In a recent post, Joshua Foust, who now describes himself as a columnist at PBS and *the* editor of Registan.net, turns in a piece that is crafted to look critical of Kazakhstan.
*Blinks*. Foust has completely flip-flopped here. Only a year ago he was writing pieces minimizing the Zhanaozen massacre as a "local labor dispute". When Russian and Kazakh journalists who travelled to the scene questioned the official death toll, Foust trashed them. He ridiculed a prominent scholar of Central Asia Martha Brill Olcott as being too soft on the regime -- when he himself said the same things. It was extraordinary. When I pointed this out, he harangued me and vilified me in the most vicious ways, and got all his pals on Registan to do the same. When a State Dept. official pointed out that in face he was saying the same thing as Olcott, his comment was deleted. I was banned from Registan for writing normal criticism of some of their appalling fellow-travelling. Author after author have taken the regime's side and I've filled up my blog with critiques.
Now, all of a sudden, this piece.
But it's cleverly done. Because after acting as if he is talking as a savvy fellow about what "we all know" to be Kazakhstan's PR flaking, he then tucks this paragraph into the piece making it seem as if Kazakhstan, on the eve of talks again about Iran and its nuclear program, is some sort of valuable honest broker or successful convener and diplomatic force (it's not):
And, then, there is its steady rise as a global nuclear mediator. Kazakhstan might be the only place where Iran and the P5+1 can disagree amicably: Kazakhstan is near Iran, and it has recognized Iran's right to a civilian nuclear program. And the West might consider Kazakhstan's own nuclear legacy a suggestive model for Iran -- a point that President Nazarbayev made plainly in a New York Times op-ed a year ago.
And a few other lines like that -- "Nazarbayev is genuinely popular" -- which essentially track that very PR puffery from the regime -- and it's as if he's made a sandwich, and hidden these pickles in it.
I don't know what to make of this seeming turnaround, but it might be because he's no longer working for John Kerry's think tank American Security Project and is free to take another line, or he just feels this is what is fashionable now -- it won't be the first time he's flipped and flopped in breathtaking ways that not only is adoring fans don't ever seem to notice, but which more clear-eyed readers hesitate to point out for fear of his vicious harassment on Twitter.
Click on the side under the "Kazakhstan" topics and see my critiques of pieces that have been on Registan.net about Kazakhstan.