Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 26.08.16

Massenbach-Letter. News

· NYT:Think Hillary Clinton Will Win in a Landslide? Don’t Bet on It

· Washington Post: Inside the exclusive events helping to fund Clinton and the Democratic Party

· [Inside the Clinton Donor Network]

· Washington Post: Hillary’s heelClinton Foundation donors got access to the State Department.

· Turkey and the Energy Transit Question

· Is Russia Safe From Extremist Attacks Like Those in Europe?

· US Army War College Quarterly: Why Russia is Reviving Its Conventional Military Power

· From my Russian news desk: Russia and Turkey: More Than a Rapprochement?

·

Massenbach*Italy: Germany To Accept Hundreds Of Migrants

August 23, 2016 | 17:21 GMT

Beginning in September, Germany will accept hundreds of Iraqi, Syrian and Eritrean migrants currently living in camps in Italy, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Aug. 23, Reuters reported. An EU plan put in place in 2015 was meant to divert up to 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other member states over two years. However, as border security has increased and with few EU nations willing to accept migrants, many have been trapped. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is already under pressure from the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany but needs to forge a lasting solution to the migrant crisis.

https://www.stratfor.com/situation-report/italy-germany-accept-hundreds-migrants?id=899b2d6282&uuid=ad9a1aac-35ce-4f7b-ae6b-9f7323421f3f

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From our Russian news desk:see attachment “Russia – Asia”.

Russia and Turkey: More Than a Rapprochement?

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Carnegie Moscow CenterIs Russia Safe From Extremist Attacks Like Those in Europe?

Source: Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM/TASS

Dmitri Trenin
Op-Ed August 12, 2016 Newsweek

To a casual observer, it may seem surprising. Russian speakers form one of the largest groups among Islamic State’s (ISIS) foreign fighters. For over 10 months, Russia has been actively involved in the conflict in Syria.

The Russian North Caucasus remains a region of perennial instability. A Kiev-based Crimean Tartar group has vowed to take direct action against what it calls the Russian occupation of the peninsula. Yet, so far, Russia seems to have been spared the upsurge in extremist attacks which has affected France, Belgium and Germany. Why?

To begin with, this perception is wrong. Russia has lost more lives than France has in its recent attacks combined —224—as a result of the bombing of its passenger jet over Sinai on October 31, 2015. The perpetrators are widely believed to have been a local jihadist group which had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

The attack happened just one month after the start of the Russian military campaign in Syria. Flights between Russia and Egypt, a favorite holiday destination for many Russians, have not been resumed since, which suggests that the threat persists.

ISIS certainly has Russia in its sights. People pledging allegiance to ISIS have carried out several deadly strikes in Dagestan. The FSB, Russia’s domestic security agency, reports an increase in the activity of potential terrorists across the country. Would-be bombers and attackers have been apprehended in a number of Russian regions. One of the stated reasons for President Putin’s decision to go into Syria was to fight the enemy in its own territory, rather than wait for him to come to Russia.

So far, Russia itself has been spared major terrorist attacks. The October plane bombing occurred after the Russian jet had taken off from an Egyptian airport. More than a dozen Russian servicemen who were killed in Syria died on the battlefield. The concerns often expressed in the West ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics did not, fortunately, materialize.

Clearly, the Russian security services have gained a lot of experience; Russia’s anti-terror legislation, already harsh, is getting harsher; and Chechnya, once the main trouble spot on Russia’s map, is tightly controlled by a strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, who calls himself “Putin’s soldier”.

That said, there are considerable differences between Russia and Western Europe, the principal target of ISIS-inspired or –affiliated attackers. In Russia, Muslims and the Orthodox Christian majority have lived side-by-side for centuries. Integration has not always been perfect, but an acceptable modus vivendi exists, both at the grassroot and elite levels.

Islam is an established religion in Russia, recognized by the state, alongside Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism. The vast majority of Muslim migrants who come to work in Russia arrive from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Like guest workers in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, they either come and go on a rotating basis or seek to stay and assimilate. In sum, Russia’s imperial legacy and its multi-ethnic, multi-religious nature are cushioning the impact of Islamist violence.

There is also the bitter experience of the 1990s and the early 2000s, the time of the war in Chechnya. Then, terrorism was a tool frequently used in Moscow and elsewhere.

Passenger planes, metro stations and whole apartment blocks were blown up, and hundreds of hospital patients, theater goers and schoolchildren were taken hostage—against the background of bloody battles in the North Caucasus. That war is long over, but making sure that peace does not unravel in the region is a major concern for the Kremlin, which explains the unique contract that de facto exists between Putin and Kadyrov.

None of the above gives the Russian leadership any ground for complacency. Domestically radicalized jihadis, ISIS followers, and the returnees from the Syria war are currently the top concerns—in addition to the extremist groups who have continued to operate in the North Caucasus after the end of the Chechnya war.

There are even bigger threats on the horizon. Russia’s participation in the Syria war, although limited, is essentially open-ended. It also looks like a first instalment in a series of possible future engagements along Russia’s southern periphery.

Afghanistan, almost a decade and a half after the start of the U.S.-led operation, remains unstable. Two of the biggest countries in Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, face potentially difficult transitions as their founding presidents, in their mid-to-late 70s, prepare to leave the scene.

The smaller countries of the region, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, are facing mounting challenges to their stability. Given that Russia’s border with Kazakhstan, the world’s longest, is not controlled as closely as the country’s other frontiers, and that borders in Central Asia are not sufficiently secure, overflow of jihadis across them is a possibility they need to reckon with.

Even as Russia is again engaged in a confrontation with the West, it is confronted by very real threats coming from the south.

This article was originally published in Newsweek.

http://carnegie.ru/2016/08/12/is-russia-safe-from-extremist-attacks-like-those-in-europe/j3n5?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTm1SaVlqYzBOR1JtTlRjMSIsInQiOiJoU3hyOTdEcFBBZmtMcytLa3pPU2dkWFwvT0lNOWZNU1lpdWpKbmdYdWs1c0hyOWVMaGF5clVVSGpZUk4wTTR5RE01akJndnl5bHB5UG55R2JlczFnRk14bWFmdXNUbEgzOHFIUktMUkZpcFU9In0%3D

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* NYT:Think Hillary Clinton Will Win in a Landslide? Don’t Bet on It.

vote. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Donald J. Trump, after weeks of self-inflicted damage, has seen support for his candidacy in national polls dip into the 30s — Barry Goldwater and Walter F. Mondale territory — while Hillary Clinton has extended her lead to double digits in several crucial swing states.

Time to declare a landslide, right? Not so fast.

The vote may be more favorable to Mr. Trump than the worst-case-scenario prognosticators suggest for a very simple reason: Landslides do not really happen in presidential elections anymore.

It has been 32 years since a president won the popular vote by a double-digit percentage. That was when Mr. Mondale suffered an 18-point defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was also the last time there was a landslide among states, with Mr. Mondale winning only Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

There are a variety of factors that are likely to prevent a candidate today from rallying the huge, 60-plus-point majorities that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt back into office in 1936, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and Richard M. Nixon in 1972.

OPEN Interactive Feature

Interactive Feature: Who Will Be President?

The country is too fragmented and its political temperature too overheated for any single person to emerge as a consensus choice for anything nearing two-thirds of the electorate. And that climate has led the political parties to become far more ideologically uniform than they used to be.

“The biggest difference between today and say, 1936 or 1964, is the composition of the two parties,” said Jonathan Darman, author of the book “Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America.” Party identification used to be more fluid, making it less difficult for partisan voters to conceive of supporting someone of the opposite affiliation.

“The Republican and Democratic parties were much more heterogeneous than the parties we have today,” Mr. Darman added. “Party identification had a lot more to do with regional ties and family traditions than ideology.”

Data show just how less likely crossover voting is today. Ninety percent of Republicans and two-thirds of independents see Mrs. Clinton unfavorably, according to the most recent McClatchy/Marist poll. And many Trump defectors are choosing to vote for third-party candidates, which has also contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s inability to break the 50 percent threshold in most national polls. (All together, the third-party candidates are approaching 15 percent of the vote, indicating an unabated dissatisfaction with the nominees for the two major parties.)

Photo

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in Burbank, Calif. Even as her rival has slid, she remains below the 50 percent threshold in many polls.

According to Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of voters now hold political beliefs that place them at the ideological poles of their respective parties — a number that doubled from 2004 to 2014. And these people tend to reinforce one another’s views. “Those on the ends of the political spectrum are more likely to surround themselves with people that think like they do,” Ms. Mitchell said.

This high level of polarization could contribute to a curious electoral phenomenon, which could cost Mrs. Clinton support: If people begin to believe that she is going to run away with the election, they may lodge a protest vote against her simply to deny her a commanding victory.

“If it becomes a ‘free vote,’ ” said Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, “I think that could be one of her problems. If it looks all too easy and all too comfortable, there may be voters who will say, ‘I don’t want her to win by a landslide.’ ”

If Mrs. Clinton performs well enough, she could achieve something her husband, Bill Clinton, never did: winning a majority of the popular vote. But given the polling today, the election is showing certain resemblances to the 1992 race that sent Mr. Clinton to the White House the first time. That year, many voters dissatisfied with President George Bush flocked to the independent Ross Perot, and neither Mr. Bush nor Bill Clinton came close to a majority.

OPEN Graphic

Graphic: Only 9% of America Chose Trump and Clinton as the Nominees

Mr. Clinton took a whopping 370 electoral votes, despite winning just 43 percent of the vote. With Mr. Perot on the ballot again in 1996, Mr. Clinton won only 49 percent.

President Obama’s victory in his first term was considered about as large a landslide as possible given how split the country is. But when compared with the Johnson, Roosevelt and Reagan landslides, it was paltry: just 53 percent. Recent elections were more closely divided. George W. Bush received 48 percent in 2000 — after he failed to win the popular vote but won the Electoral College — and 51 percent in 2004.

The margin of victory, however, is about more than just bragging rights. If voter unease does not subside, a smaller victory could limit Mrs. Clinton’s ability to claim the kind of popular mandate that she and Democrats on Capitol Hill would like.

“A mandate is some kind of issue platform that you have advocated that is the basis of your victory,” said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. “Not fear of the person who got beaten, which I think is the prime motivator of the Clinton people: the fear of Trump. The same thing can be said for Trump voters: fear of Clinton.”

Absent a popular vote landslide, the only overwhelming chances for victory lie in the Electoral College. Mr. Obama won in 2008 with 365 electoral votes to Senator John McCain’s 173, for example.

Mrs. Clinton could approach or even exceed that if Mr. Trump’s poll numbers remain depressed. But even so, for Mr. Trump not to carry close to 20 states would be a defeat on a huge scale. Mr. McCain won 22 states in 2008. And despite the scale of that defeat, it was still far less lopsided than Mr. Mondale’s one state and the District of Columbia.

Washington Post: Inside the exclusive events helping to fund Clinton and the Democratic Party

The price of entry to see Hillary Clinton on Sunday evening was $50,000 per person, a sum that got you an al fresco meal of tomato and mozzarella salad, lobster, strawberry shortcake and an intimate conversation with the possible next president of the United States.

“It was the easiest event I’ve ever done,” said Elaine Schuster, a longtime Clinton friend who hosted the soiree at her waterfront home on Cape Cod, Mass. “Everyone wanted to come.”

Not everyone could, of course: Just 28 people joined Clinton for cocktails and dinner in Schuster’s back yard.

The Democratic nominee has spent much of August in such exclusive environs, helping her campaign and the party scoop up at least $32 million in three weeks as part of a nonstop press of high-dollar fundraisers.

Clinton has touted her growing support from small contributors, whose donations of $200 or less made up nearly 40 percent of her campaign’s $62 million haul in July.

But the former secretary of state devoted much of this month to seeking big money to finance the Democratic Party, a race for cash that has taken her from Greenwich, Conn., to Nantucket, Mass., to Beverly Hills, Calif.

The fundraising drive has served as a reminder of her deep and decades-long connections to some of the country’s wealthiest figures, a jarring contrast with her efforts to cast herself as an ally of those left out of prosperity.

“There is too much inequality, too little upward mobility. It is just too hard to get ahead today,” Clinton said during a major economic speech this month in the blue-collar community of Warren, Mich. If elected, she pledged, “I will have your back every single day that I serve.”

That appeal to working-class voters was bookended by two expensive fundraisers. The night before, Clinton had held a $25,000-a-head event in nearby Birmingham, Mich., at the home of a musician whose father was the owner of basketball’s Detroit Pistons. Legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin provided entertainment for the roughly 70 guests, performing “Natural Woman.”

And on the evening of her speech, donors paid $50,000 apiece to socialize with the candidate at the Chicago Club, one of the city’s most exclusive social gathering places. Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), did his part by appearing at a fundraiser the same day at a Roman-style trattoria in a boutique Manhattan hotel, where admission started at $50,000 as well.

The Democratic ticket’s relentless fundraising this month — which included 50 private events through Monday, split roughly in half between the running mates — is helping to drive what is expected to be a record monthly haul for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

But the intense pursuit of big money spotlights what has long been one of Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities: her immersion in a wealthy elite circle that has supported her family’s political and philanthropic causes over the past four decades. Those relationships were underscored by newly released emails from her time as secretary of state, which showed how the requests of her longtime friends and donors captured the attention of top Clinton aides.

Republican nominee Donald Trump also has devoted much of August to the fundraising circuit, with about two dozen events scheduled in some of the same exclusive enclaves as Clinton’s. But he does not have the same kind of long-standing connections to wealthy donors as the former first lady — relationships that have paid dividends as she has sought financing for her second White House run.

The billionaire real estate developer has attacked Clinton as beholden to her benefactors, picking up a critique that Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) made during the Democratic primaries.

“Hillary Clinton’s donors own her,” Trump said at a rally in Akron, Ohio, on Monday night. “They own her lock, stock and barrel. They own her, and she will do whatever they tell her to do.”

It’s an argument that resonates with many Sanders fans, who remain uncomfortable with Clinton’s pursuit of big money.

“Fifty thousand dollars is more than a lot of people make in a year,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action, an environmental group that was an early Sanders supporter.

“When you’re taking such big-dollar contributions, ordinary Americans have a right to question what people are getting in return,” he added.

Some Sanders supporters are even more pointed in their criticism, noting that the senator’s low-dollar fundraising juggernaut surpassed Clinton for several months.

“It seems to be 180 degrees opposite of what Bernie talked about,” said Burt Cohen, a former New Hampshire state senator and host of a podcast called “Keeping Democracy Alive.” “It’s more of that strategy of leaving the Bernie people in the dust.”

Clinton officials said that those writing big checks are supplying just a fraction of the campaign’s contributions. Of the $62 million Clinton raised for her campaign in July, $44 million was contributed online, they said. Donations of $200 or less totaled more than $24 million, about 38 percent.

Trump also brought in about $24 million in small donations in July, about two-thirds of the $36 million he collected in his campaign committee.

Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin said in a statement that “grassroots support continues to be the lifeblood of this campaign. Hillary Clinton raised nearly 70 percent of her money online in July, with about half of the donations coming from first time donors and the average donation to the campaign for the month was just $44.”

Still, Clinton spent most of August raising huge sums for the national party, which can accept vastly larger contributions than her campaign, as a result of rules being loosened in 2014.

She pulled in at least $1.5 million from 15 guests who attended a dinner in Omaha hosted by Susan Buffett, the daughter of Warren Buffett, a business magnate and investor, according to details released by the campaign.

A few days later, Clinton scooped up at least $750,000 at the home in Bow Mar, Colo., of Charlie Ergen, co-founder of Dish network and reportedly the richest man in the state.

Last weekend, Clinton collected at least $3.8 million in a swing through the toniest oceanfront communities in Massachusetts, headlining five events held by the likes of investor Lynn Forester de Rothschild, former ambassador to Portugal Elizabeth Bagley and former Universal Studios chief executive Frank Biondi.

Then it was off to Southern California, where the candidate spent Monday and Tuesday feted by boldface names such as former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson at six events Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, she is scheduled to headline three fundraisers in California’s Bay Area, culminating with a dinner in Los Altos hosted by Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

Those who have observed Clinton in these settings say that she takes pains to point out the vast economic chasm that separates the attendees from the majority of Americans.

“She says the same thing at every one of these events as I see on TV,” said Wade Randlett, a longtime Democratic bundler who is raising money for Clinton’s campaign.

“The only difference is that she starts by saying that the economy is working for all of us in the room, but it’s not working for too many people and her job is to make it work for everybody.”

Clinton was the first presidential contender this cycle to take advantage of recent changes in campaign finance rules that allow candidates to seek massive contributions in conjunction with the national party.

[Political parties go after million-dollar donors in wake of looser rules]

By giving to two joint fundraising committees that Clinton’s campaign set up with the DNC, a single donor can contribute as much as $619,200 this year to support her bid. (Trump now has a similar arrangement with the Republican National Committee that allows donors to give up to $449,400.)

A Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission filings found that 65 Clinton allies had given at least $300,000 apiece to her joint fundraising committees by the end of June, together accounting for more than $29 million in contributions.

Among them are Univision chairman Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl Saban who together donated $1.4 million. The Sabans also have contributed $10 million to Priorities USA Action, a pro-Clinton super PAC.

A Post investigation last year found that the couple ranked as the top political benefactors of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns since 1992 and also had donated at least $10 million to the Clintons’ family foundation.

On Monday night, the Sabans opened their Beverly Hills home to their longtime friend, hosting 100 supporters who paid $50,000 each to dine with the candidate.

The next day, Clinton took a brief break from her fundraising schedule to participate in a conference call with small-business owners around the country.

During her remarks, she recalled her upbringing in a family that ran a small drapery business in suburban Chicago, saying, “I want to make sure every family has the chance to tell a similar story. And that’s why my top priority as president will be building an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

Soon after, she was off — headed to mingle with stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Tobey Maguire at the Hollywood Hills home of pop star Justin Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel, for yet another fundraiser. This one alone would generate more than $3 million for Clinton and the party.

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[Inside the Clinton Donor Network]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/clinton-money/?tid=a_inl

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* The ISIS war has a new commander — and ISIS may be the least of his worries.

By: Andrew Tilghman, August 21, 2016

It’s going to be a long year for Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who on Sunday became the seventh American general since 2003 to assume command of war operations in Iraq. And his mission might be the toughest one yet.

As the head of Operation Inherent Resolve, Townsend’s objective is to eliminate the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate while simultaneously diffusing the region’s Sunni-Shia conflicts that have metastasized into a proxy war, drawing in nearly every major country across Europe and the Middle East. He has to win the Battle of Mosul and stabilize northern Iraq. He has to pursue ISIS into Syria, where the U.S. has few allies on the ground, and negotiate a highly complex battlefield that also includes heavily armed and highly unpredictable Russian military forces. And back in Washington, Townsend will face historic uncertainty, the product of an unusual political landscape that — for better or worse — will produce in a new commander in chief come January.

Military analysts say Townsend, by all accounts one of the Army’s most gifted strategists, will oversee a shift from conventional warfare to a mission that is far more ambiguous and political. “Things are about to get a lot more complicated,” said Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser for Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk analysis firm. “The complexity of operations is going to speed up. And for General Townsend, trying to understand that quickly is going to be paramount.”

Townsend replaces Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland, a fellow Army officer whose 11 months in command brought about a significant momentum shift. He helped the Iraqi army seize Ramadi and Fallujah, two strategically important cities in Anbar province, and made important commitments to the Kurdish forces now encroaching on Mosul from the north. That came despite a spike in ISIS terror attacks in Baghdad, turmoil inside Iraq’s Shiite-led government, and the steady expansion of Russian military operations across the region. Most recently, Russian military aircraft began flying combat missions from Iranian air bases, cutting across the Iraqi airspace already crowded with American military aircraft.

Townsend will face those challenges and more. He’ll have to contend not only with Russia’s expanding presence, but with Iran’s heavy-handed influence and continued fallout with Turkey, whose leadership has become outwardly distrustful of the U.S. after this summer’s failed coup attempt. If relations with Turkey don’t improve, U.S. military access to Incirlik Air Base could be in jeopardy, potentially compromising the anti-ISIS air campaign.

In Iraq, a fundamental predicament remains: Can Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds live together in a single nation state? And in Syria, where the military plan remains vague, there is no end in sight to the chaotic civil war that created the safe havens where ISIS took root.

“It’s hard to imagine walking into a more difficult scenario than General MacFarland did last year,” said Peter Haynes, a retired Navy captain who is now a military strategist at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “However, I think General Townsend is walking into an even greater challenge.”

Townsend declined to be interviewed, instead offering Military Times a brief written statement about his initial plans as war commander.

“We will continue the attack, maintaining the momentum we have, to close with Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s twin capital cities, and destroy or drive Da’esh out," the general said, using alternative monikers for the Islamic State group. "Our international coalition has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to this mission, which will liberate the Iraqi and Syrian people from ISIL’s twisted ideology and make our own nations safer.”

FRAGILE, NEFARIOUS ALLIANCES
Townsend will command fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. He can strike ISIS from the air, and he is authorized to deploy H-64 Apache attack helicopters to support close-quarters urban warfare. Yet most of his power lies in his ability to stitch together an improbable coalition of allies.

“The U.S. is almost like the glue that will hold this together. The multiple actors is going to be the biggest challenge General Townsend faces,” said Omar Lahriani, a military analyst for Stratfor, a Texas-based private intelligence firm.

Nearly all of those allies are flawed in some way. By and large, they don’t trust one another. Some are poorly led, ill equipped and unreliable. Some are foreign militaries with their own national agendas that may or may not overlap with U.S. objectives.

MilitaryTimes

Moqtada al Sadr and his followers in Iraq are ‚thirsty for Americans‘ blood‘

Operation Inherent Resolve is providing air strikes and combat advisers to at least four distinct groups: the Iraqi army, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, the Syrian Kurds, known as the YPG, and also to the so-called “Syrian Arab coalition.” At the same time, there is another layer of more ambiguous players: the enemies of America’s enemies who may (or may not) be friendly to the U.S. They oppose ISIS for one reason or another but don’t coordinate directly with U.S. forces. These groups include Iraq’s Shiite militias, Iranian operatives, the Russian military, the Turkish military and a patchwork of Syrian rebel militias whose aims and loyalties are unclear.

“Coalition warfare is always difficult. Collation warfare where some of the players aren’t even part of the coalition is even more difficult,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. What remains to be seen is whether those groups will do what Townsend and his U.S. strategists want them to do. “You’re going to have to be looking at the Kurds; you’re going to have to be looking at the Iraqi forces; you’re going to have to be looking at the Iranians. And you’re going to have to be looking at the popular militias — and it is possible you might have to be looking at the Turks,” Cordesman added.

The rules of engagement could become quite complex very quickly, Haynes said. “What is the ROE if Shiite militias or Iranian forces start to fire on U.S. forces?” he said. Such an array of dubious allies makes some military professionals question the entire mission.

"The question," said Doug MacGregor, a retired Army colonel who’s now a consultant living in Virginia, "is ‚who are our friends and allies that we are ultimately helping?‘ I don’t think that’s very clear because I don’t think we have friends and allies in the region.”

A LOT HINGES ON MOSUL

Mosul will be familiar terrain for Townsend, who was a brigade commander there in 2006. Nevertheless, the battle for Iraq’s second-largest city, likely to begin later this year, will be a careful balancing act.

If he relies too heavily on air power and artillery, Townsend risks civilian casualties and damaging the city, further alienating Mosul residents and making reconciliation more difficult. But he can’t let the fight drag on for too long. “If Mosul ends up being a long, slogging affair, it will make the political situation in Baghdad even worse and ISIS would be able to gain a huge propaganda victory,” Haynes said.

Mosul is also a place where traditional combat operations will converge with politics. For the first time the U.S. commander is relying on all Iraqi factions to work together.

The battle plan calls for the Iraqi army to invade from the south and coordinate with the Kurdish Peshmerga who will push into Mosul from the north and east. At the same time, Townsend will have to apply political pressure to prevent the more autonomous Shiite militias — some backed by Iran — from causing problems.

MilitaryTimes

Top U.S. commander in Iraq says Islamic State group will ‚morph into a true insurgent force‘

“Taking Mosul is actually just the first time you have to make sure the glue works and the Baghdad government, the Peshmerga and the Shiite militias don’t turn on each other,” Lahriani said. A military victory in Mosul that “clears” the city center might ultimately turn out to be the easy part for the new commander.

To that end, MacFarland offered a blunt warning shortly before leaving Baghdad. “We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks,” he told reporters on Aug. 11. It’s a problem that sounds a lot like the one that faced a force of 150,000 U.S. troops a decade ago.

“General Townsend’s biggest challenge is going to be figuring out how to translate battlefield victories into political gains,” Hayes said. “The sooner that you can get your political and economic reforms underway, it kind of starts to drain the swamp that ISIS swims in. If you reduce those grievances, it really reduces ISIS’s ability to gain a foothold at the local level. … Will it require more U.S. troops to do a counter-insurgency mission, which is very labor intensive?”

SYRIA: ‚ANYBODY’S GUESS‘
Achieving success will be far more difficult in Syria, where the multi-sided civil war creates a self-reinforcing crisis that ISIS exploits. Targeted operations against ISIS inadvertently strengthen the regime of President Bashar al Assad, thus prolonging the civil war between Assad and a disorganized patchwork of rebel forces. Weakening ISIS inadvertently eases pressure on Assad and helps sustain the chaotic stalemate where ISIS took root.

U.S. strategy is focused on ousting ISIS from its stronghold in Raqqa. American warplanes conduct daily airstrikes, but there are only about 300 U.S. troops on the group, special operators backing a cadre of anti-ISIS militias.

Compared to Iraq, the Syrian battlefield has many more actors, including dozens of rebel factions, Russians and Iranians, both of whom support Assad’s ultimate survival. Syria is a geopolitical powder keg, and that limits the U.S. military’s ability to leverage its own power.

“If you put more U.S. forces on the ground in Syria, not only can they come into contact with ISIS, but they could come into contact with Russian forces. Or with Iranian forces. Imagine if some of their bombs actually hit U.S. forces? That is a much bigger complication,” Lahriani said. That fear was highlighted just a few days before Townsend took command. On Aug. 18, Syrian jets launched air strikes near a small contingent of U.S. special operations troops alongside Syrian real allies on the ground.

Russian pilots fly a long range bomber Tu-22M3 during an air strike over Syria on Aug. 18, 2016. Russia’s Defence Ministry said the Russian warplanes took off from a base in Iran and in Russia to target Islamic State fighters in Syria. Photo Credit: AP via Russian Defense Ministry
U.S. support in Syria has focused on the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. They’ve proven to be the most reliable U.S. ally and could help achieve a major tactical victory by cutting off ISIS supply lines into Turkey and further isolating the extremist group. “The big question is going to be whether or not the Syrian Kurds are going to be able to consolidate control over the length of the Syrian-Turkish border,” said Michael Rubin, a military analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

But flowing military support to the YPG comes with a big risk: destabilizing Turkey. The Turkish government vigorously opposes empowering Syrian Kurds. Turkey has its own restive Kurdish minority, and many Turks believe the YPG is linked to a Turkish terrorist group that mounts catastrophic attacks on the Turkish government and civilians.

U.S. relations with Turkey, a NATO ally, have faltered during the past year, and some U.S. military officials fear that Turkey would revoke military’s access to Incirlik Air Base, a key hub for the American coalition’s anti-ISIS operations. While Turkey nominally backs the U.S. effort to defeat ISIS, many experts believe suppressing the Kurds is Turkey’s top priority and many Turks quietly sympathize with the Islamic extremists.

“Turkey has been playing a double game,” Karasik said.

MilitaryTimes

In Turkey, a criminal complaint targets two senior U.S. generals

With Turkey, Russia and Iran all pursing different agendas in Syria’s civil war, many experts believe there is no military solution — that the civil war will end only with a diplomatic agreement between the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

“It’s going to have to be solved politically,” said Larry Korb, a military expert with the Center for American Progress. “Syria has got to be solved by [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry, to come to some sort of accommodation with the Russians. Because the Russians kept Assad from failing, but they can’t make him win. … We don’t want to get involved with the Syrian civil war, but we want to deny ISIS a safe haven. We want to work with the Kurds to fight ISIS, but we don’t want to antagonize the Turks too much. So basically that is much more complex.”

Just days before Townsend arrived in Baghdad, the calculus grew more multifarious as the Russians began using Iranian military bases to launch air strikes on Syria. “That was a direct message to the Arabs, that the Russians are here to stay,” Karasik said. “The general is going to have to deal the Russians more and more."

Most experts say there is simply no end in sight. “What happens in Syria is, quite frankly, anybody’s guess,” Cordesman said.

WILDCARD: IF TRUMP IS PRESIDENT
One of the greatest uncertainties during Townsend’s command will be his new commander in chief, and what direction the next president will want to take the ISIS fight.

If Hillary Clinton wins in November, Townsend’s mission is likely to remain largely unchanged. “She’ll continue the Obama policies, maybe a little more effort in there. … You might have a safe zone, for example, in Syria for humanitarian reasons,” Korb said.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has been vague about his objectives for war. If he’s elected, Townsend could face an awkward transition if the president-elect signals a big policy shift before being sworn into office.

“A president Trump would be an interesting issue,” Cordesman said. “One problem is — what does a president-elect say? And this is a president who would probably say something and there is no way to know. Is it going to reinforce General Townsend’s mission? Is it going to present a problem? ‘Obviously one of the difficulties for any serving officer is trying to serve two masters, and here you’d have a master in office and a master that is coming in. That is not something, again, that you can predict. But it is certainly going to be a challenge if it happens.”

Few experts believe either candidate would order a new, aggressive push into Syria. But Townsend may receive very little oversight as power changes hands in Washington. There might be some "drift" at a very critical time, Karasik said. "And ‘between administrations’ can last a good six months at least,” he added.

The list of worst-case scenarios is long: open conflict with Russia or Iran; a collapse of the Iraqi government; or even a massive humanitarian crisis caused by a breach of the dilapidated Mosul dam, which would cause flooding in the streets of Baghdad.

“If certain contingencies happen simultaneously," Karasik said, "then he’s going to be on his own. And don’t forget everybody knows this — and they will take advantage of it.”

Andrew Tilghman is Military Times‘ Pentagon bureau chief.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/the-isis-war-has-a-new-commander-and-isis-may-be-the-least-of-his-worries?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2ASituation%20Report

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Middle East

Why Russia is Reviving Its Conventional Military Power

AbstrAct: The revival of Russian military power poses certain challenges to NATO and to the West. However, the exact nature of these challenges is not straightforward. This article discusses why Russia is reviving its conventional military power and argues these developments are not limited to the intention of preparing for offensive action. NATO’s and the West’s policy responses to recent changes in Russian defense policy need to be based on a realistic and nuanced understanding of Russian motivations because ill-considered responses could have serious unintended consequences.

After almost 20 years of allowing Russia’s conventional armed forces to fall into disrepair, an extensive program of modernization announced in 2008 has yielded impressive results and started a process of Russian military revival.1

Following the military intervention in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and Russia’s first expeditionary operation outside of the former Soviet region in Syria, recent developments in Russian defense policy have led to increasing concerns about a militarily resurgent Russia and the potential implications of this for its neighbors, NATO, and the West.

In the words of the new NATO SACEUR, US General Curtis Scaparotti, who was sworn in in May 2016, “a resurgent Russia [is] striving to project itself as a world power…To address these challenges, we must continue to maintain and enhance our levels of readiness and our agility in the spirit of being able to fight tonight if deterrence fails.”2

According to Gustav Gressel, writing for the European Council of Foreign Relations, “Europe’s military advantage over Russia” is now “undermined.”

To counter “Russia’s new military boldness and adventurism” and its military vision that is “centered on the Eurasian landmass,” Europe is now in need of finding an urgent response to “Russian expansionism.”

Although “a major military escalation on the European continent is not imminent,” according to Gressel, “Russia is clearly preparing itself for offensive operations.”3

Russia’s conventional military capabilities are more impressive today than during the first two decades of the post-Soviet period, and these capabilities are likely to continue growing. It is also beyond doubt Russian foreign policy rhetoric and conduct today, particularly towards NATO and the West, is more forceful and aggressive than it was at any time during the post-Cold war era.

However, the convergence of these factors does not necessarily mean Russia is rebuilding its conventional military exclusively to prepare for more offensive action or to pursue expansionist policies in direct confrontation with NATO.

This article argues this conjecture overlooks the fact that most states continue to see the maintenance of a powerful conventional military as essential. Conventional military power has remained highly relevant throughout the post-Cold war era not only as an instrument of policy, but also as an essential attribute of a strong state and global actor.

From this point of view, Russia’s restoration of conventional military power was only a matter of time and money and is in many ways less surprising than the long neglect of these capabilities.

Moreover, the assumption that preparation for offensive action and the pursuit of expansionist policies is the only motivation behind the revival of Russia’s conventional military power disregards the fact that the utility of military force is not limited to the fighting of wars and defeating of opponents.

Instead, conventional military power is routinely wielded to deter, compel, swagger, dissuade, or reassure. The idea that improvements in Russia’s conventional military capabilities have significantly increased the likelihood of offensive action, including against the West, also underestimates the limitations of Russia’s conventional military capabilities and overstates its likely willingness to take such a step in the first place.

Theoretically, the scenario of a Russian offensive against a NATO member state is not impossible now or in the future, but it would be highly irrational given Russia’s persistent disparity in conventional military power and the risk of escalation into nuclear conflict. The revival of Russian conventional military power will increasingly affect the defensive balance in Europe and pose certain challenges. However, the implications of this development and how NATO and the West should respond are not straightforward.

A more nuanced consideration of Russia’s possible motivations for rebuilding its conventional military power is essential. Basing policy responses on a skewed understanding of Russian intentions could have serious unintended consequences.

The Enduring Relevance of Conventional Military Power. A strong military is central to a state’s ability to project power on an international level. As Hans Morgenthau noted, as long as anarchy obtains in the international system, “armed strength as a threat or a potentiality is the most important material factor making for the political power of nations.”4

Arguably, this is as true today as it was at the time this line was written. During the Cold War, strong conventional military power, in addition to nuclear deterrence, singled out the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s two superpowers. Although some advocates of nuclear weapons believed nuclear deterrence would make conventional military power obsolete in the long run, such a view never took hold in the superpowers’ defense decision-making establishments.

In fact, both countries continued spending the bulk of their military budgets on conventional forces because it was understood the political military utility of nuclear deterrence was limited for dealing with threats to their interests below the threshold of a direct nuclear attack on their own territories.5

When the Cold War ended, many believed the centrality of military power in international relations would diminish. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the threat of a global conflict had waned and, with the spread of democracy and economic interdependence, state competition in the future would revolve around economic, not military matters.6

However, such beliefs were short-lived. Military power continued to be seen as an essential instrument of statecraft, especially for great powers, even though economic competition had become more important and there was no longer an immediate threat of a global war.7

In the absence of an immediate adversary against whom to assess its conventional military capabilities, the United States defined the “two-war” standard as a measure to size its conventional forces in 1991. As there was no clear and present danger emanating from a specific state actor, conventional forces strong enough to deal with the eventuality of two simultaneous major regional contingencies were considered essential to ensure the country’s “ongoing demands for forward presence, crisis response, regional deterrence, humanitarian assistance, building partnership capacity, homeland defense, and support to civil authorities.”8

Contemporary China is another important example demonstrating the enduring relevance of conventional military power in the eyes of states aspiring to great power status. Although China has established itself as one of the world’s economic great powers, growing economic strength has been accompanied by a massive drive to establish a competitive conventional military arsenal. As the world’s second largest military spender behind the United States, and with its budget continuing to grow, China’s development has evoked discussions similar to the Russian case about the country’s intentions and its potential transformation into a “revisionist state.”9

As Hew Strachan has noted, rather than causing a decline of the role of conventional military power in international politics, the end of the Cold War made permissible a situation where states, especially in the West, have displayed a growing readiness to use military force as an instrument of policy.10

The utility of conventional military power endures. Russia and Conventional Military Power Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia always maintained a strong nuclear deterrent, and in this area remained equal to the United States. However, its conventional forces were left to decay for almost two decades.

This drawn-out neglect of its armed forces should not be confused with a statement of pacifism in the sense that the projection of military power was no longer seen as important. Russia’s quest for great power status dates back centuries, and its self-perception as such did not cease with the end of the Cold War in 1991.11

Military power was central to the making of the tsarist empire. It was also a strong military, above all else, which elevated the Soviet Union to superpower status during the Cold War years. Relinquishing armed strength and accepting the resulting loss of great power status was never a serious option for Russia. The first military doctrine of the Russian Federation issued in 1993 envisaged significant cuts to Soviet legacy force levels and prioritized the development of conventional forces able to deal with local conflicts, which were seen as the most immediate concern at the time.

The idea that a global conventional deterrent was no longer needed was never a consensus view in Russia. Traditional military thinkers from the outset argued in favor of more open-ended defense requirements that would keep the country prepared for a larger variety of eventualities.12

In fact, the 1993 doctrine already reflected ambitions to maintain a competitive conventional deterrent. It envisioned investments in research and development for the creation of high-tech equipment, including electronic warfare capabilities, stealth technology, and advanced naval weaponry. This was a direct response to the lessons Russian strategists had learned from the accomplishments of the “revolution in military affairs” demonstrated by superior US conventional forces in the 1991 Gulf War.13

Such ambitions were confirmed in the 2000 military doctrine, which explicitly reoriented priorities away from the focus on small wars-type scenarios and towards the need for the creation of conventional forces with global reach. This doctrine was published in the wake of NATO’s high-tech operation “Allied Force” over Serbia which, in the words of Alexei Arbatov, “marked a watershed in Russia’s assessment of its own military requirements and defense priorities.”14

Although the central components of the successful 2008 modernization program, such as the need to professionalize, create rapid reaction forces, and procure advanced technology, were considered in all reform attempts from the early 1990s, no program up until 2008 led to fundamental transformation.

Unlike the 2008 reforms, which were backed up by realistic financial means and unprecedented political will, Yeltsin-era plans for military transformation faltered owing to the country’s dire economic situation and the lack of political clout required for pushing through changes unpopular with some elements in the military leadership.15

The inability to turn ambitions for its conventional military into reality did not mean the Russian leadership no longer saw strong conventional military power as desirable or important. Clearly, there was an understanding that a strong nuclear deterrent alone was insufficient to uphold Russia’s great power status in the long term, especially when other countries’ conventional armed forces continued to modernize at a rapid pace. Conventional military power persists as an important attribute of state power. It is deemed to have utility as an instrument of policy, even more so now than it was during the Cold War. As long as this is the case, it would be unrealistic to expect Russia not to want to remain a player in the game.

The Utility of Conventional Military Power. The idea that the modernization of Russia’s conventional military capabilities can only be motivated by its intention to engage in ever more aggressive, expansionist, and offensive military action is based on a simplistic understanding of the utility of conventional military power.

As Robert Art argued, “military power should not be equated simply with its physical use…To focus only on the physical use of military power is to miss most of what most states do most of the time with the military power at their disposal.”16

In other words, states maintain conventional military forces not only to fight offensive wars, but also to wield these forces in a variety of physical and non-physical ways to deter, coerce, compel, swagger, reassure, or dissuade other actors, depending on the situation and on the objectives to be achieved.17

The prerequisite for a state’s ability to use its military power in any physical or non-physical way is the availability of a robust military organization in the first place.

Following the serious neglect of the Russian armed forces throughout the 1990s, this availability was increasingly in doubt. The degree of decay of the Russian military and the possible domestic and international repercussions if this situation had been allowed to continue need to be taken into account when Russia’s reasons for rebuilding its conventional military power are considered.

As Eugene Rumer and Celeste Wallander wrote in 2003, “Russia entered the millennium with its capacity to project military power beyond its borders vastly reduced and its ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty severely tested by the war in Chechnya.”18

Clearly, the fact that the once powerful Russian military struggled to defeat “a band of irregulars fighting with little more than the weapons on their backs,” as Jeffrey Tayler had put it, created a feeling of insecurity in Russia that cast serious doubts on its ability to defend against and deter potential external threats.19

Although a stronger Russian conventional military poses certain challenges to NATO and the West, it is clear further decay would have been a poor alternative. When the Russian National Security Concept issued in 2000 permitted nuclear first use to “repulse armed aggression, if all other means of resolving the crisis have been exhausted,” it was widely assumed the nuclear threshold was lowered because there was no longer any faith in Russia that conventional options would be successful in the case of an armed attack.20

As Charles Glaser cautioned, there is the danger that insecurity can pressure an adversary to adopt competitive and threatening policies.21 This is particularly dangerous if the only tools available for pursuing such policies are nuclear weapons. It is also clear the modernization of Russia’s conventional military was a necessity not only to ensure defense requirements.

Although a military coup was never on the cards, concerns over growing military opposition and mutiny became increasingly common by the end of the 1990s.22

The potentially catastrophic consequences of this for Russia, as well as for international security, are not hard to imagine. Russian views on the utility of conventional military power are not limited to territorial defense and the peaceful deterrence of potential external threats. After all, Russia has used armed force to pursue a variety of policy objectives throughout the post-Cold War years, including various “peace enforcement” operations across the former Soviet region at the beginning of the 1990s, the Chechen wars, the war with Georgia in 2008, in Ukraine starting in 2014, and most recently in Syria.

A reason why there is concern in the West about improvements in Russia’s conventional military capabilities is the conviction that better capabilities will inevitably lead to more offensive action in the future. As British expert on the Russian military Keir Giles has put it, “the more Russia develops its conventional capability, the more confident and aggressive it will become.”23 The influence of capabilities on the decision to use force is not as straightforward, however. As Benjamin Fordham argued, the “claim that capabilities influence not just opportunity, but also willingness…is implicit or explicit in a substantial amount of work in international relations, but has rarely been tested.”24

Better military capabilities are likely to influence Russian foreign policy by providing more opportunity for the use of force. After all, as Fordham also noted, “decision makers cannot use force unless they have the means to do so.”25

Russia’s air campaign in Syria, for example, was certainly enabled by the opportunities created from improvements in its conventional capabilities.

In Syria, Russia demonstrated it now had the capability to deploy and sustain a limited out-of-area operation for the first time in post-Soviet history.

This came as a surprise to many observers, who did not believe Russia had the sea and airlift capabilities required for such an undertaking.26

This operation would not have been possible ten years ago, even if there had been the willingness in theory to launch a similar offensive. The most likely area for future Russian military action continues to be the former Soviet region in cases deemed by Russia to pose significant threats to its interests, for example, the intrusion of IS terrorism into Central Asian states.

It is unlikely better capabilities will result in the indiscriminate future use of military force by Russia or a proliferation of expansionist policies as improvements in Russia’s conventional military capabilities have not substantially changed the relative military power balance in this region. Even at its lowest point, Russian conventional military power far outrivalled any of the other former Soviet states, at any point of the post-Cold War period, due to the sheer disparity in size and the fact that their militaries were besieged by similar levels of neglect.

Although the operational performance of Russian forces in conflicts fought up until the Georgia war in 2008 was far from stellar, especially when the Chechen wars stretched their capabilities in every possible way, the country never risked a situation that could lead to comprehensive defeat.

In spite of its consistent military superiority over the other former Soviet states, Russia opted for the use of force in some cases, but not in others even when this was expected, such as the Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes in 2010.

Although long-term occupation and territorial expansion following the five-day war with Georgia in 2008 was within the realm of possibility, Russia decided to withdraw. Better conventional capabilities have created more options for the Russian leadership to resort to the use of force.

However, better capabilities per se are unlikely to cause Russia to lose sight of the fact that the utility of military force is limited and not suited for the achievement of every policy objective. Rationality in Russian decision-making, when it comes to the use of force as an instrument of policy, is an important context for the fear that improved capabilities are pursued ultimately to prepare for offensive action against the West.

This is not a new insight: in spite of the success of the 2008 modernization program, Russian conventional military power continues to lag far behind the United States and NATO in terms of size, spending, and technological sophistication.

This fact has been conceded even by analysts who have warned about the dangers of a military resurgent Russia, as Gressel cited above. This issue tends to be brushed aside, however, as disparity is merely expected to delay the threat of Russian offensive action. It should not be.

Given the relative weakness of Russia’s conventional military vis-à-vis NATO and the likelihood of serious escalation and defeat, a military offensive on a NATO member state would be highly irrational. It is also far from clear what strategic objective such a move would serve. There is no doubt that in absolute terms Russian conventional military capabilities in 2016 are considerably bigger and better than they were at any point during the post-Soviet period.

The achievements of the 2008 modernization program, which emphasized the efficiency of command structures, the move from mobilization to rapid reaction, and the modernization of technology, have been well documented and were demonstrated during the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.27

Relative to the conventional military power of other great powers, the United States and NATO in particular, Russia’s position remains far from impressive. Although defense spending alone is insufficient as a measure of relative military power, the sheer discrepancy in this respect is worth reiterating. Although Russian defense spending has seen a steady increase since Vladimir Putin’s election as president in 2000, the country’s military budget today is still little more than 10 percent of United States mlitary budget—and a fraction of the NATO alliance as a whole.

Even when the Russian defense budget approached five percent of the gross domestic product in 2015 at the peak of military spending, its entire budget, inclusive of spending on nuclear capabilities, amounted to less than the combined budgets of Germany and Italy.28

In terms of the number and quality of high-tech weaponry, Russia continues to lag far behind Western competitors, especially the United States. Although strides have been made in reforming the Russian defense industry, persistent organizational problems need to be resolved before Russia can start rivaling the West with advanced military technology.

Regarding troop numbers, it is generally assumed Russian military strength in 2015 comprised up to 800,000 personnel. This is sizeable (even compared to the United States’ 1,400,000 active soldiers), but the bulk of the Russian armed forces are poorly trained conscripts.29

When it comes to the combat readiness and operational experience of Russian conventional forces relative to those of the United States, there is little reason to fear Russia is catching up. Although Russian troops have trained in the fighting of large-scale joint inter-service operations in numerous military exercises in the past few years, Russia’s reformed ground forces have never been tested in an actual conflict situation, as both Crimea and Syria were limited in scope and scale.30

Fears over the possibility of Russian offensive action against a NATO member state have not arisen out of the blue. Although longrange Russian bomber flights close to other countries’ airspaces resumed in 2006 and have caused concern for a while, such instances of military provocation continue and have risen in number. Aggressive maneuvers by Russian fighter aircraft, like the buzzing of a US naval vessel in the Baltic Sea in April 2016, have exacerbated concerns Russia was willing to risk a military confrontation with the West.

Moreover, the number and size of Russian military exercises and surprise inspections in its Western military district have mushroomed since the start of the 2008 modernization program. According to figures of the Russian Ministry of Defense, some exercises have involved up to 150,000 military personnel and have honed the country’s ability to fight a large-scale interstate war.31

It remains highly questionable whether preparation for offensive action is the most likely motivation behind these developments. Given the variety of possible ways in which states can wield conventional military power to achieve different objectives, there are more plausible explanations for Russia’s actions vis-à-vis NATO. One explanation, for example, is that Russia is using its military power for swaggering.

This has been defined by Art as the conspicuous display by a state or statesman of one’s military might “to look and feel more powerful or important, to be taken seriously by others in the councils of international decision making, to enhance the nation’s image in the eyes of others.”32

Clearly, after years of decay during which the West had written off Russia as a global military actor, such swaggering, coupled with the interventions in Ukraine and Syria, has been an effective way to enhance the international image of Russia’s shiny, new military power in a comprehensive manner. Given the importance for Russia of being granted great power status on a global level, this explanation makes a great deal of sense, as swaggering can bring prestige “on the cheap,” especially when the country is not in the position to project the image of being a great power by other means.33

The idea that the revival of Russian conventional military power is motivated entirely by the wish to pursue expansionist policies and to build the offensive potential required to defeat the West is reminiscent of the Western school of thought that during the Cold War sought to explain the Soviet defense effort as the result of historical Russian paranoia, aggressiveness, and “mindless lust for territory,” thus depriving Soviet decision-making of any rationality.34 Such an interpretation of Russian motivations and intentions is even more remarkable because the decision to risk offensive action against a NATO state would be even more irrational today than it was at any point during the Cold War given the disparity of the conventional military power balance.

Some observers have expressed the fear Russia, even in the face of military inferiority, might test NATO’s resolve with an attack on one of the Baltic states because a lack of commitment to Article V collective defense might mean the United States and other NATO members would not fulfill their treaty obligations.35…….

NATO’s Options NATO’s and the West’s options for stopping the ongoing revival of Russia’s conventional military power, or to prevent potential future Russian military interventions, are limited. There are choices to be made in deciding how to respond to these developments, especially when it comes to Russian military posturing vis-à-vis NATO, and potential consequences of any responses made need to be weighed up carefully.

As indicated in NATO SACEUR Scaparotti’s May 2016 statement and also by NATO’s actions since the start of the Ukraine conflict in spring 2014, the alliance has decided to take an uncompromisingly tough stance towards Russia, strengthening its presence and posture alongside its eastern borders in order to demonstrate strength, unity, and resolve to deter any potential Russian military aggression or expansionist move against NATO members and allies.

While these measures are likely to reassure NATO member states in eastern and central Europe that have been historically fearful of Russian intentions, their potential long-term consequences for NATO and the West should not be ignored.

It is already obvious Russia is not interpreting NATO’s actions in the spirit intended by the alliance, that is, as defensive measures aimed predominantly at reassuring NATO member states close to its borders. Continuing to perceive NATO troops stationed and exercising close to its borders as a threat to its security and national interests, Russia has reacted by stepping up its military posture and presence, as well as its aggressive rhetoric vis-à-vis NATO.

The experience of the Cold War has taught us what an ever-more intense security dilemma can lead to. If the current trend of uncompromising rhetoric and military posturing on both sides continues, a renewed arms race is a likely outcome. Given Russia’s economic situation and comparative conventional military weakness, the West would probably emerge victorious yet again in such a race.

From this point of view, the scenario of a new arms race would be less disastrous for the West than it would be for Russia, but nonetheless it would be costly for all states and societies involved.

Moreover, the danger of intended or unintended escalation in the face of spiralling tensions is worth bearing in mind. Doing nothing is clearly not an alternative to NATO’s current policies towards Russia. Even if a convincing case can be made that Russian intentions are probably not driven by expansionist policies and that an attack on a NATO member state is highly unlikely, chance and uncertainty make the fears felt by Russia’s closest neighbors understandable and justified.

The question is whether a middle ground between a policy (that will inevitably lead to another arms race with all the costs this involves), and “doing nothing” or a weak response (that could be interpreted as “appeasement”) can be found.

The intensity of current East-West tensions cannot yet be likened to those of the Cold War and rhetoric about a “New Cold War” is not helpful as it “makes it harder for the West to craft realistic policies with respect to both the Ukraine crisis and Russia generally,” as Andrew Monaghan has argued.42

However, certain lessons from the Cold War might be instructive, especially when it comes to NATO’s and the West’s handling of aggressive Russian military posturing. George F. Kennan’s Cold War doctrine of containment, with its emphasis on strength, unity, and readiness to defend against and deter potential Russian expansion, has already experienced a revival and is being discussed amongst some Western leaders and within NATO as a relevant framework for creating responses to Russia.43

As Matthew Rojansky cautioned, there is a tendency to interpret this doctrine falsely as an exclusively military approach. In fact, Kennan’s understanding of containment was a complex and long-term political strategy. Focusing on recognition of the opponent’s vulnerabilities at the same time as strengthening the West’s capacities to find long-term solutions to pressing problems, Kennan explicitly warned against the use of “threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward toughness” as this could back the Kremlin into a corner and inadvertently exacerbate the situation.44

The intensity of current East-West tensions will make a renewed attempt at resetting relations with Russia a much more difficult undertaking for the soon-to-be elected new US administration. The new administration will have the opportunity to consider whether a policy of increasingly tough military containment of Russia will serve the future interests of the United States and NATO better than a more balanced approach as advocated by Kennan. The latter will be the more difficult choice because it requires a complex understanding of developments in Russia, as well as the willingness of both sides to communicate. This effort appears worthwhile because as Rojansky argued, it will allow the United States and the West to strike a balance “between demonstrating the collective political will necessary to maintain a credible deterrent, and charting a way forward for negotiated settlement of differences, selective cooperation, and eventual reconciliation in Russia-West relations overall.”

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Washington Post: Hillary’s heelClinton Foundation donors got access to the State Department.

By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer

Opinions

August 23 at 7:25 PM

When I wrote the headline “Hillary’s heel,” I was thinking of Achilles, not Bill, though the former president is usually within nipping range of his wife’s pantsuit hem.

Hillary Clinton’s Achilles’ heel is her very Clinton-ness. Rather than tell the truth as soon as possible, a reluctance shared by her husband during his presidency, she has mastered the art of teetering along the knife’s edge of truth. Like a gymnast on a balance beam, she manages to stay within the narrow parameters of lawfulness without losing her footing.

But her long history of avoiding provable infractions despite hundreds of hours of investigations and millions in taxpayer expense — from Whitewater to Benghazi to her private email server — may soon come to an end, not with a gold medal but with an Olympian loss of whatever faith remained in her integrity.

A batch of emails released Monday makes clear that Clinton Foundation donors got access to the State Department.

Some of the email was between Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department, and an official at the charity. Not all requests appear to have been granted, but the coziness between State and the Clinton family charity exposes a troubling hubris and highlights the emptiness of her personal promise to President Obama to build a firewall between the two institutions when she became his secretary of state.

Among examples reported by The Post:

● Sports executive Casey Wasserman, whose family’s charitable organization has given the Clinton Foundation between $5 million and $10 million, and whose investment company paid Bill Clinton $3.13 million in consulting fees in 2009 and 2010, sought a visa for a British soccer player with a criminal past. It was not granted.

● The crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, whose government had given more than $50,000 to the foundation, requested a last-minute meeting with the secretary of state. Granted.

● U2’s Bono, a regular at foundation events, asked for help in broadcasting a live link to the International Space Station during a concert tour. Response from State: “No clue.”

These discoveries, among others, may not amount to much in terms of actual favors, but they cast doubt on the integrity of Hillary Clinton’s word. They also go a long way toward confirming her critics’ allegation that the Clintons were in a global pay-for-play arrangement.

One crucial fact is no longer in dispute: Foundation donors got access to the State Department.

The emails became public through a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, and were among 725 pages of Abedin’s correspondence. The stash also included 20 emails between Abedin and Clinton that weren’t included in the 55,000 pages previously provided to State. Meanwhile, the FBI has turned over about 15,000 other emails and documents to State that were discovered during the agency’s investigation of Clinton’s private server.

Judicial Watch is trying to get these released as well. In the meantime, a State Department spokesman says that many of them were plainly personal.

As if these developments weren’t problematic enough, former secretary of state Colin Powell last weekend denied Clinton’s claim that he advised her to use a private server, as he had done, saying, “Her people are trying to pin it on me.” According to Powell, Clinton had been using her server for at least a year before the two discussed how he had managed his email.

Whether this constitutes a “lie” to the FBI, as some are claiming, or the result of a faulty memory likely will keep busy bees buzzing for a while. But Clinton has bigger worries as more emails continue to trickle out, revealing who knows what. What we already know from FBI Director James B. Comey is that his agency’s investigation found insufficient evidence to charge Clinton, though he did say her handling of classified information was “extremely careless” and that she falsely testified to the House Select Committee on Benghazi that there was no classified material in any of her email.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln . . .

To Republicans, Clinton is a serial liar. To Democrats, she is the perennial target of a right-wing conspiracy. Both appear to be marginally correct. The question for voters may come down to this: How much, if any, substantive harm has Clinton’s lack of absolute clarity on a given subject or event caused?

The only definitive answer thus far is that she has deeply damaged whatever public trust remained — and for a candidate, this can be fatal.

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Judy Dempsey's Strategic Europe - Carnegie Europe - The Global Think TankTurkey and the Energy Transit Question.

Posted by: Severin Fischer Tuesday, August 23, 2016

For foreign and security policy analysts, pipelines tend to be the entry point into the world of energy. Pipelines create dependencies between countries, pipelines stay for decades, and pipelines have a highly symbolic political value.

In the European energy security debate, gas pipelines also have an identity function: you either support freeing Europe from its dangerous addiction to Russian gas by backing the Southern Gas Corridor—formerly known as “Nabucco” and designed to bring new gas supplies from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, and Middle East regions into Europe—or you blindly follow the Kremlin’s breadcrumbs into the Nord Stream/South Stream-energy trap. Critical differentiation is rare.

Today, controversies over pipeline politics have a rather anachronistic flavor. This is mainly due to the growing flexibility of European—and partially global—natural gas markets in light of the massive increase in LNG supply, interconnectors, and spot market trade. This new market environment has not only changed the relationship between producers and consumers but has also altered the political and economic leverage of transit countries. This is especially important when looking at new transit countries, Turkey being a prominent example.

Nowadays, transit countries are not just dependent service providers; they can also have a profound influence on the market share of a supplier. This leverage can be used as a vehicle to negotiate higher transit fees depending on the available flexibility of switching between markets and suppliers on both sides.

The example of Ukraine as a transit country illustrates this quite well: without alternative supply routes, Ukraine can determine the market share of Russian gas in Europe (approximately 60% of Russian export capacity to the EU is via Ukrainian territory.) Once a pipeline is constructed, the temptation for rent-seeking in transit countries—and transit control power—is huge. Therefore, a suppliers’ interest in the physical diversification of transit routes is understandable. This applies as much to the future gas supply architecture of Southeastern Europe as it does to the Nord Stream/Ukraine debate.

With the realization of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP)—a smaller version of the originally planned Nabucco Pipeline and now a Southern Gas Corridor project—two new variables will enter the equation of European energy security. First, natural gas from Azerbaijan could reach European markets for the first time around 2019. Second, Turkey will obtain the position of a transit country for European gas imports; admittedly with limited influence, since only 10 billion cubic meters per year are foreseen for the European market (between 2-3% of total EU gas consumption in 2014.)

In addition to the TANAP project, the recent easing of tensions between Turkey and Russia has revitalized debates about the construction of Turkish Stream, a project that was initiated after a direct pipeline connection between Russia and Bulgaria through the Black Sea (“South Stream”) was cancelled in 2014 due to regulatory conflicts between Gazprom and the European Commission. Turkish Stream would mainly supply the Turkish market, but could also bring gas destined for the EU market to the Turkish-Greek border.

Moreover, should gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea south of Cyprus be commercially and technologically feasible, project developers will be tempted to think about a possible pipeline project serving the Turkish market and potentially re-exporting gas to Southeastern Europe. The Turkish corridor would also be mandatory for all hypothetical deliveries from Iraq, Iran, or Central Asia.

While some analysts positively describe these developments as the creation of the “Gas Hub Turkey,” one could also reframe it as the potential rise of Turkey as a major transit country for (Southeastern) European gas supply. There has been very little debate so far on the subsequent security implications.

With the potentially growing role of Turkey as a transit corridor for European gas supplies, the implications could be twofold. On the one hand, future relations between Azerbaijan and the EU will be strongly influenced by Ankara’s role as the middle man in transporting gas. On the other hand, Turkey could also gain a significant position in EU-Russia gas relations—smaller, but still comparable to the situation of Ukraine today.

The threat of Turkish influence over how much Azeri or (some of the) Russian gas would enter European markets and the potential for rent-seeking in transit fees looks troubling in the current political environment. The willingness of Turkey’s government to link issues such as refugee treatment, visa liberalization, and financial transfers, as has happened recently, should serve as a warning.

This leads to the conclusion that both Russia’s and Europe’s interests would be best served if Turkey were kept out of bilateral energy relations in the future; a possibility that can only materialize if Turkey does not assume a gate-keeper role for several suppliers simultaneously.

Currently, however, the opposite is a very realistic scenario. Since the cancellation of the South Stream project, Russia has declared an unwillingness to deal with the “politically motivated” regulation of the EU Commission on the matter of Southeastern European gas supplies, and only a few EU politicians have shown interest to engage in the issue again.

This has not solved any problem though, since competition between different gas suppliers as well as control over access to the EU market would be transferred into the hands of Turkish authorities in the future.

Therefore, resuming the debate about a smaller version of a direct Russia-EU-link through the Black Sea, which would exclude Turkey, should be seriously revisited by European and Russian stakeholders alike. Provided, of course, that the regulatory control of the third energy package fully applies on EU territory.

Severin Fischer is a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich.

http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=64382&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWW1VM01qUmpaak13WWpnMSIsInQiOiIrMnYwNHlWcThHbkdUdUkyc0tWcVdwK1cwZjhIZWk2UUhXMEpzYUcyelRPaEUxakxBQlJnK0NUZkZrcm1PSWxNcTNkWlliWUx6RTdBZm1tRVh0eTNwcHZYWTZLNjZIc0Y5cTM5VndXN0xrZz0ifQ%3D%3D

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see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

08-22-16 US Army War College Quarterly_Renz_Why Russia is Reviving Its Conventional Military Power .pdf

08-23-16 Russia – Asia.docx

Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 19.08.16

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Germany’s Weak Negotiating Power

· Putin’s Strategy to Maintain Power

· Russian International Affairs Council: Russia and Europe

· Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s agenda would flounder in Congress. Here are seven reasons why

· WSJ: Hillary and the Diversity Obsession

· Iran, Oman to Change Gas Pipeline Route: Omani Minister

· The History of Sergei Ivanov

· New York Times Magazine: the Arab world’s undoing since the invasion of Iraq.

Massenbach*Germany’s Weak Negotiating PowerGeopolitical Futures logo

Aug. 15, 2016. Berlin’s authority in negotiations with Russia and Turkey is outweighed by the U.S.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Yekaterinburg, Russia to discuss the latest escalation in Ukraine and the impasse over Syria; German State Secretary Markus Ederer rushed to Turkey to, in the words of the German Foreign Ministry, “re-establish direct channels of communication” with the Turkish authorities.

Germany has criticized Turkey’s actions following the failed coup, which caused a strain in relations with Ankara. This raised further questions over whether the European Union’s refugee deal with Turkey will be fulfilled.

These meetings are a small indication of a larger problem for Berlin: it is facing a growing number of crises, at home and abroad, that it has limited power to address.

For Germany, stability in Ukraine and the European Union’s agreement with Ankara on refugees are key priorities. Surrounded by instability, Germany is attempting to play a leadership role in resolving regional crises, but finding that in reality Washington – and not Berlin – holds the cards. Germany’s ability to shape Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Turkey’s trajectory is limited.

For Germany, stability in Ukraine is key. Last week, Russia accused the government in Kiev of conducting a raid in Russia-controlled Crimea and threatened to call off planned talks with Ukraine, Germany and France. Since the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of hostilities in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Germany has attempted to position itself formally as a mediator in the conflict, leading rounds of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

Berlin has sought this role not only because of concerns regarding conflict on Europe’s periphery, but more importantly because Germany fears that an escalation in Ukraine would exacerbate the EU’s fragmentation. The German government is aware that there are already serious divisions within the EU on issues ranging from refugee policy to economic and security matters. Increased Russian aggression in Ukraine would deepen divisions between countries (like the Baltic states and Poland) that see Russia as an existential threat and countries (mainly in southern and Western Europe) for whom Russia is a secondary challenge.

While Germany has sought to act as a mediator in the conflict, Berlin’s ability to influence Moscow or play a significant role in negotiating a deal is limited. European governments’ main tool for shaping Russia’s behavior is the sanctions regime currently in place. However, sanctions are now a relatively minor thorn in Russia’s side compared with low oil prices, which are the primary cause of the country’s economic woes – and which Germany cannot control. While Germany and France are the main formal negotiators between Russia and Ukraine, Berlin is not in a position to help deliver or guarantee the key compromises Moscow is seeking.

Instead, the U.S. is playing the dominant role in the negotiations. The Kremlin would like guarantees that Ukraine would remain a neutral power and would not join NATO or receive significant military assistance from the West. While Germany in the past has politically supported pro-Western forces in Ukraine, it is not a military player in the region.

A deal negotiated by Berlin would be worthless, from Russia’s perspective, without America’s formal or informal agreement.

A similar dynamic is at play when it comes to Germany’s relationship with Turkey. The refugee crisis has highlighted the incoherence of decision-making in the EU and deepened the bloc’s unpopularity among many of its citizens. The European Union’s deal with Turkey, reached in March, is Europe’s key mechanism for reducing the flow of refugees into the bloc. In return for taking back refugees, Turkey was promised not only funding, but – if it meets 72 criteria outlined by the EU – visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone.

The idea of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens is not only deeply unpopular among European voters, but has also sparked security concerns among European policymakers. The fulfillment of all the agreement’s terms looked to be a difficult feat even at the time the agreement was signed. Following the failed coup in Turkey, both sides understand – even if they do not admit it publicly – that visa-free travel is off the table.

Turkish authorities have threatened to abandon the migrant deal with the EU if progress on visa-free travel is not achieved, but in reality they are probably seeking other concessions. However, Berlin has relatively few concessions to offer Turkey, other than funds. And while Turkey would gladly take the money, Ankara’s wish list of concessions from the West primarily revolves around security issues, especially when it comes to NATO and Syria. Turkey is engaged in negotiations with Moscow, Washington and the EU (represented primarily by Berlin). But Turkey’s approach to each of these three relationships changes based on what Turkey thinks will get it the best deal. When Ankara threatens to in effect reignite a large-scale refugee crisis in Europe, it knows that its actions are being evaluated not only in Berlin and Brussels, but also in Washington.

Berlin is concerned about stability in Ukraine and Turkey’s moves, but highly publicized diplomatic talks mask Berlin’s limited options. Germany may be a key player in Europe and the Continent’s largest economy, but when it comes to negotiations with Ankara and Moscow, it is the U.S., and not Germany, that is in a position to make deals and alleviate crises.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/germanys-weak-negotiating-power/

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From our Russian news desk:see attachments.

Russian International Affairs Council: Russia and Europe – Somewhat Different, Somewhat the Same?

There are more issues that divide Russia and the EU than that unite them.

Although both sides support the fundamentals of the current world-order (especially when confronted with a challenge like IS),

Russia believes that the current arrangement does not grant equality and is asymmetrically patterned after the West.

While civil societies on both sides believe that sanctions should be ended and relations strengthened,

and while both have incurred losses as a result of restrictive measures, they diverge on the conditions of

relaunching economic relations, on the feasibility of technical cooperation in the absence of political convergence,

and on what EU – Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) cooperation could look like.

While the EU and Russia feel the need to cooperate on a settlement in Ukraine, on stabilization in the Middle East,

on the fight against terrorism, they diverge over what should be done, over whether human rights / democracy

or security / stability should prevail, and over how international organisations should be used.

In this context two parallel tracks should be promoted.

The first one is ad hoc cooperation on burning common threats (the settlement in Ukraine and the fight against IS and terrorism),

or economic issues of immediate mutual benefit (aviation, the space, medicine, and gas).

Various international fora as well as bilateral EU-Russia arrangements should be open for this cooperation.

At the same time, sustainable long-term cooperation depends on conceptual discussions over the future set-up,

which would guarantee that the preferences of both sides are taken into consideration and neither feels discriminated or betrayed.

Mutual understanding is essential for these discussions, it can be cultivated through wider civil society

dialogue, more balanced media coverage, the preservation of existing economic links and expert discussions.

Only this conceptual settlement will reverse the current ‘divide-unite’ split in favour of more unity.

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The Marginalia of Russia’s Foreign Policy Today / Russia’s Strategy for Interacting with Neighbouring Countries

Photo:
REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The strengthening of Russia’s positions in the international arena as a result of its integration into global and regional political and economic institutions, as well as the desire to restore its positions in significant regions around the world still has not led to the shaping of a comprehensive strategy regarding its closest neighbours, that is, in relations with the countries of the former Soviet countries. For the most part, these countries remain outside the scope of Russia’s active foreign policy; Russia’s political elites perceive them as partners “by default,” as a priori economically dependent entities.

The author proposes applying a metaphor of “marginalia” to this group of countries; they are significant from both the political and economic points of view, yet they are not among the priorities of Russia’s real foreign policy efforts. No comprehensive work is being carried out with these countries; there is no long-term planning regarding them. The lack of goal-setting with regard to these countries leads to the fact that Russian diplomacy has to react to the signals already coming from in the former Soviet countries; Russian diplomacy does not independently shape its foreign policy in this area. At the same time, Russia’s desire to be an equal partner for the key world actors cannot be implemented without ensuring a loyal and friendly geopolitical environment. One of the measures to form such an environment is the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Today, however, given the economic instability and escalating external threats, this institution requires greater attention and work on a future-oriented strategy. This article discusses the current possibilities that Russian diplomacy could use in its relations with former Soviet countries to shape a politically loyal and economically predictable border zone. In its methodology, the article relies on comparative analysis, document analysis and case studies.

In the course of the research, groups of medium-term goals for Russia’s foreign policy regarding its closest neighbours were developed; the article also developed recommendation for optimizing Russian strategy in the post-Soviet space. (att.)

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The History of Sergei Ivanov.

03-30-16: Carter Page:Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom

07-07-16: Foreign policy adviser to US presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Carter Page, will deliver a lecture in Moscow on Thursday at the invitation of the New Economic School.

07-26-16: US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s foreign policy adviser has not met with Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov contrary to reported claims, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

08-12-16: Russian President Vladimir Putin has released Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff of the Russian presidential administration, from his duties, the Kremlin said Friday.

08-12-16: Ivanov has been appointed as the new special presidential envoy on environmental management, ecology and transport.

à In November 2005 Ivanov was appointed to the post of Deputy Prime Minister in Mikhail Fradkov’s Second Cabinet, with added responsibility for the Manufacturing industry and arms exports. On 15 February 2007 Putin elevated Ivanov to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister and relieved him of his duties as Defense Minister;[18] he was appointed as First Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility over defense industry, aerospace industry, nanotechnology and transport. In June 2007 Ivanov was appointed chairman of the Government Council for Nanotechnology ( )

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Baku Summit Paves Way for Iran-Russia Cooperation in the Caspian

The intention to reach an agreement on the issue and enhance cooperation in the Caspian Sea, demonstrated at the recent summit in Baku, could resolve the problem of transportation of Caspian energy resources into the waters of the Persian Gulf.

The recent summit of Russian, Azerbaijani and Iranian leaders in Baku will lead to greater cooperation in energy, security and regional issues, as the sides forward with the North-South corridor promoted by India, Jahangir Karami, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Tehran, told valdaiclub.com.

What do you believe is the future of the North-South corridor between the countries, were any decisions made on it?

There are some measures which can boost economic relations between Tehran and Moscow and Baku and, as a result, increase the three countries’ economic interdependence as a basis for expanded political and security relations – making the North-South Corridor operational; creating a railroad corridor for rapid transfer; providing software, legal and regulatory foundations for trade cooperation. The North-South Corridor project laid a basis for cooperation between regional countries to achieve the goal of regional development. This transportation route links India to Europe via a safer and shorter path and a very important one for Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia. According to a draft declaration which was approved by the leaders of the three countries, the sides have agreed to take effective measures to develop the existing infrastructure of transport – with the scope of consolidation opportunities in the transportation of goods and passengers along the international transport corridor "North – South". The three presidents also pledged to take effective measures to develop transportation and communication infrastructure in order to expand the opportunities for passenger and cargo transportation via the North-South corridor.

How important was the topic of the Caspian Sea during the talks?

The leaders of the three countries will intensify their cooperation in the energy field. The meeting could be viewed as the first step toward a resolution of the problem with regard to transportation of energy resources produced in the Caspian Sea. The intention to reach an agreement on the issue and enhance cooperation in the Caspian Sea, demonstrated at the recent summit in Baku, could resolve the problem of transportation of Caspian energy resources into the waters of the Persian Gulf. Since in the coming months summit of the Caspian countries is to be held in Kazakhstan, leaders of the three countries emphasized the adoption of the legal regime of the Caspian Sea can be a huge help to make decisions. In the final common statement approved by the leaders of the three countries, the sides emphasized that the Caspian Sea was the sea of peace, friendship, security and cooperation, and called to the necessity of the rapid adoption of the Convention on Caspian legal regime. Foreign Ministers were instructed to intensify efforts for the preparation for the Fifth Caspian summit. The new format will have a positive impact on regional processes.

What do you believe are the prospects for Moscow-Baku-Tehran cooperation, and how could it impact the situation in the Karabakh?

The role of regional countries, especially Iran and Russia, is very important and this partnership can provide the right perspective to help solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In the final statement of the meeting, the participants stressed that the three countries have also recognized that the unresolved conflicts in the region are a major obstacle to regional cooperation, and underlined the importance of their settlement on the basis of principles and norms of international law.

How important were the issues of regional security, terrorism and energy security at the meeting?

I think the South Caucasus countries together with Iran, Russia and Turkey have a common foundation for regional cooperation. The Baku summit is an important step for this purpose. This summit showed that the three sides are ready to develop mutually beneficial cooperation, the political dialogue at various levels and on all issues of mutual interest. The leaders expressed their willingness to combat terrorism, extremism, transnational organized crime, illicit trafficking in arms, drugs, as well as human trafficking and crimes in the sphere of information and communication technologies. President Rouhani, referring to Iran’s role in contributing to regional peace and development said, “Today, all countries in the world acknowledge that Iran’s role in the establishment of the security of the region is positive, effective and significant.”

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club’s, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

http://valdaiclub.com/news/baku-summit-paves-way-for-iran-russia-cooperation-in-the-caspian/

This transportation route links India to Europe via a safer and shorter path and is very important for Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Infographics: North-South International Transport Corridorhttp://valdaiclub.com/multimedia/infographics/north-south-international-transport-corridor/

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Iran, Oman to Change Gas Pipeline Route: Omani Minister

News ID: 1155332 Service: Other Media

August, 11, 2016 – 18:08

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Oman and Iran have agreed to change the route and design of a planned undersea natural gas pipeline to avoid waters controlled by the United Arab Emirates, Oman’s Minister of Oil and Gas Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhy said.

The planned pipeline would connect Iran’s vast gas reserves to Omani consumers as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Oman that would re-export the gas.

After international sanctions on Tehran were lifted in January, the two countries renewed efforts to implement the project, but it has also been delayed by disagreements over price and US pressure on Muscat to find other suppliers.

In an interview, Rumhy said Oman and Iran were at an advanced stage of designing the pipeline and had agreed on a deeper option than originally envisaged to avoid crossing any third country’s borders, Reuters reported.

“Instead of the shallower option at around 300 meters (985 feet) deep, the pipeline is to plunge close to 1,000 meters below the sea’s surface. And it will be slightly shorter,” he said.

Rumhy did not say why the pipeline would avoid UAE waters. Omani and UAE officials have discussed the project but it is not clear if the UAE has given its blessing to the project or has objected to a route that would pass through its waters.

UAE officials have not discussed the matter publicly.

Oman still expects to invite companies before the end of 2016 to bid for the engineering, procurement and construction part of the project, Rumhy said without giving an estimate for the cost. The pipeline would be financed on a 50-50 basis by Oman and Iran.

“Oman has started talking to Japanese, Korean and Chinese parties to raise finance. And this option has been received very well. We are looking to receive finance for LNG as per the initial understanding.

"So finance will not be an issue, but we won’t have to go to the ministry of finance. We are looking at it as a self-funding project,” Rumhy said.

The minister predicted the pipeline would be commissioned two years after the award of contracts, but conceded that the level of gas prices might delay the project, adding that the pipeline would not be profitable in today’s market environment.

"I am not optimistic about the future of oil and gas prices, and we have an understanding with our partners that the market is not very encouraging."

In 2013, the two countries signed an agreement supplying gas to Oman through the pipeline in a deal that would be valued at $60 billion over 25 years.

http://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/1395/05/21/1155332/iran-oman-to-change-gas-pipeline-route-omani-minister

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s agenda would flounder in Congress. Here are seven reasons why.

By James HohmannAugust 11 at 9:25 AM

THE BIG IDEA:

Hillary Clinton is trying to win a mandate to enact an ambitious economic agenda. During a rally in Des Moines yesterday afternoon, the Democratic nominee said she could create 10.4 million new jobs as president.

“In the first hundred days of my administration, we will make the biggest investment in new jobs, good-paying jobs, since World War II,” she said at a high school. “How are we going to do that? Well, we’re going to invest in infrastructure – our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our ports, our airports. … We are going to do water systems. We’re going to do sewer systems. We are also going to build a modern electric grid.”

Clinton added that she’s “going to raise the national minimum wage” and “make sure that women finally get equal pay.”

“What I believe,” she said, “is that … we need a campaign that lays out the agenda so people can vote for it, so that when I’m elected, I can tell the Congress, ‘This is what the people of America voted for us to do!’”

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume Clinton wins. Here are seven reasons why the dynamic on Capitol Hill probably would not change much—

1. Republicans are almost certain to hold the House. The tea party wing might actually wind up with more leverage, not less, after November. Paul Ryan can afford to lose 29 seats, but even a loss of 15 to 20 seats would make his job as speaker much more difficult. “That’s because his losses in November would not likely come from Freedom Caucus members in their deeply conservative districts,” Paul Kane explains in his column today. “Instead, mainstream Republicans — Ryan’s most loyal allies — would suffer and, therefore, the Freedom Caucus’s size inside the entire Republican Conference would grow.”

2. Even in the very best case scenario for Democrats, they will wind up with no more than 53 or 54 Senate seats. That’s far short of the 60 needed to break filibusters (which Barack Obama had in 2009). Ted Cruz and other senators will continue to use this tool in order to advance their 2020 presidential ambitions.

3. Many Republicans will insist Clinton has no mandate to govern. They will try constantly to de-legitimize her and do everything in their power to make sure she’s a one-term president.

Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to question the very legitimacy of the election, which is deeply troubling, but lately conservative writers are beginning to plant the seeds to argue that a Clinton victory won’t actually mean there’s any popular support for what she ran on.

The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein argued last week, for example, that Clinton will only win because the electorate thinks Trump is “a nutcase.”

“Despite a victory, she will still remain broadly unpopular and distrusted among a public that probably won’t have paid much attention to her actual policy proposals,” Klein argued. “Making the election about the implications of Trump’s turbulent behavior will make it harder for Clinton to claim a policy mandate, complicating her liberal agenda as president.”

4. As soon as this election is over, Democrats must turn their attention to protecting vulnerable incumbents in 2018. If she gets the Senate majority, the midterms could be a disaster for Clinton – just as 1994 was for her husband.

With the exception of the 2002 midterms after 9/11, the president’s party always loses seats after the first two years. This time, Democratic senators will be up for reelection in red states such as Missouri, Montana, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia. Republicans will do everything they can to prevent those members from getting wins that they can run on.

5. Trump and Clinton are both talking a lot about “investing in infrastructure.” But there’s very little appetite in the Republican conference for this sort of spending – especially without cuts elsewhere.

One man’s “infrastructure” is another man’s “stimulus package.” Because Trump is also promising “infrastructure,” and it polls especially well with non-college-educated white men, Republicans have stuck to hitting Clinton on character and trust. But once the election is over, you can take it to the bank that they will begin messaging on Clinton’s infrastructure plan the same way they did on Obama’s stimulus package. Remember all the jokes about shovel-ready jobs? And that was in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

6. Congress could not even pass a relatively small, emergency appropriation to fight the Zika Virus after Republicans attached poison-pill riders. Keep in mind: A) This is during an election year. B) Republicans are fighting to save their majority. C) There’s an outbreak in Florida, the single most important swing state. D) There have been alarming stories about women giving birth to deformed babies. Let’s be real. If these mothers could not spur action, how will construction workers in hard hats do it?

We got a taste of what to expect from a Clinton White House in Miami on Tuesday, when the Democratic nominee criticized the GOP for not taking action on Zika. She said Congress should come back from its August recess to get something done. She sounded eerily like Obama has since 2011, trying to use the power of the bully pulpit to (unsuccessfully) press congressional Republicans to enact his priorities.

7. Bigger picture, and perhaps most importantly, a new president will not be able to break the gridlock that grips Washington without systemic change.

Over cocktails and coffees this August recess, lawmakers and leadership aides from the establishment wings of both parties have been buzzing about a depressing Atlantic cover story entitled: “How American politics went insane; it happened gradually – and until the U.S. figures out how to the treat the problem, it will only get worse.”

Jonathan Rauch argues that Trump didn’t cause the chaos, but the chaos caused Trump. “Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around,” he writes.

“Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time.

As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.”

He believes demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. “Eventually, you will get sick,” Rauch writes. “Because that problem is mental, not mechanical, it really is hard to remedy.” (The piece is 29 pages printed out but quite thought provoking.

Read it here. / att.)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/08/11/daily-202-hillary-clinton-s-agenda-would-flounder-in-congress-here-are-seven-reasons-why/57abd94bcd249a2fe363ba11/?wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

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WSJ: Hillary and the Diversity Obsession

By JAMES FREEMAN

Daniel Henninger writes today that a November victory for Hillary Clinton “will empower, for a very long time, the forces now putting at risk one of the country’s incomparable strengths, its system of higher education.” Mr. Henninger says that political correctness and “destructive obsessions” of “diversity” are now destroying both the quality of scholarship and due process on college campuses. “A President Clinton won’t rein in any of this,” he adds. “The idea that a President Cruz or Kasich will ‘roll it all back’ in 2020 after 12 years of the federal cement drying is just not serious.”

Newly released emails that Hillary Clinton failed to turn over to the State Department “paint a picture of top Clinton aides at State eager to do favors for Clinton Foundation donors,” notes a Journal editorial. More of the 33,000 emails she refused to disclose could soon see the light of day. “If those emails do surface, she will try to blame Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin or WikiLeaks. But the fault will lie with Mrs. Clinton’s willful deception and gross negligence about handling official State business,” adds the editorial board.

Hillary Clinton last week retreated from her clam that FBI Director James Comey called her comments “truthful,” explaining that she may have “short-circuited.” But with her current explanation Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that she did tell the truth in her private meeting with the FBI, even if her public comments were false. Karl Rove calls on Mrs. Clinton to ask Mr. Comey to release the bureau’s notes from the interview so “voters have the information to decide for themselves whether Mrs. Clinton is being truthful or layering one lie on another.”

Meanwhile, believe it or not Donald Trump “may be laying the groundwork for a significant breakthrough in international monetary relations—one that could ultimately validate the rationale for an open global marketplace and restore genuine free trade as a vital component of economic growth,” writes Judy Shelton.

-à see attachments!

And: Pollster Zogby: ‚Back to a close race,‘ Clinton 38%, Trump 36%

DEBKAfile August 17, 2016, 1:29 PM (IDT)

According to a new Zogby Analysis of likely voters released Tuesday, the convention polling bumps for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are over, and they are practically even – Clinton 38 pc to Trump’s 36 pc.

Trump’s team believes that online polls are more accurate because more and more voters prefer to give their opinions anonymously.
Pollster John Zogby is a specialist in digging into specific voting blocks. He reveals that some blocks which trended Democratic under President Obama are now behind Trump. Overall, he shows Clinton leading middle income voters, blacks, women and Hispanics. Trump leads among independents, men and older voters, while gaining ground among older millennials.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* The New York Times Magazine has dedicated an entire issue to a single story:

the Arab world’s undoing since the invasion of Iraq

siehe Anlage / see attachment.

Council on Foreign Relations: Turkey Is No Longer a Reliable Ally

….Pro-government newspapers have accused American generals of smuggling coup plotters out of Turkey. The Turkish press has gone full tilt, asserting that former State Department official Henri Barkey was behind the coup. Now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Mr. Barkey happened to be attending an academic conference in Istanbul as the coup unfolded.

The U.S. response to this has been timorous, with nary a word of public protest. It would be one thing to overlook the way the Turks have behaved if Ankara were indispensable to U.S. efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia. It is not.

Incirlik’s runways are important. The bombing of Islamic State is an American priority, as is funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels. But both missions could be carried out from elsewhere. The baseless allegations leveled at the U.S. suggest that Mr. Erdogan might rescind American access to the base merely to demonstrate that he can. It would be prudent for the U.S. to develop a plan to redeploy forces outside Turkey, making arrangements to use airstrips in Cyprus, Jordan and the Kurdish Region in Iraq, for example.

All of this should be a clarifying moment for American policy makers, demonstrating that Turkey and the U.S. no longer share values or interests. Rather than overlook Turkish excesses while hoping Mr.

Erdogan will come around, it is time to search for more reliable allies.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-is-no-longer-a-reliable-ally-1470869047

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Middle East

Reinventing the Levant.

AMERICAN POLICY toward the Middle East has been a dismal failure for the past thirty-five years, if not longer. Officials have approached policymaking in the Middle East without a clear sense of the region’s history, poverty, predominance of authoritarian rule or intraregional relationships. The failure begins with the concept of “separate peace”—the basis of the 1978–79 U.S.-sponsored negotiations between Egypt and Israel—which never led to a broader settlement. It has continued with Washington’s haphazard response to the tumult of the past five years since the Arab Spring, the rise of Daesh (ISIS) and the continuing stream of dislocations flowing from the invasion of Iraq. Each failure has only deepened the sense that the region is beyond repair. Hence, the American public and many elites are tempted by simplistic solutions—draw back from the region even further; deepen support for authoritarian regimes; take extreme measures to end refugee flows; provide Syrian rebels advanced arms; “carpet-bomb.” The sense of frustration is understandable, but doubling down on failed policies will not work.

There is a yearning for a more organic solution, one in which the governments and the people of the region have equal stakes. And, indeed, there is a model rooted in the region’s history that could be a solution. It enabled nearly four hundred years of peace and prosperity in the Levant. At its core is economic integration, with the free movement of goods and people across a broad swath of territory. Such an approach contrasts sharply with the present-day reality, to put it mildly. But the region is approaching a point of exhaustion, and the United States will have a new opportunity, as it did after the first Gulf War, to advance this model. It will find a receptive region. The habits of integration are deeply ingrained in Levantine culture and reside just beneath the surface, waiting to be tapped. A recent experiment suggests that this model is more than a historical artifact and can be successfully adapted to the modern context.

Six years ago, without American assistance, a movement seemed to be emerging that provided a new framework for economic and political cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean—including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and possibly even Israel—and offered a different vision of regional stability, one essentially integrationist. Though American media and officialdom paid it little attention, it represented the most significant development in the politics of the peace process in some years, and deserves close and careful examination. Now is the time for the United States to reflect on an honest historical accounting of the Mashriq’s (the Arab world east of Egypt) recent history, and then take action. Now is the time to advance “Integration for Peace.”

IN JUNE 2010, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan announced a “free-trade zone” and visa-free travel among the four countries. This development built on the rapid expansion of trade relations between Turkey and its Arab neighbors. Trade among the countries of the Arab League and Turkey doubled between 2007 and 2011, to a value of approximately $30 billion annually. Cities like Gaziantep, which had long languished economically, were booming as a consequence of the rapid and dramatic expansion of trade with Syria and Iraq. One source estimated that half the region’s goods were bound for the Middle East, compared with just a quarter going to Europe. The language of the agreement struck a tone of inclusivity, noting that the “quadripartite mechanism . . . will be open to the participation of all the other brotherly and friendly countries in the region.”

Economically, the region became more integrated than it had been for nearly a century. Turkey rapidly overcame the difficulties of being a relatively resource-poor country by increasing its oil and gas holdings in Iraqi Kurdistan—a remarkable development that allowed Ankara to take a major regional role and lifted many of the limitations on its economic growth. The increased participation of Turkish companies in the region’s economic development, including production-sharing agreements in the energy sector with the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, suggests not only Ankara’s increased economic weight in the region but also a new willingness to prioritize economics over political tensions. These deepened economic ties persist, offering a political buffer even as Turkey’s military operations against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurds fray Turkish-Kurdish relations.

Cultural indicators of increasing sympathy and cooperation between Turkey and its Arab neighbors were just as strong as economic incentives. The BBC reported an upsurge of interest in studying Turkish in Gaza and throughout the wider Mashriq. Turkish soap operas and other television productions became hugely popular throughout the Arab world. Tourism between the Arab world and Turkey also increased, especially after the implementation of the visa-free travel zone; Arab travel to Turkey rose by nearly 50 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year.

Unprecedented security cooperation unfolded. In April 2009, Turkey and Syria launched a three-day joint military exercise, exchanging border forces and engaging in activities designed to enhance the military capabilities of both countries. At the same time, the two nations signed a military technical cooperation agreement. These developments caused angst in Israel and the United States, both of which perceived the military exercises as an implicit threat to the former and a turn away from Turkey’s traditionally strong ties to the Jewish state.

Turkish-Syrian cooperation alarmed Riyadh, which viewed it as a threat to the kingdom’s regional influence. From the Saudi perspective, a Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus axis was bad enough, but an arrangement that brought Ankara into the fold would decidedly diminish Riyadh’s influence and fundamentally threaten its interests. The Saudis swung into action and played no small part in putting a halt to the integration project through the tried-and-true tactic of checkbook diplomacy. In April 2011, the head of Saudi Arabia’s largest commercial lending bank announced that the kingdom would invest $600 billion in Turkey over twenty years. That was soon followed by an announcement from Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company, the Binladin Group, that it was investing $500 million in Turkey’s real-estate sector. In March of that year, Syrian protesters, inspired by popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets and were met with a vicious response from the Assad regime. The Saudis saw a chance to deal a devastating blow to Iran’s regional ambitions and eventually funneled money and arms to a range of sectarian actors, some of them bedfellows with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. By the fall, Turkey imposed sanctions on Syria, and the Mashriqi project, which showed such promise, disintegrated.

The United States viewed the project with considerable suspicion. Washington saw Turkey’s turn towards Syria as a sign of increased hostility toward Israel (an anxiety heightened by the Mavi Marmara incident) and perceived tighter economic and political collaboration in the region as a potential threat to American interests. U.S. officials continued to accept divisions in the Middle East, in the British and French tradition. Some American commentators went so far as to disparage these budding alliances as a form of “neo-Ottomanism,” conjuring up eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western fears about a global Muslim takeover. In the United States, there has been no recognition of the historical basis for this integration or any honest assessment of its potential value for the stabilization of the region.

In fact, this short-lived experiment represented a broadly positive development for the nations involved, and for the Middle East more generally. The failure to nurture it was a missed opportunity to insulate the region against Daesh. The incorporation of these countries into a single economic zone is the first step towards reclaiming an identity destroyed by colonization during the first half of the twentieth century. It could provide a path forward towards stability, the defeat of violent extremism, economic development and eventually the normalization of relations with Israel—all goals the United States should support.

THE ESSENTIAL political, economic and cultural unity of the region called the Levant in the West and the Mashriq in the Arab world, which today encompasses Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and parts of Iraq and Turkey, is an old concept that has been disrupted only in the twentieth century. Prior to the Western interventions that resulted in the creation of the Middle East’s contemporary nation-state system, the Mashriq existed as a political and cultural entity characterized by a cosmopolitan, polyglot culture and an economy based on extensive trading networks.

The Ottoman Empire, which began to expand outward from eastern Anatolia in the fourteenth century and solidified its position by capturing Constantinople in 1453, conquered much of the region now known as the Mashriq beginning in 1516. The Ottomans absorbed the Mashriq by way of major public works, an empire-wide defense system and large-scale taxation schemes. However, the Ottoman administration allowed a good deal of local control, appointing governors from prominent local families and depending on local notables to conduct the empire’s business. The Mashriq developed as a coherent Arabic- and Turkish-speaking region from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Like the rest of the empire, the Mashriq included substantial religious minorities; its Christian and Jewish populations were governed under the so-called “millet” system, which involved a degree of communal autonomy in return for additional tax obligations. While clearly discriminatory in the modern context, scholars generally consider this system to have been vastly more tolerant of religious minorities than anything comparable in the West during the same period.

During the nineteenth century, as the Ottomans faced challenges from their increasingly powerful European rivals, problems arose in their Mashriqi provinces. The European powers, competing with each other for colonial control across the globe, began to claim “protectorates” over the Ottoman Empire’s minority religious communities, especially its Christians, using this claim to leverage economic and strategic benefits for themselves vis-à-vis the declining Ottoman state. Despite some upheaval, the Arab provinces generally continued to regard the Ottoman Empire as a legitimate ruling power.

Oil was discovered in the Middle East in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1911, the British navy, assuming it would be able to benefit from the reserves its geologists had found in modern-day Iraq, switched from coal- to oil-burning ships, thus ensuring the centrality of oil reserves in world politics. Around the same time, the scramble for new colonies among the European nations was reaching a frenzied state. During the First World War, European colonial competition resulted in a secret agreement between Britain and France partitioning the Mashriq in the event of Ottoman defeat. Under this 1916 pact, known as Sykes-Picot after its two principle negotiators, Britain would take control of the key Iraqi oil regions as well as strategic Palestine, and France would claim Lebanon and Syria. This agreement was formulated without the knowledge of either Ottoman or Arab representatives. Further, it appeared to conflict with an agreement the British made during the war with the Hashemite noble Sharif Hussein, in which they pledged to support an independent postwar Arab state over much of the same territory in return for local assistance against the Ottomans—a promise on which Hussein made good with his Arab Revolt in 1916. At the end of the First World War, the European powers who had already laid claim to parts of the Mashriq moved in to reap their rewards.

The newly formed League of Nations set up a system of “mandate” states in the Mashriq, which would theoretically progress towards independence under European guidance. In reality, the mandate system represented a thinly veiled colonial takeover. With Russia dropping its claims after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and with U.S. support for self-determination seriously weakened by its limited role in the war and by Woodrow Wilson’s illness during the peace talks, Britain and France were free to divvy up the region at will. In 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres sketched the national borders of the new Middle East and chopped the Mashriq into separate national entities for the first time. The French took the new states of Syria and Lebanon, whose borders were drawn to ensure an unstable predominance of Maronite Christians who would have to depend on French colonial assistance to maintain political power. The British took Palestine and the new state of Iraq—an ahistorical amalgamation of the three disparate Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. Two years later, due to the exigencies of European Zionist immigration and the claims of the Hashemite family, the British divided Palestine into two mandates: a much smaller Palestinian state and Transjordan (later Jordan). The basic map of the contemporary Mashriq had been drawn without reference to historical precedents or consultation of any kind with its inhabitants.

These borders remain the basis of the Mashriq’s nation-state system, most of whose members achieved independence by the late 1940s. The founding of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent scattering of the Palestinian Arab population across the globe further cemented this Western-created system. France and Britain drew borders without considering whether the new states had the natural resources necessary to sustain themselves; in Syria, the borders were drawn deliberately to exclude the reserves of oil it needed for economic development. Consequently, all these nations have suffered from an impoverishment that has made the development of a functioning civil society virtually impossible. With the failure of the communist and socialist models that seemed the only path to economic development in the 1950s and 1960s, it has increasingly appeared that in the almost complete absence of economic opportunity, authoritarian rule is the only possible mode of government.

The West has generally not considered the economic unsustainability of the Mashriq a problem. After the withdrawal of the European imperial powers from the Middle East during the 1940s and 1950s, Western attention turned to the oil-rich Gulf. Intervention on behalf of Israel constitutes the only sustained American engagement in the Mashriq over the past sixty years. The United States has elected to ignore or downplay the underlying problems and potential of the Mashriq, instead focusing its efforts on currying favor with the Persian Gulf states that contain half the world’s oil reserves. Misguided American priorities aside, the borders drawn by the European powers have proven problematic in both economic and political terms, contributing to communal tensions, authoritarian rule, economic stagnation and political instability.

THERE WERE, of course, a number of protests over the arbitrary and often cruel division of the Mashriq. In Palestine and Syria, from 1918 through the early 1920s, a faction known as the “Southern Syria” movement (for the belief that Palestine constituted the southern part of Syria) argued against drawing random borders with the purpose of dividing the region between Britain and France. During the mandate itself, Antoun Saadeh, founder of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, decried the division of the region and called for the unification of “Greater Syria.” He drew on emerging European nationalist—including fascist and totalitarian—philosophies to propose a new modern, secular and nonconformist state in the Mashriq.

As the mandate period came to an end, another ideology was emerging, one that would become the dominant political doctrine of the postwar Middle East. Pan-Arabism, which viewed the Arabic language as the central thread of a viable regional identity, gathered strength in the aftermath of the bloody independence battles and the postmandate political confusion. After 1948, pan-Arab leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser staked their political lives on opposition to the Jewish state and declared Arab solidarity, stretching from North Africa through the Mashriq to the Gulf. The shifting of power in the Arab world led to the abandonment of “Greater Syria” in favor of a pan-Arabism devoted to a Soviet-facing economic philosophy and, of course, vitriolic objection to Israel’s existence.

Arab nationalism did not make good on its promises. The pan-Arab regimes that took over in Iraq, Syria and Egypt during the 1950s became just as corrupt as the elite-dominated governments they had overthrown. Pan-Arabism met its end in 1967, when a coalition of Arab states led by Nasser lost the Palestinian territories, Sinai and the Golan Heights to Israel in a humiliatingly quick and thorough military defeat. Henceforth, many in the Arab world would begin to feel that their only remaining option for a viable supranational political organization lay in the Islamist movements beginning to gather steam. Islamism gained a foothold because state and pan-Arab nationalisms had failed so dramatically.

Pan-Arabism and, later, Islamism attempted to deal with the traumatic loss of identity the Mashriq suffered in the aftermath of the First World War. The Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, once linked culturally, politically and economically, had been violently shattered and placed under oppressive and often brutal colonial regimes. These newer regional and religious conceptions of identity tried unsuccessfully to replace the sense of history, pride and belonging that had been destroyed by the violence of the early twentieth century. The region can be healed only by rejecting these failed attempts at constructing new alliances based on pan-Arabism and Islamism and, instead, focusing on reclaiming its vibrant, cosmopolitan, pre-1920 identity.

OFFICIAL AMERICAN discussions of the Mashriq seem to assume that the failure of democracy there derives from flaws in the civic culture or the divisions wrought by primitive sectarian identities. These mistaken conclusions, rooted in Europe’s misguided imperial division of the Mashriq, have led to recurring and costly interventions throughout the region—in Iraq and, more subtly, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan—that have failed completely. Washington needs a new approach to decisively break this pattern.

The United States first needs to recognize the West’s role in creating the disastrous geopolitical situation in the Mashriq and unpack each state’s economic and political baggage. Priorities include: identifying each state’s natural-resource scarcities and the consequent political divisions; acknowledging the arbitrary borders that have fractured communities culturally, ethnically and religiously; and recognizing the psychological traumas and loss of identity that accompanied the forced remapping of the Mashriq.

Economic incapacity, caused by haphazard resource allocation in the aftermath of World War I, forms the core of the Mashriq’s political problems. In the case of Syria, the loss of oil-rich lands to Iraq was devastating; the cultivation of separately governed “statelets” severed producers from markets and splintered local communities; and the subsequent impoverishment of the people gave way to a minority regime that continues to rule the country today. The founding of tiny Lebanon, with a large population and almost no natural resources, resulted in perpetual dependency on remittances. The small state of Jordan continues to depend on Western financing to buttress its monarchy and maintain stability. Israel, the most economically successful of the lot, is not immune to these challenges. It has relied heavily on aid from the West since its founding and continues to require immense financial and military support from the United States. The Palestinians’ dire economic straits have reached a humanitarian boiling point—particularly in Gaza—a situation that inevitably fuels violence borne of desperation.

In 1945, six Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Yemen—undertook another ill-fated bid to unify when they came together to found the Arab League. The decision to base the institutions of pan-Arabism in Egypt signaled the organization’s orientation away from the Mashriq and towards North Africa and the Gulf—a focus that became even starker in 1979, when the capital of the Arab League was temporarily moved to Tunis as a consequence of Arab anger over the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

The league provides a kind of sifting mechanism for the problems of the Arab world. The West works with and through the league as necessary and especially when it serves broader U.S. strategic interests, such as in the 1991 Gulf War. But the league has done very little to assist the nations of the Mashriq, and its record on the Palestine question (with the possible exception of the Saudi-led 2002 Arab Peace Initiative) is lackluster. The league’s approach to economic issues surrounding oil, as evinced by the 2006 decision to admit Venezuela as an observer, betrayed an increasingly muddled and distant agenda. It has, likewise, not achieved any significant degree of political or economic integration among its member states, which remain extremely disparate. The inability of the Arab League to solve or even begin to address the political, cultural and economic difficulties of the Mashriq reflects the failures of the Arab nationalist model. Given its legacy as a talk shop and showcase of Arab divisions—not to mention regional identities trending toward the local—the league is unlikely to emerge as a force for stability.

THE ONE part of the Levant that has captivated American policymakers is the state of Israel. Israel has enjoyed huge amounts of economic, political and military support from the United States, especially since its occupation of Palestinian territories after the 1967 war. U.S. administrations have expended exorbitant amounts of energy and resources in trying to negotiate a “peace process” intended to stabilize the region.

Such efforts have repeatedly fallen short, largely because they have not conceptualized the conflict within the Mashriq’s colonial history. Even if the Israelis and the Palestinians were to sign a peace deal, Israel’s hostile relations with its neighbors would continue to threaten its position. Any lasting solution must therefore also consider Israel as a central part of the Mashriq, recognize its cultural and historical importance to the history of the region, and offer it genuine economic and political integration. Successful economic exchange and development must be considered essential to any peace settlement.

This may seem like an unlikely scenario, especially in the face of arguments that the security barrier has allowed Israelis to relegate the ongoing conflict to a back-burner issue. But in fact, Israel has much to gain from regional economic and political integration. Such a solution would allow it to establish a lasting peace with the Palestinians as well as its Arab neighbors, especially Lebanon, with which Israel has been intermittently at war for the better part of three decades—a conflict that has taken an immense toll on the Israeli psyche as well as costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Integration for Peace would provide Israel with regional allies against its greatest foe, Iran, perhaps eventually building new strategic lines of communication with Tehran, and reinvigorating relations with Ankara. It also offers Israel the opportunity for major regional economic development, opening up huge new markets for Israeli goods and services. But above all, it represents an opportunity for the normalization of relations and the permanent legitimization of Israel in the eyes of its neighbors. The genuine acceptance of Israel as an economic partner of the Arab states of the Mashriq would enshrine a new regional order.

The states of the Mashriq must shift from outdated anti-Israel rhetoric, which served for so many years to prop up the failing institutions of Arab nationalism, and instead recognize Israel as a potential partner in a major economic redevelopment of the region. Integration for Peace offers the most promising path towards regional security and prosperity. This sort of cooperation could lead to sustainable partnerships between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a desirable outcome for U.S. national interests.

PIECEMEAL SOLUTIONS to the so-called “Middle East problem” have failed repeatedly. Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan (reached at great financial and diplomatic cost to the United States) have reaped little in terms of broader integration. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat’s agreement, despite leading to a Nobel Peace Prize, failed to deliver a genuine peace between Israelis and Egyptians. Similarly structured individual peace arrangements with the Palestinians or with Israel’s two northern neighbors would likely suffer from the same tunnel vision.

The region has been in a state of cold war since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the last time that the Israeli army engaged another conventional force in limited war—in contrast with actions against nonstate actors like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel has existed in a tense atmosphere for nearly three decades, facing down Syria, Lebanon and various Palestinian groups. The Camp David Accords, in retrospect, look more like an armistice than anything else; any additional piece-meal peace would be no different.

A Mashriq-wide peace process should supplant the “Land for Peace” approach with an Integration for Peace framework. Such a model would include land settlements between Israel and the Palestinians (based on pre-1967 borders), as well as among Israel, Lebanon and postwar Syria. Offering Israel a phased path to full integration in a Mashriq market could function as a catalyst.

The United States has proven incapable of advancing the Israeli cause in the post–Arab Spring landscape. But a war-weary America must play a role in reimagining the Mashriq. The incorporation of these countries into a single economic zone allowing the free movement of goods, services, labor and capital, based on a European Union–style single market, is the first step towards reclaiming an identity that was lost in the violent colonization of the Middle East.

Reimagining a new Mashriqi identity, based on a common history of cosmopolitanism and a commitment to a shared economic prosperity, is viable. Integration for Peace has pre–twentieth century antecedents and represents an alternative to the recent Islamist trend. It rejects the sectarianism that has come to characterize the Middle East (which developed primarily as a response to colonial and neocolonial legal and political systems), burying the concept of a Sunni-Shia divide in favor of a vision based on the region’s much longer history of tolerance and diversity. Far from presenting a threat to the United States, this new vision holds promise for a stable and productive Mashriq, with benefits for the Middle East as a whole.

The United States, though wounded by its invasion of Iraq and a damaged reputation throughout the Middle East, remains the only feasible mediator. But it must break from the pattern of trying to solve crises in isolation. The United States and Russia, whose role in Syria makes it an indispensable player, should initiate a combination of bilateral and multilateral tracks with the strict intention of discussing the region’s interlocking, inseparable crises holistically. These conversations would involve not only regional government officials, but would also engage leading intellectuals and economists to outline a path toward integration in the postwar decade. The endgame is integration.

The European Union, in spite of its many imperfections and uncertain future, offers a modern-day example of success in the wake of a disastrous conflict. In an era of tight budgets, a market-based approach offers an attractive alternative for reconstructing Iraq and Syria, creating jobs and bringing refugees home. The United States must seize the opportunity to reassert itself as an honest broker in the Mashriq—much as it did in postwar Europe. The seemingly endless stream of crises from Syria, Turkey and Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demands a bold, new approach.

A renewed sense of collective identity based on shared economic interests may hold the key to healing a divided region desperately in need of a shared vision of a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Jamal Daniel is chairman of Crest Investment Company and founder and publisher of Al-Monitor, winner of the 2014 Free Media Pioneer Award.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/reinventing-the-levant-17296?page=show

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Putin’s Strategy to Maintain Power

Aug. 11, 2016 The president needs to fix the economy to ensure support from the Russian people.

Geopolitical Futures logo

Summary

Recent political reshufflings in Russia highlight Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy, but also his constraints in governing the country. These moves have been his response to increasing protests in the regions outside the main cities, caused by poor economic conditions. Historically, regime change in Russia has been triggered by deteriorating economic and security conditions. Putin currently enjoys high approval ratings, but only because the population trusts him to come up with solutions to their problems.

· Russia’s economic dependence on hydrocarbon exports has created structural vulnerabilities. These became visible at the end of 2012 and have worsened as oil prices dropped. The government must address the urgent economic problems and consider structural reforms that can move the economy away from its dependence on energy exports.

· Two programs for relaunching the economy have been proposed, each with its own symbolism and political implications. Putin hasn’t chosen either one, so as not to create divisions, but said a combination of the two would work better.

· The Russian people have seen small to no real wage increase, pensions indexed below the inflation rate, unpaid wages and unemployment. Discontent and labor protests are growing in the regions, where people see oligarchs and regional officials as having mismanaged the economy.

· With the parliamentary elections coming up in September and the presidential election in 2018, Putin senses the danger of increased unrest. He has established a National Guard who report directly to his office. This, in tandem with the recent security and administration purges, is meant to ensure his control over the situation and keep his approval ratings high.

· Putin’s maneuverings also give us an opportunity to evaluate Putin’s strength. Putin needs to deliver what the people expect him to deliver. Though not quite a dictator, he is the most important political figure in Russia, which has historically needed a strong central figure. Putin is trying to be that figure, but Russia’s problems are serious and there are no easy solutions. As Russian economy weakens, so does Putin.

Introduction

In 2017, Russia will mark the centennial of the October Revolution. In 2018, it will have a presidential election, in which President Vladimir Putin could run again. Putin is seen by most of the Western media as at least a dictator, if not as a czar, but dictatorships require absolute power. Russia’s current geopolitical and socio-economic reality has kept a true dictator from emerging, but Putin is the most important political figure and clearly a ruler. He needs to respond to the Russian people’s problems and keep the country running.

Putin is using arrests, raids, resignations and political reshufflings to boost his position and appease the Russian public ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections. While Russia is facing many challenges, Putin’s regime is under consolidation.

The raids, arrests, forced resignations and reshufflings during the last few months are related to Putin’s strategy. He is not in immediate danger of losing control, but he is trying to consolidate and bolster his power, while addressing the major concerns of Russian society. The moves also highlight Putin’s constraints. None of the measures taken indicate the Kremlin has a radical approach to solve the socio-economic problems.

Putin’s latest approval ratings are high – more than 80 percent of the population supports his actions. But the approval rate for regional governors has been below 50 percent since the end of 2014, according to Levada Center, an independent Russia-based polling organization. With the presidential election in 2018, Putin needs support in the Duma for the next two years. To get support in the Duma, he needs to make sure that his United Russia Party wins the September parliamentary elections.

In September 2015, a different Levada poll listed the management of the economy and the fight against corruption as major failures for Putin. So to hold on to power after 2018, he needs to tackle corruption and address the economic challenges.

Tackling Russia’s Economic Problems

Russia’s economic problems start with the economy’s structure. The country’s budget is heavily dependent on revenue from hydrocarbon exports. Low oil prices have had dramatic effects, especially since the country hasn’t managed to fully recover from the 2008 recession. In 2013, the economy only grew by 1.3 percent, even though the price of oil was around $110. During the 2000s, energy industry profits generally came from state-led investment projects and increases in pensions and wages, which caused consumption to grow.

There was little to no investment in industrial diversification and almost no investment in increasing efficiency or new technology. Therefore, signs of stagnation started appearing in late 2012. But the people’s expectations were different: considering the political discourse and the fading of the 2008 crisis, most expected growth. With no real growth in wages or pensions over the last two years and the poverty level increasing, Russians’ pessimism and appetite for protests grew instead.

Russia’s 2016 budget was built around oil prices averaging $50 per barrel and the deficit target was set at 3 percent. The drop in oil prices means a rising deficit. Since it can’t control the price of oil, Russia needs to find other ways to manage its finances. So far this has included cuts in government spending (except in defense and social services) and privatization plans for some state-owned companies.

But the steps taken haven’t addressed the weakening socio-economic conditions. Russia’s GDP per capita is down from an all-time high of $11,615 in 2013 to $11,038 in 2015. More than 2 million people fell into poverty in 2015. About 19 million Russians, or 13.4 percent of the population, lived below the poverty line ($139 or 9,452 roubles a month), according to the Russian government.

Inflation has been the most worrying indicator. Real wages fell by 9 percent in 2015 and 4 percent in 2014. Inflation fell from 12.9 percent in December 2015 to 7.4 percent in March 2016. As inflation dropped, the central bank resisted calls to cut the interest rate as nominal wages rose more than 5 percent in the first quarter, exceeding the rate of inflation for the first time since 2014. The government announced that pensions would increase by 4 percent in February 2017 and that they will be indexed to inflation starting in 2017.

Concerns over rising inflation are still looming. On Aug. 4, Putin advised people to get a mortgage loan now rather than wait for lower interest rates, citing “inflationary pressures” on the economy. Then on Aug. 6, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, “When faced with questions of what we should do with wages and pensions, the economic model takes a back seat, and we are forced to take decisions simply so as not to let the economy go into free fall.”

On June 10, on a visit to Crimea, Medvedev told a pensioner complaining about a small pension, “There simply isn’t any money.” This is the main reason Putin said people should get mortgages now, to create more liquidity in the economy. Pumping money and optimism into the economy is urgent for Putin, but further measures are needed to address the country’s complex economic problems.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been discussions about the best way to fix these problems. Three potential programs were presented during the May 25 meeting of the Economic Council. The Economy Ministry’s plan looks at ways to cut down consumption through labor legislation reforms – allowing companies to lay off workers for economic reasons, limiting salary growth and transforming revenues into investments, especially in the state-owned sector. Such a program would only work in a planned economy. This was a solution the Soviet Union used during the first half of the 20th century, when resources were allocated to develop the country’s industry at the expense of private consumption.

The other two programs were presented by two groups, one led by former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and one called Stolypin Club, chaired by Boris Titov, who has been the commissioner for entrepreneurs’ rights since the creation of the post in 2012. Kudrin served as finance minister from 2000 to 2011 and is known for his liberal yet cautious macroeconomic reforms, guiding Russia out of the 2008 financial crisis. He is seen as an outspoken pro-market reformer who could effectively counter the security services personnel in Putin’s inner circle – the siloviki.

Kudrin’s return to government in April 2016 is not accidental. He was named the deputy chief of the Economic Council, which gave the Kremlin the support of Russian liberals. Titov is less known to the public. The club he chairs is named after young reformist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who served under Czar Nicholas II. Stolypin’s skill at controlling insurrection led Nicholas II to appoint him prime minister in 1906. He was assassinated in 1911, but remained the last hope for czarist Russia to avert the 1917 revolution. Stolypin Club includes personalities like presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev and Andrei Nikolaevich Klepach, former deputy minister of economics and now deputy chairman of VEB Bank’s board of directors.

The program proposed by Stolypin Club advocates for increased investment based on monetarist principles: budgetary help and printing money. The Stolypins support a “quantitative easing” policy and suggest issuing special bonds for 1.5 trillion rubles ($22.5 billion) to refinance the banking system. It also proposes the country abandon the floating exchange rate regime currently underway in Russia and impose selective exchange controls aimed at reducing the impact of speculative capital on the exchange rate.

Kudrin’s program promotes measures supporting investment growth through favoring small private business and reforming the justice and law enforcement sectors.

Putin basically had to choose between Kudrin’s “Plan K” and the Stolypin Club proposal. On July 8, Medvedev hinted that the Kremlin preferred Plan K, announcing that Russia will introduce a preferential tax regime. This topic has been taboo since Putin took power, when he implemented the “Gref Plan” – which introduced a flat tax regime (13 percent income tax and 24 percent on corporate profits), in line with the energy-fueled economy.

No specific details were given on the new tax regime, but Medvedev said that real wages will be maintained at their current levels and allowed to increase slowly in line with economic growth. This is directly from Kudrin’s Plan K, which attempts to switch the growth driver from consumption to investment. Reports in the Russian media have also hinted at a radical reduction in insurance premiums with a complementary increase in the VAT as well as the introduction of special tax exemptions for strategically innovative industries. Putin highlighted Russia’s need for these exemptions in his recent speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

But on July 29, it was reported that Putin wants both Plan K and the Stolypin program to be considered as solutions for the economic crisis. Opting for a combination of the two highlights his careful maneuvering, which confirms the weak state of the Russian economy and Putin’s political constraints.

Both programs have political implications. Kudrin is supported by the Russian liberals and reformists, while Titov is one of the Party of Growth leaders. The Party of Growth is seen as pro-Kremlin, but the symbolism attached to the Stolypin name should not be ignored. Moreover, as economic problems affect social stability, Putin needs to politically maneuver to buy time to test which of the proposed measures will work.

No one but Putin will be the savior – Kudrin and the Stolypin Club will not get credit for getting Russia through this crisis. But if something goes wrong, he can blame them. This way, he is not only finding solutions to fix Russia’s economy, but consolidating his position as well.

Russia’s Political and Economic Transition

Russia’s economic development has not been linear since the end of the Cold War. The 1990s delivered little in terms of a growth platform – most of the reforms were aimed at keeping the country from sliding back into communist rule. Most of the population remained at the poverty line and most state enterprises were privatized at heavily discounted valuations.

The default crisis in 1998 and the protests of tens of thousands in the late 1990s brought about regime change. The population was ready for stronger government and welcomed a stronger ruler. Putin’s platform was to fix the economy first and then start political reform. Since then, Russia’s development has been based on energy exports, which in turn fueled budget spending and consumption.

The financial sector experienced the most reforms, with a booming credit industry. Putin didn’t abandon control over the economy, even if he didn’t have it completely. His solution was to support a two-tier economic system: he controls one tier through his “inner circle” that runs state-owned companies, while the other tier is subject to free market laws. These state-run companies make up about one-fifth of the economy, which ensures that any Kremlin reforms are implemented.

But the Russian people trust Putin, not necessarily his appointees. They regard both the oligarchs running the companies and the regional administration as corrupt. So Putin needs to balance between these perceptions and come up with the right mix of policies for preserving stability. This is of particular importance in times of crisis when a few disenfranchised employees can quickly turn into wider popular unrest.

Russia’s economic problems have not only decreased GDP per capita, but also increased unpaid wages, which were the main reason for more than 50 percent of the protests in 2016. Labor protests have been growing since 2014, according to the Russian Center for Social and Labor Rights. While the scale of protests is not comparable to the 1990s, most of the protests focus on local economic demands.

While there has been a decline in the number of protests in big cities, protests in small cities have increased by 40 percent in the last year, according to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), Russia’s largest workers’ association. The number of regions involved in protests has also grown. Furthermore, in 2015, FNPR reported the growth of interregional protests through so-called solidarity protests. Besides labor protests, Russia has recently seen protests related to different economic causes – the truck drivers’ protests have essentially been taxpayers’ protests.

In addition to the economy, the protests are also tackling corruption, which is seen as one of the main causes of inefficiency. The oligarchs around Putin are seen as above the law. The system he created is about the Kremlin interfering directly in the economy. This is a system that, while not designed to be corrupt, encourages rent seeking and corruption through the non-competitive way state-directed lending is carried out.

Considering that 2016 is an election year and 2018 is just around the corner, Putin understands the urgency of implementing measures to stop protests at the regional level. While he needs to maintain control over the economy in order to make sure reform plans are successfully implemented, he also needs to address corruption. Both the economic and the corruption problems are strategic and need to be addressed in the medium and long term. Winning the elections is a short-term concern. This is why Putin has been working to build up support in the regions while also addressing economic problems.

The Russian Social Contract Redefined

Just a day before announcing that he wants to combine the two economic reform programs, Putin signed off on a government reshuffle of federal district bosses, regional governors and state-owned company bosses. Putin also reshuffled the presidential envoys to several federal districts.

This surprised most. However, it is all but surprising. The reshuffle came as a lower-level anti-corruption drive has been gathering momentum, with at least three regional governors investigated for taking bribes and several senior officials put under investigation or arrested. It also comes along with a restructuring of the security apparatus, which began earlier in the year as a result of increasing tensions within Russia.

On April 5, Putin announced the formation of the National Guard troops, unifying several domestic security forces and bringing them under the direct control of the president. The troops’ listed functions are protecting the public order, countering extremism, guarding government cargo and facilities, assisting with border protection, fighting terrorism and controlling the arms trade.

The head of the new law enforcement body is Putin’s ex-personal bodyguard Viktor Zolotov. On April 30, the same day that Kudrin was appointed deputy chairman of the Economic Council, the Kremlin announced a major reshuffle of the security services, including the FSB, the main security agency in Russia.

Eight high-ranking law enforcement officials were fired, including regional officials. Some of the firings were reportedly related to corruption and other public wrongdoings. The same day, Putin appointed Igor Krasnov, who investigated the killing of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, as deputy head of the Investigations Committee.

The Investigation Committee is the Russian version of the American “Untouchables,” a key law enforcement agency. Krasnov uncovered large bribes paid to high-placed officials in the committee – including the deputy branch chief Denis Nikandrov, head of its Internal Security Directorate Mikhail Maximenko and his deputy Alexander Lamonov – who have been arrested. The charges relate to a $1 million payment – the first tranche of a $5 million bribe from notorious gangster Zakhari Kalashov.

In May, reshuffling of security institutions continued, as top officials of the Federal Protection Service (FSO) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) were replaced. June saw changes in the FSB directorates and ended with the rather dramatic purge of 50 senior officers of the Baltic Fleet, including fleet commander Vice Adm. Viktor Kravchuk and chief of staff Rear Adm. Sergei Popov.

These purges only set the stage for the July purges, which were much more public. Putin appointed Sergei Korolev as head of the FSB Economic Security Service, replacing Yuri Yakovlev. This department investigates financial crime and corruption in Russia. This has shown that Putin is determined to clean house and effectively fight corruption.

In early August, the longtime head of Russia’s Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belyaninov (said to have been one of Putin’s close friends), was arrested after his home was raided by the Investigation Committee and the FSB. The investigations and attacks are coming from the FSB, run by Putin loyalist Alexander Bortnikov and backed by the newly appointed Korolev. Putin appears to be behind all the reshuffling, leading the public to see that he is serious in fighting corruption. However, the anti-corruption drive is not only a stunt for election season. It is also an opportunity for Putin to put people he trusts in key positions within the national security apparatus.

Putin not only needs to maintain control, but also to show the people he is responding to their outrage. Protests in the regions could be threatening in the long term. To have full control, Putin has established the National Guard and appointed people he fully trusts to high-level security positions. This way he controls two essential processes: getting intelligence on potential unrest in the regions and ending any eventual protests.

Putin’s Strength

Russian history proves that while Russians can indeed endure a lot, labor unrest and thwarted expectations can lead to regime change. The 1990s taught Putin that the people’s trust is the most important asset a leader can have in Russia, even if it is built on a set of rigid rules that are also meant to inspire fear. Trust is taken away only by pessimism – when people’s expectations are not met and they perceive security to have weakened.

This is why security forces are key to maintaining order. Putin also understands that there are certain limits that need to be respected. Russian history, again, offers lessons on that as well. The industrialization crisis of the 19th century ended in the oppression of the poor working class. Then when soldiers fired on a peaceful march, hoping to present a loyal petition to the czar, it triggered the 1905 Revolution – a wave of nationwide local unrest, which was a precursor to the 1917 Revolution.

Just as in 1905, people expect the central political figure in Russia to solve their problems. In the regions dominated by single industries, unpaid wages and unemployment are increasing. The people hold the local authorities and elites responsible. Considering the polls, they are hoping Putin will step up and fight corruption and push money and contracts their way.

With the latest corruption cases and reshuffling, Putin is rewriting the social contract in Russia and telling the elites that corruption and incompetence will be less acceptable, considering the current problems. While the elites are clearly disappointed, Putin’s strategy is to gain support from the public and this has been endorsed regionally by the newly appointed officials, who will surely oversee peaceful elections in which United Russia wins the most seats in the Duma.

Russian history offers a lot of lessons on the danger of increasing divisions between the elite and the rest of the population. To control the effect of the economic problems on society, the Kremlin needs to get reliable information on potential unrest and have the means to limit such unrest.

The creation of the National Guard early this year gave the Kremlin direct access to many towns that do not have an interior troop garrison. This adds to the effect of reshuffling the regional administration. A local official who gives the Kremlin what he thinks the Kremlin wants to see, rather than what is necessary, can no longer take the matter into his own hands because Moscow will be informed.

Technology has made information more accessible, even in rural Russia, and increased its sense of political activity. What has not changed is the fact that Russia has always looked to a central figure, trusting that the leader has the solutions. As problems get more difficult, solutions become more complex and involve a lot of maneuvering. This, in turn, weakens the Russian ruler. This has been true in Russia before, and Putin is no exception.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/putins-strategy-to-maintain-power/

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see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

08-16 How American Politics Became So Ineffective – The Atlantic.pdf

08-10-16 Hillary’s Latest ‘Old News’ & Clinton Foundation.pdf

08-10-16 The Clinton Default Mistake.pdf

08-12-16 Fractured Lands_ How the Arab World Came Apart – The New York Times.pdf

03-30-16 Trump Russia Adviser Carter Page Interview – Bloomberg Politics.pdf

08-10-16Turkey Is No Longer a Reliable Ally_CFR.pdf

08-12-16 RIAC_Russia-Europe-Policybrief5-en_.pdf

07-12-16 Russia’s Strategy for Interacting with Neighbouring Cou ntries.docx

08-12-16 North-South International Transport Corridor.pdf

Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 12.08.16

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran pledge to enhance cooperation

· Declining economic activity and oil revenues in Russia are adversely affecting its regional neighbors

· Friedman: Beyond the Turkish Coup

· Gallup: Fear of the "Greater of Two Evils" Could Spur High Turnout * WSJ-Opinion: Trump’s Tax Revolution

· The Roots of Middle East Mistrust – Die Wurzeln des Misstrauens im Mittleren Osten

· Deutschland-Trend:Merkels Beliebtheit stürzt ab – aus einem Grund

Massenbach*Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran pledge to enhance cooperation

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L), Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a group photo during a trilateral meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 8, 2016. The meeting is expected to focus on trade, energy, communications, transportation, environment as well as the Syrian situation and the Islamic State threat to Russia. (Xinhua/AZERTAC)

BAKU, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — A final declaration of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran summit reflected the whole range of cooperation opportunities offered by the new format, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said here on Monday.

He made the remarks during a joint press conference with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Baku.

According to Lavrov, the final document of the summit has covered "both political and economic issues with a focus on transport and energy."

Lavrov said the three leaders agreed to establish a tripartite mechanism for cooperation at the ministerial level and relevant ministries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have pledged to counter the growing global threat of terrorism in a joint declaration of a trilateral summit here on Monday.

The three leaders expressed their willingness to combat terrorism, extremism, transnational organized crime, illicit trafficking in arms, drugs and their precursors, as well as human trafficking and crimes in the sphere of information and communication technologies.

They have also recognized that "the unresolved conflicts in the region are a major obstacle to regional cooperation," and underlined the importance of their settlement "on the basis of principles and norms of international law."

"The parties will continue the comprehensive development of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation, and to deepen and broaden the political dialogue at various levels across the entire spectrum of issues of mutual interest," the document said.

Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran also agreed to deepen cooperation in various sectors of the economy "on the basis of equality and mutual benefit."

The three presidents also pledged to take effective measures to develop transportation and communication infrastructure in order to expand the opportunities for passenger and cargo transportation via the North-South corridor.

"The parties stressed the importance of an early agreement on the Caspian Sea Convention, and the Foreign Ministers were instructed to intensify the preparation for the Fifth Caspian summit. The new format will have a positive impact on regional processes," Lavrov pointed out, adding that Russia accepted the invitation to attend the next trilateral summit in Iran.

Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the heads of the three countries agreed to foster cooperation in the areas of security, energy, transit and other areas.

The Geographical Lynchpin: Great Power Jockeying in the Caspian

Zbigniew Brzezinkski defined “Eurasia” as one of the most important geopolitical concepts. He observed, “Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago, Eurasia has been the center of world power. A power that dominates “Eurasia” would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions.

A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over “Eurasia” would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in “Eurasia”, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. “Eurasia” accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”

In the Western sense, when political scientists talk about “Eurasia”, they generally mean Russia. Russia has been marginalized at the edge of a Western-dominated political and economic system and in recent years has begun to stress a geopolitics that puts Russia at the center of a number of axes: European-Asian, Christian-Muslim-Buddhist, Mediterranean-Indian, Slavic-Turkic, and so on. A strategy towards Eurasia is paramount in deterring any Russian aggression in Eurasia. Russia is one of three states running interference against American objectives in Eurasia, the other two being Iran and China. Russia poses the biggest threat against American objectives in the region due mainly to a supposed historical security imperative to control the Eurasian landmass. However, this explanation doesn’t fully fit the evidence. Russia does not act the way it does based on centuries-old habits. Instead the strategy lies in the much newer habit of senior Russian policymakers who belonged to the all-Union elite before 1991 and have the tendency to see the post-Soviet Eurasian states as though they were still Soviet Socialist Republics, that is, still largely geopolitically beholden to the power of Russia. Probably the biggest and often most overlooked region in Eurasia is the Caspian Sea. If the U.S is to have a grand strategy to deal with Russia and an emboldened Iran, policymakers in Washington cannot ignore the Caspian region for the sake of convenience. The Caspian Sea is important for many reasons and beyond a doubt Russia and Iran are the two biggest actors in the region. Furthermore, China has invested heavily in a number of infrastructure projects in Central Asia and Moscow is keeping a close eye on Beijing’s motives in the region and views Beijing as a potential competitor for influence in the region in the same way Russia sees Iran. They are Russian partners, but partners with a tinge of rivalry and tension. (see more att. Caspian-1)

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Our Russian news desk:

Declining economic activity and oil revenues in Russia are adversely affecting its regional neighbors

The Russian economy, already weakened by the imposition of Ukraine-related sanctions by the United States and the European Union, has been further damaged by low crude oil prices since the end of 2014. In 2015, Russia was the world’s second-largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, and the oil and natural gas sector accounted for approximately 8% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to IHS Markit. However, in conjunction with both lower oil prices and international sanctions, Russia has recently experienced five consecutive quarters of decline in GDP, representing that country’s deepest economic downturn since 2008-09. While consumers in many countries are benefiting from lower oil prices, declines in Russian economic activity are also having an adverse effect on economic growth in many neighboring countries by reducing remittances from migrant populations working in Russia.

Approximately 8% of the Russia’s total inhabitants are migrants (foreign-born populations) according to the United Nations Population Division,1 with the vast majority of migrants coming from Eastern Europe and Central Asia according to the most recent World Bank statistics. These migrants often send a portion of their earnings back to their families or other residents in their country of origin, which are referred to as personal remittances. In some developing countries, remittances are a significant source of purchasing power. Under such circumstances, slower growth or outright declines in remittances can negatively affect the economies of countries dependent on them and, in turn, potentially slow their oil consumption growth.

As Russia’s economy contracted, remittances from Russia to other countries declined by 40% from 2014 to 2015 to roughly $19.7 billion, the lowest amount since 2006, according to the World Bank.2 In 2015, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan all received at least 50% of their remittances from Russia. Remittances as measured against GDP in each of these countries was also greater than 1%. Using GDP data from Oxford Economics, the share of remittances as measured against GDP ranged from 3% in Azerbaijan to 33% in Tajikistan in 2015. However, each of these seven countries, which collectively accounted for 0.7% of global GDP in 2015, saw declines in remittance receipts from Russia from 2014 to 2015 (Figure 1), based on statistics from the World Bank stated in U.S. dollars (USD). On average, remittances from Russia to each of these countries declined by 26%, or $0.8 billion.

In addition to the effects that lower economic activity in Russia may have had on the job prospects of migrants and the amount of money they earned in 2015, the severe depreciation of the Russian ruble (RUB) reduced the value of remittances sent from Russia. Because crude oil is priced globally in USD, low crude oil prices can affect exchange rates between the USD and the free-floating currencies of some oil-producing nations, reducing the value of remittances in USD terms. From 2014 to 2015, the average annual USD-RUB exchange rate rose from RUB 38.6 to RUB 61.3 (Figure 2), amounting to a 59% depreciation in the RUB, the largest since 1999.

With the exception of the Ukrainian hryvnia, the RUB also depreciated against the currencies of the selected remittance-receiving countries from 2014 to 2015 (Figure 3), ranging from an annual depreciation of 18% against the Azerbaijani manat to 30% against the Uzbekistani som. However, because the RUB depreciated more against the USD over the same period, the amount of money sent home by migrants shows a larger decline when quoted in USD than if measured in the currencies of the migrants‘ home countries.

In addition to reducing economic activity, declines in remittances can affect a country’s oil consumption, which is often sensitive to the level of income received from both domestic and international sources. Annual oil consumption across the seven countries that receive most of their remittances from Russia grew by an estimated 18% in 2014 and then declined by about 1% in 2015.

The International Monetary Fund’s Regional Economic Outlook for the Caucasus and Central Asian region, which includes six of the seven countries, cites weakness in the Russian economy and the drop in remittance inflows among the reasons why the region’s GDP growth in 2016 is projected to be the lowest in two decades. In addition, some countries in this region are also major oil producers, like Azerbaijan, which has more directly been economically affected by both low crude oil prices and declining crude production.

Russia’s economy is still projected to contract in 2016, although at a lower rate of -1%, according to Oxford Economics. Brent monthly average spot crude oil prices have risen after reaching a 12-year low in January, which may help to limit Russia’s expected budget deficit in 2016. The depreciation of the RUB against the USD has moderated in 2016 compared with the depreciation that occurred from 2014 to 2015. As the Russian economy begins to stabilize and expand in the coming years, remittance inflows to Eastern European and Central Asian countries may increase and strengthen the region’s economic growth, and potentially its oil consumption.

http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/weekly/archive/2016/160803/includes/analysis_print.cfm

Iranian President Due in Baku for Official Visit on Sunday (07 Aug. 2016)

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani plans to leave for the neighboring country of Azerbaijan Republic on Sunday to attend a trilateral summit among Tehran, Moscow and Baku. President Rouhani and his Russian and Azeri counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, will hold trilateral talks on Monday on various issues, including trilateral cooperation in commerce, energy, telecommunications, environmental issues, fight against terrorism, transportation, and the transit of goods.

During his two-day visit to the Azeri capital, Rouhani is also slated to hold a separate meeting with Putin and exchange views on issues of mutual interest.

In another meeting with his Azeri counterpart due to be held on Sunday, the Iranian president will discuss the process of implementing already reached agreements and bolstering cooperation in commerce, industry, energy, culture, banking, consular facilities and telecommunications, and particularly railroad transportation.

A number of ministers and high ranking officials are to accompany President Rouhani in the official visit.The upcoming summit will follow an April meeting among the Iranian, Russian and Azeri foreign ministers in Baku. In that gathering, Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Azerbaijan’s Elmar Mammadyarov discussed a range of issues, including ways to settle conflicts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

http://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/1395/05/15/1149475/iranian-president-due-in-baku-for-official-visit-on-sunday

Tehran, Moscow Mull Building Rail Link to Reduce Suez Traffic: Russian Minister

August, 09, 2016 – 16:00

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Russia’s transport minister, Maxim Sokolovm, said Tehran and Moscow are considering establishing a rail link that would foster trade connectivity through a less trodden path than the Suez Canal.

“If the rail link to Iran is built, it can take some share of the cargo that’s being transported via Suez,” Sokolov said in an interview on Monday, Bloomberg reported.

He added that plans for the railroad may be completed next year.

It will be built as part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC), a multi-model route to link India and the Middle East to the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe, which will significantly reduce costs and travel time and boost trade.

For trade, India currently uses maritime transport to link with Russia. From St. Petersburg, the cargo has to sail around the entire western part of Europe and the Suez Canal which takes around 40 days to reach Mumbai.

According to the Russian Railways Logistics, the new route cuts the time just to 14 days and eliminates the need to pass through the Suez Canal, which is not only overloaded, but also very expensive.

http://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/1395/05/19/1153301/tehran-moscow-mull-building-rail-link-to-reduce-suez-traffic-russian-minister

Moscow Eyes Construction of LNG Plant in Southern Iran: Russian Minister

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Russia’s energy minister said Tehran and Moscow are in talks over construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant to deliver Russian natural gas to northern Iran through Azerbaijan.

"In the gas sector, we are considering the prospects of swap gas deliveries to northern Iran through Azerbaijan with the possibility of constructing an LNG plant in southern Iran, receiving the equivalent of LNG to be delivered to markets in South East Asia where gas consumption is expected to grow with higher rates in the future," Alexander Novak told reporters in Baku, Sputnik reported.

He made the remarks following a trilateral meeting between presidents of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan in the Azeri capital on Monday.

President Rouhani and his Russian and Azeri counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, held trilateral talks on Monday on various issues, including trilateral cooperation in commerce, energy, telecommunications, environmental issues, fight against terrorism, transportation, and transit of goods.

During his two-day visit to the Azeri capital, Rouhani also held a separate meeting with Putin and exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.

A number of ministers and high ranking officials accompanied President Rouhani in the official visit.

Russia-Turkey rapprochement revives Turkish Stream pipeline talks

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday (8 August)that Ankara was ready to take steps towards the implementation of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project. Bypassing Kyiv, and punishing Sofia for having obstructed the construction of scrapped South Stream, the new Turkish Stream pipeline will travel across the Black Sea to the Turkish city of Ipsila, close to the Greek-Turkish border. Its aim is to deliver 47 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to Central Europe and the Balkans. *

http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/russia-turkey-rapprochement-revives-turkish-stream-pipeline-talks/?nl_ref=18279887

Putin: Ankara Makes Positive Decision on Resuming Akkuyu, Turkish Stream
http://sputniknews.com/europe/20160809/1044094924/putin-ankara-akkuyu-stream.html

Putin: Ankara Makes Positive Decision on Resuming Akkuyu, Turkish Stream

Putin: Ankara Makes Positive Decision

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Deutschland-Trend:Merkels Beliebtheit stürzt ab – aus einem Grund

Der Zuspruch der Deutschen für die Kanzlerin geht deutlich zurück. Selbst von den Unionsanhängern unterstützt nur noch eine Minderheit ihre Politik. Merkels Gegenspieler dagegen holt stark auf.

Nach den islamistisch motivierten Anschlägen in Ansbach und Würzburg verlieren Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) und ihre Flüchtlingspolitik erheblich an Zuspruch.

In der Liste der beliebtesten Politiker rutscht Merkel auf Rang sechs ab, wie der Deutschlandtrend von Infratest Dimap für die "Welt" und die ARD-"Tagesthemen" ergibt.

Nur noch 47 Prozent der Bürger sind mit Merkels Arbeit zufrieden; im Juli waren es noch 59 Prozent.

Die Zustimmung für die Kanzlerin ist damit auf den zweitschlechtesten Wert während dieser Legislaturperiode gefallen. Ihr unionsinterner Gegenspieler, der bayerische Ministerpräsident Horst Seehofer (CSU), gewinnt derweil an Popularität. Kam er im Juli auf eine Zustimmung von 33 Prozent, so beträgt diese nunmehr 44 Prozent.

Beliebtester Politiker bleibt Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD, 71 Prozent). Beliebter als Merkel sind neben Finanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble und Innenminister Thomas de Maizière (beide CDU) zwei Grünen-Politiker: der baden-württembergische Ministerpräsident Winfried Kretschmann und Parteichef Cem Özdemir.

. (Foto: Infografik Die Welt)

Nur noch jeder dritte Bürger ist mit Merkels Asyl- und Flüchtlingspolitik zufrieden – im Juli hatten sich so noch 42 Prozent geäußert. Fast zwei Drittel der Befragten geben an, mit Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik "weniger zufrieden" oder "gar nicht zufrieden" zu sein. Einen mehrheitlichen Rückhalt hat Merkel auf diesem Feld nur noch bei den Anhängern der Grünen (60 Prozent).

AfD-Anhänger lehnen Merkels Asylpolitik zu 100 Prozent ab

Etwas mehr als die Hälfte der Anhänger von CDU und CSU lehnen Merkels Asyl- und Flüchtlingspolitik ab.

Die Ablehnung bei den Unterstützern von SPD, Linkspartei und FDP ist noch größer.

Die AfD-Sympathisanten lehnen Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik zu 100 Prozent ab.

. (Foto: Infografik Die Welt)

Mit der Politik der Bundesregierung allgemein sind unter allen Befragten 41 Prozent (vier Punkte weniger als im Juli) zufrieden und 55 Prozent nicht zufrieden (plus drei Punkte).

Kritisch betrachten die Deutschen mehrheitlich den seit nunmehr fast einem Jahr dauernden fundamentalen Streit zwischen CDU und CSU, der sich besonders in der Flüchtlingspolitik manifestiert. Knapp zwei Drittel der Befragten werfen der CSU vor, ihr seien die eigenen Interessen wichtiger als der Erfolg der Regierung.

Doch immerhin 40 Prozent stimmen der Aussage zu, es sei gut, dass sich die CSU "sehr offensiv gegen die Kanzlerin positioniert". Gut neun von zehn Bürgern sind der Auffassung, die Koalitionsparteien sollten stärker gemeinsame Lösungen vorantreiben, als sich öffentlich zu streiten.

Die FDP würde den Einzug ins Parlament schaffen

Wäre am Sonntag Bundestagswahl, käme die CDU/CSU unverändert auf 34 Prozent, die SPD auf 22 Prozent. Ebenfalls bei ihren Werten bleiben die Grünen (13 Prozent), AfD (zwölf) und die Linke (neun). Die FDP verliert einen Punkt, würde aber mit fünf Prozent den Einzug ins Parlament schaffen.

Auf Basis dieser Zahlen besäßen weder Union/Grüne noch SPD/Grüne/Linke eine parlamentarische Mehrheit. Möglich wären eine große Koalition oder ein Jamaika-Bündnis aus Union, Grünen und FDP.

Für den Deutschlandtrend hat Infratest Dimap am 1. und 2. August 1003 wahlberechtigte Bürger befragt. Für die Sonntagsfrage wurden vom 1. bis 3. August 1503 Bürger befragt. Die Umfrage ist repräsentativ.

04.08.2016 | 21:19 Uhr

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Beyond the Turkish Coup Geopolitical Futures logo

By George Friedman

Aug. 5, 2016 Turkey has three options for its national strategy moving forward.

Enough time has passed since the attempted coup to begin to take stock of the situation. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has clearly emerged from the coup in a stronger position than before. The coup, rather than fragmenting the country, has brought it a greater degree of unity, outside the Kurdish area, than has been seen before.

Erdoğan is restructuring Turkish institutions, from the military to schools to the media, in ways that will support whatever moves he chooses to make. His long-term intentions – the ends toward which he is restructuring Turkish institutions – are unclear. The restructuring, arrests and firings will make him enormously powerful, but the important question is what he intends to do with that power.

Let me begin with a point I have made many times over the years. There are four significant powers in the region, each with the ability to defend themselves and project some degree of power. They are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and Turkey. Of the four, only Turkey has the size, economic power and political influence to shape the region. On the surface, Israel is the strongest power, but its size limits its power projection to its near neighbors. It has political influence, but that is limited by the fact that it is a Jewish state. Saudi Arabia’s primary source of power is money, but the decline in the price of oil has undercut that influence, while its military, as we have seen in Yemen, has not evolved sufficiently in its effectiveness. Iran is limited by geography. Its ability to project and sustain large-scale military forces west of the Zagros Mountains is limited. It is compelled to channel its power through proxies of limited strength.

Turkey alone has the mixture of economic, political and military power to become the major regional power. For over half a millennium, save for the period after World War I, Turkey has been the dominant regional power. Today, it has the largest economy and military in the region and, therefore, ought to have the greatest influence.

However, while its economy has grown dramatically since Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party took power, it has now slowed and must evolve. The army may be the largest in the Middle East, but much of its size comes from draftees on short-term duty who are effectively untrained. Its equipment has not evolved since the Cold War, and much of its military doctrine is still evolving. It is not clear that Turkey’s other institutions, like its foreign service or intelligence services, are in positions to support a great power. And both domestic and regional politics have limited Turkey’s options.

So Turkey has avoided overextending itself, aware that defeat is possible and would derail Turkish evolution. One policy, more wishful thinking than reality, was to have no enemies. Turkey has moved to a policy of limited engagement along its frontier and increasing openness to more distant powers such as Israel and Russia. It is a policy of subtlety, shifting from hostility to neutrality to limited cooperation and back again as circumstances dictate. Turkey has been cautiously defensive.

The coup permits Erdoğan to reshape Turkey’s institutions in a way that was not possible before the coup. Before the coup, Erdoğan faced substantial opposition. The coup gave him an opportunity to restructure the military, intelligence and other institutions to give Turkey more room to maneuver in the region. Failed coups, when they are thoroughly crushed and discredited, dramatically increase the power of their victims. Erdoğan appears to be ready to take advantage of that.

From this coup, the limitations that have kept Turkey from its full potential in the region will begin to disappear. At the moment, Turkey faces massive chaos to its south, a degree of instability in the Caucasus and emerging U.S.-Russian competition in the Black Sea. Russian influence in the Balkans is rising, particularly in Serbia. The region is fraught with instability and Turkey has not been able to stop it. The restructuring opens the door for Turkey to become much more assertive in the region.

In recent years, Turkey’s policy has been tactical. It has moved from threat to threat and from opportunity to opportunity without a broad strategy, besides avoiding excessive exposure to threats. In the current environment, the general approach of accommodation is becoming less and less tenable. The unpredictability of the situation in the south coupled with potential threats from every direction are forcing it to consider increasing its control of the situation. In this context, a tactical policy must be replaced by a national strategy.

Turkey now has three options. The first is to attempt to manage its interests by itself. The second, is to attempt to ally with Russia for joint management in the region. The third is to return to its prior alliance with the United States.

It is always attractive to be self-reliant. However, Turkey has only just started the process of institutional reconstruction. At minimum, this process will take a decade before a fully self-reliant policy – other than hoping for the best – can be achieved. And even after that point, regional military powers have global economic interests. This asymmetry creates dependencies that are outside of their control. Turkey will need to have allies even as it becomes regionally powerful.

An alliance with Russia makes sense. The ideal strategy is that the two weaker powers collaborate to block the stronger power. After the Vietnam War, the United States allied with China to block the Soviets. The danger in this strategy is that one of the allied powers might be weaker than the other, or that either might suddenly switch alliances. The Russians clearly need Turkey to counterbalance the United States, and Turkey could use Russia for the same end. But if Russia were to weaken due to economic problems, or come to an agreement with the United States over Ukraine, Turkey might find itself alone.

The problem with an alliance with the United States is that the imbalance of power leaves Turkey vulnerable to shifts in American policy. The United States could undertake strategies that are not in Turkey’s interest and force Turkey to support them and commit resources to an extent that is irrational for Turkey. Russia has a policy in Syria that Turkey opposes. The United States has a policy that is far less clear. The United States is more dangerous than Russia in this case, as Russia’s actions can be predicted. For Turkey, the United States possesses the worst attribute an ally can have: unpredictability.

There is another element in this calculation. Russia is near. The United States is far away. Russia is a competitor in the region. The United States has a much lower stake in the region than Russia and is, therefore, in spite of all the drawbacks for Turkey, a safer choice. In the past century, Turkey has had a Russian option. It has always declined the option because proximity raised the stakes too high. The United States is less predictable precisely because it has less at stake.

In making this choice, there is also the question of whether the United States was behind the coup. I am not in a position to know and all things are possible, but I tend not to believe that for a simple reason. The United States is trying to extricate itself from the region by allowing regional powers manage it.

Weakening Turkey would run counter to American interests. If we assume that the CIA is as brilliant as Turks like to believe, then the CIA would have known that the planned coup was being run by incompetents and that the only outcome if the coup succeeded would be chaos in Turkey. The U.S. wants to withdraw from the region and that is impossible unless Turkey is strong. A chaotic Turkey is the last thing the U.S. would have wanted. U.S. sponsorship of a coup would have been unlikely for geopolitical reasons, and also because it would have been an unnecessary risk. In my view, Erdoğan’s victory was in the American interest far more than the alternatives.

Turkey is now making the transition that I forecast years ago from a secondary power to a major regional power. That has placed extreme stress on the Turkish political system, generating a coup that Erdoğan came out of stronger than ever. I also predicted that decades down the road this might lead to conflict. But at this point the fundamental geopolitical reality is that for the foundations of Turkish foreign policy, a relationship with the United States is more rational than one with Russia or trying to operate alone. A foreign policy is designed from the options that are available. Turkey’s power is increasing but has not yet reached the point at which it can invent new options. There will be extreme stress on both sides but in the end, I think the Turkish-American alliance will re-emerge.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/beyond-the-turkish-coup/

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Middle East

Serbia: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is going to Serbia. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is also going to Serbia. Why the high level interest in Serbia?*********************************************************************************************************************

*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Trump’s Tax Revolution

By JAMES FREEMAN

On Monday Donald Trump laid out an economic plan that “is his most detailed so far and marks a step forward on regulation, taxes and energy,” writes the Journal editorial board. In contrast to Hillary Clinton’s plan to increase both taxes and regulation, Mr. Trump wants to slash the corporate income tax rate to 15% from 35% and allow businesses to immediately expense new investments. He’s also adopted the House Republican plan to simplify taxes for individuals and reduce rates. And he’s calling for a moratorium on new regulations from the federal bureaucracy.

Mr. Trump is still pushing anti-growth trade policy—as is Mrs. Clinton—but the Trump tax and regulatory agenda would create the conditions for American economic revival. The editorial board concludes, “One economic speech won’t persuade Americans who have doubts about President Trump. To revive his campaign, he’ll need to carry the economic growth theme every day from here to November.”

The Wall Street Journal Morning Editorial Report

More Clinton Emails

By JAMES FREEMAN

Hundreds of pages of emails, including many that Hillary Clinton didn’t turn over to the government, have been released by the nonprofit Judicial Watch. A report in the Journal’s news pages says they “offer fresh examples of how top Clinton Foundation officials sought access to the State Department during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure.” Among the foundation donors that Clinton aide Huma Abedin offered to assist was Gilbert Chagoury. The Journal notes, “In the mid-1990s, he was known for his close association with Nigeria’s military dictator, Sani Abacha, which helped him land lucrative business contracts in construction and other areas.”

Democratic advertisements—and Mrs. Clinton—have presented Donald Trump as a maniac who may soon have his finger on the nuclear button. “The ads may be effective but they are a complete misreading of a 70-year-old family man who turned the family business from real-estate development to branding because it was less risky,” writes our columnist Holman Jenkins. “If mainstream Democrats or Republicans don’t pick up on the Trumpian hunger of Americans for leadership, they’re the ones who are crazy and incapable of adapting to feedback.”

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Gallup: Fear of the "Greater of Two Evils" Could Spur High Turnout

by V. Lance Tarrance

With three months remaining, the 2016 presidential election is already cemented as a new election archetype — one characterized by unconventional election warfare, politically incorrect posturing and extraordinary intraparty conflict. In the primaries, Donald Trump’s scorched-earth campaigning won the day on the Republican side, yet has prevented him from achieving party unity. At the same time, Bernie Sanders‘ relatively wholesome assault on the political status quo met many Democratic voters where they are — tired of Hillary Clinton’s personal and political baggage. Nevertheless, she is now the party’s nominee.

There are more headlines to come in this campaign, and many will focus on the unprecedented high level of unpopularity of both major party candidates. But rather than keep voters home, the negative tone may instead ignite a much higher turnout at the polls than anyone is expecting. We could see 10 million more voters go to the polls this year than in 2012, a prediction made, in part, based on turnout patterns in the past two open-seat contests, 2000 and 2008. In both instances, turnout was significantly higher than in the incumbent re-election year that preceded it.

Number of Votes Cast in Recent U.S. Presidential Elections

Total vote Turnout
(millions) (% of voting age population)
1996 (re-election) 96 49.0
2000 (open-seat) 105 51.2
Change (pct. pts.) +9
2004 (re-election) 122 56.7
2008 (open-seat) 131 58.2
Change (pct. pts.) +9
2012 (re-election) 129 54.9
2016 (open-seat) NA NA
Change (pct. pts.) NA NA
The American Presidency Project voter turnout data

Not only might the open-seat nature of the 2016 election spur higher turnout than in 2012, but because turnout in 2012 was remarkably low relative to the prior two elections, the increase could be magnified. Should turnout revert to the 57% to 58% level seen in 2004 and 2008, we could be looking at 12 million additional voters than came out in the last election — more than double Barack Obama’s winning margin in 2012.

Some in Washington, D.C., have suggested that the highly unfavorable images of both Trump and Clinton foreshadow a lower voter turnout in this year’s election. But many predictions have failed to come true in this election cycle, and there is good reason to be suspicious of this one as well. For starters, in an election where both candidates have high unfavorable ratings, almost every voter has a reason to come out and vote "against" a candidate, even if they are not eager to vote "for" another. And those who don’t like either standard bearer may feel it is their duty to choose between the lesser of two evils — assuming the greater of the two evils is intolerable.

Not unimportantly, there will also be an unprecedented amount of money spent by the campaigns and super PACs cajoling voters to "stop" Trump or Clinton, or to "save" the Supreme Court, "preserve" NATO, "protect" the country’s national security, or achieve whatever the sponsor’s pet concern might be. Add to that Trump’s typical rhetoric and this will surely be a contest that engages voters‘ emotions — a perfect incubator for a higher-than-expected turnout.

There is already some evidence for this in the data. Gallup polls in late May of this year revealed that 75% of voters have thought "quite a lot" about the upcoming election, up from 63% in January at the beginning of the nomination process. It is also similar to the level in May 2008, notable because turnout in the 2008 election was the highest since the voting age was lowered to 18, and that election garnered the biggest total vote in U.S. history, with over 130 million voters going to the polls.

Traditionally, most presidential elections evolve through four distinct stages: 1) A quick buildup of high name recognition based on the premise that voters usually prefer the "devil they know" to the one they don’t know; 2) A rapid attempt to create a positive image for the candidate by focusing on accomplishments and credentials; 3) A barrage of well-placed TV advertisements designed to contrast the candidates and drive up the opponent’s negatives; and 4) An intense bombardment of positive endorsements in the final two weeks of the campaign. These stages are the normal conventional warfare of campaigns.

This campaign is not normal, however, and these normal steps may well be replaced this year. What is left for the 2016 candidates to do now that their conventions are over? The extraordinarily high unfavorable ratings for both candidates have created a situation in which there is very little space left for positive reinforcement through traditional advertising.

At the end of the Democratic National Convention Clinton enjoyed a solid edge over Trump in favorability (44% vs. 32%), in part because by that point Trump’s convention bounce had mostly faded. However, even with Clinton’s own convention bounce, more Americans still viewed her unfavorably (52%) than favorably (44%).

This situation leaves the candidates with one main option — already well underway on both sides — to try to reinforce and drive up the opponent’s negatives even more. For voters, it may end up quite simply being a question of choosing "the least worst" candidate in a situation in which positives will be in short supply.

Bottom Line

This is truly an epic contest between two individuals who have not been able to rehabilitate their images with the American public, and thus will resort to making their opponent as objectionable to voters as possible. Both campaigns will operate on the assumption that "nice" is not a winning strategy.

The 2016 election has already generated many unfavorable comments from pundits who assume this will lead to general disgust and low turnout, but in reality, we may all find ourselves surprised when the dust settles and more voters than ever get out to the polls to register their choice.

The question is, if 9 to 12 million voters come to the polls who didn’t vote in 2012, will these be disproportionately Trump or Clinton backers? Will they be the white, working-class voters who didn’t show up in 2012, but may have attended Trump’s rallies this spring throughout the Rust Belt? Or will they be the lower socio-economic Democrats as well as young and Hispanic voters who chronically don’t vote, but will in 2016 to stop Trump? It’s too early to say — higher turnout could benefit either candidate, or it could be a wash.

No matter which candidate wins, half of America will be profoundly disappointed, and the victorious administration will start out with unfavorable ratings so high that it may take years to reverse.

http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/194138/fear-greater-two-evils-spur-high-turnout.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=syndication

The Roots of Middle East Mistrust – Die Wurzeln des Misstrauens im Mittleren Osten

DURHAM – The mistrust that pervades Middle Eastern societies is hard to miss. As controlled experiments confirm, Arabs have substantially less trust in strangers, foreign or domestic, than, say, Europeans. This hampers progress on many fronts, from business development to government reforms.

Low-trust societies participate disproportionately less in international commerce, and attract less investment. And, indeed, according to the World Values Survey and related research, trust among individuals in the Middle East is low enough to limit commercial transactions to people who know one another either personally or through mutual acquaintances. Because of their lack of trust, Arabs will often pass up potentially lucrative opportunities to gain through exchange.

Likewise, in their dealings with public institutions, Arabs tend to seek the intermediation of an individual with whom they have some sort of personal connection. Among the consequences are inequities in what people can expect from such institutions. That undermines their effectiveness.

Clearly, there is a need to address the Middle East’s trust deficit. A first step toward doing so is to understand its causes.

One potentially important clue lies in the difference between perceptions of Muslims and Christians. To be sure, there are no official data quantifying the deficit; in most parts of the Middle East, too few Christians are left to make meaningful statistical comparisons. But casual evidence suggests that the region’s shoppers, merchants, and investors generally consider local Christians to be more trustworthy than local Muslims. “It has always been that way,” they say. My work with the economic historian Jared Rubin exploring Istanbul’s seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Islamic court records may offer insights into why.

At that time, Istanbul was a cosmopolitan city; around 35% of its local residents were Christian, and 6% were Jewish. According to Islamic law (Sharia), Muslims had to do business according to Islamic rules, and if they wanted to adjudicate a conflict, they had to use an Islamic court. For their part, Christians and Jews could do business under their own rules, though they were free also to follow Islamic rules and to use Islamic courts, if they so desired. But, of course, if they were involved in a case against a Muslim, that had to be handled in an Islamic court.

When a Muslim and a non-Muslim faced each other in a trial, the Muslim enjoyed significant advantages. First, the judges’ training predisposed them to give the benefit of any doubt to a fellow Muslim. Second, the court staff was entirely Muslim, which meant that testimony was viewed solely from a Muslim perspective. Third, whereas Muslims could testify against anyone, Christians and Jews could testify only against another non-Muslim.

But these advantages had a downside. Because the legal system made it easier for Muslims to breach contracts with impunity, they were more often tempted to default on their debts and to renege on their obligations as business partners and sellers. Meanwhile, non-Muslims, whose obligations were enforced more vigorously, gained a reputation for trustworthiness. To reflect differences in perceived risk, lenders, who were predominantly Muslim, charged about two percentage points less for credit to Christian and Jewish borrowers than to Muslims (15% annually, as opposed to 17%).

So it seems that perceptions of trustworthiness in the Arab world are rooted, at least partly, in the uneven enforcement of commitments under Islamic law. The sectarian differences in legal enforcement did not last. In the mid-nineteenth century, Islamic courts gave way to what were essentially secular courts, at least with respect to commerce and finance. The enforcement of commitments then became more balanced.

The share of non-Muslims in the Middle East’s Muslim-majority countries has since diminished significantly, through emigration and population exchanges. As a result, few Middle Eastern Muslims have personal experience doing business with non-Muslims. Yet old impressions of Muslims being less trustworthy have endured, passed down through families and networks. Old habits of breaching contracts opportunistically have also survived in places, reinforcing the inherited stereotypes. The tendency to limit transactions to friends and acquaintances is a natural response in a low-trust environment.

It is ironic that these damaging stereotypes emerged from a legal system explicitly intended to give the militarily and politically dominant Muslims an edge in their social and economic relations with Christians and Jews. Beyond raising the costs of economic transactions among Muslims at the time, rules meant to limit religious freedom – the denial of “choice of law” to Muslims and restrictions on non-Muslim judicial testimony – helped to create a culture of mistrust that now limits progress in various areas. Islamic law thus weakened the Muslim communities it was meant to protect.

At a time when various political movements are seeking to re-impose Sharia, it is more important than ever to recognize the long-term damage caused by doing so already. What the Middle East needs today is not Islamic law, but wide-ranging efforts to rebuild trust among and within communities, and in private organizations and government. Reviving Islamic law would only deepen a trust deficit that is a key source of the Middle East’s current economic underdevelopment and political failures.

Timur Kuran

Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science at Duke University and the author of The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/roots-of-middle-east-mistrust-by-timur-kuran-2016-07

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/roots-of-middle-east-mistrust-by-timur-kuran-2016-07/german

Naheliegende Idee in Aleppo

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see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

08-09-16 Trump on the Economy_WSJ.pdf

Caspian-1.pdf

08-09-16 Newly Released Emails Highlight Clinton Foundation_WSJ.pdf

08-09-16 Trump Runs Against Both Parties_WSJ.pdf

WG: „Kulturfestspiele Schlösser und Gärten der Mark“

Wir empfehlen.

Die „Kulturfestspiele Schlösser und Gärten der Mark“ stehen in den Startlöchern !

„Unser neues Festival wurde ins Leben gerufen, um vor allem bei jungen Menschen Interesse und Engagement für die kulturellen Schätze auf dem Land zu wecken. Wir haben uns das Ziel gesetzt, die Herrenhäuser, Schlösser und Gärten der Mark im stilvollen Ambiente durch qualitätsvolle Veranstaltungen zu beleben.
Heimisches Publikum sowie Gäste aus Metropolen wie Berlin oder Hamburg werden angeregt, das kulturelle Erbe zu besuchen und für sich zu entdecken. Es wird eine umfangreiche Palette an Musik-Genres in den Kulturorten zu erleben sein, wie z.B. die "Barock-Reihe", die "Jazz-Reihe" oder die "junge Reihe".

2016 geht es mit 5 Konzerten los – bleiben Sie gespannt !“

www.kulturfestspiele.com

Presse:

Märkische Online Zeitung : „Quirliger Jazz erklingt in Kossenblatt“

Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung : „Kulturfestpiele in Brandenburg warten auf den Kuss“

Pressemitteilung Kulturfestspiele Schlösser und Gärten der Mark – 19. Juli 2016

http://www.agbc-berlin.de/content/kulturfestspiele-brandenburg-13-august-31-dezember-2016

Udo von Massenbach

President

American German Business Club Berlin e.V.

P.O. Box 08 04 27 – 10004 Berlin, Germany

President

www.AGBC-Berlin.de

Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 05.08.16

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Guardian: The only way to defeat Islamic State is to give young Arabs hope

· Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here * How a new source of water is helping reduce conflict in the Middle East

· Saudi Arabia ‘wants stronger ties’ with Russia * Islam channel in German to remove misconceptions

· Russia Extends Oil, Gas Reach in Asia Post-Ukraine Crisis

· European External Action Service (EEAS)_ Military coups_a very short introduction

· Dieter Spöri: Die Ära Merkel und der Zerfall der EU

· Augen südostwärts – Der Balkan darf nicht erneut von der europäischen Agenda verschwinden

· ZEIT-online_Ein Volk der Beleidigten

Massenbach*The Daily 202: Koch summit showcases surprising theme: Income Inequality

COLORADO SPRINGS — The twice-a-year gathering of wealthy conservatives who back the Koch political network is not just a forum for political strategizing – it’s an event that seeks to identify libertarian solutions for some of the country’s most pressing policy fights. It was at one of these seminars in 2009 that donors committed to an intensive battle against Obamacare, an issue that engulfed the 2010 midterms.

As top network officials and supporters met at a sumptuous mountain resort here this weekend, there was one dominant focus: the yawning gap between America’s privileged elite and working class.

The preoccupation throughout the conference with a “two-tiered society,” as billionaire industrialist Charles Koch repeatedly described it, shows how the economic anxieties powering the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have redefined the American political conversation.

It’s a conversation that is bound to last far beyond Nov. 8 – and could be the driving force that shapes the policy battles of the next administration.

That was evident as the chief executive of Koch Industries, who is worth an estimated $44 billion, bemoaned a system “with the rich and politically connected doing well, and most everybody else stuck down below.”

Koch explicitly echoed Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in his opening remarks Saturday, calling for “a society where people succeed not by rigging the system.”

Large banners hanging in ballrooms of The Broadmoor resort proclaimed the weekend’s theme, “A Brighter Future,” illustrated by a glowing metropolis rising out of a dark urban landscape. Koch said one of the network’s top priorities is providing equality of opportunity for those who feel left behind, adding that the organization was intensifying its investments to support communities, schools and the family structure.

“Unless we make progress here in our culture, we are doomed to continue to lurch from one political crisis to another, and we will likely degenerate into socialism or corporatism, as two-tiered societies typically do,” he told attendees Sunday.

The intense focus by the Koch network on economic inequality is driven by a consuming worry that the 2016 campaign reflects a fundamental shift in American politics.

“Love it or hate it, the rise of candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders represent major movements in this country,” Brian Brenberg, a business and economics professor at The King’s College, warned donors on Sunday.

To punctuate his point, Brenberg played video clips of voters in Florida and Virginia talking about how they feel the system is designed to benefit the wealthy at their expense.

“Look, let’s be honest, for a lot of us in this room, like a guy who live in Manhattan, it’s easy to lose touch with the experience of the average American voter,” the professor told the well-heeled crowd, adding: “If we chose to deny or dismiss the state of our country, we do so at our own peril.”

The attraction to candidates such as Trump and Sanders, Brenberg added, is driven by the real fears people have about their economic stability.

“Unless we address these underlying issues, these underlying threats, candidates, elections — they are only going to become more extreme and more divisive,” he said. “Because if history has taught us anything, it’s this: when a citizenry feel neglected and ignored, they will line up behind leaders who give voice to their concerns and promise relief for their problems — even when the eventual outcome is likely going to be far, far worse.”

Meanwhile, Charles Koch’s refusal to back Trump’s campaign is causing rifts with some of the group’s biggest donors.

My latest from Colorado Springs: "Between panels extolling free speech and conservative state-policy victories, Koch and his top deputies heard out donors worried about the network’s decision to sit on the sidelines. ‚I told him that it was very important that Hillary Clinton not get elected,‘ said Minnesota media mogul Stanley Hubbard … Koch’s decision not to embrace Trump threatens to alienate some heavyweight network backers who have rallied to the nominee’s side in recent months — mega-donors such as Wisconsin roofing billionaire Diane Hendricks, Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm and New York hedge-fund magnate Mercer, none of whom attended this weekend’s conclave … ‚A lot of donors are saying, ‘Why are we spending money on Senate candidates and not trying to beat Hillary?’  said one well-connected Republican familiar with the views of major-party financiers, who requested anonymity to describe private conversations."

In a closed-door meeting, Koch and senior network officials described their plan to attendees, explaining that the group’s 700 donors are split over Trump, making it more strategically focus on Hillary Clinton in ads designed to improve Republican chances of retaining control of the Senate.

And Charles Koch pushed back hard against the notion that he could come out and support Clinton, saying such a suggestion was "blood libel," comparable to false accusations throughout history that Jews killed Christian children for ritualistic purposes.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/08/01/daily-202-koch-summit-showcases-surprising-theme-income-inequality/579e9b0fcd249a787ffb126c/

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* European External Action Service (EEAS)_ Military coups_a very short introduction

Until three years ago, it was widely perceived in Europe that the era of military intervention in politics was over:

strongmen like Idi Amin and Hafez al-Assad were long dead, and the world had seen the likes of Mubarak toppled

and Pinochet voted out of power.

The armed forces appeared to have returned to the barracks for good.

Although the coups in Egypt and Thailand, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, were a reminder that the military can still play

a political role, it was the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey which drove this point home.

As the military’s raison d’être is clearly the defence of a state, any venture by it into politics is generally seen as an anomaly –

yet this repeatedly occurs.

So why (and when) do coups happen?

Mainly for four reasons: the armed forces have the capacity, the interest, no legitimate opponent and a degree of popular support.

If all four elements are not present, however, a coup will fail – as was, arguably, the case in Turkey. (learn more att.)

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Dieter Spöri: Die Ära Merkel und der Zerfall der EU

Der Kurs der EU wird zwar formell durch ein komplexes Wechselspiel der europäischen Institutionen legitimiert, informell wird jedoch heute die politische Grundrichtung des europäischen Prozesses durch die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin geprägt: Angela Merkel ist seit Jahren unbestritten die politisch dominante Figur Europas.

Doch die inzwischen multiple Krise Europas hat schonungslos offengelegt, dass diese Dominanz den Spaltungs- und Erosionsprozess der EU massiv verstärkt.

Merkel im historischen Vergleich

Der nach „Forbes“ abermals mächtigsten Frau der Welt, die im Deutschen Bundestag keinen nennenswerten Widerstand mehr findet, droht daher in den Geschichtsbüchern – trotz ihrer aktuell hohen internationalen Reputation – gerade im Gegensatz zu ihren christdemokratischen Leitbildern Konrad Adenauer und Helmut Kohl wenig Fortune und Glanz. Denn nach dem 2. Weltkrieg war die Geschichte des europäischen Einigungsprozesses jahrzehntelang ein ständiges Auf und Ab mit Fortschritten und herben Rückschlägen, die letzten Endes aber dann doch nach dramatischen Konflikten immer wieder zu einer höheren Integrationsstufe der Union führten.

Höhepunkt Lissabon-Vertrag

Höhe- und zugleich Scheitelpunkt dieser dialektischen Entwicklung war schließlich der am 1. Dezember 2009 in Kraft getretene Vertrag von Lissabon, der unter entscheidender Mitwirkung der deutschen Bundeskanzlerin Europa demokratisch tragfähigere Strukturen und effizientere Instrumente geben sollte. Dass sich diese Hoffnung nicht erfüllt hat, lag aber nicht an der neuen konstitutionellen Struktur der Europäischen Union, sondern am Verlust der bisherigen Machtbalance zwischen Frankreich und Deutschland sowie dem damit verbundenen konzeptionellen Politikwechsel.

Erfolgsrezept: Ebenbürtige deutsch-französischen Partnerschaft

Im Grunde genommen war das zentrale Erfolgsrezept des Europäischen Integrationsprozesses eine austarierte multipolare Macht- und Führungsstruktur, in deren Zentrum eine ebenbürtige französisch- deutsche Partnerschaft auch den Interessenausgleich für die kleineren Mitgliedstaaten durch ein komplexes „Do ut des“ organisierte. Diese Partnerschaft auf Augenhöhe zerbrach nach dem Abgang von Jaques Chirac als französischem Staatspräsident und der Wahl seines Nachfolgers Nikolas Sarkozy im Jahr 2007.

Gewichtsverlust Frankreichs in der EU

Das politische Zusammenspiel zwischen Paris und Berlin hatte dann aber auch gar nichts mehr gemein mit der anschließend praktizierten Bussi- Inszenierung des Duos Sarkozy und Merkel. Denn die stets präzis präparierte und kühl kalkulierende Physikerin Merkel unterminierte das europapolitische Gewicht des sprunghaften Schwarmgeistes Sarkozy hinter der Maskerade demonstrativer Herzlichkeit innerhalb weniger Monate. Nikolas Sarkozy zog damals schon nach einem leichten Sperrfeuer aus Berlin seine von der strategischen Grundrichtung her durchaus richtige wirtschaftspolitische Initiative für eine „Europäische Wirtschaftsregierung“ harmoniesüchtig zurück und verspielte damit leichtfertig die jahrzehntelange Rolle Frankreichs als ernstzunehmender Partner Deutschlands in einer gemischten Wirtschaftsordnung, die das politische Primat einer sozialen Marktwirtschaft Europas sichern sollte. Durch diese fahrig zurückgezogene Initiative überließ er das Krisenmanagement der Eurozone völlig den neoliberalen Beratern Angela Merkels. Die offensichtliche politische Gewichtsverschiebung zwischen Paris und Berlin schwächte Sarkozy auch innenpolitisch so stark, dass er am Rockzipfel der Kanzlerin hängend sogar von einem anticharismatischen Francois Hollande bei der nächsten Präsidentschaftswahl geschlagen wurde.

„lame duck“ Hollande

Aber auch der Sozialist François Hollande konnte sein zentrales Wahlkampfversprechen im Präsidentenamt nicht einlösen. Die grimmige Entschlossenheit mit der er monatelang mit der Parole einer neuen Balance von Aufschwung und Haushaltsdisziplin Wahlkampf gemacht hatte, verflüchtigte sich in den offenen Armen der alle angekündigten Konflikte weglächelnden Bundeskanzlerin. An seiner politischen Zukunftslosigkeit als „lame duck“ wird daher auch sein engagiertes und würdiges Agieren in der französischen Terrorkrise nichts mehr ändern.

Merkels puritanische Heilserwartung

Die Folge dieser politischen Gewichtsverschiebung zwischen Paris und Berlin war eine jahrelange Dominanz des deutschen Austeritätskurses in der seit 2010 offen ausgebrochenen Finanzkrise in der Eurozone. Angela Merkel konnte auf einer endlosen europäischen Gipfelkette ihren neoliberalen Kurs ungehindert durchsetzen, der auch auf ihrer puritanischen Heilserwartung beruht, dass nur ein jahrelanger Prozess von Askese und Opfern die Krisenländer wieder zur ökonomischen und finanziellen Gesundung führen kann.

Die Spaltung der EU

Ergebnis dieser kontraproduktiven Rosskur Berlins war eine wirtschaftlich tief gespaltene EU, in der heute der Süden und Frankreich ökonomisch am Boden liegen: Nach einem sogenannten „kräftigen“ Zuwachs von 0,6 Prozent beim Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) im ersten Quartal 2016 „brillierte“ die Eurozone im 2. Jahresquartal mit einem „sagenhaften“ BIP-Wachstum von 0,3 Prozent. Die Juncker-Investitionsoffensive ist dabei nicht mehr als ein Feigenblatt, mit dem gefördert wird, was ohnehin geschieht.

Bewunderter Alleingang in der Flüchtlingskrise

Dazu kommt die ungelöste Flüchtlingskrise. Man mag zu Angela Merkels Grenzöffnung im letzten Jahr stehen wie man will: Es war aber zweifelsohne ein europapolitischer Alleingang – wenn man einmal von der unglücklichen Adjudantenrolle des österreichischen Exkanzlers Werner Faymann absieht. Die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin hat dafür weltweit verständlicherweise Respekt, Bewunderung und Verehrung erworben. Das Folgemanagement dieser historischen Entscheidung bleibt heute aber in Deutschland und den anderen betroffenen europäischen Ländern vor Ort politischen Institutionen und ihren Repräsentanten überlassen, die als regionale Verantwortungsträger oder politische Pessimisten vor allem dann öffentlich in Erscheinung treten, wenn etwas gravierend schlecht funktioniert oder gar Schlimmes passiert.

Der Flüchtlingsdeal mit Erdogan als „Potemkinsches Dorf“

Dabei ist der wiederum im Alleingang von Merkel vorbereitete europäische Flüchtlingsdeal mit Recep Tayyip Erdogan, der gerade jetzt im dramatischen Nachgang zum Putschversuch in der Türkei medial breit analysiert und in Frage gestellt wird, doch nichts als ein großes „Potemkinsches Dorf“: Wenn heute weit weniger verzweifelte Flüchtlinge ihr Leben durch eine Fahrt auf den löchrigen Schlauchbooten der kriminellen Schleuser über die Ägäis riskieren, dann doch deshalb, weil sie wissen, dass die Balkanroute durch die Visegradstaaten hermetisch geschlossen wurde und sie deshalb nicht weiter als nach Griechenland kommen können.

Meisterstück politischer Doppelmoral

Die Attacke Merkels gegen die Visegradstaaten wegen der Schließung der Balkanroute war insofern ein Meisterstück politischer Doppelmoral, weil die Kanzlerin gleichzeitig den dadurch verursachten Rückgang der Flüchtlingszahlen als Erfolg ihrer Politik unterstrich. Diese Doppelmoral wird auch darin sichtbar, dass die quantitative Bedeutung des Flüchtlingsdeals von Angela Merkel mit der Türkei demgegenüber zumindest bisher gering ist. Deshalb ist es auch mehr als fragwürdig, wie heute die EU aus Rücksicht auf diesen Deal vor den autoritären Repressionen in der Türkei kuscht. Die schwächlichen verbalen Proteste und Noten sind ein erbärmliches Armutszeugnis der Wertegemeinschaft EU.

Brexit: Einstieg in den offenen Zerfall

Machen wir uns keine Illusionen: Auch der Brexit ist nicht nur eine der üblichen europäischen Krisen, die man durch einen innovativen Kompromiss ins Positive wenden könnte. Er ist nichts anderes als der brachiale Einstieg in einen offenen Zerfallsprozess der EU. Die Union verliert mit Großbritannien den historisch demokratisch stabilsten Partnerstaat, der zudem ökonomisch, diplomatisch und sicherheitspolitisch gesehen global unersetzbar ist. Unter Margret Thatcher hätten die Brexit– Befürworter niemals gewonnen. Dem wachsweichen Wendehals David Cameron haben die Briten einfach nicht zugetraut, dass er gegenüber einer dominanten Angela Merkel die britischen Interessen in der Doppelkrise der EU hinreichend schützen kann. Und noch schlimmer: Die nächsten Aspiranten schielen schon hoffnungsfroh auf das Beispiel Brexit. Denn die EU wird sich schon aus ökonomischem und politischem Selbsterhaltungstrieb nur einen sanften Ausstieg Großbritanniens leisten können.

Dieter Spöri war langjähriges Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestags und des SPD-Bundesvorstands. Von 1992 bis 1996 war Spöri Wirtschaftsminister und stellvertretender Ministerpräsident in Baden-Württemberg, von 2006 bis 2012 Präsident der Europäischen Bewegung Deutschland (EBD).

http://www.euractiv.de/section/eu-innenpolitik/opinion/die-aera-merkel-und-der-zerfall-der-eu/?nl_ref=17942897

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Barandat* Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here * How a new source of water is helping reduce conflict in the Middle East

One of the driest countries on Earth now makes more freshwater than it needs *

Scientists and others look to desalination as a way to unite longtime enemies in a common cause.

July 19, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning.

But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”

That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.

Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures,” he says. “And one of those ventures is desalination.”

Driven to Desperation

In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel’s largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the “black line” at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year’s crops.

Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria’s farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria’s farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.

And that, according to the authors of “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria,” they wrote, “marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

More Water Than Needs

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel’s farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Water Diplomacy

Inside Sorek, 50,000 membranes enclosed in vertical white cylinders, each 4 feet high and 16 inches wide, are whirring like jet engines. The whole thing feels like a throbbing spaceship about to blast off. The cylinders contain sheets of plastic membranes wrapped around a central pipe, and the membranes are stippled with pores less than a hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Water shoots into the cylinders at a pressure of 70 atmospheres and is pushed through the membranes, while the remaining brine is returned to the sea.

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58).

The International Desalination Association claims that 300 million people get water from desalination, and that number is quickly rising. IDE, the Israeli company that built Ashkelon, Hadera and Sorek, recently finished the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California, a close cousin of its Israel plants, and it has many more in the works. Worldwide, the equivalent of six additional Sorek plants are coming online every year. The desalination era is here.

What excites Bar-Zeev the most is the opportunity for water diplomacy. Israel supplies the West Bank with water, as required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but the Palestinians still receive far less than they need. Water has been entangled with other negotiations in the ill-fated peace process, but now that more is at hand, many observers see the opportunity to depoliticize it. Bar-Zeev has ambitious plans for a Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018, which will bring together water scientists from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza for a meeting of the minds.

Even more ambitious is the US$900 million Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal, a joint venture between Israel and Jordan to build a large desalination plant on the Red Sea, where they share a border, and divide the water among Israelis, Jordanians and the Palestinians. The brine discharge from the plant will be piped 100 miles north through Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea, which has been dropping a meter per year since the two countries began diverting the only river that feeds it in the 1960s. By 2020, these old foes will be drinking from the same tap.

On the far end of the Sorek plant, Bar-Zeev and I get to share a tap as well. Branching off from the main line where the Sorek water enters the Israeli grid is a simple spigot, a paper cup dispenser beside it. I open the tap and drink cup after cup of what was the Mediterranean Sea 40 minutes ago. It tastes cold, clear and miraculous.

The contrasts couldn’t be starker. A few miles from here, water disappeared and civilization crumbled. Here, a galvanized civilization created water from nothingness. As Bar-Zeev and I drink deep, and the climate sizzles, I wonder which of these stories will be the exception, and which the rule.

http://ensia.com/features/how-a-new-source-of-water-is-helping-reduce-conflict-in-the-middle-east/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the-desalination-era-is-here/

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Middle East

Islam channel in German to remove misconceptions

RIYADH: Huda TV Channel, a global broadcasting satellite service with its headquarters in Riyadh, has launched a channel in the German language to present the correct image of Islam in the West.The channel is targeting 145 million people who speak the language around the world, local media reported on Saturday.
Hamad Al-Ghammas, chairman of the board of directors of Huda TV Channel, reportedly said during the channel’s launch ceremony on Thursday that Islam is being projected among non-Muslims in a distorted manner. "This has compelled us to communicate with people in their mother tongue and present the right image of the religion," he said, expressing optimism that the move will be beneficial in a big way.

The channel aims to introduce Islam to the German-speaking population, remove misconceptions, focus on the positive Islamic behavior, educate them on the Islamic civilization and its role in the development of humanity and refute accusations against the religion.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/962476/saudi-arabia

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Saudi Arabia ‘wants stronger ties’ with Russia

Saudi Gazette, RiyadhMonday, 1 August 2016

Saudi Arabia has said it is keen to build the best relations with Russia in a number of joint cooperation fields, according to the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

The statements comes after talks with Mauritius Vice Prime Minister Showkatally Sodhoon.

Jubeir described Russia as an important country which is home to more than 20 million Muslims.

He said that a number of agreements have been signed between the two sides, including cooperation in the field of oil and energy and enhancement of joint investments in addition to constructive cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, noting the efforts being exerted to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

As regards the Syrian crisis, Jubeir noted that despite difference in viewpoints, the joint cooperation level would not be affected.

He confirmed that the coordination and cooperation between the two countries is continuing to narrow the gap between viewpoints on the Syrian crisis.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Aug. 1, 2016.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/08/01/Saudi-Arabia-wants-to-strengthen-ties-with-Russia.html

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Rigzone - Daily Oil and Gas News
Russia Extends Oil, Gas Reach in Asia Post-Ukraine Crisis

Strained ties with the European Union (EU) and the United States arising from the crisis in Ukraine in 2014, have prompted Russia – one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers – to turn its attention to Asia as it scoured for market opportunities amid Western sanctions.

Major Russian oil and gas firms OAO Rosneft and OAO Gazprom have strived to boost their business relations with countries in Asia, both at the company and governmental level. They are searching for new markets for their crude oil and natural gas, while encouraging Asian investments in their upstream assets.

“Asia is an important market for Russia, not only due to the sheer size of the expected growth in the region’s energy consumption over the coming years, but also because it allows Russia to diversify away from overly relying on the European market,” Peter Lee, Asia Oil & Gas Analyst at BMI Research, told Rigzone.

The Russian firms are looking beyond traditional markets like China and India as they seek to enhance co-operation with other Asian countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

Russia needs outlets for its crude production as the country attempts to maximize output to compensate for the steep decline in oil prices. The move is necessary due to the high breakeven costs of its petroleum projects, Jason Waldie, associate director at energy research group Douglas-Westwood, told Rigzone.

China Seen as a Key Partner

Rising energy demand in neighboring China has already offered Russia a huge market for its oil and gas sales.

“China’s importance to Russia is growing. Its Russia’s second largest crude oil market [after the Netherlands], and absorbs about 15.5 percent of Russia’s crude exports annually. This could increase further in the coming years though – for instance, the completion of CNPC’s Mohe-Daqing oil pipeline sometime by 2017 will make it easier for refiners in eastern China to procure Russian crude,” Lee said.

He added that Russia’s current gas exports to China is negligible, though this could change with a long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal from Yamal LNG project which is set to commence first gas in 2018.

Russian gas sales are also set for tremendous growth after Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. (CPNC) signed major supply agreements. Gazprom agreed in 2014 to supply CNPC with 1.34 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) or 38 billion cubic meter (Bcm) of gas annually via the Power of Siberia pipeline for 30 years, tentatively planned for 2019 or 2020. Last year, the Russian firm agreed to sell a similar quantity of gas from its Western Siberian field to CNPC via the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline.

The relationship was further strengthened when both signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on building underground gas storage and gas-fired power generation facilities in China, with Russia seemingly keen to deepen its role in the Chinese market beyond providing energy supplies.

“The Russian-Chinese dialogue in the gas sector is crossing into new territory. Our cooperation in the field of underground gas storage and power generation will help deepen the relationship between the companies and considerably improve the environmental situation in China,” Alexey Miller, chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, said in the June 25 press release.

Growing Importance of India

Like China, India’s importance to the Russian petroleum industry is growing. The South Asian nation is the world’s third largest oil country, consuming 4.195 million barrels a day of oil in 2015, according to BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016.

“India is an attractive market for Russia to want to move into, given the sheer size of its consumer market and due to the fact that it offers one of the best long-term growth prospects in terms of oil and products consumption,” Lee explained.

“The latter is especially important within a global oil market that is becoming increasingly characterized by slower demand growth in developed nations, and accelerating shift to cleaner-energy sources [bearish for oil demand].”

Recent developments in bilateral energy relations point to increased Russia-India cooperation. In May, Rosneft completed the sale of a 15 percent stake in its subsidiary Vankorneft JSC to ONGC Videsh Ltd. for $1.27 billion. Vankorneft is the operator of the Vanker oil and gas condensate field – the largest that Russia has brought into production in the last 25 years – in the north of Eastern Siberia, Russia.

Indian participation in Vankorneft was further boosted in June, when a consortium of Oil India Ltd., Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. and Bharat PetroResources acquired a 23.9 percent stake. And if Rosneft and ONG Videsh follow through on a MOU signed in March for the latter to purchase another 11 percent stake in Vankorneft, India’s involvement in the project will rise to 49.9 percent.

“The potential organization of joint trade operations [arising from the Vankor cluster] will solidify the positions of Russian energy resources in a highly competitive environment of the Asia Pacific,” Rosneft said June 17 in a press release.

Greater India-Russia collaboration may lies ahead. Gazprom’s Miller met Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan June 16 in St. Petersburg to discuss avenues for further collaboration in the hydrocarbon sector, including LNG supplies by Gazprom as well as upstream, scientific and technical cooperation.

Russia’s interest in entrenching its presence in India also extend to the downstream sector, with Rosneft reiterating in mid-June a plan to acquire a 49 percent stake in Essar Oil Ltd.’s 405,000 barrel-a-day Vadinar refinery in Gujarat.

When completed, BMI Research said in a June 17 report that the refinery deal would help Rosneft “gain a foothold in India’s fast-growing consumer market and pave the way for more Russian crudes to flow into the South Asian country.”

Waldie commented that the refining investment is “a signal to India that Russia is in for the long term.”

Smaller Countries in Asia Matter, Too

Russia energy firms have intensified their interactions with an economically vibrant Southeast Asia. Top executives of Rosneft and Gazprom met in recent months with their counterparts and senior government leaders from the region to enhance business cooperation across the entire petroleum value chain.

Energy-deficient Asia generally welcomed the prospect of increased availability of Russian hydrocarbon supplies in the region as well as potential participation in downstream investments in the region.

“Greater Russian crudes would help to keep prices in check, while also providing a potential counterweight to excessive dependence on the Middle East. Influx of Russian could even help to move forward stunted projects, like it looks set to do in the Chinese and Indonesian downstream markets,” Lee elaborated.

In Vietnam, Gazprom’s Alexey Miller met Nguyen Quoc Khanh, chairman of Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), in April to review their joint upstream exploration and development work in the country – through their joint operating company Vietgazprom – and in Russia at the Nagumanovskoye and Severo-Purovskoye fields.

Rosneft and PetroVietnam, partners in a gas project in Vietnam’s offshore Block 06.1, inked an agreement May 16 to expand cooperation in Russia, Vietnam and third countries for exploration and production, processing, commerce and logistics, as well as staff training.

“Cooperation will enable the Company to get a new channel of marketing hydrocarbons in the Asia-Pacific market and create additional synergies due to refining in the region,” Igor Sechin, chairman of Rosneft’s Management Board said in a statement.

Over in Indonesia, Rosneft and state-owned PT Pertamina penned an agreement May 26 to undertake a feasibility study on financing a project to construct a new refining and petrochemical complex Tuban in east Java as well as establish a joint venture for project implementation. A final investment decision will hinge on the results of the feasibility study, basic engineering design and front-end engineering design (FEED).

The deal by both firms also envisages a study into the prospects for joint projects in crude and oil products supplies, logistics and infrastructure, the potential for Pertamina to participate in Rosneft’s upstream projects in Russia as an equity holder, and partnership in international joint projects for oil refining.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s state-owned PTT Public Co. Ltd. signed a MOU with Gazprom on May 18 for oil and gas cooperation. The potential areas for collaboration include hydrocarbon development, joint LNG projects, LNG and liquefied petroleum gas trading.

Russia Eyes Asian Oilfield Services Expertise

Russian energy companies’ interest in Asia is not confined to only markets and investment opportunities, but also extend to cooperation with regional oilfield services contractors.

Rosneft and China’s Shandong Kerui Petroleum Equipment (SKPE) signed June 25 a MOU on strategic cooperation in oilfield services, under which both would work on a pilot project in Russia. Rosneft Chairman Sechin indicated that SKPE has high-tech equipment and software for the most popular works in oil and gas production and believed that cooperation with the Chinese partner will allow it to further improve the performance of producing assets.

In May, Rosneft entered into an agreement to partner Singapore’s rig builder Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. (Keppel O&M) and Norway’s drilling equipment firm MH Wirth in a joint venture (JV) to create a design and engineering center (DEC) for offshore drilling rigs. Still, Keppel said the JV and DEC will adhere to the prevailing U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on the Russian offshore oil and gas sector.

Commenting on Rosneft’s tie-up with Asian services providers, BMI Research analyst Lee said it makes “sense because this is the area that Russia is lacking in. Russia doesn’t have the domestic rig building know-how or the capability, and they can’t tap European/U.S. rigs due to sanctions, and therefore, the overtures to Asian partners.”

Waldie said that, “Keppel O&M can open a new market and [the rigs could be] high end, especially if the Norwegians [MH Wirth] are involved.”

Chee Yew has covered the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry in Asia for more than 15 years.

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Guardian: The only way to defeat Islamic State is to give young Arabs hope

Overturning the jihadi group will leave an ideological vacuum – and to prevent it from rising again, young people need jobs and political representation

In the worldwide struggle against Islamic State and other violent religious extremists, an important factor is often overlooked: the psychological impact of both victory and defeat.

Since Muslims ruled Andalusia, followers of Islam have witnessed one historical defeat after another, the last being the demise of the 600-year Ottoman empire. In more modern history, Arabs have witnessed political defeats that left Palestine under Israeli military control, Syria and Egypt ceding territory in the six-day war and Iraq defeated twice by an US-led coalition that included Arab allies.

The Isis ideology encourages young Muslims and Arabs coming of age to find in the promised “caliphate” the hope of victory and the false reassurance of return to a lost golden age.

The defeat of Isis is therefore important on two levels. Operationally, it would end the group’s physical control of territory and the possibility of training and planning attacks. On a psychological level, it would represent the defeat of a warped ideology.

But defeating Isis physically and ideologically should not be left to military strategists or western troops. It makes a big difference who is credited with their defeat, and for such a defeat to be sustainable it must be matched with a credible alternative for the restless young people who yearn to be part of a winning team. If the west is going to play a part in shaping the future after the defeat of the “caliphate”, it is vital that they don’t claim credit for such a defeat, even if they have played a key role.

But more important still is who will fill the ideological vacuum once Isis is no longer in control of the territory it holds. When young people demonstrated in their thousands on the streets of Tunis and Cairo in 2010-2011, many of them believed the moment for Arab democracy had arrived. Unfortunately the true agents of change lacked the ability and the organisation to fill the vacuum created by the departure of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and the jailing of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Ironically, the strength and short-term victories of Isis and similar groups has led to a new radical secular movement taking shape in the Middle East and north Africa. This conversation is mostly happening on social media, and like the Arab spring demonstrators, those hopeful of achieving secular democracy have little chance of genuinely filling the vacuum that is sure to develop once the Isis hardcore is defeated.

What is needed now is a new partnership between moderate powers in the Arab world, civil society activists and secularists . The number one condition for such a partnership is genuine respect for others and an end to rivalry. A successful partnership must respect and build on the only alternatives to violent extremism: power-sharing, inclusivity and pluralism.

The raison d’être of this new partnership must be to promote democratic principles and to encourage the separation of church and state while respecting moderate religious conservatives who believe in gradual rather than revolutionary change. But this will not be enough. Feeding the heart without feeding the body will only delay another round of trouble. A Marshall plan of sorts must be implemented that can help address the huge unemployment problem that faces most Arab and Muslim young people today.

All of this may sound idealistic and certainly is not new to the west, which has regularly rejected such ideas in favour of maintaining alliances with autocratic regimes to promote its short-term interests.

The biggest danger in the coming months and years is that the west will selfishly refocus its attention internally. The most recent violent attacks in the US, France and Germany show clearly that isolationism will do little to address borderless issues.

While Isis needs to be defeated, care must be given to who earns the credit. The best-case scenario – although probably an idealistic one – should be an inclusive power-sharing governance structure that can help build a much more progressive and representative future for the Middle East, preventing any resurgence of this ugly scourge.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/27/defeat-isis-young-arabs-hope?CMP=fb_gu

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Serbien

moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Augen südostwärts – Der Balkan darf nicht erneut von der europäischen Agenda verschwinden.

Wer zurzeit Reisewebseiten für den Last-Minute-Urlaub durchforstet, denkt wohl kaum an die Region zwischen Österreich und Griechenland. Das Interesse am Balkan verflüchtigt sich spätestens hinter Dubrovnik und seiner Postkartenkulisse. Die kroatische Küste bestätigt da als Ausnahme nur die Regel: Albanien, Bosnien, Kosovo, Mazedonien, Montenegro und Serbien zählen nicht gerade zu den Topreisezielen in Europa. Kein Wunder, mediale Aufmerksamkeit bekommt die Region eigentlich nur, wenn sich wieder irgendwo eine Krise abzeichnet. Positive Schlagzeilen finden selten den Weg in die internationalen Medien.

Die Tragödien auf der sogenannten Balkanroute haben dabei sicherlich nicht zu einem besseren Image beigetragen. Mit den Flüchtlingszahlen stieg zwar kurzfristig das Interesse am westlichen Balkan, und das europäische Engagement nahm zu. Die EU hielt Sondergipfel ab und verteilte zusätzliche Mittel für Grenzschutz und Flüchtlingsunterkünfte. Nachdem Mazedonien im Frühjahr die Grenzen dicht gemacht und die EU einen Deal mit der Türkei ausgehandelt hat, gilt die Balkanroute heute offiziell als geschlossen. Auch die Asylanträge von Bürgern einiger Westbalkanländer sind stark zurückgegangen.

Die vorerst überstandene Flüchtlingskrise wird aber sehr wahrscheinlich keine nachhaltigen Auswirkungen auf das Verhältnis der EU zur Balkanregion haben. Dabei war die Hoffnung groß, dass mit der gemeinsamen Bewältigung des Flüchtlingsstroms auch der Balkan als Partner der EU im Fokus bleiben und womöglich einen Integrationsschub erhalten würde. Im Gegensatz zum Beitrittskandidaten Türkei beherbergt die Region allerdings keine zweieinhalb Millionen Flüchtlinge aus Syrien, ist ökonomisch rückständiger und verfügt nicht über einen rauflustigen Alleinherrscher, der der EU Vorgaben machen kann.

Mit dem angekündigten Austritt Großbritanniens aus der EU ist nicht nur die Aufmerksamkeit, sondern auch die Unterstützung für eine EU-Erweiterung weiter gesunken. Gemeinsam mit Deutschland und ein paar kleineren Mitgliedstaaten waren es bislang insbesondere die Britten, die für eine Vergrößerung der EU plädiert und den Nachbarn Mut gemacht haben. Dieser Beistand wird künftig wohl geringer ausfallen, selbst wenn Großbritannien natürlich auch von außerhalb der EU die dortigen Bemühungen positiv beeinflussen kann. Allerdings wird dies wohl weniger ambitioniert und auch weniger glaubwürdig als früher geschehen. Hinzu kommt, dass mit dem Austritt eines der bedeutendsten Mitglieder auch die Attraktivität der EU geringer geworden ist und die Anreize für die beitrittswilligen Kandidaten sinken könnten. Dass sich mit dem Brexit nichts für die Beitrittskandidaten geändert habe, wie Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel jüngst erklärte, klingt wenig plausibel.

Die EU wird zwar auch ohne Großbritannien dem Balkan weiterhin die Hände reichen. Um die Nachbarn aber nicht am ausgestreckten Arm verhungern zu lassen, sind künftig mehr Anstrengungen vonnöten, und zwar von beiden Seiten. Die Ankündigungen von Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker, in den nächsten Jahren keinen mehr in die EU zu lassen, waren in dieser Hinsicht sicherlich kontraproduktiv und haben bereits vor dem britischen Referendum zu Verwunderung und Ernüchterung auf dem Balkan beigetragen. Mangelndes Engagement seitens Brüssels wird dabei konsequent von anderen Kräften ausgenutzt. Russland und China, aber auch die arabischen Staaten und die Türkei stehen bereit, Alternativen zum europäischen Modell anzubieten und ihre Konzepte in Südosteuropa an den Mann zu bringen. Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Demokratie und Bürgerrechte stehen nicht an erster Stelle, wenn es um Investitionen, Infrastrukturprojekte oder um neue Absatzmärkte für Moskau, Peking oder Ankara geht.

Einigen halbseidenen Politikern und Unternehmern in der Region würde eine neuerliche Missachtung durch die EU sicherlich in die Hände spielen.

Die EU und ihre Mitglieder wären gut beraten, den Balkan nicht aus dem Blick zu verlieren. Denn es gibt noch viel zu tun. 13 Jahre nach der Erklärung des Europäischen Rates von Thessaloniki und dem Versprechen, eines Tages den gesamten Westbalkan in die EU aufzunehmen, hat es bis heute nur Kroatien geschafft. Mit Montenegro und Serbien wird seit ein paar Jahren über eine Mitgliedschaft verhandelt. Albanien hat vor zwei Jahren den Kandidatenstatus erhalten, Bosnien und Kosovo gelten auch weiterhin nur als potenzielle Beitrittskandidaten.

Einigen halbseidenen Politikern und Unternehmern in der Region würde eine neuerliche Missachtung durch die EU sicherlich in die Hände spielen. Einer aktuellen Umfrage im Auftrag des „Regional Cooperation Council“ zufolge, wird Korruption von der Bevölkerung heute noch mehr als früher als eines der dringendsten Probleme angesehen. Über zwei Drittel der Befragten in den sechs Westbalkanländern sind der Auffassung, dass ihre jeweiligen Regierungen zu wenig gegen Bestechlichkeit tun. Als wichtigstes Problem gilt weiterhin die schlechte wirtschaftliche Lage in der Region. Im Jahr 2015 lag die Arbeitslosenquote bei mehr als 20 Prozent, die Jugendarbeitslosigkeit bei 45 Prozent. Das Bruttoinlandsprodukt pro Kopf ist in den vergangenen Jahren kaum gestiegen, die sozio-ökonomische Lage bleibt trotz aller EU-Förderung angespannt.

Noch ist die Zustimmung zur EU auf dem Balkan relativ groß. Immerhin erhoffen sich rund 40 Prozent der Menschen von einer EU-Mitgliedschaft positive Impulse für die heimische Wirtschaft. An der Spitze stehen dabei mit 83 Prozent Zustimmung die Kosovaren, am Ende der Skala findet sich Serbien mit nur 21 Prozent Unterstützung. Allerdings sind nicht mehr alle davon überzeugt, dass sie eines Tages Unionsbürger werden. Mehr als ein Viertel glaubt, dass ihr Land niemals der EU beitreten wird. In Bosnien und Serbien haben etwa ein Drittel der Befragten diese Hoffnung schon aufgegeben. Vor dem Hintergrund der Ergebnisse des „Balkan Opinion Barometer“ und der prekären wirtschaftlichen Lage ist mehr europäische Unterstützung notwendig. Beispielsweise könnte die EU den Binnenmarkt auch für Arbeitnehmer aus den sechs Westbalkanstaaten öffnen oder leichteren Zugang zu den EU-Strukturfonds ermöglichen.

Um die EU-Annäherung des Westbalkans auch auf höchster politischer Ebene aktiver zu begleiten, wurde bereits vor zwei Jahren der sogenannte Berlin-Prozess von der Bundesregierung ins Leben gerufen. Hundert Jahre nach dem Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkriegs trafen sich in Berlin Regierungschefs und Minister aus den Balkanstaaten und der EU, um dem Reformprozess der Kandidatenländer einen Schub zu verleihen. Nach einer weiteren Konferenz 2015 in Wien fand der Gipfel in diesem Jahr in Paris statt. Im Fokus der Abschlusserklärung steht erneut die Betonung einer stärkeren regionalen Zusammenarbeit und die gemeinsame Lösung bilateraler Konflikte zur Stabilisierung des Westbalkans und seiner europäischen Perspektive. Konnektivität, also eine stärkere interregionale Kooperation und Vernetzung in den Bereichen Transport, Energie und Handel, ist ein weiterer Schwerpunkt, der bereits auf dem letztjährigen Gipfeltreffen in Wien im Mittelpunkt stand. Ein Jahr später fällt die erste Bilanz ernüchternd aus, und die Regierungschefs betonen, dass weitere Fortschritte nötig sind und mehr Anstrengungen erwartet werden.

Als Meilenstein des Pariser Westbalkangipfels wird vor allem die Einrichtung des regionalen Jugendwerks stehen bleiben. Das „Regional Youth Cooperation Office“ soll in Anlehnung an das Deutsch-Französische Jugendwerk junge Menschen aus der Region zusammenbringen, gemeinsame Projekte ins Leben rufen und zur Versöhnung beitragen. Dahinter steckt wohl auch die Hoffnung, dass die junge Generation eines Tages das Ruder übernehmen und vielleicht einen entschiedeneren Kurs in Richtung EU fahren wird. Dass der Erweiterungsprozess nur schleppend vorangeht, liegt natürlich nicht nur an der EU. Viele Probleme sind hausgemacht.

Der Kampf gegen Korruption und Vetternwirtschaft, der Aufbau einer unabhängigen Justiz und einer effektiven Verwaltung und die Umsetzung von Reformen müssen vor Ort erfolgen.

Der Kampf gegen Korruption und Vetternwirtschaft, der Aufbau einer unabhängigen Justiz und einer effektiven Verwaltung und die Umsetzung von Reformen müssen vor Ort erfolgen. Die Verantwortlichen in Albanien, Serbien und den anderen Staaten dürfen nicht einfach nur die Hand aufhalten und leere Versprechungen machen. Dem Bekenntnis zur EU müssen auch Taten folgen. Gipfeltreffen alleine ändern nichts an der Lage zuhause. Letzten Endes liegt es an den Politikern in der Region, dafür Sorge zu tragen, dass notwendige Maßnahmen tatsächlich umgesetzt werden und die Hoffnung auf eine künftige EU-Mitgliedschaft nicht enttäuscht wird. Der Jugend und der Zivilgesellschaft kommt dabei eine wichtige Rolle zu. Sie müssen die Stimme erheben und sich klar dazu äußern, was in ihren Ländern schief läuft und was alles anders gemacht werden sollte. Dabei muss die EU ihnen unter die Arme greifen und auf das Recht auf Meinungs-, Presse- und Versammlungsfreiheit pochen. In ihren Länderberichten könnte die Europäische Kommission durchaus noch kritischer Stellung zur aktuellen Lage und der Performance der Regierungen nehmen und die Blockierer klar benennen.

Grundsätzlich kann die EU dabei nur die Rahmenbedingungen setzen, beratend und mahnend einwirken und die Vorteile einer EU-Mitgliedschaft klar benennen. Der Wille zur Veränderung muss aber aus der Region kommen. Wenn das europäische Engagement nach der Bewältigung einer Krise allerdings wieder nachlässt, werden erneut negative Schlagzeilen vom Balkan kommen. Die Erfahrung der neunziger Jahre sollte uns eindringlich vor Augen geführt haben, dass ein instabiler Balkan auch direkte Auswirkungen auf die EU und ihre Bevölkerung hat. Im Interesse aller sollte die Region nicht erneut von der europäischen Agenda verschwinden.

ZEIT-online_Ein Volk der Beleidigten

Menschen sind heute schneller beleidigt. Wenn wir dieser neuen Empfindlichkeit nicht die Stirn bieten, wird uns bald jedes Lachen vergehen.

http://www.zeit.de/kultur/2016-07/deutschland-beleidigtsein-debattenkultur-empfindlichkeit-polemik/komplettansicht

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see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

08-01-16 European External Action Service (EEAS)_ Military coups_a very short introduction.pdf

Debattenkultur_ Ein Volk der Beleidigten _ ZEIT ONLINE.pdf

Massenbach-Letter: NEWS II – 29.07.16

Massenbach-Letter. News blog:https://udovonmassenbach.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/massenbach-letter-news-29-07-16/

· George Friedman:The Problem with Fighting Islamist Terrorism

· West Point: The Islamic State Threat to Germany: Evidence from the Investigations

· NYT: Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack

· A Brexit post-mortem: 17 takeaways for a fallen David Cameron * Central Europe: Taking up Where the U.K. Left off

· The Campaign – U.S. Election * Posener: Dem Westen droht ein Aufstand der Abgehängten

Massenbach*The Problem with Fighting Islamist Terrorism

Geopolitical Futures logoJuly 26, 2016 Radical Islamism is a movement, not an organization, which makes it much harder to defeat.

By George Friedman

The United States has been at war for nearly 15 years. The primary purpose of the war was to end the threat of terrorism posed by jihadists. The war has taken various twists and turns, and many of the operational choices have been questioned and are questionable. It can be said, however, that regardless of views on Iraq or Afghanistan, the fundamental strategic goal has not been achieved. Islamist terrorism remains active in Europe and shows its hand occasionally in the United States. The shift to Europe from the United States might have been the result of U.S. operations, but it might also be a shift in terrorist strategy for the moment.

At its heart, the United States’ strategy was to identify terrorist groups and destroy them. The assumption was that terrorism required an organization. Progress in this strategy meant identifying an organization or a cell planning terror operations and disrupting or destroying it. Since terrorist organizations are relatively small at the operational level, the strategy has resembled police work: the first step is to identify the person active in the organization. Having identified him, send drones or SEALs to capture or kill him.

Operationally, the strategy worked. Terrorists were identified and killed. As the organizations were degraded and broken, terrorism declined – but then surged. These endless intelligence and special forces operations may have been brilliantly carried out, but the strategic goal of the United States has not been achieved. The war is not being won and a stalemate is equivalent to a loss for the United States.

The essential problem has been a persistent misunderstanding of radical Islamism. It is a movement, not an organization. Or to be more precise, radical Islamism is a strand of Islam. How large or small it is has become the subject of a fairly pointless debate. Its size is sufficient to send American forces halfway around the world and it is capable of carrying out attacks in Europe and the U.S. Whether it is a small strand or a giant strand doesn’t matter. What matters is that it cannot be suppressed, or at least has not yet been suppressed.

One of the problems in American thinking is that it still draws from the U.S.’ experience with European and Palestinian terrorism prior to 1991. These groups were heavily influenced by the Soviet model and created organizations that were to a great extent hermetically sealed. The organizations had three characteristics. First, although sympathizers might be recruited with a careful vetting process, membership in the organizations was formal in the sense that you either were a member or you weren’t. Second, the organizations protected themselves by staying, to the extent possible, at arm’s length from any movement. They were obsessed with preventing penetration. Finally, they were heavily compartmentalized so that members and operations were known only on a need-to-know basis.
These organizations were intended to be sustainable over an extended period of time. But they had a flaw. If they could be penetrated (however difficult it might be) by informants or electronic monitoring, the entire organization could unravel. Either it would be completely destroyed through operations or the sheer paranoia of knowing it was penetrated somewhere would cause internal conflict or lead it to become inert.
In some cases, these organizations had no movement supporting them or the movement was so thin that it was not an issue. This was particularly true with European terrorists. The Palestinians had a substantial movement, but it was so fragmented and penetrated that the organizations distanced themselves from the movements. These organizations were over time broken by Western security services and bitterly factionalized to the point that the different factions could be used against each other.
For 15 years, the operational focus for the U.S. has been the destruction of terrorist organizations. The reason for this is that destroying a particular group creates the illusion of progress. However, as one group is destroyed, another group arises in its name. For example, al-Qaida is being replaced by
the Islamic State. The real strength of Islamist terrorism is the movement that the organization draws itself from and that feeds it. So long as the movement is intact, any success at destroying an organization is, at best, temporary and, in reality, an illusion.

In addition, because there is a movement, the main organization can organize terror attacks by sending individuals who know little of the details of the organization to carry out operations. But because the movement consists of individuals who understand what needs to be done, jihadist organizations do not have to recruit people to carry out attacks or teach them how to do so. The complexity of 9/11 was never repeated and the level of simplicity has increased over time. That means that members of the movement who have never had contact with the organization can carry out attacks. From the point of view of the organization, these are ideal attackers. They cannot be traced back to the organization, they are not under surveillance and there are sufficient models for them to draw on without needing to ask for advice.
In the old model, all attacks were coordinated by the central organization. In the new model, most organizations have no contact with the people organizing operations and attacking the center will not diminish the attacks. Of late, there have been absurd discussions about whether particular terrorists had contact with other terrorists, or whether they had been “radicalized.” I assume this means the person was persuaded to become a terrorist. In a movement, you are aware that there are others like you and who think like you. You do not need formal attachments to respond to the ideology of the movement.
However, the idea of jihadism has permeated the movement and Muslims are aware of this.
Most may reject it but others embrace it. You don’t need a training program to absorb what is all around you. If an individual doesn’t know anyone who is part of this ongoing movement, there is enough on the internet, or enough speculation in the media to draw a map for anyone who wants a map drawn. The idea that if a Muslim shoots 20 people, but has had no contact with a terrorist organization, he might not have done it for ideological reasons might be true. But it forgets that he does not need contact with a mentor to plan an attack, especially a relatively simple one. The movement and the atmosphere is filled with the idea.


The movement is not an organization any more than conservatism or liberalism is. There may be organizations attached to it, but it is more of a social tendency. However, its members still communicate with each other. There are leaders in all these movements, although there may not be managers.
This tendency in Islam makes the movement difficult to defeat. It cannot be surgically removed. Some members of the movement don’t wear a uniform. It is also impossible to attack the movement without attacking Islam as a whole. And attacking Islam as a whole is difficult. There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world and any of them can believe in radical jihadism. And the believers in jihadism are serious people, moved by their own fate. We would like to dismiss them as fools. If they were, they would be easy to defeat.
It is obvious that the conventional special operations approach hasn’t worked and won’t work. It is also obvious that a general war on Islam is impossible. What is left is difficult but the only option. It is to bring pressure on Muslim states to make war on the jihadists and on other strands of Islam to do so as well. The pressure must be intense and the rewards substantial. The likelihood of it working is low. But the only way to eliminate this movement is for Muslims to do it. They may not want to, and they may fail if they try. But more drone strikes and announcements that another leader of some group has been killed won’t work. Our options are down to having to “live with it” or fomenting a civil war in the Islamic world. In the end, we might wind up with “live with it” anyway.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-problem-with-fighting-islamist-terrorism/

The Growing Islamic State Threat in Turkey: Recruitment and Incitement

Suleyman Ozeren and Halil Ibrahim Canbegi

July 26, 2016

Even at a time of political upheaval, Turkish authorities need to focus on the critical role that social media and other tools play in sustaining the group’s recruitment, propaganda, and terrorist activities.

Prior to the attempted coup against Turkey’s democratically elected government, the security establishment and the country as a whole were already dealing with another major crisis: serial mass-casualty attacks by Islamic State (IS) terrorists. This crisis was reiterated by the June 28 Istanbul airport attack, in which 45 people were killed and over 250 others injured. The perpetrators were IS members of Russian and Central Asian origin, highlighting the manner in which Turkey has become not just a target country for the group, but also a source country for jihadists and terrorists. The three operatives had been in Turkey since long before the attack: they entered the country at the Syrian border, then traveled 750 miles to Istanbul, where they rented an apartment for a month in order to assemble bombs. All of this activity went undetected because the men were able to blend in, showing the urgency of an internal security problem that Turkey needs to tackle now, even as the full repercussions of the failed coup continue to resound.

A SOURCE COUNTRY FOR THE ISLAMIC STATE

Given its 530-mile border with Syria, Turkey has been an entry point for foreign fighters and an exit door for local IS operatives for a number of years. At the same time, the country’s ever-mounting religious populism has created an environment in which IS ideology and activism can flourish — a fact seemingly confirmed by the most recent nationwide polling available on Turkish attitudes toward extremism.

According to the annual "Turkey’s Social Trends Survey" conducted by the GLOBAL Policy and Strategy Institute in November 2015, 83.5% of respondents defined IS as a terrorist organization, but a full 9.3% did not. Moreover, while 59.9% stated that IS does not represent Islam, 21% disagreed. Even more tellingly, 5.4% believe that the Islamic State "is right about its activities," and 2.6% believe that it fights for Muslims. Such findings should be taken very seriously because they reveal the potentially large number of IS sympathizers and recruits.

WHO DOES THE ISLAMIC STATE RECRUIT IN TURKEY?

Different categories of Turkish citizens have gone to Syria to join IS. One category includes extremists who were already involved in jihadist activity in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and elsewhere. A second category includes individuals who had established networks with extremist groups before the rise of IS. Once the Syria war erupted, these people joined the conflict either independently or after slight prodding from their networks.

The third and perhaps most troubling category comprises those who have been radicalized since the war began. In many cases, individuals in this camp are recruited by jihadists who have already been to conflict zones, or by people with connections to IS and other extremist groups. Such recruiting often occurs through traditional networks (e.g., neighborhood acquaintances; cafes).

The IS members who carried out recent attacks in Diyarbakir, Suruc, and Ankara could be considered part of this third wave. Their backgrounds are almost identical. All of them were from southeastern Anatolia, specifically Gaziantep and Adiyaman provinces. They all came from poor families with frequently absent or delinquent father figures. And they all seemed to grow up under the influence of religious propaganda by local recruiters, though this does not mean they possessed much in the way of actual religious knowledge — a not uncommon phenomenon in these religiously sensitive areas. Moreover, the Suruc and Ankara attacks were carried out by brothers allegedly recruited via the same ring, the Dokumacilar cell in Adiyaman.

ATTRACTING SYMPATHIZERS THROUGH TWITTER

IS has engaged in a wide range of propaganda and recruitment activities in Turkey, using websites, publications, videos, face-to-face interactions at cafes and mosques in various cities, and other methods. Yet aside from traditional recruitment networks, social media platforms such as Twitter have become the group’s main tools for attracting sympathizers.

To get a better sense of this trend, the GLOBAL Policy and Strategy Institute’s February 2016 report "ISIS in Cyberspace: Findings From Social Media Research" analyzed 25,403 Twitter messages posted by 290 pro-IS Turkish-language accounts in July 2015. Based on the data collected — which included account demographics, gender distribution, number of friends/followers, tweeting patterns, frequently mentioned terms, popular hashtags, and shared websites, among other details — the authors found several notable patterns.

First, Turkish pro-IS tweets emphasized the same "us vs. them" dichotomy that often drives radicalization in other countries. Language expressing antagonism and alienation was quite popular — the Turkish or Arabic words for excommunication, idolatry, assault, kill, weapon, army, and jihad were collectively repeated a total of more than 30,000 times in only a month’s worth of tweets.

Second, these users applied the term kuffar (infidels) not only to believers of other faiths, but also to other Muslims whom they deemed inimical to IS ideology. Thus, Islamic factions and governments in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kurdish-held territories, and Turkey itself were often lumped in with enemies like the United States and Israel.

Third, the tweeting patterns indicate that different Turkish pro-IS accounts tend to fill different roles, whether spontaneously or as part of a deliberate task-sharing plan. These roles can be roughly divided into five categories: "frontline messengers," "political analysts," "moral supporters," "contact persons," and "religious propagandists."

The "frontline messengers" frequently share instant updates and detailed descriptions from the battlefield, suggesting that they may be Turkish-speaking operatives fighting with IS units in Syria and Iraq. In general, pro-IS users on Twitter do not trust other media sources, so these firsthand reporters fill the need to inform sympathizers about the war while also calling for material, financial, moral, and operational support on specific fronts.

The "political analysts" tend to post their views on the Syria war and related issues, including Turkey’s role in the fight. Such tweets provide an inside glimpse into IS perceptions of the Turkish people, government, and army, Turkish operations against IS, Ankara’s strategies in the Middle East, and Turkish foreign relations, particularly with the West. The overarching goal of such discourse is to criticize Western countries and institutions, particularly U.S. policies and the concept of democracy.

The "religious propagandists" try to mobilize Turkish followers via misinterpretations and distortions of Quran verses and hadiths (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad). Their main aim is to manipulate ambiguous terms and concepts from Islamic literature in order to justify the Islamic State’s actions.

The "moral supporters" work to integrate Turkish sympathizers, build a sense of belonging, and boost morale within pro-IS networks. This meets the group’s need to mobilize followers in the same direction by making sure they are advocating the same arguments and sharing the same sentiments. The "moral supporters" differ from the "religious propagandists" because they do not emphasize theological arguments in their posts — instead, they tend to use more psychological mechanisms such as pictures, nashids (Islamic songs), and heroic tales.

"Contact persons," the last group, generally signal their capability to transfer people in Turkey to and from Syria, whether through short messages or pictures. Their tweets also describe the actual experience of transporting fighters from different countries to the battlefield. Although this practice entails significant risk of detection, it helps IS further encourage Turkish followers who may be inclined to join the fight directly but are not sure how.

WHAT SHOULD TURKEY DO?

In a letter sent to Taliban leader Mullah Omar in 2002, Osama bin Laden wrote, "It is obvious that the media war in this century is one of the strongest methods; in fact, its ratio may reach 90 percent of the total preparation for battles." Indeed, the role of media — especially social media — in the recruitment and propaganda activities of terrorist groups has greatly expanded since then.

The Islamic State is no exception — given the group’s ability to mix traditional methods with very robust social media activities, Turkey needs to adopt a multifaceted approach to confront the challenge. This means developing preventive approaches that focus more on preempting radicalization before it takes root. To this end, Ankara should devote more attention to the critical role that cyberspace, particularly social media, plays in sustaining IS recruitment and propaganda activities

Suleyman Ozeren is president of the GLOBAL Policy and Strategy Institute, based in Turkey. Halil Ibrahim Canbegi is a researcher in the Institute’s Center for Regional Studies.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-growing-islamic-state-threat-in-turkey-recruitment-and-incitement?utm_term=Read%20this%20article%20on%20our%20website.&utm_campaign=ISIS%20Recruitment%20in%20Turkey%20%28PolicyWatch%202663%29&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-email-_-ISIS%20Recruitment%20in%20Turkey%20%28PolicyWatch%202663%29-_-Read%20this%20article%20on%20our%20website.

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Posener: Dem Westen droht ein Aufstand der Abgehängten

Soll niemand sagen, er sei nicht gewarnt worden. Den heutigen Aufstand gegen die Eliten hat der britische Soziologe Michael Dunlop Young vor etwas mehr als 50 Jahren vorhergesagt – freilich erst für das Jahr 2034. Young nannte seinen Roman "The Rise of the Meritocracy" – der Aufstieg der Meritokratie.

Seiner Meinung nach würde die Zuteilung von Lebenschancen einzig auf der Grundlage von "merit" – also Intelligenz und Kompetenz – zur Herrschaft einer selbstgerechten Elite führen, die gerade deshalb unerträglich wäre, weil sie mit gutem Gewissen ausgeübt würde.

Die neue Klasse wäre – anders als in früheren Herrschaftsformen – nachweislich intelligenter und leistungsfähiger als die Unterschichten. Den Abgehängten aber bliebe eine Waffe gegen die Leistungsträger: die Demokratie.

Unsere meritokratische Gesellschaft, so Young, ist die erste, die dank allgemeiner Schulpflicht – und erst recht mit Gemeinschafts- und Gesamtschulen – jedem Einzelnen vor Augen führt, wo er in der Hierarchie des Könnens und Leistens steht. Wer trotz "Kuschelpädagogik" und Förderprogrammen das Klassenziel verfehlt, bekommt als Kind und Jugendlicher tagtäglich bescheinigt, dass sein Platz unten ist.

Du bist selbst schuld, wenn du es nicht schaffst

Nicht, weil er kein Aristokrat ist oder Bourgeois; nicht, weil sein Dialekt oder sein Geschlecht, seine Religion oder Rasse gegen ihn sprechen. Sondern weil ihm die Intelligenz oder der Leistungswille fehlen, die, so suggerieren es Hollywood, die Politik und die Lehrer, die Schlüssel seien, die ihm die Welt seiner Träume aufschließen, und die ja anderen Menschen diese Welt tatsächlich aufschließen. Jede Aufstiegsgeschichte zeigt ihm: Du bist ja selber schuld, dass du unten bist.

Diese deprimierende Erkenntnis trifft besonders jene, die keine Ausrede für ihr Versagen vorweisen können, die keine Zugewanderten, keine Schwarzen, keine Behinderten, keine Frauen sind. Solche Gruppen können eine Geschichte der Benachteiligung vorweisen und einen Anspruch auf Förderung – "affirmative action" – anmelden.

Weiße Männer aus der Unterschicht, die immer seltener aus ihrem Klassenbewusstsein, ihrer Zugehörigkeit zu Gewerkschaft oder Partei, der Solidarität der Arbeiterquartiere ihr Selbstbewusstsein, ihr Selbstgefühl ziehen können: Sie sind die Vorhut der Revolution gegen die Leistungsträger. Sie wählen Donald Trump.

Sie haben für den Brexit gestimmt. Sie marschieren gegen Zuwanderung. Nicht, weil die Eliten versagt hätten; sondern weil die Elite das Versagen der Masse zum Programm erhoben hat. Wie sonst könnte sie ihr Elitendasein rechtfertigen?

Aus der Meritokratie wird eine neue Aristokratie

Es entbehrt nicht der Ironie, dass ein Mann wie Thilo Sarrazin zum Helden der Anti-Meritokraten avancierten konnte. Denn Sarrazin ist im Gegenteil Ideologe der Leistungsträger. "Deutschland schafft sich ab", weil die Akademikerinnen und Managerfrauen zu wenige Kinder bekommen, so dass sich der Genpool der Intelligenten dann nicht durchsetzen könne gegen die Gene der Faulen, der Dummen und der "kleinen Kopftuchmädchen" aus Anatolien.

Tatsächlich ist es so, dass Akademiker heute viel eher Akademikerinnen heiraten, Manager Managerinnen, kurzum Erfolgreiche Erfolgreiche. Sie lernen sich beim Studium oder der Arbeit kennen, schicken ihre Kinder auf private Kitas und Schulen und entziehen sie so auch den staatlichen Erziehungsanstalten, die einige wenige für die neue Klasse rekrutieren und der Mehrheit bescheinigen, für sie reiche es leider nicht. So wird aus der Meritokratie eine neue Aristokratie, gerechtfertigt nicht durch Abstammung, sondern durch IQ.

Während die Leistungsträger international denken und handeln, Freihandel und Bewegungsfreiheit befürworten, Zuwanderung als Chance – auch für die Rekrutierung in die neue Klasse – begreifen und den technischen Fortschritt begrüßen, weil er ihre spezifischen Fähigkeiten noch wertvoller macht, wollen die Abgehängten zurück zu Hierarchien: wir gegen sie.

Sie flüchten sich in Hassbilder und Verschwörungstheorien

"Americanism, not Globalism", wie Donald Trump verkündete. Einheimische gegen "Raum- und Kulturfremde", wie Alexander Gauland die Familie Boateng nannte. Abendländer gegen Muslime. Echte Männer gegen Schwule. "Gutmenschen" und emanzipierte Frauen. Familien gegen Singles. "Werte" gegen Intelligenz.

Gefühl gegen "Experten", die der Brexit-Befürworter Boris Johnson regelmäßig angriff, ehrliche Arbeit gegen "große Handelsbanken", die der Ukip-Chef Nigel Farage als eifrigste Verfechter des britischen Verbleibs in der EU brandmarkte.

Im Kampf gegen "McWorld", die einheitliche Welt der Business Lounges und Luxushotels, Bürohochhäuser und Villenviertel, in der sich die Meritokraten wohlfühlen, entstehen in den muslimischen Gesellschaften Dschihadisten, in den westlichen Gesellschaften Populisten.

Ist die schiere Existenz der westlichen Welt oder eines Staates wie Israel für Teile der islamischen Welt eine Beleidigung, so ist für Teile der westlichen Welt die Existenz der Meritokratie eine Zumutung.

Beide, Islamisten wie Populisten, flüchten sich in Vorstellungen einer besseren Vergangenheit, in Fantasien eigener Überlegenheit, in Hassbilder und Verschwörungstheorien, um vor sich selbst die Erkenntnis zu verbergen, dass sie in einer Welt der Leistungsträger nicht bestehen können.

Die Abgehängten sind in der Mehrheit

Freilich kann keine Gesellschaft auf Dauer bestehen, die der Mehrheit oder auch nur einer großen Minderheit ihrer Bürger das Gefühl vermittelt, nicht dazuzugehören. Noch vor wenigen Jahren gehörte es zum Mantra europäischer Apologeten der Meritokratie, auf Amerika zu zeigen, wo man angeblich die Ungleichheit nicht nur akzeptiere, sondern begrüße.

Und nun gibt es Donald Trump, der einen Kreuzzug für "die vergessenen Männer und Frauen Amerikas" führt. Noch vor wenigen Jahren benutzte Tony Blair das Wort "Meritokratie", um seine Vision eines neuen Großbritannien – und Europa – zu kennzeichnen. Nun verspricht Theresa May "ein Großbritannien, das für alle funktioniert", nicht nur für die Reichen und Schönen, Klugen und Tüchtigen.

Und während EU-Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker meinte, es sei ihm "schnurzegal", wer das Freihandelsabkommen mit Kanada unterschreibt, Hauptsache, es tritt in Kraft, hat immerhin Angela Merkel die Zeichen der Zeit erkannt und eine Mitsprache der nationalen Parlamente eingefordert.

Denn die Abgehängten haben nichts auf ihrer Seite außer der Tatsache, dass sie die Mehrheit sind. In ihren Händen kann die Demokratie zu einer gefährlichen Waffe werden. Sie haben Großbritannien aus der EU katapultiert. Sie haben in vielen Ländern Europas den politischen Prozess lahmgelegt. Die Meritokratie funktioniert nicht mehr.

Wir müssen die Grundlage der Demokratie überdenken

Dabei wissen wir nicht, was sie ersetzen könnte. Niemand glaubt ernsthaft, zu den staatlich regulierten Nationalstaaten der 1970er-Jahre zurückkehren zu können, wo jedem Arbeiter ein Job garantiert wurde, mit dem er seine Familie ernähren konnte. So funktioniert die Arbeitswelt nicht mehr, in der Roboter den Fließbandarbeiter und Computer die Sekretärin ersetzen.

So funktioniert eine Welt nicht mehr, in der China und Indien die Vorherrschaft des Westens in Frage stellen: Länder, in denen eine rücksichtslose Auslese die Entstehung einer Meritokratie fördert, die schon viele Topmanagerposten im Westen besetzt hat. Es ist vielleicht kein Zufall, dass China keine Demokratie ist und dass in Indien das Kastensystem herrscht.

Wenn sich unsere wichtigste Errungenschaft, die Demokratie, nicht gegen uns kehren soll, müssen wir die Grundlage dieser Demokratie überdenken. Und diese Grundlage ist die Schule. Es ist Zeit, die Kriterien für den Schulerfolg zu überdenken. Nicht nur Mathe und Deutsch sind wichtig, auch nicht allein Computerfähigkeiten und IQ.

Wissen bleibt Macht

Musik und Kunst, Kochen und Werken, Fußball und Boxen, soziale Arbeit und Gartenarbeit müssen genauso wichtig werden wie die akademischen Fächer.

Schulversagen muss ein Ding der Vergangenheit werden. Gleichzeitig muss viel mehr getan werden, um die intellektuellen Fähigkeiten im frühkindlichen Alter, in Kita und Schule zu fördern; denn natürlich ist Wissen Macht.

Dass überdies die neue Aristokratie kritisch betrachtet werden muss, kommt hinzu. Sozialneid ist etwas Schreckliches, aber ererbte Privilegien sind noch schlimmer. Dass irgendwo am Anfang dieser Privilegien Leistung stand, ist eine Sache; dass es himmelschreiende Ungleichheiten gibt, die mit Leistung nichts zu tun haben, eine andere.

Leistung muss sich wieder lohnen; und unser Begriff dessen, was Leistung ist, muss sich ändern. Nur wenn sich die Meritokratie ändert, kann die Leistungsgesellschaft gerettet werden. Bis 2034 haben wir Zeit.

http://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article157234454/Dem-Westen-droht-ein-Aufstand-der-Abgehaengten.html

(Anmerkung UvM: Eine durchaus richtige Beschreibung der Problemlage von Bevölkerungsschichten. Nur: von „Abgehängten“ zu sprechen, wenn der sog. akademische Abschluss fehlt? Posener bemerkt die Sackgasse und fordert einen anderen Begriff von „Leistung“ ein.

Posener „Kochen, Fußball und Werken“. Kochen und Werken als Bestandteil von gesellschaftlicher Reproduktion? Warum nicht einfach „Gleichheit von allgemeiner und beruflicher Bildung“? Dann brauchen wir nicht von „Schulversagen“ zu sprechen, wenn kein akademischer Abschluss vorliegt. Dann bekommen die „Abgehängten“ die Wertigkeit, die die „Meritokratie“ nicht zu bewerten weiß – höchstens dann, wenn die Handwerkerrechnung vorgelegt wird, aber nur, weil sie zu hoch/maßlos erscheint.

Hoffentlich hat Herr Posener mehr als ein B.A.)

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****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Russia in Europe: Rapprochement or Isolation?

Results of a representative survey conducted by TNS Infratest Politikforschung in Germany and Russia on behalf of the Koerber Foundation

Relations between Russia and most of its European neighbors are currently characterized by a profound crisis. A deep lack of trust exists on the political level. But do the people of Russia and its neighboring countries also harbor growing levels of mutual distrust?

In order to answer these questions, the Koerber Foundation commissioned representative surveys in February/March 2016 in Germany and Russia on the issue of “Russia in Europe”. The survey was conducted among 1000 individuals in Germany and 1024 people in Russia, all eligible to vote and over 18.

The results of the survey can be found on this website for download.

Summary of the results (PDF)

Overall results (PDF)

Background on the Körber Foundation´s focus “Russia in Europe”
in the field of “International Dialogue”

http://www.koerber-stiftung.de/en/international-dialogue/focus-russia-in-europe/publications.html

NYT: Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack.

CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, said Wednesday that if he were elected, he would not pressure Turkey or other authoritarian allies about conducting purges of their political adversaries or cracking down on civil liberties. The United States, he said, has to “fix our own mess” before trying to alter the behavior of other nations.

“I don’t think we have a right to lecture,” Mr. Trump said in a wide-ranging interview in his suite in a downtown hotel here while keeping an eye on television broadcasts from the Republican National Convention. “Look at what is happening in our country,” he said. “How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

During a 45-minute conversation, he explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. Mr. Trump re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States.

He said the rest of the world would learn to adjust to his approach. “I would prefer to be able to continue” existing agreements, he said, but only if allies stopped taking advantage of what he called an era of American largess that was no longer affordable.

Giving a preview of his address to the convention on Thursday night, he said that he would press the theme of “America First,” his rallying cry for the past four months, and that he was prepared to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada if he could not negotiate radically better terms.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

He added, “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump said he was pleased that the controversy over similarities between passages in a speech by his wife, Melania, to the convention on Monday night and one that Michelle Obama gave eight years ago appeared to be subsiding. “In retrospect,” he said, it would have been better to explain what had happened — that an aide had incorporated the comments — a day earlier.

When asked what he hoped people would take away from the convention, Mr. Trump said, “The fact that I’m very well liked.”

Mr. Trump conceded that his approach to dealing with the United States’ allies and adversaries was radically different from the traditions of the Republican Party — whose candidates, since the end of World War II, have almost all pressed for an internationalist approach in which the United States is the keeper of the peace, the “indispensable nation.”

“This is not 40 years ago,” Mr. Trump said, rejecting comparisons of his approaches to law-and-order issues and global affairs to Richard Nixon’s. Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, “We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” citing what he called America’s trade losses. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me.”

Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies’ borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.

No presidential candidate in modern times has ordered American priorities that way, and even here, several speakers have called for a far more interventionist policy, more reminiscent of George W. Bush’s party than of Mr. Trump’s.

But Mr. Trump gave no ground, whether the subject was countering North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats or dealing with China in the South China Sea. The forward deployment of American troops abroad, he said, while preferable, was not necessary.

“If we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy” from American soil, Mr. Trump said, “and it will be a lot less expensive.”

Many military experts dispute that view, saying the best place to keep missile defenses against North Korea is in Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Maintaining such bases only in the United States can be more expensive because of the financial support provided by Asian nations.

Mr. Trump’s discussion of the crisis in Turkey was telling, because it unfolded at a moment in which he could plainly imagine himself in the White House, handling an uprising that could threaten a crucial ally in the Middle East. The United States has a major air base at Incirlik in Turkey, where it carries out attacks on the Islamic State and keeps a force of drones and about 50 nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s increasingly authoritarian but democratically elected leader. “I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around,” Mr. Trump said of the coup attempt on Friday night. “Some people say that it was staged, you know that,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Asked if Mr. Erdogan was exploiting the coup attempt to purge his political enemies, Mr. Trump did not call for the Turkish leader to observe the rule of law, or Western standards of justice. “When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger,” he said.

The Obama administration has refrained from any concrete measures to pressure Turkey, fearing for the stability of a crucial ally in a volatile region. But Secretary of State John F. Kerry has issued several statements urging Mr. Erdogan to follow the rule of law.

Mr. Trump offered no such caution for restraint to Turkey and nations like it. However, his argument about America’s moral authority is not a new one: Russia, China, North Korea and other autocratic nations frequently cite violence and disorder on American streets to justify their own practices, and to make the case that the United States has no standing to criticize them.

Mr. Trump said he was convinced that he could persuade Mr. Erdogan to put more effort into fighting the Islamic State. But the Obama administration has run up, daily, against the reality that the Kurds — among the most effective forces the United States is supporting against the Islamic State — are being attacked by Turkey, which fears they will create a breakaway nation.

Asked how he would solve that problem, Mr. Trump paused, then said: “Meetings.”

Ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, he said, was a far lower priority than fighting the Islamic State — a conclusion the White House has also reached, but has not voiced publicly.

“Assad is a bad man,” Mr. Trump said. “He has done horrible things.” But the Islamic State, he said, poses a far greater threat to the United States.

He said he had consulted two former Republican secretaries of state, James A. Baker III and Henry Kissinger, saying he had gained “a lot of knowledge,” but did not describe any new ideas about national security that they had encouraged him to explore.

Mr. Trump emphatically underscored his willingness to drop out of Nafta unless Mexico and Canada agreed to negotiate new terms that would discourage American companies from moving manufacturing out of the United States. “I would pull out of Nafta in a split second,” he said.

He talked of funding a major military buildup, starting with a modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal. “We have a lot of obsolete weapons,” he said. “We have nuclear that we don’t even know if it works.”

The Obama administration has a major modernization program underway, focused on making the nuclear arsenal more reliable, though it has begun to confront the huge cost of upgrading bombers and submarines. That staggering bill, estimated at $500 billion or more, will land on the desk of the next president.

Mr. Trump used the “America First” slogan in an earlier interview with The New York Times, but on Wednesday he insisted he did not mean it in the way that Charles A. Lindbergh and other isolationists used it before World War II.

“To me, ‘America First’ is a brand-new, modern term,” he said. “I never related it to the past.”

He paused a moment when asked what it meant to him.

“We are going to take care of this country first,” he said, “before we worry about everyone else in the world.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/politics/donald-trump-issues.html?link=facebook

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Middle East

The Islamic State Threat to Germany: Evidence from the Investigations

July 27, 2016

Author(s): Florian Flade

Abstract: Security officials are concerned Germany is increasingly in the crosshairs of the Islamic State. German Islamic State recruits interrogated on their return home have made clear the group is seeking to launch attacks on German soil, but their testimonies suggest it has proven difficult for the group to enlist German nationals and residents to hit their home country. German officials are concerned the group is trying to exploit migrant flows to infiltrate non-European operatives into Germany, but so far there is little evidence of such operatives being involved in attack plans on German soil.

When Harry Sarfo arrived in Bremen on a Turkish Airlines flight from Izmir on July 20, 2015, the police were already waiting to arrest him. The son of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in the Bremen neighborhood of Osterholz-Tenever, Sarfo had left Germany three months earlier. He had traveled through Bulgaria and Romania and then to Turkey, where he crossed into Syria and joined the Islamic State.

Back in Germany, Sarfo refused at first to talk to investigators about his time in Syria. Then, in October, he finally agreed to tell his story. He was visited three times in prison by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz.[a] The transcript of the interrogations and several court documents, reviewed by the author, fill several hundred pages.

Sarfo recalled in detail how he was registered as an Islamic State fighter at a safe house of the terrorist group in the city of Tal Abyad in northern Syria.[b] By his own account, he was then sent to Raqqa where he received the usual four-week, military-style training on AK-47 and various other weapons, which was followed by a “special course” training at a camp near At-Thawra and on an island in the Euphrates River.[1] The main goal of this training, which included swimming and diving courses as well as camouflaging exercises, was to prepare to serve in a special Islamic State unit tasked to support fighting forces in “difficult terrain” like Kobane.

Sarfo described how he was then sent on missions in Syria and Iraq and even witnessed executions of captured Assad soldiers in the ancient city of Palmyra. He also appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video carrying the flag of the terrorist group before he was diagnosed with hepatitis and allegedly fled the so-called caliphate after hospital treatment, crossed into Turkey, and returned to Germany.[2]

What most worried the Verfassungsschutz agents was what Sarfo told them happened on the second day he was in Syria. A black SUV stopped next to him, he said. Masked French fighters from the Islamic State’s internal security service Amniyat approached him and asked him if he would be willing to carry out an attack in Europe. Sarfo refused, he told the interrogators. “They wanted to know if I knew anyone in Germany who would be willing to carry out an attack. I also declined.”[3] The previous German recruits tasked with carrying out attacks “had gotten cold feet,”[4] the Islamic State members told him. Now there was a lack of willing candidates from among the German Islamic State contingent, but there were many Frenchmen and Belgians committed to attack, they said.

One month after Sarfo told the intelligence agency about the Islamic State’s plans for Europe attacks, Islamic State operatives did indeed strike at the heart of the continent. A terrorist cell led by Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud killed 130 people in Paris. Carnage had come to the streets of Europe—planned in Syria and organized by terrorists who had been able to build up a sophisticated network of support.

In Germany the security agencies watched with great concern the attack in Paris. The question immediately arose—how big is the Islamic State threat to Germany? Were there any Islamic State terrorists in the country ready to strike? What was the role of German jihadis within the terrorist organization? Was there a terrorist cell on its way to Germany?[5] This article examines the Islamic State threat to Germany by drawing on hundreds of pages of interrogation reports and court documents, German government studies on German foreign fighters, and interviews with German counterterrorism officials.

Target: Germany
According to security officials, Germany is in the crosshairs of the Islamic State, even though the country is not involved in the bombing campaign against terrorist targets in Syria and Iraq. This has been evidenced by several propaganda videos calling for attacks in Germany and even threatening Chancellor Angela Merkel. Numerous German militants have been trained in terrorist camps of the so-called caliphate.[6]

Around 820 Islamists from Germany have traveled to Syria and Iraq in recent years. Most of them have joined the Islamic State. At least 140 are said to have been killed; about 14 of them carried out suicide bombings. Of those who went to the war zone around a third have already returned to Germany, with some in custody while others are under intense surveillance.[7]

The German Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt BKA) has analyzed the biography of 677 of these jihadist travelers.[8] The results show that 79 percent of those who traveled to Syria and Iraq were males and 21 percent female. The youngest traveler was 15 years old, the oldest was 62. The vast majority were between 22 and 25 years old. Sixty-one percent of the jihadis were born in Germany, 6 percent in Turkey, 5 percent in Syria, 5 percent in Russia, and 3 percent in Afghanistan. In total, 64 percent had German citizenship, followed by Turkish, Moroccan, Russian, Syrian, Tunisian, and Afghan nationality. One-hundred and nineteen of the 677 jihadis analyzed by the BKA were converts to Islam. All except 22 were seen as followers of salafism. Two out of three jihadist travelers had ties to known Islamist extremists. Before their departure, many took part in salafist missionary work like the nationwide Qur’an distribution campaign entitled “Lies!” (read).

The Germans of the Islamic State
Of those jihadis who have returned from Syria and Iraq, only a few have been willing to speak about their time with the Islamic State.[9] Nevertheless, over the years, more and more information about the role of German jihadis within the Islamic State has been accumulated, and some of this was revealed during the first trials of returnees from Syria. It became clear that Germans have served in the Islamic State’s media wing, in its internal intelligence agency, and even in special forces groups tasked to carry out difficult missions.

German intelligence now knows of “German villages” in northern Syria, towns or neighborhoods where foreign fighters and their families have settled. Some of them were located near the cities of al-Bab, others in Minbij or Jarabulus.[10] Investigations also uncovered that many former members of the salafist group “Millatu Ibrahim,” which was banned by the German interior ministry in 2012, ended up with the Islamic State. Their number included former rap musician Denis Cuspert (“Deso Dogg”), who took on the jihadist name “Abu Talha al-Almani,” Michael Noack from Gladbeck, and Silvio Koblitz from Essen.[11]

Reda Seyam, a German-Egyptian labeled by some investigators as a “veteran of jihad,” is most likely the highest-ranking German member of the Islamic State.[12] He was present in Bosnia during the civil war there and later was arrested in Indonesia where he was suspected of having played a key role in the al-Qa`ida Bali nightclub bombing in October 2002. Later, Seyam was sent back to Germany and became an influential figure within the salafist community before he left for Syria.

Today, Seyam is said to be the “emir for education” in the “Wilayat Nineveh,” the Islamic State governance in northern Iraq where he allegedly is responsible for “education reform” in the region.[13] Also known as “Dhul al-Qarnain,” Seyam has appeared in propaganda videos (titled “Education in the Shadows of the Caliphate”) and in pictures taken inside Islamic State-occupied Mosul University.[14]

While most German jihadis seem to play a rather low-level role in the organization, serving as guards and supplying fighters with food, weapons, and ammunition, a few apparently took up the position as “commanders.”[15] One of them is a German convert to Islam named Konrad Schmitz (kunya: Abdulwahid al-Almani) who was known as “Konny” back in his hometown of Mönchengladbach and is allegedly still operating with the Islamic State. According to the account of an Islamic State defector, he served as the “emir” of a German Islamic State brigade.[16]

Another German Islamic State member, Samy W. from Walshut-Tiengen,[17] ended up with the Islamic State’s “Anwar al-Awlaki Brigade,”[18] a unit of English-speaking foreign fighters,[19] some of whom are allegedly tasked to plan operations in Europe and North America.[20]

At least two jihadis from Germany worked in the media sector of the Islamic State, translating statements, video files, and audio tapes. One of them, Usman Altaf (kunya: Abu Jandal al-Almani), was a salafi of Pakistani origin from the city of Mannheim. The Islamic State hailed his death in Iraq with a poem that described him as an important figure in propaganda work.[21] The other, Christian Emde, is a convert to Islam from Solingen and is described by German intelligence as an important recruiter responsible for media work who communicated with salafis in Germany via WhatsApp chat groups.[22] He was even interviewed on camera in Mosul by German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who was allowed to travel through Islamic State territory to shoot a documentary.

According to intelligence sources, numerous Islamic State jihadis from Germany have taken part in active fighting in Syria or Iraq.[23] Most have done this as “foot soldiers” or suicide bombers. Others served as guards in Islamic State prisons or questioned newly arrived recruits. The German Federal Prosecution Office (Bundesanwaltschaft) has also started investigations against some foreign fighters for crimes beyond joining a terrorist group or attending a terrorist training camp. Some like German-Algerian Fared Saal (kunya: Abu Luqman al-Almani) from Bonn are being investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity.[24]

But only one German Islamic State recruit has ever appeared on camera committing an execution. Yamin Abou-Zand, aka “Abu Omar al-Almani” from Königswinter and a former employee at the Telekom company, is seen in a Wilayat Hims clip entitled “Der Tourismus dieser Ummah” (“The Tourism of this Ummah”) next to Austrian Islamic State recruit Mohamed Mahmoud (kunya: Abu Usamah al-Gharib) shooting two alleged Syrian soldiers in Palmyra. In the video, released in August 2015, Abou-Zand also called on Muslims in Germany to join the Islamic State or carry out terrorist attacks in their homeland.[25]

Just a few days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015, Nils Donath,[26] a former Islamic State member from Dinslaken in North Rhine-Westphalia, was arrested by German police.[c] After he came back from Syria, Donath had been under constant surveillance. His car had been wiretapped, and police were listening when he told a friend that while in Syria he had been part of an Islamic State unit responsible for hunting down, torturing, and executing alleged spies and traitors. During around 40 interrogations, Donath, who had been an Islamic State member from October 2013 to November 2014 and whose cousin had carried out a suicide bombing for the group, outlined how he had joined the Amniyat, which the prosecution described as the Sturmtrupp or “Gestapo of the IS.”[27] He had been given a car, a special permit to travel around Islamic State territory, an AK-47, and a golden Browning pistol.[28]

Donath told interrogators not only about horrific torture methods and public executions by the Islamic State but also that foreign fighters have the option of enlisting themselves for “external operations,” meaning terrorist attacks in Europe or North America.[29] And he claimed that he met Belgian and French jihadis, including Abaaoud.[30]

Donath’s account and those of Harry Sarfo and other Islamic State defectors create a threat picture that remains very concerning to German security services, one in which the Islamic State is apparently working extensively on trying to set in motion attacks in the West, including Germany.[31] “They want something that happens on several locations simultaneously,” Sarfo stated during his interrogation.[32]

After the Paris attacks in November 2015, German counterterrorism officials wanted to find out if there were any connections between the cell commanded by Abaaoud and German jihadis or if there were any helpers or supporters in Germany. They looked particularly at the situation in Syria itself. Was there any information about a Belgian-French-German connection?

The BKA came to the conclusion that German jihadis, especially a group of salafis from Lohberg (District of Dinslaken in Northrhine-Westphalia) that became known as the “Lohberger Brigade,” had most likely befriended several Belgians and French terrorists.[33]They even shared housing—at least for some time in 2013 and 2014—in the Syrian villages of Kafr Hamra or Azaz.[34] Pictures obtained by German intelligence show French jihadi Salahuddin Ghaitun alongside Hassan Diler, a Turkish national from Dinslaken, and David Gäble, a convert from Kempten. One picture most likely taken in Raqqa even shows Abaaoud next to Hüseyn Diler, Hassan’s 43-year-old brother, also from Dinslaken.[35] Despite these linkages, German security officials have found it difficult to ascertain whether jihadis from Germany were also involved in terrorist plots. Nevertheless, Hüseyn Diler was put on a most wanted list.[36]

Hüseyn Diler, an Islamic State recruit from North Rhine-Westphalia (right), with Paris attack team leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud in Syria in 2015. (Retrieved by Guy Van Vlierden from Islamic State social media)

Infiltration by Foreign Operatives
While it seems the Islamic State has not been able to successfully recruit German nationals or jihadis from Germany to carry out attacks in Europe, the security services are on high alert regarding another potential threat—non-European terrorists being smuggled into Europe hidden among refugees, a tactic already used by the Islamic State in the Paris attacks. With hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to Germany from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other regions since 2015, the concern is that the Islamic State might have already moved terrorists into the country. The BKA has received hundreds of tips regarding possible jihadis hiding in refugee shelters in Germany. In a few cases, arrests have been made. In Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, two terror suspects, Syrian Shaas E. M.[37] and Tajik national Mukhamadsaid S.,[38] were arrested in recent months. In another case, Farid A., an Algerian Islamic State member, lied when he applied for asylum. He pretended to be a Syrian refugee and was living in a shelter in Attendorn. Pictures allegedly taken in Syria and obtained by German police show him in military gear holding weapons.[39]

Another possible case of an Islamic State operative smuggled into Germany is that of 20-year-old Algerian Bilal C., who was arrested in Aachen in April for petty crimes. While in custody, German security services received information that he had been a member of Islamic State before he came to Germany as a refugee in the summer of 2015. Further investigation revealed that Bilal C. had scouted the Balkan route and other ways of entering Europe and had been tasked with that mission by Abaaoud. Bilal C. allegedly also helped Thalys train attacker Ayoub el-Khazzani secretly enter Europe.[40]

In February, a Syrian refugee named Saleh A. traveled from Düsseldorf to Paris and walked into a police station. There he told investigators about an Islamic State terror plot to carry out attacks in Düsseldorf using suicide bombers and assault rifles. Saleh A. said he had been tasked by the Islamic State leadership in Raqqa to form a terror cell. While being questioned by French police, he named three co-conspirators living as refugees in Germany.[41] After several months of investigation, German prosecution decided to move in. The three Syrians that Saleh A. had named were arrested in June.[42] Despite the case attracting significant global media attention, there is no proof of any real terrorist plot. No weapons or explosives were found, and no charges have been filed yet. German security sources say the case could very likely turn out to be a false alarm.[43]

Islamic State-Inspired Attacks
Even though the Islamic State has set its sights on Germany as a potential target, the terrorist group has not been able to cary out a sophisticated attack in the country. German security officials meanwhile see a high-threat level for the country, especially coming from lone attackers inspired or motivated by the Islamic State. Such cases already exist. In February, 15-year-old Safia S. attacked a policeman at the main train station in Hanover with a kitchen knife. Prior to the attack, the teenage girl had traveled to Turkey possibly to cross into Syria and join the Islamic State. The general prosecutor has labeled the knife attack a “terrorist act” and has confirmed that Safia S. had been in contact with people close to Islamic State.[44] Just two months later, two 16-year-old salafis, Yusuf T. and Mohamed B., attacked a Sikh temple in Essen using a homemade explosive device they had built. Both had been active members of a WhatsApp chat group named “Ansaar Al Khalifat Al Islamiyya” in which at least a dozen young salafis of Turkish-German origin communicated about jihadism.

And on July 18, a 17-year-old refugee named Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, who allegedly was born in Afghanistan, carried out an attack on a train near Würzburg in Bavaria, Southern Germany. Ahmadzai attacked train passengers, including a group of Chinese tourists with a cleaver and a knife, seriously injuring at least four people. After the train was stopped, he left the wagon and attacked a nearby woman walking her dog. The victim was also seriously wounded. The attacker was finally shot by the police.[45]Only a few hours after his attack, the Islamic State-linked Amaq Agency released a video message Ahmadzai had recorded in Pashto in which he said he wanted to carry out a martyrdom operation on behalf of the Islamic State and threatened that “IS will attack you anywhere.” Police later found a hand-written farewell letter to his father and a drawing of an Islamic State flag.[46] On July 24, Germany suffered its first ever jihadist suicide bombing. In the Bavarian town of Ansbach, 27-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Daleel detonated a homemade bomb close to a music festival. Fifteen people were injured in the attack. In a video message later released by Islamic State-linked Amaq news agency, Daleel said he was renewing his pledge of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and wanted to carry out a “martyrdom operation in Ansbach” as revenge for the killing of Muslims by Germans.[47]

Conclusion
Whether the source is a lone attacker such as Ahmadzai or Safia S. or a potential large-scale plot, the terrorist threat to Germany remains high. Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Verfassungsschutz, said in May that the threat is “higher than it ever was” with around 260 Islamic State fighters who have returned to Germany and around 90 radical mosques under surveillance.[48] According to German security sources, Islamic State operatives in Syria and Iraq are increasingly reaching out directly to supporters in Germany and Europe to urge them to carry out attacks.[49] It is possible this is because the Islamic State is finding it more difficult to send operatives back to Western Europe after governments there took steps to seal off the Turkey-Greece-Balkan migrant corridor, sharply reducing travel flows and making it more difficult for Islamic State operatives to pose as Syrian refugees.[50]

As jihadist defectors Donath and Sarfo told police and intelligence services, the Islamic State is probably still on the lookout for German terrorist recruits. The Bundeswehr deployment to northern Iraq, the training and support for Kurdish peshmerga forces, and the German Air Force reconnaissance missions over Syria mean that Germany is regarded by the Islamic State as just another “crusader nation”[51] that has to be attacked.

Florian Flade is an investigative journalist for Die Welt and Die Welt am Sonntag. He is based in Berlin and blogs about jihadism at ojihad.wordpress.com. Follow @FlorianFlade

Substantive Notes
[a] Sarfo was interrogated by the Bremen branch of the Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

[b] The details on Harry Sarfo’s time in Syria are from the transcript of his interrogation seen by the author.

[c] At first there was not enough evidence to arrest him, but after the Charlie Hebdo attack, the decision was made to take him into custody. “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien,” Bundesanwaltschaft, January 10, 2015.

Citations
[1] Court documents in the case of Harry Sarfo, obtained by the author.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Florian Flade, “Ich will kein Blut an meinen Händen haben,” Die Welt, June 26, 2016.

[4] Interview of Harry Sarfo on “Frontal 21,” Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), June 16, 2016.

[5] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[6] Florian Flade, “Islamist droht in Terrorvideo Angela Merkel,” Die Welt, October 15, 2014.

[7] “Jeder zweite Gefährder aus Deutschland im Ausland,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 23, 2016.

[8] “Analyse der Radikalisierungshintergründe und -verläufe der Personen, die aus islamistischer Motivation aus Deutschland in Richtung Syrien oder Irak ausgereist sind,” Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), December 2015.

[9] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[10] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[11] Court documents on legal ban of Millatu Ibrahim Organization, obtained by the author.

[12] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[13] “IS-Video präsentiert Terrorverdächtigen Reda SEYAM als wichtigen Funktionär,” Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg, June 2016.

[14] Florian Flade, “Reda Seyam: Totgeglaubte leben länger,” ojihad.wordpress.com, March 6, 2015.

[15] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[16] Court documents in the case of jihadi Sebastian S., obtained by the author.

[17] Florian Flade, “Dschihad-Rückkehrer Teil 8 – Bin im Kalifat,” ojihad.wordpress.com, April 15, 2016.

[18] Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman, press briefing, April 7, 2016.

[19] Court documents in the case of jihadi Samy W., obtained by the author.

[20] “ISIS Creates English-Speaking Foreign Fighter ‘Anwar al-Awlaki’ Brigade For Attacks On The West: Report,” International Business Times, January 22, 2016.

[21] “Medienfunktionär des „Islamischen Staats“ stirbt bei Kämpfen im Irak,” Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg, May 2015.

[22] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[23] Author interview, German security source, January 2016.

[24] Florian Flade, “Kriegsverbrechen: Ermittlungen gegen deutsche IS-Dschihadisten,”Die Welt, February 8, 2015.

[25] Florian Flade, “Behörden identifizieren deutschen IS-Mörder,” Die Welt, August 13, 2015.

[26] Court documents in the case of Nils Donath, obtained by the author.

[27] Jorg Diehl and Fidelius Schmid, “IS-Kronzeuge Nils D. vor Gericht: Gescheitert, erweckt und abgehauen,” Spiegel Online, January 20, 2016.

[28] Florian Flade, “Dschihad-Rückkehrer Teil 6 – Der Jäger,” ojihad.wordpress.com, August 18, 2015.

[29] “Nils D. beschreibt IS-Folterpraktiken,” N-TV, January 22, 2016.

[30] Lena Kampf, Andreas Spinnrath, and Boris Baumholt, “Wussten deutsche Islamisten von Pariser Anschlagsplänen?” WDR, January 14, 2016.

[31] Author interviews, German security officials, 2016.

[32] Court documents in the case of Harry Sarfo, obtained by the author.

[33] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[34] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[35] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[36] Police search warrant for Hüseyn Diler, obtained by the author.

[37] “Haftbefehl wegen Mitgliedschaft in der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien (ISIG),” Bundesanwaltschaft, March 24, 2016.

[38] “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien (ISIG),” Bundesanwaltschaft, June 22, 2016.

[39] Florian Flade, “Terrorpläne in der Frühphase?” ojihad.wordpress.com, February 5, 2016.

[40] “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat’ (IS),” Bundesanwaltschaft, July 7, 2016.

[41] “Düsseldorfer IS-Anschlagsplan: Drei Verdächtige in U-Haft genommen” Deutsche Welle, June 3, 2016

[42] “Festnahme dreier mutmaßlicher Mitglieder der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien,” Bundesanwaltschaft, June 2, 2016.

[43] Author interview with German security source, July 2016.

[44] “Haftbefehl gegen Safia S. wegen des Angriffs auf einen Beamten der Bundespolizei erwirkt,” Bundesanwaltschaft, April 15, 2016.

[45] Police document on the attack, obtained by the author.

[46] Bayerischer Rundfunk, “Attentäter von Würzburg – Klassisches Abschiedsvideo,” July 20, 2016.

[47] Video message by Mohammad Daleel, released by Amaq via Telegram, July 26, 2016.

[48] “Maaßen: Terrorgefahr so hoch wie nie,” MDR, May 2, 2016.

[49] Author interview, German security sources, summer 2016.

[50] Ioannis Mantzikos, “The Greek Gateway to Jihad,” CTC Sentinel 9:6 (2016); author interview, German security source, July 2016.

[51] Interview with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Dabiq, issue 7, p. 74.

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-islamic-state-threat-to-germany-evidence-from-the-investigations

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

A Brexit post-mortem: 17 takeaways for a fallen David Cameron

In an open memo to the outgoing British Prime Minister, former Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, Jeremy Kinsman, describes in detail just how badly the Remain campaign failed.

Spoiler alert: Brexiteers who now permit themselves to read only positive articles about the project to leave the European Union, should cease reading immediately.

1. Referenda are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Seeking a simplistic binary yes/no answer to complex questions, they succumb to emotion and run amok. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations.

2. Never call a referendum without being sure of the outcome. You called this one primarily for reasons of tactical political positioning, mainly to appease anxiety in the English Conservative Party (and I mean “English”) that the United Kingdom Independence Party was gaining strength with your party’s voters. The pledge to hold a referendum helped win you an unexpected majority. It also ended your career and seriously compromised your country’s interests.

3. You should have been sure you had a high-performance team before you leapt. Ambitious defectors from your cabinet and untrustworthy political rivals undermined you. Jeremy Corbyn was the worst possible ally. His inactivity was an eloquent put-down of the case for remaining. He hates the EU for reasons opposite to those of the Tory backbenches – he views the EU as a surrogate of a capitalist system he wants to overthrow.

4. In any referendum over separation, the “independence” side appeals to the patriotic heart. The thinking of the Leave side is magical. It plucks at a dimly remembered but glorified past (that was never as good as nostalgia makes it), and offers a future that is imaginary. The Brexiteers are the dog that caught the bus: they hadn’t thought what to do next. Coping with impending difficulties is for another day. Liam Fox, one of the ideologues now seeking your job, airily told the BBC that follow-on policies toward EU workers in the UK, crisis budgets, and negotiations with the EU weren’t part of the campaign agenda – they’re for the next (unelected) government to think about.

5. Your appeals to the nation’s head didn’t get through. In a post-factual political age, reasoning doesn’t reach the heart. To win, you needed to mobilize convincing passion behind the case that the status quo is both preferable and improvable. You could have said that despite its struggles and seeming faults, the European Union aims to be a force for good; that it has brought, and will bring, decisive benefits to Britain, and to all European peoples. Implying only that the EU is a mess but that leaving would be worse was bound to lose the campaign. Raining fears about the material costs of leaving, supported by experts and authorities, had no impact on the growing cult of “ordinary people” who took cues only from each other, animated by their populist rain men.

6. Arguing for the benefits and necessity of interdependence doesn’t diminish Britain and its tradition of proud, self-confidence. Churchill could lecture de Gaulle that Britain would “choose the sea” over Europe because when he said it, Britain still had an Empire. Since England no longer rules the waves, EU membership adds enormous leverage to the British role, influence and voice. But voters in rural England, who are used to hearing about your EU partners in disparaging terms, were indifferent.

7. You needed to be candid that Britain would be at a disadvantage in a negotiation to leave the EU because the EU has the trump of being less dependent on the UK than vice-versa. You avoided saying so, perhaps because it could sound wimpy or “defeatist” about British stature and weight. You let the Leave side get away with claiming that the EU would negotiate as an equal partner with equal stakes as the UK because the volume of trade was roughly equal. The reality is that respective stakes are starkly unequal. On trade, the UK is dependent on the EU market for 45 percent of its exports. The EU is dependent on the UK for only 8 percent of EU exports. Foreign investment into the UK has stopped because of uncertainty that UK exports will still get to the EU market. The Confederation of British Industries therefore judged that Brexit will cost 4-5 percent of GDP. The Economist Intelligence Unit is even more harsh.

8. You seemingly didn’t want to single out specific sectors in your warnings that there would be big costs to Britain. Was it because it would be talking them down in the markets? The Leave side pretends that manufacturers on both sides will find ways to come to equitable sectoral deals, that even with some new tariffs, British industry will do OK. But the financial services sector will definitely not do OK. The EU “passport” of regulatory equivalency that EU institutions grant to banks to operate under UK financial regulations will be withdrawn when the UK leaves the single market. This will be a lethal blow to the most rewarding sector of the UK economy (11 percent of Treasury revenues) that accounts for 10.2 percent of GDP and 3.3 percent of employment, mostly very high end. The migration of high-paying City of London financial jobs to a new financial center in Frankfurt, Dublin, Amsterdam or Paris will seriously downgrade London’s status. Why didn’t you say so?

9. Why didn’t the Remain campaign say more about non-industrial benefits from the EU? Is it because of a visceral inability to praise its merit after years of denouncing it? The contribution to the EU budget by the UK has been exaggerated beyond belief. It only accounts for 1.3 percent of the UK’s budget. On the other hand, British farmers love the 55 percent of their income coming from the Common Agricultural Policy. The cultural and arts community needed its 230 EU grants. The one third of university students hoping for Erasmus support for study in Europe will be stuck at home. Britain’s rank as fifth in the world in scientific papers despite being only twentieth in science spending owes a lot to the additional US $11.6 billion in EU competitive research grants (2006-15). All of these sectors have constituencies. Leave courted the wistful retirees in the shires and marginalized “victims of globalization” in the once-industrial North – did Remain sufficiently target the younger generations whose futures were being bound by a senile chase after a receding past?

10. Many who voted Leave say it was because they are unhappy over Britain’s “domination” by the EU. Why didn’t you demystify this toxic fable? Have you, as prime minister, felt “dominated” in the EU Council? Do you think British (I mean “English”) identity has been eroded? Whose is the de facto working language of the EU institutions? Britain opted out of the Euro and border-free travel — in what real and convincing way is it nonetheless compromised in its sovereign capacities by “faceless bureaucrats in Brussels?” Sure, the European Court of Justice rules against Britain in cases of adherence to EU regulations. (It rules more often against France.) Does this really erode the British Parliament and courts?

11. Immigration is the issue people say they care about most. The EU is again the popular scapegoat, though it’s not responsible, obviously, for the millions of people and their children, now British, who came from the old multi-coloured Empire back in the day. You surely don’t share the fear that Syrian refugees — that the UK isn’t taking because it’s not in Schengen and doesn’t have to — will rush to take British jobs the moment they qualify as German citizens. Do EU workers actually replace British workers? Sixty percent have jobs lined up before they arrive because UK employers need them. Unemployment across Britain is only 5 percent. The UK has a minimum wage – does a Pole accepting it “undercut” a Brit who thinks he would get more if the Poles weren’t around? Could the NHS do without the 10-20 percent of its professional staff that is from the EU?

12. What if you had told the English they are not being “overrun?” 2015 was said to be disastrous because net immigration was 333,000 (half from the EU) despite your promise several years ago to limit it to 100,000. They represented nine in 1,000 persons in the UK, an intake less than Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Ireland and Norway. “How would you cope in Canada?” a correspondent asked sarcastically. Well that’s about how many we aim to take this year. Foreign-born residents of the UK are 11.3 percent of the population, smack in the middle of the range for EU countries. By comparison, the four “settlement immigration” countries which seek qualified immigrants register the percentage of foreign-born as follows: U.S.: 14.3 percent; Canada: 20.7 percent; New Zealand: 25.1 percent; and Australia: 27.7 percent. We’re all coping pretty well.

13. Britain is over-crowded, not “overrun.” Of the 64.1 million who clog your roads and services, only 2 million are EU citizens. Nonetheless, public opinion argues for a temporary brake on EU workers who come seeking jobs, as opposed to those who are coming to fill one. But you must accept the principle that the free movement of labour is fundamental to being a member of the EU’s single market. It’s delusional or deliberately misleading to have gone along with the notion that Britain can deny this essential principle and still have full access.

14. Your European colleagues liked you. They know the pressures of highest office. They didn’t want the UK to leave the EU. In their guts, they know that the British lift the EU game in many ways. But they will not reward England’s nativists because you and their many British colleagues are pleasant and professional. They were never going to give the UK a break in negotiations to unravel 43 years of gradual integration and institutionalized accommodation. They have identity-driven nativist adversaries baying at them in their own capitals.

15. Allow me to observe that partisan politics is all you have ever done. It’s a handicap. Professional politicians over-react to tribal voices and noises from their camp. In your case, it’s against the continuous drumbeat of jingoistic anti-EU right-wing journalism (oddly promoted for years by non-EU status-seeking owners of the Times and the Express), two of whose exponents led the Leave campaign.

16. The referendum shouldn’t have been a response to party politics. Its significance is existential. It can’t be undone. But people can’t be expected just to absorb the pain and stay calm and carry on. There is real disbelief those about to take charge know what they are doing. Public antipathy and division will increase. The elected Parliament is against Brexit. Your friends abroad are aghast.

17. I understand why you walked away abruptly. But given that your decisions ultimately enabled this crack-up, you can’t leave for good without being clear about the size of the casualty ward to expect. Pasting it together will require the skill of the ages and the thoughtfulness of good and honest people to commit to a workable solution that is going to have to involve compromise. You delivered a majority to your party, one it would not win today. Conservatives owe it to you to listen if you now have something to say. You do. Take it on.

Respectfully,

Jeremy Kinsman
Former High Commissioner of Canada to the United Kingdom and former Ambassador to the European Union

https://www.opencanada.org/features/brexit-post-mortem-17-takeaways-fallen-david-cameron/

Reuters: Britain should deliver ‚full Brexit‘ soon, lawmaker says

Britain should leave the European Union quickly and not be drawn into a discussion about watering down the voters‘ clearly expressed wish for limits on immigration, senior Conservative lawmaker John Redwood said.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT?

EU leaders are refusing to countenance a "Europe a la carte" by letting London select the parts of its future relationship that it likes while dispensing with EU principles such as the free movement of people.

Merkel says Britain needs time to put together a negotiating stance before triggering the formal divorce. But she has also cautioned that Britain cannot cherry-pick the parts of the EU that it wants to keep.

French President Francois Hollande and other EU leaders, have urged May to deliver Brexit soon and say Britain should not have full access to the European Single Market of 500 million consumers without accepting freedom of movement.

May has said British voters made it clear they want controls over freedom of movement.

But Redwood, who supports May, said there should be no negotiation over whether to limit freedom of movement.

"We shouldn’t negotiate over freedom of movement, or getting our money back or having our own laws: We are quite happy with the current tariff-free trading arrangements," he said.

"We voted to take back control. That means control of our laws, control of our borders, control of our money, and those things are not going to be negotiated – they cannot be. It said on the ballot paper "Leave" and that is what people voted to do."

Redwood said that after Brexit, Britain was likely to keep tariff-free trade with the other 27 members of the EU as they would face tariffs on exports to Britain if they did try to erect barriers.

BREXIT TRADE

The best option, Redwood said, would be to keep the current tariff-free trading relationship including so called passporting — which allows financial services firms in London to do business in Europe — without getting into a discussion over controls on freedom of movement.

"Ideally we just keep tariff-free trade and passporting and all the other arrangements we have at the moment and I think it is very likely we will keep that because I think they want them as much as we want them," he said.

"I would suggest they take what I would hope is our very generous offer of having tariff-free trade and carry on with no interruption," he said.

He said that if the EU refused to agree to tariff-free trade then Britain would have to impose tariffs under World Trade Organisation rules, which he said limit such tariffs to an average of 3.5 percent.

"It is up to the other 27 to sit down and see whether they can agree on what barriers they wish to impose on their trade with us. And I’d be a bit surprised if they came up with a set of barriers but if they did they would have to be WTO-compliant and we would then obviously retaliate under WTO rules."

Redwood said talk of a potential emergency brake that would allow Britain to limit immigration for seven years and keep access to the single market was ridiculous.

"Taking back control over the borders is not negotiable," he said. "That isn’t leaving."

"We didn’t vote to have another negotiation to try to improve on Mr Cameron’s negotiation," Redwood said, referring to former Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to win concessions from EU leaders ahead of the referendum.

Redwood said that under a reform of EU securities law known as the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), financial services companies based in the UK would get passporting back anyway.

"If by any chance they make us go through the WTO route you get the passports back through the MiFID II doctrine of equivalence anyway," he said.

Some bankers agree with Redwood, though they note that it is up to the EU whether equivalence is granted in a process that has no set timetable and is prone to political horse trading. And any EU changes to MiFID II rules in the future would have to be implemented by London to ensure equivalence.

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Serbien / The Balcans / Central-/East Europe

moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Central Europe: Taking up Where the U.K. Left off

The prime ministers of the Visegrad countries are working together to make their desires for the European Union a reality.

Forecast

  • The Central European states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — known as the Visegrad Group — will become increasingly vocal and active in shaping the post-Brexit EU reform process.
  • The four countries will advocate the repatriation of powers from Brussels to national parliaments and will push for an "intergovernmental Europe" rather than a "supranational Europe."
  • Because of their relatively small size and peripheral location, the Visegrad Group countries will look for allies within the European Union to advance their goals, aided by the growing Euroskepticism in the region.

Analysis

Four Central European countries see the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union as their opportunity to shape the future of the bloc. The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary met in Warsaw on July 22 to discuss the issue for the second time in two months. Out of the first meeting on June 29, just days after the United Kingdom voted to leave the union, came a collective call for "dramatic reforms" of the bloc and its institutions. The sentiment was reiterated during the latest meeting, where the four Central European premiers once again called for major changes to the European Union.

It is not surprising that some of the European Union’s 28 member states are speaking out against the nature of the bloc. It is surprising that these four countries, which joined the bloc together and have become known as the Visegrad Group, are joining the chorus of criticism. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have generally strongly supported the European Union, which helped in their transition away from communism following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the name Visegrad harkens back to this shared communist past and refers to the Hungarian town where the leaders of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia met in early 1991 to establish the economic and political format of joint cooperation needed to integrate with Europe. Over the years, the countries met often within the Visegrad format (the Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully divided into separate states in 1993) to advise and consult each other about reform efforts, until all eventually joined the bloc in 2004.

The Visegrad Group has gained from its membership in the European Union. Its members are among the main beneficiaries of EU development and agricultural funds, and they experienced high economic growth rates in the decade leading up to their accession to the bloc and in the years directly after joining. Recent years, however, have proved more difficult for the Visegrad states. The mounting pressures caused by the 2008 European financial crisis and the more recent migrant crisis have widened the divisions within the bloc; each of the Visegrad countries has experienced an economic slowdown, and border fences have been erected to mitigate refugee flows. In the meantime, political tension between the European Union and some of its member states over domestic policies such as media freedom and constitutional changes has grown.

Brexit: The Last Straw

The Brexit vote has shaken the foundations of the European Union and is causing member states to re-evaluate their positions within the bloc — the Visegrad states are no exception. Slovakia is the only Visegrad country in the eurozone, and all had looked to the United Kingdom, which also fell outside of the shared currency zone, to help defend their positions. Though in general the Visegrad countries are happy with their membership in the European Union, they have also long been wary of moves to transform the bloc into a sort of federal superstate. For them, the European Union should be a conduit for political, economic and security cooperation but should not infringe on the sovereignty of national governments. Thus, all four Visegrad states supported the calls of former British Prime Minister David Cameron to repatriate power from the European Union and to allow national parliaments more authority to veto EU decisions. Now that the United Kingdom will be leaving the union, the Visegrad states are likely to take over for Cameron in making similar demands.

In fact, just a day after the Brexit vote, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said Poland would work on a new EU treaty that would reduce the powers exercised by Brussels and give them back to national parliaments. Kaczynski did not specify what terms a new treaty would include, but he did say the Polish government would present one to the European Union in the coming months. Given the recent show of solidarity among the Visegrad Group, it would seem as if the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary may support Poland’s proposal, or at least parts of it.

Stepping Into the U.K.’s Shoes

In theory, at least, the Brexit vote has created space for the Visegrad states to make the demands that the United Kingdom used to make, under the threat of holding their own referendums. If held, these votes would probably not concern actual EU membership, given that the countries depend on EU funding and that public support for the bloc is high. But the Visegrad countries could threaten to hold referendums on specific EU issues as a means to gain leverage. Hungary, for instance, has already announced that it will hold a vote on the controversial EU plan to redistribute asylum seekers across the Continent.

The Visegrad countries want the European Union to continue working as a protective umbrella and as a source of funding, but they do not want it to interfere in their domestic affairs. The countries are relatively small, however, and even if they coordinate their demands, the Visegrad Group does not have the political heft to actually stop new EU regulations from passing.

This means that the Visegrad Group will have to look for more partners to push for an "intergovernmental Europe," rather than a "supranational Europe." Rising Euroskepticism will broaden the pool of potential partners — given that Euroskeptics also criticize supranationalism in their bid to empower nations. Depending on the kind of measures they propose, the Visegrad countries could find support in Denmark, Sweden, or even the Netherlands and Austria for measures to weaken the European Commission. And depending on political developments, the Visegrad vision for the European Union could become mainstream. Therefore, while the Visegrad countries are in many respects considered peripheral members of the European Union, they could shape its future in important ways.

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/central-europe-taking-where-uk-left?id=be1ddd5371&uuid=602f86ad-dd64-4ed5-a1ba-2193f4b3d206

Also worth noting: The CBS poll of only 11 swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin) now shows Trump edging Clinton 42-41. Before the convention, Clinton led 41-40.

Trump Wants to Paint the Town Red: Over the last 25 years, Pennsylvania has voted Democrat, but current polling suggests that with a few strategy changes Donald Trump could win the state over in what would be an important victory. (Brandon Finnigan, National Review) – http://www.nationalreview.com/article/438269/donald-trump-pennsylvania-path-white-house?utm_source=nl-politics-daily-072616

Can Latinos Swing Arizona?: The organization Promise Arizona is using Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric to motivate Latinos to vote. But will their work be enough to register their goal of 75,000 voters before the election? (Hector Tobar, The New Yorker)

It Shouldn’t Have Been Clinton: The Democratic party chose Hillary Clinton as its candidate long before the primaries had even begun, Megan McArdle argues, and if Donald Trump wins the presidency, it will be because the party chose wrong. (Bloomberg)- http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-07-25/democratic-machine-chose-clinton-long-ago-but-why?utm_source=nl-politics-daily-072616

Gallup: For First Time, Trump’s Image on Par With Clinton’s –

http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/194000/first-time-trump-image-par-clinton.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=syndication

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see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

07-27-16 CTC-SENTINEL_Vol9Iss7.pdf

Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 29.07.16

Massenbach-Letter. News blog:https://udovonmassenbach.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/massenbach-letter-news-29-07-16/

· George Friedman:The Problem with Fighting Islamist Terrorism

· West Point: The Islamic State Threat to Germany: Evidence from the Investigations

· NYT: Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack

· Turkey

· A Brexit post-mortem: 17 takeaways for a fallen David Cameron * Central Europe: Taking up Where the U.K. Left off

· The Campaign – U.S. Election * Posener: Dem Westen droht ein Aufstand der Abgehängten

Massenbach*Turkey’s Geopolitical Imperatives

July 21, 2016 Ankara appears in disarray, but the attempted coup is unlikely to prevent it from taking the necessary steps to emerge as a major power.

Summary

The coup attempt has generated a great deal of debate over Turkey’s future. Much of the discussion on this issue is focused on the personality of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the struggle between his supporters and their opponents. Truly understanding the current status of Turkey and where it is likely headed in the future, however, requires moving away from individuals and groups and examining objective geopolitical forces that shape a country’s behavior. This is why we try to make sense of Turkey by examining the imperatives and the constraints it faces.

Introduction

In our 2040 forecast, we identified Turkey as a major emerging power. We believe it will project power southwards into the Middle East, westwards into Europe and northwards into the the Black Sea region. However, Turkey is currently mired in problems at home and struggling on the international front. This was the case even before the July 15 coup attempt.

Therefore, the question is: what can be expected from Turkey in the coming years and decades? To answer this question, we will examine Turkey’s imperatives in this Deep Dive. We also need to look at the constraints that the Turks will be operating under. By understanding its imperatives and constraints, we are able to forecast the country’s future evolution – irrespective of which personality or faction is at the helm.

We define imperatives as the actions that a state must take to survive and flourish. They stem from the confluence of its geography, demographics and available resources. The most basic imperative is to control and govern a core territory. Once that is realized, a state then will turn to its second imperative pertaining to the relationships it must maintain with neighboring actors and those further afield.

Imperatives often take a long time to achieve and any country will require a significant amount of time to get to its second and third imperatives. Domestic upheaval, wars, economic downturns and even natural disasters sometimes force nations to retreat from pursuing advanced imperatives to focus on the more basic ones. In the case of Turkey, we have identified five imperatives.

1. Unify the Turkish Homeland Under a Single Authority

This is the most basic imperative that any Turkish regime must achieve. All nations have internal divisions that give rise to different sub-national groups. But each country has a core area that must be controlled, as well as one or more peripheral regions that have to be brought under a single political order.

The Marmara region, which includes Istanbul, represents Turkey’s core, while the Anatolian peninsula is the country’s periphery. Since the founding of the modern republic, these two areas have been inhabited by Turks with opposing outlooks. The former, being a wealthy and cosmopolitan region, has been dominated by Western-oriented Turks. In contrast, the interior has been the mainstay of traditional and conservative segments of the population.

For many decades, the Kemalists – followers of the ultra-secular ideology of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – in the civil and military sectors sought to expand their grip beyond the core and into the periphery. However, they have met resistance from religious and social conservatives who refuse to adopt a strict form of secularism. This struggle resulted in multiple coups (in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1998 and the most recent failed attempt on July 15) along with the rise of a number of religiously oriented parties – predecessors of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the government is attempting the reverse, as a new conservative elite is trying to unify the two areas under a milder American-style secularism that allows religion greater space in civil society.

While the Kemalists were largely entrenched in the state machinery (particularly the security sector), they were not always able to control the elected organs of the republic. However, their opponents have been able to penetrate the civil-military establishment in the last seven to eight years. The Kemalists have weakened but the “Muslim democrats” of the AKP and its supporters have also been limited in their growth. The former camp has been divided over whether democratic continuity should take precedence over strict enforcement of secularism. The highly acrimonious rivalry between the AKP and the Hizmet movement of Fethullah Gülen represents the split within the latter.

The end result is a divided social landscape leading to a situation where state institutions are not under a single authority. These and other divisions among Turkish nationalists have prevented the country from tackling the issue of Kurdish separatism. Given the demographics, it is not possible for the Turks to eliminate the threat of Kurdish separatism. Even significantly weakening it will require greater harmony among the Turks.

2. Establish Independence of Action in Pursuit of Turkish National Interests

The failure of the July 15 coup has shown that significant progress has been made towards a post-Kemalist order under the AKP. But the Turks cannot wait to fully achieve the first imperative before moving on to the next one.

This is because of the growing chaos in the region, which has increased the involvement of global powers and placed pressure on the Turks, leaving them no choice but to push back. But decades of being a NATO member and pursuing European Union membership have limited Turkey’s ability to act unilaterally. Under AKP rule, the country has begun to push towards greater independent actions on the foreign policy front. It is doing this by finding points of leverage in its relationships with the U.S. and the EU, especially with regards to the fight against the Islamic State.

Turkey will need to push back against American pressures. Towards this end, it will have to develop greater leverage with the United States, although this is limited by its NATO membership. Turkey has tried to use the failed coup to enhance its ability to shape American perceptions and behavior. The accusation that the United States had backed the coup and the demand that Washington extradite Gülen are part of this effort.

The resistance to the American strategy against the Islamic State is the biggest example of Turkey trying to gain independence of action. Turkey cannot simply follow the U.S. lead in the international efforts to counter IS. Turkey does not want to be heavily involved in the conflict. But it will need to have a major say in how this war is prosecuted.

The Turks are deeply opposed to American reliance on the Syrian Kurds as strategic partners on the ground in Syria. While IS remains a major threat, Kurdish separatism is an even greater threat given that Turkey faces a significant domestic insurgency in its southeast – a region that it has not been able to pacify. The Turks also oppose American pressure to intervene in Syria because they feel that the United States has the luxury of going home while they will have to deal with the consequences of the war against the Islamic State for a very long time.

Similarly, Turkey will continue to avoid getting entangled in the U.S. and European efforts against Russia. Russia is not just a neighbor that has great influence on Turkey’s northern flank; Ankara is dependent on Moscow for half of its natural gas supply. This is why the Turks are less enthusiastic about the Intermarium (an alliance among countries between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea) than some Eastern European nations. This does not mean the Turks don’t have issues with the Russians but Ankara wants to prioritize its national interests, rather than Washington’s needs, in its relations with Moscow.

Iran represents another key conundrum where the Turks cannot simply follow the U.S. lead. The Iranians are the main competitors of the Turks in the Middle East, which is why the Turks will have to deal with them in a complex way. Turkey will work towards reaching an understanding with Iran, especially since the latter has significant influence in Syria and Iraq. This is why the Turks have been pushing for a negotiated settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.

Turkey views U.S. unwillingness to ease the sanctions after Iran has upheld its end of the bargain as detrimental to Turkish interests. The Turks do not want the Iranians to retaliate by further complicating matters in Iraq and Syria. Ankara knows that it can’t deal with Syria unless it has an understanding with Tehran. In order to achieve these objectives, the Turks have to push back against the United States.

3. Defend the Homeland from External Threats

The more the Turks are able to gain the ability to independently act in their national interest, the more they will be able to defend themselves against threats from the outside, which is the next imperative.

Close relations with Europe, the problems of the EU and a weak Russia mean that Turkey faces no immediate threats from the west or the north. The outside forces that present the most pressing threat to Turkish security originate from the south. Given the complex conflict that is radiating out of Syria, Turkey faces a number of challenges from the Middle East. First and foremost, Turkey must prevent the Syrian Kurds from exploiting the conflict to establish a Kurdistan in Syria.

The close relations between the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey mean that the Syrian Kurds are very much a domestic security threat to Turkey. This is why the Turks have been hesitant to go after IS, which indirectly keeps the pressure on the Syrian Kurds. However, Turkey must do something about IS because its radical agenda for the region threatens Turkish national security and brings greater international pressure on Ankara. For this reason, Ankara will be working towards a strategy that neutralizes IS without empowering the Syrian Kurds in the process.

While the Islamic State must be curtailed, Turkey cannot be seen as operating on behalf of the United States. Rather, it will seek to confront IS in such a way that doesn’t undermine its credibility as a major Muslim power. Since Turkey is competing with IS and even Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the region and the wider Sunni Muslim world, it has to be seen as a credible force. Many Arabs will be resistant to Turkish domination because this conjures up memories of Ottoman imperialism.

This is why Turkey has been pushing for the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which grants it influence among Sunni rebel groups and also within the wider Arab/Sunni Muslim world. But the Turks are not oblivious to the risks of a sudden collapse of the Syrian regime, which is why they will be pressing for a negotiated settlement between the regime (without Assad) and the rebels. Turkey risks major destabilization if there is an abrupt collapse of the regime. This is where Turkish interests clash with those of Saudi Arabia, which is more interested in seeing the collapse of Iranian influence in Syria than a stable post-Assad Syria.

That said, Iran also represents a major obstacle for Turkey. In sharp contrast to the Ottoman era when the Turks controlled the Levant and Mesopotamia and blocked the Persians, today the Iranians are able to prevent Turkey from shaping these areas. Iran’s influence in the two Arab states that Turkey borders prevents Turkey from projecting power on its southern frontier. Therefore, Turkey will be working to gain leverage in both countries to roll back Iranian influence.

It will be working to improve the position of the Syrian rebels on the battlefield, which means fighting the Islamic State and its caliphate, the Assad regime and the Syrian Kurds. In Iraq, it will support the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to counter the pro-Iranian Shiite-dominated central government. Ankara will be doing so in a way that keeps the KRG dependent on Ankara to avoid fueling Kurdish separatism. Turkey will also work with Iraq’s Sunnis but faces two challenges.

First, the Islamic State’s grip on Sunni territories in Iraq must be broken to revive the position of mainstream Sunnis who are bitterly divided. Second, Turkey must deal with the Kurdish-Sunni ethnic dispute, which is in many ways more serious than the Shiite-Sunni conflict. The Kurds have been encroaching on Sunni territory for years, especially after the Islamic State took Mosul. The dispute is also linked to the Sunni desire to control energy resources. In order to counter Iran, which largely acts through the Shiite community, the Turks will need to work with these two minority groups.

Preventing Iran from gaining the upper hand in Syria and Iraq is thus the key to the third Turkish imperative. While Iran represents a considerable challenge to Turkey in the short term, Iran is limited in the long term by geography and the fact that Turkey is much stronger politically, economically and militarily.

4. Pacify the Arab World

The first three imperatives are all things that Turkey is dealing with right now. The coup is an obvious example of why Turkey needs to consolidate absolute authority of the government over the country; an active war with the Kurds in the southeast is another. Turkey is balancing between the U.S. and Russia as it seeks to secure some independence of action in terms of its foreign affairs. And issues on its southern border in Syria and Iraq demand immediate attention.

Our long-term forecast for Turkey, however, extends beyond the current reality. We expect that Turkey will be emerging as a regional power by 2040.

Turkey will not do this willingly. These are strategic imperatives, not foreign policy prescriptions. They describe the challenges we expect Turkey to face.

We are currently watching the Middle East, Europe and the former Soviet Union experience various forms of fragmentation and conflict and we expect both of those processes to continue. These crises will intensify and create power vacuums – and Turkey will have no choice but to assert itself and fill some of the gaps. Turkey will increasingly be drawn outside of itself.

We expect the first place this will manifest is in stabilizing the chaos in the Arab world. Whether it is the Islamic State or some other as yet unknowable entity, the potential threats to stability emerging out of the Arab world will force Turkey to act, however reluctantly.

5. Expand into Weakening Areas to the North, West and East

The Arab world will be the most pressing issue for Turkey and the one we expect Turkey will have to address by 2040. It is fragmented and there is already a power vacuum throughout the heart of the Middle East that Turkey is competing to fill along with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In time, fragmentation in Europe and Russia will also present new challenges to Turkey. To varying degrees, Turkish influence and power will begin to be projected into many of the areas once dominated by the Ottoman Empire. These areas will include, to varying degrees, southeastern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea region and the Caucasus. That is far into the future and beyond the scope of our forecast to 2040, so we will not address it in any great depth in this report. But that imperative still exists and is important to keep in mind when taking a long-term view of Turkey’s future.

Conclusion

Currently, Turkey represents a critical component in the U.S. strategy to deal with the Islamic State threat, the chaos in Syria and the wider region. The country is also an essential ingredient of American plans to create the Intermarium as a way to counter Russia along the Kremlin’s western frontier. Ankara, however, has started to resist Washington, as both projects entail risks to Turkish national security and have resulted in serious differences with the Americans.

The situation on Turkey’s southern flank in particular has rapidly deteriorated with growing threats from jihadism and Kurdish separatism. In addition, Turkish hopes of toppling the Syrian regime were dashed when Assad’s forces gained the upper hand against the rebels. The Russian military intervention in Syria – though limited in scope – played a key role in enabling Damascus to go on the offensive. This brought Turkey into conflict with Russia, which intensified when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border last November.

Consequently, the Turks found themselves simultaneously at odds with the Americans and the Russians. Ankara could not afford to be in conflict with both, which is why in the past couple of months Ankara has sought to repair relations with Washington and Moscow. On May 5, Erdoğan replaced former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who was perceived by Washington as an obstacle to closer U.S.-Turkish cooperation on the Islamic State. In June, Turkey and Israel agreed in principle to a diplomatic reconciliation, a further nod to Washington’s wishes. Then on June 27, Erdoğan apologized in writing to his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, for the downing of the Russian jet.

The Turks reached an understanding with the Americans regarding Turkish concerns that the fight against the Islamic State would empower the Kurds in Syria. Erdoğan and his top aides announced in early June that they had received assurances from the Barack Obama administration that anti-IS efforts would not empower the Syrian Kurds. Stepping up its involvement in Syria meant that Turkey had to deal with Russia, which explains why it wanted to mend fences with Moscow.

Turkey finally appeared to be on the path to playing a major role in Syria – in keeping with U.S. strategy for the region. Then came the July 15 coup attempt.

The failed coup underscores that Turkey suffers from a much deeper problem. The issue is not between the civilians and the military; rather, the Turkish military internally is fragmented due to differing views on what its relationship should be with the government. On one side is the old guard Kemalist commanders and officers who have not accepted that the armed forces are subordinate to the elected government. On the other is a new breed of men in uniform who may not agree with the civilians but feel that military intervention in government affairs is a thing of the past.

Despite the fact that the AKP has seen uninterrupted democratic rule since 2002, Turkey has not been able to get over the civil-military divide that has long plagued the country. On the contrary, the efforts to establish civilian supremacy over the military has made matters worse as it has created fissures within the armed forces. The government is trying to restore internal cohesion by purging the military and civilian sectors (including the judiciary) of people who may have been involved in the coup. This process will obviously take time. But these imperatives provide a long-term roadmap of the challenges Turkey faces and would be no different if the coup attempt had never occurred.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/turkeys-geopolitical-imperatives/

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From our Russian news desk:see attachments.

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