On Dec. 5, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia heard testimony from American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin on Iran’s influence in the South Caucasus. While Rubin detailed Iran’s close ties to Armenia and contrasted them to Iran’s uneasy relationship with Azerbaijan, he closed his testimony with unexpected warnings of a potential Georgian alignment with Iran (pdf).
“The victory of [Prime Minister] Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream party in October 2012 elections threatens to radically reorient the Republic of Georgia, which, under President Mikheil Saakashvili, has been reliably pro-Western,” cautioned Rubin, adding that Ivanishvili’s pledge to improve ties with Moscow could be a prelude to a Russia-Iran-Georgia axis. “A reorientation of Georgia’s relationship with Iran might accompany its shift to Moscow.” Yet, despite the enormity of this allegation, Rubin provided no evidence that any such reorientation is actually imminent.
In fact, the implication that Georgia’s recently elected government could be building a haven for Iranian anti-Western activities is unsubstantiated, and it ignores the previous government’s many overtures toward Tehran. However, there are legitimate concerns that Iranian investments in and accords with Georgia could help the Islamic Republic to evade the crippling international sanctions regime.