Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 17/05/13


Udo von Massenbach

Guten Morgen.

Seit Mai 2012:
Auch an die
Mitglieder des Verteidigungsausschusses
des Deutschen Bundestages.

Massenbach Sharing Power? Prospects for a U.S. Concert-Balance Strategy

Brief Synopsis

View the Executive Summary

The subject of U.S. grand strategy has been getting increasing attention from the policy and academic communities.

However, too often the debate suffers from being too reductionist, limiting America’s choices to worldwide hegemony or narrow isolation. There is a wide spectrum of choices before Washington that lie “somewhere in the middle.” Frequently, not enough thought is given to how such alternative strategies should be designed and implemented. The future cannot be known, and earlier predictions of American decline have proven to be premature.

However, there is a shift in wealth and power to the extent that America may not be able to hold on to its position as an unrivalled unipolar superpower. Therefore, it is worth thinking about how the United States could shape and adjust to the changing landscape around it. What is more, there are a number of interlocking factors that mean such a shift would make sense: transnational problems needing collaborative efforts, the military advantages of defenders, the reluctance of states to engage in unbridled competition, and “hegemony fatigue” among the American people.

Alternative strategies that are smaller than global hegemony, but bigger than narrow isolationism, would be defined by the logic of “concerts” and “balancing,” in other words, some mixture of collaboration and competition. Can the United States adjust to a Concert-Balance grand strategy that made space for other rising powers without sacrificing too much of its forward military presence, without unleashing too much regional instability, and without losing the domestic political will? It is not certain that a cumulative shift to a new grand strategy would necessarily succeed, since other powers might turn down the chance to cooperate. But with soaring budget deficits and national debt, increasing burdens on social security, and possible agonizing choices in the future between guns and butter, it is surely worth a try.

Download Format: PDF


US Arms Sales All About Iran

By: Jean-Loup Samaan for Al-Monitor Posted on May 10.

The latest US arms sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — together reaching approximately $10 billion — have been depicted by some media outlets as a turning point in Washington’s export policy toward the Middle East. However, a careful look at their packages reveals that they represent not so much a shift in US policy in the region as the culmination of past decisions.

In the case of Israel, the sales are only one piece of the puzzle in the reinforcement of bilateral defense cooperation. During his April trip to Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel also confirmed a rise from $2.4 billion to $3.1 billion in foreign military financing to Israel. Historically, this level of US military funding is unmatched. Likewise, he promised that for the next fiscal year, the US would allocate $220 million to Israeli missile-defense systems (complementing the extant $460 million). In other words, the latest purchase only confirms the steady strengthening of Israel-American military relations.

In the Gulf, too, these sales can be considered the prolongation of the US‘ previous arms-export choices with the GCC kingdoms. In particular, the acquisition of F-16 fighter jets by the UAE (equaling $5 billion) follows the previous sale in 2011 of 84 F-15 jets by Saudi Arabia (a record $29.4 billion deal). At the military level, these sales give Saudi Arabia and the UAE a qualitative edge in air power relative to Iran, but in some ways, it only reinforces their pre-existing air superiority. This gap had been already underlined in 2009 by David Petraeus, then chief of US Central Command, when he declared that the UAE air force could take on its Iranian counterpart by itself, without the need for allies.

In fact, the real novelty with these sales was neither their scale nor their content, but the political message the Pentagon sent through them. When looking at the newspapers covering Hagel’s trip to Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, it seemed almost as if the sales had been negotiated through a common framework, a kind of comprehensive arms-export policy by Washington toward the region. This was no misunderstanding, as Pentagon officials repeatedly briefed the press to convey this narrative, emphasizing that „this trip is underscoring the US security relationship with Israel and also our other Gulf partners.“ Even the much-discussed price, $10 billion, mentioned by the Pentagon, aggregates contracts in an arbitrary way. Wording and figures matter here; they put aside the very fact that these contracts were discussed through separate bilateral tracks with Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

In fact, this public-relations strategy is more than communication. It reveals the Pentagon’s ambition to regionalize its export policy. The Defense Department used the deals to give texture to a Middle East strategy which has been emerging since the withdrawal of US armed forces from Iraq in December 2011. This regional strategy is built upon two very explicit objectives: to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and to reassure regional allies on US resolve in the midst of the pivot to Asia. The bold move here is to shape an alliance of convenience with Gulf countries and Israel. This rationale is driven by the fact that all these US partners share a common concern, namely Iran, either because of its nuclear program or of its backing of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Against this backdrop, the importance of the latest arms sales has less to do with operational requirements than with declaratory policy.

This strategy also aims to maintain American leverage in the region. It allows Washington to play the role of „offshore balancer“ in the area. This means opting for indirect policies rather than for direct intervention in regional competitions in order, ultimately, to master the local power struggles. In some ways it relates to the concept of „leading from behin“ that illustrated the US decision not to lead the intervention against Gadhafi’s Libya but to provide its NATO allies with critical military support to do so.

However, the strategy may face important difficulties. In the case of Iran, the effectiveness of Washington’s message is doubtful. Tehran publicly condemned what it depicted as an arms race started by Washington and is steadily pursuing the process of uranium enrichment. Ex-Israeli military intelligence head Amos Yadlin stated last April that „the Iranians have crossed the red line set by Netanyahu,“ and they did so despite all the demonstrations of force conducted by the US in its vicinity.

In the meantime, the arms sales may temporarily address the angst of US partners in the region, but not definitely. Militarily speaking, each of the three countries initially asked for more than they received. Israel requested the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a weapon system designed to bomb underground sites and which could decisively enhance Israel’s ability to target the Iranian nuclear-enrichment center at Fordo, if Jerusalem were to decide to conduct pre-emptive strikes. The White House may have feared that such deal would have been a step too far in the game of intimidation with Iran.

Similarly, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were allegedly asking for AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles. The Obama administration also refrained from transferring these arms, although it opened the door to the sale of the less sophisticated AGM-88 missiles. In fact, this decision may be less driven by the question of Iran than of Israel: US measures of reassurance to GCC countries still depend on the guarantee that they do not challenge Israel’s qualitative military edge, a historical pillar of US export policies to the Middle East. This is a major caveat, as the new regional strategy confronts national-security traditions.

But eventually, the biggest challenge to this US strategy will be the question of leadership, or to use John Mearsheimer’s academic terms, „the credibility of the commitment.“ The concepts of „leading from behind“ or „offshore balancer“ driving the thinking inside the Obama administration are understood, in Israel and the Gulf, as a convenient way to hide irresolution. The fungibility of arms sales as an instrument of power is not perfect. Arms sales are necessary, but no sufficient means to support this regional strategy. In light of the prolonged Syrian crisis and the unsolved Iranian nuclear issue, the ultimate question is how far indirect US actions (arms sales, diplomatic engagements) can fill the gap, with its military power left in the wings.

Jean-Loup Samaan is a researcher in the Middle East department of the NATO Defense College. His current research projects include the Israel-Hezbollah standoff since the 2006 war, the Syrian civil war and its impact on the region and the evolution of the regional security system in the Gulf.


Policy = res publica

Bärbel Freudenberg-PilsterFreudenberg-Pilster Anne Patterson for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

As the Back Channel reported Friday, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson will be the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, a senior US official confirmed to the Back Channel Saturday. Patterson has been asked and has agreed to take the job if confirmed, the US official, who spoke not for attribution, said.Patterson did not respond to a request for comment from the Back Channel. It’s unclear who will succeed Patterson in Cairo, but US diplomatic sources suggested that US Ambassador to Jordan Stuart Jones was likely to be considered.US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft and US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone are expected to stay in their posts for another year.

More on the thinking behind Patterson’s anticipated nomination here.

Diplomatic sources say they believe that US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson is again the Obama administration’s leading choice to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs nominee, but say she wasn’t anxious to come back to Washington.

In the unusually long second term transition shuffle, the rumor mill on top contenders to head the NEA bureau has cycled through a list that had Patterson at the top of the list a couple months ago, and also includes US Ambassador to Jordan Stuart Jones, Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, among others. Most recently, some in the bureau wagered Beecroft would get tapped. But in the past few days, several former senior US officials and diplomats say they believe Patterson has returned to the top of the list yet again, for a few reasons, despite her rumored reluctance to come back from the field.

Among them, Beecroft is very hard to replace in Iraq at the moment. Ford would be a contender, but it’s hard to imagine the Obama White House would want to move him from Syria at such a sensitive moment in US Syria policy. For Iraq, the administration will be looking for a nominee who has a relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a former diplomat said, adding that list is pretty short.

Patterson did not respond to a query from the Back Channel.

If Patterson is persuaded to come back to Washington and is confirmed, she would be the first female head of the NEA bureau, a former State Department official said. (Beth Jones has served in the acting capacity for the past year, since Jeff Feltman resigned from the State Department to become the UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs.) Among possibilities of who could succeed her in Cairo, Jordan envoy Jones will get a good look, the former State Department official suggested. (One possibility would be to name a political appointee to Amman who can work to support the US relationship to the critical ally on Syria and the Middle East peace process, amid a staggering refugee crisis and its political and economic reform efforts.)

The anticipation of the NEA Assistant Secretary nominee comes amid a sense of a bit of drift and a senior management/leadership vacuum at State, with several top positions going unfilled.

Secretary of State John Kerry hit the ground running, knows the policy and is doing the diplomacy amid near constant travel (he was in Rome and Moscow this week and heads to Sweden next week before heading to Geneva for a planned Syria peace conference expected to be held later this month, among just the latest trips).

But there is no Assistant Secretary for Near East, Asia, or Europe in place at the moment, the second Deputy job previously held by Tom Nides is unfilled, and officials believe that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns would be a top contender to be US Ambassador to the UN if Susan Rice moves over to be National Security Advisor at some point. That leaves even more top slots to fill, for a White House that has been unusually slow to pick, vet and name nominees. And which is likely to be even more gun shy about the process after the grilling it got this week on Benghazi.


Politics: from Vision to Action

Barandat On Defense, France Bites the Bullet, But Avoids Strategic Insolvency

After eight months, many tough negotiations, and even tougher decisions, French President François Hollande has delivered on his promise of a White Book on Defense and Security. The previous edition of the document dated from 2008 and no longer faithfully represented the nature of the security challenges facing France, nor the budgetary crisis that was soon to afflict its military. The new version, an effort to relieve some of the government’s budgetary pressures, does avert some worst-case scenarios, but still promises the half the number of deployable French troops. More significantly, the White Book also suggests that France is turning to other capitals in Europe — and not necessarily to NATO or Washington — to avoid strategic retrenchment, while at the same time preserving an autonomous and sovereign defense policy.

The good news is that some of the most catastrophic scenarios outlined before the publication of the document have been avoided. These included some 50,000 job cuts in the army and the same number in the national defense industry, as well as the sale of aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Instead, the Ministry of Defense will have to reduce its armed forces by 24,000, on top of an already-planned layoff of 10,000 civilians. Of particular concern, French deployable forces will go down in strength from 30,000 to 15,000.

Despite these cuts, France will remain in the top tier of European military powers. But the cuts come just when more will be expected from France and its European partners amid U.S. strategic retrenchment, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. Given France’s role in the intervention in Mali and in the fragile Central African Republic, it is no surprise that the Middle East and Africa are given special treatment in the White Book. But questions remain as to whether France’s diminished capabilities will allow such wide-scale out-of-area operations in the future without the assistance of its European partners.

A partial answer can be found in the strong European dimension of the White Book. British and German officials were officially part of the committee tasked with the document’s drafting, and Poland’s government was also consulted. Paris is clearly intent on pursuing a pragmatic European approach to defense, one that involves not only London (the leading partner in the Libyan and Malian operations and a long-standing ally), but also Warsaw and hopefully Berlin playing stronger roles in the context of a multilateral “alliance of the able.”

This approach, encompassed in the Weimar Plus framework (France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Spain), is designed to bring a maximum number of partners, and therefore capabilities, to the table, in order to kick-start discussions about the new dynamics of defense cooperation. This vision, which Paris hopes will be shared throughout Europe, also includes calls for a common European strategic vision and threat assessment, in the form of a revision to the 2003 European White Book on Security.

Paris is also adamant about pushing Europe’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to the top of the agenda through decisions made by the European Council, while strengthening the more successful examples of European defense integration, such as the European Air Transport Command. Europeanization, ideally, would allow France and the continent’s other militaries to assume some security responsibilities from the United States, but at a lower cost. The best example of this would be France making an effort to fill capability gaps that the United States filled in Mali and Libya — including air-to-air refueling, electronic surveillance and warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles, and airlifting — and pooling them with its European partners. France’s initiative could fundamentally change the prospects of European security cooperation in the months leading up to December’s European Council meeting, where these issues will be discussed. However, the White Book also predicts this will be a slow and challenging process, as the EU still does not see itself as a regional — let alone global — security actor.

Despite the pervasive theme of Europeanization in the White Book, the document does not endorse a geographic division of labor between Europe and the United States as the latter pivots to Asia. To the contrary, the White Book also underscores the need for France and its European partners to be engaged in Asia, which will be at the center of many future security challenges. The diversity and fluidity of security threats — from failed states, to cyber security, to the strategic implications of emerging powers — mean that France will have to act as a strategic actor beyond its periphery. But the harsh reality is that that challenge that will need to be met with significantly fewer capabilities and resources.

Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer is the Paris office director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Martin Michelot is a research and program coordinator in the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.


Regierungserklärung zur Neuausrichtung der Bundeswehr: Verteidigungsminister Dr. Thomas de Maizière (CDU) zu Stand und Perspektive der Neuausrichtung der Bundeswehr.

Es diskutieren die Abgeordneten über die Antwort der Bundesregierung (17/13254) auf eine Große Anfrage der SPD-Fraktion (17/9620).

Darin verweist die Regierung unter anderem darauf, dass die Einbindung der Bundeswehr in multinationale Bündnisstrukturen „fester Bestandteil der Neuausrichtung ist“. So sei etwa die Aufgabe, im Rahmen der eingegangenen Verpflichtungen in der Nato Ressourcen für einen Beitrag zur Nato-Raketenabwehr bereitzustellen, in den Leitlinien zur Neuausrichtung der Bundeswehr vorgegeben, schreibt die Bundesregierung.


Middle East

Saudis, Qatar fire UN torpedo at Syrian peace

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

UNITED NATIONS – It is a popular term at the United Nations. „Multilevel peace process“ is used often to refer to complementary efforts in conflict-prevention, and the UN’s history is rich with countless such examples. Yet, somehow, the UN has misdirected its energy in the case of Syria, by entertaining a General Assembly resolution that, if adopted, will likely act as a disservice – call it negative input – with respect to the US-Russian peace conference planned for the end of May.

The proposed conference, which promises to bring around the same table officials of the Syrian government and representatives of the political-military opposition, has been hailed by UN’s
Special Envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, as the first „good news on Syria for a very long time“. Yet, Brahimi’s attitude toward the draft UN resolution on Syria, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has reportedly been less enthusiastic, and he has expressed strong reservations about it, much like the Russian representatives at the UN who have called it „counterproductive“.

Why? The answer is simple. This is a basically Janus-faced resolution. It contradicts itself, blames the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons (contrary to the finding of a UN investigative committee), and on the whole follows the subtle aim of paving the ground for the allocation of Syria’s seat at the UN to the Western-supported opposition.

To elaborate, the proposed resolution, tabled for vote on May 15, calls for an „inclusive“ political transition in Syria „through the commencement of a serious political dialogue between … the Syrian authorities and the Syrian opposition“. This is precisely what Moscow and Washington are aiming for with the peace conference, a brainchild of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Syrian government has nodded positively, according to the Russians, but the Syrian opposition is still debating whether to participate or boycott it.

But the resolution goes on to note in the next paragraph the „welcome establishment of the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces on 11 November 2012 in Doha, Qatar, as effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition“. The concept of „political transition“ can of course be a tricky one, particularly since the resolution keeps referring to Arab League resolutions, which invariably call for the removal of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad. In other words, it conveys the idea of a „dialogue“ that is closer to surrender than compromise or „co-habitation“.

As expected, Syria, Iran, and about a dozen other countries that also voted against a similar resolution last year have expressed strong reservations about this draft resolution, which is likely to be passed given the fury of diplomatic effort, by Qatar first and foremost. According to a number of Middle East diplomats, who spoke to the author on the condition of anonymity, it would be preferred if action on the resolution were to be postponed until after the peace conference at the end of the month.

So why are the Qataris and their Saudi partners in such a rush to get the resolution adopted, when it is patently obvious that its strong language against the Syrian government and accusation against Damascus as the only culprit for chemical weapons use in Syria are bound to lessen rather than strengthen Damascus’s interest in a dialogue clearly nuanced for the regime’s downfall?

This question owes its importance partly to the fact that the Syrian rebels have lost a good deal of their momentum and the regime has made substantial gains over them recently.

Indeed, if Qatar and Saudi Arabia are genuinely concerned about a ceasefire and the commencement of serious political dialogue in Syria, they would withdraw the resolution or, at a minimum, try to reschedule it until after the results of the upcoming peace conference are clear.

Their real fear, perhaps, is that the White House may be changing its tune on Syria, stepping back from the earlier calls for Bashar’s immediate removal and now considering this as the likely end-result of intense negotiations – hardly a favorite option of the Qatar-Saudi duet, who want to act as kingmakers in troubled Syria.

Needless to say, the actual balance of forces on the ground is the key determining factor, not the roll call at the UN. Nevertheless, in the current diplomatic whirlwind on Syria, the shifting winds in favor of a genuine political dialogue between the government and the opposition are gaining power, all the more reason for the UN member states to re-think the wisdom of a new resolution that emphasizes „political transition“ to a post-Assad regime.

The fact is that Bashar al-Assad has weathered two years of military storms and can now boast of having inflicted serious blows to the opposition; that is, he is here to stay for the foreseeable future and, hence, the peace efforts should focus on ceasefire, the transition to normalcy and preparations for national elections under international supervision. Any talk of a „transition“ without Assad is ultimately futile, given the centralized authority in Damascus and the likelihood of the regime’s evaporation altogether under the guise of a „transition“.

With respect to the draft UN resolution’s lop-sided condemnation of the Syrian government over chemical weapons and its call on Damascus to „refrain from using, or transferring to non-State actors, any chemical and biological weapons“, it is noteworthy that the UN officials investigating the matter have pointed the blame toward the rebels rather than the government. As a result, if this resolution is adopted next week, it will be highly at odds with UN’s own finding on the chemical weapons culprits in Syria.

A wiser approach by the UN General Assembly would therefore be one of „wait and see“, incorporating the final finding of the UN investigators, instead of acting as a blind jury that looks for evidence in only one direction.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For further biographical details, click here.



Alabama primed for more industrial recruitment

by Greg Canfield, SecretaryAlabama Department of Commerce

Alabama’s aggressive marketing efforts, combined with its Accelerate Alabama economic development plan, put the state in the driver’s seat for recruiting companies and helping them expand within its borders.

In fact, a Wells-Fargo senior economist recently said the state is poised for even stronger gains in 2013. Mark Vitner, along with Wells-Fargo economic analyst Sara Silverman, outlined the projected gains in a recent economic report.

„Game changing industrial development triumphs, such as the Airbus assembly facility being developed in Mobile and the continued emergence of Alabama’s automotive sector, are combining with catalysts such as Alabama’s Industrial Training (AIDT) program and the key infrastructure improvements, such as those made at the Port of Mobile, to reposition Alabama’s economy to better compete in the global marketplace,“ the report said.

Take a look at Alabama’s 2012 New and Expanding Industry Report. It shows an incredible gain in investment in the state with a 148 percent increase as compared to 2010. In 2012, companies announced $5,405,382,649 in investment and 20,847 new jobs coming to Alabama. That was up from $4,083,056,603 and 17,248 jobs in 2011.

Our growing corporate base includes companies big and small, from those starting up to internationally-known firms. Last week, Alabama had four major industry announcements. Mercedes announced that it will build a new logistics hub that will employ 600 people. More than 200 construction workers also will be hired for this project and Alabama suppliers and contractors will be predominately used, according to B.L. Harbert International, which has been chosen to build the facility.

Two aerospace firms announced plans, GE Aviation in Auburn and Vector Aerospace in Andalusia. Honda’s Alabama plant recorded a milestone with the beginning of mass production of the 2014 Acura MDX.

A week earlier, Fortune Magazine named Intuitive Research and Technology Corp. in Huntsville as one of the country’s top 25 small companies in which to work.

These announcements don’t happen by themselves. The expansion and recognition of companies show that Alabama’s corporate community has confidence in the team members it finds in Alabama as well as the positive climate for business.

The best proof of success may be the projects being built here, projects such as Carpenter Technology Corporation, which is constructing a state-of-the-art, $500 million manufacturing facility in Limestone County.

Approximately 3000 construction workers will be engaged on site over the course of the project. Of this number, the total on site at one time will peak at around 600, due to the phased nature of a construction project. The value of construction work alone being put in place per month will peak at around $25 million in the fall (not including the cost of capital process equipment which Carpenter is handling directly). The current project will be complete early next year. Turner Construction is the contractor for the project.

Another big project requiring large numbers of construction workers is Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group. Construction is rapidly moving forward on the project, which is expected to bring 300 jobs to Wilcox County. Employment could eventually grow to as many as 500 workers. Hoar Construction of Birmingham is the program manager for the project.

The reach of the Airbus project in Mobile is mind-boggling. Airbus will create about 2,500 construction jobs to build a new $600 million airliner assembly plant in Mobile and 400 to 500 full-time jobs once production starts in 2016. Hoar will also be the program manager for the project.

We will continue to recruit fine companies by following through with our economic development plan. We are striving to attract key companies in eleven targeted industry sectors and are clearly making progress as we meet with companies across the globe. Our project managers travel Alabama’s highways to work with existing companies. Our small business manager does the same with small businesses. Our international trade director takes Alabama companies all over the world to help them find new markets for their products.

Time and time again, Alabama has proven itself to be highly competitive and successful in economic development and 2013 will be no exception. To have even more products „Made in Alabama“ is the goal of everyone on our economic development team.

„Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.“

–Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat

UdovonMassenbach Mail

Große Anfrage SPD BW-17-9620.pdf

Große Anfrage SPD Arnold u.a.-Bundeswehr Drucksache 17-13254-Ant wort Bundesregierung.pdf