Thursday, 31 May 2012

Caspian Round-Up

Blogging has been very light of late. Normal service set to resume shortly. 

Some noteworthy stories which I will be looking at in more detail in the days ahead:

a)     Iran and Azerbaijan have continued to spar after the Eurovision contest. Iran’s navy is reportedly carrying out exercises along the maritime border with Azerbaijan; the Iranians have detained two Azeri poets and Baku has turned back a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader “in accordance with Azerbaijan’s legislation”; Ali Hasanov has slammed Iran’s ‘false clergy’; and Azerbaijan has reportedly signed a new, $300m deal to buy some new Israeli drones.

b)    In related news the Iranians have also been trumpeting their new oil discovery in the Caspian, which lies in the Sardar Jangal field discovered late last year. At the time I argued that the coordinates given would put the field in Turkmen waters but this was wrong – turns out that the field is actually in what would reasonably be considered Azerbaijan’s waters instead. I will be speaking on the subject in Astana in a couple of weeks, for those attending the Caspian Offshore conference. It could be potentially big news if Iran does push forward with drilling.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Georgia, Chechnya, And The Abkhazia 'Plot'

The blame game between Russia and Georgia over shady bombings and sabotage plans has been rumbling on for years now. In Abkhazia, ‘terrorist plotters’ are fingered as Georgian agents by Moscow and Sukhumi, whilst Georgia regularly detains ‘Russian spies’ accused of occasional bombings. Russia also occasionally accuses Tbilisi of supporting Islamist militants in the North Caucasus. Unravelling fact from fiction is never easy in these cases, but the tale has taken a rather surprising new turn.

Russian intelligence claims on 4-5 May to have foiled a plot by North Caucasus militant leader Doku Umarov to attack the 2014 Winter Olympics, due to be staged in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi. The proximity of the site to the North Caucasus has been cited before as a cause for concern but there have been few credible hints of a plan to attack the games.