Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 09/05/14


Udo von Massenbach

Do you remember:

· Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics Damascus/Brussels | 24 Nov 2011

· Massenbach-Letter 04 November 2011: Stratfor: Russia- Rebuilding an Empire While It Can

· 2012-U.S. Army War College- Politics and Economics in Putin’s Russia

· Massenbach-Letter 11 Nov. 2011?Top-Interessenvertreter vom südlichen Korridor kommen bei der European Gas Conference zusammen. Wer wird Europa mit Gas versorgen?

Guten Morgen.

· Egypt Emerges as a Route for Israeli Natural Gas Exports ( )

· Sueddeutsche:„EU und USA müssen ohnmächtig zuschauen, wie die Staatenordnung in Europa zum Teil neu geschrieben wird.“ ….“Viel Überzeugungsarbeit zugunsten von TTIP leistet Berlin jedenfalls nicht. Und ganz objektiv gäbe es viel zu erklären, wenn man dieses Abkommen tatsächlich will.“ – Merkel & Obama – In Ohnmacht vereint

· The Most Diverse Counties in the U.S. Are Not Where You’d Expect( )

· Seattle’s Mayor Has Proposed a Bill That No Other U.S. City Has Dared( )

Massenbach* *Former US diplomat warns of possible ‚grave mistake‘ in Syria – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East*


· Weekin Review

Ryan Crocker, then-US ambassador to Afghanistan, speaks during an interview at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Sept. 14, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Rafiq Maqbool)

Former US diplomat warns of possible ‚grave mistake‘ in Syria

Author: Barbara SlavinPosted May 1, 2014

Ryan Crocker, a distinguished former US ambassador to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, told a Washington audience May 1 that US military intervention would likely not produce a better outcome in Syria and that the Barack Obama administration should focus on a “post-Assad” but not a “post-Alawite” future for that war-torn country.

“We would be making a grave mistake if our policy were aimed at flipping the tables and bringing a Sunni ascendancy in Damascus,” said Crocker, who experienced the pitfalls of US military involvement in Lebanon in the 1980s and in Iraq in the past decade. The United States would have no assurance, he said, that a Sunni government would be an improvement on that of Bashar al-Assad and the probability would be that such a government would be “dominated by the worst of the worst” religious extremists.

Crocker, who spoke along with several other regional experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the United States should focus on shoring up Syria’s neighbors, providing more assistance to refugees and displaced Syrians and seeking to influence Syria’s ruling Alawite minority to, over time, eventually jettison Assad.

This post-Assad but not post-Alawite strategy could more easily win buy-in from the Syrian government’s main external backers — Russia and Iran — though Crocker suggested that outside powers alone could not end the fighting and that the conflict would go on for many more years until the combatants are exhausted.

The UN estimates that more than 140,000 Syrians have been killed over the past three years and 9.3 million others are in need of assistance. It has appealed to the Syrian government to permit unfettered access to deliver humanitarian aid as demanded by a UN Security Council resolution in February — a resolution that the Syrian government has not implemented.

Born in Washington state, Crocker said that as a westerner, he was accustomed to forest fires and that the Syrian war resembled a western fire.

Such fires cannot be put out but can be contained, he said. “No reasonable intervention by us will make things better and we could make it worse.”

Paul Pillar, a former CIA expert on the National Intelligence Council for the Near East and South Asia, largely concurred with Crocker’s minimalist recommendations for US policy. However, Charles Dunne, director of the Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House, suggested that limited US military intervention for humanitarian purposes as well as more assistance to the externally based Syrian opposition could have an impact on the Damascus government.

The panelists appeared to agree that one potentially fruitful avenue was preparing dossiers on individuals alleged to have committed crimes against humanity for possible submission to the International Criminal Court or another tribunal.

In fact, Stephen Rapp, head of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, has been compiling such information for the last two years against both the Syrian regime and members of the Syrian opposition. On April 30, the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution from Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, urging the Obama administration to instruct US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to seek the creation of a Syrian war crimes tribunal. That appears unlikely now — especially given Russian opposition — but could influence Syrian Alawites down the road to pull away from Assad, Crocker said.

Pillar suggested that the Obama administration was right to focus on achieving a nuclear agreement with Iran and trying to defuse the Ukraine crisis with Russia. “If you can successfully conclude this [agreement with Iran], more possibilities will open up” regarding Syria, he said. “A few months from now, Ukraine won’t be more intense.”

Asked by Al-Monitor if Iranian-Saudi rapprochement might also be useful, as it was in ending Lebanon’s civil war in 1989, Crocker said the “sheer exhaustion of the participants” and the fact that Syria was victorious in shoring up its influence in Lebanon “ended that phase of the civil war.

… Syrian forces were running the show. That is probably how this [the Syrian civil war] will end because of what happens on the ground, not because of some grand Saudi-Iranian bargain,” which Crocker thought is unlikely.

Despite frustration among US Sunni allies, such as Saudi Arabia, at the unwillingness of the United States to intervene more forcefully in Syria, the US public has shown no interest in even limited military intervention in Syria as evidenced by the congressional debate last fall over cruise missile strikes to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons. The evolution of the Syrian opposition into one riddled with al-Qaeda elements has made many Americans unsure of the wisdom of trying to remove even a regime as brutal as Assad’s.

Crocker said those advocating military intervention underestimate the extent to which this is an existential struggle for Syria’s Alawite community and other minorities within the country. He pointed to the massacre in Hama in 1982, when Bashar’s father, Hafez, bombarded the city to exterminate the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and in the process killed 15,000 civilians.

“This regime has been preparing for what is unfolding now for the last three decades,” Crocker said. After Hama, “they knew a day of reckoning would come. … Americans barely remember Hama but no Sunni or Alawite will ever forget it.”


Do you remember? Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics

Damascus/Brussels | 24 Nov 2011

The Syrian crisis has entered its most dangerous stage, requiring urgent attention to issues that the international community and Syrian opposition have largely been ignoring.

The crisis may or may not be in its final phase, but it is now defined by an explosive mix of heightened strategic stakes tying into a regional and wider international competition on the one hand and emotionally charged attitudes, communal polarization and political wishful thinking on the other. As dynamics in both Syria and the broader international arena turn squarely against the regime, reactions are ranging from hysterical defiance on the part of its supporters, optimism among protesters that a bloody stalemate finally might end, heightened fears of sectarian retribution and even civil war among many, to triumphalism among those who view the crisis as an historic opportunity to decisively tilt the regional balance of power.

Yet, almost entirely missing is a sober assessment of the challenges provoked by these shifts and the very real risk that they could derail or even foreclose the possibility of a successful transition. Crisis Group’s new briefing, Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria’s Dynamics, analyses the five key issues and makes policy recommendations on them for Syrian and international actors:

  • the fate of the Alawite community;
  • the connection between Syria and Lebanon;
  • the nature and implications of heightened international involvement;
  • the long-term impact of the protest movement’s growing militarization; and
  • the legacy of creeping social, economic and institutional decay.

To read the full briefing, please click here.



Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* *Seattle’s Mayor Has Proposed a Bill That No Other U.S. City Has Dared*

The news: The congressional battle over the minimum wage may continue on, but states are taking matters into their own hands. On Tuesday Hawaii joined Connecticut and Maryland to become the third state this year to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — the amount prescribed by congressional Democrats.

But it seems like one city is out to steal Hawaii’s thunder: On Thursday, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray unveiled plans to hike the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. That would not only be the highest minimum wage in the country, but one of the highest in the world, second only to Australia.

"Throughout this process, I’ve had two goals: to get Seattle’s low-wage workers to $15 per hour while also supporting our employers, and to avoid a costly battle at the ballot box between competing initiatives," said Murray. "We have a deal that I believe accomplishes both goals."

The background: Washington state already boasts the highest minimum wage in the country, at $9.32 an hour. But that honor apparently was not enough for Seattle residents. The new bill was worked out during a 16-week committee session with labor leaders and business organizers; it still needs to be passed by the Seattle City Council to become law.

For those who are worried about how this might affect employment, the city is offering a phased plan to help business owners adjust their operations. Big businesses will have three years to adjust to the new minimum wage, and statewide implementation of the new law will take place by 2021. Once the $15 level is achieved, any further raises will be linked to cost-of-living increases.

Image Credit: The Seattle Times

Take that, Hawaii.

Why this is a good trend: With congressional debate over minimum wage turning into an ugly election-year showdown, for those who support higher pay, a state- or city-level approach might be best. Already 34 other states have introduced legislation for higher pay, with many attempting to adopt the $10.10 wage proposed by President Barack Obama.



Politics: From Vision to Action


*Beyond The “Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus”*

In order to improve our environmental security, should we think of water, food, energy and climate in nexus-like ways? Richard Matthew is skeptical. While ‘nexus thinking’ promises to reduce waste and inefficiency, it could also heighten inequality, instability and the potential for violent conflict.

By Richard Matthew for ISN

B031 Uncharted Waters – Thinking Through Syrias Dynamics.pdf
pub1180-Politics and Economics in Putin’s Russia.pdf