Ousted Kyrgyz present takes refuge in Belarus

This is interesting:

Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday that "Bakiyev and his family are in Minsk under the protection of our state and me personally." His presence, however, could exacerbate Belarus' tensions with both the West and neighboring Russia, as well as with Kyrgyzstan itself. ...

Lukashenko's move to give refuge to Bakiyev appeared to be an open challenge to Russia, which he accuses of trying to absorb or crush his country. Many observers suggest that Russia supported or even aided Bakiyev's ouster, angered by his reneging on a promise last year to evict the U.S. base.

With Moscow's role in the lead-up to the Kyrgyz uprising becoming more clear, it will be interesting to see how other authoritarian governments in the region respond. Lukashenko's government has resisted Russian pressure to recognize the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With presidential elections scheduled for early next year, could we see Russia starting to put pressue on its onetime ally?




Summoning Syria

The U.S. State Department summoned Syria's top diplomat in Washington, Zouheir Jabbour, to rebuke his government for transferring arms to Hezbollah. This was apparently the fourth time in recent weeks that the United States had raised these concerns with the Syrians -- but one of the first times that it had been done publicly. The State Department statement "condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the SCUD, from Syria to Hezbollah."

A few quick points on this news. When this story broke last week, skeptics -- including the United States's erstwhile ally, the prime minister of Lebanon -- were quick to dismiss it as Israeli propaganda. The public criticism of a Syrian diplomat should put an end to the talk that this is solely an Israeli disinformation campaign. The U.S. intelligence community obviously believes there is something behind this story, though the details remain blurry. The question now is whether this transfer actually took place, whether Syria transferred parts of the SCUDs to Hezbollah, or whether they merely had the intention to transfer the weapons.

Secondly, when the State Department wanted to call a Syrian official to task, they had to settle for Zouheir Jabbour, the deputy chief of mission. Where is Syrian Ambassadar Imad Moustapha? On vacation, apparently -- where he has been since this crisis broke last week.  As we're in a particularly fraught point in the U.S-Syrian engagement process, this is a strange point for Syria's top envoy in Washington to be taking a breather.