Cheney to visit Georgia, Iwo Jima sails for Middle East

The Georgian conflict over South Ossetia is spiraling into a contest between the US and Russia over control of the Black Sea region and the eastern Mediterranean.
The US Vice President Dick Cheney will stop over in Georgia, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy during a trip starting Sept. 2. President Bush “felt it was important to have the vice president consult with allies in the region on our common security interests,” said the White House spokesman Monday, Aug. 25.
These steps were Washington’s response to a rapid volley of decisions in Moscow: one was taken by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky – as disclosed earlier by debkafile – to place its warships bound for Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus under the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol.
At the same time, the American aircraft carrier, the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, heading a six-vessel contingent, sets sail Tuesday for the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard.
Also on Monday, the Russian general staff took the further step of announcing regular searches of all cargoes transiting the Georgian port of Poti, tightening its grip on the Black Sea shore.
In Sochi, Russian president Dimitry Medvedev said he was considering halting Moscow’s ties with NATO. The Russian upper house unanimously urged him to recognize the two breakaway Georgian provinces as independent republics. This step would defy international recognition of the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as breakaway provinces of Georgia for the first time.
Medvedev said a decision to break off ties with NATO would be difficult but relations had “worsened sharply as a result of the conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia.”
Tehran reported the Russian and Iranian presidents would meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit taking place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan Thursday and Friday, Aug. 28-29.
Last week, at the height of the Georgian crisis, the Russian president received Syrian president Bashar Assad at Sochi to discuss sophisticated Russian arms shipments and the establishment of a Russian naval base Syria.

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