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WASHINGTON – Moscow quietly is trying to convince countries in Central Asia that any cooperation with the United States in any effort to attack Iran militarily to destroy its nuclear facilities could result in retaliation by Iran, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
For these countries, Iran is one of their most important trading partners, prompting leaders in the Central Asian countries to side with Moscow to oppose any U.S. action from the region, and the Kremlin reportedly is making the most of this concern.
The entire effort may be a smokescreen by Moscow to gain greater influence in these countries given the high dependency by the regions on Russia. It’s not likely the U.S. would use these countries from which to stage any direct attacks against Iran.
But the concern is sufficient that leaders in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are taking the issue seriously at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, to which all belong.
One country in particular – Kyrgyzstan – is especially concerned since it has leased the Manas Air Base outside the capital of Bishkek for the U.S. to supply U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan as part of the Northern Distribution Network that goes through that region.
The Russians are warning that the possibility exists that Manas could be used in any potential conflict with Iran, according to a briefing recently conducted by Alexander Lukashevich of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Such use of the base, however, would be contrary to the leasing agreement between the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments. In addition, the lease is up in 2014, with little likelihood of renewal.
Yet, Lukasevich says that “the worries are shared not just by Kyrgyzstan where a debate has erupted about the risk of retaliatory strike from Iran – but other Central Asian countries.”
Richard Weitz of the Washington-based think-tank Jamestown Foundation sees this type of war rhetoric increasing after the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency. He believes it helps keep Iran alienated from the United States while preserving Russia’s dominant economic position there.
It also helps deepen Central Asian fears about supporting an “enduring U.S. military presence in their region.” Continued Russian efforts to whip up fears also are to “remind Washington and other governments, including Beijing, that the Kremlin still considers the post-Soviet space as a zone where Moscow exercises strategic primacy.”
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