New Eastern Outlook
by F. William Engdahl
The dynamics of Russian foreign policy since the USA has forced a de facto declaration of war via financial and economic sanctions against Russia is impressive to put it mildly. Whether it will suffice to break the economic siege of Washington and open the way for a genuine global economic alternative to the bankrupt US Dollar System is not yet clear. What is clear is that Vladimir Putin and the faction of industrial barons who have decided to back him are not cowering in fear. The latest example is the recent visit of the Russian Defense Minister to Teheran, to do major military cooperation deals with Iran. The implications for both countries as well as the future of Eurasia are potentially huge.
On January 20 in Teheran, Russia and Iran signed an agreement on military cooperation. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Hossein Dehghan signed the new agreement. Remarking on its significance, Shoigu stated, “A theoretic base of cooperation in the military sphere has been created.” He added that the two countries have agreed on “bilateral cooperation in practical regards and to promote an increase in the military capabilities of the armed forces of our countries.” The two also agreed on “the importance of the need to develop Russia and Iran’s cooperation in the joint struggle against meddling in the affairs of the region by external forces that are not part of it was framed,” Iranian Defense Minister Dehghan declared. To make sure no one mistook who he meant, he added that the reason for aggravation in the situation of the region was a US policy that “meddles in the domestic affairs of other countries.”
The coming closer of the two Eurasian countries, both bordering the strategic Caspian Sea, has enormous implications for global geopolitics. The Obama Administration has tried to woo Iran in a stick (economic sanctions) and carrot (promise of lifting same) manner over the past eighteen months to get Teheran to agree major concessions on her nuclear program. Until recently, despite US sanctions over Ukraine, Russia was willing to show “good faith” to Washington by participating in the 5-1 nuclear negotiations with Iran to persuade Teheran to make major concessions on its nuclear program, one where Russia built the just-completed Bushehr nuclear power plant, the first in the Middle East. That phase is clearly over and Iran’s hand in the negotiations with the US, France, Germany, UK has just got stronger, sanctions or not.
Iran, Syria and Pipeline Wars
For Washington, the nuclear pressure is part of an attempt to force Iran to abandon her ally, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, in order to open the way for Qatar, a close ally of Saudi Arabia and site of the world’s largest natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. Qatar, which has been the prime funder of the US and Israeli-trained ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq, wants to export its gas to the EU via Syria and Turkey.
Iran, which holds the other part of that huge Persian Gulf gas field, North Pars, in its offshore waters, signed a strategic pipeline deal with Assad and Iraq in June 2011 to build a new Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline for 1500 kilometers from their chunk of the world’s largest gas field going from Asaluyeh, the Iranian port near the South Pars gas field, to Damascus in Syria. From there the pipeline would go via Lebanon to the eastern Mediterranean and on to the huge EU gas market. They named it the “Islamic Pipeline.”
The volume of Iran gas would be modest compared to Russia’s Gazprom original South Stream pipeline. An estimated 20 billion cubic meters per year would remain after local consumption requirements (pre-Syria war) from that Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, for Europe, compared to the 63 billion from the South Stream.
Qatar would be the loser. Qatar, a Sunni Islam country that finances ISIS as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and other such charming Jihadists, doesn’t like the idea. Qatar approached Assad in 2009 to propose a Qatar-Syria pipeline to the EU via Turkey but was turned down flat. Assad said his relations with Russia and Gazprom were more important. It was just at the time of the Iran-Iraq-Syria Islamic Pipeline signing in June 2011 that Washington, Saudi Arabia and Qatar decided to launch a full-scale war to topple Assad and replace him with a Sunni regime friendly to Qatar and Washington. Hardly a coincidence.
Closer Iran-Russia military ties
Today, Putin’s Russia and Iran are the two steadfast allies of Syria’s Assad in his war to rid Syria of US-trained ISIS terrorists. However, the collaboration between Moscow and Teheran has been cautious until now.
In 2010 when he was President responsible for Russian foreign and defense policies under the Constitution, Dmitry Medvedev made many conciliatory moves to get on Washington’s “good side.” That was the era of Hillary Clinton’s silly “reset” in US-Russia relations after Putin then had left and Obama was newly-inaugurated as a “peace Democrat.”
One of the most costly moves Medvedev made was his signing a Presidential decree in September 2010 to support a US-sponsored UN ban on sales of all weapons to Iran as part of US sanctions against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The ban cost Russian military industries as much as $13 billion in military-technical sales to Iran over the past several years according to an estimate by the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT).
Medvedev’s decree banned all military sales from Russia to Iran and included the transfer of weapons to Iran from outside the borders of Russia by aircraft or vessels operating under the Russian state flag.
Medvedev also retroactively annulled Iran’s pre-paid purchase of sophisticated Russian S-300 Surface to Air SAM missile systems. Iran then sued Russia’s state Rosoboronexport at the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Geneva.
To date the S-300 issue had been a major bone of contention between Teheran and Moscow. Now, according to a report in DebkaFile.com, a website reportedly linked to Israeli intelligence, Russia has agreed not only to deliver the S-300 SAM missile systems Iran bought back in 2007. Russia will also deliver S-400 advanced missile systems to Iran. They quote the Iranian defense ministry, “The two countries have decided to settle the S-300s problem.” Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, a former Russian Defense Ministry official, added: “A step was taken in the direction of cooperation on the economy and arms technology, at least for such defensive systems as the S-300 and S-400.”
Military specialists say the S-400 is vastly superior to the US PAC-3 Patriot missile. It’s believed to be the first system in the world that can selectively use several types of missiles, both previously developed SAMs and the new, unique SAMs. It is mobile, making detection difficult. It can target Strategic bombers such as the B-1, FB-111 and B-52H; Electronic warfare airplanes such as the EF-111A and EA-6; Reconnaissance airplanes such as the TR-1; Early-warning radar airplanes such as the E-3A and E-2C; Fighter airplanes such as the F-15, F-16; Stealth airplanes such as the B-2 and F-117A; Strategic cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk; Ballistic missiles in a range up to 3,500 km.
Furthermore, the Pentagon’s most colossal weapon boondoggle to date, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, was not designed to penetrate the coverage of the S-300P/S-400 systems. Oops…
The US F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction, supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was begun in 2001 in the Rumsfeld Pentagon days. It’s a decade overdue, 100% over budget, and expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its useful life, of which about $400 billion has already been spent. Obama’s mandatory defense cuts under “sequestration” took a knife to the F-35 plans and other Pentagon pork barrel projects only two years ago. Now, using ISIS in Syria and Iraq and the “conflict” in Ukraine with Russia, Obama’s latest Defense Budget calls for exceeding by $35 billion the mandatory across-the-board reductions of sequestration. The Ukraine and ISIS crises seem to have rescued the US military industrial complex in the nick of time…
If the DebkaFile report about S-400 missile system to Iran is true, and it certainly seems to be, then the geopolitics of the entire battle between the Obama Administration and Russia and Iran and Syria, and soon China, is indeed very stupid.
The battle is being led by tunnel-vision warhawks around President Obama such as NSC Adviser Susan Rice. They seem incapable of grasping connections between events, and are, thus, by definition, not intelligent people. It is being led by the US military industrial complex, prominently by Lockheed Martin, main contractor of the disastrous F-35. It is being led by a very rich, power-addicted Oligarchy that somehow thinks they own the world. In fact, as recent events testify, they are losing the world they thought they controlled by their stupidity. Some call it the law of unintended consequences.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.