Thursday, April 20, 2006

another problem with an iran attack

another problem with an attack on iran: kyrgyzstan is threatening to kick u.s. forces from manas airbase.

what does that have to do with iran? well, military planners apparently believe that they need an airbase in central asia that is outside of afghanistan. just after 9/11, the u.s. relied primarily on karshi-khanabad in uzbekistan, but last year the uzbeks threw the u.s. out. since then kyrgyzstan and tajikistan have been picking up the slack.

meanwhile russia is uncomfortable with u.s. forces in former soviet territory and has been pressuring the central asian countries to set a timetable for full withdrawal of u.s. forces. this is part of a larger russian charm offensive directed at its former colonies in the region. which is probably part of what is motivating kyrgyzstan to threaten an eviction which would leave americans with only one central asian base, the base in tajikistan.

an attack on iran would complicate things even further. first, russia, has a lot of influence in the region, and russia says it opposes military action against iran. but there's another important factor: tajiks, like iranians are persians. tajikistan was once the far eastern edge of the persian empire and maintains an ethnic-religious connection with iran. the tajiks were cut off from their farsi cousins for a while. but since tajikistan became independent, iran has actively courted tajikistan and showered it with investment projects.

if the u.s. attacks iran, we run the risk of losing all our remaining central asian bases. i'm not sure how this will effect the military's goals in the region. i once thought that the central asian bases would become unnecessary once the taliban were toppled. but donald rumsfeld's scramble to find alternatives to karshi-khanabad last summer demonstrates that for whatever reason a base outside afghanistan is important to the u.s.