WikiLeaks Dagestan: Shamir-Lukashenko zap against US?

Among the documents released by WikiLeaks—none of which, their supporters insist, is indiscriminate—is an August 2006 classified US diplomatic cable on the lavish wedding party thrown by Gadzhi Makhachev, political boss of the Avar ethnic group in Russia’s Caucasus republic of Dagestan, for his 19-year-old son. Makhachev is a Duma member, chief of the Dagestan Oil Company, and warlord who gained fame for leading the defense of Dagestan against the incursions of Chechen guerilla fighter Shamil Basayev ten years ago. The leaked cable contains much juicy gossip on Caucasus politics, and unflattering depictions of local political figures. Despite WikiLeaks’ stated policy of only releasing documents that reveal newsworthy official malfeasance, we see nothing in this lengthy cable that meets that standard. However, the text is certain to be deeply embarrassing for the US diplomatic corps in Russia and the Caucasus. Ultimately, it may say more about hidden agendas behind WikiLeaks than about US designs…

The cable has sparked a predictable slew of denials. The Washington Post reported Dec. 4 that although the dispatch was signed “Burns,” the State Department denied that it was written by the obvious suspect, Undersecretary William J. Burns, who was US ambassador to Moscow at the time. Makhachev, who was depicted as living in decadent excess (complete with “luxurious houses in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Moscow, Paris and San Diego; and a large collection of luxury automobiles, including the Rolls Royce Silver Phantom” in which the bride was delivered to the reception), issued his own retort: “I don’t have houses in Moscow, Paris or San Diego, and I have never driven a Rolls Royce.”

The most embarrassing bit of gossip was that while the “official” (Moscow-installed) Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov attended (“looking shorter and less muscular than in his photos, and with a somewhat cock-eyed expression on his face”), Makhachev was snubbed by Dagestan’s own president. From the cable:

During lunch, Gadzhi took a congratulatory call from Dagestan’s president, Mukhu Aliyev. Gadzhi told Aliyev how honored he would be if Aliyev could drop in at the wedding reception. There was a degree of tension in the conversation, which was between two figures each implicitly claiming the mantle of leadership of the Avars. In the event, Aliyev snubbed Gadzhi and did not show up for the wedding, though the rest of Dagestan’s political leadership did.

The entertainment featured drunken jet-skiing and the traditional lezginka dance. We are informed that President Kadyrov “danced clumsily with his gold-plated automatic stuck down in the back of his jeans (a houseguest later pointed out that the gold housing eliminated any practical use of the gun, but smirked that Ramzan probably couldn’t fire it anyway).”

Also in attendance was the chief rabbi of the Mountain Jews. Syrian-Jewish singer Avram Russo was invited—but was shot a few days before the wedding. In his place was Benya the Accordion King—another Jewish name. Also preforming was a “gypsy” band that one reveler sneered was really Jewish.

We surmise that the decision to release this bit of diplomatic scuttlebutt was made by Israel Shamir, WikiLeaks’ man in the former Soviet Union. In the recent crackdown in Belarus, Shamir is accused of providing dictator Alexander Lukashenko with intelligence on dissidents who were then rounded up and tortured by the hundreds. By releasing the “Burns” cable, was Shamir acting in league with Lukashenko to undercut US regional efforts to isolate his regime?

Despite his apparent Jewish origins, Christian convert Shamir is a notorious anti-Semite. His website today prominently featured pom-pom waving for Holocaust deniers and for Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, attacks on secularism, and such non-ironic headlines as “Down With Human Rights” and “In Defense of Prejudice“—this in response to ADL protests of Shamir’s references to war-mongering “Jewish media-lords.” There are also photos of Shamir standing proudly beside Julian Assange and Cynthia McKinney.

Shamir’s website also features an interview with German neo-Nazi (“important German radical thinker and revolutionary,” writes Shamir) Horst Mahler. In his laudatory introduction, Shamir writes:

The far right contains a staunchly anti-globalist, anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal, anti-American and anti-Zionist nucleus… While the Left has been gentrified and has gone upmarket, rebellious working class youth are much more likely to join far right militants than a left-wing group. The leftists’ infatuation with immigrants and gender minorities also undermines their appeal to indigenous [sic!] underprivileged workers.

These words may contain some insight into why thousands of “leftists” around the world are rallying around Julian Assange and WikiLeaks—while displaying no concern for their ugly fascistic connections. Shamir’s website contains the following terse statement on the question:

As Israel Shamir became a source of much controversy in connection with Wikileaks, please read this statement. Israel Shamir supports Wikileaks, agrees with its ideas and admires its head, Julian Assange. However, Israel Shamir is NOR a member, NEITHER an employee of Wikileaks: he is a free lance writer accredited with Wikileaks.


See our last posts on the WikiLeaks affair, Russia and the struggle for the Caucasus.

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  1. ORDO meets Dagestan
    You seem to undervalue the importance that this is the first cable which reveals a writers talent in the US State department. Besides he has read Hayek and Tolstoj. May be the author didn’t appreciate the hospitality and the company of the extended Putin family, but at least he demonstrates his loyalty to the ‘democratic’ ruling of the Kremlin. He qualifies the job.

    An original quote from the cable, which is worth remembering:

    ¶11. (C) Though Gadzhi’s house was not the venue for the main wedding reception, he ensured that all his guests were constantly plied with food and drink. The cooks seemed to keep whole sheep and whole cows boiling in a cauldron somewhere day and night, dumping disjointed fragments of the carcass on the tables whenever someone entered the room. Gadzhi’s two chefs kept a wide variety of unusual dishes in circulation (in addition to the omnipresent boiled meat and fatty bouillon). The alcohol consumption before, during and after this Muslim wedding was stupendous. Amidst an alcohol shortage, Gadzhi had flown in from the Urals thousands of bottles of Beluga Export vodka (“Best consumed with caviar”). There was also entertainment, beginning even that day, with the big-name performers appearing both at the wedding hall and at Gadzhi’s summer house. Gadzhi’s main act, a Syrian-born singer named Avraam Russo, could not make it because he was shot a few days before the wedding, but there was a “gypsy” troupe from St. Petersburg, a couple of Azeri pop stars, and from Moscow, Benya the Accordion King with his family of singers. A host of local bands, singing in Avar and Dargin, rounded out the entertainment, which was constant and extremely amplified..

      1. Ordnungspolitik
        The ordoliberal tradition of institutional economics (“Ordnungspolitik”), segments of private sector power coalesce to invest to control (the) state(s).

        Carl J. Friedrich (1955). “The Political Thought of Neo-Liberalism”. American Political Science Review (American Political Science Association) 49 (2): 509–525.

        ORDO — Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (official English translation: The Ordo Yearbook of Economic and Social Order, ORDO) Created by German economists Walter Eucken and Franz Böhm in 1948. The periodical focuses on the economic and political institutions governing modern society.

    1. Silence of the “left” on Shamir on Belarus
      Even better is the earlier self-penned piece Shamir links to at the link above, “The Minsk Election in a Wikileaks Mirror,” in which he hails Lukashenko for defending “socialism,” and says WikiLeaks has “proof positive” that the Belarussian protest movement was “orchestrated” by the State Department and George Soros. We heard similar abhorrent jive from the Internet conspiranoids after Ahmadinejad similarly stole Iran’s elections and unleashed a reign of terror in 2009.

      That CounterPunch is providing a platform for this fascist propaganda is predictable. That supposed “leftists” are so blithely unconcerned—either with the fact that WikiLeaks is working with a true crypto-Nazi like Shamir, or with WikiLeaks’ increasingly evident collaboration with the Lukashenko dictatorship—is what is truly demoralizing. So much for all the empty prattle about “human rights” from Assange’s defenders.

      1. Only a schlemiel will deny that
        No idea what you consider “left” (is that equal to CPunch?), but this man (IS as you call him) and a number of his IDs are already a number of times exposed a long time ago. Defenders of human rights and WL have exposed IS from 2001 onwards and only a schlemiel will deny that.

        As far as I know WL is not a party political or a big corporate product, nor is IS a member of WL.
        J.A. made a big mistake to accredit IS for witnessing the election in Belarus end 2010, but is that the only reason why you don’t like the not-so corporate WL?
        A lot of bogus.

        1. schlemiel, schlimazel
          Shamir is accused of passing on WikiLeaks cables to the Lukashenko regime, implicating dissidents in meetings with the US State Department. Whether this was done actively or passively, I think it constitutes pretty good reason to “not like” WikiLeaks. Especially if you’re in a torture chamber in Minsk.

          If Assange wants to be “liked” (by me, anyway) he had better take some responsibility for this.

          1. Dont’ blame WL for the wrongdoings of states
            I can only presume that you are not aware of the fact that the information regarding the relations between the US and Belarus is quite public and the US programs for Belarus rather modest in scope. The US government is well aware that the dictatorship of Lukashenko has largely forbidden giving any aid to the diverse oppositional groups years ago. This is no news. Secr. of State Clinton visited Belarus early december 2010 (before the elections) and “enjoyed” her trip. The 109th US Congress passed several resolutions criticizing human rights abuses and was calling on Belarus to hold free and fair elections. In January 2007, President Bush signed the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act (P.L. 109-480), which reauthorized and updated the provisions of the 2004 law. The proiects which the US are funding are no secrets (if so, they are badly hidden from the public). You can’t blame any publisher, transmitter or reader for that.

            The recent 600+ arrests are made in conjunction with the post-election protests and have no relation to Wikileaks.
            Wikileaks can only provide pre-march 2010 cables.
            For years protestors go to prison in the state of Belarus and it is good that we hear, read, write and do-what-we-can to prevent illegitime state arrests. You seem to suggest that without Wikileaks these arrests wouldn’t have taken place. Frankly that is doing unjust to the legitime protestors, implying that they are US agents in Belarus. Most of the detainees are – as far as I have understood – given an administrative jail sentence of 15 days. A number of opposition leaders are facing criminal charges for ‘so-called’ instigating riots (not for being US spies). Wikileaks didn’t put Lukashenko in power, nor can they be given credit for learning him and his regime to read. Dont’ blame WL for the wrongdoings of states. We have to blame the states and their illegitime powers.

            1. No relation to WikiLeaks?
              Are you paying attention at all? WikiLeaks (specifically, Israel Shamir) is accused of passing intelligence on Belarussian dissidents to Lukashenko. When the CIA did the same for Pinochet in ’73, would you have said “Dont’ blame the CIA for the wrongdoings of states”?

              Whether or not the arrests “would have taken place without WikiLeaks” is unknowable and not particularly relevant. WikiLeaks is clearly complicit with the arrests. This is true whether it engaged in active collaboration (Shamir directly passing the info on to Lukashenko’s regime) or merely passive collaboration (publishing the cables with reckless disregard for the blowback to dissidents).

              I reiterate: I will take none of the WikiLeaks cult’s talk of “human rights” seriously until there is some serious grappling with the Belarus case.

  2. Assange speaks to Israel Shamir on WikiLeaks in Russia
    The blog Harry’s Place, which has done more than any other media source to uncover the unseemly WikiLeaks connection to Shamir and Lukashenko, runs an excerpt Jan. 7 from a video interview with Julian Assange on Shamir’s website (emphasis in Harry’s transcription):

    Israel Shamir: Did you find any compromising facts about Russia? Or maybe it’s just the reputation of American foreign policy will suffer losses because of this complication?

    Julian Assange: Well there are a number of reports in there of people going into America embassies [sic] and talking about their colleagues, and sometimes that is people speaking about corrupt Russian businessmen, or allegations of corruption by Russian generals, and of course the view of the American ambassadors themselves about what the state of Russian affairs is. But generally, I see that it’s mainly the US presidence [sic] and how it operates, and also the actions of the puppet states that it has, or the American client states: these states that are supported and propped up by the United States, that often engage in terrible human rights abuses, or covert pushes towards war, or money laundering, or other forms of corruption. And those are often known about by US embassies working in these countries, but that knowledge is concealed. So I think, over the long term, it is that latter category that is really going to start drawing attention.

    This is positively hilarious in light of WikiLeaks’ and Shamir’s apparent collaboration with the Lukashenko dictatorship. Does Assange really think that it is only US puppet states that are guilty of corruption and rights abuses? This might explain why he is evidently unconcerned with the impacts of his leaks on dissidents who went “into America embassies” to talk about abuses under regimes unfriendly to the US. It is also the difference between principled anti-imperialism and mere ugly anti-Americanism—a point we have made before.

    1. US interests in Belarus
      US interests are at stake in Belarus and elsewhere. Among others highly enriched uranium has to be safeguarded, remnants from the Cold War. Capitalism hasn’t fully developed in Belarus, neither has Belarus freedom. The Lukashenko dictatorship has a firm grip over US interests in Belarus. The Department of State will bring everyone in safety and stand firm behind the US interests in Belarus. The EU will discuss actions too, although Italy wants to keep talking with the bad guys. Putin disregards the whole matter and respects the result of the Belarus election.

    2. Belarus chess game
      Whatever imperialist intrigues may be underway, dissidents have plenty reason to be afraid (and amenable to accepting Washington’s aid) in Belarus. The most recent Amnesty International report on Belarus notes arbitrary detainment, imprisonment and “disappearances” of opposition figures, trade unions and journalists; the closure of opposition newspapers by government decree; and the shutting down of investigations into government abuses.

      1. BW 5years later: Belarus: the last domino?
        “Ultimately, it may say more about hidden agendas behind WikiLeaks than about US designs…”

        ¶20. (C) The “horizontal of power” represented by Gadzhi’s relationship with Ramzan is the antithesis of the Moscow-imposed “vertical of power.” Gadzhi’s business partner Khalik Gindiyev, head of Rosneft-Kaspoil, complained that Moscow should let local Caucasians rather than Russians — “Magomadovs and Aliyevs, not Ivanovs and Petrovs” — resolve the region’s conflicts. The vertical of power, he said, is inapplicable to the Caucasus, a region that Moscow bureaucrats such as PolPred Kozak would never understand. The Caucasus needs to be given the scope to resolve its own problems. But this was not a plug for democracy. Gadzhi told us democracy would always fail in the Caucasus, where the conception of the state is as an extension of the Caucasus family, in which the father’s word is law. “Where is the room for democracy in that?” he asked. We paraphrased Hayek: if you run a family as you do a state, you destroy the family. Running a state as you do a family destroys the state: ties of kinship and friendship will always trump the rule of law. Gadzhi’s partner agreed, shaking his head sadly. “That’s a matter for generations to come,” he said.

        Belarus: the last domino?

        Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Fri, 05/20/2005 – 03:39.
        President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who leads a Moscow-aligned Soviet-nostalgist authoritarian regime, has got to be concerned about the recent unrest in Uzbekistan–especially coming on the heels of regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past year-and-a-half. However oppressive the situation in post-Soviet despotisms, it is clear Washington is seeking to exploit the situation to expand U.S. influence in the post-Soviet sphere, just as in the Arab world. (Of course this, in turn, allows the despots to potray all opposition as “American agents.”).


        See last alinea.


        Ultimately, it may say more about changing views behind Bill Weinberg’s US designs… than concern over human rights.

  3. “The Russia Houses”
    “Despite WikiLeaks’ stated policy of only releasing documents that reveal newsworthy official malfeasance, we see nothing in this lengthy cable that meets that standard.”

    Does this do it for you?

    A CityBeat investigation has found Makhachev is tied to at least five properties in San Diego County, and a local builder says he personally rode in Makhachev’s Rolls Royce. Makhachev has paid for 15 Russian boys to attend the Army & Navy Academy (ANA) in Carlsbad since the mid-1990s and recently made one of the largest donations in the boarding school’s 100-year history.

    Further investigation reveals these deals were connected to Russian emigre, machinery exporter and Carlsbad developer Bernard Goldstein, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in November for allegedly hiding millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts. According to Russian reports, during the same time period, Makhachev helped negotiate business deals in Russia with Goldstein’s company, MG Export-Import. Goldstein has fled the country.