The un-submersible US-Iran stalemate

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

A thick veil of mystery surrounds the fire that broke out in a state of the art Russian submersible in the Barents Sea, leading to the death of 14 crew members poisoned by toxic fumes.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the submersible was conducting bathymetric measurements, as in examining and mapping deep sea conditions. The crew on board was composed of “unique naval specialists, high-class professionals, who conducted important research of the Earth’s hydrosphere.” Now the – so far unnamed – nuclear-powered vessel is at the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base of Russia’s Northern Fleet.

A serious, comprehensive military investigation is in progress. According to the Kremlin, “the Supreme Commander-in-Chief has all the information, but this data cannot be made public, because this refers to the category of absolutely classified data.”

The submersible is a Losharik. Its Russian code is AS-12 (for “Atomnaya Stantsiya” or “Nuclear Station“). NATO calls it Norsub-5. It’s been in service since 2003. Giant Delta III nuclear submarines, also able to launch ICBMs, have been modified to transport the submersible across the seas.

NATO’s spin is that the AS-12/Norsub-5 is a “spy” sub, and a major “threat” to undersea telecommunication cables, mostly installed by the West. The submersible’s operating depth is one thousand meters and it may have operated as deep as 2,500 meters in the Arctic Ocean. It may be comparable to, or be something of an advanced version of, the US deep submergence vessel NR-1 (operating depth 910m) famous for being used to search for and recover critical parts of the space shuttle Challenger, lost in 1986.

It’s quite enlightening to place the Losharik within the scope of the latest Pentagon report about Russian strategic intentions. Amid the proverbial demonization terminology – “Russia’s gray zone tactics,” “Russian aggression.” Russian “deep-seated sense of geopolitical insecurity” – the report claims that “Russia is adopting coercive strategies that involve the orchestrated employment of military and nonmilitary means to deter and compel the US, its allies and partners prior to and after the outbreak of hostilities. These strategies must be proactively confronted, or the threat of significant armed conflict may increase.”

It’s no wonder that, considering the incandescence of US-Russia relations on the geopolitical chessboard, what happened to the Losharik fueled frenetic speculation  including totally unsubstantiated rumors it had been torpedoed by a US submarine in a firefight – on top of it, in Russian territorial waters.

Connections were made between US Vice-President Mike Pence’s suddenly being ordered to return to the White House while the Europeans were also huddled in Brussels, as President Putin had an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In the end, it was nothing but mere speculation.

Orthodox priests and Russian sailors light candles at a service to commemorate 14 submariners who died on Monday July 1, after a fire aboard a research submarine from the Northern Fleet, in the Naval Cathedral in Kronshtadt, Russia. Photo: Alexei Danichev / Sputnik/ AFP

Submersible incident

The submersible incident – complete with the speculative plot line of a US-Russia firefight in the Arctic – did drown, at least for a while, the prime, current geopolitical incandescence: the US economic war on Iran.

Expanding on serious discussions at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek – which included Iran’s President Rouhani – and the Putin-Xi meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg and at the G20 in Osaka, both Russia and China are fully invested in keeping Iran stable and protected from the Trump administration’s strategy of chaos.

Both Moscow and Beijing are fully aware Washington’s divide-and-rule tactics are geared towards stopping the momentum of Eurasia integration – which includes everything from bilateral trade in local currencies and bypassing the US dollar to further interconnection of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

Beijing plays a shadow game, keeping very quiet on the de facto US economic blockade against one of its key Belt and Road allies. Yet the fact is China continues to buy Iranian crude, and bilateral trade is being settled in yuan and rial.

The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), the mechanism set up by the EU-3 (France, UK and Germany) to bypass the US dollar for trade between Iran and the EU after the US unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal, or JCPOA, may finally be in place. But there’s no evidence INSTEX will be adopted by myriad European companies, as it essentially covers Iranian purchases of food and medicine.

Plan B would be for the Russian Central Bank to extend access to Iran as one the nations possibly adopting SPFS (System for Transfer of Financial Messages), the Russian mechanism for trade sanctioned by the US that bypasses SWIFT. Moscow has been working on the SPFS since 2014, when the threat to expel Russia from SWIFT became a distinct possibility.

As for Iran being accused – by the US – of “breaching” the JCPOA, that’s absolute nonsense. To start with, Tehran cannot possibly “breach” a multinational deal that was declared null and void by one of the signatories, the US.

In fact the alleged “breach” is due to the fact the EU-3 were not buying Iran’s low-enriched uranium, as promised, because of the US embargo. Washington has de facto forced the EU-3 not to buy it. Tehran duly notified all JCPOA parties that, as they are not buying it, Iran will have to store more low enriched uranium than the JCPOA allows for. If the EU-3 resumes buying it that automatically means Iran is not “breaching” anything.


Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif is correct; INSTEX, already too little too late, is not even enough, as the mechanism does not allow Tehran to continue to export oil, which is the nation’s right. As for the “breach,” Zarif says it’s easily “reversible” – as long as the EU-3 abide by their commitments.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak concurs: “As regards restrictions on Iranian exports, we support Iran and we believe that the sanctions are unlawful; they have not been approved by the UN.”

Still, Iran continues to export crude, by all means available, especially to Asia, with the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) predictably shutting off satellite tracking on its fleet. But, ominously, the deadline set by Tehran for the EU-3 to actively support the sale of Iranian crude expires this coming Sunday. That’s a major cliffhanger. After that, the stalemate won’t be submersible anymore.


The Essential Saker IV: Messianic Narcissism's Agony by a Thousand Cuts
The Essential Saker III: Chronicling The Tragedy, Farce And Collapse of the Empire in the Era of Mr MAGA

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  1. The Eurasian Triad Group (Russia, China, Iran) just needs India (who needs Iran’s oil and gas) to break apart the sanctions regime completely.

    Modi has to grow a set, like Erdogan. Look what it got Erdogan. A triad against the Kurds and complete disruption of US-Israel plans for Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria.

    Modi thinks in Cold War terms, non-alignment, playing all sides in moderate ways.

    What has that gotten India?

    Meanwhile, Iran has attained some backing, not quite full allies, but allied enough because the Russians and Chinese have very strong interest in breaking the hegemony and sanctions weapon.

    The US is on a back foot in the ME. The time is perfect to knock it aside.
    India desires superpower status. They want a permanent seat on the UN SC. That won’t happen until it commits to the the New Era power alignment. If Modi huddles under the Indo-Pacific umbrella, he will be brushed aside by history. It’s on a super highspeed rail. It’s coming his way, but it will roar past if he doesn’t get aboard.

    In its own self-interest, India should be playing a large role in the Iran crisis. Standing alone is weak. Standing with the other true superpowers, Russia and China, magnifies India’s voice.

    • It will be interesting to see which way India goes.

      With the increased majority in the elections maybe Modi will have the confidence to act in India’s own interests instead of hanging on to the coattails of the USA.

      • “t will be interesting to see which way India goes.”

        India is a 100% Jewish Mafia asset, and with low-level thugs like Modi in charge, India’s vassal status will only be solidified further.

        That said, I strongly welcome the RIC format. Shaking hands, smiling for photo ops, talking to each other, doesn’t make a chemical wedding, true, but at least leaves hope that humane human interaction is indeed humanly possible, and by today’s standards, that alone seems like a minor miracle.

        • Hey man, when they almost came to their knees in 1991, neither Rus or China even looked their way. In 1999 when the parliment was attacked, *all* the muslim countries kept mum and so did Rus and China. The only country that had to balls to say something and show support was Israel. India owes them.

    • Modi represents India, a country that has been ruled by foreign powers and has been subservient to them for about a thousand years. The indians have inferiority complex, they aspire to be like Europeans. The people of the subcontient will never have a political will of their own. They are lions only in their own homes.

        • 2c –
          Arguably “The Eurasian Triad Group (Russia, China, Iran) NO need India”
          India is important in landmass geography reason to the RIC
          But if RIC can roam over the skies (or underground/water/fancy alien technology) – that would bypass that problem.
          Again once and when the zero E in released to the population, all secret or otherwise “scientific” calculation of current MICs of various tribes and factions are as good (or bad) as a puff of wind!
          Even if we are earthbound – As mentioned sorting the beanz in India there, is quite impossible and futile…
          Furthermore RIC can still do business with the private Indians population w/out the political class
          as shown by the recent government-western initiated temple gold scam/scheme
          Indian ppl generally has great distrust of their government or any leadership/boss-type role
          but its true everyone there is just trying to make a buck –
          they all understand and taught about reincarnation –
          thus to them – This life in not the last, so if life is too hard why not ‘accept the god father deal one cannot refused?” After all, to them, all is MAYA anyway.
          MAYA in the Indian mindset, not maya in the western dictionary definitions.
          What’s there to fuss about (like in the western phallic symbol)?
          Again to them and their thought/behaviour inner world – Who knows next life one who is the King now, will reincarnate as insect, literally, and be crushed to pay back his bad Karma? and reincarnate again as insect several millions time to pay back on life time of playing the character of the evil King? What Modi?!
          Thus make the scenario interesting –
          Here again the mind-map of the west and east is ‘different’ and India is a great melting pot at the moment. There are literally billions of pieces of puzzle here, unless by the western imperial-standard system, they are just ‘India’. One word.

          On the cautions side – What history demonstrably taught us – What blows in the wind, is gone with the wind.
          There is no reason, even great ancient civilisation, can fail to continue into another chapter in human history…

          Lastly there are Indian all over the world – those who are western educated or assimilated are quite different from those who have never left their Indian village, those who are born/live/work in the west are also quite different from those who are in the east/Asia –
          Bottom line just sorting out beanz…. Impossible!!!

          p/s NOTE ALSO in the west ppl like to point to POTUS like he is the deal-maker and he has all the power, status and authority, not so in the east esp India. In the east, we don’t have guns and weapons, but we have our bodies, courage and backbone. And, most potent of all, we have ‘reincarnations’!
          Now, if we follow the rail and fall into the rabbit hole, we are going into the realms of, literally, buying out gods-aliens, through illicit (mass) rituals or (mass) soul farm or (mass) human farm or whatever – which is off topic here…
          Though if one goes to India, its just everywhere… in plain sight nothing to hide. Thus – Nothing to sell. MAYA or maya?! Or just political incorrect?! Not western standard enough?!
          just 2c and subject to some serious expert corrections –

      • That’s right. 500 years of Moghul (muslim) rule took away confidence. 200 years of Colonial rule took away pride. After Independence they had the INC which is a pansy party. Finally, they have started to stand up. We’ll have to wait another 50 to see some improvement (unless it implodes under this crushing population problem).

    • They already have India. In Jun19, in response to US provocations, the SCO sent the Indian navy into the Persian Gulf to remind THE UNITED STATES CORPORATION that an attack on one was an attack on all. Sending the Indians was less provocative than sending Russian or Chinese vessels, but the message was loud and clear.

  2. Iran has to play hardball or it will be mired into never ending blockade (which is the correct word for sanctions). If the EU doesn’t support them Tehran should announce the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. No tankers means no world economy in a week. US military action would mean no tanker traffic for years and devastation of oil facilities throughout the Gulf. How mad is Washington?

    • But it will also mean hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dead, starting with Iranians. It might also mean generalised war, and massive destruction in Lebanon, the UAE, Israel, Sordid Barbaria and elsewhere. The theocrats are not exactly much cup of tea, but they are not that morally insane, unlike the Sordids, the Zionazis and the Exceptionals.

    • Once isn’t coincidence – it’s just happenstance.

      Twice is coincidence.

      Three times is enemy action.

      Although as Washington is constantly engaged in enemy action, maybe you are right.

    • Battery fires/explosions from short circuit and gas buildup is the number one cause of fires and explosions on submarines.

      It’s a fact.

      So much for Theory.

      It was a tragic accident, fateful and disastrous loss of the best of the best.

      It took placer in Russian waters. It could have happened in port or in the harbor.

      Bad things happen in life, especially military life.

      Eternal Glory to heroes of the boat. Prayers and good thoughts for the survivors and families.

      • Thank you for sharing that explanation. I’ve viewed it as simply a tragic accident from the start. Such things do happen more often than we would want. I did have considerable reason to roll my eyes at some speculation coming out of alternative media. A possible firefight between subs, and of course, the Russians being involved in something sinister, all based on ‘sources’. If anyone is going to commit something sinister, it would be the empire.

    • According to a PoxNews droog and a slobbering former Green Beret Republican Congresscritter, the dastardly Russkies were breaking into ‘our’ undersea cables, to destroy ‘Freedom’ and ‘Our Precious Bodily Ess…’, sorry… ‘Our precious Moral Values’. They really are the funniest show on TV. I can see why people used to visit Bedlam to watch the lunatics’ hilarious capers.

  3. “To start with, Tehran cannot possibly “breach” a multinational deal that was declared null and void by one of the signatories, the US.”

    That’s not technically correct.

    The deal remains in force, and as Pepe correctly notes, Iran is still adhering to it. But the fact that the US pulled out doesn’t mean the deal still isn’t in force. Iran still has obligations to the rest of the deal’s partners until such time as it formally withdraws from the agreement.

    As I understand it, Iran can not be in “breach” until either the Joint Commission of the JCPOA says it is, or the Joint Commission has referred the case to the UN Security Council, and the UNSC says Iran is in breach.

    The sequence is: 1) someone complains to the Joint Commission; 2) the Joint Commission has several steps to take; 3) if the issue is not resolved, the complaining party can either withdraw “in whole or in part”, and/or refer the issue to the UNSC; 4) the UNSC has a certain amount of time to pass a Resolution – which can be vetoed by any member of the UNSC – or the pre-JCPOA sanctions automatically come back into play.

    We are at step 3. Iran has previously issued 11 “informal” complaints to the JCPOA, and allegedly they have now issued a “formal” complaint (although this is disputed by the US.) Pursuant to Article 36, Iran has withdrawn from the JCPOA “in part”. The reason is as Pepe has indicated – they can’t unload the excess uranium.

    The kicker is that the US, having withdrawn from the JCPOA, is no longer a party with standing, so there is nothing they can do about it. And the EU ministers who are still part of the JCPOA have said they don’t want to even raise the issue of the excess uranium with the Joint Commission at this point.

    The problem is that all the reporting being done by the mainstream media is that Iran is “in breach.” It is *not* in breach. It is strictly adhering to the resolution process of the JCPOA. But that’s not how the media and the politicians – including in the EU – are referring to it.

    The problem is that the US can use this as propaganda to justify further action against Iran – and the US electorate, which is clueless about all of this, will go along with that (not that they could stop it, anyway.) That’s how propaganda works.

    I suspect that Iran will eventually withdraw from the JCPOA. There is no actual economic benefit if the EU and Iran’s allies, such as Russia, China and perhaps India, can’t offset the impact of renewed US sanctions. The only reason for Iran to remain in the JCPOA is to continue to court the EU and to demonstrate that it is the country adhering to international law and agreements, as opposed to the US which doesn’t.

    • Doesn’t propaganda carry consequences that could formally determine that a person, or persons, be incompetent to either be either in the position they are in, or actually be breaking some type of law that carries its own consequences?

      Not that breaking any laws carries any consequences to the breakers, but once broken could the breakers find themselves in a delicate court of public opinion position that, in theory would pit one MSM outlet against another rather than most all being today on the same propaganda page?

      An economic war would be a good mechanism to start said wars.(of course by then it would all be too late as the survival of the fittest would rule the day from then on out.)

    • The European ‘partners’ to the JCPOA also nullified it by their complicity in not telling the US Moloch to shove its sanctions up its fundament. I am quite certain that this treacherous duplicity was long-planned, and demanded by the Zionazis, who control France, Germany and the UK. The readiness to re-impose sanctions on Iran after failing to ameliorate US sanctions, illegal under ‘The Rules Based International Order’, while Iranians suffer and die, is typical of their moral perfidy.

    • Too many words make a fog of what’s obvious. Paragraph 26 specifically says that Iran will only uphold their part of the deal if the other partners are not already in breach. US withdrawal and EU refusal to trade with Iran means the JCPOA is a dead letter. As for the dispute mechanism outlined in paragraph 26, no state has attempted to use it, so that’s more sand in the eyes. Any attempt to blame Iran for the demise of the JCPOA is total BS, a bald lie that’s intended to mislead. Don’t over-talk the obvious!. All blame lies with Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin , with Tel-Aviv behind those four.

      • What Iran is declared to have “said” – as it was put in Article 26 – is that Iran would withdraw if the sanctions were reimposed. The Agreement acknowledges that it is Iran’s position but technically it is not part of the Agreement – it’s more a “we note that position but don’t agree with it legally.”

        The legal recourse – and the dispute mechanism – is in Article 36, not 26.

        Iran has used the dispute mechanism, both informally and now formally.

        As I said, Iran is continuing to adhere to the JCPOA and will continue to do so until it is as obvious that you say it is that the Agreement is dead both for Iran and the EU.

        I expect Iran will leave the JCPOA within a relatively short time because they will be getting no benefit for adhering to it except the benefit of demonstrating to the world that Iran can uphold its agreements as opposed to the US which does not.

  4. “In fact the alleged “breach” is due to the fact the EU-3 were not buying Iran’s low-enriched uranium, as promised, because of the US embargo. Washington has de facto forced the EU-3 not to buy it”.

    Standard Operating Procedure for Washington.

    1. Prevent “adversary” from doing X. (Or force it to do Y).

    2. Complain bitterly that “adversary” has done Y (or stopped doing X).

    3. Launch air strikes and cruise missiles.

    4. PROFIT!

  5. India ready to Buying 114 Fighter Jets For 15 Billions US Dollars. India continuously work for enhance the capacity of military weapons they also enhance the capability of Indian Air Force after getting up big loss on 27 February 2019 by Pakistan air Force. so so India is ready for buying 114 fighter jets with new advanced technology from America the cost of aircraft is 15 billion US dollar and this is giving an opportunity for them to taking Indian air Force for next level development. India already finalised a deal with Russia for buying Raffle aircraft

    India going next level to inviting offers for the buy of 114 Air Crafts, at present in the world’s biggest agreement in play, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to enhance the capacity of the nation’s military weapons and replace a old generation Aircrafts

    • Fear is a great motivator. Rus just sits back when India is presented with virtual dangers on all side, only rising up to say, we can help you defend yourself (with our modern tools). So, does USA, so does Israel.

      In the end India wastes money on trying to defend itself from these physical threats when the future threats will be cyber. The multi billions they spend on buying arms which will either be obsolote or useless against future threats could be well used in economy or cyber.

      They just want to own and show some shiny new toys for vanity.

  6. It’s about oil. Hegemon needs oil.

    Iran may not be allowed to sell their oil. Hegemon must steal it. Venezuela must not be allowed to use their oil. Hegemon must steal it.

    Without oil, Hegemon collapses.

  7. The Empire has taken a play from the Zionists favored playbook. To cry out while it strikes you.

    The empire is doing everything it can to provoke Iran to attack a direct US interest. And if Iran doesn’t give them this, I m sure such an incident shall be manafactured.

    The hijacking of an Iranian tanker by the UK (apparently under orders from the US) is one of provacations.

    Saudi Arabia has prevented another Iranian tanker from leaving its ports (a tanker that apparently had engine issues then once Saudi Arabia helped arrange repairs will not issue permission to leave and is fining the tanker 200k a day).

    This is piracy. This is what the empire is resorting to get Iran to flinch and react. Iran can do nothing overtly unless it wants to risk a major conflict. A major player (Russia or China) will have to signal that any more escalation by the empire will have ramifications. A counter move so to speak. So far they have not. This lack of response is worrisome as this is the only thing that stops the AngloZionist empire from turning the temperature in the middle east up further.

    • This is indeed piracy.

      America, Britain, Saudi Arabia should be called out as the pirate nations that they are, and the lies these war criminal countries use to justify their piracy deserve to be ripped to shreds.

      The Americans, the British, and their “democratic” allies like Saudi Barbaria will continue to commit crimes like these until they are exposed and then held accountable.

      • There is no legal justification for piracy and economic sanctions are acts of war.

        This begs the question; what good is the United Nations if they have no power to enforce the indictment and prosecution of criminal acts committed by its member nations? The UN reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, all bark and no bite.

        When countries are not treated equally under international law then it is incumbent upon them to dissolve the charter as happened to the League of Nations and form a new alliance.

  8. Another piece of the puzzle is the large amounts of Natural Gas in Iran. The US needs the Ngas to be priced in dollars. If not, one more bit of dirt removed from the ever largening hole being dug for the worlds current reserve currency. Sadly another reason for regime change/military action.