Georgia increases military commitment to Coalition

Douglas Hanson
The Times (UK) Online last week reported  that the Republic of Georgia will increase its troop commitment to Iraq from 850 to 2,000 troops.  Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said that rather than remain in a static security position guarding the Green Zone, an entire combat brigade will be deployed "to block the main weapons smuggling route on the Iran-Iraq border."

Richard Beeston, The Times Diplomatic Editor and author of the piece, correctly cites one reason for the move as Georgia's need to "prove its worth" as a Western ally.  But this rationale is given more attention than it deserves.  AT readers know  that Georgia sits on the key land bridge between Russia and its nominal nuclear partner, Iran, and have long been dominated by one empire or the other during its long history.  Therefore, being deployed on the Iranian border has a huge amount of historical significance to Georgia since the Persians were, and are one of the prime threats to Georgia's existence as a sovereign nation.  In other words, this just isn't about supporting the Coalition in Iraq; for the Georgians, it's also a matter of national pride and enhancing their own security.

Given the operational importance of their mission, President Saakashvili's intent to station a full brigade on the border makes sense.  If it deploys with its authorized manpower and equipment, the Georgian contingent will boast three infantry battalions, one combined arms tank/mechanized battalion with T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, one field artillery battalion with several batteries of 122mm guns and a 120mm mortar battery, a support battalion, and an assortment of brigade-level assets such as an engineer company and a reconnaissance company.  This will present a formidable combined arms force to any Iranian proxy warrior attempting to infiltrate into Iraq.  We can only hope that the Georgians will not be constrained by any highly restrictive and arbitrary rules of engagement.

Beeston also says that the deployment of such a large force would seem to be risky given Georgia's need to deal with the two "breakaway" provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - as if these areas were separate from Russian power plays to regain control of the region.  In reality, these provinces have historically been within Georgia's borders, and are simply pawns to subvert Saakashvili's democratic government.  No doubt that these areas have been factored into Saakashvili's security equation, since Georgia already has several combined arms brigades and the backing of the US, NATO, and the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Ultimately, Saakashvili will resort to action concerning these areas rather than never ending diplomacy if he is able.  Last summer, Georgian units quickly seized the initiative in the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, and started to whittle away at one of Putin's centers of influence in an operation that was characterized by surprise and speed.  This was followed by a smooth withdrawal once so-called rebel leaders had either been captured or forced to flee.  All of this was done while providing little or no time for Russian garrisons in the area to respond.

Anything can happen in the Iraq campaign as we've seen countless times, but my money is on the Georgian brigade being victorious if it ever confronts the Persians attempting to violate Iraq's borders.
The Times (UK) Online last week reported  that the Republic of Georgia will increase its troop commitment to Iraq from 850 to 2,000 troops.  Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said that rather than remain in a static security position guarding the Green Zone, an entire combat brigade will be deployed "to block the main weapons smuggling route on the Iran-Iraq border."

Richard Beeston, The Times Diplomatic Editor and author of the piece, correctly cites one reason for the move as Georgia's need to "prove its worth" as a Western ally.  But this rationale is given more attention than it deserves.  AT readers know  that Georgia sits on the key land bridge between Russia and its nominal nuclear partner, Iran, and have long been dominated by one empire or the other during its long history.  Therefore, being deployed on the Iranian border has a huge amount of historical significance to Georgia since the Persians were, and are one of the prime threats to Georgia's existence as a sovereign nation.  In other words, this just isn't about supporting the Coalition in Iraq; for the Georgians, it's also a matter of national pride and enhancing their own security.

Given the operational importance of their mission, President Saakashvili's intent to station a full brigade on the border makes sense.  If it deploys with its authorized manpower and equipment, the Georgian contingent will boast three infantry battalions, one combined arms tank/mechanized battalion with T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, one field artillery battalion with several batteries of 122mm guns and a 120mm mortar battery, a support battalion, and an assortment of brigade-level assets such as an engineer company and a reconnaissance company.  This will present a formidable combined arms force to any Iranian proxy warrior attempting to infiltrate into Iraq.  We can only hope that the Georgians will not be constrained by any highly restrictive and arbitrary rules of engagement.

Beeston also says that the deployment of such a large force would seem to be risky given Georgia's need to deal with the two "breakaway" provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - as if these areas were separate from Russian power plays to regain control of the region.  In reality, these provinces have historically been within Georgia's borders, and are simply pawns to subvert Saakashvili's democratic government.  No doubt that these areas have been factored into Saakashvili's security equation, since Georgia already has several combined arms brigades and the backing of the US, NATO, and the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Ultimately, Saakashvili will resort to action concerning these areas rather than never ending diplomacy if he is able.  Last summer, Georgian units quickly seized the initiative in the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, and started to whittle away at one of Putin's centers of influence in an operation that was characterized by surprise and speed.  This was followed by a smooth withdrawal once so-called rebel leaders had either been captured or forced to flee.  All of this was done while providing little or no time for Russian garrisons in the area to respond.

Anything can happen in the Iraq campaign as we've seen countless times, but my money is on the Georgian brigade being victorious if it ever confronts the Persians attempting to violate Iraq's borders.