Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 26/12/14

Massenbach-Letter. News

To all our readers who didn’t have a chance to get our greetings yet: We wish you another year which will be the best, as ever.

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

· Tichy: Pegida: Die Schweigsamen und das Lärmen der Medien

· "Wer sind wir denn?" von Giovanni di Lorenzo in DIE ZEIT ("Je vielfältiger eine Gesellschaft, desto klarer müssen die Regeln sein")

· Was sich so tut im Norden Afghanistans

· Al-Monitor Week in Review: EU decision boosts Russian, UN diplomacy on Syria

· DEBKAfile: Syrian rebel Yarmouk Brigades ditch US and Israel allies, defect to ISIS

· Is Obama ready for an about-face to recognize Assad? Will Syria provide the strike force against ISIS

· Iraqi Kurdistan says oil exports could total 800,000 bpd next year

· Deutsche Bank Research – Deposit guarantee reform in Europe: A systemic perspective

· Dutch car tax regime leaves Germany far behind in curbing CO2 emissions

· Magna Carta Lecture Series – Law in the Lives of Medieval Women: Beyond Magna Carta

Massenbach* Forget Opec – sex and technology shape the oil market now*

Wind turbines in Peitz, Germany © Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Forget Opec. If cartels can’t control output, they can’t control prices and in due course they fall apart, usually with a great deal of ill will in the process. The evidence of the last six months is that Opec can’t control the market — ask yourself how many Opec members want to see a price of $60 a barrel for their oil. Some in Saudi Arabia think a low price can squeeze out competing suppliers, but that feels like a justification after the fact of a fall which they can’t control. The question now is how the process of adjustment to the new price level will work.

The first and obvious point is that adjustment will be extremely painful for those who had relied on a politically determined price of $100 or more. As the FT laid out last week, 2015 will be no fun for Venezuela, Algeria or, of course, Russia. Russia has become the first clear victim — the equivalent in the current crisis to Lehman Brothers in 2008 — a would-be superpower brought to its knees by forces largely beyond its control (although the analogy is imprecise because Lehman didn’t have nuclear weapons).

The stage is strewn with broken budgets and degraded reputations. It would be cruel to name the banks and consulting firms that started the year predicting $150 oil prices or the companies whose downside plans were based on prices which “couldn’t” fall below $100.

The third act of the oil industry drama is over. The first was the story of the pioneers — Rockefeller, Knoz D’Arcy, Marcus Samuel and the rest. The second was the age of the Seven Sisters — the triumph of the global corporations. The third, which has lasted for the last forty years, was the era of Opec.

But the play is not finished. The curtain will soon rise on the next Act, which I think of, perhaps too hopefully, as the age of realism. In Act IV the oil price will be determined by the basic market realities of supply, cost and demand. Hence the headline.

Business begins with demand. Although consumption is not growing as rapidly as many anticipated, and is now unlikely ever to exceed 100m barrels a day (against 90 mbd now), that level will be sustained for decades and represents a huge amount of oil. Demand will be sustained, even with continued efficiency gains, by the combination of population growth and the spread of prosperity. Europe may be stagnant on both of these measures, but Asia and Africa are not. The global population continues to grow by more than 200,000 every day. That means that by the time you have spent half an hour reading the FT (too little, but everyone is busy) the world will have more than 4,000 new citizens. Sex and its consequences are a fundamental economic driver, especially when combined with the surge out of poverty which is happening across many parts of Asia. A rough estimate is that there are at least 250m new customers for commercial energy each year.

For the moment, the predominant source of that energy is fossil fuels. Whether the hopes raised in Lima of a managed transition to a carbon-free world are realistic remains to be seen. That will be a major topic for 2015, but even the most optimistic would agree that the transition will take decades. That is Act V, and we are not there yet. For now we are still very definitely in the age of hydrocarbons.

Continued demand is one factor which will shape the industry and the response to the current situation. The other factor is technology. That starts with the technology which will make it possible to develop new and in many cases complex projects at $60 or $70 a barrel, which looks to be emerging as the new baseline. I think it would be excessively pessimistic to say that can’t be achieved. The oil price has fallen before — in the 80s and 90s — and the industry did not shut down. Projects are being postponed to be sure, but bankers such as Goldman Sachs, who were talking last week about the cancellation of $1 trillion worth of projects, seem to completely misunderstand what is happening. The projects are not being abandoned. The project teams are simply being sent away to come up with lower cost solutions — most of which depend on technology. In most cases, as before, they will succeed. The capacity for incremental technical advance across the industry is remarkable.

Of course, coming back to Lima, there is a competing technical revolution in renewables. One day advances in solar or other forms of production (or storage of what is already produced) will make renewables viable without the current, crippling dependence on public policy. I am struck by the number and variety of technical advances which I read about each week. Even discounting by 50 per cent for hype and over-optimism it is impossible to believe that none of them will succeed.

Over the long term, both will happen: the cost of producing hydrocarbons will come down and so will the cost of renewables. That is why we are likely to be living soon in an age of plenty as far as energy is concerned. The question for the industry is which will come first. On a prudent risk management basis, companies should be balancing their portfolio — thinking and moving, to use an old phrase, “beyond petroleum”. At the same time, someone should be creating a renewables multinational ready to bring the advances to the global market.

Overall then, it is right to end the year on a counterintuitive note of optimism. 2015 will be painful as everyone adjusts to the end of the cartel era. But the play is not finished. Procreation and technology continue. The winners will be those who seize the moment and turn the new reality to their advantage.

Warmest best wishes for the holidays and for 2015 to all readers.


Dutch car tax regime leaves Germany far behind in curbing CO2 emissions*

The Netherlands‘ tax policy has incentivised new buyers to pick low-carbon vehicles.

The Netherlands had the lowest CO2 emissions from new cars in the European Union last year, thanks to its tax regime favouring fuel economy and low-carbon vehicles.

Germany and Poland are among the countries with the highest C02 emissions from new cars and the weakest national tax policies, a report by NGO Transport & Environment has found.

Cars are responsible for 15% of Europe’s total CO2 emissions and are the single largest source of emissions in the transport sector.

The best performing countries in T&E’s Green Car Tax ranking , such as the Netherlands, Denmark and France, had vehicle registration and company car taxes that incentivised buyers to pick low carbon vehicles.

CO2 emmissions from new cars in Europe.

But car taxes pinned to CO2 emissions in many EU countries have skewed the market in favour of diesel, with diesels now representing about half of all new cars sold in the EU. Besides lower fuel duty, diesels emit about 15% less CO2 than petrol cars.

But the lowest emissions found in countries with the lowest share of diesels, such as Denmark and the Netherlands. That dispelled the myth that increasing diesel cars in national fleets is needed to comply with C02 emissions laws, according to T&E, which branded them a major cause of urban pollution.

Only one new Dutch car in four is a diesel, and one in three new Danish cars are diesel because both countries have taxation surcharges on the fuel.

Netherlands vs Germany

In 2013, the Netherlands achieved the lowest CO2 emissions from new cars of all 28 EU countries at 109 g/km. It also shows the second best overall reduction across Europe since the introduction of binding CO2 limits for new cars in 2008, at 30,4%.

Germany’s 2013 average CO2 emissions from new cars was 136,1 g/km, by far the worst performer of the EU15. The largest European car market, with almost three million new cars registered in 2013, does not have a significant car registration tax, T&E said. Annual circulation taxes in Germany were too weak on CO2 emissions to have little or no effect on consumer choice, T&E said.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: “This report shows that effective vehicle and fuel taxes can drive the market for lower carbon, fuel efficient vehicles and avoid the air pollution caused by high number of diesels. By graduating company car and registration taxes strongly with CO2 emissions, and taxing diesel vehicles and fuel at a higher level than gasoline cars, both CO2 and air pollution emissions can be sharply reduced.”

CO2 emissions ranking.

Company cars

The Netherlands also has a strong differentiation against CO₂ emissions of the taxation of ‘benefit in kind’ payments for company cars, which were further revised downwards in 2012.

The EU’s first obligatory rules on carbon emissions require car manufacturers to limit their average car to a maximum of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2015, and 95g by 2021.

Car manufacturing countries were also offering huge subsidies for the private use of company cars, said Archer. This encouraged the use of larger, more polluting cars.

“Governments should bring an end to these polluting handouts by increasing company car tax,” he said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked Germany third highest among its members for its company car subsidies. Belgium was the worst OECD member, followed by Portugal. "Environmental outcomes across the OECD would be greatly improved by ending the undertaxation of company cars, particularly the distance component," it said.

The benefit-in-kind for a German company car is at 12% of the car price per year, and is not graduated for CO2. On top of that, the federal government promotes a labelling scheme so counterintuitive that it rates a 191g/km Porsche Cayenne the same as a 114g/km Citroen C3, T&E said.

External links:

Transport & Environment

· Report: CO2 emissions from new cars in Europe: Country Ranking in 2013


Top 5 Maps and Interactive Graphics of 2014*

Hi all, it’s your friendly neighborhood cartography and interactive graphics engineer here at It’s been a fun year for us building maps and graphics that we hope have helped you explore new ideas (and age-old ones). Here are the top five maps and interactive graphics as selected by yours truly.

1) Space-Based Solar Power

Our most fun — and perhaps strangest — graphic of 2014 (though #2 gives it a run for its money) might be our Space-Based Solar Power graphic. During’s Space Week, we dug into a far-out idea about harnessing solar power in space and beaming it down to Earth through lasers and microwaves. Sounds unlikely — but all of the technology already exists to make it a reality. Don’t believe us? Read more!

2) How Much Energy Do You Consume?

What’s the difference between a stick of dynamite and a burrito? One difference is that a burrito contains about five times more energy than a stick of dynamite. Unbelievable? Not at all. It’s a matter of how quickly you use that energy that makes the difference between an explosion and useable metabolic energy. In this graphic, we illustrate just how much energy someone like you consumes each year by comparing your consumption to things like burritos, dynamite and pounds of coal.

3) Geothermal Heat Flow Map

Before we built this map, we had a hard time knowing how current geothermal plants stacked up against areas of high geothermal potential. Now you can explore the contiguous United States and see where we have geothermal plants, and where we might in the future. Peruse the country at a high level of detail in this beautiful map.

4) How Much Energy Do You Spend?

You and I spend a lot of money on energy each year. This amount has changed over the years and varies greatly from state to state. What role does transportation play in this? In this map, we delve into why your energy bill is as high as it is and dissect the numbers in a few interesting ways. Click on each state to see how much someone from that state has spent on energy for the last 40 years.

5) U.S. Energy Production Over the Last 20 Years

In the last few years, energy production in the U.S. has grown substantially. Increases in natural gas, crude oil and biofuels have led major growth in our nation’s energy portfolio. This map lets you explore each energy sector’s changes and growth over the last two decades.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Magna Carta Lecture Series – Law in the Lives of Medieval Women: Beyond Magna Carta*

December 18, 2014 by Jeanine Cali

Ruth Mazo Karras, professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Minnesota, will join the Law Library of Congress on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 for the next program in the Magna Carta Lecture Series, “Law in the Lives of Medieval Women: Beyond Magna Carta.”

The lecture is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

Ruth Mazo Karras is professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Minnesota. Photo Source: University of Minnesota.

Professor Karras will discuss, through an analysis of the lives of three women, the way law affected (or not) women at different levels of society in medieval England. According to Professor Karras, “We know about the lives of aristocratic women mainly through documents recording transfers of land, which show some of them to have been active in managing property; borough records tell us about women who engaged in commerce; and records from church courts, coupled with family letters, tell us something about the extent to which women were able to make their own choice of husband. While the legal system did constrain women, they were nevertheless able to maneuver within it.”

The Law Library is holding a series of lectures in conjunction with the exhibition, “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor.” Cosponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress, the lecture series is designed to provide further context on how the Great Charter fits into expansive historical and contemporary topics. Previous lectures focused on jury trials; techniques used in selecting and conserving primary sources for exhibitions and educational outreach; and the relationship between Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution.

We hope you can join us! For those readers who will not be able to attend the program, a member of the In Custodia Legis team will be live-tweeting the event via Twitter @LawLibCongress, using #1215MCLC.

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln CathedralMagna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat Syrian rebel Yarmouk Brigades ditch US and Israel allies, defect to ISIS*

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 17, 2014, 6:07 PM (IDT)

The Syrian rebel militia Al Yarmouk Shuhada Brigades, backed and trained for two years by US officers, mostly CIA experts, in Jordan, and supported by the Israeli army, has abruptly dumped these sponsors and joined up with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, debkafile’s exclusive military and counter-terrorism sources reveal.

The sudden defection of this 2,000-strong anti-Assad force leaves IDF defense formations on the Golan, US and Jordanian deployments in the northern part of the kingdom, and pro-Western rebel conquests in southern Syria in danger of collapse.

The Brigades’ jump into the radical jihadi camp was negotiated in the last two weeks by its commander Mousab Ali Qarfan, who also goes by the name of Mousab Zaytouneh. He was in direct contact with ISIS chief Abu Baqr Al-Baghdadi, whom our sources report has recently relocated from Iraq to his northern Syrian headquarters at al-Raqqa.

Unlike the Sinai Islamists, Ansar Beit al Maqdis, the Yarmouk Brigades did not pledge allegiance to ISIS. The ir pact was forged as an operational alliance, which is just as grave a peril for the rebel militias’ abandoned allies.

For Israel, in particular, the new development is fraught with three dangers:

1. The Yarmouk Brigades are strung out along Israel’s Golan border with Syria, from the UN peacekeepers camp opposite Kibbutz Ein Zivan (see map) in the north, down to the Israeli-Syrian-Jordanian border junction in the south. The Brigades therefore sit along 45 of the total 76 kilometers of the Syrian-Israeli border. This means that a long stretch of Israel’s Golan border with Syria has fallen under the control of the Islamic State.
2. This militia also commands sections of the Syrian-Jordanian border, as well as districts of the southern Syrian town of Deraa. Therefore, the link between Jordan and southern Syria, which served American strategic interests, is now under military threat.
3. Islamic State forces are preparing to take advantage of their new asset with a buildup near the Druze Mountains (see map) for a rapid push south towards the town of Deraa, where they will join forces with their new ally.


Is Obama ready for an about-face to recognize Assad? Will Syria provide the strike force against ISIS?*

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 14, 2014, 7:46 PM (IDT)

Tags: US-Russia, US-Iran, Syrian war, Kerry-Lavrov, Binyamin Netanyahu,

Bashar Assad gets a new lease of life

High expectations based on unconfirmed reports swirled around Arab capitals Sunday, Dec. 14, that US President Barack Obama, in league with Moscow and Tehran, had turned his longstanding anti-Assad policy on its head. He was said to be willing to accept Bashar Assad’s rule and deem the Syrian army the backbone of the coalition force battling the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

If these expectations are borne out by the Obama administration, the Middle East would face another strategic upheaval: The US and Russia would be on the same side, a step toward mending the fences between them after the profound rupture over Ukraine, and the Washington-Tehran rapprochement would be expanded.
The Lebanese Hizballah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah would be vindicated in the key role they played in buttressing President Assad in power.

But for Saudi Arabia and Israel, an Obama turnaround on Assad would be a smack in the face.
The Saudis along with most of the Gulf emirates staked massive monetary and intelligence resources in the revolution to topple the Syrian ruler.

Israel never went all-out in its support for the Syrian uprising, but focused on creating a military buffer zone under rebel rule in southern Syria, in order to keep the hostile Syrian army, Hizballah and elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps fighting for Assad at a distance from its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon.

If Obama goes through with accepting the Assad regime, Israel will have to write off most of its military investment in Syria. In any case, Israel’s intelligence agencies misjudged the Syrian situation from the first; until a year ago, they kept on insisting that Assad’s days were numbered.

debkafile’s Arab sources single out major pointers to the approach of a reversal of Syrian policy in Washington:

1. The resignation of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary last month. Hagel was adamant in advocating Assad’s ouster.
2. No more than one sentence was devoted to the Syrian conflict in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) summit’s resolutions in Doha last week, despite its centrality to inter-Arab affairs: the summit called for “a political solution” of the Syrian issue that would “ensure Syria’s security, stability and territorial integrity.”

Not a word on Assad’s removal from power.

3. debkafile’s Washington and Moscow sources report that the Syrian issue was destined to figure large in the Rome talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday, Dec. 14.

The Kremlin is making US acceptance of its plan for ending the Syrian conflict the condition for joining the US-European line on the Palestinian demand that next week’s UN Security Council session set a two-year deadline for Palestinian statehood within 1967 border. The text calls for Israeli “occupation of Palestinian territory captured in the 1967 war” to end by November 2016.

France, Britain and Germany are in efforts to draft a resolution of their own.

So any deal Kerry and Lavrov are able to finalize for a tradeoff between the Palestinian and Syria issues will be put before Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he meets the US secretary in Rome Monday, Dec. 15.
Netanyahu will ask Washington to exercise its veto against the Palestinian motion. But the Obama administration would rather not, since it supports the Palestinians in principle.

Israel may therefore find itself this time ranged against a united US-Russian front on the Palestinian issue, Moscow’s reward for Washington liniing up behind its plan for Syria.
Moscow proposes that the Syrian opposition throw in the towel and both sides accept a truce – especially in the long battle for Aleppo – for the re-convening of the Geneva 2 peace conference in Moscow, with America’s support and participation. Provincial elections would then take place in Syria to bring the Assad government and opposition elements into collaborating in the various ruling institutions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov spent two days in Damascus last week to work on the details of this blueprint with Bashar Assad, after which he commented tellingly that he was “in contact with our American partners.”
Russian officials then elaborated on their plan before Hizballah and opposition representatives in Turkey.

Even the US Senate bill calling for fresh sanctions against Moscow and the supply of $350 million worth of military aid to Ukraine under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act is unlikely to rock the Kerry-Lavrov Middle East boat.

President Obama is unlikely to affix his signature to the bill and President Vladimir Putin will take it in his stride if he sees progress in reaching an agreement with the United States on Syria.

Even the American threat to station medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe following Moscow’s refusal to endorse the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty failed to cast a cloud over the Kerry-Lavrov encounter.

The two top diplomats have a solid history of progress in forging diplomatic accords on thorny international issues (e.g. Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical weapons).
If they fail this time, Netanyahu’s talks with Kerry will be lighter and smoother. But if a Syria-Palestinian tradeoff is forged between the two powers, Israel may for the first time find itself on a collision course with a joint US-Russian front on the Palestinian issue.

Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, Dec. 14, that Israel would “rebuff any UN moves to set a timetable for withdrawal from territory.” He said Israel now faced a possible diplomatic offensive "to force upon us" such a withdrawal within two years.

Therefore, the Israeli air strikes against a shipment of Russian missiles for Syria for Hizballah last Monday, Dec. 8, may be seen as an act of defiance against this nascent big-power partnership. Our sources reveal that Moscow was not alone in demanding “explanations” for Israel’s “aggressive” – so too did Washington.



Middle East

*Al-Monitor Week in Review: EU decision boosts Russian, UN diplomacy on Syria*

Russia’s diplomatic surge on Syria

The European Union agreed last week to support UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura’s efforts to broker a cease-fire or “freeze” in Aleppo by providing food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance. On Dec. 15, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini backed engagement with Russia and Iran toward a political settlement in Syria.

This column has covered the Russian diplomatic surge to jumpstart a political dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition political parties, which has complemented de Mistura’s initiative.

An Al-Monitor correspondent in Lebanon wrote that the Dec. 10-11 visit of Mikhail Bogdanov — deputy foreign minister and Russian special presidential representative for the Middle East and Africa — to Damascus may have provided Russia with an opening to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government closer to a political solution:

“Moscow must clarify some points with Damascus, not only on the level of economic aid and military logistical support but also on the political level, in terms of the general behavior of the two allies regarding the ongoing events in Syria.

“Syrians understood their ally’s request for political cooperation as a type of new condition for the continuation of economic and military aid. After this development, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem headed to Moscow, accompanied by Syrian officials from economic departments. This gave the impression that Damascus had agreed to the Russian demand. Thus, Russia entered a new phase, enjoying the ability to influence the internal Syrian position and Syria’s management of the war raging for over three years.”

Bogdanov’s regional tour included stops in Lebanon, where he met with Hezbollah leaders, perhaps including Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, as reported by Al-Monitor, and Turkey, where Bogdanov met with Syrian opposition leaders.

Iran’s diplomacy on Syria has tracked Russia’s. On Dec. 12, Iran Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein-Amir Abdollahian told UN Deputy envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeddin in Tehran that “Iran wants the UN to play a real role between Syrian pro- and anti-government groups.”

On Dec. 16, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran that Damascus “will review any practical initiative that does not damage the country`s national sovereignty and help promote solidarity,” according to an official Iranian report of the meeting. The same day in Moscow, Bogdanov met with Abdollahian to discuss the latest on Syria and the Middle East.

Iran, Turkey discuss "campaign against terrorism"

In a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Tehran on Dec. 17, Rouhani said that “Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq are four important states in the region,” and that “Tehran and Ankara have common views about the campaign against terrorism and the neighbors‘ territorial integrity,” according to an official Iranian press statement.

Readers of this column may recall that in February 2014 we wrote about the need for “a new, regionally based mechanism to address counterterrorism taken up by those countries most affected by the rise of forces affiliated with al-Qaeda and jihadists, including Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. … Over time, this dialogue could be expanded to bring in Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as other countries affected by the growing terrorist threat from Syrian-based jihadists.”

The need for such a regionally based initiative is greater than ever. US President Barack Obama called for new counterterrorism alliances in a speech in May, just weeks before the Islamic State advance into Iraq. He should return to this theme and back such a regional alignment, beginning with Turkey and Iran, as a complement to the US and coalition military actions against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

Jabhat al-Nusra advances bad news for Aleppo

Mustafa al-Haj reports from Damascus that the Syrian government’s loss of two military camps near Idlib to Jabhat al-Nusra may allow the al-Qaeda-linked group “and other pro-Jabhat al-Nusra Islamic battalions to advance toward Abu al-Duhur military airport and the city of Idlib, the only remaining city under the regime’s control in this province. It can even lead it to advance to Hama to the south. Also, this loss is a personal defeat for Col. Suhail al-Hassan, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favorite officer, and it may lead the Syrian army to give up on its ambitions to control a long road extending from Hama in the center to Aleppo in the north.”

Aleppo’s radicalization

Edward Dark writes of the radicalization that has poisoned the conflict in Aleppo and Syria in general, “The radicalization did not stop at the pulpit … the jihadists were later superseded by radical clerics — proper ideological holy men who were better versed in Islamic scripture, more coherent and more capable of convincing the skeptics and would-be recruits of their fanatical interpretation of Islam. Many of them were foreign, from all sorts of nationalities, some spoke with a thick foreign accent and clearly did not look Arab, and were possibly from the Caucasus.

“This seemed to be quite an organized affair, as these clerics would set up shop in mosques after sundown prayers and ran special classes. All were welcome to attend, and those who did were given vouchers for aid and food was handed out by special distribution centers that had started to spring up across east Aleppo. They were attempting to win over the people and more fighters to their cause through a clever campaign of providing much-needed aid to the poorest of areas, and free classes mostly focusing on religious education, but also including basics such as Arabic reading, writing and grammar. The emphasis, however, was on Quran recital and there were monetary prizes for those who would memorize chapters by heart. This would be mixed with radicalization as there would always be stories glorifying the martyrs of global jihad, including the freedom fighters of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Hamas overtures to Iran

Hamas is seeking to bury the hatchet with Iran over Syria.

Adnan Abu Amer reports on Hamas’ recent statements of gratitude and the long-anticipated visit of Khaled Meshaal, head of the movement’s political bureau, to Iran.

“Ahmed Youssef, a senior political adviser to former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, told Al-Monitor, ‘Hamas seeks to improve its relationship with Iran in light of the imposed siege and isolation. These require that the movement breaks through its isolation and siege and be present in the regional political scene, through its reconciliation with Iran.’

“A former Iranian member of parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, ‘Hamas’ visit to Iran at such a high level, and the al-Qassam Brigades expressing its thanks to Tehran publicly in front of millions of people are certainly not for free, but rather in exchange for a price that Hamas has received from Iran.’

“In a telephone interview from Tehran, he added, ‘The remaining question, to which no one has an answer except for Hamas and Iran, is whether Hamas’ visit and thanks to Tehran was preceded by the transfer of financial aid or was it an Iranian condition to resume support?’”

Hamas’ overtures to Iran take place at a time when it is conducting rocket tests and attempting to restock its arsenal after last summer’s Gaza war.

Shlomi Eldar writes on the movement’s preparations for the next round of conflict: “Israeli defense officials maintained that Hamas wanted to rebuild its launching capabilities, which were seriously compromised during the summer confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Hamas is trying to learn lessons from the fact that hundreds of rockets fired at Israel during Operation Protective Edge caused no serious harm due to their poor accuracy on the one hand and the success of the Iron Dome missile defense system on the other. The assessment in Gaza is that to create a significant deterrence, the organization’s rocket lineup has to be drastically improved.”




Deutsche Bank Research – Deposit guarantee reform in Europe: A systemic perspective*

Deposit guarantee reform in Europe: A systemic perspective

The financial crisis has led to substantial reforms of the system of financial regulation and supervision in Europe – not limited to but including deposit guarantee schemes (DGSs), which play a key role in consumer protection and financial stability. The most recent DGS reform follows a gradual approach, i.e. focuses on adapting existing national systems rather than replacing them. Nevertheless, new rules for bank resolution and the emerging Banking Union are considerably changing the environment DGSs operate in. Given the complexity of the new setup, cooperation between the different players in the financial safety net – including DGSs – is indispensable.


Was sich so tut im Norden Afghanistans*


Wenige Tage vor Auslaufen des ISAF-Mandats und des Beginns der Mission Resolute Support in Afghanistan scheinen die schlechten Nachrichten vom Hindukusch zu dominieren. Landesweit verzeichnet die UN-Mission mehr getötete und verwundete Zivilisten; in allen Landesteilen häufen sich die Anschläge der Taliban und anderer Anti-Regierungs-Gruppen. Und im Norden, für den Deutschland auch unter Resolute Support mit dem Train/Advise/Assist Command North die Verantwortung übernommen hat, gibt es einige sehr unschöne Nachrichten.

Die Taliban brüsten sich mit einem Trainingscamp in der Provinz Faryab und haben dazu ein Video veröffentlicht, wie das Long War Journal berichtet:


Rund um Kunduz gibt es – erneut – die brandgefährliche Mischung aus örtlichen Machthabern, organisierter Kriminalität und Aufständischen:

No government can any longer shut its eyes to the problem of armed groups in the country. They are behind the almost daily crimes in Kunduz, Badakshan, Baghlan, Parwan and Bamyan provinces.
Local authorities in Kunduz accuse the Kabul government of supporting the men, some 4,000 in number, who are behind the kidnappings, rape and robberies particularly in the province’s Khan Abad and Dasht-e Archi districts.

berichten örtliche Medien.

Und die Taliban selbst verweisen stolz (wie hier schon gestern erwähnt) auf ihre Erfolge rund um Kunduz:

The affects of Khaibar operation were also quite visible in Kunduz province as compared to the previous years. Hundreds of Mujahideen came out to the battlefields, clearing large regions in Dasht-e-Archi, Chahr Dara, Imam Shahib districts and areas around the capital from the enemy presence. Large scale operations were carried out, tens of check posts were dismantled, large amounts of arms and ammunition was taken as war booty, APCs were seized while taking tens of enemy personnel as captives on top of killing hundreds and all praise is due to Allah, the presence of Mujahideen can still be visibly felt throughout the province.

Nach einer guten Situation für den Start von Resolute Support sieht das nicht aus.

Nachtrag: Und noch eine Meldung aus türkischen Quellen, die auf ein gewisses Chaos hindeutet:

Taliban militants have kidnapped four Tajik border police in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, near the border with Tajikistan.
Said Sarvar Husaini, spokesman of security chief of Kunduz province told Anadolu Agency that Tajik police entered Imam Sahib district in the northern part of Kunduz province without permission to cut trees, and militants kidnapped them.



*Iraqi Kurdistan says oil exports could total 800,000 bpd next year*

* Oil minister Hawrami "hopeful" on final Baghdad deal

* Exports of 800,000 bpd include Kirkuk crude, 500,000 bpd Kurdish (Adds detail on pipeline exports)

By Sam Wilkin and David Sheppard

LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government will ramp up oil exports in the coming months, moving it closer to economic self-sufficiency while it works to clinch a final deal with Baghdad on crude sales and revenue sharing.

KRG natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami told a conference in London the Kurd’s pipeline to Turkey could carry 800,000 barrels per day next year, including 550,000 bpd to be marketed by Baghdad under a first-stage deal reached this month.

The increase in exports from the north of the country, which are currently about half that amount, could exacerbate an oil glut that has helped to push benchmark Brent crude down 45 percent since June to a five-year low below $60 a barrel.

Hawrami said he was "hopeful for the first time" the long-running dispute over independent Kurdish oil sales could be resolved due to a "big change in attitude" under the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who took office in September.

"The KRG will play its full role in helping Iraq to meet its energy export targets," in 2015, Hawrami said.

The two governments are yet to reach a final agreement on Iraqi Kurdistan’s right to export oil independently, but Hawrami said the KRG would continue to sell a portion of its crude while negotiating the terms with Baghdad.

"We have set ourselves clear targets for self-sufficiency, so we will never again face the violence of economic threats and embargoes on our region."

Baghdad this year cut off Kurdistan’s budget allocation in response to the autonomous region’s decision to export oil unilaterally, a move it derided as smuggling. The KRG says its right to export oil is enshrined in the 2005 constitution.

The interim deal agreed this month restored the KRG’s budget allocation in return for handing some Kurdish oil over to Baghdad.

Hawrami said he saw Kurdish-produced oil shipments on its pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan rising to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the first quarter of 2015 from current levels of around 400,000 bpd.

The KRG will give 250,000 bpd of Kurdish crude to the federal State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) under the terms of a draft 2015 federal budget. Hawrami said Arbil would be a net contributor to Iraq’s finances by the end of next year.

The KRG will market the remainder of its oil independently, Hawrami said. He added the KRG will also allow an estimated 300,000 bpd of crude from fields in the disputed province of Kirkuk to be exported through the KRG’s pipeline under SOMO.

The pipeline, which has rapidly increased exports this year, is being expanded by new pumping stations, Hawrami said.

Baghdad’s own pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan is no longer operational because it runs through territory controlled by Islamic State fighters.



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