First Video Evidence of Russians Among Ukrainian Separatists

Of course this confirms what most of us knew all along.
Nevertheless, respect for the reporter who was held captive for several days.
The Russians shown in the video are volonteers who went to Ukraine to ‘help’ Russians there.
However, having watched other videos on the VICE news YouTube channel it becomes cristal clear that the masked separatist soldiers are disciplined professional soldiers especially when compared with the Ukrainian soldiers. Claiming that they are a bunch of local men who organized themselves in armed units is beyond ridiculous.

Ukrainian soldiers giving up their weapons.

The Mess is increasing

If you want to know how a world with a nuclear Iran would look like, look no further than North Korea.
Satellite imagery suggests that North Korea is preparing a new nuclear test.
Meanwhile the North Koreans not only staged a live-artillery exercise near South Korea but they also issued new nuclear threats.
I quote from a GSN article:

Meanwhile, a powerful North Korean military body on Monday threatened to do “more than nuclear tests” in response to recent international warnings on the matter.

“The world is making all the guesses and conjectures that our new nuclear test and the rocket launch will develop into a boosted fission weapon or a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the North Korean National Defense Commission said in a statement quoted by the Choson Ilbo newspaper.

“If you ask us to tell the truth, we will not deny that we are capable of doing more than these speculations,” the defense commission said.

The United States and South Korea are keeping a close eye via satellites on the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where personnel appear to be in the thick of preparations for an expected fourth underground atomic trial. U.S. President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Friday warned that Pyongyang could expect more sanctions and an end to any hope of reviving a moribund aid-for-denuclearization process if it proceeds with the test.

In related news, the South Korean government on Monday authorized a plan to boost domestic missile defenses by upgrading existing interceptors and purchasing more-capable systems from the United States, the Korea Times reported.

Under the approved plan, the South would acquire as many as 100 Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles between 2016 and 2020 and would seek to buy upgrades for its 48 PAC-2 systems through a competitive bid process, the Korea Herald reported.

Obviously the North Koreans are not impressed by the response of the US and South Korea.
Although US security assurances for South Korea are more substantial than those given to Ukraine the behaviour of the Obavez administration has not particulary increased the trust in such assurances.
Neither the Japanese nor the Saudis are convinced.
Now, imagine Iran having nukes and threatening the Saudis not with nukes but with conventional conflict.
Would the US risk a nuclear war with Iran for the sake of the Saudis?
I highly doubt it.
Which brings us to Iran’s strategic goals. These goals can be summed up in two words: regional dominance. Nukes would help a great deal in achieving these goals. In essence these would allow the Iranians to control roughly 50% of the world’s oil production giving them a stranglehold on the world’s economy and an immense potential for blackmail.
The Iranian goals are beautifully described by former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger in this video though I differ on the threat posed to Israel.
He also states, I think correctly, that the only way to prevent Iran is by military means.
At least the current negotiations cannot result in an acceptable outcome without a credible military threat.

Prepare for a bad Iran deal

Why the likelyhood of a bad deal with Iran has increased

Before I begin I want to make clear for the reader not familiar with my writings that the name Obavez refers to the US president who reminds me more of Hugo Chavez than of an US president.

We are living in a strange world. While in the recent weeks we were hearing and reading statements from the US, China and Iran expressing optimism that a deal with Iran could be struck by the deadline set for July 20, 2014 we see no indication that the positions of both sides have moved even nearly close enough to bridge the gap between them.
Far from it, the Iranians have moved further away by increasing their demands by claiming that they need substantially more centrifuges and by claiming that they have the right to enrich uranium up to 90%.

Of particular interest were the statements of Rouhani who said “We will witness the sanctions shattering in the coming months.” and the statements made in an opinion piece published in the Russian online edition of RIA Novosti claiming that “The head of the Center for Modern Iranian Studies, Radzhab Safarov, said he was “90 percent sure” that an agreement to lift sanctions against Iran will be reached during the April 7-9 meeting in Vienna, paving the way for military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.”.
Now, all these statements could just be expressions made for politcal purposes not grounded in reality or it could be that these people know something that we don’t know.
Be it as it may. Although April 9 has passed and although such optimism seems to fly in the face of reality there are recent global developments that have increased the likelyhood of an US deal with Iran considerably.

Of these developments the two most important are the the crisis in Ukraine and the collapse of the MidEast peace process.
With the annexation of Crimea being a fait accompli Putin seems well on his way to annexing more parts of Ukraine since the recent escalation in eastern Ukraine and the massive concentration of Russian troops inidicates that a Russian invasion is just a matter of time.
This of course will have implications for the P5+1 negotiations with Iran because Russia has already indicated that it might retaliate by sabotaging the negotiations if the West tries to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.
But in contrast to many commenters and op-ed writers I see Russia not sabotaging the negotiations directly but in indirect ways.
It would be bad publicity for the Russians to sabotage the negotiations directly.
It would be much smarter to undermine the sanctions regime and simultaniously encourage the Iranians in secret to be more intransigient and to increase their demands and also play for time.
If the sanctions were to be undermined there would be less economic pressure on the Iranians enabling them to drag the the negotiations for much longer.
As Reuters reported Russia and Iran are working on a oil-for-goods deal worth $20 billion. That would be precisely the way to undermine sanctions.
The other possible way for Russia to retaliate is to encourage Assad to stall the implementation of the deal on the destruction of his chemical weapons.
Assad just missed yet another deadline for handing over his vast bulk of chemical weapons which means that their removal falls further behind schedule.
From the Balkan wars in the 1990s to Syria to Iran, Russia used such crises to present itself as an important global player whose help is needed to resolve these crises thus compensating for its loss of superpower status.
But in all these crises Russia was never a part of the solution but part of the problem. In the case of Syria and Iran Russia is not interested in solving these crises (except on its terms). On the contrary, the crises ensure that Russia is needed as a ‘partner’ who ‘helps solving’ these crises and moreover they provide them a means to blackmail the West. If the West takes actions against Russia’s expansion in the Ukraine, Russia can retaliate by withdrawing its ‘cooperation’ or worsening these crises.
In the case of the former Yugoslavia the Gordian knot was cut by unilateral NATO action but absent Obavez’ willingness for military action this option is not available.
This leaves the West helpless against Russia’s moves.

So far the record of the Obavez administration has been atrocious, with disaster piling upon disaster and scandal piling upon scandal and the greatest of all disasters, ObavezCare, is assumed by many to cost the Democrats dearly in the 2014 elections.
Like many presidents before him Obavez has in his second term only one field were he could score major political points: foreign policy.
But the problem is that his foreign policy is equally disastrous and one of the two major foreign policy initiatives, the MidEast peace process, is already a total failure.
While some have declared the MidEast peace process already dead and others say that it was a stillbirth I think we can savely say that it is in a deep coma from which it’s not going to wake up anytime soon and even if it wakes up it will be so badly damaged that it can never sufficiently recover.
Therefore we don’t need to wait for the official death certificate to aknowledge that it is a total disaster for the Obavez administration.
That leaves only one field where the Obavez administration could be successful: a deal with Iran.
This increases the chances that the US administration might be so desperate for a success that it might accept any deal, a very bad deal even by their own standards.

All these developments might lead to a surprising result where Iran sides with the US and not with Russia.
If Iran were to strike a deal with the US it would achieve a tremendous result: It would be totally free from sanctions and would be treated not much differently from any other nuclear state like for example Japan.
Iran would be free to trade unhindered with the rest of the world enabling the mullah regime to end its dependence on Russia and buy military hardware and expertise from whichever country is willing to sell it.
The economic boost would not only stabilize the mullah regime but it would also provide the money to develop its nuclear program and all the military aspects of it even faster.
Of course an acceptable deal for Iran would have to be ‘an offer they can’t refuse’ giving them pretty much everything they want.
Needless to say that such a deal would bring not more freedom to the Iranian people and neither would Iran cease to see America as ‘the big satan’ and enemy number one.
There are those who see Iran as a mere pawn of Russia but I beg to differ. The Iranians have much bigger ambitions and taking their history with the mighty Persian empires of the past into account they certainly see themselves not as pawns but as a great power rising again and taking its rightful place in the world.
They are just cunningly playing their game.

Does all this sound strange to you?
Well, it might after all be not that farfetched.
I want to quote the Russian op-ed I mentioned earlier: “The expert said that the standoff over Crimea, the worst since the end of the Cold War, would contribute to the Iranian talks, because “there will be a bitter struggle between Russia and the West to win Iran round.”.
Given that Putin has tight control over the Russian media and given that RIA Novosti is run by the Russian state it is reasonable to assume that it does not contradict the views of the Russian goverment.

What does this mean for Israel?

In a very interesting interview with the New York Time’s Ethan Bronner Israel’s former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin spoke on a wide range of topics (including Syria, Egypt and Iran).

He repeated his four conditions that are necessary for a military strike on Iran.
1. Israel can do it.
2. Bombing Iran is less dangerous than all the other alternatives.
3. Legitimacy (meaning there are no other alternatives)
4. No red light from the US

With regards to #4 he said that a red light would have to be taken very seriously into consideration.
Interestingly he mentioned also that a bad deal could be defined as a good deal.
As we have seen with the interrim deal this deal would be sold to the public as a great or at least an acceptable deal.
And that is the danger for the legitimacy of any Israeli strike.
This is why Israel must prepare for such an outcome ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Here is the full interview with Amos Yadlin.