The Saker – thesaker.is Jan 1, 2020 This analysis was written for the Unz Review
The end of the year is often a time of relative calm when the various parties to a conflict take a moment off, even when they declare nothing of the sort publicly (there are, of course, exceptions to this rule of thumb, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979). This year, both the Russians and the USA ended the year in a climax of sorts which we shall look into.
Another rule of thumb says that, “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior”, and this turned out to be very true in both cases: the Russians did more of what they have done all year long, as did the Americans. Specifically:
Uncle Shmuel decided to bomb five bases of the group Kata’ib Hizbullah in Iraq in retaliation for an attack on the K1 U.S. base in Iraq
Defense Minister Shoigu announced that the first regiment of Avangard equipped ICBMs was fully operational and on combat alert.
Let’s take a look at the implications and consequences of these two events.
The U.S. airstrikes on Kata’ib Hizbullah units in Iraq
First, just to clarify, Kata’ib Hizbullah has nothing to do with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The word “Hezbollah/Hizbullah” simply means “party of God” and Kata’ib Hizbullah simply means “Brigades of the Party of God”. Yes, both groups have similar names and they are both Shia. Kata’ib Hizbullah probably aims at becoming an Iraqi version of Hezbollah, and while they even have a similar flag, Kata’ib Hizbullah is neither an offshoot nor creation of Hezbollah. Kata’ib Hizbullah was created as a direct response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq (whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon was blow-back from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon).
This being said, there is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. actions in the Middle-East, and especially the total and abject subservience of the USA to Israel (and when I say “subservience” I am being polite, really) have greatly contributed to facilitating the alliance and cooperation of all Shia factions in the Middle-East. The best example of such cooperation is the support the Yemeni Houthis get from Iran (but “support” is not the same as “proxy”, and Iran had nothing to do with the devastating Houthi counter-strikes against the KSA).
I won’t go into the details of the recent strike, especially since “b” on Moon of Alabama already has done a very good job analyzing it. What I will do is simply suggest an answer to the rhetorical question “b” asks at the end of his analysis: “Yesterday’s attacks guarantee that all U.S. troops will have to leave Iraq and will thereby also lose their supply lines to Syria. One wonders if that was the real intent of those strikes”.
My personal opinion is that Occam’s razor and past events ought to suggest that the most straightforward explanation is much more plausible than any kind of “5d chess” strategy.
Furthermore, far from suggesting that this latest expression of the hatred of the Iraqi people for Uncle Shmuel will result in a withdrawal, we already see the exact opposite happening: not only has the USA announced that it will send another 750 soldiers to Iraq, but it has also announced that another 4’000 troops might also be send to the region, to the immense joy of its Israeli overlords who can’t wait for a US attack on Iran (how nice that the “only democracy in the Middle-East” is always cheering for as much violence and wars as possible).
Does that look like a preparation for withdrawal to you?
Finally, there is also Donald The Great with his usual garden variety of empty threats like this wonderful tweet:
….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
And, sure enough, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quickly replied:
If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, & glory.
If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront & strike them.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020
That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran.
1st: You can’t do anything.
2nd: If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you. https://t.co/hMGOEDwHuY
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020
It sure doesn’t look like anybody in Tehran is taking Trump, or the US, seriously.
And, frankly, why would they?
As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei correctly pointed out – there is nothing much the US can do about what is taking place all over the Middle-East; except, of course, starting a war which the US will most definitely lose (Hollywood inspired delusions of invincibility notwithstanding).
I believe that the U.S. Deep State has no intentions at all of leaving Iraq (or Syria, for that matter). Furthermore, far from being a strike to justify a withdrawal, this strike was aimed at bullying the Iraqi people into submission and acceptance of the lawless and thug-like behavior of the USA in their country. Simply put, Pompeo & Co. did what Uncle Shmuel always does when they do not know what to do: they crudely decided to use brute force with the goal of terrorizing their adversaries into submission.
You might object that this strategy has not worked in decades, and you would be right. But here is the catch: the weaker the AngloZionist Empire looks, the more the Empire feels that it ought to restore its putative ability to terrorize by doubling-down, again and again. This mental block is called, “la fuite en avant” in French, which can be translated as a flight forward: that is what you do when all you can do is what got you into serious trouble in the first place, because:
1. It did work in the past.
2. You don’t have the intellectual capability to imagine any other approach.
3. Because you sincerely believe that violence always solves all problems (as in the German saying “Wenn es mit Gewalt nicht geht, dann geht es mit mehr Gewalt”)
Those familiar with Hegelian dialectics will immediately see what is happening; the Empire is being destroyed from within, as a result of its own internal contradictions and its inability to evolve to a higher level of functioning. This inherent corrosiveness within the Empire does not require an external enemy, it destroys itself due to its very nature.
There are rumors that Trump wants to get rid of Pompeo, but I don’t believe them. Assuming that these rumors are true in the first place, are they linked to the recent air strikes or is this an expression of Trump’s comparative benevolence? Again, I doubt it. Trump is already blaming Iran for the fact that the US embassy in Iraq was attacked by large crowds of US-hating Iraqis.
Finally, and just as pathologically dysfunctional, is the fact that the only “solution” the leaders of the Empire could devise to the current crisis is to send in even more forces to reinforce the huge embassy compound in Baghdad. Obviously, Uncle Shmuel can’t even begin to imagine a strategy not solely predicated on violence.
This clearly shows that the expression, “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results” still fully applies to the rulers of the USA.
Now let’s take a look at how Russia ended the year
Russia deploys the Avangard (and more)
Remember how after Putin’s famous speech, the so-called “Russia specialists” declared that all these weapons did not exist, that they were all just computer animations?
Well, now probably the most exotic and “incredible” weapon mentioned by Putin (the Avangard) is fully operational and on combat duty. The Russians went so far as to show that weapon to US inspectors. Still, there remains a tiny minority which do not believe the “Russian hype”, despite an unambiguous report by the GAO which clearly states that “There are no existing counter-measures” against hypersonic weapons, and who will only admit the existence of these weapon systems if they get vaporized by them. But what do these Russian weapons (especially the Mach 10+ Kinzhal and the Mach 27+ Avangard) mean for the rest of us?
One one hand, this is very good news because it it yet another sign that Russia is now fully prepared for war, including total nuclear war. To put it differently, all the hopes that the U.S. had regarding the development of an ABM system which could stop a Russian counter-strike (following a U.S. attack) are now gone. Not only have the new Russian weapons made the US carrier fleet obsolete, it also made the US ABM plans obsolete too. Thus, in theory, this new reality ought to deter even the craziest folks at the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and White House.
On the other hand, however, this is not good news, because now the U.S. has a factual basis to declared that it feels threatened. Why? Because of the tricky issue of first-strike stability.
I can state categorically that Russia will never deliberately start a war, least of all against the USA (the Russians understand that Russia could never escape a US counter-strike, even if delivered by the comparatively old US nuclear triad), but that is not an assumption the Pentagon’s force planners can make. Simply put, the Avangard + Burevestnik (nuclear powered infinite range cruise missile) combo could seem rather destabilizing from the point of view of what is called first strike stability (for a detailed discussion see here). For the time being, only one ICBM regiment has been outfitted with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles while the Burevestnik is still in the late stages of testing. But we also know that three more regiments are scheduled to receive the Avangard in the near future while the testing and evaluation of the Burevestnik is near completion (in spite of a possible recent accident). Once ready, this missile will probably be deployed in large numbers. Right now U.S. defense planners will have to assume that both systems will be deployed in numbers sufficient to affect the first strike stability between Russia and the USA.
The solution? To hammer out a new strategic arms treaty between the two countries. Alas, at this point in time, the U.S. leaders show no interest in any such treaty. Worse, the New Start Treaty will soon lapse.
I suppose that in the demented political culture of the USA any kind of treaty with Russia is a “sign of weakness” and is therefore “unpatriotic”. Still, first strike stability is one of those things which, along with cooperation in space, self-evidently benefits both nations (not to mention the rest of the planet) and, therefore, almost any strategic arms limitation/reduction would be highly desirable (the one exception to this rule would be a dramatic reduction in the number of deliverable warheads, even by both sides, which would threaten also first strike stability; see here and here for a discussion).
Finally, Russia ended the year by launching the newest Yasen-M-class SSN/SSGN, the Novosibirsk. This class of subs, arguably the most advanced on the planet, can function as both a nuclear attack and a missile attack submarine: it has eight torpedo tubes as well as ten vertical missile launch silos which can launch all sorts of missiles, including hypersonic ones. Most amazingly, it has only 64 crewmen, which suggest an unprecedented level of automation (the latest Virginia-class sub has a crew of 134). The Yasen-M is truly an amazing submarine, the big question now is how many of those Russia will be able to build? Probably not enough to really please the Russian force planners, but probably enough to create yet another major headache for the USN.
What is crucial to understand here is that the Avangard, the Yasen-M and all the other weapons systems Russia has deployed (the Avangards, Zirkons, Bastions, Sarmats, Pereswets, Burevestniks, Poseidons etc. are only the ones discussed in the western media, in reality there are many more) are but the tip of a much bigger iceberg: for the past 5 years or so Russia has been preparing for total war precisely to try to deter the USA from doing something literally “terminally” stupid. Will that be enough to shock the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire out of their delusions or grandeur and invincibility?
I honestly don’t know. I hope that it will. But, frankly, I am not sure. Listening to the likes of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and the rest of these ignorant and self-deluded clowns, not to mention the English language corporate media, I don’t feel very reassured, to put it mildly. Let us pray that the actual deep-state decision makers can still discriminated between feel-good propaganda for the masses and the actual reality out there.
Conclusion: two diametrically opposed approaches to security
Trump is stuck in a position where he has no other choice but to continue to threaten anybody and everybody. This kind of manic aggression towards the entire planet is what passes for “looking presidential” in the current US political doxa. This, at leasts, is not Trump’s fault and it all began a very long time ago (remember Dukakis cruising around in a M-1 tank or Dubya landing on a carrier with “Mission Accomplished” in the background?). Not that I am excusing Trump in any way: no adult leader of a nuclear superpower should even think issuing such silly but nonetheless most dangerous threats towards any other sovereign country, nevermind another nuclear superpower. But let’s be honest here: every single US President starting with Clinton and all his successors was a clown of one kind or another and Trump is probably not the worst of them. As I have said many times, at this point the problem is not the man (or woman) in the White House, it is the entire system which is both terminally dysfunctional and unreformable.
The year 2020 will be dominated by the (frankly treacherous) attempts of the Dems to subvert the US Constitution and overthrow Trump. Like many others, I predict that this will boomerang into the Dems collective face and will yield a landslide victory for Trump (the Democratic Party is at least as unreformable as the US political system). Externally, Trump will probably continue to simultaneously threaten the EU, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Yemen, Lebanon, Venezuela, Mexico, Turkey, etc. and the entire worldwide Muslim community (keep in mind the following stats: there are about 2 billion Muslims out there, and make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world). Basically, the US believes that it can simultaneously threaten, sanction and otherwise bully (or even attack), most of the countries on the planet and prevail. To call this delusional is an understatement.
For Russia 2020 will be an important transition year. This is best illustrated by the compromise deal reached with the EU and the Ukraine on gas: Russia yielded to some of the Ukrainian demands solely in order to show support for the EU which is now slowly showing signs of truly getting fed-up with the endless stream of threats and demands coming from across the Atlantic. You could say that Russia agreed to a tactical concession in order to secure a strategic objective.
The Germans and the French, in particular, seemed to have finally (!) realized that they gained nothing and lost a lot in their subservience to the USA . The Russian plan is quite simple, really: show the EU that Russia has more than enough force to smash any US/NATO/EU attacking force while, at the same time, indicating that Russia is more than willing to cooperate, and even compromise, to establish normal, civilized, relations with Europe. This being said, Russia will only agree to relatively minor compromises, simply because her real priorities, political and economic, are not in the West anymore, but in the South, North and East and, especially, China [quick reminder: the top exports of Russia are crude petroleum ($96.6B), refined petroleum ($58.4B), petroleum gas ($19.8B), coal briquettes ($16.1B) and wheat ($7.93B); the top export destinations of Russia are China ($39.1B), the Netherlands ($27.7B), Germany ($19.9B), Belarus ($18.5B) and the United States ($15.4B).] Yes, the EU is still important to Russia, but not a top priority anymore.
How can all this be summed up?
Well, and paraphrasing a famous quote by Foreign Minister Lavrov, we could say that
the US plan is to turn allies into friends, turn friends into partners, turn partners into neutrals and turn neutrals into enemies and
the Russian plan is to turn enemies into neutrals, turn neutrals into partners, turn partners into friends and turn friends into allies.