Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 27/02/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

In eigener Sache: Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster
„Eine meiner derzeitigen Baustellen, ein komplizierter Handgelenksbruch (see photo). Heute Morgen (24.2.15) tadellos unter Einsatz von Platten repariert von Prof. Willy im Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin. Bin glücklich und dankbar!“

Unser Dank an das Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin und Oberstarzt Prof. Dr. Christian Willy und seinem wirklich perfekten Team für den „1 A-Einsatz“. Udo v. Massenbach

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

· New Realities: Energy Security in the 2010s and Implications for the U.S. Military

· STRATFOR: The Intersection of Three Crises

· Turkey blocks its air defense system’s integration with NATO’s

· Iran airlifts thousands of Shiite fighters to Syrian port of Latakia to boost Aleppo warfront

· U.S. Navy Commander Says Major Middle East Shipping Routes Secure Despite Turmoil

· Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions

· Germany and EU Need Much More from Greece than Money

· Germany’s army is under-equipped

· Economist:Kurdistan’s right to secede: The case for a new state in Northern Iraq

· Greenspan: Opec has ceded to the US its power over oil price

· Srecko Velimirovic : Massenbach-Newsletter – Serbien

· Tanjug: Slovenians interested in investing in Serbia’s energy sector

· Singleleben in Deutschland

Massenbach* Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns*

The German army has faced a shortage of equipment for years, but the situation has recently become so precarious that some soldiers took matters into their own hands.

On Tuesday, German broadcaster ARD revealed that German soldiers tried to hide the lack of arms by replacing heavy machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise last year. After painting the wooden sticks black, the German soldiers swiftly attached them to the top of armored vehicles, according to a confidential army report which was leaked to ARD.

[Related: The German military faces a major challenge from disrepair]

A defense ministry spokesperson said the use of broomsticks was not a common practice, and that the decision of the involved soldiers was "hard to comprehend." According to the ministry, the armored vehicles were furthermore not supposed to be armed. It remains unclear how many broomsticks were substituted for machine guns.

The awkward revelation on Tuesday came at the worst possible moment for Germany’s defense ministry. The same day, Ukraine’s army was about to suffer a defeat in the town of Debaltseve, putting a renewed focus on the question whether Europe’s NATO allies would be able to manage the crisis militarily – without an American intervention, if necessary.

To make matters worse, the broom-equipped German soldiers belong to a crucial, joint NATO task force and would be the first to be deployed in case of an attack. Opposition politicians have expressed concerns about Germany’s ability to defend itself and other European allies, given that even some of the most elite forces lack basic equipment.

The central European country was the world’s third-largest arms exporter in 2013, but when it comes to Germany’s own defense politicians have been unwilling to invest. In 2013, Germany spent only 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense — a ratio which was below the average spending of the European members of NATO.

In an interview with local German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, the head of the country’s green party Cem Özdemir argued that it was not only the lack of funding that posed a problem. "The financial resources are not being used efficiently," Özdemir said last September. According to him, Europe’s armies only have one tenth of the strength of the U.S. Army, although they cost half of the defense budget of the United States.

The lack of equipment does not come as a surprise to close observers of the German army. Last year, the parliamentary defense committee was informed that out of 89 German fighter jets, only 38 were ready for use. The list of damaged items also included helicopters, as well as a variety of weapons.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen leaves a helicopter, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Thomas Peter)

After the lack of arms and vehicles was made public, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen vowed to upgrade and repair the equipment. According to some soldiers and officers, the minister has so far failed to deliver on her promises.

According to the confidential report that was leaked on Tuesday, the German NATO task force would face serious problems if it had to intervene abroad. More than 40 percent of the task force’s soldiers would have to do without P8 pistols, and more than 30 percent lacked general-purpose machine guns, known as MG3. Operating at night would be particularly difficult for Germany’s armed task force, given a lack of 76 percent of necessary night viewers.

Germany’s continuous equipment problems hardly match von der Leyen’s public rhetoric. On Tuesday, she announced that Germany would overhaul its security strategy and become more active internationally and in eastern Europe in the coming years.

According to Reuters, von der Leyen said that Germany’s new policy had to take into account the Kremlin’s attempt "to establish geo-strategic power politics and military force as a form of asserting their interests." Critics, however, say that such statements remain pure rhetoric, as long as the financial resources dedicated to the German army are insufficient.


Turkey blocks its air defense system’s integration with NATO’s

DEBKAfile February 20, 2015, 6:17 PM (IDT)

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismet Yilzmaz announced Thursday that his government will not permit the integration of its projected air defense and early warning systems against long-range surface missile attack, with the NATO facility located in Turkey. The system must exclusively serve Turkey’s national military needs as part of its own command and control, and not of a “foreign” network.


Iran airlifts thousands of Shiite fighters to Syrian port of Latakia to boost Aleppo warfront*

debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources have discovered a large-scale Iranian airlift is in progress for bringing thousands of Shiite fighters to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Latakia to reinforce the Syrian army forces falling back from the key city of Aleppo. Some of the flights are taking off from Baghdad airport. The Syrian rebels in heavy fighting Thursday and Friday, Feb. 19-20 repulsed a Hizballah-backed Syrian army offensive to recapture the town and took scores of Hizballah fighters prisoner.

The incoming reinforcements are being transferred directly to the Aleppo battle-front in an effort to stabilize it and reverse the Syrian army’s retreat.

The incoming reinforcements are made up of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militiamen. The fact that Tehran was able to raise this force in less than 24 hours from the Syrian army’s defeat in Aleppo demonstrates Iran’s total military and strategic commitment to swift action for averting a Syrian-Hizballah retreat from a key front of the four-year old civil war.
The Iranian planes are taking two routes to Syria, starting out either in Baghdad or Tehran. In Baghdad, they touch down in the military section of the international airport and collect the Iraqi Shiite militiamen destined for the Syrian battlefield. This step necessitated the consent of the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The Iranian operation therefore exposes two exceedingly disturbing developments which are causing Israel’s army chiefs to burn the midnight oil: The fall of the Abadi government under Tehran’s sway is one; and Iraq’s direct involvement for the first time in the military actions of the Syrian civil war.

debkafile’s military experts extrapolate from Tehran’s immediate readiness to transfer thousands of foreign troops into Syria to save Assad’s army from retreat, that the same response is to be expected from a possible setback of the same alliance in South Syria – especially when Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers are leading a Syrian-Hizballah-Shiite drive to capture the Golan town of Quneitra across from Israel’s lines.
Our sources add that President Barack Obama was in a position, had he wished, to intervene with Baghdad and hold back the Iranian troop airlift to Syria. This has not happened. The administration’s inaction places it squarely behind Iran’s military steps in the Middle East and its direct intervention in key trouble spots.


Germany and EU Need Much More from Greece than Money*

Greece’s geopolitical position may play a more important role in negotiations over the state debt than Greek finances, a Bloomberg report says.

With war in Syria and the advancement of the Islamic State to the east, the failure of Libya to the south, the skirmishes in Ukraine to the north adding, Greece has a strategic position and its ports in the Mediterranean are of great importance to Europe and NATO.

Greece has more than 200 fighter jets and 1,000 tanks. NATO facilities include a military base in Crete that was used during the airstrikes on Libya in 2011. That alone is enough for Germany to give concessions to the Alexis Tsipras government in the negotiations over Greece’s bailout, according to Bloomberg.

“One would be justified to ask whether Europe, the U.S. and NATO could afford the creation of a security vacuum and a black hole in a critical region,” Thanos Dokos, director of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, an Athens-based research institute, told Bloomberg by e-mail. That may not be “an acceptable loss for an EU with any ambitions to play a meaningful global and regional role,” he said.

This could be a strong weapon in negotiations with the rest of the euro zone finance ministers, according to Dimitris Kourkoulas, a former deputy foreign minister. “This is probably the last bargaining card Tsipras has,” Kourkoulas said in an interview. Russian President Vladimir Putin is flirting with Greece at the same time that Germany is maintaining a rigid stance demanding the indebted country continues with the current bailout program.

Greece is reciprocating the courting, as Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias visited Moscow and his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the previous week, rekindling relations between the two countries. So far, negotiations between Greece and its lenders bore no fruit as both sides refuse to budge. “Negotiations between the new Greek government and its official creditors seem to be running into a brick wall, “Neil Mackinnon, a London-based strategist at VTB Capital Plc, part of Russia’s VTB Group, said this week. “Geo-politics and U.S. pressure to keep Greece in NATO might play a part in the EU blinking first and making a compromise over the debt.” the Bloomberg report concludes.

In eigener Sache: Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster

„Eine meiner derzeitigen Baustellen, ein komplizierter Handgelenksbruch. Heute Morgen (24.2.15) tadellos unter Einsatz von Platten repariert von Prof. Willy im Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin. Bin glücklich und dankbar!“

Unser Dank an das Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin und Oberstarzt Prof. Dr. Christian Willy und seinem dem wirklichen perfekten Team für den „1 A-Einsatz“. Udo v. Massenbach

Über das Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Berlin:


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Singleleben in Deutschland:

Demografische Engpässe, Erwerbstätigkeit und Arbeitslosigkeit sind Ursachen zunehmender Partnerlosigkeit*

In den vergangenen Jahrzehnten hat die Zahl der Singles in Deutschland immer mehr zugenommen. Zwischen 1993 und 2009 ist der Anteil der Menschen ohne Partner im Alter bis zu 60 Jahren um 8,5 Prozent gestiegen. Die Ursachen dafür hat der Heidelberger Soziologe Jan Eckhard auf Basis der für Deutschland repräsentativen Daten des Sozio-ökonomischen Panel (SOEP) im DIW Berlin näher ergründet. Unterschiedliche sozialwissenschaftliche Theorien zum Singledasein wurden dabei empirisch überprüft. Eine überraschend große Rolle für die zunehmende Zahl der Singles spielen demnach „demografische Engpässe“ auf dem sogenannten „Partnermarkt“. „Für die Männer und Frauen einiger Geburtsjahrgänge besteht ein gravierendes Unterangebot an möglichen künftigen Partnerinnen oder Partnern“, sagt Eckhard. „Dies hat dazu geführt, dass diese Männer und Frauen im Laufe ihres Lebens sehr viel häufiger ohne Partner lebten als Menschen älterer Generationen.“ Außerdem trugen unter anderem die zunehmende Berufstätigkeit der Frauen und der Anstieg der Arbeitslosigkeit in den 90er Jahren dazu bei, dass immer mehr Menschen immer häufiger alleine leben. Die Studie wurde in der letzten Ausgabe der Zeitschrift für Soziologie veröffentlicht.

Für seine Untersuchung hatte Jan Eckhard die SOEP-Daten von mehr als 20.000 Männern und Frauen ausgewertet, die jährlich wiederholt befragt worden waren zu Partnerschaften innerhalb und außerhalb des eigenen Haushalts, Einkommen, beruflicher Position, Familiengeschichte und weiteren Faktoren. Anhand statistischer Analysen dieser Daten überprüfte der Soziologe mehrere Theorien zu den Ursachen der Partnerlosigkeit.

Die Analyse der SOEP-Daten zeigt: Eine überraschend große Rolle für die zunehmende Zahl der Singles spielen „demografische Engpässe“ auf dem „Partnermarkt“. Beispielsweise kamen Mitte der 1960er Jahre besonders viele Kinder zur Welt – die geburtenstarken Jahrgänge. Anschließend sanken die Geburtenzahlen so stark ab, dass in den nachfolgenden Jahrgängen bis zu 40 Prozent weniger Kinder geboren wurden. Da sich – wie bereits mehrere frühere Studien belegt haben – Männer bei der Partnersuche meist auf die zwei bis vier Jahre jüngeren Frauen, die Frauen sich umgekehrt auf die zwei bis vier Jahre älteren Männer konzentrieren, kann dies zu Engpässen bei der Partnersuche führen: Die vielen Männer aus den geburtenstarken Jahrgängen „konkurrieren“ um die wenigen Frauen aus den zahlenmäßig kleineren Jahrgängen.

Auch gesellschaftliche und kulturelle Veränderungen begünstigen das Singleleben. Ein Beispiel hierfür ist die zunehmende Erwerbstätigkeit von Frauen. „Durch das eigene Einkommen der Frauen verliert die traditionelle Versorgungsfunktion einer Beziehung an Bedeutung“, sagt Jan Eckhard. „Beziehungen, die nicht funktionieren, werden nicht mehr wie in der Vergangenheit aus rein finanziellen Gründen aufrecht erhalten.“ Das weit verbreitete Bild, dass vor allem beruflich erfolgreiche „Karrierefrauen“ ohne Partner leben, würden die SOEP-Daten jedoch nicht bestätigen. Jan Eckhard: „Die Entscheidung für ein Singledasein ist unabhängig von der beruflichen Position der Frauen. Ausschlaggebend ist viel mehr, ob die Frauen überhaupt ein eigenes Einkommen haben.“

Dass Frauen immer öfter ohne Partner leben, liegt teilweise auch an der immer häufigeren Erfahrung, als Kind einer allein erziehenden Mutter aufzuwachsen. Eckhard erklärt diesen Unterschied durch den sogenannten „Transmissionseffekt“. Darunter versteht man in der Familiensoziologie, dass die Frauen Verhaltensmuster und Bewältigungsstrategien ihrer allein lebenden Mütter lernen können und somit gut auf ein Leben ohne Partner vorbereitet sind.

Eine weitere Ursache dafür, dass die Partnerlosigkeit in der Vergangenheit zugenommen hat, ist bei beiden Geschlechtern die Zunahme der Arbeitslosenzahlen ab Beginn der 90er Jahre. Die Zahl der Arbeitslosen stieg seit 1990 von unter 2,5 Millionen auf zeitweilig 4,5 Millionen in den Jahren 2003 – 2006. Der Anteil der Singles im Alter zwischen 20 und 35 Jahren erhöhte sich in diesem Zeitraum um 12 Prozent. „Schlechte Arbeitsmarktchancen verlangen ein höheres Maß an Flexibilität und lassen eine gemeinsame Zukunftsplanung in einer stabilen Partnerschaft oft nicht zu“, erklärt Jan Eckhard.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* New Realities: Energy Security in the 2010s and Implications for the U.S. Military*

Brief Synopsis

View the Executive Summary

Revolutionary changes among energy producers and dramatically altered patterns of energy consumption across the planet are having profound implications for American national security in general and the U.S. Army specifically. The U.S. Army War College gathered experts from the policymaking community, academia, think tanks, the private sector, and the military services at the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, DC, in November 2013 to address first the major “new realities,” both geographically and technologically, and then the specific military implications. The chapters of this compendium are based on the presentations delivered at that conference, which was funded through the generous support of the U.S. Army War College Foundation.


STRATFOR: The Intersection of Three Crises*

Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.

Germany and the Eurozone Crisis

Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe’s largest creditor, it has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest we forget, Germany is exporting more than half of its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany’s national wealth.

Many have characterized the recent Brussels deal as a victory for Berlin over Athens as eurozone finance ministers, including the Portuguese, Spanish and French, stood behind Germany in refusing Greece the right to circumvent its debt obligations. But Merkel is also not about to gamble an unlimited amount of German taxpayer funds on flimsy Greek pledges to cut costs and impose structural reforms on a population that, for now, still views the ruling Syriza party as its savior from austerity. Within four months, Greece and Germany will be at loggerheads again, and Greece will likely still lack the austerity credentials that Berlin needs to convince its own Euroskeptics that it has the institutional heft and credibility to impose Germanic thriftiness on the rest of Europe. The more time Germany buys, the more inflexible the German and Greek negotiating positions become, and the more seriously traders, businessmen and politicians alike will have to take the threat of a so-called Grexit, the first in a chain of events that could shatter the eurozone.

The Role of the Crisis in Ukraine

In order to steer Germany through an escalating eurozone crisis, Merkel needs to calm her eastern front. It is no wonder, then, that she committed herself to multiple sleepless nights and an incessant travel schedule to put another Minsk agreement with Russia on paper. The deal was flawed from the start because it avoided recognizing the ongoing attempts by Russian-backed separatists to smooth out the demarcation line by bringing the pocket of Debaltseve under their zone of control. After several more days of scuffling, the Germans (again leveraging their creditor status — this time, against Ukraine) quietly pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to accept the battlefield reality and move along with the cease-fire agreement. But even if Germany on one side and Russia on the other were able to bring about a relative calm in eastern Ukraine, it would do little in the end to de-escalate the standoff between the United States and Russia.

The Connection Between Ukraine and Iran

Contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not driven by crazed territorial ambitions. He is looking at the map, just as his predecessors have for centuries, and grappling with the task of securing the Russian underbelly from a borderland state coming under the wing of a much more formidable military power in the West. As the United States has reminded Moscow repeatedly over the past several days, the White House retains the option to send lethal aid to Ukraine. With heavier equipment comes trainers, and with trainers come boots on the ground.

From his perspective, Putin can already see the United States stretching beyond NATO bounds to recruit and shore up allies along the Russian periphery. Even as short-term truces are struck in eastern Ukraine, there is nothing precluding a much deeper U.S. probe in the region. That is the assumption that will drive Russian actions in the coming months as Putin reviews his military options, which include establishing a land bridge to Crimea (a move that would still, in effect, leave Russia’s border with Ukraine exposed), a more ambitious push westward to anchor at the Dnieper River and probing actions in the Baltic states to test NATO’s credibility.

The United States does not have the luxury of precluding any one of these possibilities, so it must prepare accordingly. But focusing on the Eurasian theater entails first tying up loose ends in the Middle East, starting with Iran. And so we come to Geneva, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met again Feb. 22 to work out the remaining points of a nuclear deal before March 31, the date by which U.S. President Barack Obama is supposed to demonstrate enough progress in negotiations to hold Congress back from imposing additional sanctions on Iran. If the United States is to realistically game out scenarios in which U.S. military forces confront Russia in Europe, it needs to be able to rapidly redeploy forces that have spent the past dozen years putting out fires ignited by sprouting jihadist emirates and preparing for a potential conflict in the Persian Gulf. To lighten its load in the Middle East, the United States will look to regional powers with vested and often competing interests to shoulder more of the burden.

A U.S.-Iranian understanding goes well beyond agreeing on how much uranium Iran is allowed to enrich and stockpile and how much sanctions relief Iran gets for limiting its nuclear program. It will draw the regional contours of an Iranian sphere of influence and allow room for Washington and Tehran to cooperate in areas where their interests align. We can already see this in effect in Iraq and Syria, where the threat of the Islamic State has compelled the United States and Iran to coordinate efforts to contain jihadist ambitions. Though the United States will understandably be more cautious in its public statements while it tries to limit Israeli anxiety, U.S. officials have allegedly made positive remarks about Hezbollah’s role in fighting terrorism when speaking privately with their Lebanese interlocutors in recent meetings. This may seem like a minor detail on the surface, but Iran sees a rapprochement with the United States as an opportunity to seek recognition for Hezbollah as a legitimate political actor.

A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement will not be complete by March, June or any other deadline Washington sets for this year. Framework agreements on the nuclear issue and sanctions relief will necessarily be implemented in phases to effectively extend the negotiations into 2016, when Congress could allow the core sanctions act against Iran to expire after several months of testing Iranian compliance and after Iran gets past its parliamentary elections. Arrestors could arise along the way, such as the death of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but they will not deter the White House from setting a course toward normalizing relations with Iran. The United States, regardless of which party is controlling the White House, will rank the threat of a growing Eurasian conflict well ahead of de-escalating the conflict with Iran. Even as a nuclear agreement establishes the foundation for a U.S.-Iranian understanding, Washington will rely on regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to eat away at the edges of Iran’s sphere of influence, encouraging the natural rivalries in the region to mold a relative balance of power over time.

Circling Back

Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.

Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.


Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions*

By Nick Butler

Having talked vaguely for many years about the possibility of developing nuclear power as an alternative source of energy, it seems that Saudi Arabia under its new leadership may finally be taking steps towards what would be one of the world’s largest nuclear building programmes over the next decade.

A new study, to be published by the International Centre for Security Analysis (ICSA) at King’s College London and based on research gathered from open sources across the web and social media demonstrates that the Kingdom is pressing ahead with plans to add 16GW by the early 2030s.

In terms of energy policy the Saudi move is unsurprising. The country now uses 3m barrels a day of oil — more per capita than any other country on earth — to meet the bulk of its energy requirements, including power generation. With total production of some 9.5 mbd, that means that a third of total output is absorbed locally, reducing the level of potential exports. The limited export level also constrains the ability of the country to act as a swing producer — something we have seen over the past six months. The rate of demand growth, backed by population growth (according to the official Saudi Government numbers) of 2.1 per cent per year, could easily push that figure up above 4 mbd within the decade if nothing else changes.

Recent moves suggest both that there is serious concern about this over dependence on oil, and also, implicitly acknowledge that the long proclaimed plans to develop natural gas as a substitute for oil have failed. The Saudis claim to hold some 290 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves but despite repeated exploration efforts actual gas production remains limited, raising questions about the reliability of this estimate and that for the oil reserves (298bn bbl). Since 1982 the Saudis have withheld detailed data and have given external analysts no opportunity to test the claim.

The shift to nuclear therefore has some logic behind it. Saudi Arabia can afford the capital cost and by using nuclear can avoid the pitfalls of dependence on other countries for imported gas. General terms for partnerships with potential suppliers have been signed and there will now no doubt be a frenzied competition for the multibillion dollar contracts. The decisions on who will get the contracts will be a fascinating indication of Saudi foreign policy priorities under King Salman.

Although there is inevitably scope for serious scepticism about whether 16GW (and another 40GW of solar power capacity) will actually be built and commissioned by the early 2030s. Despite a Royal Decree published in 2010, very little actual progress has been made. A number of sites have been provisionally earmarked, in Jabail, Tabuk and Jizan, but no construction has taken place. However there are signs that the plans are being given new impetus. In one of his first acts, King Salman has dismissed the entire Supreme Council of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE). The King has made no statement on nuclear policy since coming to power but was notably involved in the signing of a nuclear co-operation agreement with Japan in 2010.

The pace of development may still be uncertain, but what matters more is the direction of policy. The decision to go for nuclear power may be eminently logical in energy policy terms but it will also, unavoidably, raise concerns about a potential arms race in the region.

Publicly, Saudi denies any intention of developing nuclear weapons capability, but KA-CARE made clear that the country’s intention is to oversee a large proportion of the fuel cycle domestically from the outset and to be 65 per cent self reliant by 2032. Such an aspiration is valid under the terms of the Non Proliferation Treaty but will inevitably provoke scrutiny. The decision contrasts with the choice by the UAE — another state developing nuclear power capacity — to buy from outside rather than seeking a fuel cycle capability of its own.

Regional circumstances raise the possibility that the Saudis could at some point feel that nuclear weapons capability was a necessary part of their defence strategy. Despite the obvious desire of President Obama to conclude a deal which would stop Iran developing any form of nuclear weapons capability, no agreement has been reached and it is not clear if negotiations will continue or not beyond the end of June. The reluctance of the US to engage actively in support of its regional allies causes concern, not just in Israel but also among Iran’s neighbours in the Gulf. The Israelis clearly have the ability to defend themselves and to deter aggression and threats. Others do not. Trust is low and, in a rough neighbourhood, the mood is that every state has to look after itself. Saudi Arabia would not be alone in considering that, if Iran was allowed to continue with its nuclear programme, some countervailing deterrence was necessary. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is not onlya concern when rogue states are involved.

As Henry Kissinger noted in congressional testimony a few weeks ago, “if other countries in the region conclude that America has approved the development of an enrichment capability [which would allow the development of nuclear weapons within 12 months], and if they then insist on building the same capability, we will live in a proliferated world in which everybody . . . will be very close to the trigger point”


Middle East

U.S. Navy Commander Says Major Middle East Shipping Routes Secure Despite Turmoil*

Suez Canal

ABU DHABI, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Shipping corridors used by Gulf energy exporters are not at risk from violence and political volatility in Yemen and the seizure of swathes of territory in the region by Islamic State militants, a senior U.S. naval officer said on Monday.

Vice Admiral John Miller, Commander of U.S. Naval Central Command, told a conference in Abu Dhabi that a “robust” U.S. and international maritime presence was helping to minimise threats to oil-producing countries in the region.

“As dynamic as the region is today, what we have seen over the past years is the maritime atmosphere has been safe, the free flow of commerce has been stable and secure,” said Miller, also Commander of U.S. 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces.

He was referring to the Bab el Mandab, a narrow channel between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest waterways which connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, and the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, the world’s most important oil export route.

Miller said combined maritime forces – international naval coalitions based in Bahrain that jointly stage security patrols against militancy, piracy and smuggling – which he said operated 65 to 70 vessels on any given day, were sufficient.

“An organisation like ISIL (Islamic State) is capable of surprising us … so we want to work hard to eliminate that opportunity for surprise and we do that through a robust presence in the maritime environment,” Miller said.

“In the Suez Canal what we’ve seen consistently despite unrest that has occurred in Egypt … (is) a Suez canal that is secure and properly administered,” he said.

However, he described events in Yemen, where the Houthi armed group replaced the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in January, as “a very dynamic situation”.

“Instability in Yemen is something that has the potential to lead to instability in the strait of Bab el Mandab in the Gulf of Aden in the southern part of the Red Sea, all of which is cause for concern,” he said.

The United States and its allies regularly stage naval exercises in the Gulf, saying they want to ensure freedom of navigation.




*Opec has ceded to the US its power over oil price*

“Shale breakthrough will be a more effective market stabiliser”

By Alan Greenspan

Normal diplomacy probably could not have achieved the geopolitical outcomes that have been produced in the past year by America’s shale oil revolution. Oil prices have more than halved, which — coupled with the collapse of the rouble that stemmed from the turmoil in Ukraine — has gone a long way towards disabling the Russian economy. Cheap oil has weakened Iran’s economy, too, lifting the chances of a realistic nuclear agreement. Finally, oil-rich Venezuela was on the edge of default even before the oil price decline. This amounts to a marked change in the economic and geopolitical landscape, of which the main beneficiaries are the US and its allies.

At the root of the price collapse was the development in the US of techniques for extracting tight oil, mostly from shale deposits, by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This reversed the decline in US oil production, adding 3m barrels a day since 2012. As a result, the gap between global production and consumption has widened, precipitating a dramatic rise in US and world inventories and a fall in prices. Saudi Arabia, confronted with an oil supply glut but not wishing to lose market share, abandoned its leadership role as global swing producer and refused to cut production to support prices.

After the oil embargo of the 1970s, Opec wrested oil pricing power from the US. But the shale technology breakthrough is likely to be a far more effective stabiliser of oil prices than the cartel of oil producing countries. Opec is now relinquishing its pricing power. It may never be regained.

The reason is that shale technology is far more flexible. Shale oil wells can come on stream faster than most conventional wells, and drain far more rapidly. More than half of the oil content of shale wells is run off in the first two years of operation, while conventional wells keep producing for 20 years or more. Thus, shale oil output can expand and contract more rapidly than conventional wells. Unlike the production decisions of a monopolistic Opec, fluctuations in market prices will automatically guide shale expansion and contraction.

Recent oil price declines, of course, have given consumers considerably more purchasing power. Global consumer outlays are up markedly in the current quarter, but this will be partially offset by slowed capital investment in oil-producing countries this year and next. On balance, the impact of the oil price decline on global gross domestic product appears marginally positive.

India, a large crude importer, is among the countries to gain most from falling prices. So is Japan — which has been importing oil to replace the nuclear power capacity that was switched off after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. China, the US and Europe have also benefited, to a lesser degree.

Brent crude prices fell to $45 a barrel in late January, down from $115 in June last year — though they have recently rebounded, to close to $60. Is this a temporary increase as traders cover their short positions, after which prices will resume their slide? The answer is likely to be found in the inventory statistics. For prices to rise, the gap between consumption and production must close.

So far, the heavy build-up of inventories of crude and petroleum products, and decline in the number of active drilling rigs, has not arrested the growth in US crude output.

A year ago, when prices were high, the conventional wisdom was that, at $60 a barrel, shale oil could not be profitable. Back then, incentives to cut production costs were a low priority; when each barrel was worth more than $100, the most important thing was to get it out of the ground. At today’s prices, cost-cutting is mandatory. We are about to find out whether shale producers, with their backs to the wall, can keep oil investment innovative and profitable.

The writer was chairman of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006




Massenbach-Newsletter – Serbien

von Srecko Velimirovic

Sehr geehrte Leserinnen und Leser,

auch in dieser Woche versorge ich Sie mit spannenden Presseberichten rund um die Geschehnisse auf dem westlichen Balkan. Der heutige Newsletter wird vor allem von Aktivitäten des serbischen Ministerpräsidenten, Aleksander Vučić, dominiert, der seine politischen Bemühungen der vergangenen Woche nicht nur auf den Ausbau bilateraler Beziehungen zu Partnerländern in der Region konzentrierte, sondern auch auf die innerpolitischen Reformprozesse des Landes. Während seines Besuchs beim slowenischen Kollegen Miro Cerar einigten sich beide Ministerpräsidenten darauf, dass ihre Länder hervorragende politische und wirtschaftliche Beziehungen unterhalten und sie als die besten bisher bezeichnet werden. Auch der vorangegangene Besuch des Berichterstatters des Europaparlaments für Serbien, David McAllister, in Belgrad wurde als produktiv bewertet. Im Gespräch mit dem Ministerpräsidenten Vučić, begrüßte McAllister die bislang durchgeführten Reformen der serbischen Regierung und äußerte seine Überzeugung, dass Zukunft Serbiens in der EU liegt. McAllister äußerte ebenfalls seine Absicht dem Europäischen Parlament ausgewogene Berichte über die Fortschritte des Landes einzureichen. (S.V.)

Tanjug: Slovenians interested in investing in Serbia’s energy sector

LJUBLJANA – Companies from Slovenia are very interested in investing in Serbia’s energy sector, construction industry, agriculture and IT sector, either through involvement in the privatization program or public-private partnerships, President of the Slovenian Business Club Danijela Fisakov told Tanjug on Friday.

Fisakov noted that the business forum held at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia brought together over 300 companies, almost the same number as the previous forum that took place in Belgrade in May 2014.She pointed to the fact that the Slovenian Business Club has been operating in Belgrade for 13 years now, with the aim of supporting the economic cooperation between the two countries.

There are many Slovenian companies doing business in Serbia that are satisfied with the business conditions, but the Slovenian Business Club would like to see the number increase even further, Fisakov said.

After the exchange of experiences at the business forum, it turned out that Slovenian companies showed the biggest interest in investing in the energy sector, construction industry and agriculture, the fields offering major development prospects for Serbia.

Fisakov said that Slovenian companies are particularly interested in investing in Serbia’s energy sector, through public-private partnerships, but for that to happen, Serbia would have to make certain adjustments to the relevant legislation.


Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic has said that Slovenia is among the top states in the region with which Serbia has intensive cooperation in the field of defense.

On the sidelines of the meeting of the two governments on Friday, Gasic talked with his Slovenian counterpart Janko Veber, the Serbian defense ministry said in a statement.

He said he was pleased to see the first bilateral consultations on defense-related matters between representatives of the defense ministries of the two states.

The officials noted an improvement in the defense cooperation, which mirrors the overall bilateral relations between Serbia and Slovenia and a positive trend in the development of the political dialogue.

Gasic and Veber concluded that there are considerable prospects for further improvement in the cooperation in the field of defense.

The Serbian defense minister said that there is still room for stepping up the cooperation in training special units, and the military/economic cooperation.

After the meeting of the governments at Brdo pri Kranju on Friday, Ministers Gasic and Veber signed an agreement on cooperation between Serbia and Slovenia in the field of defense.


Serbian Minister of Energy and Mining Aleksandar Antic has said that the talks in Ljubljana have opened the doors for Serbia-Slovenia cooperation in the energy sector.

In a statement to Tanjug, Antic said that after the meeting of the two governments, which was held at Brdo pri Kranju on Friday, it is clear that both states will offer absolute support to cooperation between entrepreneurs.

Noting that the energy sector and mining offer major development prospects for further cooperation, Antic signalled investments from Slovenia.
“We primarily discussed opportunities for Slovenian entrepreneurs to get involved in the projects relating to renewable energy sources,” the Serbian minister said, adding that Slovenian investments in relation to the efficient energy use could be expected in the coming period.

Antic said that the talks also addressed the cooperation between energy companies.

He said that Slovenia should be part of an energy exchange that is about to be established by public enterprise Elektromreza Srbije.
“This exchange should be a leader in this part of the region, which would help us make a positive impact on financial results of our energy companies in Serbia and Slovenia,” Antic concluded.



Kurdistan’s right to secede: The case for a new state in Northern Iraq*

Support for the independence of Iraq Kurdistan has received a major shot in the arm with the publication of a strong editorial on ‚Kurdistan’s right to secede‘ by the global and highly respected newspaper, The Economist.

The Economist, widely seen as essential reading for business and political leaders, argues in its current edition that since the fall of Mosul ‚Kurdistan has crept towards de facto independence, with its capital in Erbil. While Islamic State’s maniacs are howling at the gates of Baghdad, a divorce cannot take place. But in due course separation would give the Kurds international protection from any violent Iraqi Arab attempt to reassert control. The Kurds want a country of their own. They have earned it.‘

These articles bear the hallmarks of a writer with extensive experience and understanding of Kurdish politics. The editorial surveys the history of the Kurds, who ‚have twice come close to fulfilling their dream, once after the first world war and the Ottoman empire’s collapse, when they were promised a state by the treaty of Sèvres, and again after the second world war, when for ten brief months the Kurdish republic of Mahabad rose up in what is now north-western Iran.‘

The editorial concludes that the Kurdistan Region is Iraq’s ‚only fully functioning part. Since 1991, when the West began to protect it from Saddam Hussein, it has thrived. In due course, it deserves its place in the community of independent nations.‘

Drawing inspiration from the principle, promoted by America’s President Woodrow Wilson a century ago, that nations should have the ‚unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, it says that a ‚country should be able to gain independence if it can stand on its own feet, has democratic credentials and respects its own minorities. To qualify, Iraq’s Kurds should confirm (again) in a vote that they want their own homeland. As well as being economically and democratically viable, the new state must be militarily defensible and disavow any intention to create a Greater Kurdistan by biting chunks off Turkey, Iran and Syria. It needs its neighbours’ endorsement. And it must settle terms with Iraq’s government, including where to draw its boundary.‘

It also argues that ‚a sustainable economy is within the Kurds’ grasp,‘ given increasing oil exports which could reach 800,000 barrels a day, worth $17 billion a year at today’s prices. As for internal politics, the Economist opines that ‚Democracy is established, though still rough-edged. Iraqi Kurdistan has regular elections, a boisterous parliament, an array of political parties and a raucous media. Certainly its courts are weak, its leaders’ habits feudal, its journalists sometimes harassed and its human-rights record far from spotless. But it is more democratic than most of the region—and far safer than the rest of Iraq, even though the fanatics of Islamic State press against its long border. Suicide-bombings and atrocities of the sort committed by sectarian militias in Baghdad and elsewhere in Arab Iraq are mercifully rare.‘

It concedes that the ‚regional politics are trickier‘ because Turkey and Iran have long opposed to an independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq. But Syria is ‚hardly in a position to object to secession for Iraq’s Kurds,‘ and ‚Iran has forged a pragmatic relationship with them.‘ It adds that KRG relations with Turkey ‚have warmed remarkably‘ and given that the Kurds of Turkey ’seem genuinely to have forsaken their desire for a separate state, seeking autonomy instead‘ that Turkey might accept an independent Kurdistan.

It further argues that ‚landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan will need access to markets for its oil, making it all the more vital that it is on decent terms with its neighbours, especially Turkey. Western countries should make plain that an independent Kurdistan will get no help if it stirs up secessionist Kurds across its border.‘

It pulls no punches in assessing Arab Iraq: ‚the longer they fail to govern their bit of the country the less right they have to stop the Kurds governing theirs,‘ but Iraqi Kurds know they must work with Baghdad and go through a difficult negotiation over oil. It also argues that eventual separation would give the Kurds ‚international protection from any violent Iraqi Arab attempt to reassert control.‘

This heavyweight advocacy of Kurdish nationhood follows hard on the heels of the historic report of the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee which broke the taboo on the country’s traditional preference for a One Iraq policy by arguing that Kurdish independence is a medium term possibility that should be accepted and respected by the great powers in certain conditions.

Iraq is being held together by the common threat of Daish. That will fade as Daish is isolated, and eventually defeated. Recreating Iraq is almost certainly impossible. Kurdish independence will be seen as both feasible and desirable by those who believe that it will be a decent model of moderation in the Middle East.



see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat



SSI Feb 2015- New Realities- Energy Security in the 2010s and Implications for the U.S. Military.pdf