09TBILISI560, GEORGIA: IRAN FEELING INSECURE IN CAUCASUS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI560 2009-03-23 12:54 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1449
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0560/01 0821254
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231254Z MAR 09 ZDK ZUI HKB4522
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1242
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0189
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0189
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4810
RUEHUNV/UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 4013

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000560 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/23/2019 
TAGS: PREL MOPS KBTS UNOMIG UNSC RS IR IS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: IRAN FEELING INSECURE IN CAUCASUS 
 
REF: TBILISI 488 
 
TBILISI 00000560  001.4 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  In a readout to the Ambassador 
of his recent visit to Iran, Reintegration Minister Temuri 
Yakobashvili suggested that the Iranians seemed paranoid 
about potential threats and rivals for regional influence. 
Russia had effectively fueled that paranoia with allegations 
of U.S. plans to use Georgia as a staging ground for attacks 
on Iran.  Likewise, Israel is supposedly planning to use the 
UAVs it has sold to Georgia to attack Iran.  Iran does not 
trust Russia either, however, and sees Turkey's proposed 
Caucasus platform as an effort t take a leadership role in 
the region -- a role Iran considers rightfully its own, along 
with its self-perceived leadership of the Islamic world. 
Yakobashvili saw three basic attitudes toward the west in 
Iran: openness and optimism, held by the population at large; 
open but calculating skepticism, held by the bureaucracy; and 
extremely hesitant caution, held by the top leadership.  The 
people are mostly concerned with the economy.  Yakobashvili 
compared the level of state control to that of the USSR, but 
two key differences -- the existence of private property and 
the ability of people to travel -- serve as a sufficient 
safety valve to prevent frustration from exploding.  End 
summary. 
 
PARANOIA, THE DESTROYER 
 
2. (C) Yakobashvili, Georgia's only Jewish member of the 
Cabinet, traveled to Tehran with Deputy Foreign Minister 
Nalbandov (reftel), but stayed an additional day and had 
separate meetings.  During a March 18 conversation with the 
Ambassador, he stated several times the Iranians were 
paranoid and advised the United States to keep that fact in 
mind.  As Yakobashvili was waiting at the airport to depart 
Tehran, Iranian officials approached him with documents 
supplied by the Russians supposedly proving that the United 
States was planning to attack Iran from bases in Georgia.  In 
earlier meetings, officials asked Yakobashvili why Georgia 
wanted to join NATO, suggesting that this step would only 
allow the U.S. to establish bases in Georgia.  Iranian 
officials also asked Yakobashvili about unmanned aerial 
vehicles (UAVs) Georgia had acquired from Israel, expressing 
the concern that Israel planned to use them to attack Iran. 
They even asked how many Israelis had died in South Ossetia, 
ostensibly fighting for the Georgian government during the 
August war with Russia.  Yakobashvili pushed back on these 
allegations, asking the Iranians if they were aware that the 
Russians were manipulating them; their answer was that they 
had invited him to Iran for precisely that reason, apparently 
as a check on the Russians' allegations. 
 
3. (C) Yakobashvili suggested Iran put up with Russian 
manipulation because it felt threatened and isolated and knew 
it needed Russia.  At the same time, he thought Iran did not 
trust Russia and was wary of excessive Russian influence in 
the region.  Likewise, he said the Iranians were very 
concerned about potential Turkish influence; they asked about 
the proposed Caucasus Platform at every meeting, making clear 
they did not like the idea.  He thought Iran saw itself as a 
leader in both the Caucasus region and the Islamic world and 
Qleader in both the Caucasus region and the Islamic world and 
considered Turkey a rival for both roles.  He noted Iranian 
contempt for Arabs as well, which he saw expressed in a video 
entitled "Homo Arabicus" while in Iran.  Although they did 
not admit it was a defeat, the Iranians did express concern 
to Yakobashvili over the recent conflict in Gaza -- and he 
thought they did in fact realize it was a defeat, especially 
for their hopes of establishing themselves as a leader in the 
Islamic world.  Yakobashvili also emphasized that the 
Iran-Iraq war still is a key frame of reference for Iran; 
reminders of it are everywhere, and the perceived role of the 
U.S. and the EU in supporting Saddam Hussein against Iran is 
still resented. 
 
I HOPE TOMORROW WE'LL FIND BETTER THINGS 
 
4. (C) In Yakobashvili's assessment, the Iranian people fit 
in to three broad societal groups, each of which had a 
different attitude toward re-engagement with the west. 
First, he said the population at large was open to the idea 
and optimistic about the possibilities; its main concern was 
the global economic crisis.  He said that the people found 
recent moves to limit consumption of gasoline by civilians 
(while not by the government or businesses) distressing.  He 
noted that Iran has everything you could want in a
 tourist 
 
TBILISI 00000560  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
destination -- Isfahan, for example, was a beautiful and 
modern city -- but no tourists.  Second, he said mid-career 
bureaucrats were also open to engagement, but skeptical and 
cautious; they saw the current global political environment 
as a "bazaar," where the different sides would have to 
negotiate to obtain the best result for their own interests. 
Finally, although he did not say the top leadership was 
opposed to engagement, he thought they were looking for ways 
to delay it for now.  He portrayed the government's interest 
in nuclear weapons as primarily a bargaining chip; being on 
the verge of achieving a nuclear device would almost be 
better than actually having it, because it would keep the 
west's attention and allow Iran to extract more concessions. 
 
5. (C) As a former Soviet citizen, Yakobashvili saw many 
similarities between the oppression of the Iranian regime and 
that of the Soviets.  Nevertheless, he suggested two key 
elements of society served as a safety valve for societal 
frustration and made a collapse of Iran unlikely: the 
existence of private property and the ability of people to 
travel.  He noted the widespread existence of satellite 
dishes (although many are kept covered), for example, and 
that Iran is one of the world's foremost consumers of 
expensive women's clothes.  He said that Iranian 
intellectuals hate the mullahs, but recognize they cannot 
challenge them at this time.  He also noted a grudging 
respect for the mullahs' role in restoring Iran to a place of 
prominence; 150 years ago, Iran was nothing, but these 
"idiots" had at least managed to restore Iranian national 
pride. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

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