Dan Darling at Winds of Change has a terrific post backgrounding the current crisis. Think of it as a "primer" preparing you to understand the more detailed posts from other sources. Read it here.
There is certainly an Islamist (and in fact an al-Qaeda) connection at work in the current situation, and there is almost certainly an attempt underway to push things in that direction; but as of right now there seems to be a fairly diverse mixture of factions and ideologies in play in eastern Uzbekistan. The majority of the protesters seem to be far more motivated by economic and filial motivations than they are a desire to build a Caliphate in Central Asia.This, of course, is the great argument raised by "realists" against the Bush Doctrine -- that by destabilizing authoritarian regimes, we are opening the door for Islamists to assert themselves. The counter-argument is that the existence of these repressive regimes has been the reason Islamism has flourished and that removing them will undercut the radicals' agenda.
He also notes:
Right now, all we're dealing with is a mixture of rumors, Uzbek (and Russian) propaganda, and Islamist propaganda on the other hand and it's likely to be some time (if ever) that we actually figure out the truth of what's going on there.That's what the blogosphere is for, isn't it.
Admitting the uncertainty of our understanding he asks a serious question:
If we agree, and it is fairly well established, that this was a spontaneous uprising protesting political and economic conditions -- then
who exactly raided the military barracks for weapons and then shot up the prison? That isn't something that you just plan overnight in a place like Uzbekistan, which leads me to suspect that either the attackers had been planning their actions for awhile and took advantage of the protests...This raises the possibility that we are seeing two distinct things here -- a popular uprising, and an attempt on the part of Islamist radicals to exploit the situation.We of course favor the former, but fear the latter.
Nathan over at Registran.net has an amazing series of link-rich updates. Check them out here.
He specifically disputes the BBC reporting which holds that the protests were inspired by the plight of Islamist prisoners, and a TCS article based on those reports. He writes:
Sure, the attack on the prison may have been the work of Islamic militants. It also could have been the work of the powerful families in Andijon who have come under fire from the government recently. Either way, to color unrest across the entire country as being motivated by Islam is not just wrong, but flat out lazy.Seeing this as an Islamist insurgency also serves the interest of Karimov's repressive regime and, by some accounts which I would dispute, the interests of US foreign policy.
And of course Gateway Pundit has a great post, with pictures and links to several other sources.
Check him out here.
And lest we forget -- Robert Mayer over at Publius Pundit is all over this too. Read him here.
If you visit these sites and follow their links you will get a pretty comprehensive understanding of just what is going on there.
Note that both Britain and the US are supporting the protesters and putting pressure on the Uzbek government, a point that seems to be lost on some commentators. Admittedly the US was slow to comment officially, understandable given the uncertainty of the early situation, but it has rejected Karimov's assertion that the protesters are Islamist radicals and is now calling on him to make major political reforms.