Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 19/07/13


Udo von Massenbach * Lawmakers of both parties voice doubts about NSA surveillance programs

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the panel, argued that collecting telephone metadata under Section 215 of the Patriot Act “can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation” before any use is made of it. “You’ve already violated the law as far as I am concerned,” he told the witnesses. (The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that guards against unreasonable searches and seizures…Wiki)

„A constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates. It therefore follows, as a natural and also a logical result, that the governmental exercise of any power not authorized by the constitution is an assumed power, and therefore illegal.“

–Thomas Paine, Constitutions, Governments, and Charters, 1805

Guten Morgen.

Peter Scholl-Latour zur Lage in Syrien und zum „Arabischen Frühling

Massenbach * Russia Steers Conservative, Steady Course in Middle East
By: Fyodor Lukyanov for Al-Monitor Posted on July 10.

When the seemingly never-ending regime of Hosni Mubarak collapsed in early 2011, the lethargy of the Russian reaction surprised the world. Egypt’s longtime president had never been a particular friend of Moscow’s, instead remaining fully loyal to Washington. So, although there was no reason for tears at the Kremlin or Smolenskaya Square, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the current Russian establishment’s general aversion to revolutions did not allow welcoming this triumph of popular will. At the time, both Western and Arab colleagues shrugged quizzically, wondering how the Russians could be so inflexible and reluctant to think about the future. The American interpretation expressed this sentiment more vividly: Russia, with its cautious attitude toward the democratic tide in the Middle East, was on the “wrong side of history.”

History is a tricky thing, however, constantly changing its “right side.” The democratically elected Islamist president was removed from power by the very same generals who, two and a half years before, had pushed aside a secular dictator. Although what took place is a classic military coup, everyone is trying to avoid those words, lest the “wrong side” be the result. And who knows what will come next. Try to guess which forces will be expressing the “people’s will” six months from now.

Russian policy in a shifting Middle East is the subject of constant discussion. Does Moscow have articulated interests? What role is it playing there today? Russian policy can actually be divided into two parts: toward countries in which outside intervention may occur, and toward nations whose problems are being resolved within their own borders. (The latter is relative, of course, since any border can be penetrated, but the degree of intervention remains different.) The first category includes Libya and Syria, and the second includes Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

In the first instance, Russia is primarily concerned with issues related to a bedrock concept of international relations, that is, sovereignty. Moscow’s retreat during the Libyan campaign from its traditional position of nonintervention, which was a surprise to everyone, was not the beginning of a new trend. To the contrary, it catalyzed the extremely firm and unyielding position to come. Regardles of the considerations that guided President Dmitry Medvedev in the decision not to block military intervention, the result only convinced everyone that such a step had been a mistake. Policy on the Syrian issue, which has not budged in more than two years, has demonstrated once and for all that no longer will it work for outside forces to decide who is “right” in a civil war and then help the “right side” win.

This approach does not have a direct relationship to the Middle East per se. For Russia, it is more important to affirm everywhere that such conflicts are resolved without blatant intervention. It is not so important how this affects the outlook for having a presence in the region, since unlike the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation is not vying all over the world to “get” the United States or nab pieces of its sphere of influence. It is, by the way, a widespread misconception that Russia is opposing the United States in Syria consciously and deliberately, purely on principle. There is a principle at work, but it is associated less with an anti-American obsession and more with a deep conviction that the West’s approach is fundamentally wrong.

There is, thus, no reason to expect the Russian position to yield to pragmatic arguments, such as President Bashar al-Assad will be toppled regardless and Russia will have nothing. In this context, Russia would rather lose on the issue at hand than retreat from this behavior. As paradoxical as it might seem, this stubbornness has earned admiration in the United States and Europe. It it is being said increasingly that it is better to have a strategy like this — one that is completely wrong, in the eyes of Europeans and Americans, but rational — than to not have one at all, as with Washington and the major capitals of the Old World.

The “strength” of the Russian position in the Middle East — more precisely, its advantage over the United States — is that it can leave the region at any time. It has no such intent, and if it can keep its presence and influence there, all the better. If, however, Russia could not maintain its position there, it would not be a foreign policy disaster for a country that is focusing more and more on its Eurasian neighbors. The United States does not have this luxury, with its commitments involving energy, Israeli interests and the Iranian issue, which are critical for the image of the United States as world leader. Thus, Washington must constantly go in search of the slippery “right side of history.”

Russia sees events in the Middle East, including such “peaceful” events as those in Egypt, through the lens of its own experience during the last 25 years. Today’s Russian society does not believe in revolutions after its multitude of shocks, dashed hopes, and disappointments. The value of stability is appreciated, for the time being, both by those at the top and at the bottom. An ordinary Russian observer looks at the euphoria of excited crowds with extreme skepticism, knowing how such usually ends. Those in charge watch with clear disdain, consciously or subconsciously imagining disaster befalling their own holdings. Therefore, declarations of “sides of history” are, at best, cause for irony in Russia. No grounds for optimism are to be found in the outcome of the tumult in the countries of the so-called Arab Spring — not in a single one.

This does not mean that Russia is completely unconcerned by events. The landscape of the Middle East is changing quickly and irreversibly, although the final destination remains unclear. The first revolution in Egypt — the most populous Arab country and a traditional harbinger — was a breakthrough for political Islam and portended its further expansion, even possibly outside of the region, closer to Russia’s borders. The second revolution seems to be bucking the trend and putting things as they were.

The wave of change has headed one way and now the other, affecting numerous countries in the process. The change of president in Iran is an example of how a ruling regime has skillfully allowed pressure to “simmer down,” easing the tension that had built up within society. The recent demonstrations in Turkey were a nasty surprise for arrogant governments, illustrating the limits of their influence. Iraq suffers from increasing violence and the threat of disintegration. Syria is stuck in a bloody stalemate in which neither side can win or retreat. Tunisian Islamists, in a case of successful maneuvering relative to others, grasped the danger of ignoring minorities politically, unlike their Egyptian colleagues. Libya is bleak and a lost cause.

A year ago, it was more or less common wisdom to think that Russia had lost out because of the Arab Spring. Its last allies, Soviet-era holdovers, were on the way out, and their successors viewed Moscow with hostility. It appeared that Russia had nothing to offer those on the fence, but that all looks a bit different today. The revolutionary “success stories” are disappointing. Assad, whose defeat was forecast as far back as 2011, remains in power. Shiite Iran, which Moscow is reproached for supporting, is playing its game to great success, withstanding the pressure of the West and the Sunni world in spite of internal difficulties and harsh economic sanctions. Relations between Moscow and Ankara, despite sharp disagreements over Syria, remain good. Working contact has been preserved with Israel, and although accounts differ, mutual understanding at a high level remains as well. In addition, moderate Arab regimes, which have long outgrown their initial enthusiasm over the Syrian saga and fear destabilization will spill over, consider the Russian position at the least logical, even if not correct.

Today’s Russia hews to an extremely conservative approach in international affairs, assuming that any change in the status quo is for the worse. If the status quo changes nonetheless, then the main thing is not to rush to judgment or action. Better to wait it out. In a time of tumult, such a view may prove more advantageous than constantly futzing about to guess which side is the “right side of history.”

Fyodor Lukyanov is a well-known analyst of Russian foreign policy, the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and a member of the Russian Council for International Affairs.

Policy = res publica

Bärbel Freudenberg-PilsterFreudenberg-Pilster* Über „Whistleblowing“

Spätestens seit Julian Assange und Edward Snowden ist der Begriff in aller Munde. Aber was ist eigentlich ein Whistleblower?

Ein Whistleblower ist eine Person, die für die Allgemeinheit wichtige Informationen aus einem geheimen oder geschützten Zusammenhang an die Öffentlichkeit bringt. Dazu gehören typischerweise Missstände oder Verbrechen wie Korruption, Insiderhandel, Menschenrechtsverletzungen, Datenschutzmissbrauch oder allgemeine Gefahren, von denen der Whistleblower an seinem Arbeitsplatz oder in anderen Zusammenhängen erfährt. Im Allgemeinen betrifft dies vor allem Vorgänge in der Politik, in Behörden und in Wirtschaftsunternehmen (Wikipedia).

Eine bedeutende Rolle spielt Whistleblowing deshalb in unserem Arbeitsrecht. Ist die Kündigung eines Arbeitnehmers gerechtfertigt, wenn er eine Anzeige gegen seinen Arbeitgeber erstattet, weil es z.B. in dem Unternehmen zu Regelverstößen kommt? Gesetzliche Regelungen gibt es in Deutschland hierzu nicht. Zwar wurde im Jahr 2008 im Zusammenhang mit den durch Whistleblowing aufgedeckten Gammelfleischskandalen von der damaligen Bundesregierung ein erster Gesetzentwurf vorgelegt. Ein entsprechendes Gesetz ist jedoch nie in Kraft getreten.

2011 wurde Whistleblowing erneut in die Diskussion gerückt, und zwar durch ein Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofes für Menschenrechte. Frau Brigitte Heinisch, eine Berliner Altenpflegerin, hatte die Bundesrepublik Deutschland verklagt. Sie hatte gegen ihre Arbeitgeberin, die Firma Vivantes, eine Strafanzeige erstattet, weil sie erhebliche Personal- und Qualitätsmängel bei der Betreuung pflegebedürftiger Menschen entdeckt hatte. Nachdem weder Hinweise an ihre Arbeitgeberin zu einer Änderung der Verhältnisse geführt und auch der Medizinische Dienst der Krankenkassen, der mehrfach Pflegemängel festgestellt hatte, Maßnahmen ergriff, um die Mängel abzustellen, fühlte sich Frau Heinisch zu ihrer Strafanzeige genötigt, um die Pflegebedürftigen vor Schäden zu bewahren. Die Fa. Vivantes kündigte danach das Arbeitsverhältnis mit Frau Heinisch fristlos.

Das Berliner Arbeitsgericht und in der Folge auch das Berliner Landesarbeitsgericht stellten sich auf die Seite der Arbeitgeberin und bestätigten die Rechtmäßigkeit der Kündigung. Das Landesarbeitsgericht ließ auch die Revision zum Bundesarbeitsgericht nicht zu. Die hiergegen eingelegte Nichtzulassungsbeschwerde von Frau Heinisch und ihre Beschwerde beim Bundesverfassungsgericht hatten ebenfalls keinen Erfolg. Der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte war jedoch anderer Ansicht. Er stellte einen Verstoß der Bundesrepublik Deutschland gegen Artikel 10 EMRK fest, in dem die Meinungsfreiheit verankert ist. Es wurde seitens des Gerichts bemängelt, dass die deutschen Gerichte keine faire Abwägung zwischen dem Ruf und den Rechten des Arbeitgebers und dem Recht der Beschäftigten auf Meinungsfreiheit angestellt hätten.

Es ist nun an der Zeit, dass die rechtswissenschaftliche und rechtspolitische Diskussion rasch und intensiv fortgesetzt und zu einem Ende gebracht wird. Es kann und darf nicht sein, dass Beschäftigte aus Angst vor Kündigungen ihrer Arbeitsverhältnisse davon abgehalten werden, Anzeigen gegen ihre Arbeitgeber zu erstatten, wenn es z.B. darum geht, Schaden von der Gemeinschaft oder schutzbedürftigen Teilen von ihr abzuwenden, wenn vorherige interne Gespräche mit dem Arbeitgeber ohne Erfolg geblieben sind.

Aber auch der Fall, in dem ein Arbeitgeber sich mit seinen Vorwürfen, etwa über die Medien, an die allgemeine Öffentlichkeit wendet, muss geregelt werden. Hier wird es natürlich einen strengeren Maßstab geben müssen, als in dem Fall einer (Straf-)anzeige gegen den Arbeitgeber.

Zwar haben die Gerichte inzwischen ihre Rechtsprechung für die Behandlung von Whistleblowing weiterentwickelt. Dennoch besteht derzeit eine erhebliche Rechtsunsicherheit, die nur durch den Gesetzgeber behoben werden kann.

RAin Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster

Berlin 11. Juli 2013



Edmund Stoiber

„Wir machen uns manchmal kleiner, als wir sind“

Europa sollte den US-Spähattacken selbstbewusst begegnen und Grenzen setzen – das fordert der CSU-Ehrenvorsitzende Edmund Stoiber. Dazu böten Verhandlungen über das Freihandelsabkommen Anlass. Von Florian Eder

Die EU-Kommission wolle sich Macht aneignen, die den Mitgliedsstaaten gebühre, so geht ein oft geäußerter Vorwurf. Erst in dieser Woche beklagte die Bundesregierung, die Brüsseler EU-Schaltzentrale erlaube sich zu viel mit ihren Plänen, die Abwicklung von Pleitebanken zentral steuern zu wollen.

Ausgerechnet aus der CSU, die Kompetenzverlagerung besonders kritisch beäugt, kommt nun eine unerhörte Forderung: Ihr Ehrenvorsitzender Edmund Stoiber, der die EU-Kommission in Sachen Bürokratieabbau berät, sieht in den Spähattacken der USA einen Anlass zum Zusammenrücken der Europäer in einem Bereich, der für Hauptstädte sensibler ist als jeder andere.

Stoiber spricht sich dafür aus, für die Geheimdienste der EU-Staaten eine einheitliche Rechtsgrundlage zu schaffen und so die gegenseitige Bespitzelung zu beenden – zum Vorteil der gesamten Europäischen Union, die sich im Wettstreit mit den großen Wirtschaftsräumen China und Russland, aber auch den USA, damit hervortun könne, Bürgerrechte zu achten. „Ich bin sicher, es wird ein Standortvorteil Europas, die Balance zwischen Freiheit und Sicherheit herzustellen“, sagt Stoiber.

Die Welt: Herr Stoiber, alle Geheimdienste betreiben Wirtschaftsspionage, nur der deutsche nicht. Sind wir zu brav?

Edmund Stoiber: Ich bin außerordentlich überrascht, dass jetzt auch in der FDP Wirtschaftsspionage als neue Aufgabe des BND angesehen wird. Das ist der verkehrte Weg. Man kann das Recht nicht verteidigen, indem man es bricht. Ich halte Wirtschaftsspionage genauso wie Korruption nicht für in Ordnung, da kann ich sie nicht selbst betreiben. Die anderen müssen damit aufhören, nicht wir damit anfangen.

Die Welt: Es gibt die Stimmen, die sagen: Dass die anderen aufhören, ist unrealistisch. Da muss Deutschland mithalten.

Stoiber: Wir brauchen das doch gar nicht, wir sind ein wirtschaftlich erfolgreiches Land und müssen uns nicht auf unlauterem Weg Informationen über Wettbewerber beschaffen.

Die Welt: Kann man die anderen Länder hindern, das zu tun? Ihnen soll es in den 90er-Jahren einmal gelungen sein, die USA zum Abbau einer Horchstation in Bayern zu bewegen. Wie geht das heute?

Stoiber: Wir sind als Europäer die wirtschaftlich stärkste Region der Welt. Wir machen uns manchmal kleiner, als wir sind. Wir sollten heute in diesem Punkt selbstbewusst auftreten. Das Freihandelsabkommen mit den USA müssen wir in einen Gleichklang bringen: Freier Handel muss auch Freiheit bedeuten.

Die Welt: Was heißt das?

Stoiber: Die Nato als nordatlantische Achse verliert an Bedeutung. Deswegen brauchen wir eine neue Achse, von der die USA ebenso wie Europa profitieren. Das Handelsabkommen ist eine absolute Notwendigkeit. Ich fordere kein Junktim, aber Gleichklang: ein Handelsabkommen, aber daneben gleichzeitig auch ein Abkommen zum Datenschutz. Es sollte zwischen der EU und den USA verabredet werden, welche Befugnisse demokratische Staaten im Kampf gegen schwere Verbrechen und Terror unbedingt brauchen, dass aber darüber hinaus die persönlichen Daten der Bürger geschützt werden.

Die Welt: Ein Datenschutzabkommen nach EU- Standards würde als Erstes amerikanische Internetfirmen betreffen. Wie viel Härte kann sich die EU gegen Google und Facebook leisten?

Stoiber: Wer hat denn alles unsere Daten? Google, Facebook, Yahoo, alles US-Firmen – wir Europäer spielen da leider nicht in der gleichen Liga. Deren Umgang mit Daten von Europäern wird überhaupt nicht angemessen kontrolliert, da fehlen weitgehend einfach Regelungen. Die müssen wir schaffen. Wenn diese Unternehmen in Europa Geschäfte machen wollen, dann müssen sie sich an EU-Datenschutzrecht halten.

Die Welt: Wettbewerbsnachteile fürchten Sie dadurch nicht?

Stoiber: Im Gegenteil. Ein Datenschutzabkommen würde den Stellenwert der Freiheit unterstreichen, gegenüber Ländern, die andere Systeme haben. Wie wollen wir denn Menschen- und Freiheitsrechte in China oder Russland einklagen, wenn die USA, das Land der Freiheit, sie beim Datenschutz selbst nicht garantiert? Ich bin sicher, es wird ein Standortvorteil Europas, die Balance zwischen Freiheit und Sicherheit herzustellen.

Die Welt: Für ein Abkommen müsste sich aber doch Europa erst einmal auf gemeinsame Regeln auch für seine Sicherheitsdienste einigen.

Stoiber: Italienische Dienste können Briten abhören, britische Franzosen, französische Deutsche – und umgekehrt. Strengere Beschränkungen gibt es jeweils nur gegenüber den eigenen Staatsbürgern. Warum ist es nicht möglich, dass die EU auch das vereinheitlicht, dass wir eine einheitliche Rechtsgrundlage für die Verfassungsschutzorgane in Europa schaffen? Die aktuelle Affäre sollte der Anlass dazu sein.

Die Welt: Das gibt der EU-Vertrag aber doch gar nicht her.

Stoiber: Schauen Sie, die Diskussion über Grenzen staatlicher Eingriffe in die Privatsphäre von Bürgern und Unternehmen ist eine Diskussion, die nur in freien Staaten geführt werden kann. In China wird das so nicht diskutiert. Das ist doch gerade die Attraktivität der EU, die immer wieder nach einer neue Begründung sucht. Wir müssen diese Diskussion als eine europäische verstehen, wenn es uns ernst damit ist.

Die Welt: Kommen die EU-Staaten denn dabei auf einen Nenner?

Stoiber: Steinbrück macht sich über Glühlampen lustig – das ist doch das Bild von der EU, das gegenwärtig in der Öffentlichkeit vorherrscht. Politische Projekte fehlen uns. Gerade doch der Skandal um die Ausspähung bietet eine Chance um zu überlegen: Ist es denn richtig, dass wir, dass Großbritannien und Frankreich EU-Ausländer geheimdienstlich anders behandeln als Inländer? Und ist das noch gerechtfertigt, wo es doch die Freiheitsrechte des einzelnen sind, die Pressefreiheit, die Gewissensfreiheit, die Europa ausmachen?

Die Welt: Der Europäische Gerichtshof verhandelt über die Richtlinie zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung, die Deutschland noch nicht umgesetzt hat. Zu Recht, wie sich jetzt erweist?

Stoiber: Die EU-Richtlinie zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung entstand mit breiter europäischer Mehrheit unter dem Eindruck der Terroranschläge von Madrid 2004 und London 2005. Alleingänge wie von Frau Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, die diesen geltenden europäischen Konsens jetzt wieder infrage stellt, bringen Europa bestimmt nicht nach vorne. Muss erst wieder eine Bombe hochgehen? Der Gerichtshof wird vielleicht Änderungsbedarf anmelden, und das Urteil sollten wir nun auch abwarten. Ich bin zuversichtlich, dass eine Wertegemeinschaft wie die EU klug zwischen Sicherheit und Datenschutz abwägen kann.

Die Welt: Der Gerichtshof verhandelt immerhin die Frage, ob die jetzige Regelung mit Grundrechten konform ist. Wo ist der Unterschied zum Spähprogramm der USA?

Stoiber: Man muss deutlicher machen: Der direkte Zugriff der Sicherheitsbehörden auf alle Daten ist bei der Vorratsdatenspeicherung gar nicht vorgesehen. Er soll nur unter engen rechtlichen Voraussetzungen in einem zweiten Schritt erfolgen. Was die NSA hingegen macht, ist ja keine Vorratsspeicherung. Der Staat greift dort direkt zu und sammelt – und verwertet – ohne demokratische Kontrolle. Da tickt Europa anders. Sollten die Berichte stimmen, kann die NSA-Praxis so nicht weitergeführt werden. Aber noch einmal: Wenn wir das verändern wollen, dann nur als EU mit 28 Ländern. Allein national schaffen das die Deutschen nicht.


Politics: From Vision to Action
Barandat* Sondernewsletter des Behörden Spiegel zur Abhör-Affäre.

Themen dieser Sonderausgabe sind u.a.:

  • Gewachsene Beziehungen
  • Wirtschaftskrieg oder Anti-Terrorkampf?
  • Grenzen der Überwachung
  • „Mit Füßen getreten“
  • Sicherheitspartnerschaft muss auf den Prüfstand

Newsletter Netzwerk Sicherheit Nr. 466


Suter* Remedial Education: Federal Education Policy

Why Are So Many College Graduates Driving Taxis?


The U.S. education system is not as internationally competitive as it used to be; in fact, the United States has slipped ten spots in both high school and college graduation rates over the past three decades, according to a new report and scorecard from the Council on Foreign Relations‘ Renewing America initiative, which examines the domestic foundations of U.S. power. U.S. national security is directly linked to issues such as education because shortcomings among American workers threaten the country’s ability to compete with other countries and set a compelling example internationally.

„The real scourge of the U.S. education system—and its greatest competitive weakness—is the deep and growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups that begins early and lasts through a student’s academic career,“ writes Rebecca Strauss, associate director for CFR’s Renewing America publications. Wealthy students are achieving more, and the influence of parental wealth is stronger in the United States than anywhere else in the developed world.

Although the United States spends the fourth most in the world on per-student primary and secondary education and by far the most on college education, those funds are not distributed equitably. The majority of developed countries invest more resources per pupil in lower-income school districts than in higher-income ones. It is the reverse in the United States, in large part because local property taxes provide most revenues for K-12 public schools. The investment gap continues in college and has increased significantly over time. In 1967, the gap in real annual per-pupil spending between the most and least selective colleges was $13,500. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, it was nearly six times larger, at $80,000.

„Human capital is perhaps the single most important long-term driver of an economy,“ Strauss writes. „Smarter workers are more productive and innovative. It is an economist’s rule that an increase of one year in a country’s average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long-term economic growth. Most of the value added in the modern global economy is now knowledge based.“

Holding a college degree matters for landing a good job. In 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thirty- to thirty-four-year-olds who had only a high school diploma earned $638 per week, and their peers with bachelor’s degrees earned $1,053. Yet while more Americans understand that a college education is necessary for success, fewer say they can afford to pay for one.

The Obama administration’s record for taking on education inequality is mixed, writes Strauss. It has set an ambitious agenda for education policy that pushes for more accountability, especially for schools that serve low-income students, along with more innovative ways to measure and evaluate quality. Yet funding decisions have taken federal policy in the wrong direction. The major federal programs for disadvantaged students are set to be cut back as part of sequestration, while several budgetary changes, particularly in higher education student aid, disproportionately favor the wealthy.

„The United States is in an era of austerity,“ the report concludes. „The challenge will be to expand higher-quality education for all Americans, rich and poor, in a time of tight budgets.“

Strauss wrote about the report’s findings for the New York Times‘ Great Divide column.

This scorecard is part of CFR’s Renewing America initiative, which generates innovative policy recommendations on revitalizing the U.S. economy and replenishing the sources of American power abroad. Scorecards provide analysis and infographics assessing policy developments and U.S. performance in such areas as infrastructure, education, international trade, and government deficits. The initiative is supported in part by a generous grant from the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation.


Middle East

Egypt Is Arena for Influence of Arab Rivals

10 July 2013
WASHINGTON — Three of the Persian Gulf’s richest monarchies have pledged $12 billion in cash and loans to Egypt, a decision aimed not only at shoring up a shaky transitional government, but also at undermining their Islamist rivals and strengthening their allies across a newly turbulent Middle East.

The robust financial aid packages of $8 billion announced Tuesday by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and $4 billion announced on Wednesday by Kuwait, followed the Egyptian military’s killing on Monday of dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers protesting last week’s military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. The aid package underscored a continuing regional contest for influence between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, one that has accelerated since the Arab uprising upended the status quo and brought Islamists to power.

Qatar, in alliance with Turkey, has given strong financial and diplomatic support to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to other Islamists operating on the battlefields of Syria and, before that, Libya. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, by comparison, have sought to restore the old, authoritarian order, fearful that Islamist movements and calls for democracy would destabilize their own nations.

The promise to provide so much assistance also highlighted the limits of American leverage: the United States provides Egypt $1.5 billion in annual aid, a small fraction of what the gulf states have promised. But the gulf intervention contrasted sharply with the Obama administration’s uncertainty about how to respond to the military takeover, and more broadly, how to wield influence across an increasingly chaotic and fragmented Arab world where American interests are hard to define.

The White House has said it is reviewing the circumstances of the takeover before making a decision on the annual aid to Egypt — which some in Congress, notably Senator John McCain of Arizona, have said should be suspended, calling the takeover a coup d’état. But on Tuesday, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, struck a somewhat different tone, saying the administration was encouraged by the timetable provided by Egypt’s interim authorities for a transition to elections and a fully civilian government.

The Saudis and Emiratis were nearly buoyant at the military’s move to oust Mr. Morsi. Both are deeply hostile to the Brotherhood’s Islamist-cum-democratic agenda, which they see as a threat both to their own monarchical legitimacy and to regional stability. Qatar, by contrast, provided about $8 billion in aid to Mr. Morsi’s government during his yearlong tenure, and Turkey offered loans of $2 billion.

The tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia are older and broader than the Arab uprisings that began in 2011. Saudi Arabia, which prefers to work its checkbook diplomacy quietly and behind the scenes, sees itself as the regional leader. But the Qataris have for years fashioned an outsize foreign policy, often rebuffing Saudi Arabia’s perceived interests, using its wealth and Al Jazeera, the television network it built, to play a decisive role in some of the region’s most volatile and important events.

Qatar, host to the largest American military base in the Middle East, has also eagerly financed Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt, often siding with the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates, like Hamas. Qatar angered the Saudis (and the Obama administration) by supporting Islamist rebels in Syria and providing some heavier weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles, against American advice.

Suddenly, some of the tables have turned on Qatar.

With the rise of the Brotherhood, the Saudis had largely cut off aid to Mr. Morsi’s government and ignored American requests to help Egypt manage a worsening economic crisis. After Mr. Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian military, the Saudi and Emirati governments were quick to issue strong statements of support for the transition. On Friday night, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia personally called Egypt’s army chief, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, to reinforce his backing for the caretaker government, The Associated Press reported.

“This is clearly a setback for the ideology that Qatar and Turkey support and encourage,” said one Arab official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to antagonize two powerful nations. “If political Islam was a stock, it would have gone down dramatically over the past week.”

Qatari officials declined to comment on the rivalry. But one Qatari official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Qatar’s financial aid in the past had been to the Egyptian people, not any individual figure or party.

The Qataris suffered two other, lesser setbacks in recent days: on Monday, 22 journalists at Al Jazeera resigned en masse, citing what they said was the station’s biased coverage of the Brotherhood. Al Jazeera’s bias in favor of the Islamist group has often been cited as a grievance against Qatar’s rulers, who are accused of using the station as an arm of their activist foreign policy.

Also on Tuesday, Ghassan Hitto, the prime minister of the main Syrian exile opposition group — who was seen as favorable to Qatar — resigned. Although the reasons for his resignation were not clear, it was generally viewed as a concession to Saudi Arabia, which had signaled its discontent with him.

Some analysts say Qatar has already begun to rein in its aggressive and eclectic foreign policy, which has included a willingness to engage with Iran that infuriated its Saudi neighbors. Last week, Qatar’s government joined Saudi Arabia and others in issuing a message of support to the transitional government installed by the Egyptian military, even as its allies in the Brotherhood protested furiously against what they called a military coup.

“It’s starting to look as if the Qataris have ceased playing the role of troublemaker and freelancer in the region, and falling in behind the Saudis,” said Peter Harling, an adviser with the International Crisis Group. “Events are allowing the Saudis to assume a regional leadership role that no one else can play right now.”

Despite Qatar’s strong financial support for Mr. Morsi’s government, some analysts say Qatari officials had privately become very critical of his many blunders over the past year. “The Qataris were not happy with the decision to take Morsi out, but they were not so happy with Morsi, either,” said Mustafa Alani, an analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

The shift in Qatar’s role may also be related to the accession last month of the new Qatari emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Mr. Alani said. The emir led a joint Saudi-Qatari committee formed in 2007 to reduce tensions between the two countries, and he is widely thought to take a less aggressive approach to foreign policy than his father, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the former emir.

Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood was seen by some analysts as a policy based on pragmatism rather than ideology — it was viewed as a populist group that could deliver results, unlike its more secular and often more fractious rivals. That perception, too, may change now that the Brotherhood has been deposed in Egypt. Turkey’s support for Brotherhood affiliates was more a matter of shared principles: Turkey’s governing party is a mildly Islamist and populist group. But Turkey’s own struggles with a domestic protest movement in the past two months is likely to curtail its appetite for foreign adventures.

The Qatari and Turkish financial aid to Mr. Morsi’s government last year helped him to avert painful economic reforms being urged by the International Monetary Fund as the price for its own $4.8 billion aid package. The United States believes those changes — including a reduction of food and electricity subsidies — are necessary to help bring Egypt out of its crushing deficit and economic malaise.

But the Saudi, Emirati and Kuwaiti aid may serve the same purpose, staving off unpopular decisions and limiting another potential avenue of American influence over Egypt’s next government.

Qatar losing Mideast ground to Saudi diplomacy

Dubai: Qatar, a key supporter of Islamists who rose to power in Arab Spring countries, is losing ground in regional politics to Saudi Arabia, which appears to have seized the reins on key issues, notably Egypt and Syria.

The decline in Qatar’s regional diplomacy comes as its powerful emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani unexpectedly abdicated in favour of his son Tamim last month.

The country had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010.

The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammad Mursi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.

“Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al Manna.

Realising the damaging effects of their policies, Manna noted, “the Qataris sought to cut down on their commitments” which were already affected by the emir’s abdication and the sidelining of the influential prime minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al Thani.

As a result, “Saudi Arabia, a historical regional US ally, regained its role” in coordination with other Gulf rulers, said Manna.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Mursi. And on Tuesday, the kingdom pledged $5 billion (Dh18 billion) in assistance to Egypt. The United Arab Emirates, which has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the past few months, offered Egypt an aid package of $3 billion followed by Kuwait with $4 billion.

“Saudi Arabia wants to ensure stability in Arab Spring countries, regardless of its ideological interests,” said analyst Abdul Aziz Al Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre. “It had supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but reconsidered this support after the Brotherhood failed to run the country wisely,” he argued.

But the Saudi researcher downplayed the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which have been looking to expand their influence during the Arab Spring uprisings and prevent any potential revolt against their own autocratic regimes.

“The Saudi-Qatari harmony still exists and there is no battle for influence between the two countries,” said Sager. And as proof, “Riyadh was the first to be informed of the political change in Qatar, six months before it took place. And it welcomed it.”

But the two countries, whose relations have been historically tense or at least marked by mistrust, support two different approaches of political Islam that emerged strongly in the wake of the Arab Spring. Qatar sides with political parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose experience was cut short despite the strong media support they enjoyed from the influential Doha-based Al Jazeera news channel.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia promotes Salafist groups that focus less on politics and more on implementing Sharia Islamic law on daily life matters. Saudi King Abdullah has reiterated his country’s stance against using Islam for political purposes. “Islam rejects divisions in the name of one party or another,” he said in a statement marking the start on Wednesday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “The kingdom will never accept” the presence of political parties, that “only lead to conflict and failure.”

But regardless of the political agendas of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the people who rose up during the Arab Spring revolts will have the final word on their own political futures, argued former Bahraini cabinet minister Ali Fakhro. “It is the Arab people, not Qatar nor Saudi Arabia, who will determine the political future of the region.”


Defense Industry daily:
Desert Leopards: Germany Selling Heavy Armor to the Saudis?

July 12/13: On to Plan B? Handelsblatt reports that the Saudis are reconsidering their planned German tank buy, in light of slow German approval, and a range of opposition that includes elements within KMW itself, as well as opposition politicians. When these hindrances are added to the fact that German firms would have to build the support infrastructure they would need in Saudi Arabia from the ground up, the entire buy is reportedly looking less attractive.

Handelsblatt says that American M1 tanks are the Saudis’ preferred alternative, which would make sense if the Saudis limit their goals to a swap-out of their old M60 tanks. The M1A2S is already serving in the Royal Saudi Land Forces, and an industrial slowdown in GDLS’ Lima, OH plant makes this a good time to negotiate.

If the RSLF’s French divisions need an upgrade, then buying more M1A2S tanks would leave them entirely dependent on the USA for their heavy armor, and the kingdom has worked hard to avoid that kind of situation in the past. If they exclude German and Israeli options, and confine themselves to in-production tanks, Saudi choices would include GDLS’ M1A2S, Russia’s T-90… or the Korean/Turkish Altay. China’s Type 99 external link might be classed as industrially active, though not in production, and suffers many of the same flaws as the T-72 family. Handelsblatt external link

In mid-2011 reports surfaced that Saudi Arabia was preparing to buy around 200 German Leopard 2A7+ main battle tanks. Those reports stirred serious controversy in Germany, and indirectly confirmed the existence of a sales request.

Saudi Arabia would hardly be the first recipient of new or refurbished German tanks; indeed, Germany has displayed a consistent policy of selling cheap used tanks to countries all around Europe, and far beyond. Saudi Arabia is a somewhat surprising customer, because of its traditional “dual buy” structure for its land forces equipment, but there are strong reasons for Germany to be very interested in closing a Saudi sale. At the same time, the concerns expressed by opposition members are not without foundation.

The New Leopard, and the Saudi Opportunity

Leopard 2A7

Leo 1A5+ CF Leo-1A5s, Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Krauss-Maffei Wegman introduced the Leopard 2A7 at Eurosatory 2010, as an evolution of the Leopard 2A6 PSO (Peace Support Operations) main battle tank. Like the American M1 TUSK, the Leopard 2A7 is optimized for urban operations, with optional explosive reactive armor, a (KMW FLW-200) remote-controlled weapon station and sensor array, and improved mine protection. Upgraded suspension, drive system, brakes and tracks are also part of the package, as are improved power generation system to handle its advanced electronics and 3rd generation thermal imagers.

Those changes are normal for current generation tank upgrades, but the Leopard 2A7 also has a couple of innovations that set it apart. Its longer 55-caliber Rheinmetall L55 120mm smoothbore tank gun produces greater velocity than the L44 gun found on American M1s and earlier-model Leopard 2s, and can be combined with programmable fuze shells to kill infantry behind and within buildings.

Its most significant additions, however, may be its combat engineering attachments. In Israel, large armored bulldozers have been the IDF’s most valuable weapons in major urban fights. American operations in Iraq’s urban centers have featured heavy use of combat engineering prior to major city battles, and Canadian Leopard 1A5 and Leopard 2A6M tanks in Afghanistan have benefited greatly from attachments like dozer blades and mine ploughs. The Leopard 2A7 has learned from all of these experiences, and comes to the urban fight with new levels of flexibility for a tank.

An initial upgrade of 50 German Leopard-2 tanks to the 2A7+ standard is set to begin production of the type. If the reported Saudi sale goes through, Saudi Arabia would become the type’s first export customer.

That sale would represent both a market breakthrough, and a significant financial opportunity for German firms.

The Saudi Opportunity

Leo 1A5 RSLF AMX-10Ps, GCT
(click to view full)

It would be a market breakthrough, because until now, the Saudis have equipped some divisions with American equipment (M1 and M60 tanks, Bradley and M113 APCs etc.), and other land divisions with French equipment (AMX-30 tanks, AMX-10P tracked APCs, etc.). The comparably modern replacement for its older French equipment would be about 300 Leclerc tanks external link and 500 or so Nexter VBCI or local Al-Fahd wheeled APCs external link. On the other hand, rumors of deals with countries like Russia have suggested that this opportunity may be open to new entrants, and the Saudis have been lukewarm at best toward the recent French-led war in Libya.

The military and export opportunity question is which Saudi tanks the Leopards would replace. They could be used to replace older American M60s, in which case the opportunity to modernize the kingdom’s “French” divisions still exists in full. Or, they could replace the AMX-30s, leading to questions about next steps in replacing those divisions’ accompanying AMX-10P infantry carriers.

The industrial question, in contrast, largely answers itself. Germany has a history of selling surplus German tanks at fire-sale prices, in order to broaden its firms’ customer base and reap upgrade & maintenance contracts. Chile, for instance, bought its Leopard 2A4s at just EUR 250,000 per tank external link base price. A Saudi contract doesn’t help Germany position its firms as Europe’s heavy armor designers, but it would involve new-build tanks at EUR 4-7 million each, and the associated after-sale maintenance contracts would be even larger and more lucrative. The Saudis traditionally devolve most equipment maintenance duties to foreign contractors, and pay accordingly. A combination of manufacturing and maintenance work for the Saudis could go a long way toward keeping Germany’s key armored vehicle producers busy, while solidifying their financial position.

If the Saudis choose to begin replacing their APCs, the deal starts to look even more significant. That would represent another big opportunity for KMW and Rheinmetall, would could offer upgraded Marder external link vehicles from German stocks, or make the Saudis the 1st export customer for their advanced Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicle. They could expect strong competition, even if the Saudis insist on keeping their dual-buy structure and avoiding American companies. BAE has made big inroads in Saudi Arabia, and can offer its battle-tested and popular CV90 IFV family external link. If General Dynamics’ Santa Barbara Sistemas becomes involved in the Leopard tank deal, it could give their ASCOD IFV external link a strong boost. Saudi Arabia’s long history of wheeled LAV purchases might give GD MOWAG’s wheeled Piranha V external link an opportunity, if Saudi requirements allow it, and that would also open the door to France’s Nexter, with their wheeled VBCI successor to the tracked AMX-10s.

Controversies and Politics

Arabian Gulf Arabian/Persian Gulf
(click to view full)

If the Saudis have been shopping the globe for a non-French supplier, Germany is a surprising alternative. To this point, the Saudis have pointedly chosen second suppliers with a reputation for non-interference after arms are sold, and a record of independence from their primary supplier. Germany’s strict export conditions, and traditionally closer relations with the USA, make them an odd choice in this regard. Germany is quick to attach conditions to its sales, and is seen as likely to withdraw sales or support from areas deemed to be conflict zones.

Some of those tensions have already been on display in the German Parliament. The opposition Left Party is pushing its opposition to the deal by citing the use of Saudi tanks and troops to quell recent uprisings in Bahrain, at the invitation of Bahrain’s government.

Then, too, Saudi Arabia projects an image of stability, but veteran watchers of the kingdom know that there is no small amount of tribal, religious, and even political ferment just below the surface. It is not possible to sell main battle tanks to a regime with serious domestic issues, and assume that they will never be used against internal unrest. The Left Party’s questions about what it would mean if German tanks were used in future to crush Saudi domestic unrest are fair, especially given the Leopard 2A7+ tank’s designed suitability for urban warfare scenarios.

On the other hand, German financing for Europe’s debt crisis bailouts has been taking a political toll on Merkel’s government, and economic wins have local political value. Germany already provides defense equipment to the Saudis, and is a major contributor to construction of the RSAF’s new Eurofighter multi-role jets.

There are also regional balance issues at work in the Middle East, which the German government is citing as justification for the sale.

Iraq will not be prepared to defend its borders when the US military removes its heavy ground forces, which means that its safety is likely to be guaranteed by some combination of perceived American resolve, and the willingness of the Gulf Cooperation Council to come to its aid. With the former in question, the latter becomes more important. Persistent reports have even said that Israel has supported the German sale, just as it quietly indicated its lack of opposition to the multi-billion dollar array of American military offerings announced in October 2010. In all of these cases, the Iranian regime across the Gulf is the real focus of local and Western concerns.

The long term issue for Saudi Arabia has to be support for its German weapons, if local conflicts escalate to domestic or international battles. The current CDU/CSU/FDP government has voted down opposition party attempts to block the Saudi sale, but its continuation in power beyond 2013 is uncertain, and the major opposition parties appear consistently hostile to the sale.

If German politics creates future problems, the Saudis could face real difficulties with a key segment of their tank fleet. Turkey’s sizable fleet of Leopard 2 tanks could offer an opportunity to have Turkish firms handle maintenance, but if Germany was opposed, the result from the Turks’ point of view would be a crisis in bilateral relations with one of Turkey’s biggest military suppliers. That would not be undertaken lightly.

The Saudis’ best approach would be to keep substantial spares inventories on hand, and insist on a larger share of local maintenance and assembly work using Saudi citizens. There is some indication that this kind of “localization” is becoming a concerted focus in Saudi Arabia. It remains to be seen whether similar arrangements might be true for any buy of Leopard 2 tanks. If, indeed, that buy materializes.

Contracts & Key Events

default.jpg Leopard 2A7+
(click for video)

July 12/13: On to Plan B? Handelsblatt reports that the Saudis are reconsidering their planned German tank buy, in light of slow German approval, and a range of opposition that includes elements within KMW itself, as well as opposition politicians. When these hindrances are added to the fact that German firms would have to build the support infrastructure they would need in Saudi Arabia from the ground up, the entire buy is reportedly looking less attractive.

Handelsblatt says that American M1 tanks are the Saudis’ preferred alternative, which would make sense if the Saudis limit their goals to a swap-out of their old M60 tanks. The M1A2S is already serving in the Royal Saudi Land Forces, and an industrial slowdown in GDLS’ Lima, OH plant makes this a good time to negotiate.

If the RSLF’s French divisions need an upgrade, then buying more M1A2S tanks would leave them entirely dependent on the USA for their heavy armor, and the kingdom has worked hard to avoid that kind of situation in the past. If they exclude German and Israeli options, and confine themselves to in-production tanks, Saudi choices would include GDLS’ M1A2S, Russia’s T-90… or the Korean/Turkish Altay. China’s Type 99 external link might be classed as industrially active, though not in production, and suffers many of the same flaws as the T-72 family. Handelsblatt external link [in

July 30/12: Qatar. Der Spiegel reports that fellow GCC member Qatar is interested in about 200 Leopard 2A7s. A sale to either country makes the other sale more likely. Read “Qatar Looking at Leopard 2A7 Tanks from Germany.”

June 17/12: The Saudis may want 600-800 new Leopard 2 tanks, instead of 200-300. If that went through, it would effectively replace both the kingdom’s 300+ French AMX-30s and its 450 or so American M60 tanks with the Leopard 2s. Germany’s foreign and defense ministries are reportedly against it. On the other hand, it would reportedly be a EUR 10 billion deal, with long-term and lucrative support work in addition to the initial production contracts. With Germany’s economy beginning to contract external link, and economic chaos looming in Europe, a sum like that tends to concentrate minds. Hence the finance ministry’s reported support.

Reports surrounding the previously-discussed deal remain murky, but the seems to be general agreement that the order hasn’t become a contract yet. Some reports say that a deal for 200 – 300 Leopard 2 tanks could be close, with Spain’s General Dynamics subsidiary Santa Barbara expected to produce the tanks under a license. That would partly sidestep German politics, and would also leave General Dynamics as a one-stop provider of tank support to Saudi Arabia’s tank fleets: M1, M60 (if any remain), and Leopard 2. Bild external link [in German] | International Business Times external link | UPI external link || Iran’s IRNA external link | Israel’s Arutz Sheva external link.

July 8/11: Parliamentary motions to prevent the sale of Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia are defeated by the governing majority coalition. Deutsche Welle Radio external link | NY Times external link | Reuters external link.

July 4-7/11: Opposition to the Saudi tank deal surfaces in the SPD, Left Party, and Greens, as well as some members of the governing coalition. Bundestag foreign affairs committee chair Ruprecht Polenz, and Bundestag President/ Speaker Norbert Lammert, are among the governing members opposed. Green Party MP Hans-Christian Strobele even went so far as to allege bribery, though he did so without a shred of evidence.

The Israelis, on the other hand, seem quite relaxed about it. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon is quoted as telling Die Welt that:

“First let me stress that I am unaware of an upcoming tank deal between Germany and Saudi Arabia… It is in the nature of such matters that one does not speak about them publicly. But I can assure you that we fully and completely trust Germany’s government.”

The Jerusalem Post adds that relations aren’t completely smooth, even as it cites Germany’s existing arms sales to Saudi Arabia:

“According to the Bonn International Center for Conversion (of military facilities and equipment to civilian uses), Germany has over the last 10 years sold 39 million euros worth of weapons to the Saudis. The moral uproar… might also strike Israeli observers as odd because of Germany’s role over the years in the sale of dual-use military and civilian goods to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Bundestag remained largely silent about German-Iranian dual-use deals… [Germany’s] robust trade relations with Tehran (totaling more than 4 billion euros in 2010), including the ongoing sale of sophisticated engineering equipment to Iran, remains a thorny issue for Israel-German relations.”

If Eurofighter workshare is counted, total German arms sales to the Saudis rise very quickly. Der Spiegel external link | Deutsche Welle external link | Germany’s The Local external link | Die Welt external link re: Israel [in German] | Defense Update external link | Iran’s official IRNA external link | Jerusalem Post external link | Lebanese Daily Star external link | NOW Lebanon external link | Reuters external link.

July 2/11: Der Spiegel reveals the proposed sale:

“According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the German security council, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle are represented, last week approved the deal in principle. The Saudis are interested in purchasing more than 200 units of the most modern Leopard version, the Type 2A7+.

German defense companies including Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Rheinmetall and many supply firms, are hoping for a deal worth billions of dollars because the Saudis are aiming to buy brand-new tanks rather than used ones.

Riyadh had initially negotiated with Spain where the company Santa Bárbara [Sistemas, a General Dynamics division]… makes Leopard tanks under license. But now it appears that a large number of the tanks to be purchased will be made in Germany.”

Germany has traditionally refused to sell its battle tanks to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, in part as a component of its historical obligation towards Israel, and in part as a spinoff of its policy prohibiting the sale of weapons to crisis/conflict regions. An anonymous “security source” even tells Reuters that the Saudis have already bought 44 tanks from Germany. Der Spiegel [German external link / English external link] | Photo gallery external link | Deutsche Welle external link | Arabian Business external link.

Additional Readings

Azerbaijan, Baku, Trend /July 16, D.Khatinoglu/

Iran welcomes Jack Straw’s intention to visit Iran, the spokesman of Iran Foreign Ministry Abbas Araqchi told on July 16 during a live press conference on Iran state TV IRIB.

During an interview with BBC the former British foreign secretary Jack Straw said on July 4 that he was not naive about Iran, but things were looking „more hopeful“ with the new president-elect Hassan Rouhani. He said that there was no evidence that Iran has been building a nuclear bomb.

ISNA quoted Straw as saying he plans to travel Iran soon with the aim of improving ties between London and Tehran.

Before that the Guardian newspaper reported in September 2011 that Jack Straw is to make the first visit to Iran by a British foreign secretary since the 1979 Islamic revolution with an attempt to build support for a US-led coalition against terrorism. However, he has not visited Iran so far.

Rebels ‚alone to be killed‘ as Britain axes plan to supply arms

Syria’s top rebel commander has accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of betrayal after Britain abandoned plans to arm the Syrian opposition.General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said the decision would “leave us alone to be killed“ by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A spokesmen for Mr Cameron said he had ruled out arming the opposition on advice from the British military, despite successfully lobbying two months ago for an end to the European Union arms embargo. British military chiefs are understood to have warned the conflict was now too advanced for basic weapons supplies to make much difference.

They said that could be achieved only by larger-scale intervention, involving air strikes on regime defences and bases, which Britain has already ruled out.

“The West promises and promises. This is a joke now,“ General Idris said. “I have not had the opportunity to ask David Cameron personally if he will leave us alone to be killed. On behalf of all the Syrians, thank you very much.“

Syrian troops backed by tanks and artillery have moved into the rebel-held Qaboun district of Damascus, stepping up efforts to drive the opposition from the capital.

Backed by fighters from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, Syrian forces have also captured several key towns in recent weeks from the rebels, who have complained foreign weapon supplies have all but dried up.

“What are our friends in the West waiting for?“ asked General Idris. “For Iran and Hezbollah to kill all the Syrian people?“

General Idris also warned a refusal to arm the more moderate elements of the insurgency would hand Syria’s “revolution“ to extremist groups that already had better access to weapons.

“Soon there will be no FSA to arm,“ he said. “The Islamic groups will take control of everything.“

Last month, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain “shouldn’t rule any option out“, dismissing concerns about arms going to jihadists as exaggerated.

One source suggested such rhetoric had been part of a plan by Britain to encourage the Assad regime to take part in the peace conference in Geneva, planned for later this northern summer.

see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat

UdovonMassenbach Mail
Edith.Suter JoergBarandat

Behördenspiegel-Sonderletter Abhör-Affäre.pdf