The Jerusalem Post had a fascinating little piece about Israel's trade with Georgia.
As ever it concerns arms sales - this time from Israel to Georgia which had been investigated by the downmarket newspaper Ma'ariv.
1. At an unstated date and source the Russians sent a letter to Foreign Minister and wannabe Prime Minister, ex Mossad , daughter of leading post war terrorists Tzipi Livni, asking Israel to refrain from selling state-of-the-art weaponry to Georgia, and stating that Moscow had acceded to similar requests by Jerusalem in the past. Israel has repeatedly asked Russia not to sell top-line weapons systems to Syria and Iran.
The NYT has Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov saying ,"Those who have been supplying arms to Georgia, they should feel part of the blame for the loss of life," (including US and Ukraine) and that , "foreign leaders "who have been appeasing Mr Saakashvili's intentions, and helped create the feeling of impunity inside the Georgian , should think twice about whether this is right." (Impunity os the diplospeak street cred phrase these days - it means throwing your weight about)
The situation in South Ossetia is widely believed to be one of the topics of discussion (not the ladies gymnastics team event) over the weekend in Beijing between President Shimon Peres and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
2. Former government minister (2001) and Tel Aviv mayor (93-08) Roni Milo was heavily involved in arms sales to Georgia, as a representative of Elbit and the Israeli Military Industries, and that Brig.-Gen (res.) Gal Hirsch, one of the senior officers who left the IDF after coming under blistering criticism following the Second Lebanon War, was heavily involved in Georgia in providing training for infantry and elite units.The former division commander has lately turned to private enterprise, after writing a book defending his actions.
The "official" line is that now only sells defensive weapons to Georgia. Israeli companies had sold some $300 million worth of military equipment to Georgia according to Ma'ariv.
3. Israeli defense officials were embarrassed (?) in April when an Israeli-manufactured drone was shot down by the Russians, and again in May when another drone, and a state-of-the-art Israeli rocket system called Lynx, were on display at a Georgian military parade. (pic)
The BBC had a nice story with a video of a Russian MiG-29 shooting down the unarmed Georgian drone over Abkhazia , this was supplied to the BBC as a feed from the drone which Georgia supplied, and ends with the drone exploding.
Fragments of the drone were put on display in public in Sukhumi, the Abkhaz capital. Garry Kupalba, deputy defence minister of the unrecognised Republic of Abkhazia (except Russia) , told reporters the drone had been shot down by an "L-39 aircraft of the Abkhaz Air Force". He also identified the drone as an Israeli-made Hermes 450.
This is from the same stable as the ones the UK has bought from Israel for use in Afghanistan now they cannot re-fuel Nimrod's for surveillance.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was apparently conveing a meeting of senior ministry officials yesterday to deal with the Russian-Georgian flare-up, amid concern that Israeli arms sales to Georgia could harm relations with Russia - and lead to them selling arms to Syria / Iran.
Coincidentally, Israel's new envoy to Georgia, Yitzhak Gerberg, was scheduled to leave for his new post on Saturday. Despite the situation on the ground, he left as scheduled.
No doubt this will put a stop to all those youthful "trekkers" spending their holidays in the Georgian mountians, watchingbirds and collecting butterflies.
Today (Monday) the JP reports that Israeli diplomatic officials were in contact throughout Sunday with their firendly Russian counterparts. They deny any talk of crisis in Israeli-Russian relations as a result of the Russian-Georgian conflagration and past sales of Israeli arms to Tbilisi. Of course.
Israel has sold an estimated $300 million to $500m. worth of weaponry and military training to Georgia over the last decade.
It appears that Tzipi's Sunday get together has resulted in her Foreign Ministry instituting a complete ban on sales to the region, concerned they would infuriate the Russians and spur Moscow into selling more advanced weapons to Iran and Syria.
It is worth noting a story Azerbaijan buys Israel-made military hardware and technique dated August 7th -Israel-made 5.56mm Tavor TAR-21 submachine gun has been bought for some units of the Azerbaijani Army.
Azerbaijan has also bought military supplies and rockets from various military firms in Israel. Azerbaijan’s armory includes 120mm and 160mm Lynx rocket plane produced by TAAS company (assembled at the base of KamAZ 63502), as well as 300mm EXTRA rockets, pilotless vehicles Orbiter and Aerostar produced by Aeronautics company.
A part of these arms and supplies was demonstrated during the military parade on June 26.
Israel’s Soltam company is holding talks on export of 122mm Semser self-propelled artillery and Naiza rockets to Azerbaijan. Also reported “Voennie vestnik Izrailya"
Arms. Somebody somewhere is making 'em, selling 'em, using 'em.
UPDATE & PS : Ex Diplomat Craig Murray on his website does a why oh why which is worth looking at for his perspective views on on EU energy (in)security but betrays the diplospeak mind ..2 August 10, 2008 There Are No Good Guys, But We Must Be Most Wary of Russia
"An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted ..." and having framed that policy, what exactly do we do to persuade that nice Mr Putin with his hands on the gas and oil taps ? Talking nicely to him ?
A, " de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia " seems to have happened. In less than 3 days ditto Abkhazia. Which are effectively the direct and fairly predictable consequences of installing Russian "peacekeepers" there after the 1992 fun and games.
Ex-envoy: Georgia modelled its army after IDF ynet
"Georgian government officials used to tell me that they wanted to model their army after the IDF," former Israeli ambassador to Georgia Shabtai Zur told Ynet Sunday evening amid the country's bloody feud with Russia over the separatist region of South Ossetia.
Travel Advisory Issued for Georgia, Jews Being Evacuated
Yeshiva world News 10th August 2008
Assisting in closing defense packages with Israel is Georgia’s Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili, a fluent Hebrew-speaker and former Israeli.
Deals were made for items including anti-aircraft and communications systems, as well as turrets for armored vehicles and communications systems. One of the people who profited from such arrangements is Roni Milo, a former Public Security Minister who represented Elbit.
Gal Hirsch, a former IDF brigadier-general, one of the senior officers compelled to step down following the Second Lebanon War, also provided tactical training, working with Georgian military officials to establish commando units mimicking Israel’s Sayeret Matkal.
He is a partner in a firm called Defensive Shield.
There is also 61-year-old former IDF Major-General Yisrael Ziv, who heads a security consulting firm.
2 Israeli firms say they left Georgia before fighting Haaretz Tuesday 12th August 2008
Two Israeli security companies, Defensive Shield and Global CST, announced yesterday that they had completed their projects in Georgia before fighting between that country and Russia broke out on Friday. The two are among several Israeli companies advising Georgia on security
matters, training its army and occasionally supplying it with weapons.
Defensive Shield, owned by Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, said all its employees, including its subcontractors, are no longer in Georgia. It said it completed the work it had been contracted to do, and that all its contracts with Georgia had been approved by Israel's Defense Ministry. Security systems services company Global CST, managed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Israel Ziv, said it finished its work in Georgia at the end of July.
A retired senior Israeli officer who recently trained troops in Georgia said yesterday he was surprised that the Georgians faced off against Russia, since they have a much smaller army. "They got into an adventure that I wouldn't have chosen to get into, based on the level of professionalism I saw in my visits to the Georgian army," the officer said. "Who knows where this will end." "This is an army that was in the process of disintegrating over 15 or 16 years," the officer added. "This process required reconstruction, and that's where the Israelis entered the picture, along with companies from other countries.
verything was very, very basic. We dealt mainly with basic training for the units. It will take a long time until the military forces there will advance to a high professional level.
The Georgian army cannot under any circumstances be a serious rival to the Russians at present." The officer also stressed the difference in military might: "Georgia is a small country, with barely 4.5 million people," he said. "They have a small army - to be honest, not much different from that of a Third World country.
" The Georgians began reorganizing their army in 2002, with American assistance. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Georgian army has primarily been comprised of remnants of Red Army units.