State Dept. meets with ally Turkmenistan, “one of the world’s most repressive countries” to “deepen its relationship”

(This article is published in Salon.)

“Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most repressive countries,” reports leading rights organization Human Rights Watch. “The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal.”

Despite the country’s horrific human rights record, the U.S. considers Turkmenistan an important ally. The State Department met with a delegation of Turkmen government officials last week, stating that the “United States looks forward to broadening and deepening its relationship with Turkmenistan.”

Turkmenistan has some of the world’s largest natural gas reserves. For years, the U.S. and allies have been planning on creating a pipeline across the region. The little-discussed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline, at more than 1,000 miles long, will transfer natural gas from Turkmenistan’s gargantuan gas fields into the growing neoliberal economies in India and Pakistan. Construction on the $10 billion pipeline is estimated to begin at the end of 2015. BBC indicates that the U.S. US “strongly supports the pipeline plan, calling it ‘a transformative project for the entire region.’”

When non-allied countries are authoritarian, the U.S. frequently publicly condemns them for their anti-democratic policies. At the same moment, however, the U.S. is strikingly quiet about its own iron-fisted dictatorial allies — not just in Central Asia, but also in the Middle East (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, etc.), Africa (e.g., Ethiopia, Uganda, etc.), and more.

If the U.S. met with a delegation from a non-allied despotic country like North Korea, pundits and journalists would make sure the public never heard the end of it. But when the State Department meets with one of the world’s most repressive countries in hopes of “broadening and deepening its relationship,” the silence roars.

Read more at Salon.