Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – South Caucasus Theatre: Moscow – Brussels/Tbilisi – Tehran; Russia DM Warns “Signs Indicate Georgia May Opt for Military Solution to South Ossetia – Abkhazia Secession”
Night Watch: MOSCOW – In a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Russia Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov justified Moscow’s military response to its standoff with Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili by saying, “All signs indicate that Georgia could opt for a military solution to the problems with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Publicly of course both officials stated the need to find a peaceful solution but privately I suspect Ivanov was giving Scheffer details of Moscow’s offensive against the Georgian forces Tbilisi sent to occupy the Kodori Gorge this past summer between Georgia and Abkhazia.
There was even a quote, recently, from Georgia’s Defense Minister where he supposedly stated that if war erupted between Russia and Georgia, Moscow would lose. The Kremlin has also accused the Ukraine and other countries, that recently joined NATO, of illegally arming Georgia. During the current military standoff Brussels has stated if shooting begins they will not intervene, which means at least tacit approval of whatever Moscow decides to do. [RIA]
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared their independence from Georgia at the end of the Cold War in 1990 since the majority of their populations identify with Russia. Relations between Russia and Georgia have been tense ever since, especially since Russia still regards all of the Caucasus as its exclusive sphere of influence, a view that is definitely opposed not only by Tehran but by Ankara.
But Moscow’s relations with Tbilisi took a decided turn for the worse in the past year to the extent Tehran has sensed a new opening in the resource rich Caucasus by supporting Georgia in its military standoff with Russia. It was no secret Iran supported Islamic units in Chechnya then Dagestan that had been fighting Russia since 1994. The first wave of fighting ended in Russia’s defeat 10 years ago but it resumed in 1999. Now that seems to have died down with Russia responding more effectively because, at least now, under President Vladimir Putin, Russian units are being paid. As recently as two years ago not one Russian air unit was fully operational but that has changed now.
But here is the latest dispute with Georgia, which is more heavily armed than any of the Caucasus Islamic units and Iran has never had any problem cooperating militarily with non-Islamic governments who have the same enemy. Those governments know that working with Iran brings a lot of financial support, that increases their ability to purchase any military equipment they require and it is never difficult to find countries-governments willing to sell. Ivanov may have pointed out to Scheffer that Tehran openly expressed its support for Tbilisi by recently meeting Georgia’s Foreign Minister. A similar discussion may have been held when U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow and it was admitted they discussed the Trans-Caucasus.
Brussels and Washington are aware that Moscow operates primarily with hard currency from the West and they both share the same industrial concerns, access to raw materials in the Central Asian – Caucasus region and without any military threat to that access. They also are aware Tehran is the obvious threat to their continued ability receive those resources.
Moscow may be confronting NATO with the reality of the uselessness of sanctions as a way of blunting Tehran’s offensive diplomacy, which obviously supports Islamic terrorist groups that for years have been attacking the West and Russia in preparation for (f)allout war.
Moscow now seems to be saying they are ready to respond militarily to Tehran’s latest initiative and its support for Tbilisi by attacking Georgian forces in the Kodori Gorge. That would be a decisive message to Tehran or any other capital with designs on reducing Russia – West’s hold over the region. wwoffensive but that the blame for the instability should be placed on Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili and therefore justifies Russia’s attack.