Saturday, October 28, 2023

Israel's arrogance dooms it

Nagorno Karabach

In 1993 Armenians from Nagorno Karabach aiming for independence conquered a large part of Azerbaijan. In the following years they rejected proposals that would recognize their independence in exchange for giving up most of the extra Azeri territory that they had conquered.

Azerbaijan has 10 million inhabitants and is supported by Turkey. Armenia has only 3 million inhabitants. Yet the Armenians were confident that they would be able to maintain their military dominance forever.

We know how it ended: last month all Armenians were ethnically cleansed from Nagorno Karabach.

Israel is in a very similar position and is making the same mistake. Israel has 9 million inhabitants (7 million of them Jews). Israel, Gaza and the Westbank alone together contain more than 7 million Palestinians. In addition they have the support from the the Arab world (350 million people) and the Muslim world (over 1 billion people).

Like the Armenians Israel is confident about its military superiority. But it is unlikely that it will be able to maintain that forever. It may take another 10 or 100 years but there will come a time when they are weaker than the Palestinians. And if by that time they haven’t forged some kind of compromise with them they may lose big.

In fact there is already some reason to doubt Israel’s military superiority. When Israel won the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973 it still contained quite a few veterans from the Second World War while such veterans were absent on the other side. If a war would break out now it would face 100,000 Hezbollah fighers with battle experience from the Syrian civil war. In contrast its own fighters don’t have such experience.

Israel still has superior weapons, Hamas and Hezbollah lack an air force and air defense and Israel is supported by the US. But there is no guarantee that US support may last forever. And Israel’s Arab neighbors do have a modren army.

Israel’s atom weapon isn’t a guarantee either: there is already an Islamic nuclear bomb in Pakistan that was developed with Saudi money.

Colonial mindset

What Israel and Armenia have in common is contempt for their adversaries. They see them as some type of inferior people and believe that they will never grow up to become an equal adversary.

The way Israel treats the Palestinians is reminiscent of the way the Indians were treated in 19th century America: a pattern of never ending lies and injustices.

Similar views of a segment of the population could be found in colonial societies and apartheid South Africa. It is no coincidence that Israels system is often called apartheid.

In such a mindset the people that are seen as inferior are often described as almost animals. When they show themselves recalcitrant they are often subjected to severe punishment, as we can now see happening in Gaza. It is genuinely believed that such terror will work.

One story I have seen several times recently is how Israel bombed the houses of Hezbollah leaders during the invasion in Lebanon after Hezbollah had attacked Israel. The story always ends with the contented observation that the Hezbollah leaders later said that they wouldn’t have attacked when they had known that Israel would react so severely.

Israel is deceiving itself. The colonial powers used similar methods. Yet none was able to keep its colonies. They should also have studied the life of Shamil Basayev, one of the most infamous Chechen terrorists. He became such a radical after in 1995 eleven members of his family including his mother, his two children and a brother and sister had been killed in a Russian air raid.

We still don’t know what motivated the killings by Hamas during their invasion in Israeli territory on 7 October. It seems that a large part was killed by the ISraeli army that completely ignored the presence of Israeli citizens and resorted to heavy shelling when it reconquered some kibbutzes. Some of them may have been done by Palestinians not connected to Hamas who took the opportunity to leave Gaza and explore the area “liberated“ by their Hamas fellow Gazians. But it is a fact that Mohammed Deif, the military commander of Hamas lost his wife and daughter in an Israeli bombing in 2014.

Ethnic cleansing

One “solution“ that seems increasingly popular in Israel is the complete ethnic cleansing of Gaza whereby all its inhabitant should be driven out into Egypt. In its simplicity it is seductive. Unfortunately the US seems to support this initiative by pressuring Egypt to open its borders.

Yes, it can work. But, as the Armenians of Nagorno Karabach experienced, it can also be a template that later is used to cleanse you. When you dominate you can set a template for how the sides will relate in the future. When your message is that they cannot live in peace together as equals that may come back to haunt you.

There are several reasons to expect that the Arab world will not be happy to cooperate. They see a major precedent problem: if a cleansing of Gaza is successful it is quite likely the Westbank will be next. And even that will not be enough: biblical Israel included parts of Jordan and Southern Lebanon. And king David’s empire ran up to the Euphates. Israeli extremists will be happy to grab any excuse to start a war to annexate all these territories too. On the internet you can find images like the following:

It is unlikely that things will come that far. But it is clear that ambitious politicians will always find excuses to grab territory to please aggressive nationalists.

Peace requires that the sides recognize each other as equals. Ethnic cleansing will just move the borders but leave the conflict intact.

The alternative

The alternative is that Israel finally recognizes that the rights of the Palestinians. That will result in a two-state solution.

Israel is the product of ethnic cleansing. There is no denial possible about that. But Israel can conclude an agreement with the Palestinians (and the Arabs more in general) in which they give up their expansionist goals in exchange for the Palestinians accepting that Israel is here to stay.

As Israel is at the moment the dominant party it will be the hardest for it to make that deal. It takes a leader with a vision like Rabin. Unfortunately Israel is nowadays ruled by the opportunist Netanyahu whose only goal seems to be to stay in power.

Israel likes to paint Palestinians as terrorists who will never accept the existence of Israel. But there are lots of signals that even Hamas will accept it given a decent deal. Israel’s claim is just an excuse for not making concessions and keeping the process of grabbing Palestinian land in the Westbank going.

Of course it is possible that a small faction of the Palestians will reject the deal and keep making terrorist attacks. But Israel can deal with that and they will slowly fade away. And given that Israel contributes to their welfare rather than harms it Israel’s neighbors - including a Palestinian state - will have no reason to support such terrorism.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

War in Ukraine 23-29 October

 News review


There is still little movement in the front lines. The mud season (in Russian “rasputitsa”; in Ukrainian “bezdorizhzhya”) has arrived and it affects both sides.

On Sunday, October 23, Ukraine had a breakthrough near Kreminna (north of the Donbass). This did not last long: Russia quickly built a new line of defense. A few days later, Kadyrov posted a message on Telegram in which he blamed General Lapin for the breakthrough. He had also criticized this general a few weeks earlier. On Saturday, reports appeared on Telegram that the general had been fired. There is a lot of different speculation on Telegram about what is going on but nothing has been officially announced. At the moment it seems most likely to me that he has resigned. There would be a medical examination and vacation and then appointment in another position.

Propaganda war

Meanwhile, the propaganda war is ramped up to unprecedented heights. In the West, we mainly see the pro-Ukrainian side of this. Typical examples were headlines along the lines of “Russia blew up Nord Stream, says Ukraine“. In this way, “consensus” is gradually created. Russia's opinion is especially shown later, after consensus on the facts has been established. It then mainly illustrates that Russia is lying. Of course you can see the same mechanism at work in mirror image in Russia.

In the “fog of war” it is generally impossible to know the exact reality. I'm just trying to present the arguments here. Everyone can draw their own conclusions.

Nuclear war

In his September 21 speech in which Putin announced the mobilization, he also said the following:

Nuclear blackmail has started. Not only does it mean attacks on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant supported by the west, but also statements by some representatives of NATO countries about the possibility and admissibility of using mass nuclear weapons against Russia.

Those who make such statements against Russia—I'd like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction. And, in some areas, more advanced than those of NATO countries. If the territorial unity of our country is threatened, in order to protect Russia and our nation, we will unquestionably use all the weapons we have. This is no bluff.

Citizens of Russia can be confident that the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom are secured. I will highlight this once again: by any means possible. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind might turn back in their direction.

He had made similar statements before. For example, at the start of the war, he said, "And now a few important - very important - words to those who may be tempted to meddle from the sidelines in what's happening. Those who try to get in our way, or create threats to our country and our people, should be aware: Russia's response will be instantaneous and bring the kind of consequences you have never experienced in history."

Russia's nuclear doctrine that it will only use nuclear weapons if it is threatened as a country is by no means new. The reason why it suddenly became an issue is the annexation of four Ukrainian regions. Some of it is under Ukrainian control and the question was how Russia would explain that in the context of its nuclear doctrine.

Meanwhile, Putin has explicitly stated that he sees no need to use nuclear weapons in the current situation and the Pentagon and other Western bodies have also stated that they do not expect it. Incidentally, we should not underestimate the Western willingness to use nuclear weapons.

The US has accelerated the upgrade of its nuclear weapons in Europe. This should now be completed in December.

Finland is said to have consented to the placement of US nuclear weapons on its territory. It would even have been a precondition for joining NATO. There would also be consultations with Poland about placement.

We also see signs of daydreaming that Russia's strategic nuclear weapons may not work. Strategic nuclear weapons are hydrogen bombs and the explosive part of them is tritium. But tritium has a half-life of only 12 and a half years, so it needs to be refreshed regularly. If Russia would have cut back on that (tritium is very expensive), it now has a problem.

John Helmer asked the attention for a report in VZGlyad, a newspaper with good contacts with the Russian secret services. In the article the visit of an US official to a nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf is discussed. It is highly unusual that the US publishes anything that provides information about the location of its nuclear submarines. That it does that for a location on a relatively short distance to the Russian heartland is interpreted as a subtle threat. Remarkable is that the article considers Russia’s nuclear deterrence as rather weak.

On Thursday, October 27, Zelensky called on the West for a preemptive strike to prevent Russian use of nuclear weapons. This sounded like a call to launch a nuclear attack, but when global outrage erupted, Zelensky rushed to say he didn't mean it that way.

Here is debunking of the claim that Russia wants to use nuclear arms on the War-on-Fakes site.

Dirty bomb

The pro-Russian Telegram channels have been buzzing for a while. On Sunday, October 23, Western media could no longer ignore the claim that Ukraine was preparing a “dirty bomb”. On that day, Russian defense minister Shoigu - on Putin's orders - phoned his British, American, French and Turkish colleagues. He talked about this subject with at least three of them. Later in the week, Shoigu also called China and India, among others. He also sent a letter to the Security Council. In response, UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said he would send inspectors to the two sites mentioned by Shoigu. This is done at the request of the Ukrainian government, so the chances of finding anything are slim.

Similarly, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces for Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection, gave a briefing Ria Novosti summed up the allegations as: It has become known from various sources that Kiev under the leadership of Western trustees has already begun the practical implementation of this plan. The leadership of the Vostochniy [=eastern] mining and processing plant [SChID-GZK], located in the town of Zhovti Vody in the Dnepropetrovsk region, as well as the Kiev Institute of Nuclear Research, was tasked with creating the very "dirty bomb" . Work on it is already in its final stage.

At the same time, on behalf of Volodymyr Zelensky, employees of the Office of the President of Ukraine from his immediate vicinity are conducting secret contacts with representatives of the UK on the issue of a possible transfer of nuclear weapons components to the Kiev authorities.

The provocation organizers' calculation is that if it is successfully carried out, most countries will react extremely harshly to the "nuclear incident" in Ukraine. As a result, Moscow will lose the support of many of its key partners and the West will once again try to raise the issue in order to strip Russia of permanent UN Security Council status and increase anti-Russian rhetoric.

Ukraine promptly gave its own twist to the message, claiming that if Russia helped this message out, it must mean that they were working on a dirty bomb themselves and that they wanted to hide it that way.

Journalism has once again shown its worst side. The Guardian rejected the Russian claim, stating that there is no evidence that Ukraine has radioactive material in its military arsenal. But Ukraine has a lot of radioactive material at its nuclear power plants and that's all you need for a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is an ordinary bomb that scatters radioactive material.

Slovenia claimed that some of the photos that Russia cites as evidence are old Slovenian photos. But if you look at the photo in question, it is only used as an illustration for what a dirty bomb is and not as proof.

The website The Insider claims that the two institutions mentioned only process low-level radioactive materials. The question is whether this matters. If Ukraine organizes a false flag operation, it probably won't want to use too much radioactive material. It should be enough to impress international public opinion but they won’t want to pollute their country more than is strictly necessary.

I certainly think Ukraine is capable of doing such a thing. Their near-daily shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is in fact also an attempted dirty bomb. They will not easily damage the nuclear power plant itself, the shell is too strong for that. But the storage of nuclear waste is vulnerable.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Meanwhile, a similar discussion about tactical nuclear weapons has also erupted. These are weapons for on the battlefield. In the NATO story, Russia would be on the losing side and would like to turn its fortunes around. Russia claims that the West supplies Ukraine with parts of nuclear weapons so that it can stage a false flag nuclear explosion.


On October 23, Shoigu also submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an investigation into the biolabs in Ukraine. Attached to this request were 310 pages of evidence.


An ammonia pipeline runs from Togliatti in Russia to Pivdenny near Odessa, from where the ammonia is exported. The ammonia is used elsewhere in the world - especially North Africa - for fertilizer production. This pipeline was closed at the start of the war. This transport would also be restored as part of the grain agreement. But as in other areas, Russia complains that this has not happened.

The Russian producers are TogliattiAzot and Rossosh. The deal is that it will sell the ammonia at the Ukrainian border to the American company Trammo.

There are also rumors about this pipeline that Ukraine is planning sabotage.

Kherson dam

Of course, Ukraine denies that it plans to blow up the Nova Kakhovka dam. Instead, it accuses Russia of similar plans.


Bayraktak says they hope to have a drone factory ready in Ukraine in two years. The contract for this was signed just before the start of the war in February, but has been delayed due to the war. “Ukraine figures prominently in Baykar's supply chain, especially with the new heavy-lifter drone Akinci and unmanned fighter jet Kizilelma, or Golden Apple, currently under development. Both use Ukrainian engines from Motor Sich and from Ivchenko-Progress.


The evacuation of residents from Kherson has had an unexpected effect: the city has become more pro-Ukrainian. It turns out that pro-Russian residents are more likely to be evacuated than pro-Ukrainians and as a result, the latter now make up a larger proportion of the population.

This has already led to actions where some traders refused to accept Russian rubles. The Russian government immediately intervened. Punishment for those who continue to do so is exile to Ukraine-controlled territory.

This is not a new phenomenon. Ukraine suffers from a similar problem near the Donbass, where Russia is slowly advancing. There the pro-Ukrainian people leave and the pro-Russians stay.


On Friday, October 28, Defense Minister Shoigu said the mobilization was over and no more soldiers would be called up.

Of the 300,000 called up, 82,000 have already been sent to Ukraine. Half of them have been involved in combat.


The European campaign to buy LNG seems a little too successful. About 10% of the world fleet of LNG tankers hangs around European ports. They cannot unload because much of the LNG storage is already full and the unloading capacity in the ports is also limited. Some may also be unwilling to unload as they consider the prices too low. They now form a kind of expensive mobile reserve.

As a result, gas prices in Europe are falling again. However, the price for gas transport is being pushed up worldwide.

Meanwhile, high gas prices hit developing countries that had become dependent on LNG under Western pressure, such as Bangla Desh.

Europe consumes more than 400 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The storage holds up to 107. In addition, there are limitations on the speed at which it can be inflated. All in all, it remains to be seen how the winter will turn out and shortages can certainly arise if the weather is bad.

Nord Stream

Previously, Putin had accused "Anglo-Saxons" of being responsible for the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines. Now Defense Minister Shoigu has made that concrete by saying that the British are responsible.

Valdai speech

Putin gave one of his major annual speeches in Valdai. On the Kremlin website you can read the speech and the subsequent question and answer session and see the speech dubbed.

War in Ukraine 16-22 October


News overview


The front lines have changed little in the past week. One of Surovikin's qualities, which was often mentioned when he was appointed, was that in Syria he had succeeded in making the various branches of the armed forces - including the air force - work well together. It seems that this policy has also led to an improvement in the Russian position in Ukraine. There was fierce fighting everywhere.

 In the northeast, Russia appears to have stabilized the situation. It has even regained some ground near Kupyansk. Ukraine continues to launch attacks in hopes of forcing a breakthrough towards Luhansk. The Ukrainian attacks mainly take place further south, near Tern and towards Kreminna.

Near Soledar and Bakhmut, the Russian army is still making small conquests. At this rate, it could be months before they conquer these cities. Ukraine is gathering a large group of soldiers behind the front lines for a counter-offensive.

Near Kherson, Ukraine continues to attack. They are not very successful at the moment. But in the past we have seen many times that the Russian army, after repelling attacks on a number of occasions, still felt compelled to withdraw.

On October 21 and 22, the Russian Air Force carried out a large number of attacks on Ukrainian electricity supplies.

Martial law

Putin declared martial law in the four annexed regions on October 19. Less far-reaching measures were announced for Crimea and neighboring Russian provinces. It seems primarily an attempt to streamline and legalize the current situation. Kherson's evacuation may have been the deciding factor. This now has a legal basis and can also be enforced.

At least as interesting is the creation of a Special Coordination Council (SCC), which will be headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The SCC will also include representatives from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Russian Guard, the FSB, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Chief Directorate for Special Programs of the President, other federal agencies and the State Council. The task of the council is to meet the needs that arise during the execution of a special operation. This applies to the supply and repair of weapons, medical and sanitation services, repair and construction work and logistics.

 It seems that this council provides General Surovikin with a platform where he can directly request cooperation from all concerned.


Belarus is now also digging trenches along its border with Ukraine. Russia is going to help Belarus set up a border security unit and send 9,000 troops to do so. Belarus itself has banned its soldiers from traveling abroad (with the exception of Russia). Lukashenko accuses NATO of exacerbating tensions on the country's western border. In addition, in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, terrorists are said to be preparing to carry out attacks in Belarus. The first arrests of Ukraine fighters who allegedly planned attacks have already been reported.

 A major upgrade of Belarus' arsenal is also underway. Tanks and armored vehicles are transported en masse by rail to Russian factories to be modernized. Then they go back.

There is much speculation as to what the plan is here. Some think that Russia wants to invade Ukraine again from Belarus. The most likely scenario would then be an attack west of Kiev with the aim of stopping the arms supply. Others claim Belarus is under heavy pressure to join the war on Russia's side. According to opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of the Belarussian population is not in favor of this. All in all, it doesn't look like this will become an active front anytime soon. However, Russia is shelling Ukraine from Belarusian territory.


China has banned its state-owned companies from selling gas abroad. Because it gets extra Russian gas, China was able to export some to Europe. Apparently, China expects major shortages - and therefore high prices - on the world market this winter and wants to protect its own citizens.

 Russia and the Nordstream company are is not the only parties that are not allowed to see the results of the Swedish investigation into the sabotage of Nord Stream 2. Germany and Denmark are not allowed access either. This only strengthens the impression that this was an American operation and evidence is hidden.

 The Swedish magazine Expressen has published pictures of the damage to the pipeline (the article is partly behind a paywall; for more pictures see here and here). There is also a video.


Russia's imports of Iranian weapons are slowly expanding. Besides the Geran-2 (= Shahed-136; geran is Russian for geranium) they now also use the Geran-1 (Shahed-131). It is somewhat smaller (150 instead of 200 kilos). The Geran-2 can carry an explosive of 50 kilos. The Washington Post reported that Iran also plans to provide heavier drones (Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar) and missiles (Aresh 2).

 It is unclear what NATO intends to do against these drones. They talk about jamming, but these drones are pre-programmed and lose contact with the home base along the way. They call it fire and forget. In the countryside it is often best to just shoot the drones. In the cities it is more difficult. You often hit other things as well. And if you hit such a drone and it crashes in a residential area, that's not such a success either. The drones are so cheap that Russia usually sends several at the same time via different routes to the same target.

 The Geran-2 has a weak engine and the maximum speed is about 180 km per hour. This has the advantage that the engine generates little heat. Many air defenses look for heat sources and therefore miss the drone.

 Both the Geran-2 and the Turkish Bayraktar make a sound like a moped. But the Geran-2 is a much cheaper drone (less than $20,000 vs. $5 million for a Bayraktar) that's only suitable as a suicide drone. The Bayraktar can be piloted from a distance and is therefore much more suitable for reconnaissance and bombing. The Bayraktar is larger (500 kg) and can carry more. However, the range is much smaller (150 km vs 2000 for the Geran-2). The Geran-2 is also much newer: it dates from last year while the Bayraktar has been in use since 2014. Iran supplies Russia with another drone that is more similar to the Bayraktar: the Mohajer-6.

 Much about the production and delivery of the Geran-2 is unclear. Some Telegram posts claim that it is built in Russia and not imported. According to the British MI-6, Russia is currently making 500 drones per month. There are no images showing what is inside the Iranian planes that regularly fly to Moscow. Exporting Iranian weapons to Russia would be a violation of sanctions against Iran (SC Resolution 2231).

Good ideas are copied. Ukraine is working on a similar drone to the Geran-2. Russia is said to be refining the design.


The grain agreement that enables Ukrainian exports from Odessa is coming under pressure. The Russians have previously complained that the propaganda about export to developing countries has not come to fruition. The vast majority of Ukrainian grain goes to Europe. In addition, as a counter-concession, it had been agreed that Europe would lift its sanctions that hinder the export of Russian grain and fertilizer (including a ban on insurance of transport). But that still hasn't happened. The grain agreement expires in November. It will probably not be extended.


Now that the former Warsaw Pact countries have run out of Soviet weapons, they are looking elsewhere in the world. Pakistan and Uganda are among those mentioned.

There are increasingly shortages of Western weapons. Besides the Javelin anti-tank weapons and the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, there is also a shortage of M777 howitzers and ammunition for them.


Two Tajiks who volunteered for the Russian army killed 11 people at a training camp in Belgorod. They were also shot and killed themselves. The Russian Defense Ministry spoke of a terrorist attack, but independent Russian media claimed that the shooting followed a conflict between Islamic soldiers - who didn’t want to fight - with their officer, who spoke of a "holy war". ”, and thereafter called Allah “a coward.” .


Russia has advised the people of the city of Kherson to leave the city. There are various explanations for this evacuation.

 Ukraine is said to have gathered some 60,000 men to attack Russian troops west of the Dnieper River. These troops depend for supplies on a few bridges that are regularly shelled by Ukraine and thus appear vulnerable. Ukraine's Western allies are said to have ordered the country to capture Kherson as soon as possible. Heavy fighting is therefore to be expected and it is expected that the city will also be frequently shelled. On 8 November there are elections in the US and Biden would like to show some result.

In addition, there are fears that Ukraine will blow up the dams upstream in the river. That would cause a tidal wave that could severely affect the city - which is located on the river.

Ukraine is trying to turn this argument around by claiming that it is Russia that wants to blow up the dam in a false flag attack. That should cover a withdrawal and make it more difficult for Ukraine to cross the river and advance further. This is not credible: Blowing up the dam would make a withdrawal more difficult and undermine the Russian defenses. In addition, the left bank to which the Russians would retreat is lower than the right bank. So they would be most affected by it themselves.

 Another motive are the sabotage and reconnaissance groups (DRGs) of the Ukrainian army. When they enter the city they will no longer be able to hide among and behind the population. People are allowed to stay if they really want to, but will then be extra monitored to ensure that they do not pass on any information to the Ukrainian army.

It is also possible that the Russian army is preparing for urban warfare. As we have seen in Mariupol and other cities, cities are very well defensible. Unfortunately, the result is great destruction. It is even a possibility that Russia will provide for withdrawal and reconquest later and that it wants to prevent Ukraine from using the presence of a civilian population to hide behind.

 Will Russia withdraw from the west bank of the river? The NY Times reports that according to the Ukrainians Russia is withdrawing some units and equipment. But the danger of blowing up the dam is real and it is expected that Russia will take precautions. That doesn't mean it plans to give up the area. And if it wants to give up the area, it will probably strive to make the Ukrainian army pay a heavy price for the conquest - as it did in the Kharkov offensive.