by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission
Complex doesn’t even begin to describe the positioning of Iran-Russia in the geopolitical chessboard. What’s clear in our current, volatile moment is that they’re partners, as I previously reported. Although not strategic partners, as in the Russia-China tie-up, Russia-China-Iran remain the crucial triad in the ongoing, multi-layered, long-term Eurasia integration process.
A few days after our Asia Times report, an article – based on “senior sources close to the Iranian regime” and crammed with fear-mongering, baseless accusations of corruption and outright ignorance about key military issues – claimed that Russia would turn the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar into forward military bases complete with submarines, Spetsnaz special forces and Su-57 fighter jets, thus applying a “stranglehold” to the Persian Gulf.
For starters, “senior sources close to the Iranian regime” would never reveal such sensitive national-security details, much less to Anglo-American foreign media. In my own case, even though I have made several visits to Iran while consistently reporting on Iran for Asia Times, and even though authorities at myriad levels know where I’m coming from, I have not managed to get answers from Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps generals to 16 detailed questions I sent nearly a month ago. According to my interlocutors, these are deemed “too sensitive” and, yes, a matter of national security.
Predictably, the report was fully debunked. One of my top Tehran sources, asked about its veracity, was blunt: “Absolutely not.” After all, Iran’s constitution decisively forbids foreign troops stationed on national soil. The Majlis – Iranian parliament – would never approve such a move barring an extreme case, as in the follow-up to a US military attack.
As for Russia-Iran military cooperation, the upcoming joint military exercises in the “northern part of the Indian Ocean,” including the Strait of Hormuz, are a first-ever such occasion, made possible only by a special agreement.
Analyst Gennady Nechaev is closer to reality when he notes that in the event of growing Russia-Iran cooperation, the possibility would be open for “permanent basing of the Russian Navy in one of the Iranian ports with the provision of an airfield nearby – the same type of arrangement as Tartus and Hmeimim on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.” To get there, though, would be a long and winding road.
And that brings us to Chabahar, which poses an interesting question. Chabahar is a deep sea port, on the Gulf of Oman and the key plank in India’s mini-Silk Road vision. India invested a lot in Chabahar, to have it connected by highway to Afghanistan and Central Asia and in the future by rail to the Caucasus. All that so India may bypass Pakistan as far as trade routes are concerned.
Chabahar, though, may also become an important node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. India and China – as well as Russia – are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Iran, sooner or later, will also become a full SCO member. Only then the possibility “might” – and the emphasis is on “might” – open for the Russian or Chinese navy occasionally to dock at Chabahar, but still not to use it as a forward military base.
Got oil, will travel
On Iran, the Russia-China strategic partnership is working in parallel. China’s priority is energy supplies – and Beijing works the chessboard accordingly. The Chinese ambassador to the United Arab Emirates just issued a trial balloon, mentioning that Beijing might consider escorting oil tankers across the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. That could happen independently or – the dangling carrot – as part of Washington’s Operation Sentinel, which for the moment has managed to find only one “coalition of the willing” member: the UK.
What’s actually happening right now in the Persian Gulf is way more entertaining. As I confirmed with energy traders in Doha late last month, demand for oil right now is higher than in 2018. And in consequence Iran continues to sell most of its oil.
A tanker leaves Iran with transponder off; the oil is transferred to another tanker on the high seas; and then it is relabeled. According to a trader, “If you take two to three million barrels a day off the market by sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, plus the OPEC cutbacks, you would have to see a higher price.”
There is no higher price. Brent crude remains near a seven-month low, around US$60 a barrel. This means that Iran continues to sell, mostly to China. That trial balloon floated in the UAE might well be China camouflaging its continued purchase of Iranian oil.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been proving again and again his diplomatic mastery, running rings around the Donald Trump administration. But all major decisions in Iran come from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. That also applies to Tehran’s position in relation to multi-level forms of support from the Russia-China strategic partnership.
What the past few months have made crystal clear is how Russia-China’s magnetic pull is attracting key Eurasia players Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. And make no mistake: As much as Tehran may be extremely proud of its political independence, it is reassuring to know that Iran is, and will continue to be, a definitive red line for Russia-China.
The diplomatic-military-economic muscles used by Russia-China to protect Iran are used also to protect North Korea and Venezuela. Each of these targets for sanctions and possible US intervention are shielded by the coordinating superpowers. The stakes each holds may be different in each case, but the desired outcome is the same for both. Russia and China insist on a diplomatic solution, and they are using all three crises to break down the unipolar hegemony of the US.
This requires the highest level coordination between Putin and Xi, their diplomatic corps and their militaries. We saw with the flight of bombers near South Korea a level of coordination with its intended message to the US, Japan and South Korea. We might expect soon some indications of the two militaries “coordinating” in behalf of Iran.
Also, watch for the possible naval blockade by the US of Venezuela. Bolton and Pompeo, Pence and Rubio want Trump to go all out to bring down Maduro. We can expect a Russia-China coordination if such an escalation is attempted by Washington.
While I think that Russia and China could effectively thwart the embargo of Iran, I don’t think they could do anything to stop a blockade of Venezuela.
Venezuela is too close to the US. It is too far from Russia and China. And the US Navy is too strong for both Russia and China in a venue that close to the US. Furthermore, none of the countries surrounding Venezuela can or will come to its aid.
I hate the thought of the Venezuelan people being subjugated but I think that the US could do it if they wished.
Yeah true but, remember the 60’s and Cuban missile crisis. Cuba still trades today. Besides the Chinese and Russians don’t need to station surface vessel in the Carribbean, a couple of subs will be enough.
I hope you are right.
It would be terrible if Bolton, Pompeo and Trump got away with undermining democracy while pretending to support it.
The whole thing is so horribly hypocritical.
Both Russia and China have enormous airlift capabilities. Staging the airlift from Cuba, they could defeat the purpose of the blockade generally, and as for oil tankers, the Chinese and Russians have 80 Billion in investments (70 Billion + 10 Billion respectively). They could work in tandem to escort the oil tankers through the naval blockade. Will the US stop them? Highly unlikely. Meanwhile, the world reaction at the UN and in other groups will be overwhelming against a blockade.
China might bring some DF-21s for Venezuela to have a ship-destroying missile to use in defense.
The game has changed in many places. We just don’t know yet for certain how things will play out.
But, certainly, the US will not take on both Russia and China anywhere. They have the weapons to reduce US military if the US insists it wants to fight.
Venezuela is far from both, but both have stakes in Venezuela, and both have indicated they won’t allow the US to overthrow Maduro and take control of the vast oil and gas wealth of the Venezuelan people.
Blockade of Venezuela is a curious question; this Saker blog, has mentioned previously, Cuban capability to undermine US maneuvering by whatever means available—what this could entail goes beyond speculative—the China-missile-trial scenarios sounds plausible, assuming it’s not the Lusitania standing guard duty.
The reason I thought to comment anything at all, was because of Guantanamo, and the possibility of a “bundle” of Venezuela embargo and a staged Cuba confrontation, all-in-one. Obviously, with unlimited dollars to command, the US has unlimited bad ideas—as an American, I suppose myself capable of, at least equally bad ideas as my government!
Let’s leave the DF out… itd be too messy and too triggering for the west for now… DFs will show up w S500 and beyond in the real game in the skies… perhaps Venz can buy some S300 or S400 for self-defence? or trade oil for ‘goods’?! which we have successful precedence… for now
US Admits It Cannot Attack Venezuela – Confirmed S-300 Anti-Air Systems
The U.S State Department special operator for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, has revealed that Venezuela is already in possession numerous highly effective S-300 (Antey 2500 version) systems.
This makes a military campaign against Venezuela highly unlikely, given the high-importance of air-cover for any boots on the ground, and the high effectiveness of the S-300 system.
It also explains the decision of OAS member states Columbia and Brazil not to resort to military intervention against the Bolivarian Republic – a jungle war without air-cover would be extraordinarily costly in terms of casualties and the resulting social and political unrest.
While the U.S military has known of this, until Abrams statement today there was a reluctance to report the problems posed by this, amid Trump’s war-drums surrounding his alleged ‘all options’ approach to Venezuela.
At some point all these country’s (Russia, China, and even the US) have to run out of irons to put in the fire, they all have more pressing agendas at home which require manpower that is now proving to be strained, redirecting resources domestically rather than internationally.
Behind the scenes I think this is coming to light, so unless an operation is successful, you will not hear about it pubically, that the good news, the bad news is that the failures are stacking up at an alarming rate.
Okay, for what it’s worth. Here are my thoughts.
While I agree that China and Russia could do these things, the question is:
From speaking to Chinese people and traveling in China, I know that the Chinese are playing the long game. They see the USA as an empire in decline. The Chinese feel that they don’t have to act aggressively since America is destroying itself and losing its influence in the world. There seems to be little doubt that they are correct about that.
The Chinese also feel that China has more to lose. They feel that China is “the future” and America is the “past.” They consider America to be dangerous for three reasons.
One, American leadership cannot accept their decline. Two, that leadership, against all logic, is trying to assert world domination. Three, notwithstanding their decline, America’s leadership still has the power to destroy everyone and everything.
The third consideration is the most crucial since the behavior of the leadership in America is becoming increasingly irrational. They increasingly wage economic warfare against anyone who refuses their orders, even their allies. They do this without apparently without any comprehension of potential blowback. Similarly, the blatant attempt to overthrow the elected government in Venezuela shows a frightening tendency. American leaders feel that they can make up any story they want and attack anyone they want based thereon. It is downright unnerving.
As a result of this, the belief in China is that they have to carefully “manage” the decline of America while increasing China’s own influence and strength. The Chinese will, thus, avoid direct confrontation, “lengthen the game,” increase their technological base, work to integrate Eurasia and deal cautiously with problems (e.g. Taiwan, Hong Kong) on a case by case basis.
Based on that, I don’t think that they would confront the USA in the Western Hemisphere.
The situation with Russia is different. The Russian people do not want “foreign adventures.” Even selling the Syria intervention was a tough sell for Putin despite his popularity.
Because of all this, and despite the monies invested in Venezuela, I don’t think either Russia or China will directly confront the American Navy over Venezuela.
You touch on very important issues. However, you miss one other.
Geopolitics. Latin America is a huge part of China’s sphere of investment and growth. So, not only the vital issue of who controls and gains from oil and gas reserves Venezuela owns, but the BRI, BRICS and AIIB leverage are not to be overlooked.
China does not project its profile with military, as does the US. China projects wealth, infrastructure know-how, risk investment and loans to stimulate growth and battle poverty in emerging and developing nations. They have many mechanisms to use in this projection.
Russia has oil and gas expertise, and military weapons and training that is world class. And when it says it will stand and deliver, it stands and delivers. It is 100% faithful to its word to friends.
Combining their assets, Russia and China are performing on the world stage of geopolitics unlike no time ever before. The USSR was an equal to the US for a few decades, then faded. Russia and China are ascending in strength and influence. They will not walk from Venezuela. The Southern Command, as do all US Commands, eschews pain and loss. The US military acts only if it can escape casualties or limit them to very few. The cost of “taking” Venezuela is extreme for the US. More so, the US has no convincing proxy force to use in substitution for its own troops and contractors.
A naval blockade will substitute for the failed “false President” program, but it will unite 80% of the population in defiance of the US. Then a massive airlift of Russian and Chinese aid will begin to flow into Venezuela. The outcome will be a huge geopolitical victory for the Double Helix.
And if the US cannot control South America, it might indicate the final chapter of the empire and the beginning of a new era. I am hoping for an era of peace.
It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
DF-21 requires the service of a huge Skywave Radar system that could not be easily installed in haste. Even though the Beidou Satellite system can serve as the homing accessory, deployment of DF-21 in Venezuela would not be the logical choice. But both China and Russia have myriads of short-medium range missiles that could render naval brocade of Venezuela cost-prohibitive. If China and Russia do stand firm against brocade of Venezuela, America would think twice (or thrice) before launching it.
In short, the Unilateral Beast ain’t the dominating military regime that it was only a couple of decades ago. That’s good news for world peace.
Regards to all
I cannot figure out now which assymetric reactions Moscow and Beijing
could take upon a naval blockade to venezuela.
It would be a terrible move from the moral and diplomatic angles. But what i mam beyond doubt sure about is the wave of wrath and hatred towards the US by the majority of Venezuelans.
Both Iran and Venezuela are loaded with energy resources.
Neither China in its capacity as a major energy consumer nor Russia in its capacity as a major energy producer can afford for the the energy resources of either of these countries to fall under US influence and diktat.
It is therefore a strategic matter with national security implications for both countries.
Unlike the US however, Russia and China prefer to act quietly and judiciously.
Regarding such sensitive matters, no loud tweeting or fanfare will be used by either country to announce their intentions.
In times gone by, pass US administrations operationalized the maxim :
“Walk softly and carry a big stick”
Today, China and Russia are the ones walking softly while carrying huge hypersonic sticks .
While in the US on the other hand, the president and his adminstration do not know what it is to speak softly.
The US president talks and tweets constantly, issuing threats and ultimatums about “fire and fury” or mass “obliteration”.
Trump can tweet in all caps all he wants, because in the end he will have to come to terms with the following:
1. Iran will not back down
2. North Korea will not disarm
3. Venezuela will not succumb
“The Chinese ambassador to the United Arab Emirates just issued a trial balloon, mentioning that Beijing might consider escorting oil tankers across the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.”
The Chinese were talking about escorting their own, or vessels bound for China. In other words, it was a clear message to the israeloamerican “greater” israelites that if they persist, China will counter them militarily.
If this happens, it will destroy Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy towards Iran.
China’s imports of Iranian oil alone (without regard to any other nation) could ensure Iran’s survival.
It would also give Iran time to do what Russia did, re-orient its economy away from the West. Iran – now realizing that the Europeans are spineless – has already indicated that it intends to so just that. All they need is a “window” of time to accomplish it. A Chinese “oil bailout” would give them that time.
China does not like to use its military. However, this might be a game changer in the middle east.
The article states that Iran will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Just to add that Iran is also thinking of becoming a member of the Euro-Asian Economic Union. Both of these organizations will become economically and politically stronger with Iran joining them, and then Euro-Asia will indeed become a power house. Starting from the First World War to the present day, the Atlantic powers have done their best to subdue the potential rise of Euro-Asia. They will fail. Time is the factor. With the rise of Euro-Asia, US economic and political influence will collapse, not to mention the use of the dollar as the reserve world currency. We now have the answer why the US is picking fights with Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, while at the same time threatening it’s allies in Europe with sanctions if they trade with Russia and Iran. This imperial arrogance by Washington will just hasten the collapse of the US empire, which will be the shortest lived in history.
Iran is ‘a definitive red line for Russia-China’. But the White House seems blind to this. History shows empires pursue their need for power, eventually getting the very war they seek to avoid – destruction. But they delude themselves, convinced they can win, until the final realization of defeat.
What you have stated is correct. However, to the US elite, who rule the country, defeat means nothing. To them the US is just a place where they live, owing no real allegiance to it. For years the elite has been buying up real estate throughout the world, the top favorites being New Zealand and Tasmania. Even George Bush jr. bought himself an estate in Paraguay. As you can see, the elite is thinking of the future and where to run.
correct, but would rather put it this way,…the ELITES who determine the reality we live in are not only ‘US’ or ”ussr” or ”eu” or gcc nor jerusalites but a group so powerful yet have no particular colour,race,or royal to anything they pay respect to …for them ”total control ”is everything ”unless and until one can read into their ”we vs them” toxic kool aide with which they mesmerise the unawakened us with… and HACK it and read into it and make it not potent unto our hearts,one is but a tool unto their game…..remember always humanity is one ,who usender it are the ‘enemy of mankind”…the danger is present and alive …to walk in the valley of death requires you to unfang their hate in your heart.
“…China camouflaging its continued purchase of Iranian oil.”
Transactions in USD or Yuan?
Where of how are transactions cleared? Not SWIFT, I’m guessing.
Barter w/the balance offered in gold transactions seems to be the most likely scenario.
A contract was signed in the US for the purchase of two sets of the Israeli Iron Dome missile Israel will cover: the United States bought the Iron Dome missile defense
Israel will cover: the United States bought the Iron Dome missile defense
Looks like another 21 trillion is in the process of being ‘disappeared’. Imperial tribute.
Regarding a naval blockade of Venezuela – back in ’82 when the Argentinians invaded the Malvinas / Falkland islands to enforce what they saw as their rightful claim of sovereignty the Brits began assembling a flotilla of ships to sail down and recapture the islands .
But before this was ready they sent a single submarine down there and declared a 200 mile exclusion zone around the islands.
That one submarine alone was enough to ensure no Argentinian naval presence in the area and the Brits even went so far as to sink Argentina’s capital war ship, the Belgrano even though she was rapidly steaming away from the area.
Venezuela has submarines and I am sure that they, their Russian allies and especially the US military know that no blockade of Venezuela is remotely feasible.
Warships “blockading” countries is a thing of the past in an era when countries are well defended with missiles and submarines.
Even the loss of one warship would be just too much for the Americans to cope with, never mind the sinking of several of them. Their military “prestige” would be over once and for all as both they and the world would recognise that behind the bluster and bravado, the US is really quite weak and well defeatable.
Dmitri Orlov said some posts back that American power is declining but it would take a stress test to show it.
A US attack/ blockade on Venezuela or Iran would be the nemesis of the US.
Now Hong Kong, Taiwan, and presumably Macua can link up in Western sponsored rebellion against mainland China as a spectacle for all the world to see. Especially China’s trade partners along the Silk and Belt Roads.
America’s attempts to foment destabilization campaigns disguised as “pro-democracy” agitation against China (Hong Kong) and Russia (Moscow) are increasingly naked … and they are eliciting a coordinated response from both these nations to resist America’s regime change machinations.
A Sino-Russian Firewall Against US Interference
The Venezuelan government and people have prepared two decades for an invasion. Four million Venezuelans have abandoned Venezuela. Those who remain are the vestiges of the old racist oligarchy protecting their land and mansions. Besides the Venezuelan military, there are 4,000,000 militias and colectivos prepared to defend Venezuela from enemies both foreign and domestic. Venezuela is armed to the teeth, and she is prepared to defend itself.