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August 08, 2019

No, There Will Be No Russian Base In Iran

A somewhat weird report published at Oilprice.com claims that Russia will station troops, ships and fighter jets in Iran. The piece was reproduced at Yahoo.com and Zerohedge even as it is obviously bonkers.

The headline: Russia Gains Stranglehold Over Persian Gulf:

In a potentially catastrophic escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, Russia plans to use Iran’s ports in Bandar-e-Bushehr and Chabahar as forward military bases for warships and nuclear submarines, guarded by hundreds of Special Forces troops under the guise of ‘military advisers’, and an airbase near Bandar-e-Bushehr as a hub for 35 Sukhoi Su-57 fighter planes OilPrice.com has exclusively been told by senior sources close to the Iranian regime. The next round of joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz will mark the onset of this in-situ military expansion in Iran, as the Russian ships involved will be allowed by Iran to use the facilities in Bandar-e-Bushehr and Chabahar. Depending on the practical strength of domestic and international reaction to this, these ships and Spetsntaz will remain in place and will be expanded in numbers over the next 50 years.

Where to start?

1. The Persian Gulf is a lake with an average(!) depth of less than 50 meter. It is a place where one might use small and nimble midget submarines. But no one serious will put a nuclear submarines there.

2. Sukhoi Su-57 fighter planes have yet to be built. Those currently flying are test planes which still lack the required new engines. Russia recently ordered the first batch of Su-57 but the first deliveries will only be in 2022-24. 35 of these planes may be available in a decade or  so. When they are they will protect mother Russia from NATO and not some Iranian oil wells.

3. Spetsnaz (not Spetsntaz) are expensively trained special forces. They do not do guard duty for bases.

4. Iran's constitution (pdf) does not allow the stationing of foreign troops. Article 146 is pretty clear about that:

The establishment of any kind of foreign military base in Iran, even for peaceful purposes, is forbidden.

In August 2016 the Russian and Iranian military agreed to to set up a logistic base in Hamedan, Iran, for the Su-22M3 bombers used over Syria. A few days after the deployment became publicly known the agreement was shunned:

On 22 August, Tehran called a halt to the military cooperation and barred the Russians from using its bases. One reason for this surprising turn of events is the political tussle in Iran where Defence Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan was accused of ‘disrespecting parliament’ and of violating the country’s constitution.

5. The "next round of joint military exercises" between Iran and Russia in the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz will be the very first one. It required a special agreement. That is why it made news:

MOSCOW, August 5. /TASS/. Tehran expects to hold joint naval drills with Russia this year and preparations for the maneuvers will begin soon, Iranian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Monday.

"Earlier, we signed an agreement [on joint exercises] with Russia’s Armed Forces and the Russian Fleet’s command. Soon the preparations and maneuvers’ planning will start and they will be carried out this year," Khanzadi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.
...
In late July, the Iranian Navy commander paid a visit to Russia. He told the IRNA news agency that Russian-Iranian drills could soon be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including in the Strait of Hormuz.

An "expert on Iran-Russia relations" remarked:

Ariane Tabatabai @ArianeTabatabai - 21:34 UTC · Aug 5, 2019

Iranian media are reporting that #Iran and #Russia have signed a military cooperation agreement.

The details of the agreement aren't public but this is the first time such an agreement has been concluded by the two countries.

It is the "first time such an agreement" was signed only when one ignores the Joint Military Cooperation Agreement between Russia and Iran signed in January 2015 as well as the one found in August 2017. The new agreement is only the first in that it regulates joint exercises.

It seems that "experts" working for western think tanks and random authors with mysterious "senior sources close to the Iranian regime" are not the best informed people when it comes to Iran.

Each of the five points above demonstrate that the report is nonsense and that its author is not the least familiar with military and strategic issues. It is no wonder then that the rest of the Oilprice piece is a shoddy as its first paragraph. Mysterious sources who are bad mouthing Iran, half baked knowledge of facts and speculative interpretations of those do not make a reliable story.

Iran and Russia had at times difficult relations. In 2010 then President Medvedev signed on to the U.S. driven UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. The relations went cold after that. The intense military cooperation between both countries during the war on Syria revived them. But the relations are certainly not deep enough to allow for a Russian base in Iran.

Iran needs weapons and Russia likes to sell those. That is about it. There may be some common maneuvers but those are symbolic and do not constitute an alliance. Iran is very proud of its independence and its parliament would not agree to one while Russia is not interested in overextending itself. Only a U.S. attack on Iran could change that. 

It is easy to get the issue right. One simply has to ask: A Russian base in the Persian Gulf? What for?

Posted by b on August 8, 2019 at 15:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (76)

August 07, 2019

Open Thread 2019-46

I got nothing ...

Posted by b on August 7, 2019 at 17:44 UTC | Permalink | Comments (295)

August 06, 2019

China Considers Protecting Its Ships From ... U.S. Piracy

Will China join the U.S. led 'coalition' to escort ships through the Strait of Hormuz?

It sounds unlikely but this Reuters piece claims that China is thinking about it:

China might escort ships in Gulf under U.S. proposal: envoy:

China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a U.S. proposal for a maritime coalition to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.

“If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels,” Ambassador Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

“We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements,” China’s embassy later said in a text message.
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President Donald Trump said in a June 24 tweet that China, Japan and other countries “should be protecting their own ships” in the Gulf region, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

It was not clear if Washington had made an official request to Beijing, which has had to tread softly in the Middle East due to its close energy ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

So far it is only Britain which will go with the U.S. plans. France, Germany and other 'allies' rejected U.S. request to join the mission.

Reuters seems to misunderstand what the Chinese ambassador really said.

The message is in two parts: "we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels" and "We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements." The Chinese embassy made no connection between the two statements.

It is not in China's interest to join the anti-Iran 'coalition' the U.S. wants to build. But it is in China's interest to protect its commercial ships. But it is not Iran that might endanger them. It is also in China's interest to study the plans the U.S. has. If only to counter them when necessary.

China continues to buy Iranian oil. The New York Times just made big, hostile weekend splash about it:

China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, defying sanctions imposed by the United States to choke off Tehran’s main source of income, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
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The Trump administration is starting to intensify sanctions enforcement to try to end the exports to China, which continues to be the largest buyer of Iranian oil. On July 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against Zhuhai Zhenrong, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, and its top executive, Li Youmin, for “violating U.S. restrictions on Iran’s oil sector.”
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“While I’m glad the administration sanctioned an initial round of Chinese actors, it must step up strong enforcement to deter Chinese and other foreign actors from violating U.S. sanctions against Iran,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “The Iranian regime has blatantly shipped millions of barrels of oil to China.”

To really tighten the screws on China, the Trump administration would need to punish the People’s Bank of China or other Chinese banks that engage in transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, Mr. Nephew said. The United States could also penalize the energy giant Sinopec, which, like Zhuhai Zhenrong, also imports oil from Iran.

China is unlikely to stop buying preferentially priced oil from Iran at least as long as the current trade war with the U.S. continues to intensify. It is also unlikely to join the U.S. 'coalition'. But it will protect its commercial interest - i.e. its ships that haul goods between Iran and China.

China fears that the U.S. 'coalition' will confront its ships for breaking unilateral U.S. sanctions. The British did just that with the Iranian tanker they pirated at Gibraltar. There is also a historic precedence that demonstrates the necessity to protect Chinese ships against such U.S. schemes:

It is remembered much better in China than it is in the United States, that in 1993 the PRC was the most conspicuous victim of principled US piracy in the matter of the shipping vessel Yinhe.

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The US Navy confronted the Yinhe and forced it to interrupt its voyage and remain at sea for 20 days, until China agreed to proceed to a Saudi port for its 628 containers to be searched for chemical weapons precursors allegedly destined for Iran. Fortunately for China—and to the considerable embarrassment of the United States—the containers were found to contain nothing other than paint.

The United States declined to apologize because it had acted in “good faith”, which is apparently another name for “bad intelligence” (though some redfaced US officials privately accused the PRC of conducting a “sting” solely for the purpose of wrongfooting the United States). For its part, the PRC accused the United States of acting like a “self-styled world cop” and the Yinhe became something of a symbol for US double standards whenever the subject of “freedom of navigation” comes up.

For additional interesting details of the Yinhe story see here.

China will not allow a repeat of such action. It knows that the U.S. is increasingly hostile towards it and that it has to prepare for a larger conflict. It assumes that the current trade war is just the start of a much larger military-industrial game plan. As described by Peter Lee:

Decoupling the US economy from China, squeezing China related expectations out of the market, and shifting to a war with China footing insulates the US military from economic and political pressures to pursue a more moderate course in East Asia.

I expect IndoPACOM to agitate for an aggressive program--via its allies in the Philippine military--to confront the PRC over its artificial islands, especially Mischief Reef, in the South China Sea.

These facilities are a major affront to IndoPACOM's manhood and must be removed. And that means war, or something close to it.

Remember, as IndoPACOM jefe Admiral Davidson put it: "China controls the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war."

He's not making these statements to signal American surrender, folks. IndoPACOM is China hawk HQ.
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Between the global economic slowdown and the regional military buildup, I guesstimate the cost of taking on the PRC at a trillion dollars over the next decade.

But like they say, War with China: one trillion dollars. Postponing the loss of US hegemony in the Pacific: priceless.

This U.S. - China confrontation will be with us for at least the next decade. In such a scenario it makes no sense for China to make nice by joining a U.S. 'coalition' that is hostile to its Iranian friends. What it can, and should be ready to do, is to protect its ships from U.S. piracy.

Posted by b on August 6, 2019 at 19:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (114)

August 05, 2019

India Will Come To Regret Today's Annexation Of Jammu And Kashmir

The right-wing nationalist Hindutva government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi just revoked autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. This will create a civil war that could easily evolve into new conflict between the nuclear armed India and Pakistan.


Jamma & Kashmir - bigger

A bit of history is necessary to understand the issue:

At the time of the British withdrawal from India, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the state, preferred to become independent and remain neutral between the successor dominions of India and Pakistan. However, an uprising in the western districts of the State followed by an attack by raiders from the neighbouring Northwest Frontier Province, supported by Pakistan, put an end to his plans for independence. On 26 October 1947, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession joining the Dominion of India in return for military aid. The western and northern districts presently known as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan passed to the control of Pakistan, while the remaining territory became the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir.

The Instrument of Accession was limited to certain issues. It did not dissolve the autonomous state:

The Instrument of Accession signed by then-Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir in October 1947 specified only three subjects on which the state would transfer its powers to the Government of India: foreign affairs, defence and communications. In March 1948, the Maharaja appointed an interim government in the state, with Sheikh Abdullah as the prime minister. The interim government was also tasked with convening a constituent assembly for framing a constitution for the state. In the meantime, the Constituent Assembly of India was conducting its deliberations. In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three colleagues joined the Indian Constituent Assembly and negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370.

This article limited the Union’s legislative power over Kashmir to the three subjects in the Instrument of Accession. If the Union government wanted to extend other provisions of the Indian Constitution, it would have to issue a Presidential Order under Article 370. The state government would have to give prior concurrence to this order. Moreover, the constituent assembly of J&K would have to accept these provisions and incorporate them in the state’s constitution. Once Kashmir’s constitution was framed, there could be no further extension of the Union’s legislative power to the state. This secured J&K’s autonomy.

Incidentally, this was the reason for listing the provisions of Article 370 as “temporary” in the Indian Constitution: the final contours of the state’s constitutional relationship with the Union were to be determined by the constituent assembly of J&K.

Today Amit Shah, the leader of India's Upper House, announced the unilateral revocation of Article 370 (and the related Article 35a).

Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the government has issued a notification in effect scrapping Article 370 from the Indian Constitution. Article 370 of the constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ granting special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Furthermore, the government also ordered the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. While the Union Territory of Ladakh will be without a legislature, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be with a legislature. “We have four bills on Kashmir. We are ready to discuss everything and give answers on everything,” Shah said, amid chaos in Rajya Sabha.

The move created an uproar (vid) in the parliament.

J&K is majority Muslim. It is of strategic importance as the headwaters of Pakistan's main water source, the Indus river system, are situated in J&K's mountains. Pakistani nationalist believe that it should be part of their state.


Jamma & Kashmir - bigger

When the U.S. incited and supported Muslim extremists to attack the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the movement spilled over into Pakistan and J&K. During the 1980s and 90s a Muslim insurgency, supported by Muslim Pakistan, fought against Indian soldiers. Hindu inhabitants of J&K were pushed out. The 12.5 million inhabitants of J&K are since under Indian occupation. Between 500.000 and 700.000 Indian soldiers are stationed in the state. During the last decades the conflict largely ceased and there were recently not big incidents. Up to today Pakistan had no current interest to escalate the issue.

But the fascist Modi government, just recently reelected, needs to feed its radical Hindutva base. J&K's special status protected its inhabitants from overwhelming migration of Hindus from main India. Modi will now push his followers to move into the state. His aim in the end is to create a majority Hindu state in a currently majority Muslim one.

Last week India ordered all tourists to leave J&K. Since yesterday all communication lines to J&K are cut. Local leaders were put under house arrest and all schools and public institutions are closed. Thousand of troops were additionally send into J&K.

It is inevitable that the actions today will lead a new insurgency in J&K and beyond. Even if Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan does not want to support a new guerilla army in J&K, the military and other nationalist Pakistanis will push to supply it with everything that is needed.

This prediction is likely to come true:

1. [..] I feel reasonably comfortable making the following prediction: strictly seen from the perspective of maintaining the current territorial status quo in Kashmir, the Indian state will come to regret this decision within a decade. Even if it holds on to the state in its entirety, it just made its job a lot tougher and costlier. I also think it has opened up wiggle room -- diplomatically and legally -- that did not exist before.

2. Relatedly, I believe no institution is happier today than [Pakistan's Military General Headquarter]. No, not even the RSS or Times Now or Republic TV. Congrats to Modi and Amit Shah for doing more for Pakistan's position than anyone in Pindi could have hoped for. There's a dissertation and a half waiting to be written on popular right wing nationalism at home leading to dumb and overreaching shit abroad (I can think of some recent cases).

3. Anyone in Delhi or DC or on anywhere else who tries to pin this on any "external threat" should never be paid attention to again. Trust me, I'm more than aware of the times when Pakistan's behavior has been key to how India behaves in Kashmir, but this time ain't it.

The Indian Express has live update of the situation. The Dawn from Pakistan also provides live coverage.

Posted by b on August 5, 2019 at 9:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (146)

August 04, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-45

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related:
Some outlets fell for the Israeli propaganda: Tinderbox: Israeli military attacks in Iraq could complicate US strategy in Middle East - AL-Monitor

Related:
Hundreds attack Hong Kong police station after Tseung Kwan O march turns ugly, with police warning they will disperse protesters - SCMP
Riots in multiple parts of the city, disrupting local businesses. Attacks on police stations, Molotov cocktails thrown against police lines ... It seems the rioters are trying for some Maidan style regime change. Not gonna happen. The police is still holding back but that is likely to change soon.

Related:
The UAE tiptoes away from the conflict: Risk of Iran Conflict Forces U.S. Gulf Ally to Rethink Policy - Bloomberg
Trump, via Rand Paul, offer Zarif a sit down in the White House as a way to avoid sanctions against him. Zarif declined. Iran’s Foreign Minister Was Invited to Meet Trump in the Oval Office - New Yorker

Related:
A Raytheon salesman leads the Pentagon: Pentagon Chief in Favor of Deploying U.S. Missiles to Asia - NYT

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Other issues:

Syria:
Last week the Syrian army made some progress in Idleb. Starting Friday there was another cease fire but the terrorists broke it the very same day. The intense bombing campaign (vids, English subs) against them will thus continue.
Asma Al-Assad defeated her breast cancer. She gave an interview to Syrian TV: Video with English subs.

737 MAX:
Boeing's Killer Planes - vid, BBC Panorma
Newly stringent FAA tests spur a fundamental software redesign of Boeing’s 737 MAX flight controls - Seattle Times

Gun control:
It's the 215th day of the year. There have been 251 mass shootings in the United States this year. Just imagine what the media would write had those happened in Russia.

Russiagate:
US federal court exposes Democratic Party conspiracy against Assange and WikiLeaks - WSWS

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on August 4, 2019 at 12:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (204)

August 03, 2019

Why The End Of The INF Treaty Will Not Start A New Arms Race

Yesterday the U.S. left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The end of this and other treaties that eliminated or restricted the deployment of nuclear systems is seen by some as the beginning of a news arms race:

William J. Perry - @SecDef19 - 7:37 PM · Aug 2, 2019

The U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty today deals a great blow to nuclear arms control and global security, we are sleepwalking into a new arms race.

The former Secretary of Defense is wrong. The race will not happen because Russia (and China) won't run. Or said differently, they already won.

To understand why that is the case we have to look at the history of the nuclear treaties and their demise.

In 1976 the Soviet Union started to deploy nuclear armed SS-20 (RSD-10 Pioneer) intermediate range missiles in Europe. The west-Europeans, especially Germany, feared that these missiles would decouple the U.S. from western Europe. The Soviet Union might tell the U.S. that it would not use its intercontinental nuclear missiles against the U.S. mainland as long as the U.S. would not fire its intercontinental missiles into the Soviet Union. It could then use the SS-20 to attack NATO in Europe while the U.S. would refrain from nuclear counter strikes on the Soviet Union. Europe would become a nuclear battle field while the U.S. and the Soviet Union would be left untouched.

The German chancellor Helmut Schmidt urged the U.S. to station nuclear armed intermediate range missiles in western Europe to press the Soviets to eliminate the SS-20. In 1979 NATO made the double track decision. It would deploy U.S. made Pershing II missiles in Europe and at the same time offer the Soviet Union a treaty to ban all such intermediate range weapons. The effort was successful.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (later Russia) banned all of the two countries' land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310-3,420 mi). All SS-20 and Pershing II missiles were withdrawn and destroyed. A nuclear war in Europe became less likely.

Another successful treaty was the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It prohibited both sides from deploying more than one ABM system. It was necessary because the side that thought it had a working anti-ballistic missile defense could launch a massive first strike on the other side, destroy most of its forces, and defend itself against the smaller retaliation strike that would follow. Both sides were better off with prohibiting ABM in general and to rely on Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) for the prevention of a nuclear war.

In June 2002 U.S. President George W. Bush, under the influence of one John Bolton, withdrew from the ABM treaty which led to its termination. The U.S. deployed ABM system in Alaska and California but during tests the systems proved to be unreliable.

The U.S. claimed at that time that ABM was needed to defend against nuclear missiles from North Korea and Iran. That was always obvious nonsense. At that time North Korea had no missile that could reach the United States and Iran has no nukes and limits the range of its missiles to 2,000 kilometer.

Russia saw the U.S. step as an attempt to achieve a first strike capability against it. It immediately started the development of new system that would make the U.S. anti-missile defense irrelevant.

The U.S. also pressed NATO to deploy ABM systems in Europe. Iran was again cited as the main danger. Plans were developed to deploy Patriot and THAAD anti-missile system in Poland and Romania. These did not immediately endanger Russia. But in 2009 President Obama canceled the deployment and came up with a more devilish plan. The AEGIS system used on many U.S. war ships would be converted into a land based version and deployed in an alleged ABM role. AEGIS consist of radar, a battle management system and canister missiles launchers. The big issue is that these canisters can contain very different types of missiles. While the Standard Missile-2 or 3 can be launched from those canisters in an ABM role, the very same canisters can also hold nuclear armed cruise missile with a range of 2,400 kilometer.

Russia had no means to detect which type of missiles the U.S. would deploy on these sites. It had to assume that nuclear intermediate range nuclear missiles will be in those canisters. In 2016 the U.S. activated the first of these AEGIS ashore systems in Romania. It was that step that broke the INF treaty.

That Obama had earlier signed a nuclear agreement with Iran that made sure that Iran would never build nukes made it obvious that Russia is the one and only target of those system:

During a visit to Greece intended to repair ties with the EU, Vladimir Putin said that Russia has “no choice” but to target Romania, which has recently opened a NATO missile defense base, and Poland, which plans to do so within two years.

“If yesterday people simply did not know what it means to be in the crosshairs in those areas of Romania, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security. And it will be the same with Poland,” Putin said during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Friday.
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“At the moment the interceptor missiles installed have a range of 500 kilometers, soon this will go up to 1000 kilometers, and worse than that, they can be rearmed with 2400km-range offensive missiles even today, and it can be done by simply switching the software, so that even the Romanians themselves won’t know,” said Putin, who is in Greece for a two-day tour.

Russia urged the U.S. to negotiate about the issue but the U.S. rejected that. A year after the U.S. deployed its system in Romania it alleged that Russia itself was in breach of the INF treaty. It claimed that Russia deployed the 9M729 missile, an extended range version of a previous missile, with a range that exceeds the limits of the INF treaty. Russia says that the missile is just a technical upgrade of an older one and has a maximum range below 500 kilometers. The U.S. never provided evidence for its claim.

In January 2019 the U.S. rejected a Russian offer to inspect the new Russian missile and started to pull out of the INF treaty. It gave a six month notice on February 2 and yesterday the INF treaty terminated.

Neither the New York Times obituary of the treaty nor the CNN write-up mention the ABM system in Romania and Poland that were the first to breach of the treaty. Both repeat the unproven claim that Russia deployed new intermediate range systems as fact.

The Europeans in NATO are not happy about the treaty's end:

The official demise of a landmark arms control pact between the US and Russia is a "bad day" for stability in Europe, the military alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Friday, hours after the US withdrew from the pact.

Speaking to CNN's Hala Gorani, the Norwegian politician called the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Moscow a "serious setback."

"I'm part of a political generation that was shaped during the 1980s, where we all were concerned for the risk of nuclear war and where we were actually able to reach the INF treaty that didn't only reduce the missiles but banned all intermediate range missiles and weapons," he said.

Stoltenberg went on to blame Russia without mentioning the fake U.S. "ABM" sites in Romania and Poland.

It was John Bolton who was behind the demise of the ABM treaty and it was John Bolton who convinced Trump to terminate the INF treaty. With Bolton in the lead the New Start treaty, which limits intercontinental systems but ends in 2021, will likely not be renewed. Soon the whole system of treaties that limited U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and delivery means will be gone.

Why is the U.S. so eager to end all these? It is known John Bolton hates anything that restricts the U.S., but there is also a larger strategy behind it. The U.S. believes that it defeated the Soviet Union by creating an arms race that the Soviets lost. It hopes that it can do the same with a recalcitrant Russia. But that calculation is wrong. President Putin has long said that Russia will not fall for it:

Moscow will not engage in an exhausting arms race, and the country’s military spending will gradually decrease as Russia does not seek a role as the “world gendarme,” President Vladimir Putin said.

Moscow is not seeking to get involved in a “pointless” new arms race, and will stick to “smart decisions” to strengthen its defensive capabilities, Putin said on Friday during an annual extended meeting of the Defense Ministry board.

As Patrick Armstrong explains well:

Putin & Co have learned: Russia has no World-Historical purpose and its military is just for Russia. They understand what this means for Russia's Armed Forces:

Moscow doesn't have to match the US military; it just has to checkmate it.

And it doesn't have to checkmate it everywhere, only at home. The US Air Force can rampage anywhere but not in Russia's airspace; the US Navy can go anywhere but not in Russia's waters. It's a much simpler job and it costs much less than what Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev were attempting; it's much easier to achieve; it's easier to plan and carry out. The exceptionalist/interventionist has to plan for Everything; the nationalist for One Thing.

Russia already has all the weapons it needs to defend itself. U.S. warfare depends on satellite communication, air superiority and missiles. But Russia's air defense and electronic warfare systems are first class. They demonstrated in Syria that their capabilities exceed any U.S. systems.

When the U.S. left the ABM treaty Russia started to develop new weapons. In 2018 it was ready and demonstrated weapon systems that defeat any ABM system. The U.S. can not longer achieve first strike capability against Russia no matter how many ABM systems and nukes it deploys. There is no defense against hypersonic systems, nuclear torpedoes or nuclear powered cruise missiles with unlimited reach.

If the U.S. wants to start a new arms race with Russia or China it will be the only one to run. It will have to run fast to catch up.

Unlike the U.S. neither Russia nor China try to achieve world wide hegemony. They only have the need to defend their realm. The U.S. threat against both of them made them allies. If China needs more defense capabilities Russia will be happy to provide these. A U.S. nuclear attack against either of them, from Europe, Japan or the U.S. itself, will be responded to with a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland. As the U.S. has no ability to defend itself from the new Russian systems it will continue to be deterred.

Posted by b on August 3, 2019 at 18:55 UTC | Permalink | Comments (121)

August 02, 2019

Open Thread 2019-44

(Your host is busy ..)

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 2, 2019 at 17:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (148)

August 01, 2019

State Department Issues Manipulated Photo As B-Team Pushes Trump Towards War On Iran

An old propaganda trick is to paint one's enemies in darker colors than oneself.

Carl Zha @CarlZha - 1:25 UTC · Jul 31, 2019

Dark skinned Hong Kong cops vs white skinned Hong Kong protesters 👇🏼

I completely missed it, but someone pointed out pro-protesters Graphic designer DDED comics depicted “baddies” HK cops and white shirts in Yuen Long as dark skinned while Hong Kong protesters light skinned


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Also note the blond/black hair colors used which of course contradict the physiognomic realities of the people in Hong Kong. One wonders which U.S. color-revolution workshop gave the protesters graphic designers such racist ideas. Such manipulative us-them graphics are despicable propaganda.

But it is even more malign when the U.S. State Department openly engages in such tactics and manipulates original photos to achieve a similar effect:

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 22:45 UTC · Jul 31, 2019

Recently, President @realDonaldTrump sanctioned Iran’s Supreme Leader, who enriched himself at the expense of the Iranian people. Today, the U.S. designated his chief apologist @JZarif. He’s just as complicit in the regime’s outlaw behavior as the rest of @khamenei_ir’s mafia.


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A screenshot of the original tweet and attached graphic.

A reverse image search via Tineye.com finds that the original picture used in the above graphic was first published by the Seattle Times on June 10. It is the second one in the gallery above this piece. In that picture Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is listening to a journalist's question. It is the only picture in the series in which Zarif is not smiling:


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The caption of the whole series is:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas after their talks in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 10, 2019. [...] (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The AP picture and Pompeo's tweet graphics cut for the same detail and size:


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Same as above with the color saturation in the second picture set to zero:


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It is obvious that the picture Pompeo distributed was artificially darkened to make Zarif look more "devilish". The background was manipulated to make it look like a rough unpainted wall. Additionally a vignette was added to put a dark halo around Zarif's head.

The given reasons for the sanction against Iran's foreign minister are laughable. A press statement by Pompeo says:

Today, the United States designated the Iranian regime’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has acted on behalf of the Supreme Leader.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry is not merely the diplomatic arm of the Islamic Republic but also a means of advancing many of the Supreme Leader’s destabilizing policies. Foreign Minister Zarif and the Foreign Ministry he runs take their direction from the Supreme Leader and his office. Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality.

The U.S. Treasury put Zarif on its Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List:

Collectively, such individuals and companies are called "Specially Designated Nationals" or "SDNs." Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

Despite the new sanctions Zarif is still on Twitter. This is likely to change soon as Twitter will now have to block him:

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 22:33 UTC · Jul 31, 2019

The US' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's "primary spokesperson around the world"
Is the truth really that painful?
It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran.
Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 1:23 UTC · Aug 1, 2019

We know that calling for dialog & peace is an existential threat to #B_Team.
And since reason for designating me is my words, would "US persons" need OFAC license to "engage" with me by reading my writings or listening to interviews?

cc: @stevenmnuchin1
cc: @SecPompeo
cc: @jack

The B-team members are John Bolton, the Saudi clown prince Bin Salman, UAE sheik Bin Zayed and "Bibi" Netanyahoo.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called the U.S. behavior "childish".

The stupid sanctions against Zarif were introduced to divert public attention from the fact that the Trump administration did not dare to eliminate sanction waivers for the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran and for other civil nuclear activity. Iran would respond to the elimination of those waivers by increasing its own enrichment and fuel production:

Even as the White House unveiled the sanctions against Zarif, it quietly renewed waivers that will allow Iran to continue to receive international assistance for its civilian nuclear projects. Under those waivers, China and other countries are helping Iran transform Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure they cannot be used to produce weapons-grade uranium or plutonium.

Iran hawks had lobbied the Trump administration to sanction countries engaged in that work, while critics said it would encourage Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon. The administration's decision to sanction Zarif drew attention away from its waiver of the sanctions, and it could defuse some anger among hardliners who wanted the White House to take a tougher line.

The latest crazy idea the Trump people had was to ask the most hawkish senator to prepare a new Iran deal:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is working in close coordination with senior Trump administration officials who focus on Middle East policy to find an alternative to the Obama administration’s Iran deal, four people with knowledge of the efforts tell The Daily Beast. Part of that effort includes fielding ideas from outside actors, including foreign officials, two of those sources said.

There is no guessing needed who those "foreign officials" are:

It is unclear how far along the team is in crafting a proposal, but Graham did travel to Israel earlier this month to meet with officials about the situation with Iran.

In an interview with The Daily Beast on Wednesday, Graham said he had spoken to Trump about his ideas for a new nuclear deal several times and that the president was contemplating them. The senator said the U.S. should ask the Iranian regime to agree to a so-called 123 Agreement—a key, legally binding commitment that requires countries doing nuclear deals with the U.S. to sign on to nonproliferation standards. The U.S. has entered into those agreements with more than 40 countries.

Graham does not really want to Iran to sign on to the 123 standard. It is a trick he wants to use to pull Europe to the U.S. side:

“I told the president: Put the 123 on the table with the Iranians. Make them say ‘no,’” Graham told The Daily Beast. “I think the Iranians will say no. And I think that will force the Europeans’ hands.”

The U.S. should also require Iran to sign on to the “gold standard,” a pledge not to enrich and reprocess nuclear fuel, Graham said. Enrichment and reprocessing are key steps on the way to a nuclear weapon.

Enrichment and reprocessing are key steps to make ones own nuclear fuel. The U.S. several times sanctioned Iran's purchase of nuclear fuel. The country would be crazy to forever depend on others to provide it.

Graham's idea is stupid. The Europeans would not fall for his cheap trick. The JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, which the Europeans co-signed, expressly recognize Iran's inalienable right to enrich nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Only after the Obama administration conceded that Iran has that right was Iran willing to negotiate that nuclear deal. That position will not change.

Trump seems to really want a deal with Iran. But he has surrounded himself with childish people, Bolton, Pompeo and now even Graham, who all do not want a deal. These folks want war. They want to push Trump into a corner where the only way out for him is to wage war on Iran.

As Trump lacks knowledge of the issue and has no idea of how to make a deal with Iran, their chance of getting him there is quite high.

Posted by b on August 1, 2019 at 18:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (96)