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Black Sea Crisis Deepens As Threat To Iran Grows

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Tensions are mounting in the Black Sea with the threat of another conflict between U.S. and NATO client state Georgia and Russia as Washington is manifesting plans for possible military strikes against Iran in both word and deed.

Referring to Georgia having recently impounded several vessels off the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia, reportedly 23 in total this year, the New York Times wrote on September 9 that "Rising tensions between Russia and Georgia over shipping rights to a breakaway Georgian region have opened a potential new theater for conflict between the countries, a little more than a year after they went to war." [1]

Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh ordered his nation's navy to respond to Georgia's forceful seizure of civilian ships in neutral waters, calling such actions what they are - piracy - by confronting and if need be sinking Georgian navy and coast guard vessels. The Georgian and navy and coast guard are trained by the United States and NATO.

The spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry addressed the dangers inherent in Georgia's latest provocations by warning "They risk aggravating the military and political situation in the region and could result in serious armed incidents." [2]

On September 15 Russia announced that its "border guards will detain all vessels that violate Abkhazia's maritime border...." [3]

Russia would be not only entitled but obligated to provide such assistance to neighboring Abkhazia as "Under mutual assistance treaties signed last November, Russia pledged to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia protect their borders, and the signatories granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories." [4]

In attempting to enforce a naval blockade - the International Criminal Court plans to include blockades against coasts and ports in its list of acts of war this year [5] - against Abkhazia, the current Georgian regime of Mikheil Saakashvili is fully aware that Russia is compelled by treaty and national interests alike to respond. Having been roundly defeated in its last skirmish with Russia, the five-day war in August of last year, Tbilisi would never risk actions like its current ones without a guarantee of backing from the U.S. and NATO.

Days after last year's war ended then U.S. Senator and now Vice President Joseph Biden flew into the Georgian capital to pledge $1 billion in assistance to the nation, making Georgia the third largest recipient of American foreign aid after Egypt and Israel.

U.S. and NATO warships poured into the Black Sea in August of 2008 and American ships visited the Georgia port cities of Batumi and Poti to deliver what Washington described as civilian aid but which Russian sources suspected contained replacements for military equipment lost in the conflict.

Less than a month after the war ended NATO sent a delegation to Georgia to "evaluate damage to military infrastructure following a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi...." [6]

In December a meeting of NATO foreign ministers agreed upon a special Annual National Program for Georgia and in the same month Washington announced the creation of the United States-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.

In the past week a top-level delegation of NATO defense and logistics experts visited Georgia on September 9 "to promote the development of the Georgian Armed Forces" [7] and on September 14 high-ranking officials of the U.S. George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies arrived at the headquarters of the Georgian Ministry of Defense "to review issues of interdepartmental coordination in the course of security sector management and national security revision." [8]

The ongoing military integration of Georgia and neighboring Azerbaijan, which also borders Iran - Washington's Georgetown University is holding a conference on Strategic Partnership between U.S. and Azerbaijan: Bilateral and Regional Criteria on September 18 - by the Pentagon and NATO is integrally connected with general military plans in the Black Sea and the Caucasus regions as a whole and, even more ominously, with joint war plans against Iran.

As early as January of 2007 reports on that score surfaced in Bulgarian and Romanian news sources. Novinite (Sofia News Agency) reported that the Pentagon "could be using its two air force bases in Bulgaria and one on Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran...." [9]

The bases are the Bezmer and Graf Ignitievo airbases in Bulgaria and the Mihail Kogalniceanu counterpart near the Romanian city of Constanza on the Black Sea.

The Pentagon has seven new bases altogether in Bulgaria and Romania and in addition to stationing warplanes - F-15s, F-16s and A-10 Thunderbolts - has 3,000-5,000 troops deployed in the two nations at any given time, and Washington established its Joint Task Force-East (JTF-East) permanent headquarters at the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase in Romania.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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