Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 31/10/14

Massenbach-Letter. News

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

· Peoples in need – Syria – Afghanistan – Winter 2014-15

· „Gewährung von Eilrechtsschutz": Bundesverfassungsgericht stärkt Presse

· America’s Fragmented Water Systems

· CNOOC Goes Solo in Deepwater Exploration, Opens New Frontier for China

· Friedman: Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy

· Germany’s Precarious Path to Leadership

· EU-ISS: Islamism and Islamists: a very short introduction

· Alternative Futures for Syria – Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

· Tribal boots on the ground in Iraq

Massenbach* *Regional Analysis for Syria: People in Need and Syrian Refugees Winter 2014 – 15*


*Afghanistan: Planned Winter Response 2014-2015 (Updated 22 October 2014)*

The upcoming winter is predicted to have lower temperatures above the seasonal average. The reliability of longer-term forecasts remains problematical and therefore partners are preparing for a range of scenarios

Vulnerable Afghans

In 2014, conflict and natural disasters left many Afghans without proper shelter, including families who lost their homes during spring floods in the north, refugee families in Khost and Paktika who have fled their homes in North Waziristan Agency since June, and families displaced internally in the last year due to on-going conflict across the country. Some of these vulnerable groups will be exposed to severe winter conditions.

Conflict Induced IDPs

UNHCR estimates the number of displaced Afghans living in urban areas to be 30,765 in Kabul; 17,877 in Hirat; 2,677 in Mazar-e Sharif; and some 20,000 living in settlements outside Hirat. In the past a number of IDPs, particularly in Kabul, have received winter assistance packages. This year the Kabul Informal Settlements task force is planning to distribute firewood and non-food items. The most vulnerable families, including the newly displaced in 2014, are of particular concern to the humanitarian community as they had not had sufficient time to develop coping mechanisms.

Annual Health Risks

Chronic health problems are prevalent in Afghanistan. The impact of pneumonia is highest in the winter months. Peaking in January, each year Pneumonia accounts for the highest number of disease related deaths. Those without adequate shelter are more likely to be inflicted by pneumonia.

National Coping Capacity

Winter is a seasonal occurrence for which traditional coping mechanisms as well as national emergency plans exist. Humanitarian efforts should not undermine local capacity to respond. Many of the refugees in Khost and Paktika are receiving support from the host communities. However, a humanitarian response is required when the means to cope with the winter have been exhausted.

*Afghanistan: Winter snapshot (updated 28 October 2014)*


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* "Gewährung von Eilrechtsschutz":Bundesverfassungsgericht stärkt Presse*

An die Gewährung von Eilrechtsschutz bei presserechtlichen Auskunftsansprüchen dürfen keine überhöhten Anforderungen gestellt werden. Dies hat die 3. Kammer des Ersten Senats des Bundesverfassungsgerichts entschieden. Im Grundsatz genüge es nach Art. 19 Abs. 4 GG, den Eilrechtsschutz zu gewähren, wenn ein gesteigertes öffentliches Interesse und ein starker Gegenwartsbezug der Berichterstattung vorliege. Eine Beschränkung auf unaufschiebbare Fälle, wie zum Beispiel auf die Aufdeckung von schweren Rechtsbrüchen staatlicher Stellen, greife jedoch in unverhältnismäßiger Weise in die Pressefreiheit ein.

Die Verfassungsbeschwerde eines Journalisten hat die Kammer dennoch nicht zur Entscheidung angenommen, da er die Eilbedürftigkeit seines Antrags vor den Verwaltungsgerichten nicht hinreichend dargelegt habe.

Der Beschwerdeführer ist Redakteur beim "Tagesspiegel". Im September 2013 bat er den Bundesnachrichtendienst um Auskünfte über den Export sogenannter Dual-Use-Güter, die für die Herstellung von Waffen geeignet sein können, nach Syrien in der Zeit von 2002 bis 2011. Der Bundesnachrichtendienst verweigerte die erbetenen Angaben, da er dazu ausschließlich der Bundesregierung und den zuständigen Gremien des Bundestags berichte und der Ausfuhrausschuss der Bundesregierung nicht öffentlich tage. Im Oktober 2013 suchte der Beschwerdeführer um vorläufigen Rechtsschutz beim Bundesverwaltungsgericht nach. Mit angegriffenem Beschluss vom 26. November 2013 lehnte das Bundesverwaltungsgericht in erstinstanzlicher Zuständigkeit den Antrag auf Erlass einer einstweiligen Anordnung ab.

Im Ergebnis habe das Bundesverwaltungsgericht der Zeitung zwar zu Recht den Eilrechtsschutz verwehrt, erklärte das Bundesverfassungsgericht. Es sei nicht ersichtlich, warum bei Vorgängen aus den Jahren 2002 bis 2011 plötzlich große Eilbedürftigkeit geltend gemacht werde. Verfassungsrechtlich bedenklich sei es aber, wenn das Bundesverwaltungsgericht davon ausgehe, dass die Presse eine gewisse Aktualitätseinbuße regelmäßig hinnehmen müsse und eine Ausnahme allenfalls dann vorliege, wenn Vorgänge einer sofortigen journalistischen Aufklärung bedürften.

Die Karlsruher Richter führten weiter aus, dass diese Auslegung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts einen Maßstab anlege, der die Aufgabe der Presse in einem freiheitlich-demokratischen Rechtsstaat nicht hinreichend berücksichtige. Erst der prinzipiell ungehinderte Zugang zu Informationen versetze die Presse in den Stand, die ihr zukommende Funktion wirksam wahrzunehmen.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* *America’s Fragmented Water Systems*

The severe drought gripping the Western United States has put a national spotlight on America’s relationship to water. Indeed, the changing landscape of our nation’s water supply necessarily demands a critical look at our water sector and at opportunities to improve the way we regulate, price, and consume water. In this post, we explore the current state of the U.S. water sector and the challenges of a de-centralized system.

Water is vital to the U.S. economy, and its importance extends far beyond the 133 million households that rely on water for consumption and household use. Water is a critical input to the $167 billion agricultural industry—with approximately 55 million acres of farmland irrigated annually. But, water’s importance extends far beyond America’s farms. From power plants to factories to server farms powering information technology, the modern economy depends on water. Unfortunately, our nation currently faces the real and pressing challenge of water scarcity, with potentially severe economic consequences.

Water scarcity presents a significant barrier to sustained economic growth in multiple sectors of the U.S. economy. The sustained drought in California is expected to cost the state’s agricultural sector $2.2 billion in economic losses and more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs. Moreover, the national ramifications of water scarcity are potentially vast: companies in all sectors of the economy are exposed and vulnerable to water-related risks, which include operational slowdowns, high water prices, and regulatory uncertainty.

In a new policy memo In Times of Drought: Nine Economic Facts about Water in the United States, The Hamilton Project brings attention to recent trends in our nation’s supply of and demand for water and describes the importance of an efficient allocation of water resources for economic growth. Through the lens of economic policy, we provide relevant background context to the water crisis in the United States. The memo highlights several economic features of the water scarcity challenge, including high population growth in the areas most vulnerable to drought, the complicated allocation of water across and within industries, and substantial geographic variation in household water pricing and consumption.

The memo highlights some regulatory challenges as well, including the fact that the United States has more water systems than it has schools. The sheer number of distinct water systems—roughly 152,000 systems in total—not only presents complications for regulators, but can also inhibit the diffusion and take-up of new technologies. Small and specialized water systems may lack the institutional capacity to raise the funding necessary for costly repairs and new equipment, or to meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Small water systems would likely benefit from new technologies. For example, the smallest water systems (those serving 500 or fewer people) were responsible for approximately 74,000 water quality violations, more than two thirds of total violations.

Figure 1.

Water systems vary in both size and function, reflecting differences in the population and the diversity of economic sectors they serve. Indeed, relatively few large water systems serve the bulk of the U.S. population, while many smaller systems serve a minor share of the population (see figure 1). About two thirds of U.S. water systems are seasonal or do not serve the same population year-round; these include camp grounds and gas stations, among other idiosyncratic systems. The remaining 51,000 or so water systems—Community Water Systems—are permanent and provide water to at least twenty-five people, and typically far more. Complicating this scenario is the fact that each water system has its own regulatory oversight and financing structure.


Recognizing the importance of water for the U.S. economy, and the many and varied policy challenges and opportunities in the sector, The Hamilton Project has partnered with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment to address the emerging water crisis and discuss new policy ideas that may help to mitigate the crisis. We will release two new policy papers. A paper by Peter W. Culp of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP, Robert Glennon of the University of Arizona, and Gary Libecap of the University of California at Santa Barbara proposes the establishment and use of market mechanisms to encourage reallocation and trading of water resources. Another paper by Newsha K. Ajami and Barton H. Thompson Jr. of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and David G. Victor of the University of California at San Diego proposes promoting more innovation in the water sector through pricing and regulatory reform.

The new proposals will be discussed on October 20th during a joint forum at Stanford University. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will give welcoming remarks, followed by an overview of the event by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. California Governor Jerry Brown will give featured remarks on the landscape of water in the West, followed by three distinct panels of experts discussing opportunities for developing water markets and for promoting investments in water innovation, as well as the impacts of climate change on water resources. The full agenda can be found here; registration for a live webcast of the discussion can be found here.


On October 20th, The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment will host a forum exploring the potential for market mechanisms to improve our country’s water management systems; opportunities to promote water innovation; and the impact of climate change on America’s water resources. A new blog post by The Hamilton Project highlights challenges in the U.S. water sector.

The papers are available below:

· In Times of Drought: Nine Economic Facts about Water in the United States
by Melissa S. Kearney, Benjamin H. Harris, and Brad Hershbein

· Shopping for Water: How the Market Can Mitigate Water Shortages in the American West
by Peter W. Culp, Robert Glennon, and Gary Libecap

· The Path to Water Innovationby Newsha K. Ajami, Barton H. Thompson Jr., and David G. Victor


*CNOOC Goes Solo in Deepwater Exploration, Opens New Frontier for China*

China finally realized its goal of finding petroleum reserves in deepwater acreage when state-owned China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC) successfully drilled the Lingshui 17-2-1 exploration well at the Lingshui 17-2 gas field in the South China Sea, located 93 miles (150 kilometers) south of Hainan Island in the Qiongdongnan Basin.

The Lingshui gas find has generated excitement in China’s upstream hydrocarbon sector – particularly for CNOOC whose portfolio of domestic offshore oil and gas fields are relatively mature – as deepwater prospects could emerge as the next frontier for the company.

Even so, the optimism surrounding China’s first deepwater hydrocarbon discovery has been tempered by concerns that an extension of Chinese exploration to the disputed waters of the South China Sea could trigger political, diplomatic and potentially military complications with neighboring countries.

China Finds Success in Deepwater, Finally

CNOOC announced the Lingshui discovery in mid-September by Hai Yang Shi You 981 or HYSY 981 (UDW semisub). The rig – China’s first locally built deepwater semisub costing $975 million to construct – was at the center of a diplomatic spat between China and Vietnam in May when CNOOC conducted exploration drilling near Paracel Island, 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coast. Vietnam is contesting China’s sovereignty over the Paracel Island, which Beijing seized from South Vietnamese troops in 1974.

The Lingshui well broke new ground for China as this was the first time a local petroleum firm succeeded in drilling a deepwater exploration well – without foreign assistance – at depths of 4,921 feet (1,500 meters).

“This is CNOOC’s first deepwater success as an independent operator, but it is not the first deepwater project in China. CNOOC partnered Husky in the Liwan project which was operated by Husky during the exploration phase,” Felix Tan, an upstream analyst at consultancy group Wood Mackenzie, explained to Rigzone.

The Liwan gas project – which lies 186 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea – is China’s first deepwater development. Gas production commenced from Liwan in March, seven years after discovery. CNOOC has a 51 percent stake in the project and operates the shallow water facilities, while Husky – holder of the remainder 49 percent interest – manages the deepwater segment of the development.

The Lingshui well flowed 56.5 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of gas, equivalent to 9,400 barrels of liquids per day, Xie Yuhong, manager at CNOOC said, as quoted by China’s Xinhua news agency. Based on test results, the Lingshui field may contain large reserves of at least 1.06 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) or 30 billion cubic meters (Bcm), he said.

CNOOC is hopeful about the prospect for the Lingshui find as it indicates a huge exploration potential for the surrounding areas and could help unlock deepwater petroleum resources in the South China Sea, chairman Wang Yilin was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Since the Lingshui gas discovery, China’s largest offshore petroleum producer has drilled two additional appraisal wells and has spud a third, Tan said in a Wood Mackenzie report last month.

With appraisal yet to be completed, it remains unclear now whether Lingshui holds sufficient gas resources for development. Still, the potential development of China’s first independently-operated deepwater petroleum project is exciting news for CNOOC given ageing domestic fields.

Should the project proceed to development, CNOOC is expected to leverage on experience gained from working with Husky in constructing the Liwan project. Deepwater infrastructure in the Liwan gas project included:

  • nine subsea wells
  • deepwater flowlines
  • control systems and manifolds

Domestic Implications of the Lingshui Discovery

China’s Exploration Blocks on Offer

News of the Lingshui discovery coincided with the latest bidding round for offshore exploration blocks in China. CNOOC issued an invitation Sept. 11 for foreign companies to participate in the tender to bid for 33 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks, covering a total of 48,690 square miles.

Among the blocks on offer are five – 53/32, 53/36, 64/05, 64/03 and 64/26 – in the Qiongdongnan Basin, where the Lingshui field is located.

The Lingshui discovery may reverse flagging interest in deepwater blocks in China as foreign firms, including international oil companies (IOC), showed little interest in bidding for such acreages due to “high exploration and development costs,” The Diplomat said in a Sept. 16 report. Moreover, IOCs like Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BP plc and Chevron Corp. have encountered dismal results when drilling deepwater exploration blocks in China in recent years.

Husky believed that the deepwaters of the northern South China Sea have huge gas potential as only about 25 wells had been drilled so far, producing one major find – Liwan. This compared favorably with the situation in the deepwater region of the North Sea, where 180 wells were drilled before the first commercial discovery was made.

"It is [in the] early days for a huge area," Robert Hinkel, Husky’s chief operating officer told the South China Morning Post April 2.

More deepwater drilling is likely in the region, with more newbuild Chinese semisubs joining HYSY981 as CNOOC looks to build on its recent exploration success at Lingshui. CNOOC reportedly has three more semisubs under construction, including Hai Yang Shi You 982 (DW semisub), The Diplomat said, citing the Wall Street Journal.

The Lingshui discovery could also provide a boost to China’s oilfield services sector. CNOOC’s subsidiaries China Oilfield Services Ltd. (COSL) and China’s Offshore Oil Engineering Co. Ltd. (COOEC) should generate more revenue through the provision of offshore services as its parent firm moves further into deepwater activities.

“The Lingshui deepwater discovery will be positive for services companies such as COSL and COOEC in the offshore sector,” Tan commented to Rigzone.

COSL will benefit from CNOOC’s shift towards deepwater projects as it manages the HYSY981 semisub. Given that developing domestic deepwater capabilities is “strategically important for both CNOOC and China … CNOOC will therefore continue to support COSL … COSL is investing in new deepwater assets to further its capabilities to support CNOOC’s deepwater projects,” Fitch Ratings said in a Sept. 23 report.

Like COSL, COOEC should benefit from CNOOC’s potential development of deepwater projects as the firm could provide its parent firm with engineering, construction and installation services.

Regional Issues that May Surface

Despite the optimism surrounding the Lingshui discovery in China, a major stumbling block to China’s deepwater ambition in the region is whether Chinese energy firms will proceed to drill in disputed areas of the South China Sea. After all, this is the region where China’s territorial claims are being challenged by the Southeast Asian states of Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Comments from China indicated that Beijing remains unconcerned about any political, diplomatic and perhaps military fallout with its Southeast Asian neighbors that arises from its search for energy resources in the disputed waters.

The Lingshui find has in fact opened the door to deepwater petroleum resources in the South China Sea, CNOOC chairman Wang told Xinhua. Furthermore, the HYSY981 semisub – which found energy resources near the Paracel Island earlier this year – might be deployed again in the contested area, Dr. Kang Lin from China’s National Institute of South China Sea Studies told The Diplomat.

Collectively, these comments suggest that China’s newly acquired deepwater expertise is seen as a means to satisfy the country’s growing energy demand. The search for energy resources (even in the disputed South China Sea) is seen “purely as an economic issue. Very little to do with sovereignty as the Paracel Island have already been under effective Chinese control,” Dr. Li Ming Jiang, associate professional at S. Rajaratnam School of International Relations in the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore told Rigzone earlier.

Fueled by strong economic growth, Chinese energy demand has been rising continuously. Last year, oil consumption in the world’s second largest economy rose 4 percent to around 10.7 million barrels per day and China became the world’s largest oil importer in the fourth quarter, data from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed. Meanwhile, Chinese gas demand also increased to 5.2 trillion cubic feet in 2012, or 11 percent more than in 2011.

China’s interest in deepwater drilling represents a convergence of two of China’s major strategic interests, which, The Diplomat explained, is to protect its claims to much of the South China Sea and reduce Beijing’s growing dependence on imported energy.

How China’s newly acquired capability in deepwater drilling impacts on its relations with rival claimants in South China Sea remains to be seen. But it is worth noting that CNOOC said the Lingshui gas discovery produced the highest gas flow among the deepwater wells tested by HYSY981 yet, presumably including those drilled near the Paracel Island offshore Vietnam from May to July. So any deepwater activities by CNOOC are expected to be near Hainan Island rather than the Paracel Island.

Still, the Lingshui success only just a beginning in China’s quest to find and develop deepwater energy resources.

“CNOOC is climbing up its learning curve in deepwater and no doubts more needs to be done for it to achieve greater success,” Wood Mackenzie’s Tan said.


Middle East

*STRATFOR-Friedman: Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy*

U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?

Expectations and Reality

I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world.

Nevertheless, we endow presidents with magical powers and impose extraordinary expectations. The president creates jobs, manages Ebola and solves the problems of the world — or so he should. This particular president came into office with preposterous expectations from his supporters that he could not possibly fulfill. The normal campaign promises of a normal politician were taken to be prophecy. This told us more about his supporters than about him. Similarly, his enemies, at the extremes, have painted him as the devil incarnate, destroying the Republic for fiendish reasons.

He is neither savior nor demon. He is a politician. As a politician, he governs not by what he wants, nor by what he promised in the election. He governs by the reality he was handed by history and his predecessor. Obama came into office with a financial crisis well underway, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. His followers might have thought that he would take a magic wand and make them go away, and his enemies might think that he would use them to destroy the country, but in point of fact he did pretty much what Bush had been doing: He hung on for dear life and guessed at the right course.

Bush came into office thinking of economic reforms and a foreign policy that would get away from nation-building. The last thing he expected was that he would invade Afghanistan during his first year in office. But it really wasn’t up to him. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, and al Qaeda set his agenda. Had Clinton been more aggressive against al Qaeda, Bush might have had a different presidency. But al Qaeda did not seem to need that level of effort, and Clinton came into office as heir to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so on back to George Washington.

Presidents are constrained by the reality they find themselves in and the limits that institutions place on them. Foreign policy is what a president wishes would happen; foreign affairs are what actually happen. The United States is enormously powerful. It is not omnipotent. There are not only limits to that power, but unexpected and undesirable consequences of its use. I have in mind the idea that had the United States not purged the Baathists in Iraq, the Sunnis might not have risen. That is possible. But had the Baathists, the party of the hated Saddam Hussein, remained in power, the sense of betrayal felt by Shiites and Kurds at the sight of the United States now supporting Baathists might have led to a greater explosion. The constraints in Iraq were such that having invaded, there was no choice that did not have a likely repercussion.

Governing a nation of more than 300 million people in a world filled with nations, the U.S. president can preside, but he hardly rules. He is confronted with enormous pressure from all directions. He knows only a fraction of the things he needs to know in the maelstrom he has entered, and in most cases he has no idea that something is happening. When he knows something is happening, he doesn’t always have the power to do anything, and when he has the power to do something, he can never be sure of the consequences. Everyone not holding the office is certain that he or she would never make a mistake. Obama was certainly clear on that point, and his successor will be as well.

Obama’s Goals

All that said, let us consider what Obama is trying to achieve in the current circumstances. It is now 2014, and the United States has been at war since 2001 — nearly this entire century so far. It has not gone to war on the scale of 20th-century wars, but it has had multidivisional engagements, along with smaller operations in Africa and elsewhere.

For any nation, this is unsustainable, particularly when there is no clear end to the war. The enemy is not a conventional force that can be defeated by direct attack. It is a loose network embedded in the civilian population and difficult to distinguish. The enemy launches intermittent attacks designed to impose casualties on U.S. forces under the theory that in the long run the United States will find the cost greater than the benefit.

In addition to these wars, two other conflicts have emerged. One is in Ukraine, where a pro-Western government has formed in Kiev to the displeasure of Russia, which proceeded to work against Ukraine. In Iraq, a new Sunni force has emerged, the Islamic State, which is partly a traditional insurgency and partly a conventional army.

Under the strategy followed until the chaos that erupted after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, the response to both would be to send U.S. forces to stabilize the situation. Since 1999 and Kosovo, the United States has been the primary actor in military interventions. More to the point, the United States was the first actor and used military force as its first option. Given the global American presence imposed by the breadth of U.S. power, it is difficult to decline combat when problems such as these arise. It is the obvious and, in a way, easiest solution. The problem is that it is frequently not a solution.

Obama has tried to create a different principle for U.S. operations. First, the conflict must rise to the level that its outcome concerns American interests. Second, involvement must begin with non-military or limited military options. Third, the United States must operate with an alliance structure including local allies, capable of effective operation. The United States will provide aid and limited military force (such as airstrikes) but will not bear the main burden. Finally, and only if the situation is of grave significance and can be dealt with only through direct and major U.S. military intervention, the United States will allow itself to become the main force.

It is a foreign policy both elegant and historically rooted. It is also incredibly complicated. First, what constitutes the national interest? There is a wide spread of opinion in the administration. Among some, intervention to prevent human rights violations is in the national interest. To others, only a direct threat to the United States is in the national interest.

Second, the tempo of intervention is difficult to calibrate. The United States is responding to an enemy, and it is the enemy’s tempo of operations that determines the degree of response needed.

Third, many traditional allies, like Germany, lack the means or inclination to involve themselves in these affairs. Turkey, with far more interest in what happens in Syria and Iraq than the United States, is withholding intervention unless the United States is also involved and, in addition, agrees to the political outcome. As Dwight D. Eisenhower learned in World War II, an alliance is desirable because it spreads the burden. It is also nightmarish to maintain because all the allies are pursuing a range of ends outside the main mission.

Finally, it is extraordinarily easy to move past the first three stages into direct interventions. This ease comes from a lack of clarity as to what the national interest is, the enemy’s tempo of operations seeming to grow faster than an alliance can be created, or an alliance’s failure to gel.

Obama has reasonable principles of operation. It is a response to the realities of the world. There are far more conflicts than the United States has interests. Intervention on any level requires timing. Other nations have greater interests in their future than the United States does. U.S military involvement must be the last step. The principle fits the strategic needs and constraints on the United States. Unfortunately, clear principles frequently meet a murky world, and the president finds himself needing to intervene without clarity.

Presidents‘ Limited Control

The president is not normally in control of the situation. The situation is in control of him. To the extent that presidents, or leaders of any sort, can gain control of a situation, it is not only in generating principles but also in rigorously defining the details of those principles, and applying them with technical precision, that enables some semblance of control.

President Richard Nixon had two major strategic visions: to enter into a relationship with China to control the Soviet Union, and to facilitate an alliance reversal by Egypt, from the Soviet Union to the United States. The first threatened the Soviet Union with a two-front war and limited Soviet options. The second destroyed a developing Mediterranean strategy that might have changed the balance of power.

Nixon’s principle was to ally with nations regardless of ideology — hence communist China and Nasserite Egypt. To do this, the national interest had to be rigorously defined so that these alliances would not seem meaningless. Second, the shift in relationships had to be carried out with meticulous care. The president does not have time for such care, nor are his talents normally suited for it, since his job is to lead rather than execute. Nixon had Henry Kissinger, who in my opinion and that of others was the lesser strategist but a superb technician.

The switch in China’s alignment became inevitable once fighting broke out with the Soviets. Egypt’s break with the Soviets became inevitable when it became apparent to Anwar Sadat that the Soviets would underwrite a war but could not underwrite a peace. Only the United States could. These shifts had little to do with choices. Neither Mao Zedong nor Sadat really had much of a choice.

Where choice exists is in the tactics. Kissinger was in charge of implementing both shifts, and on that level it was in fact possible to delay, disrupt or provide an opening to Soviet counters. The level at which foreign policy turns into foreign affairs is not in the enunciation of the principles but in the rigorous definition of those principles and in their implementation. Nixon had Kissinger, and that was what Kissinger was brilliant at: turning principles into successful implementation.

The problem that Obama has, which has crippled his foreign policy, is that his principles have not been defined with enough rigor to provide definitive guidance in a crisis. When the crisis comes, that’s when the debate starts. What exactly is the national interest, and how does it apply in this or that case? Even if he accomplishes that, he still lacks a figure with the subtlety, deviousness and frankly ruthlessness to put it into place. I would argue that the same problem haunted the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, although their challenges were less daunting and therefore their weakness less visible.

There is a sphere in which history sweeps a president along. The most he can do is adjust to what must be, and in the end, this is the most important sphere. In another sphere — the sphere of principles — he can shape events or at least clarify decisions. But the most important level, the level on which even the sweep of history is managed, is the tactical. This is where deals are made and pressure is placed, and where the president can perhaps shift the direction of history.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not had a president who operated consistently and well in the deeper levels of history. This situation is understandable, since the principles of the Cold War were so powerful and then suddenly gone. Still, principles without definition and execution without precision cannot long endure.




Germany’s Precarious Path to Leadership

There were several milestones in October that reminded Germans and non-Germans again how much the past twenty-five years have changed the Federal Republic of Germany.

While October 3 is the formal anniversary of Germany’s unification, now twenty-four years later, Germans placed a particular focus this year on the demonstrations in Leipzig on 9 October 1989, which were seen in retrospect to have symbolized the brokenness of the GDR government and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall one month later. In his speech in Leipzig, President Joachim Gauck recognized that milestone as a decisive turn that was part of the end not only of Germany’s division, but also of Europe’s. Over these past two and a half decades, Germany has continued to invest in multiple ways in its eastern Länder toward the goal of integrating the two formerly divided societies. The legacies and scars of that division still remain for those who lived through it, but the generations born after 1989 have grown up in an environment that now takes both the unification of Germany and Europe for granted.

First and Foremost an Economic Power

While those moments twenty-five years ago were being remembered on October 9, there was another gathering in Washington that same day around the biannual IMF/World Bank Meeting, and Germany was also in focus there—but for very different reasons.

Amid the concerns about a fragile world economy, Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble took a good deal of criticism concerning Germany’s fiscal policies focused squarely on a balanced budget goal at home while others called on Berlin to boost investment spending to avoid being stuck in Japanese-style stagnation. Schäuble firmly rejected the critique, but what was clearly underlined despite the debate was the decisive importance of Europe’s largest and strongest economy in shaping the economic future not only of Europe, but also of a fragile world economy.

One might argue about the degree to which Germany’s economy is more important than the need for reform in other EU countries for the recovery in Europe at this point. As powerful as the German economic locomotive is, it still needs to have the other countries in the EU pull their own weight and sustain not only the euro, but the European economic platform as a whole.

Looking at the larger picture over a twenty-five year period, these two different settings underline the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany has emerged as the strongest and most influential country in Europe following the challenges of unification and the very difficult economic burdens it had to overcome in the process. Indeed, it has done that while having to confront some of the larger concerns about Germany’s unification around the continent right from the start. One need only recall the fears that Margaret Thatcher had about Germany resuming its dominant role in Europe or, for that matter, the famous statement by a French minister who thought that he loved Germany so much he was glad that there were two of them.

Balancing Perceptions and Action in Foreign and Security Policy

Throughout this past quarter century, Germany has always been mindful of those remnants of the past impacting the perceptions of its European neighbors. Indeed, there was a sense of reticence on the part of Germany to publicly aspire to any leadership role during the period after unification—even though the practical outcome of unification was to result in the largest and eventually the most powerful economy in Europe.

Consecutive German governments have tried to steer through this balancing act. Helmut Kohl once said that Germany needed to be strong enough to impress Russia but not intimidate the Dutch. The formula was always to wrap Germany tightly into the EU and NATO, along with a large range of other international organizations in which Germany could play a role either as a source of financial support or structural aid—but not necessarily a leadership role. The one primary organization in which it would be engaged militarily was still NATO. Under that umbrella, Germany expanded its engagement after unification, particularly in the Balkans and then in Afghanistan. In both cases, Germany assumed responsibilities even as the German public still harbored serious qualms about the military dimensions of foreign policy.

Yet it was to be increasingly apparent in the first decade of the new millennium that Germany was emerging as the economic leader of Europe, the world champion exporter on the global stage, and also profiting from the introduction of the euro. It was the strongest proponent of the more political process of European integration as the EU significantly expanded its membership and strengthened its institutions.

That role was only accentuated in the midst of the Great Recession after 2009 when Germany successfully steered through the storm, effectively transforming into the “chairman” of the EU when it involved setting the rules for the other countries struggling to sustain themselves. That generated much resentment in southern Europe, but Berlin was not budging from its position to couple reforms with assistance—referring to the painful reforms Germany had to go through to strengthen itself after the sluggish 1990s. Two consecutive finance ministers, Peer Steinbrück and then Wolfgang Schäuble, kept firmly reiterating that position.

A Path Forward: Rejoining Global Foreign Policy Leadership

The quarter century between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of Germany’s (economic) leadership, along with its power to shape the European agenda, has been accompanied by a continuing debate among Germans about the consequences of this new role. That debate was highlighted during the Munich Security Conference last February when three speakers in a row spoke of Germany having to assume more responsibility: President Gauck, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. The fact that Germany had exercised responsibility for the economic direction of the EU was already accepted. The question was going to be where and how the debate would also involve the foreign policy challenges Germany now faces. Raising that question was indeed a metric of how much Germany’s role and the expectations around it has changed over the last twenty-five years.

But the question also raised the issue of whether Germany could generate the political and military resources for exercising more responsibility. In other words, how would Berlin operationalize its newly formulated ambitious goals?

In fact, Germany has been engaged for the entire period of the war in Afghanistan together with United States in the wake of 9/11. And several thousand troops have been dispatched in various different exercises and engagements around the globe in addition to the implementation of a significant portion of global development aid. Apart from its key role in other international institutions and organizations, Germany has also expressed interest in a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, assuming that needed reforms to make that possible were implemented.

German Attitudes toward the Military as a Tool of Foreign Policy: Still Reticent?

Yet there was always a caveat, a reticence within the German public debate about the degree to which Germany should and could assume more of a leadership role in dealing with theaters of war and conflict. The decision to engage in the Kosovo conflict as part of a NATO campaign (without a UN mandate) was highly controversial, especially in light of the fact that the decision was made by Germany’s first SPD-Green government.

More than a decade later, there was still skepticism about the use of military force in dealing with regional conflicts, captured in Berlin’s decision not to engage in Libya in 2011. The more recent debate over supplying the Kurds with military weapons as they battle ISIL reflected that debate again, but in that case Chancellor Merkel’s coalition decided to offer some military assistance. Yet at the very same time, there was a controversy brewing in Germany about the desolate situation of the Bundeswehr and the ability of Germany to meet NATO obligations. If Germany was stepping up its engagement, did it have both the political and material resources to meet its own expectations and that of others?

More recently, the crisis in Ukraine during the past year has brought out more of this debate and added in particular the factor of German-Russian relations. The emergence of a sizable proportion of German attitudes critical of the Ukrainian leadership and more “understanding” of Putin’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine was surprising to some and unsettling to others, especially in parts of eastern Europe. Calls for sanctions on Russia along with beefed up responses from NATO members to Russian aggression in Ukraine released a wave of critique among the so-called “Putin Versteher” (Putin apologists) who offered various explanations of Russian needs, interests, and concerns while accusing the western alliance—particularly the United States—of provoking Moscow by allegedly having expanded NATO and seeking to incorporate Ukraine into the EU and NATO fold. That would take another form with a somewhat dismissive attitude toward the Ukraine and its government.

While the impact of the downing of MH-17 by pro-Russian dissidents in eastern Ukraine was a Europe-wide expression of horror and disgust, it also generated additional backlash in the form of sanctions against Moscow and quieted the Putin apologists in the following weeks. And Chancellor Merkel was central to solidifying the EU response to Putin’s aggression. She also enlisted the support—for now—of the German business community, which has significant stakes in German-Russian commerce.

The Overarching Message from Berlin

Ever since unification, the message from Berlin about the future of Europe has been to follow a path of widening and deepening. The expansion of the EU to the east was greeted as a vindication not only of the end of the Cold War, but also of the values of the EU as a post-Cold War phenomenon in which the threat of war was abolished and the gradual transition to a common set of goals and standards was to be accepted on the entire continent. It was the course Vladimir Putin would take in annexing Crimea and then helping to foment the pro-Russian dissidents in eastern Ukraine, which ran directly counter to that narrative.

Yet there remained a dilemma for Germany and Europe. No one was willing to go to war to roll back the Crimean annexation or to confront the Moscow-backed dissidents in eastern Ukraine. Standing up to Moscow was going to take primarily the form of economic sanctions, but the question remains as to how long they would and should remain in place to deal with the long-term change going on in Moscow’s attitude toward the West. Berlin resists the default position of a Cold War redux. But if the standoff with Putin is a long-term confrontation, the consequences will impact Germany’s policies as well as its role in Europe for the foreseeable future.

The conclusion one might draw here is that Germany continues to debate within itself about where it is to assume its responsibilities and what resources it has to meet them. In some ways it is no different than many other countries struggling with these issues, including the United States. Yet the evolution of these past twenty-five years in that debate has changed the parameters a bit. At the beginning of the post-unification phase German leadership was primarily focused on making sure that Europe would continue to evolve toward more integration in order to deflect any concerns about a bigger and stronger Germany. In some ways that has happened, as can be seen with the introduction of the unified currency and more of Europe built as the union it aspires to be.

Yet as the EU remains a construction site with competing engineers and architects, Germany has become more powerful in some dimensions, while lagging behind in others. And as the parameters of the European project have become increasingly complicated, there have also been trends throughout Europe, including in Germany, where there has been a blow back among the publics, and indeed even in some governments, as to what the European future should look like. There has been increasing uncertainty about how far Europe can reach, where its borders and boundaries should be, how much democracy should/must be involved and how it should/can be implemented. This is a challenge for all of the members of the EU but it is increasingly a question Germany needs to answer for itself.

At this point Europe is in a phase of uncertainty. There are serious threats to its future both internally as well as externally. One of those external threats is the attempt on the part of Moscow to split the European Union on the issue of Ukraine. Another is the domestic fear of terrorism and another still is the uncertainty of the economic stability of the European Union.

Twenty-five years is only a blink in history and yet so much has been accomplished in this past quarter century when it comes to looking at Germany’s domestic and foreign policies and how they have evolved. Both individuals and issues that are currently on the agenda for Germany and indeed Europe were unthinkable twenty-five years ago. Who in 1990 knew that Germany would now be a leading force in Europe, that it would be in the forefront of maintaining the effort to keep the European project moving while some countries were beginning to question even their own engagement in that project? Who could have foreseen Angela Merkel as a chancellor who has been elected three times in the last nine years and enjoys the most stable parliamentary majority in Europe? Who might have expected Germans to have committed to a decade of war in Afghanistan?

This October has reminded Germans how far they have traveled from the heady days of 1989. It also came with a reminder that the challenges of today are even greater than those of yesterday. In 1989 then-President George Bush proclaimed in Mainz that the United States saw in Germany a partnership in leadership. At that moment—before Germany was even unified—that caught Germans by surprise. Leadership was not yet a comfortable concept. Today, in fact, Germany is a leader in partnership with the United States, but also with other partners. That turf comes with both critique and credit. Germany has to get used to both.


EU-ISS:Islamism and Islamists: a very short introduction

17 October 2014 Islamism today has many faces: militant groups in Iraq and Lebanon, political parties in Tunisia and Egypt, and regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But this umbrella term conceals the fact that these groups use different tactics, tap into different grievances and have different political goals.

Lumping them together is a gross oversimplification – it is time for an overview. Although often associated with terrorist groups, the term Islamism simply denotes a political project inspired by Islam.

Current streams of political Islam all belong to a wave of Islamist revivalism, the likes of which was last seen on several occasions between the 11th and 14th centuries. Their goal is the re-Islamisation of their respective societies, and ultimately a state based on the principles of Islam.

The three major currents belonging to this wave, however, differ starkly on religious doctrine, on what kind of state to establish, and how to fulfil their objectives. In contrast to adherents of ­authoritarian Islamism, who believe they have already accomplished the goal of creating an Islamic state, advocates of both revolutionary and electoral Islamism are ‘changists’, seeking to replace incumbent regimes.

The latter two disagree, however, on the means to bring about the desired change, as well as on the form of the Islamic state to be achieved …


*Alternative Futures for Syria – Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States*

October 22, 2014 … civil war in Syria poses a thorny problem for U.S. policymakers. The conflict has morphed from a popular uprising against an autocratic regime into a multi-sided battle involving government forces, pro-government militias, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, secular/moderate rebels, Kurdish separatists, traditional Islamist rebels, nationalist Salafi-jihadist rebels, and the transnational Salafi-jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) movement.

Most neighboring states and several Persian Gulf states have sent arms and money to one or more of the factions in this war. Iran and Russia have consistently supported the Assad regime, including providing advanced weaponry, since the onset of the conflict. The outcome of the conflict will affect Middle East stability and regional political dynamics for years — perhaps decades — and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.

Momentum has shifted several times during the course of the conflict … U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains … To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.


*Tribal boots on the ground in Iraq*

As the Obama administration begins to implement its strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Iraq’s tribes are getting a fresh look as a possible partner to confront the terrorist group. Having successfully utilized tribal groups against al-Qaeda in the Sunni Arab heartland of Anbar Province in 2006-2008 during the Awakening movement, Iraq’s tribes provide the U.S. with a number of advantages in an era where placing U.S. troops directly in harms way is off the table. Arab tribes are a social institution based upon extended family and kinship ties that operate like a system with members sharing obligations to each other and to their leaders or sheiks. The tribal structure is hierarchical, usually led by a paramount sheik, with sub-sheiks leading smaller tribal groupings or family clans. These tribal structures can be harnessed to use family loyalty to trump Islamist identity and to better organize communities to resist oppression.

The “Anbar model” consisted of enlisting local tribes in their own defense by working through local sheiks to form community police forces to not only protect local villages but to partner with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police against al-Qaeda. When successfully applied to the Fallujah area in 2007, in addition to using a counter-insurgency approach for the city, the number of security incidents went from approximately 750 in March to less than 80 in October. The key benefit of working with the tribes is that they rob the insurgency of manpower by employing their potential recruits into the government’s security services, it increases the eyes and ears of the government against the insurgency, and organizes the community to better resist insurgent intimidation. This very successful program turned Anbar Province around but was eventually undercut by the Maliki Government as it reduced and then eliminated funding, persecuted tribal leaders, and marginalized the Sunni Arab community.

A U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS must enlist the tribes in Sunni Arab provinces in their own defense in order to resist and then to roll back the Islamist movement’s forces. A determined campaign using only the Iraqi Army will not be sufficient since they are predominantly Shiite, do not come from the areas they seek to liberate, and legitimate concerns exist about their fighting ability. A synchronized effort of army, police, and tribal forces must be used to push ISIS out of the areas it controls and a new tribal outreach effort must be attempted applying the “Anbar model” to other parts of the country. However, a new tribal outreach effort must be tailored to the current political situation in Iraq, the fact that large numbers of U.S. troops are no longer there, and a deficit of trust exists between many Sunni Arabs and the central, Shiite-led government. One model for such an approach is Yemen where the Yemeni army launched a clearing operation against al-Qaeda in April utilizing tribal Popular Committees which had spontaneously organized to fight the terrorist group. Since the U.S. does not have sizable numbers of soldiers in Yemen this may serve as a possible way forward for Iraq.

The first step to enlist Iraq’s tribes against ISIS is to integrate their leaders into security planning in Baghdad and use U.S. forces to serve as a bridge between the tribes and the government. The next step is for the U.S. to pledge money for salaries and other support to these tribal forces for at least five years in order to ensure that they will be paid and won’t have their money cut off as occurred during the Maliki Government. This will do a lot to reassure tribal leaders and build trust. A round of tribal engagement must then be undertaken with sheiks who have fled western and northern Iraq in order to introduce the security initiative and a training program should be created in Jordan and Turkey to train tribal members. A new tribal awakening is possible in Iraq just as long as the U.S. applies the lessons it has learned from its years of war and remembers that, in the words of the former commander of the Arab Legion of Jordan, General John Bagot Glubb, “[t]he only way to defeat guerillas is with better guerillas, not by the methods of regular warfare.”

Green is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the co-author with William F. Mullen III of Fallujah Redux: The Anbar Awakening and the Struggle with al-Qaeda published by the Naval Institute Press in September. He is also a military veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.



see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat




RAND_PE129-Alternative Futures for Syria.pdf