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WikiLeak's Unflattering Message About Central Asia

The leaks that bind: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The leaks that bind: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The Turkmen president is a "practiced liar," the Uzbek president "is not interested in reform of any sort," and the Kazakh leader enjoys a lavish lifestyle and expensive hobbies.

This, at least, how U.S. envoys portray Central Asian leaders in leaked diplomatic cables posted by WikiLeaks.

Perhaps nothing is new or surprising in the WikiLeaks revelations as far as Nursultan Nazarbaev's luxurious living standards or Islam Karimov's total lack of interest in democratic reforms are concerned; however, what U.S. diplomats thought about the Turkmen president -- according to the leaked cables -- could cause a lot of embarrassment both for the U.S. and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov himself.

"Turkmen President [Berdymukhammedov] is vain, fastidious, vindictive, a micro-manager, and a bit of an Ahal Teke "nationalist." He also is the only son in a family of eight children. His father is a retired prison guard with the rank of colonel. The father, many in Turkmenistan think, is more intelligent than the son.

[Berdymukhammedov] is vain, suspicious, guarded, strict, very conservative, a practiced liar, 'a good actor,' and vindictive."

And, according to the cables, Berdymukhammedov is not so fond of his Uzbek and Kyrgyz counterparts:

"Berdimuhamedov does not like people who are smarter than he is. Since he's not a very bright guy, our source offered, he is suspicious of a lot of people. Our source claimed Berdimuhamedov did not like America, Iran, or Turkey, but likes China.[...] He also asserted that the president is not fond of either Uzbek President Karimov or Kazakhstan President [Nazarbaev]."

The dispatches also reveal that U.S. diplomats in Tashkent apparently think that "Uzbekistan does not pose all that complex a picture:"

"It is a post-Soviet police state run in the interest of a small coterie of families who monopolize political and economic life. Membership in the inner circle is no longer based on loyalty to a ruling ideology or party as it was in the Soviet era, but on loyalty to the president, Islam Karimov.

He will be reelected for another term later this year (probably on December 23) regardless of what the constitution may say. His many public and private statements to the contrary, he is not interested in reform of any sort, but in tight bureaucratic control of the economic and political system."

The cable seems to be from 2007, when Karimov indeed went on to win the presidential election.

Karimov didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that his country's constitution did not officially allow him to run for a third consecutive term in office, so we can assume he won't care what the dispatches have to say about him or his policies.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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