Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 04/07/14

Massenbach-Letter

Udo von Massenbach

Guten Morgen.

· Gaza rockets aim at Kurdish oil route via Israel. More security for Ashkelon and Eilat depots

· Germany’s minimalistic role in UN missions* Germany’s role can be described as symbolic*Königshaus: “Within its capacity, Germany does a lot.”

· Russia, Iran won’t roll over in Syria

· Changing the Game : Human Security as Grand Strategy

· Jordan Urges World Help to Face Regional Turmoil

· Gallup: Fewer in U.S. Support Iraq Withdrawal Decision Now vs. 2011*A majority, 57%, say 2003 war was a mistake*

·

Massenbach* Gaza rockets aim at Kurdish oil route via Israel. More security for Ashkelon and Eilat depots*

The Trans-Israel Pipeline from Ashkelon to Eilat is the real target of the increased Grad rocket fire on Ashkelon and nearby coastal areas, military sources tell debkafile. Its momentum has quickened since the launch this month of a transit route for oil exports from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via Turkey and Israel.

Islamic Jihad and other Salafist militants in Gaza are in cahoots with the Al Qaeda affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis operating out of Sinai. All are potential sources of the rocket fire and certainly have an eye on civilian targets, but the sources say the uptick of the last few days is a clear attempt to take out the new Kurdish export route. (see attached Special Map)

Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda in Sinai are strange bedfellows – their backers, Iran and ISIS, are at loggerheads in Iraq. But they share an interest in preventing Israel from using its small oil ports, Ashkelon and Eilat, to become a major conduit for Kurdish oil. Through its geography and infrastructure, Israel has quickly become a key element in the war in Iraq and its future.

Iran wants to put a stop to oil sales out of the northern Iraqi oilfields near Kirkuk, while ISIS considers Iraqi oil to be an important war spoil and strategic asset, likewise the oilfields in eastern Syria.

ISIS is already using captured Syrian oilfields as a major source of income, bringing in some $1 billion per year. With control of Iraq’s oilfields, refineries, and pipelines, the Al Qaeda-affiliated group could easily double or triple its annual oil income.

Israel’s role puts a damper on these plans.

Both Tehran, which has its own designs on Kirkuk, and ISIS, were amazed to discover the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had signed onto a combined Kurdish-Turkish-Israeli concern for the new Kurdish export route. No time was lost for this transaction after the Kurdish peshmerga moved into Kirkuk as Iraqi troops fled the oncoming ISIS fighters.

The crude flows to Ceyhan, Turkey’s port city on the Mediterranean. From there it is loaded onto tankers that sail to Ashkelon, where the cargo is unloaded either into storage or poured into the 254-kilometer Trans-Israel Pipeline. Traditionally the pipeline has served companies from Russia and Central Asia who use Israel as a middleman for their sales to Asian countries. But with the arrival of the first Kurdish tankers in the past few weeks, the pipeline has begun to operate at its capacity of 20 million tons per year.

Our sources report that Kurdistan, which exports 120,000 barrels of oil a day, has already sent 2 million barrels of oil to Israel via Ceyhan. Most of this shipment is due to arrive in Ashkelon and Eilat in the coming days.

Oil industry insiders believe that Irbil pays Turkey and Israel a dollar each for every barrel that passes through their territory.

Now that the tanker channel between Turkey and Israel has opened in the service of oil, Western military sources say that the two countries’ navies have boosted their cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean to secure the channel, the tankers, and their precious cargo.

They add that Israel has put special security measures in place to bolster its defenses against terror and rocket attacks in Eilat and the Gulf of Aqaba, lest newly arrived Iranian and ISIS elements in Sinai target Eilat’s oil terminal and the tankers full of Kurdish oil.

http://www.debka.com/article/24032/

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UN-Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon Sechs Punkte gegen Nusra-Front und Isis

Die trostlosen Aussichten auf Frieden in Syrien haben sich weiter verschlechtert. Im Irak eskalieren die religiösen Spannungen. Für die Welt ist es höchste Zeit, Verantwortung zu übernehmen. Ein Gastbeitrag.

Der schreckliche Krieg in Syrien wird schlimmer und hat auch Folgen jenseits der Grenzen. Die internationale Gemeinschaft darf die Menschen in Syrien und in der Region trotz der nicht enden wollenden Wellen der Gewalt nicht aufgeben. Die Opferzahl beträgt inzwischen wohl weit mehr als 150000. Gefängnisse und Internierungslager sind überfüllt mit Männern, Frauen und sogar Kindern. Massenexekutionen und unaussprechliche Foltermethoden sind verbreitet. Die Menschen sterben auch an Hunger und an Infektionskrankheiten. Ganze Stadtzentren und einige der bedeutendsten kulturellen Welterbestätten liegen in Schutt und Asche.

Die Vereinten Nationen haben hart daran gearbeitet, die tiefer liegenden Gründe und die verheerenden Folgen des Konflikts anzugehen. Unsere humanitären Anstrengungen sorgen dafür, dass Leben gerettet werden und Leid gemildert wird. Aber unser grundlegendes Ziel – das Ende des Konflikts – bleibt unerfüllt. Die trostlosen Aussichten auf Frieden haben sich weiter verschlechtert, seit im Irak religiöse Spannungen und Gewalt aufflackern. Der Zusammenhalt zweier wichtiger Staaten steht in Frage.

Szenen eines Krieges nahe Damaskus: „Die Menschen müssen geschützt werden“

Die folgenden sechs Punkte können einen Weg nach vorne weisen: Erstens muss die Gewalt aufhören. Es ist von fremden Mächten unverantwortlich, weiter die Konfliktparteien in Syrien militärisch zu unterstützen, die Grausamkeiten verüben und schamlos Menschenrechte und Völkerrecht verletzen. Ich habe den Sicherheitsrat aufgefordert, ein Waffenembargo zu verhängen. Beide Seiten müssen sich wieder am Verhandlungstisch gegenübersitzen. Wie viele Menschen müssen noch sterben, bis sie dazu bereit sind?

Zweitens müssen die Menschen geschützt werden. Die UN leiten weiter eine riesige humanitäre Hilfsaktion. Aber die Regierung verhängt weiter skrupellos Zugangsverbote. Sie lässt medizinische Produkte von Hilfskonvois abladen und lässt Menschen, die sie als Sympathisanten der Opposition betrachtet, absichtlich verhungern und kollektiv bestrafen. Einige Rebellengruppen haben genauso gehandelt. Hinzu kommt, dass die internationale Gemeinschaft nur knapp ein Drittel des Geldes bereitgestellt hat, das für den Hilfseinsatz gebraucht wird. Ich fordere außerdem ein Ende der Belagerungen und ungehinderten humanitären Zugang über alle Fronten und Grenzen hinweg.

Drittens muss ein ernsthafter politischer Prozess beginnen. Die Präsidentschaftswahlen Anfang Juni waren ein weiterer Schlag und haben noch nicht einmal die Mindeststandards für Wahlen erfüllt. Ich werde bald einen neuen Sondergesandten ernennen, der eine politische Lösung und ein Übergangsszenario für ein neues Syrien verfolgen soll. Regionalmächte besitzen eine besondere Verantwortung, um diesen Krieg zu beenden. Ich begrüße die kürzlichen Kontakte zwischen Iran und Saudi-Arabien. Ich hoffe, dass sie Vertrauen schaffen und einen zerstörerischen Wettbewerb in Syrien, dem Irak, dem Libanon und anderswo beenden können.

Viertens müssen schwere Verbrechen geahndet werden. Vorigen Monat scheiterte im Sicherheitsrat eine Resolution, durch die der Konflikt an den Internationalen Strafgerichtshof (ICC) überwiesen werden sollte. Ich fordere die Mitgliedstaaten, die nein zum ICC sagen, aber für die Strafverfolgung sind, dazu auf, glaubhafte Alternativen zu benennen.

Fünftens muss die Zerstörung der Chemiewaffen in Syrien abgeschlossen werden. Die UN und die Organisation für das Verbot chemischer Waffen haben gemeinsam daran gearbeitet.

Sechstens muss die regionale Dimension des Konfliktes angegangen werden, auch die Bedrohung durch Extremisten. Auf beiden Seiten sind ausländische Kämpfer beteiligt, das führt zu noch mehr Gewalt und sektiererischem Hass. Weder sollten wir die Dämonisierung der syrischen Regierung blind akzeptieren, die die gesamte Opposition als Terroristen verunglimpft – noch sollten wir vor der realen Bedrohung durch Terroristen in Syrien unsere Augen verschließen.

Eine globale Bedrohung

Die Welt muss gemeinsam dafür sorgen, dass die „Nusra-Front“ und die Miliz „Islamischer Staat im Irak und in (Groß-)Syrien“ (Isis) nicht weiter finanziert oder anderweitig unterstützt werden. Isis ist auch eine Bedrohung für die Menschen im Irak. Es ist entscheidend, dass politische wie religiöse Führer zur Zurückhaltung aufrufen und eine Spirale von Gewalt und Gegengewalt verhindern.

Im Moment ist das größte Hindernis, den Krieg in Syrien zu beenden, die Ansicht, dass er militärisch gewonnen werden könnte. Ich bestreite, dass die syrische Regierung „gewinnt“. Es bedeutet keinen Sieg, Gebiete durch Luftangriffe zu erobern, die dicht besiedelt sind und in denen Zivilisten leben. Selbst wenn eine Seite kurzfristig die Oberhand haben wird: Der verheerende Preis wird sein, dass so die Grundlage für künftige Konflikte bereits gelegt ist.

Gefährliche, religiös motivierte Spannungen, massive Flüchtlingsbewegungen, tägliche Grausamkeiten und wachsende Instabilität machen den Krieg in Syrien zu einer globalen Bedrohung. Alle Werte, für die wir stehen, und alle Gründe, weshalb die Vereinten Nationen existieren, sind im heutigen Syrien in Gefahr. Es ist schon längst Zeit für die internationale Gemeinschaft – besonders für den Sicherheitsrat –, der eigenen Verantwortung nachzukommen.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/uno-generalsekretaer-ban-ki-moon-ueber-isis-und-nusra-front-13012488.html

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Wovon die Grünen nicht sprechen wollen

Moritz von Uslar befragte kürzlich für das Zeit-Magazin den Chef der grünen Bundestagsfraktion Anton Hofreiter. Frage Nummer 43 lautete: „Warum steigt der Preis für den Energie-Endverbraucher, wenn er an der Leipziger Energiebörse fällt?“ Es handelte sich, im Gegensatz zu anderen Vorstößen von Uslars („Geht Ihnen die Christlichkeit von Katrin Göring-Eckardt manchmal auf die Nerven?“) um eine schnörkellose Frage, geprägt von einem echten Erkenntnisinteresse. Und es gäbe auch eine klare Antwort. Die Erneuerbare-Energien-Umlage, die alle Verbraucher pro Kilowattstunde zahlen, bemisst sich nach der Differenz zwischen Börsenstrompreis und den festen Vergütungen, die Produzenten von Grünstrom kassieren. Fällt also der Strompreis an der Leipziger Börse, dann erhöht sich diese Differenz automatisch – und die Verbraucher müssen mehr überweisen. Denn an den gesetzlich auf 20 Jahre garantierten Ansprüchen der Ökostromproduzenten auf Preise weit über Marktniveau ändert sich nichts, egal, wie viel der Strom dann an der Börse kostet, egal, ob er überhaupt gebraucht wird (und oft braucht ihn niemand, dann müssen ihn die Netzbetreiber auf Kosten der Verbraucher teuer nach Frankreich entsorgen).

Niedrige Börsenstrompreise bedeuten also für die Normalbürger keine gute, sondern eine schlechte Nachricht. Im vergangenen Jahr zahlten sie rund 13 Milliarden Euro für Ökostrom, der an der Börse gerade drei Milliarden Euro wert war. Zusammen mit Zinsen und einem Betrag, der aus dem Vorjahr offen geblieben, brachten die Verbraucher im vergangenen Jahr 20,6 Milliarden Euro für Grünstrom auf. Am konkreten Beispiel lässt sich das anschaulich zeigen: Betreiber von Offshore-Plattformen erhalten per Gesetz garantierte 19 Cent pro Kilowattstunde Strom, Besitzer von Biogasanlagen 13,6 und Solarkraftwerkseigner 10 bis 11 Cent. Der Börsenstrompreis liegt zurzeit bei knapp vier Cent. Sinkt er wegen großen Mengen an grünem Zufallsstrom, die ins Netz fluten, noch weiter – und damit rechnen alle Marktbeobachter – dann steigt also schon dadurch die Ökostromumlage. Die Hälfte unseres Endverbraucher-Strompreises besteht mittlerweile aus Steuern und Abgaben.

Den größten Brocken in dieser Hälfte macht wiederum die Ökostromumlage mit 6,24 Cent pro Kilowattstunde aus. Völlig unabhängig also, ob jemand die Ökostromforderung richtig findet oder nicht, müsste die Antwort auf die Frage von Uslars klar ausfallen. Denn bei dem Sachverhalt handelt es sich um ein Ursache-Wirkungs-Prinzip zum Nachrechnen, ähnlich wie die Frage, wann und wieso eine Sektflasche im Tiefkühlfach platzt.

Was antwortet also Anton Hofreiter auf die Warum-Frage nach dem Strompreis? Folgendes: „Weil sich einige Konzerne die Taschen vollstopfen. Wir haben zu wenig Wettbewerb auf dem Strommarkt.“

Das Taschenvollstopfen bei den Energieversorgern sieht übrigens folgendermaßen aus: Das landeseigene baden-württembergische Unternehmen EnBW nahm 2014 eine Abschreibung von 1,2 Milliarden Euro vor und bildeten eine Verlustrückstellung von 300 Millionen Euro. Der Konkurrent RWE gab für 2013 einen Rekordverlust von 2,8 Milliarden Euro bekannt. Mitbewerber Eon verdient zwar noch etwas Geld, 2013 ging der Gewinn allerdings schon um 14 Prozent zurück, für 2014 kündigte der Vorstand ein abermaliges Schrumpfen an. Fast der gesamte konventionelle Kraftwerkspark in Deutschland erwirtschaftet Verluste, weil er nur noch als Lückenspringer ans Netz darf, wenn die Sonne nicht scheint und der Wind nicht weht. Allein EnBW möchte deshalb fünf seiner Kraftwerke stilllegen. Das Unternehmen darf nicht. Denn die Bundesnetzagentur stuft diese Anlagen als „systemrelevant“ ein, weil sie die Unzuverlässigkeit des Ökostroms ausbalancieren müssen. Der Energieversorger wird also von Staats wegen zum Verlustmachen gezwungen.

So richtig rund läuft es in der Energiebranche nur noch auf dem Grünstromsektor, dort also, wo nicht ein Hauch von Wettbewerb herrscht, wo sich die Hersteller dank Preis- und Abnahmegarantie auf Jahre hinaus weder über Kunden noch Nachfrage oder Effizienz den Kopf zerbrechen müssen. Wer sein Windrad nicht gerade dort aufstellt, wo kaum Wind weht, kann eigentlich nichts falsch machen.

Politiker reden viel und gern über Ökostrom, am häufigsten die Grünen. Aber merkwürdigerweise kommen bei ihnen die Ökostromproduzenten praktisch nicht vor, jene glückliche Schicht, die im vergangenen Jahr 20 Milliarden und Euro kassierte, die 2014 noch ein gutes Stück mehr einnehmen dürfte, und die längst zum festen Parteispendermilieu der Grünen zählt. Die Wortkombination „Ökostrom“ und „sich die Taschen vollstopfen“ würde einem Grünenpolitiker deshalb noch nicht einmal nachts an der Hotelbar entschlüpfen.

Wann immer es um die Frage geht, warum die Grünstromprivilegierung inzwischen doch etwas mehr kostet als eine Kugel Eis pro Familie und Monat, fallen Grünenpolitikern aufs Stichwort die gierigen Konzerne ein. Oder die Golfer. Anfang 2014 verbreitete auch der Grünen-Kreisverband München die Wanderlegende, „Golfplätze“ seien von der EEG-Umlage befreit, deshalb müssten normale Bürger derart viel zahlen. Im Bundestagswahlkampf 2013 fabulierte Katrin Göring-Eckardt, selbst die „Pommesbude um die Ecke“ müsse keine EEG-Umlage abführen. Die Liste der von der Ökoumlage befreiten Unternehmen kann jeder einsehen. Natürlich stehen dort weder Golfplätze noch Pommesbuden. Den Antrag bekommen nur Firmen genehmigt, die mehr als ein Gigawatt pro Jahr verbrauchen, und deren Stromanteil an der Wertschöpfung mindestens 14 Prozent beträgt. Das schaffen weder der längste Fairway noch die großzügigst illuminierte Kartoffelstäbchenfrittiererei.

Selten passiert es, dass Politiker einer Partei so offensichtlich die Unwahrheit sagen. Und dass es ihnen, relativ gesehen jedenfalls, so wenig schadet.

Die Stromkunden sollten sich nicht ärgern. Zwar werden sie auch ab 2015 wieder mehr Geld zahlen müssen. Aber dafür haut ihnen der Hofreiter Toni auch in Zukunft nach allen Regeln der Kunst die Tasche voll.

http://nblo.gs/Y2FYK

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Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Germany’s minimalistic role in UN missions*

Although the German army has taken part in numerous UN peacekeeping missions, it has only deployed a very small number of soldiers for the cause. The reasons for this reserved approach are multifaceted.

The Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, will remain in Mali for the next 12 months as part of the United Nations‘ MINUSMA stabilization mission. This decision was made by the German parliament on Wednesday (25.06.2014). The Bundeswehr is permitted to send up to 150 soldiers to the conflict-riddled African country. The mandate for the UNIFIL mission off the coast of Lebanon has also been extended.

Germany is a major financial contributor to UN missions. According to the German foreign ministry, it covers 7.1 percent of the UN’s peacekeeping budget. However, it is less generous when it comes to providing manpower. At the moment, it has around 220 soldiers assigned to five UN missions: two with the MINURSO mission in Western Sahara, 12 with the UNMISS mission in South Sudan, 10 with the UNAMID mission in Sudan, 86 with MINUSMA in Mali and 123 with UNIFIL in Lebanon.

Altogether, the MINUSMA and UNIFIL missions consist of 7,300 and 10,000 soldiers respectively. This means that Germany’s contribution is equal to around 1 percent. Given the scale of problems in these regions, Germany’s role can be described as symbolic. This is a view shared by security expert Christian Mölling from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. According to Mölling, the German government is actively keeping its missions small in size for fear of a negative reaction to its military activities at home by the German public.

Limited capacity

In light of the ambitious goals ascribed to UN missions such as MINUSMA (stabilization, reestablishment of functional state structures, improvement of the human rights situation), the question arises what a small German contingent can achieve. The Bundeswehr’s official tasks in Mali are as follows: air transport to the operational area and within it, supporting the transfer and supply of local government troops as well as advising them, and facilitating the air-to-air refueling of French aircraft.

The German army has shrunk in size over the past years

According to Hellmut Königshaus, German parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Germany’s role in Mali is an important one. He also pointed out that MINUSMA is not the only mission that Germany is supporting in the country: it is also part of EUTM, a European Union mission focused on training and advising the military of Mali.

Königshaus added that the Bundeswehr’s capacity is limited. Since the German reunification, the size of the army has dropped from 600,000 to 180,000 soldiers, mostly due to the suspension of compulsory military service in 2011. According to Königshaus, German expertise is particularly in demand in areas such as medical services, air transport and water treatment. "Within its capacity, Germany does a lot," he said.

Preference for NATO

Success and failure are not easy to calculate in this context. To Mölling, a thorough evaluation of past missions is lacking. "This is why it’s difficult to say how much the Bundeswehr mission in Mali has achieved," said Mölling, adding that missions are often only successful on paper. He gave the EU missions in Congo and Guinea-Bissau as an example, saying that the latter mission was successfully completed according to official reports but was aborted in reality due the failure to fulfill the main objective: establishing an army.

Like other European countries, Germany prefers taking part in NATO and EU missions over UN-initiated ones. The total number of German soldiers currently involved in military missions abroad stands at 4,450. According to Mölling, there are two main reasons for this trend: European countries do not like giving up control over their armed forces and see greater potential for claiming credit for their achievements in missions with fewer countries involved.

Poorly prepared?

Germany’s military equipment may no longer meet UN requirements for some missions*

Recent media reports have shed light on another key question on this topic: is the Bundeswehr properly equipped for such missions in the first place? According to them, the UN announced its intention to stop using the Bundeswehr’s Transall military transport planes in Mali. A report on German news portal Spiegel Online has mentioned a possible withdrawal of Patriot anti-missile systems from Turkey – a NATO mission that Germany is part of. The cited reason is the "inadequate resilience level" of Dutch and German soldiers, implying that there are too few specialists present.

Mölling, however, does not see a problem with the Bundeswehr’s mission preparedness. "It’s fully equipped for the tasks it’s assigned to," he said, adding that German and other European armed forces are currently undergoing modernization.

German politician and retired Bundeswehr Colonel, Roderich Kiesewetter, pointed out in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday that "our armed forces need adequate equipment that can also withstand extreme climate."

He also called on Europe to rethink its security mindset. "We’ve always said: Germany is surrounded by friends and partners, but our friends and partners are not."

http://www.dw.de/germanys-minimalistic-role-in-un-missions/a-17738662

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Want better grades? Get a good night’s sleep!

Posted on June 25, 2014 by IZA Press

Students who sleep seven hours per night during the exam period score an average of 1.7 points higher (on a scale of 20) on their exams than peers who get only six hours of sleep. In a new IZA DP, researchers at Ghent University and KU Leuven surveyed 621 first-year students about the quality of their sleep during the exam period and correlated it with their exam performance.

In total, approximately 30 percent of students received a score of 5 on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) – good for the label of ‘bad sleeper’. More female students (35 percent) than male students (26 percent) fell in the ‘bad sleeper’ category. The researchers corrected their results to account for differences in socio-economic background and general health traits.

All else equal, students who generally got a good night’s sleep performed better on exams. Students who fell one standard deviation (and thus significantly) above the average PSQI score achieved almost a full point less for each exam they sat.

Additionally, the number of hours slept – and not the quality of sleep during that time – played a significant role in exam performance. Students who increased their night’s sleep from six to seven hours were rewarded with an average increase of 1.7 points (on a scale of 20) for each exam. “Of course, optimal sleep time varies for each individual,” says IZA fellow Stijn Baert, who co-authored the study.

By way of explaining the results, the researchers point to previous studies, which found that sleep is essential for one’s all-around state of mind and motivation. “A good night’s sleep optimizes cognitive performance in a very direct way since new knowledge is integrated into our existing knowledge base while we sleep,” says Baert. The process of memory consolidation occurs mostly during the REM sleep phase, which is concentrated in the second half of the sleep cycle. Getting at least seven hours of sleep is essential to this, according to the paper.

§ Read abstract or download the paper [pdf]

§ See also the German version and press coverage in Huffington Post and FAZ.NET

http://newsroom.iza.org/en/2014/06/25/want-better-grades-get-a-good-nights-sleep/

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Middle East

*U.S. Army Peacekeeping & Stability Operations Institute * Changing the Game : Human Security as Grand Strategy*

This paper argues that the foundational work already accomplished toward better military-civilian coordination over the past ten years of stability operations must continue. Progress already achieved can serve as valuable input to full DoS and DoD synchronization operationalized through establishment of a human security framework. The first section offers an explanation of human security with a particular focus on its freedom from want and freedom from fear aspects. Additionally, a brief review of the literature will reveal the concept shares both proponents who cast it as a potentially powerful concept for development; as well as detractors who claim that the concept’s vagueness, expansiveness, and even vulnerability to political manipulation render its utility minimal. The third section employs operational design methodology utilizing the ZIF “Peace Operations 2025” report and the National Intelligence Council’s “Alternative Worlds: Global Trends 2030”. The fourth section proposes a human security framework for all United States interaction abroad employing creativity and organizational theory in support of the argument. The final section predicts the beneficial grand strategy effect of a human security framework on both national security and power and offers a set of recommendations for further research and suggestions for gradual implementation.

http://pksoi.army.mil/PKM/publications/papers/paperreview.cfm?paperID=38

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*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

Indian Punchline: Russia, Iran won’t roll over in Syria

Few details have emerged so far regarding the meeting between the US secretary of state John Kerry and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah on Friday. The Saudi side has imposed a self-censorship as to what transpired at the meeting. But the US media reports suggest that a robust revival of the coalition between Washington and its Gulf allies pushing the regime change agenda in Syria is under way.

The Iraq crisis has provided the alibi for the Obama administration to shift gear on Syria as well. The US move to involve the ‘moderate’ Syrian rebel groups in the fighting in Iraq is a ‘game changer’ for the latter — as well as for the Saudis. It makes Syria and Iraq one big theatre, which is a major gain for the Saudi regional policies to isolate Iran.

Riyadh is pleased that the Obama administration has relented on the issue of openly arming the rebels, engaging the ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels who are Saudi proteges as a comprehensive partner (in both Syria and Iraq). Saudi Arabia stands on a dream wicket today insofar as the Obama administration is now willing to do what Riyadh had been seeking all along.

Unsurprisingly, Moscow and Tehran have lost no time in reacting to this dramatic turn to the Syrian conflict. The early signs are that these two countries see through the US and Saudi Arabian game plan to break the stalemate in Syria in favor of the regime change agenda.

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has proceeded to Damascus and met with President Bashar Al-Assad. Ryabkov said in Damascus that Moscow “will not remain passive”. He wasn’t specific but, for sure, he hinted that Moscow will not allow Washington to take advantage of the Iraqi situation and reset the Syrian compass. Referring to the Obama administration’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels, Ryabkov said, “We reject this US policy. It is in everyone’s interest, including the Americans, to act responsibly on Syria.” (here).

From the Russian perspective, the Obama administration has also acted in bad faith by slyly marking time till the completion of the operation to remove all of Syria’s chemical weapons (which was achieved last Monday as the last consignment of chemical weapons left Syrian shores) and thereafter swiftly revived the regime change agenda.

Russia also senses that the US is deliberately precipitating a confrontation between the West and Russia over Ukraine. For the first time, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the gloves off to expose the US’s role of a ’spoiler’ in Ukraine and the underlying American strategy here. In sum, the preoccupations over Ukraine will not prevent Russia from playing its role in Syria.

As regards Tehran, it has also taken what appears to be a similar position as Moscow, warning that the US decision to arm the syrian rebels would vitiate regional security. However, the matrix gets somewhat complicated. On the face of it, Tehran is differentiating its negotiations with the US on the nuclear issue from its Syria (and Iraq) policies, but the undeniable fact is that there is a co-relation between the two tracks. Again, the heart of the matter is that events in Syria and Iraq will factor into Iran’s overall strategic calculus and, perhaps, the balance of power between different power centres in Tehran.

Washington seems cognizant of this, as evident from the continued ‘feelers’ or taunts (depending on how the viewer in Tehran sees it) that there is potential for coordination and cooperation between the US and Iran over the Iraq developments. Curiously, the chairman of joint chiefs of staff General Martin Dempsey pushed this line openly in an NPR interview as recently as this weekend despite the plain-speaking by Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the conflict in Iraq involves “those who want Iraq to join the US camp and those who seek an independent Iraq” and that Teheran plays the role of guarantor of Iraqi independence. (here).

Having said that, the patch-up of the US-Saudi rift over the Syrian question and Kerry’s invitation to the Saudis to play a role in Iraq will not go unnoticed in Tehran. The Americans are giving the spin, here, that King Abdullah’s mother and some of his wives as well as the Syrian rebel leader Ahmed Jarba ( who is a Saudi protege) hail from the Shammar tribe which is spread over Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

All in all, Obama is taking a big gamble on Syria by the policy shift to arm the rebels. The well-known American academic and Middle East expert Juan Cole has written, “it seems to me crazy to take the risk of repeating the Reagan mistake of fomenting private armies that morph into terrorist threats to the US.” Read Cole here. (http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/moderate-fighters-quixotic.html )

The question that begs an answer is: Who indeed are these ‘Syrian moderates’ and where are they to be found? The dividing line between the ISIL and the ‘moderates’ among Syrian rebels is wafer thin as ‘moderate’ fighters keep drifting to greener pastures.

To be sure, there are glaring contradictions in Obama’s latest policy shift on Syria, as an excellent commentary by the veteran Middle East hand of the Independent Robert Fisk points out (here). (http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/syrian-moderates-arent-so-moderate-in-iraq-9569548.html )

What explains it? It can’t be that a cerebral mind like Obama’s can’t figure out that the sensible thing is to allow the regional states — principally, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran and, perhaps, Egypt — to knock their heads together, while the UA acts as a genuine facilitator to mould a regional consensus while at the same time ensuring that the international community speaks in one voice in facing the spectre of terrorism haunting the Middle East.

On the contrary, Obama seems to be finally buckling under the withering attacks at home by the motley crowd of his neocon critics and the Republicans on the one hand and the sections within his own camp, including politicians such as Kerry who always wanted a ‘forward policy’ on Syria. Left to himself, it can’t be that an intelligent mind like Obama’s has any need to be relearning the forgotten lessons of the US regional policies under George W. Bush.

http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2014/06/29/russia-iran-wont-roll-over-in-syria/

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*Jordan Urges World Help to Face Regional Turmoil*

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday appealed for international support to help his country deal with regional turmoil after jihadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria declared an "Islamic caliphate".

"It is important that the international community continue to support Jordan to deal challenges and developments in the region," a palace statement quoted the king as telling a Japanese parliamentary delegation.

A Sunni militant offensive spearheaded by the Sunni jihadists in Iraq has sparked fears in Amman that they will take their fight to the kingdom.

The militants, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on Sunday declared a "caliphate", or Islamist state, straddling parts of Iraq and Syria.

Renaming themselves the Islamic State (IS), they already control large swathes of territory in northern and eastern Syria, and this month captured vast stretches of land in northern and western Iraq.

Warning against "repercussions of the crisis for Iraq and the entire region," the Jordanian king called for "a political solution that would include all segments of the Iraqi people," according to the palace.

His remarks came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the international community on Sunday to support Jordan in the fight against "Islamic extremism".

"I think it’s our common interest to make sure that a moderate, stable regime like (Jordan) is able to defend itself," said Netanyahu, whose country has a 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.

Already suffering from the impact of hosting more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, Jordan has long faced the challenge of dealing with its own jihadists, many of whom have joined jihadists or al-Qaida-linked groups in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

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Russia-China Gas Deal: The End of the US-EU Energy Power Play?

by Faraz Shams

Much of the United States‘ clout in global geopolitics after World War II has been marked by its abilities to tie-up with countries rich in fossil fuels, particularly the regimes of the Middle East. However, the fine balance which has been maintained with great caution and prudence is at risk of being undermined by two of its biggest competitors – Russia and China. The coming together of the two nemeses, underlined by a recently concluded blockbuster natural gas deal, means that the U.S. and European Union (EU) together would find it difficult to counter the increasingly belligerent geopolitical moves by these powers of the East.

The 30 year, gas supply deal valued at around $400 billion signals the gradual shift in the dynamics of Russia’s global energy trade. Under the provisions of the contract, Russia’s Gazprom would supply 38 billion cubic meters of gas each year to China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC). Highlighting the political importance of the deal, the contract was signed in the presence of the Russian and Chinese leaders Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, respectively. Both leaders are trying to roughshod their way against their smaller neighbors. While Russia’s meddling in Ukrainian affairs has raised many eyebrows, China’s claim to the highly contested and disputed Senkaku islands has sent Japan in a tizzy. The Chinese stance over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, wherein it has locked horns with as many as four other South East Asian neighbors, has also been a source of tension in the region.

Until the conclusion of the deal, Europe was the primary market for the Russians, but this development is bound to be a source of anxiety to European policymakers, and also in the U.S., where President Obama has been under severe domestic pressure to counter Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Until now the strategy has been to apply economic pressures through sanctions, as in the case of Iran previously. However, Putin’s usual trick of one-upmanship has meant that though the price elicited is lower than what Russia gets in Europe, its bursary would remain healthy – even if further sanctions are imposed.

Terms of the just-signed deal between Russia and China weren’t disclosed, although sources suggest it was in the region of $9-$10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). This would mean the Chinese are getting a better deal than Russia’s European buyers, who pay about $10.60 per mmBtu. That would not hurt Russia much and would give the Eurasian energy powerhouse some breathing space in the medium to long term in the continuing saga of brinkmanship, wherein it tries to up the ante across fragile regions ranging from Syria to Ukraine.

The deal is a win-win proposition for China as well. Not only has the communist behemoth been successful in driving down the price, but also secured a long-term deal from a neighboring country that insulates it from the vagaries of the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets. With an economy so highly dependent on manufacturing that requires heavy doses of energy supply, this deal augurs well for China. It gives the country more bargaining power with the Gulf countries and places it on a better footing as compared to its rival Japan, which has been forced to lift expensive LNG from the Gulf and elsewhere at high rates.

Other Asian consumer biggies – including India and Pakistan – would be tantalized by the prospect of a similar arrangement for themselves. Both South Asian rivals have already been working on the modalities of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would transport from the gas-rich central Asian country to South Asia. Even Bangladesh has evinced interest in the project. Interestingly, India has been reluctant to criticize Russia on the Ukraine issue and has been moving toward Putin seeking greater partnership in the energy sector. Recently, the ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of the state-owned explorer ONGC, signed a deal with Russia’s largest oil and gas producer Rosneft to jointly explore hydrocarbons in the offshore Arctic.

The transnational pipeline could spell further benefits for Russia and could woo other consumers such as Japan and South Korea. Bloomberg has reported that a group of influential Japanese lawmakers are lobbying hard for pipeline connectivity to Russia for gas supplies. The fact that Japan is critically in need of energy supplies has not escaped the attention of the Russians, especially in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. It is perhaps for this reason that the pipeline, starting from Siberia, runs via Vladivostok – the all-weather port on the eastern coast.

The Iranians would be relishing at the prospect of a similar deal to ease the economic hardships the country has been enduring for a while now. If Iran is able to ink a similar deal with China or India, it would very well strengthen its hand in the ongoing nuclear negotiations and boost the conservatives. While India had backed out of the Iran-Pakistan-India LNG pipeline owing to the special provisions extended by the US for its civilian nuclear energy program, refusal to hand out a similar facility to Pakistan has led the country to go ahead with the project all by itself. Even India, with a critical gas shortage at home, could very well join the trajectory in the near future.

All of this means that the leverage enjoyed by the Gulf States such as Qatar – one of the high-profile allies of the United States in the region – will take a beating in a longer timeframe. The recent European elections also raised a question mark over the mandate enjoyed by the parliament at Brussels wherein the UK, France and Denmark have voted overwhelmingly in favor of Eurosceptic parties. While the EU is marred by internal bickering, the Russia-China duo are romping away with a great show of unity – at least in inking deals that could diminish the clout of the European heavyweights.

All in all, there is much to ponder and strategize accordingly for the policymakers and statesmen both in Washington and Brussels. For this deal and its ramifications would be felt in the times to come.

Faraz Shams is an independent oil and gas market analyst. A trained mechanical engineer, he has worked with multiple energy companies along with various publications focused on the oil and gas sector. His areas of interest include global geopolitics and market analysis, among others.

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June 25, 2014

Gallup: Fewer in U.S. Support Iraq Withdrawal Decision Now vs. 2011

A majority, 57%, say 2003 war was a mistake

by Andrew Dugan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than three if five Americans (61%) still support President Barack Obama’s 2011 decision to remove nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq — a move that congressional critics and former Bush administration officials have heavily scrutinized as Iraq falls into crisis. However, public support for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has fallen 14 percentage points from October 2011, a few months before nearly all troops left the country.

The government of Iraq has faced an existential crisis as Sunni militant groups capture major portions of the country and press onward to Baghdad, the capital. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist organization with previous ties to al-Qaida, is a leading force behind this violent insurgency. In response to these threats, Obama has sent 275 military troops to help secure the U.S. embassy in Iraq and 300 military advisors to assist the Iraqi government, the latter decision announced as this June 20-21 Gallup poll was conducted.

One factor that undoubtedly contributes to the broad support for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq is the enduring unpopularity of the decision to send troops there in the first place. A majority (57%) see the U.S. decision to send troops to Iraq in 2003 as mistake. This reading is identical to what Gallup found in February of this year before the latest round of devastating attacks against the Iraqi government.

Republicans Least Likely to Approve of Withdrawal Decision

One-third of self-identified Republicans approve of Obama’s 2011 decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, by far the lowest level of support for the decision across partisan groups. Support is highest among Democrats, at 87%, followed by independents, at 59%.

All three partisan groups are less likely to back the withdrawal now than they did in 2011, with independents showing the greatest change in opinion — approval fell by 18 points. Approval among Democrats and Republicans also saw decreases by significant amounts, nine and 10 points, respectively.

Bottom Line

Undertaken with overwhelming public support and a major campaign promise, Obama’s 2011 withdrawal of nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq is now slightly more controversial as the country edges toward civil war. Although a majority of Americans still back the decision, support for it has dropped 14 points since 2011, even as public opinion remains unchanged on the underlying invasion that brought U.S. troops to Iraq.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/171923/fewer-support-iraq-withdrawal-decision-2011.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=All%20Gallup%20Headlines%20-%20Americas%20-%20Foreign%20Affairs%20-%20Government%20-%20Iraq%20-%20Muslim%20World%20-%20Politics%20-%20Terrorism%20-%20The%20Presidency%20-%20USA%20-%20War

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see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

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Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat – Edith Suter

UdovonMassenbachMail

JoergBarandat

Top 5 Reasons US Aid to _Moderate_ Syrian Fighters is Quixotic _ Informed Co.pdf

Syrian ‚moderates‘ aren’t so moderate in Iraq – New Articles – The Independe.pdf

Changing_the_Game-Human Security as Grand Strategy.pdf

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