Three months ago, an authoritative Russian daily, Izvestia, began a series on an issue that, at first glance, looks like tabloid fodder. Of course, Izvestia is no tabloid, and this is no ordinary story.
Izvestia charges that by attacking South Ossetia, Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili had actually badly botched a planned U.S. military operation against Iran. With US rockets at the ready, fighter-bombers fueled , bombs primed, locked and loaded, the entire plan was thwarted by the Russian Army, which moved into South Ossetia at that government’s request.
In Izvestia’s opinion, Georgia was supposed to play the role of yet another one of the U.S.’s “unsinkable aircraft carriers” – an operational and tactical base for American aircraft that would be making bombing raids into Iran, something like the role played by Thailand in the Vietnam War.
Thailand certainly benefited from the arrangement, and Georgia would have too, asserts the paper, if Georgia’s President hadn’t put his own ambitions above the U.S. national interest and ended up bloody and beaten, disarmed, chattering and chewing on his neckties, utterly incapable of providing what the Americans wanted from him. This is all due to Russian tanks that drove the Georgians back after their illegal incursion into South Ossetia last autumn
This is why, according to Izvestia’s other article in the series, the U.S. response to Russia’s retaliation against Georgia was to fuss at the Russians, but never threaten direct action.
I would personally bet the farm that if the elite U.S. military academy at West Point there were not a constant curricular reminder: “Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia.” Had the French in the 19th and the Germans in the 20th century had such a reminder, they could have avoided much suffering.
The latest development on the issue suggests that the U.S. may oust Mr. Saakashvili “any day now,” or so says Izvestia. This factoid published just last month may have been thrown in to just scare the poor chump. The Russians know a good dramatic moment when they see one.
As loony as all this may sound, we need to talk possibilities here.
Early last August, CNN started reporting that U.S. military commanders were begging for more boots on the ground and hardware for operations in Afghanistan, which they felt, was quickly becoming a more intensive conflict than Iraq. Now, in April 2009, we know how true that is.
The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are back with a vengeance. Afghanistan, we remember, is the graveyard of imperial dreams. The British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 1980s both left as losers, although the British covered their losses better, there being no TV journalism at the time. There is certainly TV journalism now and it can change history.
In a report from Evgeny Belensiy, just back from Kandahar, Afghanistan , where learn he has seen 1000 or more heavy American Abrams battle tanks being unloaded from Ukranian Antonov-124 – “Ruslan” – cargo airplanes, the largest in the world. Ostensibly, these American tanks were on their way to Afghanistan as part of the new “surge” against Al-Queida and the Taliban, or so reporters were told by the US military.
Huh? What were they good for in Afghanistan? Not much. It doesn’t take a military genius to see that most of Afghanistan is mountainous territory where tanks are simply inoperable. Look at a map. See what I mean?
However, these tanks would be good for the flatlands of Iran right across the border. Iran is a high plateau covered with, well, desert. Big stretches of avoidable sand seas with 100 foot (30 m) waves rolling east and sharp ridges with no vegatation running mostly east and west. Great battle positions for tanks and American troops.
But wait a sec. All this has to be put in some sort of context. More than a thousand heavy U.S. battle tanks and other armor unloaded in Kandahar. Why? For any Middle Easterner, these tanks mean only one thing: trouble.
With information from “Jane’s” we can do better than casting bones. “Jane’s” is a highly respected intelligence weekly which reports on anything that might rock the boat for those doing business in any area of the world, those who want to report on the area and those who are just curious – like me. I find it curious why so much US heavy armor was being shipped to a country where it could not be used effectively, but adjacent to a country where it could be used with great success. The US military is not that stupid.
Izvestia said that all current US troops in Afghanistan are going to be reassigned and regrouped under the unified command of General Petraeus, and discussed the arrival of NATO naval ships in the Black Sea (you didn’t know that, did you?). You still think Izvestia got it all wrong? Maybe not.
Of course, Turkey is in NATO. Maybe it’s only Turkish ships in the Black Sea. This is the problem when you research things. You don’t always find out what you think you want to find out when you begin.
Remember last fall how a story surfaced in the world press that Israel had tried to persuade the US to join a planned mission to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, but the US refused? If you took note, do you remember how fast it disappeared from the headlines?
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney refused a joint adventure with Israel against Iran? Fat chance. The only thing that would bring such an operation down once all the gears, wheels and whistles were in place, is something unexpected. There was Saakashvili’s stupid grab for power, and Russian tanks vigorously skirting Georgia with incessant patrols, making an unsinkable aircraft carrier in Georgia unlikely. Izvestia claims victory for Russia in a conflict that did not happen. Of course, these are the best kinds of conflicts.
Believe me, I’m not saying that the US is going to start military action against Iran come dawn. Or that it was even prepared to do so, pre-Obama. But there are too many coincidences here, and I believe it came close last fall.
Personally, I think the election of Barack Obama scuppered the plan. Yet I also believe there was such a contingency plan because it would be militarily stupid not to have one. The writers working for Izvestia were not completely full of hot air.
I think Izvestia was saying: “Here are the facts. You decide what they mean.” Which is just good journalism.