What is Israel up to in the Caucasus?

Developing Just Leadership

Maksud Djavadov

Rabi' al-Thani 16, 1431 2010-04-01

Main Stories

by Maksud Djavadov (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 2, Rabi' al-Thani, 1431)

Since Russia considers the Caucasus as its soft underbelly from where it might begin to unravel, any Zionist influence on events in the Caucasus will increase Israel’s bargaining power whenever it wants Russia to implement pro-Zionist policies. As cooperation between Iran and Russia increases, it seems Israel will also attempt to increase its influence even beyond Georgia in order to have greater leverage against Russia.

Professor Hamid Algar, the highly respected academic, states in his book, Roots of the Islamic Revolution, that the Caucasus was the center of revolutionary thought and activities at the beginning of the 20th century. The continuing involvement of global powers in the region might keep the Caucasus as a hot spot in this century as well. The predominantly Muslim region has witnessed a slow but steady Islamic revivalafter the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western powers will, therefore, not let the region remain stable or in peace.

Apart from its geopolitical importance, predatory powers are drawn to the Caucasus for its energy resources. Even though most are located in Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia is the key transit point not only for Azerbaijan but also for Central Asia. Georgia is the gateway to Europe through its border with Turkey and its access to the Black Sea. It is also often referred to as the “Lebanon of the Caucasus” since all major religious and ethnic groups of the region can be found there. An overwhelming majority of ethnicities co-exist peacefully in Georgia. Their peaceful coexistence is partly due to the friendly and welcoming nature of the Georgians and the relative communal independence they enjoy. However, this harmonious atmosphere is easily disturbed when foreign powers meddle to secure their imperial ambitions. Russia broke the harmony of peace in Georgia in the early 1990s when it sponsored separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It seems that now it is the turn of the Israelis to disrupt what is left of a peaceful, united Georgia.

The Israeli influence in Georgia is huge. There are about 80,000 Georgian Jews who live as colonialists in occupied Palestine. Israel was also one of the key supporters of the Georgian government during its war with Russia in 2008. In fact Davit Kezerashvili, defense minister of Georgia during the war was an Israeli-Georgian. Since 2000, Israel has sold hundreds of millions of dollars in arms and military training to Georgia. One of the key liaisons between Georgia and Israel was reserve Brigadier General Gal Hirsch who resigned after the Winograd commission blamed him for the historic defeat Israel suffered at the hands of Hizbullah in July–August 2006 war.

The question is: why Israel is interested in Georgia and why Georgia is willing to cooperate with Israel? The Israelis’ main involvement is to secure US interests in the region. The Israelis and local US-backed forces aim to secure the transport of energy resources of Azerbaijan and Central Asia through Georgia, bypassing Russia. This gives Israel and the US additional energy resources not linked to the Middle East. Georgia’s proximity to Iran also serves US-Israeli interests since they can use it as sabotage and spying centre against Islamic Iran. In 2009, the US lured an Iranian businessman identified as Mr. Ardebili to Georgia and kidnapped him by accusing him of violating US sanctions against Iran. Georgia also serves as a logistical hub for US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From Georgian perspective, it is forced into an alliance with the US and Israel due to Russian recognition of the two breakaway regions of Georgia as independent states. Since Russia directly threatens its territorial integrity, Georgia justifies its relationship with Israel and the US as an attempt to deter Russia. At present it passes off for domestic consumption; however, as Islamic revival grows in the region the Georgian alliance with Israel will create problems for Tbilisi with its Muslim neighbors and its large Muslim minorities. Trying to resolve existing conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia using Israel as leverage against Russia might end up as a catalyst for future conflicts inside Georgia. In order to avoid this situation, regional powers such as Iran and Turkey must protect Georgia politically from the Russian influences that forced it into the Zionist camp. Until regional powers shield it from disintegration, Georgia will be vulnerable to Israeli manipulation. If Russia truly regards the presence of NATO forces and its allies in the Caucasus as a major threat, it must realize that without accommodating Georgian territorial integrity it will face the problem of having the US and its allies present on its southern borders.

Since Russia considers the Caucasus as its soft underbelly from where it might begin to unravel, any Zionist influence on events in the Caucasus will increase Israel’s bargaining power whenever it wants Russia to implement pro-Zionist policies. As cooperation between Iran and Russia increases, it seems Israel will also attempt to increase its influence even beyond Georgia in order to have greater leverage against Russia.

Visits to Israel by the officials from the Russian administered North Caucasus may be signaling the start of a more direct Israeli challenge to Russia for its relations with Iran. According to Israeli media reports, Arsen Kanokov, head of the Russian administered republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, visited Israel on March 6. The Israelis said it was a “private” visit. However, Kanokov is not the only North Caucasian official to visit Israel; on March 16, Nursolta Adayev, head of the Chechen Chamber of Commerce, also visited the Zionist State. Even though the Israeli media downplayed the significance of these visits and characterized them as purely for economic purposes, the situation in the North Caucasus makes the line between economics and politics blurry. Taking into consideration that Alexander Khloponin, the newly appointed Governor General for the North Caucasus recently criticized the Presi-dent of Chechnya for sending envoys to Saudi Arabia to ask for funds; a trip to Israel by the head of the Chechen Chamber of Commerce signals an internal rift between the Moscow appointed Governor General and the local leadership. It seems Israel wants to deepen this rift further. It is a logical step from the Zionist perspective if the aim is to pressure Russia over its ties with Iran, but Israel’s ability to penetrate the power labyrinth in the Caucasus will be limited. Nevertheless, any Israeli involvement that creates a sense of “independence” among the local Moscow-backed leadership in the North Caucasus will create problems for Russia.

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