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Conflict in the Caspian?

Conflict in the Caspian?

A little noticed military exercise occurred last week in the Caspian.

A bilateral operation between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, the “Tsentr 2011” joint strategic exercise dealt with threats to both nations coming from the Caspian region, whose major resource is – oil.

Kazakh Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov oversaw the simulated combat operations, which involved land, maritime and aerial military units.

The operation’s scenario was a possible change in the states of the Central Asia.

The Russian Federation’s Central Military District deputy chief of staff, Major-General Sergei Chuvakin, explained: "In the preparation for the exercise we planned in advance that we would be fighting a hypothetical state."

According to the exercise’s scenario, a “hypothetical state” “had perpetrated aggression, attempting to smash our troops and capture the Caspian part of territory known for its oilfields,” according to a breathless report of the operation in the 28 September edition of Krasnaia Zvezda, the official paper of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense.
So, uh, who exactly is the enemy here?

The Caspian is an endorheic sea, with no egress to the open ocean. The sole entry to the Caspian is the Volga-Don Canal, under the Russian Federation’s sovereign control, so…

That leaves out the U.S., leaving Russia and Kazakhstan’s three riparian neighbors as possible antagonists.

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan largely have navies in name only, which leaves – Iran, which earlier this week announced its determination to send naval units off the east coast of the United states, while the country on 28 September announced the introduction into the nation’s navy of its first domestically made destroyer, the Jamaran.

So, what does this all mean?

The journal Moskovskii Komsomolets in covering the operation even went so far so as to include two “Plans of defensive operations” maps and those seeking to read the Kremlin tea leaves noted that no Iranian observer was present at the military exercise.

A senior Kazakh military acknowledged the obvious, that the only regional power with forces to mount such an operation is Iran, which raises the question – why?

Well, according to the Russian and Kazakh war-gamers, in response to a U.S. aerial attack on Iran Iranian forces might move in to destroy U.S. oil interests in Kazakhstan, particularly in Mangistau province, where U.S. firm ExxonMobil is the major developer. That U.S. interests are the prime target is hardly in doubt, as the Moskovskii Komsomolets article is entitled, “Russia prepares to battle for American oil.”

On the larger field of the Kremlin chessboard, a number of Russian analysts have noted Moscow’s preoccupation with the Americans preparing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, which they fear could lead to the rapid Islamization and radicalization of the Central Asian republics, particularly Turkmenistan, a process that Russian analysts believe that Iran will do its utmost to facilitate, destabilizing the region.

Accordingly, war games are simply an attempt to work through possible worst-case scenarios.

And for once in the region, the Yankees aren’t the primary opponent.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com




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