moon of alabama

In The Multipolar World Iran Will No Longer Fear US Sanctions
Moon of Alabama, Jul 19 2022

When Biden recently held a number of talks in the Middle East Iran was one point on his agenda. The US has made it clear that it does not want to reenter into the nuclear deal with Iran. It is instead again attempting a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy to pressure Iran into additional concessions. Iran has made it clear that there will not be any more then those it had made in the original agreement. Biden then tried to form an anti-Iran coalition out of Israel and the Gulf regimes. The GCC states rejected that:

The Saudi foreign minister poured cold water over any imminent normalization with Israel, saying this was not a precursor to further steps. He said Riyadh was not part of any discussions on a Gulf-Israeli defense alliance to counter Iran.

All GCC are talking with Iran to normalize their relations. Iran will benefit from the new multi-polar world. It has been seeking to ally itself with the Russia and China block with added relations to a neutral India. Last year Iran became a full member of the SCO. This year it applied for membership in BRICS. Last month, Iran’s foreign minister visited India:

Amir-Abdollahian also called on Indian PM Narendra Modi, a privilege not accorded to all visiting foreign ministers. Tweeting on the meeting, Modi highlighted how “relations have mutually benefitted both the countries and have promoted regional security and prosperity.” The official statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs highlighted the exchange of views on important issues like the Iran nuclear deal, the Ukraine conflict, and the situation in Afghanistan. India “appreciated the role of Iran in facilitating India’s medical assistance to Afghanistan, including supply of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghan nationals residing in Iran.” In addition, all bilateral issues including cooperation in the field of regional connectivity and the progress made at the Chabahar port were reviewed. Exuding confidence at the outcome of the visit, the Iranian foreign minister said: “Preparing a roadmap for strategic cooperation between Iran and India can regulate long-term relations and protect it from the impact of destructive factors.”

A few months ago, Iran signed a new transport agreement with its northern neighbor Azerbaijan. It will be good for both sides:

On Mar 11, Azerbaijan and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing railway, highway, communication and energy supply lines connecting Azerbaijan’s East Zangezur economic region and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Iran. According to the document, there is a plan to build four bridges over the Araz River and two railways and develop communication and energy supply infrastructure to establish a new corridor.

The better relations with Azerbaijan will also open a rail corridor towards Russia. Another new trade route was finally opened to connect India via Iran with Russia.

This project has been on and off for many years but this month it was finally activated:

An India-bound cargo sent from Russia using the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) reached the Sarkhas railway station in Iran on Jul 13. From the railway station, the cargo will go to Bandar Abbas port in southern India and then come to India via the Arabian Sea. The cargo left Chekhov station in Russia on Jul 6 and it was received by a team of Iranian ministers. INSTC is a 7,200 km-long transportation network offering the shortest connectivity route to its member states. It was established on Sep 12 2000 by Iran, Russia and India. The corridor encompasses sea, road and rail routes. The main purpose of the corridor was to reduce carriage costs and transit time between India and Russia. The transit time is expected to reduce to almost half, once the corridor becomes fully functional.

In future the route will go from India to Chabahar, a port in south east Iran that India had helped to build. From there the goods will go by rail up north to the Caspian Sea and then by ship directly to Russia. This will shorten the route even more and will also end any dependency on other partners. But the greatest news for Iran is a new deal with Russia’s Gazprom that was signed today:

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Russian gas producer Gazprom signed on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding worth around $40b, Iran’s oil ministry reported. The deal was signed during an online ceremony by the CEOs of both companies on the day Putin arrived in Tehran for a summit with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts. Gazprom will help NIOC in the development of the Kish and North Pars gas fields and also six oil fields. Gazprom will also be involved in the completion of liquefied natural gas projects and construction of gas export pipelines. Iran sits on the world’s second-largest gas reserves after Russia, but US sanctions have hindered access to technology and slowed development of gas exports.

Gazprom is a strong partner and cannot be hindered by US sanctions. Iran will finally be able export more of its plentiful gas. Russia will also have a chance to work with Iran to keep the prices at a certain level. With such a large deal will also come protection. Iran will be able to call on Russia should someone start hostilities against it. When Iran produces enough gas it can also revive the old project of a pipeline to India. This could either go through Pakistan or, as India would probably prefer, through an undersea pipeline:

A 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran, avoiding Pakistani waters, can bring natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India at rates less than the price of Liquefied Natural Gas available in the spot market, proponents of the pipeline said on Tuesday. Releasing a study on the Iran-India gas pipeline, former oil secretary TNR Rao said natural gas imported through the over-$4b line would cost $5 to $5.50/MBTU at the Indian coast, cheaper than the rate at which some of the domestic fields supply gas.

Despite US sanctions, Iran is again becoming fully integrated into its region. It is a great success and the gas and transit deals will help its economy to make some gains even as the US adds new sanctions. Russia, India and China are partners who can and will ignore those. Iran now also has the capability to produce sufficient nuclear material for a number of bombs. It will not use this capability as its religious ideology prohibits the making and use of such weapons. But it is a latent threat that can be used to deter Israel and the US from any attack. That Trump left the nuclear deal was dumb. That Biden did not revive it immediately after taking office was even dumber. To now stay out of it, only to keep some stupid sanctions against IRGC, is the dumbest step I can think of. Washington has yet to understand that it has lost its mono-polar position that made the international sanctions which led to the nuclear deal with Iran possible. In the multi-polar world that exists now Iran can develop as it likes. Others will now ignore US or EU sanctions and the threat of them is no longer useful. More countries under US isolation, Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and Syria, will also find new ways and alliances to better their positions. In his book The Great Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzeziński wrote:

Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.

Biden has finally managed to create that.

When You Lack Real News, Just Rewrite Yesterday’s Story
Moon of Alabama, Jul 19 2022

Diligently reading the news every day makes one perceptible for subtile changes. Often they are edits in pieces that have been published but then appear rewritten in the same place a few hours later. That seems to be a rather normal occurrence and is fair as long as the factual descriptions and their interpretation don’t change. But these are weird:

On Donetsk’s front line, small gains and losses impose a heavy toll
Carlotta Gall, NYT, Jul 17 2022

DONETSK PROVINCE, Ukraine — Red flames crackled in the golden wheat field, the target of Russian artillery just minutes earlier. Nearby, the commander of a Ukrainian frontline unit was finishing his lunch of pasta from a tin bowl. As more incoming shells exploded in the fields, his men took cover in their bunkers…

Compare:

On Donetsk’s front line, small gains and losses impose a heavy toll
Carlotta Gall, NYT, Jul 18 2022

In the grinding battle for eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Province, Russia has intensified attacks on the next line of cities that stand in their sights, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut among others…

Both pieces are linked on the current ‘World’ page of the NYT website. The URLs of both pieces, one published on Jul 17 and one on Jul 18, are different as are their opening paragraphs, but the rest is rewritten, edited and slightly updated but content-wise pretty much the same. On Jul 17:

Almost everyone in a volunteer unit guarding the area had suffered a concussion in recent weeks, said one soldier, Oksana, 27. She and her husband were training as criminal lawyers before the democracy protests of 2013 and joined up to fight in 2014 when Russia first annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists seized power in eastern Ukraine. The unit successfully blocked a Russian attack at the end of June, said her husband, Stanislav, 35, who was commander of a forward defensive position. “Early morning I had 33 people. By early evening I had lost 19. It was very hard. Tthey were firing on our positions non-stop for six hours.” Twice Russian tanks tried to flank their positions, but they spotted them and trained artillery fire on them, forcing the Russians back, he said.

On Jul 18:

Almost everyone in a volunteer unit guarding the area had suffered a concussion in recent weeks, said one soldier, Oksana, 27. The unit successfully blocked a Russian attack at the end of June, said her husband, Stanislav, 35, who was commander of a forward defensive position. “Early morning I had 33 people. By early evening I had lost 19. It was very hard. They were firing on our positions non-stop for six hours.”

Some passages of both piece differ from each other, but there is a very significant overlap of the reported anecdotes that have only been slightly rewritten. I don’t know how others feel about this, but if they want me to pay for ‘news’ in whatever form, I want it to be news, not a rewrite of yesterday’s story. I have been reading the NYT’s World page for the last 20 years, but have never noticed something like this. A ‘new’ rewrite published under the same headline a day after the original story went up? Why? The paper may have done this for its lack of real news from the Ukraine. It seems to have only one reporter in the field. Others, like Megan Specia from London or Jane Arraf from Baghdad, have been flying in and out of Lviv or Kiev, the first being the ideological center of the Banderites in west Ukraine, delivering largely irrelevant stories. There is no NYT reporter in the Donetzk or Luhansk Republics reporting on the other side of the war. There is some real news about the Ukraine, not exactly new but still news. But it is not the stuff the NYT would like you to know about.

The Biden family business in the Ukraine is really something some of the larger mainstream media, not just Trump affiliates, should have been digging into. It is remarkable how their ideological blinders keep them away from doing that. By the way: today, the word ‘Trump’ appears nine times on the NYT front page, ‘Ukraine’ appears five times. And what about this?

Zelensky replaced his childhood friend Ivan Bakanov as head of the SBU with Vasily Malyuk, who is said to be a man of former president Poroshenko. Will Poroshenko be back and replace Zelensky after the now rumored-of coup finally happens? Do not expect the mainstream media to report on it.

Three Other Writers With Thoughts On Ukraine
Moon of Alabama, Jul 18 2022

Today I will point to three other writers with current thoughts around the war in Ukraine. First up:

Ukraine War Day #145: Zelensky Surrounded By Traitors And Spies
Yelensis, Awful Avalanche, Jul 18 2022

The big news coming out of the Ukraine this past weekend: Zelensky has fired his Prosecutor-General Irina Venediktova, and also the head of the SBU (Security Agency, successor to Soviet KGB), a man named Ivan Bakanov. Both of whom used to be tight members of Zelensky’s inner circle, especially the latter. … I love the way Zel just casually tossed that out, about Ukie security forces routinely chatting with Russian military intelligence. Russophile blogosphere having a field day, natch! Maria Zakharova trolled Zelensky on Twitter, calling these dismissals “effective de-Nazification” on Zelensky’s part. Other bloggers have compared Zelensky to Stalin, in his paranoia starting to turn against his inner circle. However, to me it doesn’t even seem like paranoia, I think these Ukrainian agencies probably are riddled with Russian spies. Ukrainian government officials are so corrupt, they would do literally anything for money.

With some 35k people on staff the SBU is as big as the FBI but controls a 90% smaller population. Next to internal security it is also tasked with fighting economic crimes. It is brutal, utterly corrupt and filled with Russian spies and has been so since the Ukraine became on independent nation. The only correct but dangerous move would be to dissolve it. With Zel’s inner circle falling apart the clock for his own demise is only ticking faster. Second up:

Russia’s Campaign in Ukraine: Nearing an Inflection Point?
Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, Jul 17 2022

Speculation among Western sources that read Russian or have good Russian contacts (see here as an example) is that Russia will pause after it has secured Donbass and will deliver its conditions for a peace to Ukraine. These are certain to be unacceptable since the bare minimum ask will be conceding the loss of Donbass and Crimea (and let us not forget neutrality and denazification too). The West of course will flatly reject it. That’s fine by Russia since it would not trust any deal with Ukraine or the West as far as it could throw it. The point of this offer at the point of securing the first objective of the Special Military Operation is to play to China, India, the global South, and secondarily to the more cautious and war-averse members of the Russian citizenry, that Russia going beyond the narrowest implementation of the SMO was not due to Russia wanting to take more territory, but being forced to do so to achieve its additional goals of demilitarization and denazificaition. If Ukraine and its allies won’t do so voluntarily, Russia will by force.

It was actually the Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić, who has good relations with Russia and was surely told to transmit this message, who said that Russia will make a peace offer and that the west will likely reject it. Izvestia quotes the Serbian leader as saying on Jul 14:

I know what awaits us. As soon as Vladimir Putin finishes business in Sieversk, Bakhmut and Soledar, and then on the second line Sloviansk-Kramatorsk-Avdeevka, his proposal will follow. If they don’t accept it, and they don’t intend to, we will go to hell.

So Russia will continue. Yves Smith concludes:

My belief is still that Russia will give priority to taking Odessa unless there are logistical considerations that argue against that. The Ukraine military is so close to collapse that Russian forces going to Odessa sooner rather than later is a real possibility. It’s the psychologically most important target for the Russian people, and economically more valuable than Kiev. The West would recognize that Russia getting control of what was Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast as an enormous loss. I suspect what Russia decides to do with or about Ukraine to the west of the Dnieper is event dependent. However, the West has decided to tie itself even more tightly to the Ukraine albatross. I had said to Lambert that it was not impossible for Russia to have decisively won (as in taken Odessa) by sometime in October, but even with the Western forces clearly unable to rout Russia, that Europe and the US would keep its citizens cold and hungry this winter just to spite Russia.

West of the Dnieper lies Kryvyi_Rih the mineral wealth of which was developed under Russian and then Soviet control. It has always had a symbiotic relationship with the heavy industry in the Donbas region. It is probably even more valuable than Odessa. Except for the last 30 some years Kryvyi Rih had been under Russian control since 1775. It is about 100 km north-east of Nikolayev and only 40 km from the current front-line. This map may reflect the Russian thinking of a future borderline in southern Ukraine.

The last point Smith makes is important. Yes, the ‘west’ is likely to continue its suicidal sanctions even when Russia stops the war and offers peace. It is US pressure on the Europeans that will keep the sanctions going. On Feb 7, before the war started, Michael Hudson pointed out that the real target of the US instigation of a war in Ukraine is Germany:

The threat to US dominance is that China, Russia and Mackinder’s Eurasian World Island heartland are offering better trade and investment opportunities than are available from the US with its increasingly desperate demand for sacrifices from its NATO and other allies. The most glaring example is the US drive to block Germany from authorizing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to obtain Russian gas for the coming cold weather. Angela Merkel agreed with Donald Trump to spend $1b building a new LNG port to become more dependent on highly priced US LNG. (The plan was cancelled after the US and German elections changed both leaders.) But Germany has no other way of heating many of its houses and office buildings (or supplying its fertilizer companies) than with Russian gas. The only way left for US diplomats to block European purchases is to goad Russia into a military response and then claim that avenging this response outweighs any purely national economic interest. As hawkish Under-Sec State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland explained in a State Dept press briefing on Jan 27: “If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” The problem is to create a suitably offensive incident and depict Russia as the aggressor.

The current German government is more or less under US control. I will need to be changed before the sanction nonsense can stop. A ‘winter of discontent’) will probably do that. Third up:

Operation Z – Don’t Interrupt
Helmholtz Smith, SONAR, Jul 17 2022

One of Napoleon’s observations is that you should never interrupt your enemies when they are making a mistake. Russians know this, not least because they were careful not to interrupt Napoleon himself in 1812. Putin and his team have had plenty of opportunities to meet NATO’s leaders, observe them, negotiate with them and assess them. It’s unlikely they’re very impressed. But when they started their “special military operation” in Ukraine they could never have dreamed how self-destructive NATO would be. What mistakes? First, the West has not shot itself in the foot with its economic sanctions. Hungary’s Viktor Orban is right when he observes that it has put a slug into its lungs. One can still limp along with a broken foot, but a shot to the lungs is pretty serious. Second, who in Moscow could have imagined that NATO would shovel its ammunition and weapons stockpiles into the Ukrainian black hole in the expectation that if they can get the latest wonderwaffe to General Steiner they’ll be in Moscow by Christmas. A good reason for Moscow to take it slowly: let the mistakes develop, compound and metastasize. It’s happening by itself. Naturally, inevitably, logically. No outside effort required. An unexpected bonus. … Even The Economist has noticed, in Europe’s winter of discontent. It still thinks that it’s Putin that put the double-tap into the lung though. But it is The Economist which has done its bit to bring us to this point. Why would Moscow want this to end any time soon? Time is working and the enemy is making lots of mistakes.

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