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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Georgian Coup
Sounds a lot like the US-inspired plot to overthrow Mossadegh and re-install the Shah in Iran in 1953.

From the Canadian Globe and Mail:
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Washington have been jockeying to control the route that will eventually take these enormous resources more rapidly to market in the West. Georgia and neighbouring Azerbaijan, which borders the Caspian, quickly came to be seen not just as newly independent countries, but as part of an "energy corridor."
When these plans were made, Mr. Shevardnadze was seen as an asset by both Western investors and the U.S. government. His reputation as the man who helped end the Cold War gave investors a sense of confidence in the country, and his stated intention to move Georgia out of Russia's orbit and into Western institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union played well at the U.S. State Department.

The United States quickly moved to embrace Georgia, opening a military base in the country two years ago to give Georgian soldiers "anti-terrorist" training. They were the first U.S. troops to set up in a former Soviet republic.

But somewhere along the line, Mr. Shevardnadze reversed course and decided to once more embrace Russia. This summer, Georgia signed a secret 25-year deal to make the Russian energy giant Gazprom its sole supplier of gas. Then it effectively sold the electricity grid to another Russian firm, cutting out AES, the company that the U.S. administration had backed to win the deal. Mr. Shevardnadze attacked AES as "liars and cheats." Both deals dramatically increased Russian influence in Tbilisi.

Washington's reaction was swift. Within weeks, U.S. President George W. Bush had sent senior adviser Stephen Mann to Tbilisi with a warning: "Georgia should not do anything that undercuts the powerful promise of an East-West energy corridor," he said.

After the energy deals with Russia went ahead anyway, Mr. Mann was followed by former U.S. secretary of state James Baker, ostensibly an old friend of Mr. Shevardnadze, who warned the Georgian leader of the need for a free, fair parliamentary election on Nov. 2.
[Sunday], Mr. Shevardnadze went. The U.S.-backed candidate for president, Mr. Saakashvili, won the day. And Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, after telling Mr. Shevardnadze there was nothing more Moscow could do for him, flew from Tbilisi to the coastal resort town of Batumi in the autonomous republic of Adzharia to stir up new opposition.

And who is Saakashvili, the leader of the party now in charge?
Saakashvili attended Columbia University. He is a frequent visitor to Washington and boasts of numerous contacts in Congress, the White House and the National Security Agency. -- San Jose Mercury News

Both links are from Left I On the News. Since the "revolution" is supposedly bloodless, I guess Georgia now has the inside track on Afghanistan and Iraq (and DC and Puerto Rico as well) on becoming the 51st state. Is it constitutionally allowed to have two states with the same name? Should we expect that, in the long run, the Georgians will be as happy with their US-installed government as the Iranians were with theirs?

And congratulations to James Baker of the Carlyle Group for another successful coup. You'll remember that he led the Bushies' assault on Democracy in Florida in 2000; that he sent Saddam Hussein a message through Ambassador April Glaspie in July 1990 that "Arab-Arab" issues, such as Iraq's complaints with Kuwait, were of no concern to the US; that he may have been involved in the so-called "October Surprise" in which the Reagan-Bush campaign is alleged to have negotiated with Iran behind the scenes to delay the release of the hostages until after Carter had been defeated in the election; and I'm sure a few more I've forgotten and some we'll never hear about.

In the regime change category, Baker is the gold medalist.