Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 15/05/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Turkey’s Reckless Gas Game

· It’s Time to Stop Holding Saudi Arabia’s Hand

· Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia

· World War II and the Origins of American Unease

· American German Business Berlin-20th Anniversary 2015-Speech Udo von Massenbach

· Opinion: Keep the Kurds within Iraq and don’t mention independence

· Serbia: We back all EU decisions except sanctions on Russia

Massenbach* Turkey’s Reckless Gas Game

Europe hoped Turkey could help the continent wean itself off Russian fuel. But Ankara might have other plans.

During a four-hour helicopter ride over the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara in early February, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz and Russia’s Gazprom boss, Alexey Miller, mapped out plans that could potentially rebuild the long-adversarial relationship between their two countries. The men scouted the likely path of “Turkish Stream,” Moscow’s latest grandiose pipeline proposal, which would channel natural gas from the Russian coastal town of Anapa all the way to Ipsala, on Turkey’s border with Greece.

But Yildiz and Miller also traced what could be the newest fault line in Europe’s geopolitical landscape. That helicopter ride, and the subsequent formal agreement signed in early May, suggest Turkey’s patience with Brussels is wearing thin—the EU, after all, has been slow-footing the country’s membership for decades now—and Ankara’s willingness to support Europe’s foreign-policy priorities, from diversifying energy resources to isolating Russia, is diminishing. Now, this one pipeline, which could deliver gas as early as next year, could have the power to embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin, endanger a critical alliance the West has spent decades cultivating, and upend Eurasia’s entire energy and security landscape.

In other words, Turkey would become a middleman for Europe’s energy buyers, and it would be precisely the linchpin Moscow needs to keep an energy hold on the continent.

To be sure, Turkey has long been at the center of global pipeline politics. Since the 1990s, Europe has fantasized that natural gas pipelines would someday push fuel from the Caucasus and Central Asia to Europe. And Turkey’s privileged geographical position would indeed allow for this, while there’s abundant gas in places such as Azerbaijan. Europe’s dreams finally seemed to be coming true in March 2015, when, after years of development, Turkey and Azerbaijan broke ground on a trans-Anatolian pipeline designed to shuttle gas from the Caspian Sea, through the Caucasus and Turkey, and into Europe.

But here’s the rub: Europe doesn’t consume enough gas to justify two new massive pipelines. Put simply, the road goes through Turkey, and Turkey will decide whom Europe will deal with on energy.

Turkey’s games with Europe, while not a complete about-face, are nevertheless jarring. Ankara has been Western-leaning and secular since the end of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I—an allegiance that was cemented in 1952, when the country joined NATO. But that started to change at the turn of this century, when Ahmet Davutoglu, currently the prime minister and a longtime advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began trying to forge much closer ties with nearby Muslim countries and crafting an increasingly independent stance toward Washington and NATO. (In 2003, for instance, Ankara notably refused permission for the U.S. 4th Infantry Division to cross Turkey to invade Iraq. More recently, Turkey has proved a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State and has taken an antagonistic approach to Israel after years of good relations.)

Turkish Stream, then, might be viewed as the culmination of Davutoglu’s vision: The country is moving to become a neo-Ottoman powerhouse and the center of Eurasia’s energy structure.

Such rebranding comes just in time for Russia, which, for nearly 10 years, has been looking for a way to keep a reluctant Europe hooked on its energy while sidestepping a problematic Ukraine. Starting in 2007, Putin began championing “South Stream,” a Russian-built pipeline meant to carry Russian gas across the Black Sea, through Turkish waters, into Bulgaria, and then into the rest of Europe. Moscow only grasped in 2014 that the plan didn’t comply with EU law: Brussels isn’t too keen on monopolies, especially ones that control both energy and the pipes that carry it.

Nonetheless, Russia was already well on its way to scheming a new way forward. In December, while in Ankara for a one-day trade and economic mission, Putin abruptly announced the death of South Stream in the middle of a news conference and debuted the new Turkish Stream. Russia and Turkey’s energy relations, Putin said, “have reached a truly strategic level.” Although the initial announcement came as a surprise to nearly everyone, including Russian energy officials and Turkish authorities, just two months later Yildiz and Miller were boarding that helicopter for their scouting mission.

What’s significant—and problematic—about Turkey’s apparent leap into Russia’s embrace is that Ankara has been both a bulwark of Western security architecture for more than 50 years and a key to Europe’s plot to reduce reliance on Russian energy, an even more urgent priority since the start of the Ukraine crisis. In one fell swoop, Erdogan’s Turkey seems to be abandoning its wilting dream of joining Europe and appears to be throwing in its lot with the one country most determined to undermine the global order in general, and European security in particular.

From Brussels’s point of view, Turkey would likely be a more reliable transit country for energy supplies than Ukraine, but it still lacks much of the physical infrastructure needed to serve that role, such as natural gas storage tanks. What’s more, unlike existing pipelines between Russia and Europe, Turkish Stream wouldn’t even deliver gas directly to the European Union; rather, the gas would be held in Brussels’s backyard in the hope that it would spend billions of dollars to go and fetch the gas at the Turkey-Greece border.

For Moscow, the upside of Turkish Stream is obvious: If it were built, Putin would finally succeed in isolating Ukraine, while still keeping big parts of Europe reliant on Russian fuel. And for Ankara, Turkish Stream could be the vehicle for finally achieving Davutoglu’s dream of reinventing Turkey. But for all his yearnings to resuscitate former glories, he seems to be overlooking the country’s complicated history with Russia.

For 400 years, from the middle of the 16th century through the height of the Cold War, Turks and Russians battled constantly for supremacy in the Black Sea, the Bosphorus, and Crimea. And those issues haven’t been collecting dust in history books. After a couple of decades of peace, the hundreds of thousands of Turkic Tatars living in the Crimean peninsula are again dreading Russian reprisals reminiscent of the Stalin years; Russia is ramping up naval activities in the Black Sea; and Putin is eyeing a greater military presence near Turkey, including new basing agreements with Cyprus and Syria. This is all compounded by long-standing differences over the conflict in Syria: Turkey wants to oust President Bashar al-Assad and has let Islamist groups run rampant, while Russia staunchly backs its Syrian ally.

Thus, Turkey’s part in the newest pipeline project and the cementing of a strategic relationship with Russia amount to a massive bet that centuries of historical rivalry and animosity can be erased with cheap gas, some spit in a palm, and a friendly handshake. That calls to mind the old Turkish proverb: “The sheep separated from the flock is soon eaten by the wolf.” Or, in this case, the bear.


Policy= res publica


Since the late 12th century, Drogheda, Ireland, has thrived on maritime commerce. This photo of the Boyne River docks was made in 1885, a generation after “The Great Hunger” of 1847 that lasted into the early 1850s: If indeed three Turkish ships brought food aid during that time, it is likely they would have tied up here.

he story goes like this: In 1847, the worst year of the Irish potato famine, an Irish physician in service to the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul beseeched the sovereign to send aid to his starving countrymen. His pleas moved Sultan Abdülmedjid i to pledge £10,000 sterling; however, upon learning that England’s Queen Victoria was sending a mere £2,000, the Sultan, out of diplomatic politesse, reduced his donation to £1,000. Nevertheless determined to give more, he secretly dispatched three ships loaded with grain to call at the port of Drogheda in County Louth, north of Dublin. In gratitude, the city of Drogheda incorporated the Turkish star and crescent into its municipal crest, a symbol that endures to this day, appearing even on the jerseys of the Drogheda United football club.

Now, like many an Irish tale, some of the story is true and some is legend, while other parts?


Politics: From Vision to Action


Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia

· U.S. Policy Interests and Recommendations

By Andrew C. Kuchins, Jeffrey Mankoff

Today, with combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, U.S. policy toward the states of Central Asia is transitioning to a third era. The United States now has an opportunity to refashion its approach to the region. In doing so, it should capitalize on trends already underway, in particular the expansion of trade and transit linkages, to help integrate Central Asia more firmly into the global economy, while also working to overcome tensions both within the region itself and among the major neighboring powers with interests in Central Asia. Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia: U.S. Policy Interests and Recommendations examines the full scope of U.S. national interests in Central Asia and puts forward the broad outlines of a strategy for U.S. engagement over the coming years.


STRATFOR: *World War II and the Origins of American Unease*

We are at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. That victory did not usher in an era of universal peace. Rather, it introduced a new constellation of powers and a complex balance among them. Europe’s great powers and empires declined, and the United States and the Soviet Union replaced them, performing an old dance to new musical instruments. Technology, geopolitics‘ companion, evolved dramatically as nuclear weapons, satellites and the microchip — among myriad wonders and horrors — changed not only the rules of war but also the circumstances under which war was possible. But one thing remained constant: Geopolitics, technology and war remained inseparable comrades.

It is easy to say what World War II did not change, but what it did change is also important. The first thing that leaps to mind is the manner in which World War II began for the three great powers: the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. For all three, the war started with a shock that redefined their view of the world. For the United States, it was the shock of Pearl Harbor. For the Soviet Union, it was the shock of the German invasion in June 1941. For the United Kingdom — and this was not really at the beginning of the war — it was shock at the speed with which France collapsed.

Pearl Harbor Jolts the American Mindset

There was little doubt among American leaders that war with Japan was coming. The general public had forebodings, but not with the clarity of its leaders. Still, neither expected the attack to come at Pearl Harbor. For the American public, it was a bolt from the blue, compounded by the destruction of much of the U.S. Pacific fleet. Neither the leaders nor the public thought the Japanese were nearly so competent.

Pearl Harbor intersected with another shock to the American psyche — the Great Depression. These two events shared common characteristics: First, they seemed to come out of nowhere. Both were predictable and were anticipated by some, but for most both came without warning. The significance of the two was that they each ushered in an unexpected era of substantial pain and suffering.

This introduced a new dimension into American culture. Until this point there had been a deep and unsubtle optimism among Americans. The Great Depression and Pearl Harbor created a different sensibility that suspected that prosperity and security were an illusion, with disaster lurking behind them. There was a fear that everything could suddenly go wrong, horribly so, and that people who simply accepted peace and prosperity at face value were naïve. The two shocks created a dark sense of foreboding that undergirds American society to this day.

Pearl Harbor also shaped U.S. defense policy around the concept that the enemy might be identified, but where and when it might strike is unknown. Catastrophe therefore might come at any moment. The American approach to the Cold War is symbolized by Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain. Burrowed deep inside is the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which assumes that war might come at any moment and that any relaxation in vigilance could result in a nuclear Pearl Harbor. Fear of this scenario — along with mistrust of the wily and ruthless enemy — defined the Cold War for Americans.

The Americans analyzed their forced entry into World War II and identified what they took to be the root cause: the Munich Agreement allowing Nazi Germany to annex parts of Czechoslovakia. This was not only an American idea by any means, but it reshaped U.S. strategy. If the origin of World War II was the failure to take pre-emptive action against the Germans in 1938, then it followed that the Pacific War might have been prevented by more aggressive actions early on. Acting early and decisively remains the foundation of U.S. foreign policy to this day. The idea that not acting in a timely and forceful fashion led to World War II underlies much American discourse on Iran or Russia.

Pearl Harbor (and the 1929 crash) not only led to a sense of foreboding and a distrust in the wisdom of political and military leaders, but it also replaced a strategy of mobilization after war begins, with a strategy of permanent mobilization. If war might come at any time, and if another Munich must above all be avoided, then the massive military establishment that exists today is indispensible. In addition, the U.S.-led alliance structure that didn’t exist prior to World War II is indispensible.

The Soviet Strategic Miscalculation

The Soviet Union had its own Pearl Harbor on June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded in spite of the friendship treaty signed between them in 1939. That treaty was struck for two reasons: First, the Russians couldn’t persuade the British or French to sign an anti-Hitler pact. Second, a treaty with Hitler would allow the Soviets to move their border further west without firing a shot. It was a clever move, but not a smart one.

The Soviets made a single miscalculation: They assumed a German campaign in France would replay the previous Great War. Such an effort would have exhausted the Germans and allowed the Soviets to attack them at the time and place of Moscow’s choosing. That opportunity never presented itself. On the contrary, the Germans put themselves in a position to attack the Soviet Union at a time and place of their choosing. That the moment of attack was a surprise compounded the challenge, but the real problem was strategic miscalculation, not simply an intelligence or command failure.

The Soviets had opted for a dynamic foreign policy of shifting alliances built on assumptions of the various players‘ capabilities. A single misstep could lead to catastrophe — an attack at a time when the Soviet forces had yet to recover from one of Josef Stalin’s purges. The Soviet forces were not ready for an attack, and their strategy collapsed with France, so the decision for war was entirely Germany’s.

What the Soviets took away from the June 1941 invasion was a conviction that political complexity could not substitute for a robust military. The United States ended World War II with the conviction that a core reason for that war was the failure of the United States. The Soviets ended World War II with the belief that their complex efforts at coalition building and maintaining the balance of power had left them utterly exposed by one miscalculation on France — one that defied the conventional wisdom.

During the Cold War, the Soviets developed a strategy that could best be called stolid. Contained by an American-led coalition, the Soviets preferred satellites to allies. The Warsaw Pact was less an alliance than a geopolitical reality. For the most part it consisted of states under the direct military, intelligence or political control of the Soviet Union. The military value of the block might be limited, and its room for maneuver was equally limited. Nonetheless, Soviet forces could be relied on, and the Warsaw Pact, unlike NATO, was a geographical reality that Soviet forces used to guarantee that no invasion by the United States or NATO was possible. Obviously, the Soviets — like the Americans — remained vigilant for a nuclear attack, but it has been noted that the Soviet system was significantly less sophisticated than that of the Americans. Part of this imbalance was related to technological capabilities. A great deal of it had to do with the fact that nuclear attack was not the Soviet’s primordial fear, though the fear must not be minimized. The primordial fear in Moscow was an attack from the West. The Soviet Union’s strategy was to position its own forces as far to the west as possible.

Consider this in contrast to the Soviet relations with China. Ideologically, China ought to have been a powerful ally, but the alliance was souring by the mid-1950s. The Soviets were not ideologues. They were geopoliticians, and China represented a potential threat that the Soviets could not control. Ideology didn’t matter. China would never serve the role that Poland had to. The Sino-Soviet relationship fell apart fairly quickly.

The Soviet public did not develop the American dread that beneath peace and prosperity lurked the seeds of disaster. Soviet expectations of life were far more modest than those of Americans, and the expectation that the state would avert disaster was limited. The state generated disaster. At the same time, the war revealed — almost from the beginning — a primordial love of country, hidden for decades under the ideology of internationalism, that re-emerged spontaneously. Beneath communist fervor, cynical indifference and dread of the Soviet secret police, the Russians found something new while the Americans found something old.

France’s Fall Surprises Britain

As for the British, their miscalculation on France changed little. They were stunned by the rapid collapse of France, but perhaps also relieved that they would not fight in French trenches again. The collapse of France caused them to depend on only two things: One was that the English Channel, combined with the fleet and the Royal Air Force, would hold the Germans at bay. The second was that in due course, the United States would be drawn into the war. Their two calculations proved correct.

However, the United Kingdom was not one of the ultimate winners of the war. It may not have been occupied by the Germans, but it was essentially by the Americans. This was a very different occupation, and one the British needed, but the occupation of Britain by foreign forces, regardless of how necessary and benign, spelled the end of the British Empire and of Britain as a major power. The Americans did not take the British Empire. It was taken away by the shocking performance of the French. On paper, the French had an excellent army — superior to the Germans, in many ways. Yet they collapsed in weeks. If we were to summarize the British sensibility, after defiance came exhaustion and then resentment.

Some of these feelings are gone now. The Americans retain their dread even though World War II was in many ways good to the United States. It ended the Great Depression, and in the aftermath, between the G.I. Bill, VA loans and the Interstate Highway System, the war created the American professional middle class, with private homes for many and distance and space that could be accessed easily. And yet the dread remains, not always muted. This generation’s Pearl Harbor was 9/11. Fear that security and prosperity is built on a base of sand is not an irrational fear.

For the Russians, the feelings of patriotism still lurk beneath the cynicism. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Russia’s sphere of influence have not resulted in particularly imaginative strategic moves. On the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to Ukraine was as stolid as Stalin’s or Leonid Brezhnev’s. Rather than a Machiavellian genius, Putin is the heir to the German invasion on June 22, 1941. He seeks strategic depth controlled by his own military. And his public has rallied to him.

As for the British, they once had an empire. They now have an island. It remains to be seen if they hold onto all of it, given the strength of the Scottish nationalists.

While we are celebrating the end of World War II, it is useful to examine its beginnings. So much of what constitutes the political-military culture, particularly of the Americans, was forged by the way that World War II began. Pearl Harbor and the American view of Munich have been the framework for thinking not only about foreign relations and war, but also about living in America. Not too deep under the surface there is a sense that all good things eventually must go wrong. Much of this comes from the Great Depression and much from Pearl Harbor. The older optimism is still there, but the certainty of manifest success is deeply tempered.


American German Business Club Berlin e.V.

Udo von Massenbach


9th of May 2015 – 20th Anniversary AGBC-Berlin

(speech excerpt)

Meine Damen, meine Herren,

der 9. Mai bietet Anlass zu einer Reihe von Gedenken, die Sie sicher verfolgt haben.

An diesem, unserem 9. Mai wollen wir nicht nur gedenken, nicht nur zurückblicken, sondern wir wollen die Gelegenheit des 9. Mai 2015, des Tages des 20-jährigen Bestehens des American German Business Club Berlin, nutzen, über den Tag hinaus zu denken.

Denn auch die Gründungsmitglieder des 9. Mai 1995 haben in die Zukunft gedacht.

Sie wollten eine gleichberechtigte Partnerschaft von Amerikanern und Deutschen in Berlin gestalten.

Auch in Zukunft wird, wie es in unserer Satzung steht, unser gemeinsames Interesse die Völkerverständigung sein.

Gerade angesichts der derzeitigen Probleme ist dies wichtiger denn je.

Es war ein beschwerlicher Weg, den AGBC-Berlin zur gesellschaftlichen Anerkennung dieses Idealtyps zu führen.

Aber wir haben es geschafft.

Dies zeigen die vielen Einladungen und Gesprächswünsche aus allen Bereichen von Politik und Wirtschaft, von Bildungseinrichtungen und vielen anderen mehr.

Und wir sind stolz, der einzige American German Business Club zu sein, dem die uneingeschränkte Gemeinnützigkeit zuerkannt wurde….

In der Osterwoche des Jahres 2015 trafen sich deutsche und Schweizer Jesuiten unter den strengen Augen Roms, um den Zusammenschluss ihrer Provinzen vorzubereiten.

Bei den Gesprächen über die Herausforderungen des Ordens richteten alle ihre Aufmerksamkeit auf SYRIEN.

Und es war vor genau einem Jahr, als Frans van der Lugt, niederländischer Bruder der Gesellschaft Jesu in Homs, Syrien, ermordet wurde.

Van der Lugt SJ war trotz Belagerung der Stadt Homs bei den leidenden Menschen geblieben und hatte das Haus der Jesuiten für christliche und muslimische Flüchtlingsfamilien geöffnet.

Er starb mit seinem Vermächtnis: „Ich sehe keine Moslems oder Christen, ich sehe nur Menschen.“

Der dem obengenannten Konvent der Jesuiten berichtende syrische Jesuit Mourad Abou-Seif SJ, der aus Sicherheitsgründen vor drei Monaten Aleppo und Syrien verlassen musste, nannte die Versorgungslage inzwischen so prekär, dass die Kirchen allein in der Stadt Aleppo täglich 18.000 Mahlzeiten zubereite; auch medizinisch würden die Menschen versorgt.

Eine seiner Thesen (ich zitiere): „Letztlich geht es bei dem Krieg in Syrien und im Irak auch um einen Konflikt zwischen Moskau und Washington. Er könne sich zu einem Weltbrand ausbreiten. (Zitatende)

Soweit der Newsletter der Freunde der Gesellschaft Jesu vom 4. Mai 2015. Verantwortlich Eberhard von Gemmingen SJ.

In seinem, in diesem Jahr erschienenen Buch „Endstation Islamischer Staat? Staatsversagen und Religionskrieg in der arabischen Welt“ schreibt unser Freund Dr. Rainer Hermann, Mitglied der Reaktion der „Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung“, ich zitiere nur diesen einen Satz:

„ Wo sunnitische Extremisten herrschen, werden alle Minderheiten ausgelöscht – ob sie schiitische Muslime sind, muslimische Mystiker, Christen, Yeziden …; wo aber säkulare Diktaturen die Macht ausüben, ob unter Assad in Syrien oder unter Sisi in Ägypten, überleben sie.“ (Zitatende)

So habe ich zum Vortrag unseres heutigen Gastredners und zugleich Ehrengastes Dr. Salem El-Hamid übergeleitet.

„Der Krieg mit dem sog. ‚Islamischen Staat‘ und seine Auswirkungen auf die Region und Europa“.


Middle East



*It’s Time to Stop Holding Saudi Arabia’s Hand*

This week’s Camp David summit is an opportunity for Washington to send the Gulf a tough message: We’re friends with benefits, not long-term lovers.*

The picture of President George W. Bush leading an aged Saudi King Abdullah by the hand through the gardens of his Texas ranch in 2005 has become both iconic and symbolic of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. For over 40 years, the United States has walked hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia through the thicket of Middle Eastern crises.

On May 14, at Camp David, another bucolic presidential setting, President Barack Obama is convening a special summit with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to begin a new phase in their relationship. But, for the first time, it appears there will be less hand-holding and more tough talk. The United States will use the summit to hear the GCC’s concerns about Iran, but will likely explain frankly to the Arab monarchies that there will be no new U.S.-GCC defense pact or blanket security assurances from the United States. If the president delivers the right messages to whomever shows up at the summit, the U.S.-GCC relationship has the potential to become more productive than ever before.

The Saudis are clearly angry about this approach. On Sunday, they announced that King Salman, the new Saudi king who took power in January, will remain in Riyadh, sending the crown prince to Camp David in his stead. (In the end, only two GCC heads of state — from Kuwait and Qatar — will attend.) Such petulance is a common negotiating tactic in these circumstances. It often produces the desired ripples in the American media to the effect that U.S. influence in the region is waning and the Saudi-American relationship is in trouble.

In part, the media’s focus is warranted. President Obama has implied that the purpose of this summit is to assuage the concerns of those countries most worried about the Iranian nuclear deal. Reassuring partners under such circumstances is a natural and normal reaction. It is certainly the traditional U.S. response to placating irritated and frightened allies. There is pressure within the government to cook up “deliverables” for the summit that might make the Saudis and their GCC partners feel loved by the United States.

But as the decision of most GCC leaders not to attend indicates, there is not much on the table that will reassure them. And that’s fine. It would be wrong to make reassurance the centerpiece of this summit — for three fundamental reasons.

First, Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners are not formal treaty allies of the United States and, moreover, they often do not act as friends. The United States is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional democracy committed to universal human rights. Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian monarchy committed to maintaining a society based on harsh political repression, religious intolerance, and a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam at odds with universally recognized human rights. Some GCC countries are in fact often the source of both the ideology and the money that supports Islamist terrorism around the world. And GCC interests and U.S. interests increasingly diverge over issues such as Iran, Syria, the need for internal reforms in the Gulf states, and how to deal with the regional threat of political Islam. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and its GCC partners can and do cooperate on a selective basis, but their relationship with the United States will necessarily remain transactional — more a long series of one-night stands than a committed relationship.

Second, America’s commitment to Saudi and GCC security is not and should not be absolute. Since the mid-1970s, the United States and the Gulf Arab countries have been allies on a variety of security issues. But this has been based on a hard-nosed bargain: “The United States will protect you against external threats to your security and you will support America’s goals and interests in the region and help stabilize global energy markets.” Over time, this bargain has allowed the Arab states to foist their regional security responsibilities onto the United States — and then blame America when things go wrong. Regardless of the rhetoric from both sides, the Arab states get the better end of the bargain. And they need it more than the United States does. This is particularly true now that the global energy market has diversified and is less subject to volatile price spikes. Yet paradoxically, even though Gulf states’ dependence on the U.S. security guarantee and changes in energy markets should increase Washington’s leverage, American officials often convince themselves that they need to change U.S. policy more than Persian Gulf partners need to change theirs. To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, every now and then we have to remind ourselves who the superpower is in the relationship.

Third, Washington’s never-ending reassurances over the years have created an unhealthy dependence on the United States, instead of encouraging the Gulf countries to become more independent, capable, and to stand up on their own feet when it comes to providing for their own security from external aggression. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the United States government. The collective weakness of the GCC states has created a security deficit in the region. It is long past time for the GCC states to produce more security than they consume. As Obama has noted, “the biggest threats that [Sunni Arab States] face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.” U.S. reassurances to protect these countries against external attack distract from their problems at home that include a growing population of disaffected youth, chronically high levels of unemployment, and poor human rights records. Instead, the United States should be leaning on them more heavily to enact domestic reforms.

As the GCC states become more independent, the United States will not always like the solutions they come up with to deal with regional security issues, such as the ongoing civil war in Yemen or whatever crisis might arise next. At times, U.S. officials will need to seek difficult compromises. But in most circumstances Gulf state ownership of their problems — and the solutions — will lead to better outcomes than American-led efforts, particularly military intervention.

Iran will continue to harbor ambitions for regional domination and pursue policies that pose a serious threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East. The Iran nuclear deal, if successful, will nonetheless allow the United States to begin to recast its bargain with the GCC countries, because it will remove the principal direct threat to U.S. interests from Iran. The United States will be able to insist that the GCC states assume greater responsibility for their own security — and that means the United States will be able to avoid direct military interventions in messy Middle Eastern civil wars. The willingness of Saudi Arabia to seek its own solution to instability in Yemen and the Arab League’s decision to form a joint Arab military force are positive signs of increased burden-sharing from the Gulf.

The long-term goal is not to get into bed with Iran. Rather, it is to use the relationship with Iran to get out of bed with Saudi Arabia. The United States will increase its diplomatic leverage with the GCC states if they know that Washington is playing the field. The GCC needs to understand that the U.S. goal in the Persian Gulf is to maintain a regional balance, not to allow them to emerge victorious in their struggle with Iran.

This week’s GCC summit is the perfect venue to deliver these messages. It is an opportunity for the president to demand more responsible behavior and greater cooperation from Gulf leaders instead of again reassuring them of an undying American commitment to their security. In the end, this will make for a scratchier summit, but a much more realistic, and therefore more productive, relationship between the United States and the GCC states. Hand-holding is nice, but in international relations at least, promiscuity also has its advantages.



moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

*Dacic: We back all EU decisions except sanctions on Russia*

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Wednesday that, when it comes to harmonizing the country’s foreign policy with the EU’s, Serbia supports everything except sanctions against Russia.

ELGRADE – Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Wednesday that, when it comes to harmonizing the country’s foreign policy with the EU’s, Serbia supports everything except sanctions against Russia.

Addressing participants of a conference titled "The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and Serbian Accession to the EU," Dacic said that the issue of harmonization of foreign and security policy often comes down to the issue of sanctions imposed on Russia, stressing that chapter 31 (foreign, security and defense policy) is much more complex.

"Serbia has committed itself to gradually harmonizing its foreign policy with the EU one and it will do so in accordance with its obligations until the moment of accession to the Union. By that time, we will increase the degree of harmonization in accordance with our interests," Dacic said.

In previous years, Serbia’s harmonization amounted to 97 percent, he said, adding that the percentage dropped in the year when the crisis in Ukraine started and when Serbia remained silent on measures against Russia. Serbia’s assessment to stay neutral is good, the foreign minister pointed out.



* Opinion: Keep the Kurds within Iraq and don’t mention independence *

On Tuesday the International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report that describes the Kurds as land grabbers and a threat to Iraq’s integrity. It says that the Kurds must not speak of independence and that the West should send them arms only through Iraq. Reading the report makes one feel as if ISIS is fiction and that the world should worry more about the Kurds.

It starts by saying that the Kurds are non-state actors and that arming them would increase tensions in the disputed areas, prolong the war against ISIS and threaten Iraq’s unity. Did the experts who wrote this report forget that the West armed, trained and spent billions of dollars on Iraq — the state actor — and yet its army melted away in 24 hours?

They say arming the Kurds will prolong the war against ISIS. Does that mean, if you don’t arm the Kurds the ISIS war will end tomorrow? This argument clearly goes against all military experts who believe that giving advanced weapons to the Kurds will speed up the ISIS defeat.

The report writers emphasize a great deal on the issue of the disputed territories, which shows they are out of touch with reality. There is no such thing as disputed territories. It was just words on paper and neither Iraq nor the Kurds ever believed in it. One would wonder why this group worries so much about a constitutional article that the Iraqis themselves consider dead.

The report says that Western countries must send weapons to the Kurds only via the central government and encourage them to solve their oil dispute with Baghdad and that way “keep the Kurdish region inside Iraq.” It also says that the Kurds must coordinate with Baghdad in their military operations.

By the Iraqi army, do they mean the Shiite militia that fights under sectarian banners and is commanded by ambiguous clerics? Or perhaps they mean the Peshmerga should coordinate with the army that hasn’t been able to take back a single refinery and keeps fleeing and abandoning its weapons and armored vehicles in Anbar on a daily basis.

It says arming the Peshmerga would be dangerous because they are run by political parties. This sounds like the Iraqi army is a professional national army that has never been used by political parties to commit one massacre after another. Some Kurdish commanders might be loyal to their parties, but the Peshmerga on the frontlines are only loyal to the soil on which they stand and the flag under which they fight.

The report warns that arming the Kurds would encourage land grabs. This “land grab” cliché doesn’t really work with the Kurds because they are fighting to prevent their own land from being grabbed. They have stopped where the Kurdish borders end. Numerous videos show how the Kurdish Peshmerga are only meters away from ISIS, separated only by small a canal or a bridge.

It says empowering the Kurdish forces will weaken and hasten the disintegration of Iraq. The authors forget that it was in fact decades of centralized rule that weakened Iraq and pushed it to the partition that is becoming a reality day after day.

The report says that the Kurds should cooperate with the central government to develop a post-ISIS plan. But a plan for whom? If you watch or listen to the Sunni tribal leaders you will see that they dread any post-ISIS plan by the Iraqi government because they know it will most likely be a plan of revenge and further persecution.

Finally, the report has some advice for Iraq’s six million Kurds and their future. It asks the Kurdish president to refrain from any mention of independence. It warns that unless the Kurds run their military and political affairs the way the ICG researchers suggest, the Kurds will pose “a far more serious threat to the region’s stability than IS (ISIS) by itself could ever represent.”

If the ICG were really concerned about the region and aimed to prevent crisis, it should have instead offered a plan for a smooth partition of Iraq. That is where the country is headed anyway.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.



see our letter on:

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



05-13-15 150507_Kuchins_CentralAsiaSummaryReport_Web.pdf

Speech Udo von Massenbach-American German Business Club Berlin-20th Anniversary 2015.pdf

ISIS -Vortrag Dr. Salem El-Hamid – 20th Anniversary AGBC Berlin 2015.pdf