Eurasia note #69 – Escalation From Ukraine, To Iran
Warning of how hair triggers could cause this war to spread
U.S. makes forked peace advance; Russia distrusts and rejects.
Constrained offer of negotiations comes at time of increased military build up.
Iran hit on Saturday, two days before U.S Secretary of State Blinken visits Israel.
Attack includes military site linked to drone factory in the central city of Isfahan.
Cause of fire at oil refinery near northwestern city of Tabriz industrial zone unknown.
Ministries dismiss reports of strikes on 14 other industrial and military targets.
Kamikaze drones may have been launched from foreign bases in Azerbaijan.
Gunman killed head of security of Azeri embassy in Tehran, in an unrelated attack.
Israel’s new government and China ties — crucial but barely explored.
(2,700 words or about 12 minutes of your time.)
Jan 29, 2023
Listen to the World Economic Forum and you’ll hear that the world is fragmented, that there’s a lack of cooperation between major powers, that global governance must return to multilateral consensus based on a rules based international order — as if that ever existed. (What existed was empire and then superpower hegemony in which smaller players did as told or got “couped.”)
Listen to the alt-media outlets and the most prominent take is that Russia is secretly on board with the globalist project (because Sputnik V) and that the war in Ukraine is either a charade or a dispute among chums; at the same time the idea of any coordination among globalists is pooh-poohed, and the upheaval in the world is largely the result of “the empire” and American hubris.
Like computer models, these analyses do not stand contact with fresh air: throw open the windows and what’s happening does not fit so neatly into such theoretical or ideological straitjackets. Countries are government by competing interests, sometimes by the enemy within — as we witness with vaccine damage to the U.S. military.
The past 24-hours’ attacks on Iran undermine U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, whose attempt to contain war on the Eurasian landmass was torpedoed by his deputy Victoria Nuland and NATO spokesmen such as chair of the NATO Military Committee Rob Bauer who told Portuguese television that the US-led bloc is ready for a direct confrontation with Russia.
But the clearest message comes from Israel, two days before Secretary Blinken will arrive in Tel Aviv. Israel often takes cover under the NATO umbrella and it’s no surprise that the Washington DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies declared in the journal Foreign Policy in October: Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine — based on its supply of drones and technical crew to Russia. 
“With any luck, however, Tehran’s foray into European power politics could help nudge Washington and its Western allies toward a more robust policy to counter Iran.”
The danger is that war could spark conflict on a broader geographical and political scale — as a forest fire can not only leap the firebreak but also cause unexpected consequences. Food and energy supply is already disrupting economies far from Ukraine; power shortages affect water supplies leading to cholera.
Africa has seen demonstrations in Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Morocco, and Ghana, where the government is in a debt crisis, and governments have increasingly repressed cost of living protests. 
In Asia, economic distress has spilled into anti-government protests in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and over corruption in the sale of coal in Mongolia; in Europe over cuts to public services in France and Spain, and the expropriation of farmers in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka; and in the Americas over economic and political malfeasance in Haiti, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Panama.
In the Mid East, Lebanese took to the streets to protest the slumping currency, as well as the failure of an inquiry to effectively probe who blew up Beirut’s port in 2020, an explosion that killed more than 200 people and disrupted the country’s ability to import grain. 
Even if not direct consequences, the Russia-NATO conflict has the potential to aggravate and deliver as yet unforeseen knock-on effects to local disputes.
Our worldview determines what we identify as probable cause and which links we choose to pursue — the engine and the transmission.
A poisoned political atmosphere make negotiation and de-escalation more difficult, as we see with the stalled talks in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The risk is of broadening the Russia Ukraine war to Iran and now China, since the U.S. this week sanctioned its company Spacety, which makes small satellites, for allegedly supplying imagery to Russia’s Wagner military contractor.
The military ridiculed it at the time: generals could never launch nuclear war on their own, and there was no risk of an accidental detonation triggering a response that goes out of control.
Yet much of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove has proved to be accurate: controls have not always been tight — there have been close calls. Accidents and escalation are real and practical concerns. 
The growing risk that war in Ukraine could spin out of control was underlined this month by the Rand Corporations’s publication of four pathways to peace. Satirized in Kubrick’s 1974 film as “the Bland corporation,” it is proposing ways to back off from the threat of nuclear war.
Its paper, “Avoiding a Long War,” proposes four ways to bring it to a close: “clarifying plans for future support to Ukraine, making commitments to Ukraine’s security, issuing assurances regarding the country's neutrality, and setting conditions for sanctions relief for Russia.”
The pace of events in and around Ukraine has certainly accelerated this month. But it’s fair to question whether Russia-Ukraine is what’s really driving events.
Russia has rejected a tentative offer for talks conveyed indirectly from Secretary Blinken through the opinion piece by a senior U.S. journalist in the Washington Post.
The proposal would acknowledge Russian control of territory in Donbas and the Crimea; it would demilitarize the Ukraine, in return of Russia foregoing any planned attack on western Ukraine. The article by the Post’s David Ignatius said the purpose of sending tanks and mobile rocket launchers to Ukraine was not to involve the U.S. in war against Russia but to ensure Ukraine could protect it self after the war. (Many of these weapons will not arrive for months, and might stay in their country of arrival, namely, Poland — see below.)
The Rand article seems to have influenced Blinken’s thinking: “it is not clear that a trajectory that entails Russia maintaining the December 2022 line of control would do more harm to the international order than one that saw Russian forces pushed back to the February line.” Russia has taken 20 per cent of Ukraine in the past year.
In the middle of Rand’s report is the touchstone: the U.S. stand-off with China, which is the pendulum of the current geopolitics.
The longer the war continues, the closer the likely ties between Russia and China, Rand notes. The U.S. would also be constrained in its ability to shift its focus to other challenges, such as relations with China.
When the Soviet Union imploded in 1989-1991 the West’s military intelligence mavens were caught on the hop.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s spy planes had spotted the Soviet industrial cities outside which battle tanks were parked to the horizon. It was convinced that the USSR was preparing to invade Europe.
What the CIA didn’t understand is that Soviet and single-industry cities, or monogorods, could do no other: if the only job in town is to make tanks — tanks you make.
UralVagonZavod, of Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk, was and remains the largest battle tank manufacturer in the world.
The result is that Russia inherited an awful lot of tanks, tens of thousands, and if as it seems, the Germans, Americans and British have agreed to send roughly 60 tanks – well, do the math.
The danger of escalation comes not from the Western tanks but they’re likely accompanied by maintenance teams that could put more NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine. However, the tanks will not be available before the spring offensive and are slated to arrive “in months.”
The timing of Blinken’s offer is significant, coming after Russia’s success in Bakhmut and Soledar, and its anticipated plan to step up attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure, including rail links to Poland.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said operations would be resolved on the ground, noting that Kyiv itself had “banned” any negotiations with Russia. The two countries have not taken part in negotiations since May 2022
A significant danger is the West is pouring weapons into defeat; as opposed to a force that’s on the offensive and winning. If Ukraine’s army is too weak to make use of them — or if those $10 million tanks would rapidly turn into scrap metal — it makes it more likely that weapons will be sold on the black market, or simply sit in the country of arrival: the Baltic states and Poland.
President Zelenskiy on Saturday described the fighting in on the Donbas borders as “acute”
Ethnic Hungarians complain they are being conscripted and sent disproportionately into the most deadly fighting against Russia, in what they say is “ethnic cleansing,” using war as a pretext to depopulate their region of Transcarpathia.
Although many hold passports of Ukraine and Hungary, they are not allowed to leave Ukraine and instead find themselves fighting in the bloodiest battles such as that for Bakhmut, where it is reported about half of the 128th Mountain brigade perished in Soledar.
The Hungarian news outlet Pesti Srácok, sent reporters to Transcarpathia to confirm reports of mass drafting of tens of thousand of men in a region where Hungarians only number about 150,000. Boys as young as 16 are being conscripted. 
The Ukraine was once part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that ruled the region until the beginning of the 19th century. However, Hungarians form the third largest minority in the country, concentrated in the region of Transcarpathian. Between two World Wars the region was swapped around between the Kingdom of Romania, the newly formed Czechoslovakia and Hungary itself.
Now it seems that the region’s minorities may find themselves once again victims in the wartime carving up of territories.
Since at least Russia’s invasion almost a year ago, Polish journalists have openly discussed the break up of Ukraine and Poland’s acquisition of lands it once ruled. This scenario was even captured in a screenshot from Poland's national public broadcaster, TVR1.
See Moneycircus, Apr 2022 -- Eurasia note #49 - A Second Front In Ukraine
Poland would hardly take such a step without a green light from the United States. It would take the Polish border much closer to Russia’s, effectively placing NATO on Russia’s doorstep — one of the Kremlin’s concerns that led to this war.
Ukraine has been at war since 2014, then the Kyiv government began suppressing ethnic Russians, making the use of Ukrainian mandatory for public sector workers and banning the teaching of minority languages after primary school. 
The bloody game of playing with borders is not new. The Anglo-Americans and allies did so after WWI, laying traps that were sprung in WW2 when the British gave Germany the green light to take the Sudetenland.
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