Earlier this week, the Washington Times reported that Georgian officials had identified the culprit behind a bomb blast near the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi as Russian. The report was treated with a lot of skepticism, including from this blog, because it relied only on Georgian sources which, to put it mildly, tend to blame Russia first and ask questions later.
But now the Times has taken another crack at the story and reports that a U.S. intelligence report on the event corroborates the Georgian one. ~Joshua Kucera
The new story is here. Like Kucera, I was extremely skeptical of the initial report because of its reliance on Georgian government sources, and because it accepted the government’s claim about the very questionable photographers’ espionage case without question. It appears that Lake’s earlier reporting on the embassy bombing was accurate, and my skepticism was misplaced. My doubts about the photographers’ case remain, and they have only grown in light of the abrupt conclusion to that case. This is the problem inherent in Saakashvili’s obsession with seeing Russian agents everywhere: for every real case of Russian agents operating in Georgia, there are several that seem to be fabricated or politically-motivated.
Kucera goes on to ask some important questions:
So, assuming it’s trustworthy, there are a lot of questions that the Times report on the intelligence report doesn’t answer: at what level was this approved? Was this a rogue agent? Or a rogue agency? (One could imagine that the intelligence agencies would have a vested interest in harming the improving Washington-Moscow relations.) Or did this come from the Kremlin?
Update: Giorgi Lomsadze reports on the aftermath of the photographers’ case.
Second Update: Joshua Foust reminds us that the embassy bombing did not, in fact, involve the bombing of the embassy:
Being skeptical of a Georgian official is not the same as being in love with Vladimir Putin, especially given the political battle in DC between Georgian and Russian interests. But unless major details about the bomb blast have changed, the embassy itself wasn’t bombed, but “a cemetery about 100 meters from the embassy” is what got damaged. That still isn’t good, and if a Russian is indeed responsible that’s pretty damned stupid of them.
But turning that into “RUSSIA BOMBS AMERICAN EMBASSY” is just irresponsible. As is treating this accusation like it’s brand new and never before seen, when Georgia has been pushing it since December.