Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 03/04/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Yemen Conflict Risks One of World’s Busiest Shipping Lanes * The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures * Crisis in Yemen: Internal balance of power *

· The Consequences of the Influx of Iranian Investments in the Arab Region

· How Russia Lost Germany – And How it Can Win It Back * DGAP-Thesen für eine neue deutsche Russlandpolitik * The deadly chaos behind Putin’s mysterious acts

· Die Europa-Armee aus polnischer Sicht: Macht Deutschland es sich zu einfach? * Greece to Sell Piraeus Port Stake Within Weeks -Xinhua

· Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Policy Brief "Inside the Gap 1/3

· A revolution in cancer treatment powered by SAP

Massenbach* Yemen Conflict Risks One of World’s Busiest Shipping Lanes

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) – Conflict in Yemen risks spilling out into the busy sea lanes that pass it and potentially disrupt the narrow Bab el-Mandeb passage through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia.

Oil prices rose as much as 6 percent on Thursday after neighbouring Saudi Arabia and its allies launched air strikes on Yemen that targeted Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting to oust Yemen’s president.

The development is a gamble by the world’s top oil exporter to check Iranian influence in its backyard.

“The collapse of Yemen as a political reality and the power of the Houthis will enable Iran to expand its presence on both sides of the Bab el-Mandeb, in the Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea. Already discrete numbers of Iranian naval vessels regularly sail these waters,” J. Peter Pham of U.S. think tank the Atlantic Council said.

Analysts say Houthi forces do not themselves have the maritime capabilities or the interest to target the Bab el-Mandeb, while warning of Iranian influence.

“If the Iranians were to gain access to a de facto base in some port or another controlled by the Houthis whom they have aided in the latter’s fight, the balance of power in the sub-region would shift significantly,” said Pham, who also advises U.S., European and African governments

The United States and its allies regularly stage naval exercises in the Gulf. The head of U.S. forces in the region said on Thursday the U.S. military would work with Gulf and European partners to ensure the Bab el-Mandeb remained opened.

Militants have launched successful maritime attacks in the area before. Yemen has a 1,900-km (1,181 mile) coastline that also juts into the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

A suicide bombing carried out by al Qaeda killed 17 sailors on the U.S. warship Cole in Aden’s port in 2000. Two years later, al Qaeda hit a French tanker in the Gulf of Aden, south of the Bab el-Mandeb.

Egypt has said it could not stand by if its interests were threatened.

Maritime sources said four Egyptian naval vessels have crossed the Suez Canal en route to Yemen to secure the Gulf of Aden and were expected to reach the Red Sea later on Thursday.

Iran, which denies providing money and training to Houthi militia, demanded an immediate halt to all military “aggressions” in Yemen.

Last year Israel seized a ship in the Red Sea on suspicion of smuggling arms from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

“If such operations were to increase or an intrusive inspection regime introduced, there would be obvious repercussions to shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb, possibly even creating a real choke point,” the Atlantic Council’s Pham said.

The area has also witnessed multiple hijackings on merchant ships by Somali pirate gangs in recent years, which has abated due to the presence of international naval forces including the United States and Iran.


Shipping and insurance sources say disruptions to shipping would raise costs. Yemen shut its major seaports on Thursday due to the fighting.

“If a ship is attacked or damaged that would lead to an immediate market reaction. No one at the moment wants to be first to do anything. But everyone is watching this minute by minute,” a top ship insurer said.

Any closure of Bab el-Mandeb, Arabic for “Gate of Tears” due to its precarious navigation, would close off the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline that connects to the Mediterranean and supplies oil to southern Europe.

“If an escalating conflict results in the closure of the Bab el-Mandeb Straits, tankers from the Persian Gulf would be unable to reach the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline, diverting them around the southern tip of Africa, a journey of at least 40 days,” said shipping analyst Natasha Boyden with MLV & Co.

Yemen was already considered a higher risk area than Syria and Iraq, shippers said.

“Because of recent events, Yemen is now really in a category where no one is binding new business. Instead they are working on evacuation and business interruption for existing clients who are abandoning assets,” said Smita Malik of insurance provider Clements Worldwide.

“It is like the analogy that you can’t insure your house when it is already on fire.”


Yemen: University of Texas Library has a complete collection of maps on the country.


Greece to Sell Piraeus Port Stake Within Weeks –Xinhua*

SHANGHAI/ATHENS, March 28 (Reuters) – The Greek government will sell its majority stake in the port of Piraeus within weeks, the country’s deputy prime minister told China’s official Xinhua news agency, a flip-flop from the leftist government as it seeks funds from its creditors.

The Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras took power in January on promises to end painful austerity, saying it would halt a string of privatisations including the sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP).

China’s Cosco Group was among five preferred bidders shortlisted under a privatisation scheme agreed by the previous conservative-led government as part of a 240 billion euro ($261 billion) bailout programme which Tsipras is seeking to renegotiate.

But the importance of raising capital appears to have proven more important to the debt-stricken country and the Xinhua report came as Greece submitted a new list of reforms to its EU-IMF lenders on Friday to unlock funds.

Cosco and other bidders “can make a very competitive offer,” said Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, according to Xinhua, during a visit by Greek ministers to China.

The deal would be completed in weeks after being slightly delayed by the change in Greek government, Dragasakis said, who hinted that Cosco was a forerunner, according to Xinhua.

Greece will run out of money by April 20 unless it receives fresh aid from its EU-IMF creditors, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

OLP runs Pier 1 of Piraeus Port, Greece’s largest. China’s Cosco already manages two of Piraeus port’s cargo piers.

Greece has also launched a three-year programme that includes large projects with China, Dragasakis added. ($1 = 0.9185 euros)


Re: Cosco…..Im Oktober 2009 pachtete COSCO im Zuge der griechischen Finanzkrise für 647 Mio. US-Dollar die Hälfte des Containerhafens des Hafens von Piräus für 35 Jahre. Der chinesische Betreiber stand in der Kritik, da er nach Aussagen von Gewerkschaftern der staatlichen griechischen Hafengesellschaft (OLP) Kürzungen bei Gehältern und Sozialleistungen vorgenommen, Gewerkschafter ausgeschlossen und dadurch den Leistungsdruck stark erhöht haben soll.[5]

War einst alles defizitär, so erwirtschaftet das von COSCO betriebene Containerterminal mittlerweile beträchtliche Gewinne, erzielt durch Effizienzsteigerung und Lohnsenkungen: Zuvor betrug das höchste Jahresgehalt einiger Mitarbeiter 181.000 US-Dollar, 2012 dagegen bezahlte COSCO üblicherweise nicht mehr als 23.300 US-Dollar. Zur Modernisierung des Docks wurden von COSCO 388 Mio. US-Dollar investiert, wodurch sich die Umschlagskapazität 2013 auf bis zu 3,7 Mio. Container erhöhen sollte. Von 2010 bis 2011 verdoppelte sich der Containerumschlag und die Beschäftigtenzahl stieg auf 1000 Mitarbeiter.[6]

Das in dieser Hinsicht erfolgreiche Management des Containerterminals hat COSCO und andere chinesische Unternehmen in den Fokus für weitere Investitionen im Rahmen der griechischen Privatisierungsmaßnahmen gerückt. Der Bau eines Logistikzentrums für 280 Mio. Euro ist ebenso geplant wie die Übernahme des Hafenbetreibers Piraeus Port Authority (OLP). Weitere Investitionen in andere staatliche Unternehmen könnten folgen.[7]

Im November 2012 kündigte Hewlett-Packard an, das Containerterminal in Piräus zum Drehkreuz für alle seine Warensendungen für Europa, den Nahen Osten und Afrika zu machen.[8]

COSCO Container Lines Europe GmbH was founded on January 1st, 2005 with its office registered in Hamburg, Germany. As the Europe regional headquarter under COSCO container lines Shanghai, it manages more than 40 offices and subsidiaries of COSCO container lines in and around Europe.

COSCO Container Lines Europe and its affiliated companies provide agency services, freight forwarding, ship supplies, inland transport and logistics to all liner routes to and from Europe.

STRATFOR: The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures*

By George Friedman

Last week, a coalition of predominantly Sunni Arab countries, primarily from the Arabian Peninsula and organized by Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in Yemen that have continued into this week. The airstrikes target Yemeni al-Houthis, a Shiite sect supported by Iran, and their Sunni partners, which include the majority of military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What made the strikes particularly interesting was what was lacking: U.S. aircraft. Although the United States provided intelligence and other support, it was a coalition of Arab states that launched the extended air campaign against the al-Houthis.

Three things make this important. First, it shows the United States‘ new regional strategy in operation. Washington is moving away from the strategy it has followed since the early 2000s — of being the prime military force in regional conflicts — and is shifting the primary burden of fighting to regional powers while playing a secondary role. Second, after years of buying advanced weaponry, the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are capable of carrying out a fairly sophisticated campaign, at least in Yemen. The campaign began by suppressing enemy air defenses — the al-Houthis had acquired surface-to-air missiles from the Yemeni military — and moved on to attacking al-Houthi command-and-control systems. This means that while the regional powers have long been happy to shift the burden of combat to the United States, they are also able to assume the burden if the United States refuses to engage.

Most important, the attacks on the al-Houthis shine the spotlight on a growing situation in the region: a war between the Sunnis and Shiites. In Iraq and Syria, a full-scale war is underway. A battle rages in Tikrit with the Sunni Islamic State and its allies on one side, and a complex combination of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army, Shiite militias, Sunni Arab tribal groups and Sunni Kurdish forces on the other. In Syria, the battle is between the secular government of President Bashar al Assad — nevertheless dominated by Alawites, a Shiite sect — and Sunni groups. However, Sunnis, Druze and Christians have sided with the regime as well. It is not reasonable to refer to the Syrian opposition as a coalition because there is significant internal hostility. Indeed, there is tension not only between the Shiites and Sunnis, but also within the Shiite and Sunni groups. In Yemen, a local power struggle among warring factions has been branded and elevated into a sectarian conflict for the benefit of the regional players. It is much more complex than simply a Shiite-Sunni war. At the same time, it cannot be understood without the Sunni-Shiite component.

Iran’s Strategy and the Saudis‘ Response

One reason this is so important is that it represents a move by Iran to gain a major sphere of influence in the Arab world. This is not a new strategy. Iran has sought greater influence on the Arabian Peninsula since the rule of the Shah. More recently, it has struggled to create a sphere of influence stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The survival of the al Assad government in Syria and the success of a pro-Iranian government in Iraq would create that Iranian sphere of influence, given the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ability of al Assad’s Syria to project its power.

For a while, it appeared that this strategy had been blocked by the near collapse of the al Assad government in 2012 and the creation of an Iraqi government that appeared to be relatively successful and was far from being an Iranian puppet. These developments, coupled with Western sanctions, placed Iran on the defensive, and the idea of an Iranian sphere of influence appeared to have become merely a dream.

However, paradoxically, the rise of the Islamic State has reinvigorated Iranian power in two ways. First, while the propaganda of the Islamic State is horrific and designed to make the group look not only terrifying, but also enormously powerful, the truth is that, although it is not weak, the Islamic State represents merely a fraction of Iraq’s Sunni community, and the Sunnis are a minority in Iraq. At the same time, the propaganda has mobilized the Shiite community to resist the Islamic State, allowed Iranian advisers to effectively manage the Shiite militias in Iraq and (to some extent) the Iraqi army, and forced the United States to use its airpower in tandem with Iranian-led ground forces. Given the American strategy of blocking the Islamic State — even if doing so requires cooperation with Iran — while not putting forces on the ground, this means that as the Islamic State’s underlying weakness becomes more of a factor, the default winner in Iraq will be Iran.

A somewhat similar situation exists in Syria, though with a different demographic. Iran and Russia have historically supported the al Assad government. The Iranians have been the more important supporters, particularly because they committed their ally, Hezbollah, to the battle. What once appeared to be a lost cause is now far from it. The United States was extremely hostile toward al Assad, but given the current alternatives in Syria, Washington has become at least neutral toward the Syrian government. Al Assad would undoubtedly like to have U.S. neutrality translate into a direct dialogue with Washington. Regardless of the outcome, Iran has the means to maintain its influence in Syria.

When you look at a map and think of the situation in Yemen, you get a sense of why the Saudis and Gulf Cooperation Council countries had to do something. Given what is happing along the northern border of the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudis have to calculate the possibility of an al-Houthi victory establishing a pro-Iranian, Shiite state to its south as well. The Saudis and the Gulf countries would be facing the possibility of a Shiite or Iranian encirclement. These are not the same thing, but they are linked in complex ways. Working in the Saudis‘ favor is the fact that the al-Houthis are not Shiite proxies like Hezbollah, and Saudi money combined with military operations designed to cut off Iranian supply lines to the al-Houthis could mitigate the threat overall. Either way, the Saudis had to act.

During the Arab Spring, one of the nearly successful attempts to topple a government occurred in Bahrain. The uprising failed primarily because Saudi Arabia intervened and imposed its will on the country. The Saudis showed themselves to be extremely sensitive to the rise of Shiite regimes with close relations with the Iranians on the Arabian Peninsula. The result was unilateral intervention and suppression. Whatever the moral issues, it is clear that the Saudis are frightened by rising Iranian and Shiite power and are willing to use their strength. That is what they have done in Yemen.

In a way, the issue is simple for the Saudis. They represent the center of gravity of the religious Sunni world. As such, they and their allies have embarked on a strategy that is strategically defensive and tactically offensive. Their goal is to block Iranian and Shiite influence, and the means they are implementing is coalition warfare that uses air power to support local forces on the ground. Unless there is a full invasion of Yemen, the Saudis are following the American strategy of the 2000s on a smaller scale.

The U.S. Stance

The American strategy is more complex. As I’ve written before, the United Sates has undertaken a strategy focused on maintaining the balance of power. This kind of approach is always messy because the goal is not to support any particular power, but to maintain a balance between multiple powers. Therefore, the United States is providing intelligence and mission planning for the Saudi coalition against the al-Houthis and their Iranian allies. In Iraq, the United States is providing support to Shiites — and by extension, their allies — by bombing Islamic State installations. In Syria, U.S. strategy is so complex that it defies clear explanation. That is the nature of refusing large-scale intervention but being committed to a balance of power. The United States can oppose Iran in one theater and support it in another. The more simplistic models of the Cold War are not relevant here.

All of this is happening at the same time that nuclear negotiations appear to be coming to some sort of closure. The United States is not really concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons. As I have said many times, we have heard since the mid-2000s that Iran was a year or two away from nuclear weapons. Each year, the fateful date was pushed back. Building deliverable nuclear weapons is difficult, and the Iranians have not even carried out a nuclear test, an essential step before a deliverable weapon is created. What was a major issue a few years ago is now part of a constellation of issues where U.S.-Iranian relations interact, support and contradict. Deal or no deal, the United States will bomb the Islamic State, which will help Iran, and support the Saudis in Yemen, which will not.

The real issue now is what it was a few years ago: Iran appears to be building a sphere of influence to the Mediterranean Sea, but this time, that sphere of influence potentially includes Yemen. That, in turn, creates a threat to the Arabian Peninsula from two directions. The Iranians are trying to place a vise around it. The Saudis must react, but the question is whether airstrikes are capable of stopping the al-Houthis. They are a relatively low-cost way to wage war, but they fail frequently. The first question is what the Saudis will do then. The second question is what the Americans will do. The current doctrine requires a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the United States tilting back and forth. Under this doctrine — and in this military reality — the United States cannot afford full-scale engagement on the ground in Iraq.

Turkey’s Role

Relatively silent but absolutely vital to this tale is Turkey. It has the largest economy in the region and has the largest army, although just how good its army is can be debated. Turkey is watching chaos along its southern border, rising tension in the Caucasus, and conflict across the Black Sea. Of all these, Syria and Iraq and the potential rise of Iranian power is the most disturbing. Turkey has said little about Iran of late, but last week Ankara suddenly criticized Tehran and accused Iran of trying to dominate the region. Turkey frequently says things without doing anything, but the development is still noteworthy.

It should be remembered that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hoped to see Turkey as a regional leader and the leader of the Sunni world. With the Saudis taking an active role and the Turks doing little in Syria or Iraq, the moment is passing Turkey by. Such moments come and go, so history is not changed. But Turkey is still the major Sunni power and the third leg of the regional balance involving Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The evolution of Turkey would be the critical step in the emergence of a regional balance of power, in which local powers, not the United Kingdom or the United States, determine the outcome. The American role, like the British role before it, would not be directly waging war in the region but providing aid designed to stabilize the balance of power. That can be seen in Yemen or Iraq. It is extremely complex and not suited for simplistic or ideological analysis. But it is here, it is unfolding and it will represent the next generation of Middle Eastern dynamics. And if the Iranians put aside their theoretical nuclear weapons and focus on this, that will draw in the Turks and round out the balance of power.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* * Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Policy Brief "Inside the Gap 1/3" *

„ Am 20. März 2015 war der Equal Pay Day . Mit ihm hat es der Gender Pay Gap – wie jedes Jahr – für kurze Zeit auf die große Bühne und ins Bewusstsein der breiten Öffentlichkeit geschafft. Nach wie vor beträgt die unbereinigte durchschnittliche Lohnlücke zwischen den Geschlechtern 22 Prozent. Man ist sich einig: Es handelt sich um eine Ungerechtigkeit, der entgegen getreten werden muss. Die Bundesfamilienministerin, Manuela Schwesig, arbeitet aktuell an einem Gesetz, das die Lohndiskriminierung bekämpfen, den Gender Pay Gap verkleinern und mehr Lohngerechtigkeit schaffen soll.

Der Gender Pay Gap hängt dabei auch mit der mangelnden Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Beruf in Deutschland zusammen und dem Umstand, dass Frauen weniger Erwerbsarbeit leisten (können) als Männer. Das Thema Arbeitszeitpolitik ist in diesem Kontext aktuell in aller Munde (Familienarbeitszeit, Recht auf befristete Teilzeit etc.). Die aktuellen Debatten wollen wir nutzen, um auf einen vielfach unterschätzten Faktor aufmerksam zu machen, denn die eigentlich große Lücke ist unbezahlt! Die ungerechte Verteilung der unbezahlten Arbeit zwischen den Geschlechtern ist der eigentliche arbeitsmarktpolitische Skandal. Auf diesen Umstand wollen die Autor_innen Barbara König, Jonathan Menge und Christina Schildmann in "Inside the Gap 1/3: Der Gender Pay Gap – Die grosse Lücke ist unbezahlt!" aufmerksam machen. In ihrem Beitrag haben sie Fakten herausgearbeitet, aufschlussreiche Statistiken zusammengestellt und erste Handlungsempfehlungen für die Politik rund um das Thema "Zeitlücke in der unbezahlten Arbeit" formuliert.

Der Text bildet den Anfang für eine kleine Reihe von Publikationen, die einen neuen Blick auf alte geschlechterpolitische Probleme am Arbeitsmarkt eröffnen und damit Impulse für eine progressive Familien- und Arbeitsmarktpolitik geben wollen.“


A revolution in cancer treatment powered by SAP*

In my lifetime I am proud to be part of a movement where better, personalized treatment for cancer is becoming a reality. Every single patient is different once we undertake the effort to analyze the disease at the level of genome mutations in cancer cells. Treatment strategies however are still largely generic with suboptimal results in the majority of cases. We are working on solutions to even double the treatments’ success rates.

For the last two years we have been working closely with the NCT Nationales Centrum für Tumorerkrankungen Heidelberg. The NCT is a leading cancer research and treatment facility with 10.000 new patients every year. With the goal to accelerate research and provide better treatment options to patients, SAP and NCT developed the Medical Research Insights solution. It enables NCT staff to analyze patient data in real-time, using biomarkers as filters, build patient cohorts with similar treatment histories and compare outcomes across data sets previously being inaccessible in data silos.

Recently, SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott toured the NCT facility to witness the commitment NCT has to fighting cancer. Bill has taken it to heart to take the power of SAP’s technology and connect this with the leading cancer groups across the world including the NCT, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and MKI to help improve people’s lives.

I had the pleasure of participating in the tour and to be in the presence of leaders in the field of oncology and technology…it was inspiring to say the least!

The tour concluded at NCT’s sequencing building. This building houses state-of-the art genome sequencing machines. This next generation sequencing technology is only available in a handful of cancer research facilities in the world, this is proof that NCT is a leader in cancer research and giving the best care and treatment for its patients. The SAP founder Dietmar Hopp is supporting this effort with his foundation as announced mid of last year. The sequencers are able to read our genetic code consisting of 20,000 DNA for a few thousand dollars, compared to billions of dollars at the time the first human genome was sequenced. Our genome alignment software running on SAP HANA re-combines the snippets four times faster than the typically used software to the full combined DNA set consisting of three billion base pairs in just 2.7 hours.

Technology is reshaping medicine, in a way that the entire cycle of care is focused on better outcomes for patients. I am proud to be part of this critical turning point in medical history.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Augen Geradeaus:Die Europa-Armee aus polnischer Sicht: Macht Deutschland es sich zu einfach?

Zu der lebhaften Debatte über das Thema Europa-Armee (in der es auf Augen geradeaus! schon hier und hier hoch herging) eine Stimme aus polnischer Sicht: Die Wissenschaftlerin Justyna Gotkowska vom Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) in Warschau wirft dem großen Nachbarn Deutschland vor, sich seinen Umgang mit dieser Idee doch ein bisschen arg einfach zu machen. Verkürzt gesagt: Die Deutschen finden die Europa-Armee gut, weil sie hoffen, dass ihnen andere die Struktur der Streitkräfte bezahlen und die deutsche Industrie subventionieren, denken aber nicht an mögliche Einsätze solcher europäischen Streitkräfte.

So verstehe ich jedenfalls diesen Teil der Analyse:

The main problem with Germany’s ideas for enhancing military co-operation in Europe is that they are focused on the integration and creation of military structures rather than on using them operationally.

It seems that the overriding intention of the Framework Nations Concept is for Germany to maintain its own military structures and arms industry, and to reinforce its political position within the EU and NATO. It is still an open question as to when the structures integrated in this way – with the Bundeswehr as the core – would be used: in what kind of crises and conflicts, in which regions and to what extent. The most recent crises and conflicts in Europe’s neighbourhood have made it clear that the EU not only lacks a uniform policy but is even deeply divided over the use of military force. Germany has characteristically been attached to the primacy of diplomacy and has adopted a very skeptical and cautious stance on the use of armed forces as a foreign and security policy instrument. These issues have not been taken into account in the German discussions concerning the Framework Nations Concept and the ‘European army’.

Der ganze Text hier: Germany’s idea of a European army

(Gotkowska hat schon mehrfach recht deutliche Kritik an deutscher Verteidigungspolitik gerade im Zusammenhang mit Polen geübt, zum Beispiel hier: Prügel aus Polen)


Middle East

Crisis in Yemen: Internal balance of power

The effects left by the Saudi led military coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen have impacted the attitudes of the political forces within Yemen. The attitudes of political forces within Yemen show that each party involved has different interests, particularly President Mansour Hadi, the Separatist Southern movement, the General People’s Congress (GPC) headed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Al-Islah) and the Houthis. The success of military operations will not depend only on curbing the Houthi expansion but also dismantling alliances they have formed with former President Abdullah Saleh. This will change the balance of power in Yemen and make the Houthis merely another party in the political process. As a party the group will be entitled to a province within the Yemeni state but not to seize power and control of the state. Alongside a renewed role for the Muslim brothers and the Salafists, as well as increased separatist inclinations by the South after the crisis on the political and security level.

What is the position of political forces in Yemen towards “Operation Storm of resolve”? (cont. see att.)

The Consequences of the Influx of Iranian Investments in the Arab Region


Despite the slowdown in the Iranian economy due to increased sanctions and embargoes, as well as the drop in oil prices towards the end of 2014, Iranians have not been dissuaded from proving their economic prowess in the Arab region. They have been able to preserve the influx of investments into the Arab region and establish close working relationships and strong economic ties with both governmental and private sector businesses in the region. This has raised a number of questions regarding this economic upsurge from Iran and how closely these economic ties are linked with an attempt to penetrate the culture and take advantage of the Shiite minorities in other Arab countries for the benefit of Iran. They would most likely attempt to use them to threaten the fabric of society in those states and create political instability.




*How Russia Lost Germany -And How it Can Win It Back *

The growing politicization and securitization of all areas of German-Russian relations marks the end of Germany’s post-Cold-War Eastern policy. Returning to business as usual is now utterly impossible on both sides.

The Ukraine crisis makes clear three fundamental facts about EU foreign policy.

First, the European Union as a whole is not the key player in managing the crisis, getting a peace process off the ground, or pursuing negotiations with Russia. Rather, a coalition of individual member states drives the negotiation process. Thus far, the only exception to this rule has been the energy sector, where the EU Commission played a key role in mediating between Ukraine and Russia for this winter’s gas supply. This was, however, mainly due to the efforts of former EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger.

Second, the main Western players are neither the United States nor NATO in solving the crisis. President Barack Obama has focused his policy on establishing sanctions against Russia and expressing symbolic support for the U.S.’s allies in Europe, especially the Baltic States and Poland but also the new Ukrainian government. But Washington considers responsibility for solving this crisis as lying with the EU – and Germany in particular. Sanctions, however, are no substitute for an active policy. Barack Obama’s lack of interest in talking to Vladimir Putin shows that he sees this crisis more as a means of showing at home that he is a tough foreign policy actor. The economic costs and security risks are much lower for the U.S. than for the EU. From a U.S. perspective, Europe has to take more care of its own security and increase its defense budgets. NATO suspended cooperation and reduced its communication with Russia to a minimal level. In this sense, it is more an instrument to protect its European member states from Russian provocations than to become a platform for managing the crisis.

Third, Germany has taken a leadership role in all negotiations from the beginning. It reanimated the Weimar triangle in February of 2014, working with France and Poland to stop the spiral of violence between the security forces and the Maidan. It played a key role in creating the “Normandy format” with France, Russia, and Ukraine at the time of the D-Day celebrations of June 2014 in France. Furthermore, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are regularly in contact with President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. At the same time, the German chancellor supported sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea and its support for war in parts of the Donbass region. It was Merkel who brought EU member states together to step up the sanctions after illegal elections were held in Lugansk and Donetsk regions in November 2014.

Germany’s new role in the world

This Ukraine conflict takes place at a time when Germany’s political elite is actively formulating a more proactive foreign policy, not only in Europe but also in the rest of the world. Speeches by Steinmeier, President Joachim Gauck, and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at the Munich Security Conference in early 2014 all signaled this shift. Reviewing German foreign policy has been one of Steinmeier’s key political priorities as foreign minister in his current term. Without doubt, the country’s growing economic and political power compared to the EU’s overall economic and institutional crisis has strengthened Berlin’s role in Europe. While Germany has always defined itself as an economic power, the intensified discussion of its foreign policy profile in recent years shows a growing understanding within the policy elite that Germany must take more responsibility with regard to crisis management and peacekeeping in the world. From a German perspective, the decline of U.S. power, combined with the world’s growing multi-polarity and fragility, calls for more responsibility in Europe and by the EU in the world. This is also linked to German economic interests, which need stable and open markets, rule of law, and functioning states in order to thrive. The fact that this foreign policy review process is taking place against the background of German society’s ongoing skepticism towards engaging more in international conflicts or even in military missions poses a challenge for foreign policy elites.

A closer look at German public opinion is warranted, however. A survey published by the Körber Foundation in May 2014 shows that 60 percent of Germans are against more international engagement, while 37 percent support a more pronounced international role for Germany. This is nearly the opposite of 1994 poll results, where 62 percent supported more engagement and 37 percent opposed it. Asked what priorities German foreign policy should pursue, respondents put protection of human rights (66 percent) at the top of their list, followed by environmental and climate protection (59 percent) and ensuring energy security (57 percent). The protection of German economic interests was in thirteenth place (25 percent), lagging even behind support for weaker states against outside aggression (26 percent). With the exception of energy security, survey results show a clear disapproval of current Russian policy. An April 2014 Allensbach survey for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung showed a steep decline in German support for cooperating closely with Russia (32 percent, compared to 55 percent in 2009) and an increasingly negative image of Vladimir Putin, whose popularity among Germans has reached its lowest point since 2000 (65 percent of those surveyed have a negative view of him.)

The roots of the changing relationship

Reframing Germany’s Russia policy has been part of the foreign ministry’s current review process, but the newly emotional tone of the discussion shows how important – but also how polarized – the relationship with Russia is. Alienation between Germany and Russia began to grow with the end of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency and has become especially pronounced since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012. The change in chancellorship in 2008 from Gerhard Schröder to Angela Merkel brought not only a shift in atmosphere but also marked a decline in Russia’s importance for German leadership, which was discouraged by limited success in improving the business climate in Russia, stagnation in the fight against corruption, limited rule of law, and growing tensions in the common neighborhood. Above all, however, it was the crisis in Ukraine, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in particular, that brought an end to Germany’s post-Cold-War Russia and Eastern policy. The failure of the “Partnership for Modernization” project is also a failure of Willy Brandt’s political heirs, who simply reheated his Ostpolitik of the 1970s and served it up for another quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Change through rapprochement” (Wandel durch Annäherung) had been a key slogan of this policy, with goals that included support for democratization, rule of law, and Russia’s integration into Europe through economic cooperation.

Germany’s complete loss of trust in the current Russian leadership, especially the decline in personal relations between Merkel and Putin, however, has gravely damaged bilateral relations. For the German political elite, the Ukraine crisis has become a Russia crisis – a reality check on all existing assumptions, with Ukraine merely standing in for the general state of relations with Russia. As a result, even the most convinced German social democrat has had to admit that Russia and Germany do not share the same values and have different interests on fundamental questions. German domestic and foreign policy today is based on a legal approach, focusing on the rule of law and the protection of international law. To a German political elite keenly sensitive to the lessons of the Nazi past, Russia’s violation of international law and challenge to another state’s sovereignty – through its annexation of Crimea – are inacceptable. This is the crucial point, even if parts of German society and the German business world do not completely agree with Chancellor Merkel’s consistent policy.

Reframing Germany’s Russia policy

There is a positive side to this reality check: an end to German naivety about Russia. A longstanding misperception of Russian interests is over, even if the long-term goal remains: to support stability and prosperity in Europe. The goal can no longer be to “help Russia become like us.” Now, in hindsight, we see how this policy ran counter to Putin’s own goal: to protect first and foremost Russia’s sphere of influence – even against economic rationale.

The foundation is now in place for a more pragmatic approach to Russia. We saw three phases in the German political elite’s review process on Russia. First, Dmitry Medvedev’s step back from a second term and Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012 marked a disillusionment with Russia after it has placed high hopes on Medvedev’s rhetoric of modernization. Second, the annexation of Crimea brought a fundamental shock, which led the German foreign policy establishment to re-evaluate both the Kremlin’s policy and its own assumptions (i.e., the growing realization that the Russian president perceives the future of the European order in a fundamentally different way). Third, Germany has since November 2014 entered the phase of rebuilding a new Russia and Eastern policy to reflect the new conditions while at the same time conducting crisis management in Ukraine.

Five important new insights will shape the future:

The first conclusion to draw from this crisis is that Russia is not the only country in the East. There is also Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and other post-Soviet nations. For the first time Germans are seeing Ukrainians as distinct from Russians, a people interested in integrating with the EU and sharing European values. This realization has also influenced historical memory of Nazi crimes in the East; awareness is growing that not only were Jews and Russians victims of the inhuman Nazi campaign against the Soviet Union but also Ukrainians, Belarusians, and many others. This realization helps support an end to the “Russia first” approach of Germany’s Eastern policy of the last two decades and replace it with more balanced relations with other post-Soviet states. EU neighborhood policy and in particular Eastern partnership will therefore become more important for Germany, not least because of Berlin’s interest in stabilizing countries in the EU’s immediate neighborhood.

Second, one mantra of German foreign policy has always been that peace and stability in Europe is only possible with, not against, Russia, but Germans have had to learn that peace in Europe is neither with nor against Russia possible at the moment. This means that Germany and the other EU member states need a new risk assessment with regard to Russia. They must increase their defense budgets to protect themselves. At the same time, however, there is a clear consensus among German policymakers that direct military support or intervention in Ukraine would worsen the situation with Russia and will not help to resolve the conflict. EU member states have to develop plans for improving self-defense with and without NATO in areas of hard and soft security risks. The U.S. will continue to play an important role in Europe in the context of NATO, but it will be less and less willing to balance the limited defense budgets of EU member states.

Third, taking these new security risks into account, Germany’s future approach to Russia will consist of “cooperation, where possible, risk precaution, and active defense, where necessary,” to quote Karsten Vogt, a leading former foreign policy adviser. This means that in the future, Germany’s Russia policy will be a combination of engagement and containment. Cooperation and engagement with Russia will always be an important part of Germany’s Eastern policy, but as Merkel and Steinmeier have learned in recent months, it is extremely difficult to find a common denominator with the Russian leadership on the common neighborhood. Both leaders lack Russian counterparts with the political will to talk about how to reduce the damage. At the same time, asymmetric wars within the common neighborhood, Russian propaganda campaigns against many EU member states (including Germany), and growing repression inside Russia threaten European security and stability and require new responses from Germany and the EU. The mainly homemade economic crisis in Russia is seen as a particularly dangerous threat to both Russian and European stability. Rather than being the result of EU sanctions, it is due to the markets’ loss of trust in the Russian government’s ability to react to its own economic and political crises (combined with the Russian economy’s growing dependency on a high price for oil which declines to a new low).

Fourth, from a German perspective, instruments of collective security will play an increasingly important role for security in Europe. Military solutions to this conflict are ruled out by the Germans. We have to renegotiate security in Europe with Russia and to improve instruments for building trust. But for Germany (and the EU) this is about repairing the principles of the Budapest Memorandum, with emphasis on the integrity of borders and acceptance for the sovereignty of states but with no new division of Europe. Germany will use this year of the Serbian OSCE chairmanship and particularly its own chairmanship in 2016 to strengthen this organization’s role in maintaining European peace. As Foreign Minister Steinmeier pointed out at a December 2014 meeting of the OSCE council of ministers, Germany will in the short term use the OSCE’s instruments as much as possible to stop the military escalation in the Donbass region and secure the Ukrainian-Russian border through monitoring missions and the contact group. In the middle term, the OSCE should become like the CSCE again: a relevant forum for dialogue, cooperation, and confidence-building measures in Europe. The U.N. for its part cannot play a key role in this conflict as long as it is blocked by its Security Council members – Russia and the U.S. Furthermore, it would be surprising if Russia accepted a U.N. peacekeeping mission that included soldiers from NATO member states close to the Russian-Ukrainian border.

NATO will increase its importance as a defensive alliance to protect its members from any provocations or threats from Russia and to build security in its neighborhood (also on behalf of non-members). At the same time, the NATO-Russia Council should become a crisis-proof communication forum for practical cooperation and trust-building with Russia, as well as a platform for exchange between NATO and the CSTO.

Fifth, Germany/the EU have to redefine their interests in Eastern Europe and have to learn under the new conditions where cooperation with Russia is possible and where not. This is as true for the rest of the world as it is for Europe and the common neighborhood. Finding a joint solution on Iran, stabilizing Syria and Afghanistan and fighting Islamicist terror throughout the world are indeed common goals. Against this background, the EU’s shared neighborhood with Russia has become the key area of conflict with Russia; both sides have different interests there, even if they cooperate in other regions. While Germany and the EU want to liberalize and democratize states like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, Russia wants to protect its sphere of influence and seems to prefer lack of transparency and weak states in its neighborhood.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could be an instrument of communication on economic policy between the EU and Russia. But as long as Russia develops this institution as a protectionist instrument directed against EU standards and free trade, it will be difficult to find common ground on a free trade zone between Vladivostok and Lisbon. A possible cooperation on the EEU should not replace the often meaningless EU-Russia summits of the past with a new similar instrument. Instead it needs to become a platform for concrete negotiations. But this, too, needs a common vision.

A new modus vivendi

The biggest challenge for both sides is to rebuild trust and establish a new modus vivendi. For the German government the goal of this policy cannot be a new Yalta – not containment based on a new division of Europe – but a new Helsinki, with equal security for all and acceptance of the sovereignty and borders of every state in Europe. A Yalta-type option would isolate Russia even more; it would accelerate its economic downturn and turn the common neighborhood into a fragile and dangerous zone – hardly in German interest. Promoting the values of the Helsinki Accord, on the other hand, would reflect the reality of the 21st century; it would promote economic development and interdependence in Europe, more security for all and social exchange across borders. Maybe that is what the current Russian leadership fears most: open societies and the free exchange of people, ideas, and goods. For Russian society this should be much more attractive than economic decline, less welfare, and more insecurity at home and throughout Europe.

The first step to reach these goals is to fulfill the Minsk Agreement of September 2014. Russia, Ukraine and the separatists have to act visibly to de-escalate the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. That means withdrawal of heavy weapons from both sides, a clear demarcation of the border of the separatist regions, stationing of international observers on both sides of the territories’ border, and a halt to sending Russian weapons to the separatist regions. To freeze this conflict for the time being and preserve Ukraine’s neutral status towards NATO are both acceptable conditions if Russia stops its asymmetrical war and its military support for the separatists. All this could help end the second and third stage of sanctions that have been introduced as a reaction to Russian activities in Eastern Ukraine. Concrete and visible steps to de-escalate the crisis could make it possible to strengthen or build platforms for discussing the future of security in Europe with Russia, not vice versa. All negotations on Ukraine should stem from the basic principles of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty stipulated in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.


Thesen für eine neue deutsche Russlandpolitik

Handlungsspielräume, Ziele und neun Empfehlungen

DGAPkompakt von Stefan Meister© Reuters/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin Seit 2012 beobachten wir in Russland eine Versicherheitlichung von Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft – der Konflikt mit dem Westen ist für die russische Führung systemstabilisierend geworden. Auch aufgrund der sich verschlechternden Wirtschaftslage und der Stärkung nationalistischer Kräfte besteht die Gefahr einer weiteren Destabilisierung. Um auf einen mittel- bis langfristigen Politikwechsel zu setzen, bedarf es vonseiten der deutschen und europäischen Politik einer Mischung aus Eindämmung und Kooperation.



moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

BELGRADE – Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic on Friday discussed with Italy’s Ambassador to Serbia Giuseppe Manzo and Raffaele Tiscar, who heads a working group on implementing a Serbia-Italy energy agreement, improvements to the regional transport and energy infrastructures.

Italy is watching with attention the activities by Serbia and other Western Balkan countries towards improving the transport and energy infrastructures, which will strengthen the ties among the countries of the region and between the region and the European Union, said a statement released by Mihajlovic’s ministry after the meeting.

Mihajlovic briefed Manzo on the results of a recent informal meeting of foreign and transport ministers in Pristina, and noted that all priority projects that Serbia is working on are within the basic Western Balkan transport network.

In addition to Corridor 10 and Corridor 11, the basic transport network includes a motorway connecting Nis, Pristina, Tirana and Vlore and a rail line connecting Kraljevo, Rudnica, Pristina and Skopje, both of which a Serbia-Albania working group worked on for the first time ever, Mihajlovic said.

BELGRADE – The Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) and the German-Serbian Business Association (DSW) signed on Friday a memorandum of cooperation with an aim to organize the first multi congress in Serbia, named "Serbian Vision".

The event, intended to bring together the business and the civil sectors, is set to take place in Belgrade, May 16-17.

The multi congress will comprise 60 meetings on various topics, where members of the business community, NGOs, professional associations and universities will be able to present their programs and invite the public to participate.

In the EU accession process, the government cannot be the only one in charge of the changes, said DSW director Martin Knapp, adding that the civil sector, companies and other members of the society can also make vital contributions.

The first multi congress to be held in Serbia will be an innovative event that will attract over 200 companies with strong focus on corporate social responsibility, said Dragica Milovanovic, advisor to the PKS president.

More than 3,000 visitors are expected, and around 100,000 unemployed university graduates in Serbia will be given an opportunity to join new projects and find employment.

Re: Martin Knapp –

Martin Knapp assumed the position of new director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Serbia and managing director of the German-Serbian Business Association on September 1st.

Knapp was active in the same position in the period 2001-2005 at then DWB (German Business Association in Belgrade) that later changed the name to DSW and now has over 260 members. This organization was established at his initiative.

In the period between 2005 and 2008, he coordinated the global network of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Berlin. From 2008 to 2012 Knapp was the director of the German-Greek Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Athens. Shortly before returning to Belgrade, Knapp had been dealing with the European economic crisis at DIHK, especially with the problems of the countries that were most affected by the crisis.

(Who is Who in economy and politics in Serbia)




The deadly chaos behind Putin’s mysterious acts


Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Mar. 24 2015, 2:02 PM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, Mar. 24 2015, 2:03 PM EDT

Eric Morse is co-chair of security studies at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto.

Two distracting but telling events have occurred in Russia recently. First, President Vladimir Putin disappeared for ten days, then suddenly reappeared. Second was the killing of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, under very murky circumstances, on Feb. 27. Both events showed how utterly dependent on one man Russia, and its nuclear arsenal, have become.


Why arming U.S. allies can be like sending weapons straight to the enemy*

By David Axe – March 25, 2015

The United States has a long tradition of arming its allies to advance Washington’s foreign policy. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the United States the “arsenal of democracy” as he pledged thousands of ships, tanks and warplanes to countries battling Nazi Germany.

Roosevelt’s characterization is no less true today. The U.S. government is sending large amounts of weapons to allies desperately battling Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Washington is also considering equipping the battered Ukrainian military, which has been fighting Russian-sponsored rebels in the country’s east.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways the United States can arm an ally. America can donate, or sell cheap, the latest U.S.-made weaponry. Or it can send foreign-made weaponry — Russian usually — through a middleman.

Policymakers settle on one method or a mix of both after weighing the benefits and risks to U.S. interests and the recipient’s own preference. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Both are being used now in the Middle East.

First, sending U.S.-made weapons helps American manufacturers’ bottom lines. “Made in the USA” equipment also tends to be popular among U.S. allies because in many cases it is deadlier than Russian-produced hardware. But it is usually more complex and thus harder to use. And any time Washington gives its allies U.S.-made military hardware, there’s a chance the enemy could get its hands on the stuff. This is not only politically embarrassing; it potentially betrays the Pentagon’s technological secrets.

Alternatively, though Russian-made equipment is less prestigious, it is usually easier to operate, especially for armies that used Moscow’s weapons during the Cold War. Much of the available Russian weaponry, however, belongs to unreliable — sometimes quite shady — third parties. Working with these middlemen can prove politically costly for Washington. In addition, a lot of the old Russian gear is in poor condition.

Iraqi Army soldier firing a Russian PKS machine gun as part of the School of Infantry. WIKIPEDIA/Commons

Iraq’s military was largely equipped with Russian weapons when the U.S.-led coalition invaded in 2003. As the Americans began rebuilding the defeated Iraqi armed forces, Washington donated — or pushed Baghdad to purchase — billions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-made gear, including M-16 rifles, Humvees, M-1 tanks and F-16 jet fighters.

The idea was to make the Iraqi armed forces compatible with U.S. armed forces so that, in concept, the two militaries could fight side by side from the same facilities. Even sharing the same ammunition, spare parts and fuel.

Of course, the U.S. companies that manufacture the weapons also benefit.

When Baghdad proposed to acquire 36 F-16s, starting in 2011, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which facilitates arms sales, justified the proposal to Congress by claiming that the jets would “greatly enhance Iraq’s interoperability with the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, making it a more valuable partner in an important area of the world.”

The Pentagon did not mention the risks inherent in handing over top-of-the-line U.S. hardware. But that danger soon became apparent. When Islamic State militants swept into northwest Iraq in the summer of 2014, they quickly routed the lavishly equipped but poorly led Iraqi army — and captured much of the high-tech U.S.-made weaponry the fleeing Iraqi soldiers left behind.

M-1 Tank. U.S. Army handout

The equipment the Iraqi army abandoned in mid-2014 included at least one M-1 tank, hundreds of which the United States has sold to Iraq in recent years. The $4-million M-1 is viewed as the best tank in the world because of its tough armor, powerful main gun and high-tech sensors. It is one of the U.S. Army’s main advantages over rival armies.

It was bad enough that Islamic State snagged one or more M-1s among other U.S. weapons. U.S. officials expressed further alarm when, in late January, someone posted a video to YouTube depicting the Hezbollah Brigades, an Iraqi Shi’ite militia heavily backed by Iran, rolling into battle against Islamic State in a convoy that included at least one M-1.

It’s unclear how the Hezbollah Brigades, which Washington has labelled a terrorist group, acquired the M-1. But according to the Long War Journal, which first drew wide attention to the YouTube clip, it’s possible the Shi’ite fighters recaptured the tank from Islamic State.

If that’s true, then that key U.S. weapon is now in the arsenal of not one but two armed groups that Washington opposes, one of which enjoys strong ties to the regime in Tehran, with which the United States is also at odds.

The Pentagon has not proposed to cut off supplies of U.S.-made weaponry to Iraq, despite the tendency of these weapons to wind up in the arsenals of U.S. enemies. The Pentagon has spent $20 billion since 2003 training and equipping Iraqi forces to be more like U.S. forces — and isn’t about to declare that investment a total loss and start over.

But Washington is taking a different approach with its other ally in Iraq.

For decades, the United States backed the Kurds of northern Iraq in their wars of independence against Baghdad. In 1992, with U.S. warplanes flying top cover, the Kurds succeeded in establishing a mostly autonomous region inside Iraq.

But since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq proper in 2003, the politics have changed. Now Washington has a major stake in preserving Iraq’s unity rather than shattering it. Until very recently, U.S. policy barred the Pentagon from directly arming the Kurds.

With its decades of experience and sound leadership, the Iraqi Kurdish army — the peshmerga — has been one of the most effective fighting forces in the campaign against Islamic State. The peshmerga have protected Kurdistan’s major cities. After briefly losing ground to Islamic State last summer, they are now steadily pushing back the militants.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters take part in weapons training in the grounds of their camp in Arbil, November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

But the peshmerga are a lightly armed militia equipped mostly with Cold War-vintage Russian weapons that they stole from the old Iraqi army or acquired on the black market. While brave and well-led, the Kurds have found themselves outgunned in battles with Islamic State.

The experience of peshmerga fighter Maarof Kabays is, sadly, typical. In August near the village of Zummar, militants attacked Kabays’ unit with tanks. “We did not have any heavy weapons to defend ourselves,” Kabays said. He and seven other fighters retreated. But only Kabays and one other man from the group survived.

That same month, President Barack Obama reversed the policy barring direct, overt arms transfers to Kurdistan. U.S. Air Force cargo planes promptly began parachuting crates of Russian-made guns and ammo to peshmerga units. One Pentagon official told the Guardian that the arms delivery was “unprecedented.”

That’s not entirely true, however. The CIA had previously helped the Kurds set up their own intelligence agency. The intelligence agency covertly provided the peshmerga with a few small consignments of Russian-made weaponry.

In any event, the United States had to acquire the Russian weaponry before it could donate it to the Kurds. When direct provision of expensive U.S.-made weaponry is prohibited or impractical, sending Russian arms through a third party is Washington’s other way of arming an ally.

That approach has the benefit of precluding U.S. weaponry from ever falling into enemy hands. But the third-party strategy has its own drawbacks. It compels Washington to forge potentially compromising partnerships. The weapons that result are sometimes of dubious quality — perhaps unsurprising considering their source.

Iraqi security forces in position with their weapons during clashes with the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Jurf al-Sakhar, 60 km (40 miles) from the capital February 15, 2014. South of Baghdad, REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Now, we don’t know for sure where the peshmerga’s extra weapons came from before the Air Force dropped them in Kurdish territory, starting in August. It’s possible U.S. advisers in Iraq got the arms from old Iraqi warehouses. There have been discussions between Washington and Baghdad about the United States “backfilling” any equipment that Iraq donates to the Kurds.

But it’s also possible Washington went shopping abroad. There’s plenty of precedent for that kind of thing. Robert Grenier, the CIA’s former station chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, revealed one such initiative in his new book, 88 Days to Kandahar.

In mid-November 2001, the CIA was actively supporting pro-U.S. Afghan warlords battling the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Warlord Gul Agha Sherzai, who would later become one of Afghanistan’s most prominent politicians, begged for extra weaponry for his men as they prepared to attack the Taliban in Kandahar.

Grenier turned to his allies in the Pakistani government. General Jafar Amin, from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency — the notorious ISI — arranged for a consignment of Pakistani army AK-47s and RPG-7 rockets for Gul Agha’s men in Pakistan. The U.S. Air Force dropped additional bundles of Pakistani weapons to Gul Agha’s men as they advanced across Afghanistan.

Counting on the ISI to arm U.S. allies was risky. Powerful, ideological and largely unaccountable to elected leaders, the ISI is arguably a destabilizing force not only in Pakistan but across Central Asia. In 2001, Grenier discovered that he could rely on the ISI to provide weapons — but not necessarily functional weapons.

“Gul Agha’s people reported that while the Pak-supplied RPG-7s were fine,” Grenier wrote, “the AK-47s were old and heavily used, and many were essentially unserviceable.”

Weapons that were confiscated in past raids conducted by the Iraqi army are displayed during a showcase of their achievements at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

“It’s possible that we had fallen victim to some surreptitious Pakistan army conspiracy to undermine the anti-Taliban war effort,” Grenier admitted. He added it was more likely a case of some supply officer dumping old weapons he no longer wanted in his warehouse.

Despite the shoddy equipment, Gul Agha and his troops still succeeded in taking Kandahar.

But the lesson should be clear. Equipping your ally via some third party — a necessity when the weapons in question are Russian-made — can be at least as risky as supplying U.S.-manufactured gear that the enemy might capture.

Arming an ally to fight on America’s behalf can save U.S. lives and money. But it’s not a foolproof strategy.

With U.S.-made weapons, the main danger lies in controlling where the hardware winds up. With Russian-made gear, the greater risk is in where the weapons came from.



see our letter on:

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



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