The Iran Conflict Comes To The Caucasus

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Mourners carry the coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan during his funeral in Tehran on January 13. Roshan is the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be assassinated in two years. Iran accuses Azerbaijan of colluding with Israel in the killings.

By Brian Whitmore
When police in Tbilisi discovered and defused a bomb on the car of an employee of the Israeli Embassy on February 13, it marked the second time in less than a month that the Jewish state’s diplomats had become the target of an attack in the South Caucasus.The other incident came in late January when Azerbaijani security officials said they had foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Israeli ambassador, a local rabbi, and other prominent Jews in that country. Police arrested two Azerbaijani nationals in connection with that plot.

In both cases, Iran has been named as the suspected mastermind. Israel publicly accused Tehran of being behind the aborted Tbilisi attack. And officials in Baku said the two Azerbaijani suspects arrested in January had collaborated on the alleged assassination plot with an Iranian citizen connected to that country’s security services.

Iran has denied involvement in either incident. But analysts say the two cases illustrate how Georgia and Azerbaijan — due to their proximity to Iran and their close relations with Israel and the United States — risk being drawn deeper into the quickly escalating conflict between Tehran on one side and Israel and the West on the other.

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A Non-Committal Suitor

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May 7, 2009

By Sergei Balashov

An EU Bid to Muscle in on Russia’s Turf, or an Effort to Enrich and Stabilize Europe’s Borders?

This week saw the inaugural conference of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program, an initiative meant to improve ties between Brussels and the former-Soviet republics. But European leaders are making it clear that it is not a stepping stone to membership, leaving some of the former-Soviet republics unsure of Europe’s commitment, and making Russia suspicious of the EU’s motives.

Of the new countries that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, only the three Baltic states have managed to successfully join the European Union. Other former-Soviet republics have found it much harder to find acceptance in Brussels, and none of them holds official candidate status, even though some have expressed the strongest desire to join. Read the rest of this entry »