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Shevy's Big Mistake: Crossing Uncle Sam's Oil Corridor

Washington sent high-level emissaries to warn Shevardnadze not to do anything that threatened the proposed oil corridor.

When he went ahead with Russian oil deals, Washington denounced the Nov. 2 Georgian elections as rigged, which they were, although it also turns a blind eye to rigged elections in useful allies like oil-rich Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.
Published on Sunday, November 30, 2003 by the Toronto Sun

Shevy's Big Mistake: Crossing Uncle Sam

by Eric Margolis

The latest recipient of Washington's "regime change" was not some miscreant Muslim state but the the mainly Christian mountain nation of Georgia.

Eduard Shevardnadze, the 75-year-old strongman who has ruled post-Soviet Georgia's 5.1 million citizens since 1991, was overthrown by a bloodless coup that appears to have been organized and financed by the Bush administration.

Shevardnadze's sin, in Washington's eyes, was being too chummy with Moscow and obstructing a major U.S. oil pipeline, due to open in 2005, from Central Asia, via Georgia, to Turkey. Georgia occupies the heart of the wild, unruly, and strategic Caucasus region, which I call the Mideast North.

In recent months, Shevardnadze had given new drilling and pipeline concessions to Russian firms.

He should have recalled the fate of Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which, like Georgia, was a U.S. client and recipient of American aid until it turned down a major pipeline deal with an American oil firm and awarded it to a Latin American consortium.

Shevardnadze was no democrat.

He rigged elections, used goon squads to silence opponents, survived two assassination attempts and ran Georgia like a medieval fief.

But he was also a fascinating man, as I found when extensively interviewing him in Moscow in 1989 when he was foreign minister of the Soviet Union.

"Shevy-Chevy," as we used to call him, looked like an amiable grandfather, with his wispy white hair and bulging eyes. In fact, he had been the tough, ruthless party and KGB boss of Georgia. Yet this dedicated communist became Mikhail Gorbachev's right hand man in implementing glasnost and perestroika reforms. He played a decisive role in ending the Cold War and breaking up that criminal empire, the USSR.

Like Gorbachev, Shevardnadze became a hero in the West, but was reviled at home as a traitor and wrecker. Many Russians believed Gorby was a British agent and Shevardnadze a CIA "asset."

After the USSR's collapse, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia and, backed by U.S. funding, seized power from the fiery post-independence leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who may have committed suicide or been murdered.

Poor and beautiful

Georgia is wild, turbulent, dirt poor and very beautiful. I still savour the memory of the majestic, mist-shrouded mountains of Abkhazia, the lovely Black Sea coast that recalls the French Riviera, and Georgia's famed, highly potent yellow wines.

Georgia has been a battleground for much of its 2,500-year history. Its knights and warriors, who fought under the banner of St. George, waged an heroic struggle against the Persian, Ottoman and Russian empires. Georgia and neighboring Armenia are the two oldest existing Christian nations. Georgian, Albanian and Basque are Europe's oldest living languages.

Like all mountain states, Georgia is deeply divided by topography and fierce clan rivalries.

Minorities of Armenians, Azeris, Ossetians (a Christian Turkic tribe), Mingrelians and Muslim Abkhaz add further volatility. The Caucasus has over 100 feuding ethnic groups, a time bomb waiting to explode.

Abkhazia and Ossetia seceded from Georgia after bloody fighting and ethnic cleansing that killed 10,000 and left 250,000 refugees. Today, Russian "peacekeeping" troops keep the two rebellious regions, and a third Muslim enclave, Azharia, independent of Georgian control. Just to the north, Chechnya's ferocious struggle for freedom from Russian rule grinds on, with the bloody struggle spilling into Georgia.

Moscow repeatedly accused Georgia of aiding Chechen independence fighters, which is likely true.

Neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan have waged a sporadic war for over a decade.

Shevardnadze kept Georgia independent by deftly playing off the Americans against the Russians, both of whom had designs on the little nation.

But his luck finally ran out.

Washington sent high-level emissaries to warn Shevardnadze not to do anything that threatened the proposed oil corridor.

When he went ahead with Russian oil deals, Washington denounced the Nov. 2 Georgian elections as rigged, which they were, although it also turns a blind eye to rigged elections in useful allies like oil-rich Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.

Cash and anti-Shevardnadze political operatives from the U.S. poured into Tbilisi to back up the president's American-educated principal rival, Mikhail Saakashvili. The rigged election ignited mass protests by Georgians fed up with corruption and crushing poverty. Saakashvili forces stormed parliament and drove out Shevardnadze, who resigned after the army and police refused to defend him.

What next? Saakashvili appears almost certain to become president. But the three political clans who united to overthrow the ancient regime, and now support him, may, true to local tradition, soon be at one another's throats. In hot-blooded Georgia, civil war is never far away.

Russia will try to limit U.S. influence in Georgia and extend its own by stirring the pot and finding new Georgian allies. Washington will shore up its man in Tbilisi, Saakashvili, and may send Special Forces troops under the pretext of the faux war on terrorism.

The entire Caucasus is near a boil. The sharply increasing rivalry between the U.S. and Russia for political and economic influence over this vital land bridge between Europe and the oil-rich Caspian Basin promises a lot more intrigue, skullduggery and drama.

homepage: homepage: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1130-06.htm
address: address: Toronto Sun via Common Dreams NewsCenter

History repeats itself 02.Dec.2003 01:09

I thought so

When I first heard the news of a bloodless coup in Georgia with the U.S. backing the new leader, I knew something was up. It's amazing that after our very long history of overthrowing world leaders who don't follow our orders (labelled dictators the moment they disobey us, but never while they comply) that people don't just automatically assume that this is the case by now. You can pretty much bet that:

1) If there is a revolution (probably bloody) in any given country and the U.S. isn't backing the new leader, it was a popular revolution by a people fed up with pro-U.S. policies of privitization, autsterity packages, World Bank debt and so-forth. In these instances the U.S. will do whatever it can to overthrow the new leader or stem the tide of change. Examples - the current situation in Bolivia, or Cuba after Castro's revolution, which by the way, replaced a far more criminal string of U.S.-backed dictators.

2) However, if there is a "revolution" or bloodless coup in any given country with policies contrary to U.S. plans, American agents (CIA) are almost inevitably involved, with multinationals doing whatever they can to fake crises, strikes, and/or economic collapse. When it's all over a pro-American and probably hand-picked puppet winds up with control, and it's happy days in Washington and Wall St. again. Examples - Chavez in Venezuela, replacing the Premiere with the Shah in Iran, and now the overthrow of Shevardnadze in Georgia - just a few of the many examples of America doing everything it can to control every strategic locale for oil and gas throughout the world.