Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 26/09/14

Massenbach-Letter. News

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

Guten Morgen.

· The Hill: Qatar’s not-so-charitable record on terror finance

· Belarus Supports Kurdistan with Wide-Ranging Agreement

· Turkey Seeks Advanced Security for Pipelines, Strategic Locations


· COLUMN-In search for security, China’s navy enters Persian Gulf: John Kemp

· Fixing Pentagon Intelligence

· Water Pressures in CentralAsia

Massenbach* Yamal, Russia’s gas megaplan, becomes symbol of sanctions defiance*

(Reuters) – Dozens of Russian energy ventures are in jeopardy due to Western sanctions on technology and funding. Looming over them all, a giant project the Kremlin is bent on saving no matter what.

The Yamal plan, a $27 billion investment to tap vast natural gasreserves in northwest Siberia, aims to double Russia’s stake in the fast-growing market for liquefied natural gas. If it stays on track, it will also show the West that the world’s largest energyindustry is not cracking under sanctions.

Russia has said it will make sure Yamal has the resources it needs to keep building. But that pledge will be tested: Yamal’s gas is so far in the Arctic North that it requires specialised technology often provided by Western partners – many of which will not be able to operate because of the restrictions.

And while Yamal’s shareholders have already invested $6 billion in it, U.S. and EU action has now effectively cut off the Russian energy firm’s access to Western lending.

Nonetheless, bankers and analysts returning from a recent trip to Yamal said they were impressed by the project’s status.

Some said it was hard to tell that Yamal’s controlling shareholder, gas firm Novatek, and its billionaire co-owner Gennady Timchenko were subject to some of the most severe U.S. and EU sanctions targeting Putin after he annexed Crimea in easternUkraine and lent backing to pro-Russia separatists.

"I was astonished by the pace and amount of work that has been done," said Maxim Moshkov, oil analyst at UBS.

Some 6,000 people are currently working on the project and the number will rise to 15,000 next year."They work day and night… Having been there, I realised the project will most likely become a reality," Moshkov said. Andrey Polishchuk from Raiffeisen bank said: "They are building a new airport, storage tanks. Ships are coming to a nearby port one after another. Some are unloading goods, some are waiting to unload".


Yamal has powerful partners – French oil major Total and China’s CNPC.

Total said this week that despite the sanctions it would not be stopping work on Yamal and has suggested that, given Europe relies on Russia for a third of its gas, it would be risky to slow down the project.

Yamal will start exports from 2018 and has already pre-sold most of its future output to buyers in Europe and Asia. It will ultimately export 16.5 million tonnes of LNG a year – equal to 6 months of French gas consumption.

Novatek, along with gas monopoly Gazprom, has so far escaped European sanctions, but the fact that it is on the U.S. sanctions list makes it almost impossible for it to raise money for the project.

So Total is still clear to participate in Yamal. But its ability to finance its share in it through U.S. or European banks has been drastically limited.

"Can we live without Russian gas in Europe? The answer is no. Are there any reasons to live without it? I think – and I’m not defending the interests of Total in Russia – it is a no," Total boss Christophe De Margerie told Reuters.

Timchenko, co-owner of Novatek, is also a force to be reckoned with – his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin giving him heft even as it makes him a target for sanctions.

In March 2014, the United States slapped the first round of sanctions on him, explaining: "Timchenko’s activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin".

Putin subsequently made Timchenko Russia’s point person for business relations – including the development of key gas projects – with China.

Timchenko has said China, which has a 20 percent stake in Yamal through CNPC, has agreed to lend $20 billion before the end of 2014.

But there is still work to do to win that loan.

"We have had communications from higher management over compliances that we shall strictly follow international rules," a Chinese banking executive told Reuters on condition of anonymity given the delicate nature of the negotiations.

"Basic principles are – we shall not deal with entities that are sanctioned…We don’t want the U.S. to find excuses to give us trouble."


If China can’t put up the money, Putin is likely to.

The Russian government, which has accumulated the world’s third largest forex reserves of $460 billion, has said it will invest money in profitable projects which can guarantee hefty payouts to state coffers in the future.

Various officials have pledged support to Gazprom, state oil firm Rosneft and pipeline and railway monopolies Transneft and RZhD.

And Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Novatek’s chief and co-owner Leonid Mikhelson that Russia would support other companies too, irrespective of their ownership structure.

"Should (their Chinese lending) plan fail, they can count on state support. The government has made it clear it will not allow it to fail," said a Western oil executive close to the project.

The crunch point for Yamal will come next year when France’s engineering firm Technip needs to deliver the core liquefaction plant – technology that Russia is lacking.

Technip told Reuters this week it was moving forward with the project. It had earlier warned about the risks to its income from sanctions on Russia.

If Technip should run into difficulties – the pace at which sanctions have evolved in the past months suggests more could yet be in the offing – Russia might be able to source the technology from China, which has in recent years become able to design and build large LNG plants.

"There might be an opportunity lurking in terms of supplying our own gas liquefaction technology," said an engineering executive at CNPC.


UPDATE 1-Russia says Exxon still drilling in its Arctic*

(Reuters) – ExxonMobil is still drilling in the Russian Arctic, a Russian minister said on Friday, in move that if confirmed will anger Washington after the U.S. administration slapped sanctions on Moscow to suspend such operations by Western oil majors.

The joint drilling project in the Kara Sea between Exxon and the Kremlin’s state oil firm Rosneft has become one of the most watched projects by the oil industry after the West ratcheted up sanctions on Moscow for its incursion in Ukraine.

Two previous waves of sanctions have failed to stop Exxon from sending an oil drilling rig from Norway to the Russian waters in August in the hope to confirm billions of barrels of new oil reserves.

Last week, the United States imposed sanctions banning joint exploration activities in the Russian Arctic, shale and deep water resources and giving companies 14 days to suspend projects, including those under way.

"Exxon is continuing exploration drilling in the Kara Sea," Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi told Reuters.

He declined to provide details.

Rosneft declined to comment, Exxon was not available for immediate comment.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Exxon had halted drilling

Sources close to the project have said Exxon has no U.S. personnel on the rig. The company might also argue that an abrupt stoppage could increase operational and ecological risks, two sources said citing research done by lawyers.

The rig was meant to finish drilling the well and leave the Russian waters in October.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Uri Avnery:Schottland am Euphrat*

ZWEI LÄNDER wetteiferten in dieser Woche um den ersten Platz in den Nachrichten der Welt: Schottland und der islamische Staat im Irak und in Syrien.

Es könnte keinen größeren Unterschied als zwischen diesen beiden Ländern geben. Schottland ist feucht und warm. Der Irak ist trocken und heiß. Schottland wird nach seinem Whisky genannt (oder umgekehrt), während für die ISIS-Kämpfer, Alkohol zu trinken, ein Kennzeichen der Ungläubigen ist, die (buchstäblich) ihren Kopf verlieren sollen.

Doch gibt es einen gemeinsamen Nenner beider Krisen: sie markieren das nahende Ableben des Nationalstaates.

MODERNER NATIONALISMUS wurde wie jede große Idee in der Geschichte aus einer neuen Art von Umständen geboren: wirtschaftlich, militärisch, geistig u.a., die ältere Formen überholen ließen.

Ende des 17.Jahrhunderts konnten bestehende Staaten nicht länger mit Forderungen zurechtkommen. Kleine Staaten waren zum Scheitern verurteilt. Die Wirtschaft verlangte einen sicheren inländischen Markt, der groß genug für die Entwicklung moderner Industrien ist. Neue Massenarmeen benötigten eine Basis, die stark genug war, um Soldaten zu versorgen und moderne Waffen zu bezahlen. Neue Ideologien schufen neue Identitäten.

Die Bretagne und Korsika könnten nicht unabhängig existieren. Sie müssten viel von ihrer getrennten Identität aufgeben müssen und sich dem großen und mächtigen französischen Staat anschließen, um zu überleben. Das Vereinigte Königreich, die Vereinigung der britischen Inseln unter einem schottischen König wurde zu einer Weltmacht. Andere folgten. Jeder nach seinem eigenen Tempo. Zionismus war ein später Versuch, dies nachzuahmen.

Der Prozess erreichte Ende des 1.Weltkrieges seinen Höhepunkt, als Reiche wie das Ottomanische Kalifat und Österreich-Ungarn aus einander brachen. Kemal Atatürk, der das islamische Kalifat in einen türkischen Nationalstaat umwandelte, war vielleicht der letzte große Ideologe der nationalen Idee.

Aber zu dieser Zeit war diese Idee schon alt geworden. Die Realitäten, die sie geschaffen hat, änderten sich schnell. Wenn ich mich nicht irre, war es Gustave Le Bon, der französische Psychologe, der behauptete, dass vor hundert Jahren jede neue Idee, die von den Massen angenommen werde, zu dieser Zeit schon wieder überholt sei. Der Prozess verläuft folgendermaßen: Jemand hat eine neue Idee. Es braucht eine Generation, bis sie von den Intellektuellen angenommen wird. Es ist eine weitere Generation nötig, damit die Intellektuellen die Massen lehren. Mit der Zeit bekommt sie Macht, doch die Umstände haben sich schon wieder verändert, und eine neue Idee ist erforderlich.

Die Realitäten ändern sich viel schneller als der menschliche Geist.

Nehmen wir den europäischen Nationalstaat. Als er seinen Endsieg nach dem 1.Weltkrieg erreichte, hatte sich die Welt schon wieder verändert. Die europäischen Armeen, die einander mit Maschinengewehren niedermähten, standen jetzt Panzern und Kampfflugzeugen gegenüber. Die Wirtschaft verbreitete sich weltweit .Die Luftfahrt verkürzte große Entfernungen. Die moderne Kommunikation machte aus der Welt ein „Weltdorf“.

1926 lud ein österreichischer Edelmann, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergy zu einem pan-europäischen Kongress ein. Während Adolf Hitler, ein hoffnungslos altmodischer Denker, versuchte, dem Kontinent den deutschen Nationalstaat aufzuzwingen, propagierte eine kleine Gruppe von Idealisten die Idee einer europäischen Union, die sich nach einem weiteren fürchterlichen (2.) Weltkrieg verbreitete.

Diese Idee, jetzt noch in ihren Anfängen, wird allgemein akzeptiert, aber sie ist schon überholt. Die multinationale Wirtschaft, die sozialen Medien, der Kampf gegen tödliche Epidemien, die Bürgerkriege und Genozide, die Umweltgefahren bedrohen den ganzen Planeten – all dies macht eine Weltregierung dringend nötig – doch dies ist eine Idee, deren Verwirklichung noch sehr, sehr weit entfernt ist.

DIE ÜBERALTERUNG des Nationalstaates hat ein paradoxes Nebenprodukt geschaffen: den Aufbruch des Staates in immer kleinere Einheiten.

Während die Welt zu immer größeren politischen und wirtschaftlichen Einheiten tendiert, um Stärke zu gewinnen, fallen Nationalstaaten auseinander. In der ganzen Welt verlangen kleine Völker Unabhängigkeit.

Dies ist nicht so lächerlich, wie es aussieht. Der Nationalstaat entstand, weil die Realitäten Gesellschaften von wenigstens einer gewissen Größe und Stärke brauchten. Aber jetzt bewegen sich alle bedeutenden Funktionen der Staaten zu viel größeren Vereinigungen. Warum braucht Korsika da noch Frankreich? Warum die Basken Spanien? Warum benötigt Quebec Kanada? Warum nicht in einem kleineren Staat leben mit Menschen wie du, der die gleiche natürliche Sprache spricht?

Die Tschechoslowakei ist friedlich auseinander gebrochen. So auch Jugoslawien- allerdings nicht so friedlich. So geschah es mit Zypern, Serbien, dem Sudan – und natürlich der Sowjetunion.

(Nebenbei bemerkt, betrifft dies auch die Idee der sogenannten Ein-Staaten-Lösung für unser kleines (? Ü) Problem in Israel/Palästina. Während der letzten drei Generationen hat die Welt nicht ein einziges Beispiel von zwei verschiedenen Völkern gesehen, die freiwillig zusammen in einem Staat leben wollen.)

Das schottische Referendum ist eines der Eröffnungsszenen dieser neuen Epoche. Die Befürworter der Unabhängigkeit versprachen, dass Schottland sich der europäischen Union und der NATO anschließen könnte und vielleicht auch den Euro adoptieren würde. Warum sollte Schottland in der britischen Zwangsjacke bleiben? Schließlich beherrscht Britannien die Meere nicht mehr?

Die knappe Niederlage der schottischen Patrioten ändert nicht die Richtung der Entwicklung. Sie hält sie nur etwas auf.

NATIONALISMUS WAR eine europäische Idee.

Diese Idee streckte ihre Wurzeln nie tief in die trocknen Felder der arabischen Welt. Selbst in den Hochzeiten des arabischen Nationalismus‘ war nie ganz klar, ob z.B. ein Damaszener sich selbst zuerst als Syrer oder als Muslim betrachtete, ob ein Beiruter sich zuerst als maronitischer Christ oder als Libanese ansah oder ob ein Kairoer sich zuerst als Ägypter, Araber oder als Muslim fühlte.

Während des algerischen Unabhängigkeitskampfes beklagte sich einmal mir gegenüber ein zorniger Franzose vom politisch rechten Flügel: „ Bevor wir Nordafrika eroberten, war Algerien nie vereinigt! Wir schufen die algerische Nation!“ Er hatte ganz Recht, nur zog er die falschen Schlüsse. Genau dasselbe hörte ich viele Male von engagierten Zionisten über die palästinensische Nation.

Die modernen arabischen Nationen wurden von europäischen Kolonialherren erfunden. In letzter Zeit ist es Mode geworden, Mark Sykes und Georges Picot zu erwähnen, zwei mittelmäßige Bürokraten, der eine ein Engländer, der andere ein Franzose, die ein geheimes Abkommen zur Teilung des Ottomanischen Reiches beschlossen. Sie und ihre Nachfolger schufen die Staaten Syrien, den Irak, (Trans)Jordanien, Palästina etc.

Diese „Nationalstaaten“ waren ausgesprochen künstlich. Die europäischen Planer hatten gewöhnlich sehr wenige Kenntnisse der lokalen Umstände, Traditionen, Identitäten und der Kultur. Sie kümmerten sich auch nicht sehr darum. Der Irak mit seinen verschiedenen Komponenten wurde geschaffen, britischen Interessen zu dienen. Die seltsame östliche Grenze des Jordan wurde für eine britische Ölleitung von Mossul nach Haifa gezogen. Der Libanon, als Heimat für die Christen gedacht, wurde angeschlossen und sollte auch muslimisch sunnitische und schiitische Gebiete einschließen, nur um es größer zu machen. Al-Sham (Syrien) wurde Jordanien weg genommen, Palästina und der Libanon wurden zu Syrien.(Später verlor es auch Alexandria/Askenderun an die Türkei).

ALL DIESE imperialistischen Manipulationen widersprachen der muslimischen Geschichte und Tradition.

Jedes muslimische Kind lernt in der Schule von den großen muslimischen Reichen, die sich vom Norden Spaniens bis an die Grenze von Burma erstreckten, von den Toren Wiens bis zum Süden von Jemen; es sollte dann einen Blick auf die Landkarte werfen, um dort die Mini-Länder wie Jordanien und den Libanon entdecken. Das ist demütigend.

Zuerst gab es Bemühungen, die Araber unter den Schirm des Nationalismus‘ zu vereinigen. Die Ba’ath-Partei kämpfte (wenigstens theoretisch), um einen einzigen pan-arabischen Staat zu schaffen , und der Glaube wurde von dem Helden der Massen, dem ägyptischen Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, einem säkularen Militärdiktator, aufgenommen. Ein pan-arabischer Staat hätte auch etwas mehr Gleichheit zwischen den reichen Ölstaaten wie Saudi-Arabien und den armen Ländern wie Ägypten schaffen können. Nasserismus schuf eine neue Ideologie. Pan-arabischer Nationalismus wurde „Kaumi“, lokaler Patriotismus wurde „Wotani“ genannt. Die Gemeinschaft aller Muslime war die „Umma“.

(Dasselbe Wort „umma“ bedeutet im Hebräischen das Gegenteil: einer modernen Nation. Die Israelis sind so verwirrt wie ihre Nachbarn. Wir müssen unsere Priorität wählen. Sind wir in erster Linie Juden, Hebräer oder Israelis? Was genau bedeutet „der Nationalstaat des jüdischen Volkes“, wie er von Benjamin Netanjahu propagiert wird?)

DIE RIESIGE Attraktion der Bewegung, die sich jetzt „Islamischer Staat“ nennt, ist es das, dass sie eine einfache Idee vorschlägt: weg mit all diesen verrückten Grenzen, die von westlichen Imperialisten für ihre eigenen Zwecke gezogen wurden, und schaffen wir den klassischen pan-muslimischen Staat: das Kalifat.

Dies scheint wie das Gegenteil des Aufbruchs der europäischen Staaten – aber es bedeutet dasselbe: die totale Zurückweisung des Nationalstaates.

Als solches gehört er zur Vergangenheit und zur Zukunft.

Er glorifiziert die Vergangenheit. Muhammed und seine direkten Nachfolger („Kalif“ bedeutet Nachfolger) sind als makellose Personen idealisiert worden, die Verkörperung aller Tugenden, die Besitzer göttlicher Weisheit.

Dies ist sehr weit von der historischen Wahrheit entfernt. Alle drei unmittelbaren Nachfolger des Propheten wurden ermordet. Wegen des Streites über die Nachfolge teilte sich der Islam in Sunniten und Schiiten und blieb so bis zum heutigen Tag (und jetzt mehr denn je). Aber Mythen sind stärker als die Wahrheit.

Doch während sich diese an die Vergangenheit klammert, ist die Islamische Staatsbewegung (vorher ISIS, der islamische Staat des Irak und al-Sham) sehr modern. Mit einem Schlag reinigt sie den Tisch vom Nationalstaat und seinen Abkömmlingen. Sie hat eine klare und einfache Idee, die von Muslimen überall leicht verstanden wird. Sie scheint weithin überzeugend zu sein.

DIE WESTLICHE Antwort ist komischerweise unangemessen.

Leute wie Barack Obama und John Kerry und ihre entsprechenden Gegenstücke in ganz Europa sind fast unfähig, zu verstehen, worum es hier geht. Mit der traditionellen europäischen Verachtung für die „Eingeborenen“ sehen sie außer den köpfenden Terroristen nichts anderes. Sie scheinen wirklich zu glauben, eine revolutionäre neue Idee löschen zu können, indem sie mit arabischen Diktatoren und korrupten Politikern eine Koalition bilden, Rebellen bombardieren und den Job beenden, indem sie lokale Kapitalisten beschäftigen.

Das ist ein lächerliches Missverständnis der neuen Realität. Bis jetzt hat IS mit nur einer Handvoll fanatischer und grausamer Militanten riesige Gebiete erobert.

WAS IST die Antwort?

Offen gesagt: ich weiß es nicht. Aber der erste Schritt für den Westen als auch für die Israelis wäre, ihre Arroganz abzuwerfen und zu versuchen, das neue Phänomen, dem sie sich gegenüber sehen, zu verstehen.

Wir stehen nicht „Terroristen“ gegenüber – das magische Wort, das alle Probleme zu lösen scheint, ohne das Gehirn zu strapazieren. Sie stehen einem neuen Phänomen gegenüber.

Die Geschichte befindet sich im Prozess.

(Aus dem Englischen: Ellen Rohlfs. vom Verfasser autorisiert)


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Water Pressures in Central Asia*

11 Sep 2014 Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem …

Political rivalries, economic competition, heightened nationalism and mistrust hamper the search for a solution to the region’s growing water and energy needs … report, Water Pressures in Central Asia … examines the impact of water issues on shared border areas in the volatile Ferghana Valley; water shortages in urban areas; and competing water and energy needs among the three riparian states …

also analyses the international community’s potential to contribute to national and regional stability in Central Asia … Attempts at comprehensive regional solutions have foundered on mistrust.

The three countries (and international backers) should act in the Ferghana Valley border areas to end annual competition and conflict over water by seeking step-by-step solutions rather than an all-inclusive resource settlement … “The failure of Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent to resolve cross-border water problems shows a worrying disregard for stability in their common area. Strained ethnic relations and competition over water and land could be a deadly mix. Conflict in this volatile part of Central Asia risks rapid, possibly irreversible regional destabilisation” …

Water Pressures in Central Asia
Europe and Central Asia Report N°233 11 Sep 2014

siehe auch:
ENVSEC Map Water issues in the Ferghana Valley

ENVSEC – Environment and Security Initiative was established in 2003 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In 2004, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) became an associated member of the Initiative, and since then coordinates with ENVSEC its environmental activities that are aiming at enhancing the security in vulnerable regions, and supports selected ENVSEC projects that are in line with NATO’s geographical and thematic priorities. From 2006 inwards the Initiative is strengthened by two new members – the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). The ENVSEC Management Board is the key decision-making body of the Initiative …

Hinweis: … In a paper called "Fergana as FATA? A Post-2014 Strategy for Central Asia," Colonel Ted Donnelly of the U.S. Army War College argues “… the most likely post-2014 outcome is that the Fergana Valley will increasingly resemble the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region of Pakistan. Like the FATA, the future Fergana Valley will consist of significant ungoverned space which would serve as a safe haven, breeding ground, and staging area for VEOs [violent extremist organizations] and militants … VEOs would use this safe haven, as well as reconstituted rear areas in Afghanistan, to increase Islamist insurgent pressure on secular Central Asian governments …”
2012 Will The Ferghana Valley Become The New FATA? …
2011 Fergana as FATA? Central Asia after 2014 – Outcomes and Strategic Options



The Hill: Qatar’s not-so-charitable record on terror finance*

By Matthew Levitt, contributor

As the United States cobbles together an international coalition of the willing to take the fight to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State), senior U.S. officials have stressed the importance of employing soft power tools alongside military airstrikes. In particular, any effort to confront and ultimately defeat ISIS will have to include renewed focus on tackling ISIS financing. This, however, demands a truly international effort that will be only as successful as its least effective partner.

Enter Qatar, a tiny but wealthy Gulf state with a penchant for coddling up to Islamist movements from Palestinian Hamas and Libyan Islamist militias to the Afghan Taliban. In March, Department of the Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen singled out Qatar as an especially "permissive jurisdiction" for terrorist financing. Qatari oversight is so lax, Cohen noted, that "several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are based in Kuwait." Not wanting to expose sensitive intelligence, Cohen pointed to press reports that Qatar not only supports Hamas but also extremist groups operating in Syria. "To say the least," he concluded, "this threatens to aggravate an already volatile situation in a particularly dangerous and unwelcome manner."

Now, under steadily increasing pressure over charges that Qatar continues to fund extremists in Syria and Iraq, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad al Thani took it upon himself to personally assure German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his regime does no such thing. But even he conceded that "such organizations are partly financed from abroad," so Qatar has now issued a new law creating a new agency empowered to regulate charities in the kingdom that are engaged in politics, send money overseas or receive foreign contributions.

This, of course, is a welcome first step in the right direction, but it will only amount to anything if the new law is actually implemented and enforced. Unfortunately, Qatar — like several other Gulf countries — has a history of introducing such laws with great fanfare but little or no follow-through or enforcement.

In 2004, Qatar passed a law criminalizing terror financing, established a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), and founded the Qatari Authority for Charitable Activities (QACA). Another law, passed in 2006, expanded charitable oversight and gave additional authorities to the Ministry of Civil Service and Housing Affairs. All positive steps, but by the time an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mutual evaluation team came to inspect Qatar’s anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance (AML/CFT) regime two years later, it found significant problems. The IMF reported that terrorist financing was criminalized in Qatar, "but in a limited way." The administrative order creating the FIU, it transpired, was inconsistent with Qatar’s anti-money laundering law. A system requiring the disclosure of currency transported across the border was assessed by the IMF as being "neither implemented nor effective." And despite having authority to confiscate, freeze or seize funds tied to money laundering or terror finance, not a single confiscation had been ordered because not a single money laundering charge had been brought before the courts. To the contrary: The IMF reported that it appeared that "on one occasion, the [Qatari] authorities offered safe harbor to a person designated under [United Nations terrorism designation list] UNSCR 1267. No actions were taken with respect to this person’s funds or other assets."

In a surreal encounter in 2009, this author experienced firsthand Qatar’s penchant for passing legislation and considering the matter closed without any implementation or enforcement. In a meeting with Qatari officials in Doha, this author asked how the Qatari FIU assessed the compliance of local Hawalas (informal money transfer businesses common in the region) with a then-new law requiring Hawalas to register with the government or shut down. The official explained — with a straight face — that there appeared to be no Hawalas operating in the country since none had registered with the authorities as required under the new law. In fact, the official had an identical conversation with IMF assessors just a few weeks earlier. Highly skeptical that not a single Hawala operated in the country, IMF experts returned to their hotels and asked expatriate foreign workers how they sent money back to their families in their home countries. Their answers were hardly surprising: "Hawalas." The IMF team returned to the official with a long list of Hawalas operating openly in Qatar, required the government submit an updated section of its report on this issue to the IMF, and stressed the need to actually implement and enforce new laws.

The following year Qatar passed still another AML/CFT law, this time specifically requiring prosecutors to freeze funds of U.N.-designated terrorist organizations. A National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) was empowered to designate terrorists independently of the U.N., but no designations were made as of 2013. While Qatar requires financial institutions to file suspicious transaction reports, Qatar’s FIU has referred to the public prosecutor a grand total of one case for investigation as of November 2013.

Fast forward to Qatar’s latest recommitment to provide regulatory oversight of its charitable sector. This law was ready in draft form last year, but was only passed now under significant international pressure. Last year, the State Department noted that "formally" the Qatari Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs monitors and licenses nongovernmental charitable organizations and requires their foreign partners to submit to a vetting and licensing process. Formally. In fact, this has not happened, in part because so long as charities operated within the Qatar Financial Center (QFC), they were exempt from having to register or be subject to supervision.

In its latest annual report on terrorism trends, the State Department politely described Qatar’s oversight of local donations to foreign organizations as "inconsistent" and more bluntly characterized implementation of the country’s AML/CFT law as "lacking" and marred by "significant gaps." In the words of one U.S. official, the Qatari attitude to date is often that "a law has been passed, and therefore the problem has been solved." It should therefore not surprise that last December the Treasury Department added Abd al-Rahman al-Nu’aymi, a Qatari academic and businessman, to its terror list, noting he "ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al-Qa’ida via al-Qa’ida’s representative in Syria, Abu-Khalid al-Suri, and intended to transfer nearly $50,000 more." An equal opportunity terror financier, Treasury reported that al-Nu’aymi also sent funds to al Qaeda in Iraq (now called ISIS), to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and to al-Shabaab in Somalia.

To date, implementation and enforcement have not been a component of Qatar’s approach to these issues. Instead, Qatar routinely stresses to investors and critics alike the passage of laws that, on paper, appear robust but are almost never implemented or enforced.

In and of itself, the passage of this latest law is therefore unremarkable. Qatar has passed similar laws in the past, without acting on any of the authorities the laws gave to its departments and agencies. It was the day after announcing the new law that the Qatari emir informed the German chancellor that "Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organizations." Having the charity regulations on the books is an essential first step; however, it must be implemented. The proof in the pudding will not be when Qatar opens the doors of a new charity oversight agency, but rather when that agency takes action against the terror financing that is indeed taking place within the country.

Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler scholar and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Georgetown University Press, 2013).


Middle East

*Turkey Seeks Advanced Security for Pipelines, Strategic Locations*

Protecting Infrastructure: In this 2009 photo, security guards stand watch at the Tawke oil refinery in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. A new pipeline pumps oil from the semi-autonomous enclave to Turkey, which is putting out bids to protect pipelines and other critical areas. (ALI AL-SAADI/ / AFP/Getty Images)

ANKARA — The Turkish government, feeling threatened by unstable regimes and hostile governments in its vicinity, is setting off to provide advanced security for its pipelines and other strategically important buildings, bridges and military bases.

In two separate biddings, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) procurement agency has invited private companies to propose solutions.The bidding document calls for “integrated security systems for all existing and future oil and natural gas pipelines, management facilities and other units on these pipelines.”

The integrated security systems will protect Turkish pipelines from security threats like sabotage, attack and theft, the document says.

SSM will respond to bidders’ introductory documents from Sept. 15, and the contenders will be asked to make bids no later than Oct. 15.“The idea originated when the state pipeline company felt that its own security services may fail in case of a concerted or sophisticated attack on any Turkish pipeline. We think this task requires the services of a professional company or companies for an integrated system,” one procurement official said.Botas, the state pipeline company, runs thousands of kilometers-long pipelines and operates its own security system for protection.The procurement official said the proposed system would feature cameras, drones, a command-and-control center and a rapid-reaction force. “Depending on the features that will be chosen, this program may come at the tune of a few hundred million dollars,” he said.

Procurement officials said the program intends to protect existing and future pipelines, especially in Turkey’s southeast. The project comes as oil revenues are a lifeline for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, whose peshmerga forces are being supported by US airstrikes in their battle against the radical Sunni militants of Islamic State.

A pipeline, which began operating at the start of this year, allows the semi-autonomous Kurdish enclave to independently pump and export oil, carrying northern Iraqi Taq Taq crude to Turkey’s Mediterranean export outlet of Ceyhan. The KRG began independently exporting its crude via Ceyhan in May, a move that has infuriated Baghdad, which claims the sole authority to manage Iraqi oil.

Plans for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), and the subsequent blossoming of further pipeline plans pumping gas out of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Iraq to Europe, raise Turkey’s stature as a major energy transit country. Such plans are bound to elevate the country’s economic outlook.

An energy official said Turkey is the answer to Europe’s energy security concerns. “In particular, Europe’s fear of being vulnerable to Russian price manipulations could prove valuable. For all that pipeline security is a major issue for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, SSM also has invited bids for a contract designed to protect “sensitive locations.” A total of 11 Turkish defense electronics companies have responded to a request for information.

The program calls for sophisticated protection against “guided weapons.”

A military official said these “sensitive locations” would include Bosporus and future bridges, some military bases, future nuclear energy plants and some dams.

“The anticipated threat here is precision strike with sophisticated missile technology,” he said.

He explained that the basic logic for the planned protection system would be similar to those of naval vessels. “More or less the same idea… Sensors, missile detection systems, jamming and deception systems and air defense guns,” he said.

One industry source said this program too may come with a big price tag, but the final number would depend on how many locations it will be expected to cover. ■


*Belarus Supports Kurdistan with Wide-Ranging Agreement*

Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei (left) with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Belarus signed a preliminary agreement this week for wide-range cooperation in many fields, including industry, agriculture, education and tourism.

"Both sides formed joint committees (to follow up) the interest of both parties in the fields of industry, agriculture, energy, information technology and higher education,” said a statement by the KRG.

“The memorandum paves the way for direct flights between Erbil and Minsk, which would enhance trade and tourism,” it said, adding that the agreement also includes private- and public sector investment in the Kurdistan Region.

The memorandum of understanding was signed during a visit to Erbil by the foreign minister of Belarus, Vladimir Makei. He met with senior KRG officials, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and members of his cabinet.

"During the meeting, they exchanged views on a range of issues of mutual interest; the two sides stressed the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between the Kurdistan Region and the Republic of Belarus, also discussing the mechanism of joint coordination between the two parties," the KRG statement said.

It quoted Makei as saying his visit was also aimed at showing support for Kurdistan, which is in the forefront of an international war against the armies of the Islamic State (IS).

"In such crisis, we deemed it necessary to make this visit to announce our support for the Kurdistan Region,” Makei was quoted as saying. “We hope the Kurdistan Region passes this crisis and the region goes toward further progress and prosperity," Makei added.

The foreign minister was accompanied by senior officials from the industries ministry and state oil company.




*Fixing Pentagon Intelligence*

September 21, 2014

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), that vast agglomeration of seventeen different hush-hush agencies, is an espionage behemoth without peer anywhere on earth in terms of budget and capabilities. Fully eight of those spy agencies, plus the lion’s share of the IC’s budget, belong to the Department of Defense (DoD), making the Pentagon’s intelligence arm something special. It includes the intelligence agencies of all the armed services, but the jewel in the crown is the National Security Agency (NSA), America’s “big ears,” with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which produces amazing imagery, following close behind.

None can question the technical capabilities of DoD intelligence, but do the Pentagon’s spies actually know what they are talking about? This is an important, and too infrequently asked, question. Yet it was more or less asked this week, in a public forum, by a top military intelligence leader. The venue was an annual Washington, DC, intelligence conference that hosts IC higher-ups while defense contractors attempt a feeding frenzy, and the speaker was Rear Admiral Paul Becker, who serves as the Director of Intelligence (J2) on the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). A career Navy intelligence officer, Becker’s job is keeping the Pentagon’s military bosses in the know on hot-button issues: it’s a firehose-drinking position, made bureaucratically complicated because JCS intelligence support comes from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is an all-source shop that has never been a top-tier IC agency, and which happens to have some serious leadership churn at present.

Admiral Becker’s comments on the state of DoD intelligence, which were rather direct, merit attention. Not surprisingly for a Navy guy, he focused on China. He correctly noted that we have no trouble collecting the “dots” of (alleged) 9/11 infamy, but can the Pentagon’s big battalions of intel folks actually derive the necessary knowledge from all those tasty SIGINT, HUMINT, and IMINT morsels? Becker observed — accurately — that DoD intelligence possesses a “data glut but an information deficit” about China, adding that “We need to understand their strategy better.” In addition, he rued the absence of top-notch intelligence analysts of the sort the IC used to possess, asking pointedly: “Where are those people for China? We need them.”

There’s a lot going on in the admiral’s comments, which hit on important points as the United States plans for possible war in East Asia — rather, one hopes, deterring one. In the first place, it’s odd that an intelligence leader would think that understanding an opponent’s strategy, much less his grand strategy, is the job of the spooks. That actually is the job of all senior officers, and such matters are taught at War Colleges — or are supposed to be. That said, Becker’s frustration is understandable, since the Naval War College, allegedly the leading light of DoD education, was just found by the Navy’s own Inspector General to be overpriced and underperforming, and some of his views should be taken in this context.

More important is his allegation that DoD intelligence types have a problem differentiating forests from trees, and here Becker is entirely accurate. A lot of dots do not a coherent picture necessarily make, particularly when intelligence analysts lack necessary knowledge — language, culture, history, time in the target country — about the problem at hand. On this charge DoD intelligence, and the whole IC, have little coherent defense, since decades of favoring diversity of experience over specialized knowledge among intelligence officers leads to exactly the situation — smart people who know a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a little — that Admiral Becker lamented this week.

The most interesting, and unintentionally revealing, part of the J2’s comments came when he highlighted intelligence legends of the past, whose like cannot be found in DoD spy circles today, Becker maintained. I am generally skeptical of hoary “golden ages” in any organization, since memory plays tricks, yet here the admiral had a point. He cited Vernon Walters, a legendary Cold War semi-spy. An Army general, Walters was a polyglot who spoke several foreign languages well enough to serve as translator for presidents; Walters also served as a CIA top manager and the White House’s secret emissary to the Vatican. Yet his career was so totally unrepresentative of both DoD and the IC that he presents a fascinating one-off during the Cold War. One suspects that a gifted odd duck like Walters would not last long in today’s Army; he certainly would stand minimal chance of becoming a three-star general.

Becker likewise mentioned Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a Navy intelligence officer who rose to head NSA and serve as CIA’s deputy director. A very gifted officer, Inman was perhaps NSA’s best-ever director, and he enjoyed a second-to-none reputation for smarts. Again, however, Inman represents such an outlier, bureaucratically speaking, that you wonder what Becker was getting at here. Not to mention that Inman has a reputation for prickliness, as evidenced by the weird flame-out of his nomination as Secretary of Defense by President Clinton. (It should also be noted that long-retired Admiral Inman was a staunch, and rare, public critic of warrantless wiretapping by NSA after 9/11.)

Yet the most intriguing example of past greats cited by Admiral Becker was the joined case of Ed Layton and Joe Rochefort. This pair are rightly considered legends in Navy intelligence circles for their remarkable achievement that enabled American victory at the June 1942 Battle of Midway, the turning-point of the Pacific War. After Pearl Harbor, these officers, who were close friends, played a critical secret role in giving Admiral Chester Nimitz vital information about Japanese intentions. With half his fleet sunk at Pearl Harbor, and suffering from a critical shortage of aircraft carriers, Nimitz faced a dire situation in the spring of 1942. Fortunately for him, Rochefort’s code-breaking unit in Hawaii was able to provide Nimitz amazing insights into Japanese plans, thanks to their access to the enemy’s high-grade naval communications, with Layton at the admiral’s side interpreting the top secret information for him. Rochefort’s team accurately predicted when and where the Japanese fleet would strike, and the outnumbered Pacific Fleet beat them to the punch at Midway. Theirs was one of the most remarkable stories in the annals of intelligence, and Nimitz correctly considered Rochefort and Layton to have been his “priceless advantage” lurking secretly behind the victory at Midway.

That said, it is more than a little disingenuous for Admiral Becker to suggest that there’s any mystery as to why Laytons and Rocheforts seem not to exist in the 21st century U.S. Navy. An examination of how those officers became the legends they remain reveals painful truths about DoD intelligence today. In the first place, Layton and Rochefort were surface warfare officers (SWOs), i.e. ship-drivers, as were all Navy line officers in the 1920’s who didn’t drive submarines or fly airplanes. They were never in the intelligence career “ghetto” because it simply did not exist; in the mid-1920’s, when both junior officers went “behind the green door” and entered the top secret world of code-breaking, they were accredited SWOs as there was no career path yet for spooks in the Navy (back then intelligence and code-breaking were functionally united in the Navy, only to be separated bureaucratically after World War II, as they inexplicably remain today).

Rochefort was recruited for the Navy’s hush-hush code-breaking program in Washington, DC based on his responses on a crossword puzzle that he sent to a P.O. Box (this clever yet simple method worked well at quietly identifying sailors who might excel at cracking codes). He and Layton underwent three years of intense, top secret training in how to decipher Japanese codes. It was evident to Navy leadership, which could read a map, that war with Japan was more a matter of when than if — the same is true today with China — so a small, elite cadre of officers was developed who could understand Japan and its navy. After completing their code-breaking course, Rochefort and Layton were sent to Japan for three years to learn the language, culture and mindset of the future enemy.

As a result of this rigorous program, by the time war with Japan actually came, the U.S. Navy possessed officers who deeply understood the enemy linguistically, operationally, and culturally, with gifted men like Layton and Rochefort leading the intelligence effort that proved decisive in American victory in the Pacific War. There is no mystery how this happened: it was the outcome of wise planning. And this sort of forward-looking thinking in intelligence circles does not happen anymore, and is the root cause of the dysfunction that Admiral Becker rightly decried this week.

In today’s Navy, intelligence and information warfare officers have too little contact with line officers, who generally view them as spooky and not always helpful. Moreover, rigid career paths mean that officers on the make will seek a diversity of assignments, avoiding specialization like the plague on a career that it is. Any intelligence officer who suggested that s/he should study Chinese naval and intelligence matters intensely for three years then go to China for three more years to learn Mandarin and Chinese ways, would be laughed out of the room, between cost and security concerns, amid whispers of “career suicide.” This simply is not how the U.S. Navy — or any of our armed services — actually works.

Of course, such dysfunction is a choice. I have no doubt that the Navy today possesses officers of the high caliber of Ed Layton and Joe Rochefort, but how they are groomed, career-wise, means that such talents are not finding their niche. This bespeaks a powerful bureaucratic inertia and a fundamental lack of seriousness about the threats we face. If America wants to avoid a war with China, or win it should it come, the Pentagon needs to get serious about grooming officers who truly understand the enemy and his mindset. This cannot be done quickly and requires real talent-spotting and nurturing; small is beautiful here — it’s a question of quality, not quantity (which is exactly why the Pentagon, which remains stuck in a mass-production mindset, does not adopt such common-sense career paths).

Admiral Becker has raised important questions about just how effective DoD’s vast intelligence empire actually is at understanding China. He and those like him — the leaders of our IC — have the ability to implement measures that, given time, will get the Pentagon the gifted and properly educated officers that we need to win future wars. We possess the talent; what we lack is the seriousness of purpose to break bureaucratic china to make things actually happen. There’s not much time to waste.

P.S. Admiral Becker also did not address the painful fact that, due to bureaucratic warfare of a kind only too well known in the Pentagon still, Joe Rochefort received no career reward for his epic success that led to Nimitz’s victory at Midway. Actually he was punished for it. You can read my write-up of that scandal here.


COLUMN-In search for security, China’s navy enters Persian Gulf: John Kemp*

Bandar Abbas, home of Iran’s navy and the main port in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, is currently hosting two Chinese naval vessels on a five-day goodwill visit, underlining the increasingly warm relationship between the two countries.

It is the first such port call to Iran by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and highlights the efforts both China and Iran are making to counterbalance the power of the United States in the Middle East and along the sea lanes connecting the oil fields of the Gulf with major energy-consuming centres in Asia.

The firepower of the guided missile destroyer “Changchun” and guided missile frigate “Changzhou” of the PLAN’s 17th escort taskforce is dwarfed by the U.S. Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain. But the port call marks the first time China’s navy has entered the waters of the Gulf and the symbolism has not been lost on anyone.

For Iran, the visit is part of a strategy which aims to break out of the isolation being imposed by U.S. and European sanctions by developing closer relationships with China and Russia. In theory, China and Russia remain members of the P5+1 nuclear negotiating team which presents a unified position. In practice, both have clearly indicated their desire to strengthen relations with Iran notwithstanding unresolved issues about the country’s nuclear activities.

Iran hopes to exploit the rivalry between the United States on the one hand and China and Russia on the other to secure a more favourable deal in the nuclear negotiations as well as other outstanding issues with the United States and its European and Middle Eastern allies.

For China, on the other hand, the visit is one element in a comprehensive strategy which aims to protect the long and vulnerable sea lanes along which more than 20 percent of its oil consumption comes from countries in the Middle East across the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea via the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca (“Asia’s Oil Supply: Risks and Pragmatic Opportunities” May 2014).


China’s naval forces remain comparatively small and mostly suited to operations off the country’s eastern and southern coast lines, where their objective is to secure the sea areas out to the first island chain. But in recent years the PLAN has made small deployments into the Indian Ocean, for example anti-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia, as the navy practices longer range operations.

China is still a long way from being able to project enough power to keep the sea lanes across the high seas and through the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca open against a determined and capable opponent — which is never named but is understood by all sides to be the United States.

Many Western political and military analysts doubt whether China could acquire the capability seriously to challenge U.S. control of the seas within a meaningful timeframe. The country currently has only one, second-hand aircraft carrier, renamed the “Liaoning”, compared with the ten carriers operated by the United States.

Western analysts play down the idea of naval competition to control the transit routes between the Middle East and East Asia. But there is no doubt that protecting vital supply and trade routes, as well as countering U.S. influence in Asia and the Middle East, is uppermost in the thinking of China’s top military and political leaders.

China’s President Xi Jinping has just returned from a tour to Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India on which he promoted his ideas, first articulated in 2013, about the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”.

All four countries on Xi’s recent trip are “pivot points” on the “One Belt and One Road”, according to People’s Daily, the flagship publication of China’s Communist Party (“Xi’s four-nation tour highlights sincerity of China’s neighbourhood policy” Sep 22).

Xi pledged to cooperate with the Maldives and Sri Lanka on “peace, stability and prosperity” as well as “port construction and operation, maritime economy and security, and the construction of a maritime transportation centre in the Indian Ocean” according to People’s Daily.

In plainer language, China is seeking to build infrastructure and alliances along the trade routes which connect it to the Middle East.


More broadly, China and the United States are engaged in strategic competition for influence and power across the wider Asian region.

In August, General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military officer, paid a high-profile visit to Vietnam, the first time a chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has been to the country since 1971 (“Dempsey building trust in Vietnam Visit” Aug 15).

In its official statement, the U.S. Defense Department noted Vietnam’s “geostrategic position” between China and Southeast Asia.” Vietnam “probably (has) more influence on the South China Sea and how it evolves than any other country,” Dempsey said.

The United States has also been strengthening its alliances with Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines to counter Chinese influence, and has spoken out strongly against what it calls China’s “destabilising” activities in the South China Sea.

Both rivals are courting India, the biggest prize of all, with the largest military forces, a shared land border with China and dominating the Indian Ocean from its position athwart the major sea lanes.

On his recent trip, Xi promised his Indian hosts more investment in infrastructure and industrial, as well as to increase imports of pharmaceuticals and agricultural products, and talked about a vision of shared prosperity on both sides of the Himalayas.

The PLAN’s port call to Bandar Abbas is just one element in an increasingly intense but undeclared competition between the United States and China for regional influence and control of the trade routes in Asia.

The two sides even use the same, carefully coded, language. The commanding officer of China’s 17th escort taskforce described the purpose of the port call as “promoting peace and amity, strengthening mutual understanding and mutual trust, and deepening friendly relations,” according to the PLA’s news service (“Chinese naval taskforce visits Iran” Sep 22).

Dempsey highlighted the importance of “trust” on his own visit to Vietnam and trying to build a relationship on the basis of common interests. The United States would step up its contacts with Vietnam’s military, he said, especially on maritime security and law enforcement. “It occurred to me that often adversaries in the past can become our closest friends,” Dempsey told his Vietnamese hosts.

For the moment, the balance of forces in Asia and along the transit routes remains overwhelmingly in favour of the United States. But the increasingly fierce if unacknowledged competition between the two powers will be severely destabilising if it is not managed carefully.

John Kemp

Senior Market Analyst


30 South Colonnade

Canary Wharf




STRATFOR: Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition*


Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.


Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.

Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.

Nuclear Talks and Syria

After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18.

A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran’s ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran’s domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year’s General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process.

As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran’s ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning.

A New Supreme Leader

On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei’s health have shifted Iran’s priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei’s hospitalization to show that all is well — while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change — coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities.

Before Khamenei was elected supreme leader in 1989, the idea of a collective clerical body was in vogue among many clerics. The country’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on several occasions has proposed a "jurisprudential council" consisting of several top clerics as an alternative to the supreme leader’s post. His proposal has not gained much traction, but with succession imminent, it might seem more attractive as a compromise should the competing factions prove unable to reach a consensus.

Constitutionally, an interim leadership council takes over should the incumbent supreme leader no longer be able to carry out his duties until the Assembly of Experts elects a successor. Considering the factionalized nature of the Iranian political elite, it is only normal to assume that the process to replace Khamenei will be marred by a major struggle between the various camps that make up the conservative establishment. After all, this is an extremely rare opportunity for those seeking change and for those seeking continuity to shape the future of the republic.

For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially.

Possible Successors

The country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession.

Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president’s pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.



Overall, I have been disappointed by the quality of the debate and the journalism about Scotland’s independence referendum, which became obsessed by second-order economic issues rather than the core question which is about identity, nationhood and governance – what does it mean to be British or Scottish in the second decade of the 21st century?

Millions of gallons of ink have been spilled on second-order questions like currency unions (Scotland is already in a lopsided one with England); bank rescues (the question of which central bank is responsible for bailing out depositors in a crisis is already on the agenda globally); submarine bases for the nuclear deterrent (something which has already become irrelevant); and Britain’s global influence (already rapidly falling amid the rise of new powers in Asia and Latin America).

The real questions are about identify and self-government. What is the most appropriate “demos” for democratic governance in these islands? What is the most appropriate level for self-government? Scottish? British? European? Now that the old imperial certainties are fading into the distant past, and Britain’s global influence is falling, what is the country’s future, whether it be united or in parts?

So a big shout out to the FT’s Mure Dickie (who I can honestly say I have never read before) for an outstanding discussion and analysis of the identity issue. If you only read one article about the referendum, this should be it:

The Battle for Britain (see att.)

The Battle for Britain

By Mure Dickie

Financial Times

17 September 2014

While many Britons worry about an inclusive identity, allegiance has been eroding for decades….



see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat



The Battle for Britain –