Why Russia Is Planning Iran War Games

Article excerpt

Russia has reportedly ordered the military to plan war games to deal with potential spillover from a US-Iran conflict.

As tensions ratchet up in the Persian Gulf, the Kremlin is signaling that it will use all its diplomatic influence to oppose war and, according to a leading Moscow newspaper, has ordered the military to prepare for any possible spillover from a conflict between Iran and the US into the sensitive post-Soviet Caucasus region.

Russia will block any further sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday, because it believes rising tensions could trigger a conflict that would destabilize the wider region. Last week Russian deputy prime minister and former ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned that any Western attack on Iran would constitute "a direct threat to [Russian] national security."

The independent Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Monday that this year's annual military exercises in Russia's south, Kavkaz 2012, will be much larger than usual and organized around the premise of a war that begins with an attack on Iran but spreads to neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan, and draws Russia into a regional maelstrom. The newspaper said the war games, which are usually confined to Russian territory, might this year include maneuvers in the breakaway Georgian statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and perhaps also in Russian-allied Armenia.

"We believe that sanctions relative to Iran have lost their usefulness," Gennady Gatilov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, told a Moscow press conference Tuesday. "We will oppose any new resolution [on UN sanctions against Iran]....

"Russia would consider any use of force against the territory of Iran unacceptable. That would make the situation even more critical.... Unfortunately, many [Western] government leaders are not restraining themselves and are speaking openly about a military strike against Iran," Mr. Gatilov added.

A harsh sanctions regime, signed into law by President Obama two weeks ago, would target Iran's ability to earn cash through oil exports by penalizing Western companies who clear payments through Iran's central bank. The European Union could enact its own sanctions against Iranian oil exports as early as next week.

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