US Asks Georgia to Use Bases and Airfields for Attacks on Iran – Paper

American officials are probing whether Georgia, situated just northwest of Iran, will allow Washington to use its military bases and airfields in the event of a military conflict with Teheran, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday citing an unnamed Georgian official.

The Americans have been putting out feelers, the source, a high-ranking Georgian government foreign affairs official said, in advance of a possible military strike to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

American reports in recent months, speculating about the possibility of a campaign against Iran because of the failure of diplomatic efforts to thwart a potential nuclear weapons program, have suggested that sustained military action, rather than a single strike, may be required given the number of Iranian nuclear facilities, their divergent locations and Iranian defenses.

Georgian government officials said that Tbilisi fears harsh Iranian military retaliation against the Georgian republic if U.S. forces were to use its territory as a base for strikes against Iran, but nonetheless may feel obligated to accede to such a request, given the country’s heavy reliance on US aid and support. The US maintains its own military bases in Georgia.

While Americans have been testing the waters lately in this direction, the source indicated, no official request of this kind has yet been made.

Georgia is also worried about the possibility of civil unrest, citing the strong opposition by its Muslim minority to the country’s participation in the war in Iraq, where there is a limited Georgian military contingent.

Military collaboration with the U.S. would also have “a most negative effect” on relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, which remains strained since the election of Georgia’s U.S.-educated president, Mikhail Saakashvili, in 2004.

Saakashvili is considered one of the most consistent U.S. supporters in the post-Soviet bloc and enjoys solid American backing. Indeed, Saakashvili is often accused by Moscow of maintaining an “American outpost in the region.”

The Georgian source added that a similar US request might be made to Azerbaijan, an immediate neighbor of Iran and another close American ally.

The close proximity of both countries to Iran makes Tbilisi and Baku desirable partners in a potential alliance against Iran.
http://www.mosnews.com/news/2006/02/20/irangeorgia.shtml