Georgian Factor in the US Middle East Policy
The US support for the Tbilisi aggression against South Ossetia has highlighted the importance of Georgia as the country located in the proximity to the Middle East to Washington’s plans. Clearly, the objectives of the US presence in Georgia are:
- Maintaining the uninterrupted transit of oil for the US consumption via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline;
- Muscling Russia out of the Caucasus and turning Georgia into a foothold for the destabilization of Russia’s southern regions, especially the Caucasian Republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ingushetia1;
- Gaining control over the Caspian region and Central Asia;
- Using the territory of Georgia as an intermediate location in an attack against Iran.
The neocons who are currently at the helm in Washington are trying to finalize the process of partitioning Russia, which began with the demise of the USSR. In this light, any moves made by Moscow to ensure its security, particularly in South Ossetia which is located at Russia’s southern border, are portrayed as “an aggression” and cause the response in the form of ferocious informational attacks and demonstrations of force like the recent dispatching of the US Navy to the Black Sea.
US Republican presidential candidate J. McCain called for recognizing the independence of Chechnya and several other republics of the Russian Federation in response to Moscow’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In an interview to ABC on September 12, Republican nominee for Vice President Sara Palin described Russia’s conduct in South Ossetia as an aggression against the small democratic Georgia and said she did not exclude opting for a military conflict with Russia in the future.
A US senator wrote in a paper published on September 8 that, in accord with a secret deal between Georgia, the US, and Israel, two runways had been constructed in Georgia to be used by Israeli reconnaissance aircrafts to monitor Russia and Iran. The runways would also be used by the US and Israeli warplanes in the case of a war with Iran. The Russian army destroyed both runways while suppressing the Georgian aggression against South Ossetia.
Both due to its proximity to Iran and from the political standpoint, Georgia is a country whose territory could be conveniently used for an attack against Iran. The US and Israeli warplanes based in Georgia would have to traverse the airspace of either Armenia or Azerbaijan to reach Iran, but it appears that the circumstance is not regarded as a problem in Pentagon.
The September, 2008 visit of French President N. Sarkozy to Syria – a country located far away from Georgia – is nevertheless directly related to the conflict in South Ossetia. Sarkozy toured Syria a few days after its President Bashar al-Assad expressed support for Russia's reaction to the Georgian aggression against the formerly unrecognized Republic and said Syria was ready to host the Russian Iskander missiles in case Moscow decided to deploy them in response to the deployment of the US antimissiles in Poland.
No doubt, the objectives of Sarkozy’s visit to Syria and his talks with Assad were not limited to an attempt – in the interests of the US - to destroy the country's alliance with Iran and to preclude its further rapproachment with Russia. Still, as French diplomatic sources disclosed, the themes had been invoked. As a reward, Syria was promised a normalization of the relations initially with France and subsecuently with the West in general.
At the same time, Sarkozy is involved in the negotiations on a peace agreement between Syria and Israel, which are going on between Syria, Qatar, Turkey, and France. France is playing the role of the key intermediary in the process.
Sarkozy indicated in an interview to a Syrian radio station after his meeting with Assad that an Israeli attack against Iran - a development that would be a serious threat from Syria's standpoint - was likely. Assuming hypothetically that Russian missiles are deployed in Syria, Israel would have to think twice before deciding to attack Iran (and possibly also Syria as Iran's ally). Though, the support for the idea of a war with Iran is not all-embracing in Israel. For example, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he opposes a military strike on Iran and prefers the use of international economic sanctions to persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear enrichment programme. He said: “If the Americans manage to form a coalition to unify their positions with those of Europeans, they have sufficient means to exert pressure on the Iranians”.
The new system of international relations which started to emerge after the August conflict in Georgia makes a unipolar world impossible. Though a new confrontation between the US and Russia is not imminent (as both are interested in maintaining serious relations and contacts), an economic and political rivalry between the two countries is likely to be an enduring phenomenon. Under the circumstances Russia should reconsider its current course in foreign politics which, until recently, was typically described as pragmatic. The course motivated by the hunger for immediate economic benefits may have no future and doom Russia to being an outsider in the new international settings.
If Russia seeks to strengthen its international positions, it needs to focus on its persistent domestic problems. Those include the overreliance on natural resources in the economy, drastic disproportions in the distribution of income levels among the population unseen in developed countries (the incomes of the wealthiest and the poorest strata of the Russian population are estimated to differ by a factor of several dozen), and the widespread corruption.
It is also of great importance to Russia to identify potential allies – which many of the Middle East countries are - and to find ways to attract them. Russia needs to act synchronously in both hemispheres with the purpose of forming a more predictable and balanced world which cannot but be multi-polar.
[Source: By Boris Dolgov, Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow, 22Sep09. Boris Dolgov, experts from the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Science opine that the US intelligence community is attempting to destabilize the situation in these Republics, particularly in Ingushetia, with the help of Sufi orders whose Sheikhs regularly visit the US]
The Question of South Ossetia
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