Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – South Caucasus Theatre: Moscow – Tskhinvili – Berlin/Tbilisi – Tehran; Helicopter Carrying Georgia DM Shot at Over South Ossetia – Tbilisi Accuses Moscow
Night Watch: TSKHINVILI – A helicopter carrying Georgia Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili was shot at and almost downed as it was flying over the disputed territory of South Ossetia, which is part of Georgia but has been attempting to secede and join Russia since the end of the Cold War 15 years ago. Georgia Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli stated, “This is yet another provocation out of the many already staged by the regime in Tskhinvili (South Ossetian capital) and the military command of Russian peacekeepers deployed in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian confict.” [ALJAZEERA]
The Defense Minister accused what he called “the Ossetian bands” but he knows they are supported by Moscow. The South Caucasus are one of the “frozen conflict” areas that have seen heavy fighting in the years after the Cold War like the Balkans and will descend into nationalistic-religious conflict again. This latest incident shows just how intense this flashpoint is.
Tehran of course is aware of this and for that reason has increased its contacts with Tbilisi, which leads me to believe they will take advantage of the resumption of fighting here just as they are prepared to do so when the Serbs start the war again in the former Yugoslavia over Kosovo. If Tbilisi is successful, and with support from Tehran, then Iran will increase its control over the region’s resources. The Caucasus – Caspian – Black Sea region is a crossroads of energy pipelines and whichever government controls the region will be the most prominent voice in the global energy market.
Moscow is preparing frantically, and with massive industrial assistance from Berlin, to make more offensive reponses to the fighting in the North Caucasus, Chechnya – Dagestan, but it may take them another year to be completely ready. But in the meantime, here in the South Caucasus, they have been warning Tbilisi, since bombings in South Ossetia in July, that Russia will defend its peacekeepers and citizens in the area “by any means.” Most of the area’s population identifies with Russia. If the shooting was indeed Moscow, and it probably was, then perhaps Russia is ready to send a message not only to Tbilisi but to Tehran as well.
Both capitals and interested parties, like industrial concerns in Berlin, know that this is no time for negotiation. Moscow realizes that they have to be impressive militarily in order to add more weight to their diplomats argument.