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Is Georgia Helping Iran Skirt Sanctions?

Recent visitors to the Republic of Georgia say they saw roads packed with trucks transporting Iranian oil. When they asked multiple Georgians about the traffic, they were told that the Iranians are transshipping sanctioned oil through the Caucasus and then loading it onto ships in the Black Sea in order to conceal its identity. The Georgian government, for its part, appears perfectly happy to collect transit fees for the oil.

Georgia is an American ally. While it has the misfortune to border Russia, its president Mikheil Saakashvili has worked hard to reorient the country into the West. Georgia has stamped out once rampant corruption. Saakashvili has ordered all road signs to be bilingual, in Georgian and English, a symbolic move in a country where most citizens also speak Russian and one designed to wrest Georgia from the Soviet orbit.

Alas, true to the Obama doctrine of turning a cold shoulder to allies while genuflecting toward adversaries, Obama has had little time for Georgia, even referring to the tiny country as “Russia” in a meeting with Saakashvili. From his days as a senator campaigning for president, Obama has appeared to be embarrassed by if not disdainful of Georgia’s unabashed pro-Americanism.

Perhaps nothing symbolizes the failure of Obama’s foreign policy more than the Georgian smuggling of Iranian crude. Spurned dates will only stand waiting for the knock at the door for so long before they find another dance partner. Hopefully Governor Romney understands what Obama does not: First, friendship is not one way; allies must stand together. Second, the United States needs all the allies it can get in an increasingly hostile world and cannot afford to spurn them. Third, slapping sanctions on Iran and then giving a speech about a tough Iran policy is not enough.

No U.S. ally—let alone any U.S. adversary—believes the White House is serious on Iran. Until Obama demonstrates seriousness of purpose, even the closest U.S. allies will cash in on short-term interests rather than stand firm.


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