Iran Worried over Georgian Conflict

In Iran, as in much of the world, the current conflict between Georgia and Russia is viewed as part of a bigger struggle between the West and Russia over influence in the Caucasus region.

Tehran sees Georgia as an important part of U.S. plans to increase its influence in the region -- and fears that such a plan may affect them directly.

These concerns were reflected in an article published in Tabnak, owned by former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai. In an interview with Dr. Mehdi Senai, a politics lecturer at Tehran University, Senai said that Tehran's nuclear program, and the international approach to resolve the dispute surrounding it, may become part of a wider agreement between the U.S. and Russia after the end of the conflict. What worries him is that "Russia's capacity to confront the U.S. is limited."

Iran is concerned that if Russia comes out looking bad in this conflict, it could have two negative repercussions for Tehran.

One is that Iran will lose the influence and support of one of its important allies in the 5+1 group of nations. This influence is very important for Tehran, as Russia recently broke ranks with other members of the group by stating that Iran should be given more time to respond to the recent incentives proposal.

The other worst-case scenario for Tehran is that a weakened Russia, seeking a deal over Georgia, could give the U.S. the green light to launch a military operation against Iran's nuclear facilities. "In the dealings between international powers [i.e., Russia and the U.S.], Iran has to be very careful," warns Dr. Senai.

There are also cultural reasons why Iran would want the Russian-backed South Ossetians to emerge victorious, as their local dialect is very close to Farsi, Iran's national language. Many of the province's citizens have Iranian heritage, as a number of countries in the Caucasus used to belong to Persia before Russia annexed them in the early 18th century.

There are other angles of this conflict which could concern Iran, notably the Israeli connection.

According to the Israeli news site Ynet, Israel has had a seven-year military relationship with Georgia. A wide range of sophisticated weaponry, including remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) and training programs for Georgia's special forces, were sold to Tiblisi.