Aug 16, 2008
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Georgia is one of Iran's "near neighbors" and as a result of geographical proximity and important political and geostrategic considerations, the current Russia-Georgia conflict is closely watched by Tehran, itself under threat of military action by the US and or Israel, which may now feel less constrained about attacking Iran in light of Russia's war with Georgia.
So far, Tehran has not adopted an official position, limiting itself to a telephone conference between Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, expressing Iran's desire to see a speedy end of the conflict for the sake of "peace and stability in the region". Tehran's dailies have likewise refrained from in-depth analyses of the crisis and from providing editorial perspectives, and the government-owned media have stayed clear of any coverage that might raise Moscow's objection.
Behind Iran's official silence is a combination of factors. These range from Iran's common cause with Moscow against expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), interpreting this crisis as a major setback for NATO's "eastward expansion" in light of the unabashed pro-West predilections of Tbilisi's government, to Iran's sensitivity to Russia's national security concerns. The latter are heightened by the US's plans to install anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe, not to overlook Iran's concern as not to give the Kremlin any ammunition that could be used against it in Tehran's standoff over its nuclear program.