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No one expected Russia to become a major campaign issue in 2008 when it went to war with Georgia, ripping away the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now, there are signs that Russia is itching for a rematch that would finish off the pro-American Georgian regime led by Mikheil Saakashvili.
Russia recently announced that it seized 10 caches of arms on May 4 and 5 in Abkhazia which were to be used in dramatic terrorist attacks in Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are to take place. The stockpiles included: 10,000 rounds of ammunition; 15 kilograms of TNT; 50 grenade fuses; 39 hand grenades; 36 mortar shells; 29 grenade launchers; 15 landmines; 12 improvised explosive devices; 3 surface-to-air missiles; 2 anti-tank missiles; 2 assault rifles and a sniper rifle, mortar and flamethrower.
The Russian government says that the man responsible for the planned wave of attacks is Doku Umarov, a Chechen terrorist leader involved with Al-Qaeda. He ordered an end to attacks on Russian civilians earlier this year. Georgian intelligence helped Umarov’s terrorists smuggle the weapons through Georgian territory from Turkey, the Russians claim. Georgia dismisses the accusations as “absolutely absurd.” The accusation provides a clear rationale to remove Saakashvili from power.
This development comes while Russia is preparing for a possible strike on Iran. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin explained, “Iran is our neighbor. If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Reportedly, Russia has drawn up plans to send forces to Armenia in such an event, which requires going through Georgia, toppling Saakashvili on the way.
In 2008, Russia’s annual Kavkaz exercises were used as a cover to deploy and train the forces that invaded Georgia the next month. This year’s exercises are to take place in September. Russia announced that Spetsnaz units will be sent to the North Caucasus region for the exercises and airborne assault forces and attack helicopters will deploy to Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia. One report claims that the families of soldiers at the base have already been evacuated.
It is quite possible that Russia will provide assistance to the Iranian regime from Armenia in the event of a conflict. After all, Saddam Hussein awarded medals to former Soviet advisors for helping him to prepare for the 2003 invasion. Russian Spetsnaz units were deployed to Iraq and are suspected of having helped cleanse the country of documents and incriminating materials. The Russians also gave Saddam Hussein details about the U.S. war plan, retrieved through a spy at CENTCOM. Russia continues to arm Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and deployed an “anti-terror” unit to assist him in March.
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