A Dirty Adventure — Part 2

Turns out the that Israelis have been supplying the US trained Georgian army with weapons. It was reported that they stopped such sales a few days ago:

Israel has decided to halt all sales of military equipment to Georgia because of objections from Russia, which is locked in a feud with its tiny Caucasus neighbor, defense officials said Tuesday.

The officials said the freeze was partially intended to give Israel leverage with Moscow in its attempts to persuade Russia not to ship arms and equipment to Iran. They spoke on condition of anonymity as Israel does not officially publish details of its arms sales.

Russia has repeatedly refused to comment on reports its is selling S-300 air defense missiles to Iran.

Among items Israel has been selling to Tbilisi are pilotless drone aircraft. Russian fighters shot one down in May, according to UN observers.

Other types of weaponry include the following:

… Israel has also been supplying Georgia with infantry weapons and electronics for artillery systems, and has helped upgrade Soviet-designed Su-25 ground attack jets assembled in Georgia, according to Koba Liklikadze, an independent military expert based in Tbilisi. Former Israeli generals also serve as advisers to the Georgian military.

Interesting. Israeli arms sales to Georgia are purportedly halted, and the Georgians invade South Ossetia in less than a week. There are also reports today that the Georgians have shot down Russian aircraft, which brings this story from April to the top of the queue:

Russia asked Israel last week whether it had supplied Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Georgia, for it to use in military operations against secessionists from Abkhazia.

An Israeli security source confirmed that the UAVs being used by Georgia are manufactured by Israeli firm Elbit. A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said that the Russians did not have proof of this, however, and that the request for clarifications was based on suspicions. He added that Israel does not sell any attack weapons to countries that border with Russia and only sells them defensive equipment.

Georgia accused Russia of using a MiG-29 to shoot down one of its UAVs over Abkhazia and produced a video to back up its claim. The video was shot by the UAV seconds before it was shot down, and it shows a MiG-29. Georgia’s president said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and demanded an end to the “unjustified aggression against Georgia’s sovereign territory.”

Of course, the subject that keeps intruding into this saga is Iran. Is the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia meant to pressure the Russians into severing economic and military ties with the Iranians? The Israelis supposedly halted arms sales to Georgia in an effort to persuade the Russians to refuse to supply Iran with a new air defense system. Did that effort fail, or was it merely a pretense before the launching of the Georgian invasion?

Perhaps, the invasion has also been prompted by competition between the US, Russia and Europe over access to natural reserves in the Caucasus. Along these lines, consider this July 30th article by former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar:

From the details coming out of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan and Moscow over the weekend, it is apparent that the great game over Caspian energy has taken a dramatic turn. In the geopolitics of energy security, nothing like this has happened before. The United States has suffered a huge defeat in the race for Caspian gas. The question now is how much longer Washington could afford to keep Iran out of the energy market.

Gazprom, Russia’s energy leviathan, signed two major agreements in Ashgabat on Friday outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. The first one elaborates the price formation principles that will be guiding the Russian gas purchase from Turkmenistan during the next 20-year period. The second agreement is a unique one, making Gazprom the donor for local Turkmen energy projects. In essence, the two agreements ensure that Russia will keep control over Turkmen gas exports.

The consequences for the US are reportedly significant:

Until fairly recently Moscow was sensitive about the European Union’s opposition to the idea of a gas cartel. (Washington has openly warned that it would legislate against countries that lined up behind a gas cartel). But high gas prices have weakened the European Union’s negotiating position.

The agreements with Turkmenistan further consolidate Russia’s control of Central Asia’s gas exports. Gazprom recently offered to buy all of Azerbaijan’s gas at European prices. (Medvedev visited Baku on July 3-4.) Baku will study with keen interest the agreements signed in Ashgabat on Friday. The overall implications of these Russian moves are very serious for the US and EU campaign to get the Nabucco gas pipeline project going.

Nabucco, which would run from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, was hoping to tap Turkmen gas by linking Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan via a pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would be connected to the pipeline networks through the Caucasus to Turkey already existing, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

But with access denied to Turkmen gas, Nabucco’s viability becomes doubtful. And, without Nabucco, the entire US strategy of reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies makes no sense. Therefore, Washington is faced with Hobson’s choice. Friday’s agreements in Ashgabat mean that Nabucco’s realization will now critically depend on gas supplies from the Middle East – Iran, in particular. Turkey is pursuing the idea of Iran supplying gas to Europe and has offered to mediate in the US-Iran standoff.

The geopolitics of energy makes strange bedfellows. Russia will be watching with anxiety the Turkish-Iranian-US tango. An understanding with Iran on gas pricing, production and market-sharing is vital for the success of Russia’s overall gas export strategy. But Tehran visualizes the Nabucco as its passport for integration with Europe. Again, Russia’s control of Turkmen gas cannot be to Tehran’s liking. Tehran had keenly pursed with Ashgabat the idea of evacuation of Turkmen gas to the world market via Iranian territory.

Curiouser and curiouser. The thread that emerges from Bhadrakumar’s analysis, however, is the urgency for the US (and the Israelis) to act quickly to disrupt Russia’s ability to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to the European market. Otherwise, the US will be forced, to the great dismay of Israel, to broker a deal with Iran so as obtain access to Iranian natural gas to break the Russian monopoly.

Hence, we now see a Georgian invasion of South Ossetia about a week after the Russian announcement of its natural gas agreements with Turkmenistan. The invasion of South Ossetia may well be a strong signal that the US prefers confrontation with the Russians over negotiating a new commercial relationship with the Iranians. In other words, it suggests that the US still sees war as the ultimate solution of its disagreements with them.

The invasion also suggests that the US is incapable of choosing an ally in the region, and persists in the hope that it can economically and militarily dominate both the Russians and the Iranians, and through them, just about every country in Central Asia. Such arrogance is likely to be ruinous for all involved. A dirty adventure, indeed.

(Hat tip to Big Bopper for pointing out the Israeli connection.)

Richard Estes lives in Northern California, and co-hosts a radio program, with an emphasis upon peace, civil rights, labor and environmental issues, on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA. This article was originally published by American Leftist. Read other articles by Richard, or visit Richard's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Michael Kenny said on August 10th, 2008 at 7:24am #

    I would think that this thing is a lot simpler than anyone is the conspiracy-crazed US thinks. For some reason, possibly domestic politics, possibly egging on from the US or, more likely, Israel, which seems to be in total panic, the Georgians decided to change the status quo that has existed since the overthrow of the dictatorship. (Yes, Georgia has never actually governed South Ossetia!) However, they miscalculated badly both as to the Russian reaction and the world’s reaction to that reaction. You can bet that the Russians made very sure that no one would support Georgia before they struck!

    I think Mr Estes’ last paragraph is a fairly accurate assessment. The US doesn’t know what foot to dance on and that, of course, is its undoing. Look at the options. It starts WWIII to force a minuscule territory of 70 000 people to remain within Georgia against its will. The world will not support that. Even worse, the EU and NATO will not support that! Or it does nothing other than bleat platitudes, which, I would guess, is what it will do. It discredits itself and it discredits NATO. “Hey Mike, where were your American pals when you needed them?” Moreover, with an ongoing conflict with Russia, there is no chance whatsoever of Georgia being let into NATO. Georgian public opinion has now seen that being friends with the US /Israel and enemies with Russia damages their national interest.

    The interesting question therefore is how long Saakashvili can now last. He is already in difficulty and in the knife-in-the-back world of Georgian politics, he will probably be forced to resign. He has already recalled Georgia’s 2000(!) troops from Iraq to help defend the homeland. As for the EU, I doubt if any tears are being shed. Europe does not like leaders that are too close to the US and, worse yet, to Israel and it’s noticeable that nobody in the EU is lifting a finger to help Saakashvili.

    So whichever way the US jumps, it loses!

  2. Max Shields said on August 10th, 2008 at 8:36am #

    The US should do what it may still be able to do but has been unwilling to do: go full bore on multilateral disarmament. Shore up the UN and International law. I know the US gov’t has been the worst violater, but there is no replaying history…it’s where we go from here.

    The US continues to create its own worse nightmare – following the Chicago School of economics, neoliberal free trade and neoconservative notion of rule the world while we still control it through military force. This is the bed the US govenment has made for itself; and as it slips into a second rate power it will die by the very sword it chose to wield.

    Begin an aggressive global detente, begin to transform the empire into a reconnected world partner and STOP creating the gawd awful monsters like the Chinese economy that will replace US consumer hubris with Asian hubris.

    And stay out of border disputes, no matter your self-righteous indignation level.

  3. Mizgin said on August 10th, 2008 at 11:59am #

    Turkey is already transporting Iranian natural gas to Europe, and has been for some time. As far back as 2006, PKK has targeted Turkey-Iran gas pipelines that run through Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. Last week Tuesday, PKK blew up a portion of the BTC pipeline in Ağrı province, not far from Doğubeyazıt. also in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. The pipeline to Ceyhan is shut down for at least two weeks and may be shut down for longer.

    This caused Azerbaijan to redirect the petroleum flow through alternate routes in Georgia. Two days later, US proxy, Georgia, attacked South Ossetia. Perhaps Russia will be able to shut down the BTC pipeline further along the route.

    It should also be noted that, just as Georgia is a NATO-wannabe, so Iran is an SCO-wannabe. On 25 July, SCO held a meeting in Tajikistan, the agenda for which included a discussion on lifting the moratorium on admitting new member states. RIA-Novosti, which initially reported this news, published a denial of such a discussion at the end of July, while other pro-Western sources claim that SCO will develop a protocol for expansion. At any rate, Iran has observer status with SCO and there is mutual cooperation between it and other SCO members.

  4. Elena said on August 10th, 2008 at 1:19pm #

    “”Such arrogance is likely to be ruinous for all involved. A dirty adventure, indeed.”” AMEN!!!

    I enjoyed the article a lot, it sheds some light over the latest events. I grew up in Communist Romania, where getting real information was dangerous (we were listening to forbidden radio stations, my Dad was a fine intellectual and did not agree with the government), but I am noticing that the lack of information in USA is just as bad (bad to my moral, it is discouraging to see how the vast majority of the American people are so naive about what is really going on and it’s partially the truncated news we get here on TV). And I have AGAIN the fear of talking about the truth (the fear that the Communists instilled in me), I would rather just keep mute…that’s what eight years of despotism (despotism G. Bush style) did to me again…reduced me to a little fearful child…I wish I would know something different that would make me stronger and have more hope for the future.
    Thank you!
    I’ll be reading here a lot.

  5. brian said on August 10th, 2008 at 2:58pm #

    note the irony: US and Israel HAVE BEEN doing in Georgia, what they claim Iran has been doing in Iraq! Arming insurgents.

  6. Donald Hawkins said on August 10th, 2008 at 4:41pm #

    Elena what you just wrote means you are not afraid and that voice in the back of your head is working just fine. You keep reading and writting.

    The rules for society are made by people who have pretty much one thing in mind, staying in power and making big money. Then of course you have people who work for these people who I guess like being part of that thinking and feel special that way. Let’s say you were a fly on the wall at a party for policy makers, big shots. To listen to these people talk at the party and say the fly on the wall has half a brain the fly would understand how far these people are away from reality the real World and the arrogance astounding. I don’t think these people think that they are intellects but that the rest of us are just stupid and easily persuaded by bullshit. Now the same thing is true with the stuff you see on TV weather it is news or commercials. The commercials that I see for the most part seem to like to keep you stupid or say it is Ok to be stupid and buy my product it’s Ok. Degrading for the most part and again I don’t think these people think that they are intellects but that the rest of us are just stupid and easily persuaded by bullshit. Let’s look at Hollywood well what happens to a person who was once famous and lost that famous part for whatever reason. They do commercials like maybe for a reverse mortgage or cash for gold. Corporate big shots and the people who make the laws are almost one now. What do you call that Fascism? I don’t think we are there yet but darn close. Now was this a master plan by people with secret hand shakes, no. Money makes money and over the years less and less people have more of that money and give that money to the people who make the rules and look how well it as all worked out. Let’s pick a number of these groups I just talked about say 5% of the population so that leaves 95%. Now the 95% of us how come we are who we are. Of course this is not true in all cases but I think most people have no desire to be like the other 5% because that voice in the back of our head say’s you know something is not quite right with this thinking and I’ll be who I am if you don’t mind and of course the 5% do want you to be like them well almost they want you to buy there bullshit. Just the one group the policy makers I have watched for the last few day’s the Senate. To watch these people talk and there reasons for this or that again I must say I don’t think these people think that they are intellects but that the rest of us are just stupid and easily persuaded by bullshit.

  7. bozhidar balkas said on August 10th, 2008 at 4:48pm #

    i conjecture that US is merely testing the water. russia has vowed to use wmd if attacked.
    in addition, any more pressure on russia along with china may push the two evil empires to form an alliance.
    most muslim countries may also join them. muslims dislike most EU countries and also US and israel.
    palestine had been an easy prey along with afgh’n and iraq.
    it looks that we have a deep divide along religious lines.
    even afgh’n may be difficult to hold forever.
    iraq can be held in subjugation by dividing the land into four parts: kurdish, sunni, shia, and an US statelet. thank you.

  8. Donald Hawkins said on August 10th, 2008 at 6:47pm #

    It looks that we have a deep divide along religious lines. That is so twentieth century. Bozhidar I just couldn’t help myself.

  9. Pipe said on August 10th, 2008 at 9:19pm #

    Thanks for the analysis.

    I thought it was a bit fishy that the mainstream news have been going to great lengths to highlight the fact that Russia has a larger military force vs little Georgia’s.

  10. bozhidar balkas said on August 11th, 2008 at 5:24am #

    donald, more on deep divide.
    the new divide, if it happens, wld include nonchristians, russians who are orthodox, and muslims on one side and mostly christians on the other side.
    which way will japanese people go i do not know.
    projected divide wld never have been deeper nor more perilous.
    i needed to explain things. thank u

  11. bozhidar balkas said on August 11th, 2008 at 5:27am #

    correction.
    “projected divide wld have been much deeper and perilous. thank you”