Georgia accused of secret arms sales to Iran
Just as the US and other major powers have agreed on new sanctions against Tehran, Georgian opposition claims President Saakashvili was involved in alleged weapons deals with the Islamic Republic.
If the latest accusations from the opposition Labor Party prove to be true, the Georgian leadership would look rather pale, exposing it may be “going East”, instead of West.
They claim to have received information from an unnamed source in the Georgian secret services that the country’s government has been secretly selling weapons to Iran.
“Saakashvili is mad at President Obama for not meeting with him during his recent visit to America and decided to get back at the United States by becoming friends with Tehran,” declared Kakha Dzagania from the Labor Party of Georgia. “He buys missiles in Ukraine and sells them to Iran.”
The Labor Party says a top FBI official has recently visited Georgia precisely to rebuke Saakashvili for the missile sales.
No official reaction to the accusations has come from Saakashvili's government yet, but Georgia's former Prime Minister, and now an opposition leader, Zurab Noghaideli, believes there is a firm basis for the allegations.
“I have no doubt it is going on. For instance, the amount of money spent on the mayoral election, which is approximately US$200 million?” questions Noghaideli. “Such amounts of money can only be earned by weapons trading, which I have no doubt Saakashvili is personally involved in,” he claims.
The statements would seem outrageous, were it not for a recent sudden warming between Tbilisi and Tehran.
The two countries have just signed an agreement that will see more co-operation in their shared mass media, while plans for a visa-free travel regime were also announced.
Yet some analysts believe the allegations of weapon sales have very little basis in reality.
“I don't think it looks like truth for several reasons,” the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology in Moscow, Ruslan Pukhov, told RT. Saakashvili’s regime is so dependent on the US that neither him nor his close entourage will ever dare to play such tricks.”
In contrast, Igor Khokhlov from the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations considers the possibility of Georgia doing arms deals with Tehran as “quite likely to be well grounded,” if regarded in the context of the election campaign in Georgia and Russian-American relations.
“The Obama administration sees no point in hiding anymore that they are swapping Georgia for Russia,” acknowledged Khokhlov, saying that the prominent Georgian opposition members are planning to use this to topple Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime, which anyway is “an internal issue of Georgia.”
Thus the Georgian president lacks the support of both the US and Europe.
“Apparently the Obama administration is selling Georgia out to Russia for the sake of hitting the reset button,” believes Khokhlov.
“If the allegations [of arms deals with Iran] turn out to be true – they will destroy the rest of Georgia’s reputation,” he asserts.
The observer compared the emerging scandal with Iran-Contras and expressed the opinion that the details of the story will reach the airwaves quite soon.
Georgia has already found itself in hot water with Russia over the purchase of weapons from Ukraine prior to the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008 and this time, if the allegations prove to be true, Tbilisi may lose its strongest ally – the United States.