Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Khurcha Incident, going for a pee or pissing on poor Georgia?

A bit of looking back into what many would rather forget!

The name of this village on the border with Abkazia has special meaning for Georgian watchers, aside from some Russian soldiers taking a stroll - going for a pee!!!

Lots of history in this small stretch of border, AKA buffer zone, and need to check out who is David Smith and the Potomac Institute and what was the Khurcha Incident, as organized by the same, and a ploy to distract attention from widespread election fraud. All this was part of the PR run-up to the August 2008 Georgian-Russian war, as confirmed by the serious of events that took place in the border region with Abkhazia and Georgia proper that ended with with the blowing up of two buses on March 21, 2008, as as likely organized by Georgian and US special services.

Human Rights in Georgia

Russia is a big, fluffy but misunderstood pussy-cat - how the August war started?

"Formulaic sentence buried in mid-story - embellishing the falsehood?"
Jeffrey K. Silverman

The debacle of the Georgian army and its national security policy has proved what the Georgian leadership has re-discovered in a standby old maxim: that a foreign policy without a credible military is no foreign policy. Much debate and learned commentary has been made as to how the war started, which may be a moot point in the final analysis of the situation that Georgia faces today. The much acclaimed US train and equip program has proved a dismal failure at best.  It was likely more designed to train Georgian troops for planned rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than for protecting the legitimate territorial integrity of a sovereign state within the framework of a democratically-elected government.

There is no shortage of commentary from either side, and some of it smells more of cold war rhetoric than anything close to a semblance of truth and reflection. Georgia is good and Russia is bad – and Ivan the terrible planned and plotted an invasion of Georgia right under the noses of Georgia's friends, and even before August 7, 2008  – with the purpose of regime change and destabilizing the region … and that is the essence of the analysis of David J. Smith, Director of the Georgian Security Policy Analysis Center, Tbilisi and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC, during a panel discussion of events of the August Georgian-Russian war on October 9, 2008 in Tbilisi Georgia.

POTOMAC INSTITUTE is among with the most top secret military and governmental contractors for hire, as quoted in one of my favorite book now, SPIES FOR HIRE, The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, by investigative reporter Tim Shorrock. Potomac is right up there with the likes of Blackwater, Carlyle Group, CACI International, and InQtel....

The same line of thought as purported by Ambassador David J. Smith was backed up by Kakha Lomai, Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, former Minister of Education, and Shota Utiashvili, Director of Department of Information, Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs and other seemingly credible sources.

The Russians and the Georgians are both quick to point the finger at who started first in the weeks prior to Aug. 7. Each side accuses the other of a premeditated attack. It was even noted back in January by the media that the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a "strategic defense review" that laid out its broad military planning for the breakaway regions. As described by Mr. Smith of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington D.C.  the document sets out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.
The language of a related media release published in a pro-government newspaper, "24 Hours" best sums up the tone and direction of the recent panel discussion that was more one sided than an actual discussion.

Please consider without added commentary and perhaps you the reader can start connecting the dots of what appears to be contradictions between the various accounts of the same events, which is par for the course with media snips from this and other newspapers, as first noted the case of the Khurcha Incident back in May – which an article "without actual facts" was also published by the same David J. Smith over events that took place in the border region with the blowing up of two buses on day of Parliamentary Elections, May 21, 2008.

Smith writes that "in the predawn hours of August 7, Russia invaded Georgia. Gassiev, a border guard of the separatist regime in the Georgian territory of South Ossetia, was at the southern end of the Roki Tunnel that leads from Russia. At 03:52, he used his mobile telephone to tell his supervisor: "Armor and people…twenty minutes ago…tanks, armored personnel carriers and that." The intercepted telephone call, first reported in the September 16 New York Times, explodes the myth that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili precipitated Russia's assault on Georgia with an ill-conceived attack on Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia."

The article goes on to claim that anyone who believes otherwise is seriously mistaken, [that's me] … "Worse than false, this notion enables western leaders to wallow in analysis and sophistry [as happy as a pig in my wallowing] instead of looking Russian aggression squarely in the eye. Many journalists perpetuate the myth with a formulaic sentence buried in mid-story. A few, however, embellish the falsehood, endowing it with unwarranted policy implications…."

However, there are other voices calling out in the wilderness. Der Spiegel, a well respected German publication ran a rather strange article that cast a different sheen in comparison.

It is likely right that Russia is correct in its claims that Georgia gets treated too softly in the Western press but this following Spiegel piece seems over-the-top tendentious in the other direction. Its sneering, pro-Moscow tone is almost Pravda-like (before it casually mentions at the end that the Russians are total liars, too).

It would even appear that some of the sources, such as Wolfgang Richter, a colonel with Germany's General Staff and a senior military advisor to the German representation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission, OSCE; he may come across as one of those Germans who think that Russia is a big, fluffy but misunderstood pussy-cat.

However, this was not the impression after discussing the war with him, and especially its potential aftermath. He is career soldier who knows the details on-the-ground from a military perspective and one who does not beat around the bush as to the events that actually took place. 

Many would agree that the war was likely fought for the sake of getting sympathy and political gain and not in achieving a clear-sighted military objective, such as blocking the Russians at the Roki tunnel. Nonetheless, let the reader be the judge in making the comparison between the two schools of thought over the terrible and unnecessary events of August 2008 and sorting through the recriminations.

Georgia's Calculated Offensive

Spiegel writes, "One thing was already clear to the officers at NATO headquarters in Brussels: They thought that the Georgians had started the conflict and that their actions were more calculated than pure self-defense or a response to Russian provocation. In fact, the NATO officers believed that the Georgian attack was a calculated offensive against South Ossetian positions to create the facts on the ground, and they coolly treated the exchanges of fire in the preceding days as but minor events. Even more clearly, NATO officials believed, looking back, that by no means could these skirmishes be seen as justification for Georgian war preparations.

Russian soldiers in South Ossetia, August 10, 2008

The NATO experts did not question the Georgian claim that the Russians had provoked them by sending their troops through the Roki Tunnel. But their evaluation of the facts was dominated by skepticism that these were the true reasons for Saakashvili's actions.

The details that Western intelligence agencies extracted from their signal intelligence agree with NATO's assessments. According to this intelligence information, the Georgians amassed roughly 12,000 troops on the border with South Ossetia on the morning of Aug. 7. Seventy-five tanks and armored personnel carriers -- a third of the Georgian military's arsenal -- were assembled near Gori. Saakashvili's plan, apparently, was to advance to the Roki Tunnel in a 15-hour "blitzkrieg" and close the eye of the needle between the northern and southern Caucasus regions, effectively cutting off South Ossetia from Russia.

At 10:35 p.m. on Aug. 7, less than an hour before Russian tanks entered the Roki Tunnel, according to Saakashvili, Georgian forces began their artillery assault on Tskhinvali. The Georgians used 27 rocket launchers, including 152-millimeter guns, as well as cluster bombs. Three brigades began the nighttime assault. The intelligence agencies were monitoring the Russian calls for help on the airwaves. The 58th Army, part of which was stationed in North Ossetia, was apparently not ready for combat, at least not during that first night.

The Georgian army, on the other hand, consisted primarily of infantry groups, which were forced to travel along major roads. It soon became bogged down and was unable to move past Tskhinvali. Western intelligence learned that the Georgians were experiencing "handling problems" with their weapons. The implication was that the Georgians were not fighting well, and their US supplied weapons were not to standard. 

The intelligence agencies conclude that the Russian army did not begin firing until 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 8, when it launched an SS-21 short-range ballistic missile on the city of Borjomi, southwest of Gori. The missile apparently hit military and government bunker positions. Russian warplanes began their first attacks on the Georgian army a short time later. Suddenly the airwaves came to life, as did the Russian army.

Russian troops from North Ossetia did not begin marching through the Roki Tunnel until roughly 11 a.m. This sequence of events is now seen as evidence that Moscow did not act offensively, but merely reacted. Additional SS-21s were later moved to the south. The Russians deployed 5,500 troops to Gori and 7,000 to the border between Georgia and its second separatist region, Abkhazia.

Calls in Europe for International Investigation

Wolfgang Richter, a colonel with Germany's General Staff and a senior military advisor to the German OSCE mission, is another expert on the situation. Richter, who was in Tbilisi at the time, confirms that the Georgians had already amassed troops on the border with South Ossetia in July. In a closed-door session in Berlin last Wednesday, he told German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung and the leading members of the foreign and defense committees in the German parliament that the Georgians had, to some extent, "lied" about troop movements.

Richter said that he could find no evidence to support Saakashvili's claims that the Russians had marched into the Roki Tunnel before Tbilisi gave its orders to attack, but that he could not rule them out. For some members of parliament, his statements sounded like an endorsement of the Russian interpretation. "He left no room for interpretation," one of the committee members concluded. "It is clear that there was more responsibility on the Georgian than the Russian side," another committee member said.

  South Ossetia

But now it is high time for the EU to address the reasons for war. Moscow has been baffled by the Europeans' refusal to condemn Saakashvili's assault on Tskhinvali and the insistence on pointing the finger at Russia instead. The Europeans, a diplomat with the Russian Foreign Ministry complained, apparently lacking the "courage to stand up to Washington and its allies in Tbilisi."

At an informal meeting in the southern French city of Avignon that occurred several weekends [before publication], Europe's foreign ministers called for "an international investigation" into the conflict. The logic of that decision was that anyone who hopes to mediate should not be biased in evaluating what happened in the Caucasus. Apparently even the foreign ministers of Great Britain, Sweden, the Baltic States and other Eastern European countries agreed. Before the Avignon meeting, they had advocated a tough stance toward Moscow and more solidarity with Tbilisi -- irrespective of the facts.

The 27 foreign ministers planned to adopt a formal resolution calling for an investigation. But the question of who would be in charge of such a delicate mission remained completely unanswered: the United Nations, the OSCE, non-governmental organizations, academics -- or a combination of all of these groups? Only one thing is clear: The EU itself has no intention of taking on the issue. Europeans fear that this would only widen the gap between hardliners and those advocating cautious reconciliation with Moscow.

Saakashvili, the choleric ruler of Tbilisi, is following the shift in opinions in the West with growing unease. He reiterates his own version of the attack on Georgia in daily television appearances, Aspect, an international PR firm is constantly inundating the Western media with carefully selected material, and Tbilisi is already taking its case to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, where it accuses the Russians of "ethnic cleansing."
But Saakashvili is no longer as confident in his allies' support. Ahead of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's visit to Tbilisi, Saakashvili called upon the Western alliance to show its resolve, noting that a display of weakness toward Moscow would lead to "a never-ending story of Russian aggression."

Is Saakashvili Already Dead Politically?

The Georgian president is also coming under pressure in his own country, as the united front that developed during the Russian invasion crumbles. Those who have long criticized Saakashvili and his senior staff as an "authoritarian regime" are speaking out once again. Back in December 2007, Georgy Khaindrava, a former minister for conflict resolution who was dismissed in 2006, told SPIEGEL that Saakashvili and his circle are people "for whom power is everything." A few weeks earlier, Saakashvili had deployed special police forces in Tbilisi, where the opposition had staged large demonstrations, and declared a state of emergency. At the time, Khaindrava expressed concerns that Saakashvili could soon attempt to bolster his weakened image with a "small, victorious war" -- against South Ossetia.

In May 2006, former Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili had already cautioned against her former boss's actions. The "enormous arms buildup" he had engaged in made "no sense," Zurabishvili said, adding that it created the impression that he planned to resolve the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia militarily.

The heads of Georgia's two major political parties have [repeatedly] called for Saakashvili's resignation and the establishment of a "government that is neither pro-Russian nor pro-American, but pro-Georgian." In Moscow, former Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Temur Khachishzili, who spent years in prison for attempting to assassinate Saakashvili's predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, is drumming up support for a change of government back home among the more than one million Georgians living in the Russian Federation.

Is Saakashvili, who only over seven weeks ago had gained the West's sympathy as the victim of a Russian invasion, already dead politically? In recent weeks he received support from an unexpected source, the Red Star, a newspaper published by the Russian Defense Ministry. The paper published remarks by an officer of the 58th Army, which Moscow has since denied. Nevertheless, the officer, ironically enough, fueled doubts as to the conclusion, by Western intelligence agencies and NATO, how that Russian army units had not reached Tskhinvali until Aug. 9.

In the Red Star account, Captain Denis Sidristy, the commander of a company of the 135th Motorized Infantry Regiment, describes how he and his unit were already in the Roki Tunnel, on their way to Tskhinvali, in the night preceding Aug. 8. Did Moscow's invasion begin earlier than the Russians have admitted, after all?

Moscow investigators also conceded, for the first time, that the number of civilian casualties of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali was not 2,000, as Russian officials have repeatedly claimed, but 134.

When asked about the account in the Red Star, a representative for the Russian Defense Ministry told SPIEGEL that it was the result of a technical error. Moreover, the spokesperson said, the official in question had been wounded and therefore "could no longer remember the situation clearly."

In conclusion, regardless of the pot calling the kettle black, "it is still difficult to separate truth and lies about the brief war in the Caucasus," as the German article sums up the events of the August war. It does appear, however, in the final analysis that the conflict between Russia and Georgia began on the night of August 7, when Georgian forces, including commando units, tanks and artillery, assaulted the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali in a direct assault.


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