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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 275

Violence follow Kyrgyz-Uzbek border shooting;
New Iran sanctions;
Iran spy chief in Egypt

Edited by Jeff Smith
January 9, 2013

A series of clashes at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border have caused five casualties and resulted in the taking of two dozen hostages. The escalating confrontation began on January 4 when Uzbek border guards shot and killed a reportedly unarmed Kyrgyz citizen whom they accused of being a smuggler. A clash between Uzbek citizens and Kyrgyz border guards then erupted a day later when Uzbek citizens attacked Kyrgyz forces attempting to erect power lines to a newly-built border post along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. The Uzbek mob reportedly took over 30 Kyrygz citizens hostage and tried to seize weapons from the Kyrgyz border guards. Four vehicles were reportedly torched and a bus with Kyrgyz citizens taken hostage. (Radio Free Europe January 8, 2013)

The latest rounds of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on the Islamic Republic of Iran target “large swaths of the country’s industrial infrastructure” and are intended to “deliver powerful blows against key industries ranging from shipping and ports-management to the government-controlled news media.” This represents a significant broadening of the scope of US sanctions, which had initially been targeted specifically at Iran’s nuclear program. The goal of the new measures, says Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is to “create a chilling effect on all nonhumanitarian commercial trade with Iran.” The new initiative comes on the heels of an “unusually candid” Iranian report confirming that the Rial had lost 40% of its value and oil exports, the chief income resource of Tehran, had dropped by half. (Washington Post January 6, 2013)

In a move sure to ruffle feathers in Washington, Egypt has welcomed Iran’s spy chief, Qassam Suleimani, to the Egyptian capital for two days of talks with senior Egyptian officials. The Australian reports that Suleimani was visiting Cairo to “advise the government on building its security and intelligence apparatus independent of the national intelligence services, which are controlled by Egypt’s military.” Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are said to be growing frustrated that Egypt’s intelligence services “have refused to share information with the government or allow the Brotherhood access to their surveillance apparatus.” An unnamed Egyptian official suggested a second motivation for Suleiman’s visit: “to send a message to America...that we should be allowed to have other alliances with anyone we please.” In exchange for Iran’s assistance in intelligence matters, Iran was reportedly seeking Egypt’s support on Syria. (The Australian January 9, 2013).

New details have emerged about the Syrian regime’s preparations to ready their chemical weapons stockpile for use in the civil war that has shaken the country for the past two years. In late November, satellite imagery showed what appeared to be Syrian troops mixing chemicals at two chemical weapons sites and filling dozens of 500-lb bombs with what experts believe to be Sarin gas. The munitions were then loaded onto vehicles near Syrian air bases. President Obama reacted to the intelligence with a public warning to Syria about the use of chemical weapons, while Moscow and other Middle Eastern countries conveyed “more sharply worded private messages” to Syrian President Bashar Assad. A week later US officials assessed that a potential crisis had been averted, but the chemical munitions remain in storage areas near or on Syrian air bases, “ready for deployment on short notice.” A confidential report by Germany’s foreign intelligence service assessed that the weapons could be deployed four to six hours after orders were issued, while other estimates put the time frame at less than two hours. (New York Times January 7, 2013).

Related Categories: Central Asia; Caucasus; Balkans

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