MILITARY
Iranian Nuclear Crisis and Threats for South Caucasus
29 March, 2012

The United States and a number of European Countries realize threats stemming from nuclear arms ambition of Iran but go to all lengths to avoid the option of using force to solve the problem. The West knows that it would not be able to stay aside if Israel launches a war against Iran. This is especially true with the United States which has recently ended the eight year war in Iraq but continues eleven- year battle with insurgency in Afghan

istan.

 

It is normal that after the Pentagon suffered from major budget cuts due to ongoing financial crisis, the United States is not eager to jump into a new armed conflict. One more serious factor has to be counted here. Namely, Iran is not Iraq or more so Afghanistan. It boasts the largest armed forces in the region. Clearly, victory over Iran will be an arduous task, especially if air strikes give way to ground operations. And they will - because air strikes of Israeli aviation, however precise, cannot destroy all the Iranian nuclear sites, particularly, those which are located deep under the ground. Surely, Israel would ask for American military assistance such as super bunker buster bombers. On top of it, a considerable number of flying fuel tankers would be required to ensure uninterrupted two-way flights of Israeli strikers. Such assistance to Israel can already be given by the US. Even so, there would be no full guarantee that precision air strikes would evaporate Iranian nuclear program or at least suspend for a long period.

Thus, if Israel still undertakes air strikes with underground nuclear facilities of Iran surviving the bombing, Tehran would be presented with an excellent motivator for speeding up development of nuclear weapons. In case of ground operations, the small scale military operation to eliminate alleged Iranian nuclear facilities is very likely to grow into a fully fledged regional war involving ballistic missiles, tanks, artillery and aviation.

If the situation really takes this undesirable course and ground battles are to rage on the Iranian territory, there are high chances that Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and millions-strong Basij forces would unleash a nightmarish guerilla war against coalition forces. Assumably, this hellish scenario is duly sized up by Washington so that the White House goes to all lengths to talk Tel-Aviv off from attacking Iran. Use banks instead of tanks to avert nuclear Iran, use economic sanctions – this is the position of the US and other members of the North Atlantic Alliance.

The UN Security Council has indeed imposed economic sanctions on Iran. They entered into force in January 2012. The sanctions have been further exacerbated by the EU decision to stop buying Iranian oil products. Consequently, Iranian economy seems to have received a major blow.

The White House probably hopes that bulk diminution of Iranian oil sales and revenues would send Iran into economic crisis and force it to recall the nuclear development program for want of finances. If this plan achieves its goal then the world would be saved from a new bloody war. It’s only Israel does not cherish any hope in the plan.

How the Iranian nuclear crisis threatens the South Caucasus?

Given the character of contemporary military conflicts and types of medium and long range weapons used there, possible armed operations against Iran would affect the entire region. If Israel and the United States go and bomb Iran then Tehran would respond with missile strikes on Israel and all those countries of the region which host American bases. Among them are Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE etc.

At a current stage, the most important question for us is an impact of the possible war against Iran on the South Caucasus, two countries of which – Armenia and Azerbaijan - are bordering Iran. Rumors and expectations overwhelm the world mass media that the United States may also use the North – South Caucasus, namely, Georgian territory – in its assault on Iran. Unlike Armenia or Azerbaijan, Georgia is not bordering Iran (the shortest distance to the northern border of Iran is through Armenia and equals to 160 km). Hence, Washington could bomb Iran from Georgia only with preliminary consent of Yerevan or Baku.

A short time ago, Azeri Defense Minister General-Colonel Safar Abiyev told his Iranian counterpart while paying an official visit to Iran that “no country in the world would turn Azerbaijan up against Iran or use its soil for anti-Iranian activities.” This official Baku statement has to appease Iran because it dispels a suspicion that Iran may be attacked via Azeri air space.

Although official Yerevan does make it explicitly clear, it is well known that Armenia and Iran are on warm neighborly terms with each other. It is well understood that no American bomber can appear in Iranian air space from Armenian direction. Add to it, presence of functioning Russian 102th military base in Armenia with its air defense systems rules out any possibility of American military aviation being inoculated into the Armenian air space.

We can therefore conclude that Iran would not really look out for major attacks from northern direction, i.e. from the South Caucasus. Accordingly, chances of missile or aviation attacks on the part of Iran are likewise low. Yet, in case of Israeli-American air strikes against Iran Georgia, one of the South Caucasian countries, may still find itself involved in the imbroglio.

The point is that a part of Russian high ranking officials and military chiefs state openly that if the west attacks Iran then Russia will do everything to carve out a corridor to ensure transportation of military goods to their 102nd military base in Armenia. Obviously, such a corridor cannot be attained through the Azeri territory as the shortest way from Russia to their base is via Georgia, namely, from the occupied Tskhinvali region (more specifically, the occupied Akhalgori district) to the border with Armenia.

Russian HQ plans to run large scale military drills in autumn 2012 with a code name Kavkaz-2012. It is believed that the drills probably include forced introduction of such a corridor. Russian armored vehicles – tanks, fuel transporters and others - could start their movement from the Akhalgori district towards the Armenian border using the new highways and roads in the Gori-Khashuri-Borjomi-Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki direction. So, they should not face any problem if backed up with helicopters and strikers from the air because Georgian armed forces do not hold any large military base around there. The second optional route to Armenia could be laid directly through Tbilisi. Even though, Tbilisi defense lines are considerably stronger (at least they should be, logically thinking), the Iran crisis may give an excuse to Russia for another military aggression, this time expanding further to Tbilisi.

Exacerbation of the political crisis around the Iranian nuclear program is more likely to reach its climax in summer. Further development of events will depend on the outcome of the ongoing armed confrontations inside Syria. If the Syrian opposition prevails there and Assad regime crumbles then political weight of Tehran in the region may greatly weaken and speed up the decision on Israeli-American air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities.

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