’s bio, at http://www.corbettreport.com/about/.
by James Corbett
November 19, 2014
CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS
Central Asia is a vast expanse of the map whose defining characteristic is its ability to defy characterization. Stretching from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the west to the border of China in the east, and from Iran and Pakistan’s doorstep in the south to Russia’s in the north, it encompasses everything from the snow-capped slopes of Victory Peak in Kyrgyzstan to the remarkable “door to hell” in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert to the sprawling grasslands of the Kazakh Steppe. Settled by migrants from the Persian, Turkic, Chinese and Slavic civilizations, its inhabitants speak Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Russian, Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmen and include Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
The much smaller Caucasus region, a narrow land bridge sandwiched between the Black and Caspian seas, is equally diverse. The region contains over 50 ethnic groups and is home to three local language families and several dozen languages, from the obscure Bohtan Neo-Aramaictongue with less than 500 native speakers to the more widely spoken Azerbaijani and Armenian languages.
Despite the rich history and culture of the region, it is still completely off the radar screens of many in the west. “Tajikistan,” “Abkhazia” and “Astrakhan Oblast” are hardly names to conjure by in the popular imagination, after all. Those names that do resonate are related to specific stories that have been given coverage in the western media; Dagestan equals “The Boston Bombing” to many Americans, for example, and many Europeans will recognize Chechnya as “that place that Russia is at war with.”
Just because the -stans, Oblasts, republics and autonomous regions that make up this part of the globe are not well known to the average western citizen, however, does not mean that they are not important squares on the global chessboard. And just because they may not be on the radar of the general public does not mean they are not on the radar of some of the richest and most powerful players in global geopolitics.
As one example of this interest, I present to you the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, an organization that sounds about as important to global geopolitics as the Groningen Chamber of Commerce. But look at its list of current and former advisors, chairmen and directors: former Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush family advisor James Baker III and his son James Baker IV, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Armitage and, of course, former National Security Advisor and perennial Washington insider Zbigniew Brzezinski. This Chamber of Commerce boasts some of the most influential figures in US foreign policy in the past half century amongst its ranks. What is it they see that the general public doesn’t?
There are two answers to that question. The first is the old real estate sales line: location, location, location! The region’s key location in the backyard of some of the key powers of the Eurasian landmass, Russia and China foremost amongst them, has made it a geostrategic prize stretching back thousands of years. Dominated at different times and in varying degrees by Persian empires, Chinese dynasties, Mongol invaders and Soviet forces, the region has a rich history of being acted upon and a relatively short history as a geopolitical actor in its own right. Its position has long made it a key transport route, from the Han Dynasty’s famed Silk Roadconnecting China and Persia thousands of years ago to President Xi Jinping’s 21st century equivalent seeking to connect China to Turkey and beyond.
But more important even than its location and strategic value are the region’s vast, largely untapped resources. The oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea region are particularly sought after, containing the third-largest reserves of any fields on the planet. Azerbaijan in the Caucasus and Kazakhstan in Central Asia both have direct access to Caspian Sea oil, with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan providing ample gas reserves. The dream of a Trans-Caspian pipeline has been in the works for years now to transport Central Asian reserves across to the Southern Caucasus and the so-called “BTC” pipeline funneling the energy through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey has been equally prized as a way for Europe to find an alternative to Russia’s increasingly-threatening stranglehold over energy known as Gazprom. The region also contains strategically important deposits of uranium as well as industrially useful minerals including copper, manganese, turngsten and zinc.
Another equally important, although seldom acknowledged, resource in the region revolves around the extensive opium trade, especially in Afghanistan. The Afghan opium trade is estimated to bring in as much as $200 billion a year, accounting for as much as 92% of the world supply. As we shall see, control of this region involves domination of that especially lucrative business and all of the attendant economic benefits that result from it.
The importance of a long-term US presence in the region to establish western dominance over this location and its resources is no secret. It has been written about extensively by the think tanks that typically serve as the mouthpiece for NATO’s foreign policy interests.
Take for example a 1992 analysis of the region from RAND’s National Defense Research Institute entitled “Central Asia: The New Geopolitics.” It was written shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union while the newly independent republics of the region were still orienting themselves to their new geopolitical reality and it was penned by Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul whose name will come up again later in our study. He wrote:
“It is primarily Central Asia’s strategic geopolitical location—truly at the continent’s center—and the broadly undesirable course of events that could emerge if the region were to drift toward instability, that constitute the primary American interest (in the region).[…]Thus, given the potential for untoward developments in the region for Western interests, modest hands-on American influence in the region is desirable.”
By 2004 the need for this “modest hands on American influence” had gained momentum. In an article published that year by the Cambridge Review of International Affairs called “The United States and Central Asia: In the Steppes to Stay?” Svante E. Cornell of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute raised some of the key reasons for increasing US involvement in the region:
“As US engagement in Central Asia becomes more permanent, it will increasingly become a factor in both regional politics and the domestic politics of the several Central Asian countries. That role raises a host of questions. Chief among them is how regional powers such as Russia and China will react to the US presence. A second concerns the implications both for the political development among the region’s states and for the future of radical Islam.”
And in 2011 the Project 2049 Institute, which includes Zbigniew Brzezinski’s son on its Board of Directors, published a document proclaiming “An Agenda For the Future of U.S. – Central Asia Relations” which contains this interesting passage:
“U.S. policymakers have been careful to avoid the metaphor of a “Great Game” in Central Asia. Yet it has been often invoked by others, not least by observers in Moscow, Beijing, and other neighboring powers. The U.S. must continue to reject this metaphor, for such notions are based on flawed assumptions and fraught with risks for the United States.”
NEW GREAT GAME
So what is this “Great Game” metaphor that is so upsetting to the Western establishment? The “Great Game” refers to the struggle for supremacy between the British and the Russians. The Game broadly took place from the signing of the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 until the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907, but although the term was coined in the early 19th century it didn’t hit the popular imagination until Rudyard Kipling’s Kim was published in 1901. It was three years after that, in 1904, that The Geographical Journal published an article that articulated the reason that these great powers were engaged in the struggle for this piece of the globe.
The article was called “The Geographical Pivot of History” and was written by Sir Halford John Mackinder PC, the Director of the London School of Economics that was founded by the Fabian Society and folded into the heart of the British establishment in the University of London in 1900. (The cornerstone of the School’s Old Building on Houghton Street was laid by King George V himself). Mackinder is considered the father of the study of geopolitics.
“The Geographical Pivot of History” is the document that is often said to be the founding document of geopolitics and constitutes the first formulation of what would come to be called the “Heartland Theory.” This theory starts from the division of what Mackinder called the “World Island” into inherently divided isolated areas. Each of these areas has its own part to play in the unfolding of world history, with the area he called the “Heartland” of the central Eurasian landmass being the pivot point from which a civilization could derive the geopolitical and economic leverage with which to dominate the world as a whole. This was summarized in a famous dictum from his 1919 work, “Democratic Ideals and Reality”
“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
Who rules the World-Island commands the World.”
Looking at the map of what Mackinder had in mind for the Heartland it’s apparent that the “heart” of this Heartland is indeed the Central Asia-Caucasus region. This is what Russia and Britain were so intent on wresting from each other in the 19th century Great Game: control of the region from which the building of a world empire would be possible. And this is why the Project 2049 Institute and others desperately want to downplay this idea. They don’t under any circumstances want anyone to believe that the US and its NATO allies are intent on regional domination or the formation of a world empire.
But fast forward to 1997. In that year, Zbigniew Brzezinski released his book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives” (evidently Brzezinski wasn’t so shy about calling world domination for what it is). Brzezinski does not mince words about the Eurasian Heartland and how important it is to American “global primacy”:
“For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia. For half a millennium, world affairs were dominated by Eurasian powers and peoples who fought with one another for regional domination and reached out for global power. Now a non-Eurasian power is preeminent in Eurasia—and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.”
He goes on to refine Mackinder’s “Heartland” notion down to a specific area he calls the Eurasian Balkans. This area is precisely the Central Asia-Caucasus region. He explains its importance thus:
“The Eurasian Balkans, astride the inevitably emerging transportation network meant to link more directly Eurasia’s richest and most industrious western and eastern extremities, are also geopolitically significant. Moreover, they are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region. But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.”
The use of the metaphor of the Balkans is doubly evocative for students of history; it represents not only the strife and ethnic conflict we saw in the “Balkanization” of Yugoslavia toward the end of the 20th century, but also the powder keg of tensions that ignited the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century. Brzezinski predicted that the first great war of the 21st century would take place in this area of the globe and four years later, in the first year of the 21st century, the United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan beginning an occupation that became the longest military operation in the history of America. Meet the New Great Game, same as the Old Great Game. This time it’s NATO against China, Russia and what might be loosely termed a ‘resistance bloc,’ but the idea is almost the same: dominate Central Asia-Caucasus and use it as pivot point to dominate the world.
The Old and New Great Game are similar in many ways. The Old Great Game sprang from British fears that Russian incursion into Central Asia would threaten to topple their hold over the crown jewel of the British Empire, India; the New Great Game springs from the fear that Russian and/or Chinese dominance over Central Asia and the Caucasus would prevent NATO from achieving its goal of “full spectrum dominance.” The Old Great Game involved the British invasion of Afghanistan in 1838 and attempt to install a puppet regime; the New Great Game involved the NATO invasion of Afghanistan and attempt to install a puppet regime. The Old Great Game relied heavily on espionage, spycraft and subterfuge to undermine Russia’s sway over the Heartland; and as we shall see, the New Great Game also heavily relies on covert means to undermine Russian and Chinese influence in the region.