Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 26/06/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Putin in Italia: Pope Will Judge Us? * Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, Kindermann, hat keine Zeit für das Internationale Flüchtlingshilfswerk der Jesuiten „..sind ausgebucht bis ins nächste Jahr“ * Oxfam seeks greater reach in Syria

· The Sino-Russian Marriage

· Kremlin: Russian loan not discussed in Tsipras-Putin talks * Gazprom kündigt Ausbau der Nord-Stream-Pipeline an *Österreich und Russland planen gemeinsamen Pipeline-Bau

· As Iran deal takes shape, Israel plays up regional common ground * Israel acts to protect Druze *Israeli Druze attack Israeli ambulance carrying injured Syrians *Israeli and Syrian Druze join forces – complicating Israel’s military position vis-à-vis southern Syria

· INSIGHT-Saddam’s former army is secret of Baghdadi’s success

· Serbia’s PM Vucic: Merkel’s visit is of great importance for Serbia (July 8th, 2015)

· Syria pro-regime tribes reject Jordanian king’s support * Syrian Druze gain non-belligerence commitment from rebels under joint US-Jordanian guarantee

· Oxfam seeks greater reach in Syria *

· Saudis say to jointly invest up to $10 bln with Russian fund

· Turkey after Elections (BAGCİ, Hüseyin )

Alert: Police arrest Druze lynch suspects in Galilee and Golan

DEBKAfile June 24, 2015, 12:51 PM (IDT) In the last two days, the police have rounded up 10 suspects in the attacks on two IDF ambulances carrying injured Syrian rebel fighters from the Golan border to hospital. The charge attached to the second attack is murder following the death of one of the Syrians aboard the ambulance at the northern Golan site of Neve Ativ. More arrests are expected. Jordan has quietly informed Druze leaders in Syria and Lebanon, including Walid Jumblatt, that it cannot admit any more refugees from Syria.

Massenbach* Putin in Italia: Pope Will Judge Us? An important issue was that of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Putin has already showed what he can do in Syria in 2013. We must recognize, that dictatorships of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Assad in Syria gave more religious freedom to Christians than now.


The Italian trip of Russian president Vladimir Putin was very important from the political point of view because it clearly showed that the Italian government did not want to break relations with Moscow. It also demonstrated the engagement of Vatican to keep fruitful discussions with Moscow on religious and political issues, connected with Ukraine and other crisis regions.

The meeting between Pope Francis and Russian president Vladimir Putin covered not only international problems but ecclesiastical themes too. First of all it refers to the presence in Ukraine of the so-called Uniate Church. The traditional Orthodoxy always met difficulties in countries, where the Russian presence was not dominant.

Certainly, Pope Francis made an important statement about the the respect of the Minsk agreements. The Pope put on the table the message about peace in Ukraine, presumably offering help from Vatican. The fact is that Moscow at this moment can’t fully control the pro-Russian separatists, and NATO itself doesn’t control the pro-Western front in the country. The asymetric and hybrid war in Ukraine is still in progress.

Another important issue was that of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Putin has already showed what he can do in Syria in 2013. We must recognize, that dictatorships of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Assad in Syria gave more religious freedom to Christians than now. Just a week ago Tareq Aziz died, a Christian Iraqi politician, who was number two in Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Russia can do a lot for Christian Arabes because it knows very well the Middle East and has good relationship with Iran that never broke out. Moscow can help Assad, whose fall would mean the end of Syrian Christianity. The Pope can raise his voice in support of the persecuted Christians. As Origen said, we have not only to hallow the Martyrs but we have also to punish the oppressors. Cultural and a diplomatical mediation is not enough now, and we cannot only keep praying, waiting for an UN intervention.

The problem is that Italy has to manoeuvre between United States and Russia. Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is for a more independent Atlantism. He has criticized Obama but supports the Alliance. The White House is very nervous about the Italian policy toward Russia, because the Kremlin feels itself less isolated.

After the defeat of Napoleon the Congress of Vienna returned dignity to France in new balance of forces. We had to do the same with Russia, but after the fall of Communism the West humiliated Moscow. This was a big mistake. Now we need a new Congress of Vienna to divide the spheres of influence. And here the Vatican mediation could be very important, because the Holy See was always an expert in long term policies. When the Cold War was underway, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli worked for the effective Ostpolitik toward the Soviet Union.

Giulio Sapelli, Professor of Economic History and Director of the post-graduate course on “Economy, enterprise and humanitarian disciplines between East and West, University of Milan; SOCRATES-ERASMUS coordinator in University of Milan.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club’s, unless explicitly stated otherwise.


Sehr geehrter Herr von Massenbach,

vielen Dank für Ihren Brief an Frau Straßenburg.

Angesichts der gegenwärtigen Turbulenzen in der Außenpolitik sind wir hinsichtlich unseres Veranstaltungsprogramms bereits bis ins nächste Jahr ausgebucht.

Ich sehe deshalb leider keine Möglichkeit für einen Vortrag von Pater Balleis SJ in absehbarer Zeit.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Harald Kindermann

Dr. Harald Kindermann


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.

Rauchstraße 17/18

10787 Berlin


As Iran deal takes shape, Israel plays up regional common ground*

With a deal on Iran’s nuclear program drawing near, Israel is beginning to look at what comes afterwards and how best to position itself for the longer term.

Publicly, Israeli officials have not given up trying to influence what appear to be the closing stages of negotiations, although gaps could persist beyond an end-June deadline.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lead official on the issue, is exerting pressure where he can to try to tighten technical aspects of the deal.

"We are very worried," he told Reuters this week. "What we are seeing is a certain crumbling, or signs of a crumbling, even in the clauses that had looked very clear and settled," he said, suggesting a harder U.S. line was needed on inspections.

But away from the nitty-gritty of the negotiating table, Israeli officials broadly accept that a deal will be done and have begun examining how to align themselves to ensure Israel’s interests are best protected if sanctions on Iran are lifted.

Israel’s unresolved conflict with the Palestinians means it has no diplomatic relations with most of the region’s Sunni Arab powers, but all oppose Tehran’s backing of Shi’ite groups in the region and fear that, without sanctions, support will increase.

In recent years, Israeli officials have met counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf at nuclear non-proliferation talks in Switzerland, gatherings the Israelis say have helped melt a certain amount of ice.

There have also been meetings between Dore Gold, a senior adviser to Netanyahu recently appointed director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, and retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki, an informal effort to see where the two countries‘ interests coincide, especially on Iran. They appeared together at a Washington conference this month, but took no questions.

"There hasn’t been a time when our interests and those of moderate Arab states have overlapped as much as they do now," said a senior Israeli official who is engaged in the region.

"I’m not saying this is going to develop in to some formal peace process. But there is a very strong coincidence of interests and that has allowed for regional dialogue."

With divisions over the Palestinians as sharp as ever, none of the Sunni Arab states in the region have played up any level of cooperation with Israel over Iran.

Saudi Arabia has always said it does not cooperate with Israel, a country which it does not recognize.

For its part, the United States is discussing boosting its defense assistance to Israel – in terms of both the quantity and quality of military equipment it provides – while talking to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf about their defense needs.

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, discussed the emerging nuclear deal at length, before adding at the end when asked about Israel’s military edge if Iran is freed from sanctions:

"We are ready now to hold a very, very detailed discussion with Israel about its needs should there be a deal with Iran, as we have already started to do with our allies in the Gulf."


Given the geography of the region, and the concerns Israel and Sunni Arab states have about Shi’ite Iran gaining influence in an arc reaching from Lebanon via Syria to Iraq and on down to Yemen, some form of defense coordination might make sense.

It would potentially allow the Gulf states, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and Israel to present a stronger buffer should Iran ever develop a nuclear weapon and the ability to deliver it – something Tehran says it has no interest in doing.

Israel is widely considered to have the only nuclear arsenal in the region, but does not acknowledge it.

Rather than coordination in the shape of a regional missile defense agreement or something similar, Israeli experts say it is more likely that the Sunni states and Israel would quietly share intelligence, something the Israelis say they are already doing, and cooperate when necessary.

"Indirect secret cooperation vis-a-vis Iran is happening with these countries and there is the possibility to deepen it," said Haim Tomer, a former head of international operations at Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.

"It’s always easier to cooperate with intelligence sharing than it is when it comes to military assets," he said, adding that any coordination would remain "under the table".

At a time when the Middle East is in a period of tumult to match that of a century ago when many of its borders were drawn, Israeli officials say a new order may eventually emerge that makes closer regional ties a necessity.

That is true not only for defense but energy security, an issue on which Israel, with its large offshore natural gas reserves, is working on with Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab states with which it has formal peace agreements.


Syria pro-regime tribes reject Jordanian king’s support

Agence France Presse

DAMASCUS: Representatives of some of Syria’s leading pro-government tribes Friday rejected support from Jordan’s King Abdullah II against ISIS, accusing him of backing "terrorists."

Their comments came after the Jordanian monarch, in a meeting with tribal leaders in his country, pledged to support tribes in areas of Syria and Iraq where the jihadis are operating.

"It is our duty as a nation to support the tribes in eastern Syria and western Iraq," the king was quoted as saying by Jordanian official media during the meeting on Sunday.

While the pledge was welcomed by some tribes in Iraq, the comments were received differently in Syria, where the government accuses Amman of backing rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

"The Syrian tribes firmly and definitively reject any call or project to deprive them of their national, Syrian, Arab essence," said Sheikh Mohammad Fares al-Abd al-Rahman of the Tay tribe.

Speaking underneath a photo of Assad at a Damascus press conference, he expressed "surprise" at King Abdullah’s comments.

The king, he said, "is well aware of who is behind the terrorists and where their operations rooms and military training camps are located, where their funding and weapons come from, and how they enter our country from Jordan."

Syria’s government has long accused Jordan of facilitating the uprising against Assad, in particular by allowing fighters to cross its border freely.

Damascus deems all those fighting against the regime "terrorists," and makes no distinction between Western and Arab-backed rebels and ISIS jihadis.

Jordan is hosting a U.S.-run program to train Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS and is reportedly a key backer of rebels who have made several gains against the government in southern Syria recently.

In a statement, the tribes urged Jordan "to provide real support to Syria against the conspiracy it faces."

"Our army will be the powerful guarantor of the unity of the country and the Syrian nation," the statement said.

Syria is home to around 20 major tribes, some of which have members in Iraq and Jordan.

The Sunni tribes in Syria are split between backers of the government, supporters of the opposition and some who have remained neutral.

More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that were met with a regime crackdown.


Syrian rebel coalition launches offensive near Golan to clear path to south Damascus. Israel acts to protect Druze

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
Jaysh Hermon (the Army of Hermon) Wednesday, June 17, launched a broad offensive on Syrian army forces in the Quneitra and Hermon sectors bordering on Israel. Its objective is to capture the Syrian army’s 68th Brigade headquarters Khan al-Shih which commands the main Quneitra-Damascus highway, DEBKAfile reports. This would clear their path to the southern suburbs of Damascus and enable them to encircle the government troops defending the capital. Jaysh Hermon was warned by the US command in Jordan not to harm Syrian Druzes, after Netanyahu, Yaalon and Eisenkott interceded personally for their safety.

Syrian Druze gain non-belligerence commitment from rebels under joint US-Jordanian guarantee

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 20, 2015, 9:39 AM (IDT)

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt

Leaders of the Jabal Druze and southern Syrian Druze community have reached a mutual non-belligerence understanding with heads of the Syrian rebel militias fighting in the region, including Al Qaeda’s arm, the Nusra Front. This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s military and intelligence sources. The United States and the King of Jordan gave the Druze guarantees that the deal struck Friday, June 10 would be honored.

There and then, our sources add, Jordanian opened up a cross-border corridor to supply the half million dwellers of the Druze mountain villages with military assistance and essential supplies.

The understanding followed a visit to the Jordanian capital in the past week by the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Marwan Hamad, leader of a new body calling itself the “Military Council of Syrian Druze” – effectively, chief of staff of Druze forces. Jumblatt insisted on seeing King Abdullah II with a demand for his personal guarantee for the Syrian community’s safety.

Jumblatt and Hamad then called on the joint US-Jordanian war room for Syria, Centcom’s Forward Command in Jordan, at its headquarters north of Amman. After a briefing by the American, Jordanian, Saudi and UAE officers in charge on how the understanding would work in the field, they gave their consent and it became active on the spot.
debkafile has obtained the four main points of thes deal:

1. The Syrian Druze and anti-Assad rebel forces fighting under the Jordan-based joint command are committed to refrain from attacking the other party’s positions or places of habitation.

2. The Syrian rebel forces [battling Assad government forces] pledge not to enter or attack Druze villages on the Golan including Al Khader.

3. The Druze pledge not to permit Syrian government military and intelligence units based in their territory to operate their bases or use them for intelligence surveillance. The Druze village of Al Khader, for example, houses a Syrian air force surveillance base, which communicates directly with Syrian operational intelligence. The Druze will make sure to put it out of action.

4. The eight Druze militias loyal to Bashar Assad or tied to his regime and army will not be allowed to operate from southern Druze territory.
All day Friday, Arab sources reported Israeli Air Force activity taking place over Syrian and Lebanese air space. Shortly before midnight, air strikes were claimed to have been conducted against targets inside Syria with no details. These reports were not confirmed

Israeli Druze attack Israeli ambulance carrying injured Syrians

DEBKAfile June 22, 2015, 10:18 AM (IDT)

Fallout from Syrian war in Israel. Monday, dozens of Israeli Druze villagers from Horfesh in the north attacked an Israel military ambulance carrying two wounded Syrian fighters to the Galilee hospital in Nahariya. When the driver took evasive action, they ran after vehicle, pelted it with stones and blocked its path. The driver was able to reach the nearest police station at Ma’a lot and obtain a police escort for the trip. DEBKAfile: Israeli Druze claim that some of the wounded Syrians hospitalized in Israel belong to Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front rebel forces which threaten their community in Syria and with which Israel cooperates.

Israeli and Syrian Druze join forces – complicating Israel’s military position vis-à-vis southern Syria

Even if Druze tempers are temporarily calmed over the fate of their Syrian brethren, the fallout from the Syrian civil war has already spilled over into Israel from an unexpected quarter. For nearly five years, Israel carefully kept its hands off the conflict raging on its northern border, restricting itself to responding ad hoc to dangers and building a quiet aid mechanism for selected Syrian rebels. But in recent months, Israel has re-channeled its military intervention into areas close to its border.

The way this involvement is disavowed by Israeli officials is seriously detrimental to the government’s military credibility.
When IDF spokesman Brig. Motti Almoz reiterated past statemants that the military does not identify or assort by organization the injured Syrian rebels reaching the Israeli Golan border for treatment, he found that the Druze serving in Israel’s armed forces and those living in Golan villages knew better. Israeli Druze and Golan villagers – many loyal to Bashar Assad – were so incensed by this and past evasions that they came together for violent action – hence the attacks Monday, June 22, on two IDF ambulances ferrying injured Syrian rebel fighters to hospital.
After the first ambulance was attacked, the second should have been much better secured. It turned out that the military police escorting it were not up to fighting a raging Druze lynch mob outside Majdal Shams on the Golan. The Syrians were badly beaten up and one died later.

Israeli and Golan Druze have found a common cause, in itself a destabilizing factor, in the conviction that Israel is aiding the Syrian Al Qaeda arm, the Nusra Front, although some of the information from South Syria is disinformation slanted by hostile elements for stirring up trouble for Israel.
The thousand-year old secretive sect is treated as heretic by jihadis, including the Nusra Front. When a rebel alliance neared Jabal Druze in Syria, Nusra leaders promised not to harm the Druze provided that they “retreat from their religious mistakes.” They then forced several hundred Druze to convert to Sunni Islam and desecrated their shrines.
Nusra Front is therefore a red flag for the Druze bull
This is just one more complicating factor in considering the ill-defined, fractious rebel alliance fighting in South Syria across from the Israeli Golan.
Israeli protestations that it doesn’t support Al Qaeda-linked rebels may hold true one day, while the next day, that same group may break up and join a jihadi faction. Some of them are constantly on the move in and out of Al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia ran up against this phenomenon in recent weeks when it bought and armed 3,000 Nusra Front fighters on condition that they leave their group and join up under an umbrella anti-Assad rebel front called the Southern Front, or the Southern Army of Conquest.
The Saudi step relieved Israel of charges of supporting jihadi movements. But it was no means let off the hook as far as the Druze were concerned, because of the notoriously volatile nature of the rebel movement.

Most of Nusra’s commanders did indeed repudiate their allegiance to Al Qaeda to win Saudi backing, but they soon switched back after Nusra in the north spearheaded major rebel victories. Clearly, victorious groups hold a fatal attraction for the hundreds of hazy rebel factions

The Druze demand for Israel to abandon the Nusra Front is tantamount to its repudiating the Syrian rebel cause at large. For the IDF this is a non-option: Ditching its under-the-radar links with certain Syrian rebel groups is the recipe for ending the relative calm on its Golan border with Syria. And withdrawing from its cooperation with the US-Saudi-Jordanian backed rebel force would endanger their effort to capture southern Syria, in the same way as comparable forces attained control of most of the north.

At the same time, the Israeli government must persuade its up-in-arms Druze citizens that IDF actions in South Syria will not bring harm to their Syrian brethren. This is an uphill task that may not prevent further Druze violence.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Oxfam seeks greater reach in Syria*

BEIRUT: Global aid agency Oxfam wants to double to 3 million the number of people it can reach inside Syria with water and hygiene projects, the head of Oxfam’s British office said after meetings with officials in Damascus.

Oxfam has been working with Syria’s Water Resources Ministry for the past 18 months by drilling wells, repairing old and damaged water networks and trucking water.

“What I saw in Syria is that we need to scale up Oxfam’s response as well as an international community response,” Oxfam GB’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring told Reuters late Tuesday in Beirut after a visit over the border to Damascus.

“We’re committed to do that, we’ve been led to believe that we will get permission … so we would expect our program to grow very substantially from benefiting 1.5 million to benefiting let’s say 3 million people, in a year’s time.”

It is estimated that only half of all Syrians now have access to tap water compared to well over 90 percent before the crisis, Goldring said.

Oxfam has projects in Damascus and its surroundings, Homs, Aleppo and Idlib. The government determines where it can work in a country divided between the military, allied militia and various insurgent groups. Despite this, Oxfam says its work is able to reach people outside of government-held areas.

“Oxfam does not have cross conflict line access, water does, and to the extent that those mains are operating, we have been supplying,” Goldring said. “As a humanitarian right, we will do all we can to supply water wherever we can get it.”

Working in Syria on water access is unusual for Oxfam, which is more used to states with a weaker infrastructure, he said. It was not present in Syria before November 2013.

“The relationship with the Water Resources Ministry has been a learning experience on both sides. It’s not normally the way that Oxfam works,” he said. “Nobody we talked to gave us a sense of great hope, whether that was from the international community or from the government,” he said. “So we need to keep calling for a cease-fire, a political solution.”


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* The Sino-Russian Marriage*

JUN 18, 2015 … when President Xi Jinping launched his “New Silk Road” initiative in 2013, no one should have been surprised by the historical reference. “More than two millennia ago,” explains China’s National Development and Reform Commission, “the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilisations of Asia, Europe, and Africa, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations.” In China, old history is often called to aid new doctrine. The new doctrine is “multipolarity” – the idea that the world is (or should be) made up of several distinctive poles of attraction. The contrast is with a “unipolar” (that is, an American- or Western-dominated) world …

Now a unique conjuncture of economic and political developments has created an opportunity for Eurasia to emerge from its historical slumbers. In recent years, Western self-assurance was humbled by the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and political catastrophes in the Middle East. At the same time, the interests of the two potential builders of Eurasia, China and Russia, seem – at least superficially – to have converged …

As China’s labor costs rise, production is being re-located from the coastal regions to the western provinces. The natural outlet for this production is along the New Silk Road. The development of the road (actually several “belts,” including a southern maritime route) will require huge investments in transport and urban infrastructure …

Russia, too, has an economic motive for developing Eurasia. It has failed to modernize and diversify its economy. As a result, it remains predominantly an exporter of petroleum products and an importer of manufactured goods. China offers a secure and expanding market for its energy exports … This year Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan have joined together in a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a customs union with a defense component. …

Russian opinion looks forward to “the interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia,” which will afford a “steady developing safe common neighborhood of Russia and China.” On May 8, Putin and Xi signed an agreement in Moscow that envisages the establishment of coordinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, currency regimes, and financial systems – all to serve a vast free-trade area linking China with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa …

How realistic is this dream? … It may be considered a singular success for Western statesmanship to have brought two old rivals for power and influence in Central Asia to the point of jointly seeking to exclude the West from the region’s future development. The US, especially, missed opportunities to integrate both countries into a single world system … This led both countries to seek an alternative future in each other’s company … Whether their marriage of convenience will lead to an enduring union – or … a threat to world peace – remains to be seen. There is an obvious sphere-of-influence issue in Kazakhstan, and the Chinese have been squeezing the Russians for all they can get in bilateral deals. For the time being, though, squabbles over the New Silk Road seem less painful to the two powers than enduring lectures from the West.


Debates of Valdai Discussion Club and Russia-24 TV Channel "Silk Road and Greater Eurasia: Politics, Economy, Infrastructure"

On June 18, the Valdai Discussion Club and the Russia-24 TV Channel held television debates entitled "Silk Road and Greater Eurasia: Politics, Economy, Infrastructure" within the framework of SPIEF-2015. The problem of Eurasia’s development is an exceptionally topical subject of the 21st century, the century of globalization and complicated geopolitical processes.

The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) should become one of the consolidation keystones. However, such complicated project requires a thoughtful analysis of all pros and cons. The latest report of the Valdai Discussion Club "Toward the Great Ocean – 3: Creating Central Eurasia" was made for this specific goal.

"The Valdai Club report means that our initiative "One Belt, One Road" is understood correctly. It is an economic process. The initiative is very promising because it corresponds to the interests of our neighbors," – says Li Yongquan, Director of Institute of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, CASS.

Experts from the East and from the West t discussed problems of Eurasia development. Russia was represented by Andrei Bystritsky, Chairman of the Board, Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club; Tatiana Valovaya, Member of the Board – Minister, Development of Integration and Macroeconomics, Eurasian Economic Commission; Konstantin Kuzovkov, Vice President for Investments and Development, FESCO Transportation Group. Experts from China and Kazakhstan were also present: Li Yongquan, Director, Institute of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Jonathan Woetzel, Senior Partner, Director of the Shanghai Office, McKinsey & Company; Rakhim Oshakbayev, Deputy Chairman of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan. Franco Frattini, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, also took part in the discussion.

"European integration should continue its development, albeit not in isolation. The policy of sanctions is counterproductive. It is necessary to open the gates and demolish the walls," – said Franco Frattini.

Experts asked what the Silk Road project means: "a Union of Unions" or "a barrel full of contradictions". How can the SREB be balanced within economies of European and Asian states? Can third parties, for example, USA or Japan, hinder the realization of the project? There are no unambiguous answers.

The key question was whether the idea designed for the country’s domestic demand can unite a whole continent? Andrei Bystritsky, Chairman of the Board, Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, said that it was possible to establish the Central Asian identity.

As for Russia, the special attention to the Eastern and the Southern foreign affairs and economic policy became one of the most significant signs of the country’s regaining status of a superpower. Meanwhile the turn to the East, development of a new model of foreign economic relations does not mean withdrawal from Europe or substitution of Russia’s presence in European markets with Chinese ones. The Silk Road Economic Belt should become an incentive for infrastructure development of the Russian regions, for example, East Siberia.

"Silk Road Economic Belt is not just transit-transport project, it is a comprehensive plan for the economic development of several states… The development covers not only western regions China, but the whole center of Eurasia. The biggest obstacle is the bias that people have in their heads. The history of the Silk Road has enormous prospects for business. Integrating the region [Central Eurasia] into the world market is exceptionally important!" – emphasized Konstantin Kuzovkov, Vice President for Investments and Development, FESCO Transportation Group.


Kremlin: Russian loan not discussed in Tsipras-Putin talks

Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday evening in St. Petersburg but the question of Russian financial aid for Greece was not discussed, Putin’s spokesman said.

Tsipras had traveled to Russia as his country struggles to reach a deal with its creditors for new loans it needs to avoid defaulting on debt payments at the end of the month. Without the bailout, Greece could be headed for bankruptcy or an exit from the 19-nation eurozone.

Tsipras‘ visit gave rise to speculation that the Greeks may be seeking Russian loans – and ahead of the talks, Putin’s spokesman said Russia would consider a loan if the Greeks asked for one.

"We would do this because they are our partners and this is a normal practice between countries who are partners," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press.

But when Tsipras met with Putin, the possibility of a loan "wasn’t discussed," Peskov told journalists. Instead, they spoke about "the necessity of developing investment cooperation."

The talks were held after both leaders addressed investors and Russian government officials at Russia’s biggest annual economic forum.

Putin made no mention of Greece’s predicament in his remarks, while Tsipras said his country strove to be a "bridge of cooperation" with "traditional friends like Russia" and others.

"As you all know, we are now in the middle of a great storm," the Greek leader said. "But we are a seafaring nation that knows how to navigate through storms and is not afraid of heading to new seas and reaching new harbors."

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich also had said Russia would consider a loan to Greece.

"The most important things for us are investment projects and trade with Greece. If financial support is needed, we will consider this question," he said in an interview on RT television.

On the sidelines of the investment forum, Russia and Greece signed a deal Friday to build an extension of a prospective gas pipeline that would carry Russian gas to Europe through Turkey. Russia promised Greece hundreds of millions of dollars in transit payments yearly if it agreed to build the pipeline. Construction of the pipeline is expected to start next year and be completed in 2019.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Russia and Greece would be equal partners in the project, with Russia’s half owned by the state bank VEB.

Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said during a forum session that Russia has no plans to buy Greek bonds, but is ready support the Greek economy by stimulating investment by Russian companies. He pointed to the gas pipeline as an example.

Tsipras started his day by speaking to Russians of Greek ancestry at a memorial to Ioannis Kapodistrias, the founder of the modern Greek state who lived and worked in Russia as a Greek envoy from 1809 to 1822.

"We are starting a new era in Greek-Russian relations and we consider you who live here to be playing a very important part in this effort," Tsipras said.

"Greece has been waging a brave fight in these past few weeks and months. You are well aware of these types of difficulties and you are now standing on your feet," he added. "This is the key characteristic of the Greek people, to be able to overcome difficulties when right is on their side."


Gazprom kündigt Ausbau der Nord-Stream-Pipeline an: Die russische Gazprom will mit Eon, Shell und der OMV die Nord-Stream-Pipeline durch die Ostsee ausbauen. Aufgrund der aktuellen politischen Spannungen kommt diese Nachricht überraschend. Im Januar hatte Russlands Gasmonopolist den Ausbau der Ostseepipeline auf Eis gelegt. Die Ostsee ist der einfachste Weg, um die Ukraine zu umgehen. Unklar bleibt dabei, ob die Leitungen wirtschaftlich notwendig sind.,,


Middle East

*Saudis say to jointly invest up to $10 bln with Russian fund*

DUBAI, June 21 ( Reuters ) – Saudi Arabia’s government and a Russian state fund have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly invest as much as $10 billion, official Saudi news agency SPA said on Sunday.

The deal between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund ( PIF ) and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) was sealed last week when top Saudi officials visited Russia. The governments also agreed to cooperate on developing nuclear energy.

SPA did not say where or when the joint investments would be made. The PIF was set up to help develop the Saudi economy, while the RDIF makes equity investments mainly in Russia and in the last few years has signed similar co-investment agreements with countries such as China, South Korea and Kuwait.

Prince Saud K. Al Faisal, executive director for investment policy at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, told Reuters in March that Saudi Arabia was increasingly focusing on investing to obtain technology and benefit its economy rather than just seeking monetary returns.

Last week the PIF agreed to buy a 38 percent stake in South Korean builder POSCO Engineering & Construction Co for about $1.1 billion, in a deal that could transfer construction sector expertise to Saudi Arabia.




*INSIGHT-Saddam’s former army is secret of Baghdadi’s success*

* Baghdadi expands his turf to Libya, Egypt and beyond

* Self-appointed caliph sets his sight on Saudi Arabia

* Bulk of forces are former Saddam army officers

* Islamic State gains have confined to Sunni areas

* Baghdadi can be easily replaced

By Samia Nakhoul

BEIRUT, June 16 (Reuters) – A year after declaring his caliphate, it is clear that the secret of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s success is the army and state he has built from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s military, and the allegiance he has won or coerced from alienated Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Syria, and beyond.

In that year, the self-appointed caliph has expanded his turf from eastern Syria and western Iraq to include adherents in pockets of war-racked Libya and Egypt’s lawless Sinai peninsula.

He has set his sights on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, and his Islamic State has launched an online magazine for Turks, who have volunteered for his jihad in hundreds if not thousands.

His speeches, freighted with Koranic verses ripped from their context and loaded with hadith – sayings attributed to the prophet, many regarded as spurious – sound more like sermons.

The recruiting drum he beats is loud and clear: summoning his followers to a pitiless jihad against Shi’ite heretics, Christian crusaders, Jewish infidels, and Kurdish atheists. He berates Arab despots for defiling the honour of Sunni Islam.

His message is this: Where Iraq’s rulers could not prevent the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that delivered the country into the hands of Shi’ites, and were unwilling to mount a jihad against Alawite minority rule in Syria, much less deliver Jerusalem from Israel, Islamic State will now lead the way.

In this pseudo-religious and sectarian narrative, the IS jihadis are on a divine mission to redeem a fallen Arab world by fire and the sword – as shown in its videos of beheadings and immolations.

Other factors are critical to IS success. Beyond the alliance of Saddam loyalists and Islamist extremists born of the Iraq war, Baghdadi relies on local Sunnis and their tribes, whereas his jihadi precursors relied more on foreign fighters.

Despite thousands of foreign volunteers, jihadist ideologues say IS forces are 90 percent Iraqi and 70 percent Syrian in its two main strongholds, where they have about 40,000 fighters and 60,000 supporters.

Baghdadi, who forged links with Saddam’s Baathists while a prisoner during the U.S. occupation, also claims descent from the Prophet Mohammad and his Quraishi tribe – a heritage that allows him to assert that "we are the soldiers of the mission declared by the Prophet".


Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, the jihadi theorist who was the spiritual mentor of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of al Qaeda in Iraq killed by an American air strike in 2006, says that before it took over swathes of Syria and Iraq, IS wiped out almost all other Islamist and Sunni rivals.

It gave them the choice of death or repentance, and declared war on its al Qaeda-allied rival in Syria, the Nusra Front.

"They now consider the Nusra Front apostates," Maqdisi says in an online publication. "Abu Bakr (al-Baghdadi) is Iraqi, has a popular base in Iraq (and) he has Iraqi tribes with allegiance to him, while Abu Mussab (Zarqawi) was Jordanian and surrounded by foreign fighters."

"They are winning militarily because they are depending on former Baathist officers who know their ground", Maqdisi says. But in the end they rely on fear.

Abu Qatada al-Filistini, another al Qaeda-linked ideologue who with Maqdisi has signed a fatwa declaring it legitimate to fight IS, says "this state is advancing because of the military, security and intelligence background of its leadership which seeks to impose a state of terror".

"They impose their authority, with blood, with the sword."

The former al Qaeda godfathers – Maqdisi who had ties to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, and Abu Qatada, deported from London to face terror charges in Jordan after a long court

battle – see differences and similarities between IS and al Qaeda, the movement Baghdadi has now eclipsed.

Unlike al Qaeda, which only established a tenuous ‚emirate‘ under the U.S. occupation before it was driven out of Anbar province, Islamic State is putting down roots. But Abu Qatada argues that it may contain the seeds of its own destruction.

"They are Baathist in the dictatorial and security sense," he says in an online publication. "Their conflict with other Islamist groups including Nusra is bigger than their conflict with Hashd al-Shaabi," Iraq’s Shi’ite militia coalition.


In his speech released on May 14 after unconfirmed reports he had been badly wounded in a U.S. air strike, Baghdadi says: "Islam was never for a day the religion of peace; Islam is the religion of war."

His followers‘ assaults on the Shi’ites and their allies in Iraq will "make the Crusaders bleed and strengthen the pillars of the Caliphate", and defeat Syrian Alawites and the Shi’ite Houthis in Yemen.

While this may sound like empty bombast to outsiders, for Baghdadi’s audience the point is that the Sunni army of IS has often succeeded in kicking Shi’ites out of Sunni cities. Yet the very success of IS suggests limits to its expansion.

The movement has gained footholds in ungoverned spaces such as Libya and the Sinai – and in territory from Nigeria to the Caucasus.

It is also adept at exploiting sectarian opportunities: the recent bombings of Shi’ite mosques in Saudi Arabia are an attempt to widen rifts between the kingdom’s Sunni majority and a marginalised Shi’ite minority.

But in the core of the caliphate, gains have so far been confined to Sunni areas. Attempts to break into Kurdish or Shi’ite territory have been beaten back.

Yet, IS is well implanted in its Syrian and Iraqi domains until the Sunnis can be persuaded to uproot them. That will not happen while they fear oppression from Baghdad and Damascus more than the brutality of the caliphate.

Maqdisi explains it by citing an Arabic proverb: "What made you accept this bitter cup, except that more bitter one"

IS ruthlessness is methodical. Taught by their Baathist commanders, they are a fast and flexible military force. But by the time they move on a Sunni city IS will mostly have cleansed it of opponents who refuse to recant, and wiped out Islamist rivals.

They are also quick to seize local resources, from energy to bakeries and taxation, both to finance their operations and make themselves the source of patronage and jobs.

They have grown rich from selling oil, trading hostages and selling smuggled antiquities, says Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi researcher on IS. The group’s wealth is estimated at $8-9 billion, Hashemi says.


They have some administrative stability: behind Baghdadi lies a leadership of depth and structure and Baghdadi could easily be replaced.

"If Baghdadi is killed, there will be another," says Abu Qatada. "Those who come out of the darkness or shadows are many."

Baghdadi, who has a PhD from the Islamic University of Baghdad on Islamic history, has an advisory council of nine members and about 23 emirs in charge of Sunni areas. They run their own ministries.

Underneath all this is a detailed governance structure that from Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital, to the cities of Anbar is mostly run by ex-Baathist army officers who were nearly all U.S. prisoners in Bucca jail, which became a sort of IS university.

Those who have ties with Islamic State say Baghdadi is not the most powerful figure. Second-in-command Abu Ali al-Anbari, a general under Saddam, wields real power. Another key figure was Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a former military intelligence colonel reportedly killed in an air strike in 2014. Both were with Baghdadi in Bucca.

"Having former Baathist officers in the leadership gave him a military and security advantage," says Hashemi. "They can encourage recruitment among their tribes and most of them belong to big Iraqi tribes."

On the ground, a year of air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition has hurt IS but has so far failed to dismantle Baghdadi’s caliphate, which remains a major threat.

"They have lost people, they have lost ground and part of their capacity to sell oil. But they are still there and dangerous," said the Iraq-based diplomat.



moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

PM Vucic: Merkel’s visit is of great importance for Serbia (July 8th, 2015): Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Friday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Belgrade on July 8, adding that the meeting will be of great importance for Serbia as it will cover a range of important issues, primarily the economy-related ones.

Österreich und Russland planen gemeinsamen Pipeline-Bau

Deutsch Türkische Nachrichten | 23.06.15, 10:40

Österreichs Energie-Riese OMV befindet sich mit Gazprom in Gesprächen über den Bau einer Pipeline. Die EU wünscht, dass russisches Gas unter Umgehung der Türkei direkt nach Bulgarien transferiert wird. Von da aus soll das Gas über die Route der gescheiterten Nabucco-Pipeline nach Wien fließen.



BAGCİ, Hüseyin:Turkey after Elections

The parliamentary elections on June 7 in Turkey have ushered in a new democratic dilemma: the coalition government.

After 12 years of rule, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), still the strongest party, will not be able to form a government. Prime minister Davutoglu did not exhibit the same amount of charisma as his predecessor and the current president, Tayyip Erdoğan. What is more, Erdogan’s active support of Davutoglu during the campain, did not help him. Every day during the election, President Erdogan violated the existing 1982 constitution and, for the past two days, has not appeared on television. Moreover, he will not appear again before Thursday when he receives a group of young students.

President Erdogan is the ‘’biggest loser’’ of this elections because the ‘’presidential system’’ that he had anticipated and wanted to realize after an AKP victory in the parliamentary elections did not come to fruition. The disappointment he feels is immense and his political charisma both domestically and internationally has suffered tremendeously; his ‘’fall’’ has taught him the greatest lesson yet because this recent election marks his first loss since 2002. The Turkish voters sent a very clear ‘’no’’ to his rhetoric and vision of a ‘’turkish style presidential system,’’ making the true winner of the election the Turkish parliamentary system and democracy.

Both President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu are the actual ‘’losers of the day’’. Their rhetoric and Islamist tendencies coupled with an authoritarian political attitude that began during the Gezi protests in June 2013 have ended in political defeat. The very fact that AKP has been proven capable of losing an election is a new phenomena. Ever since the final hours of the June 7 elections, the political and psyhological tension in the country has been lifted. There is no doubt that this was the biggest test for proving the maturity of the Turkish democracy. AKP has instituted many progessive reforms in a politcal sense and economic developments with great infrastructural changes.

AKP lost the elections because the expectations of the voters, in particular those of the youth, had not been met and AKP had not been offerng anything new this time around. Moreover, the accusations of corruption within the government played an important role, while AKP’s failed policy towards the Middle East futher exacerbated the situation.

What is happening in Turkey is currently open for debate. Therefore, the fact is that there is a large sense of relief and optimism in the country.

Tayyip Erdogan had enjoyed great voter support in the previous 3 elections and achieved a magical 49 percent of support from the Turkish electorate in the 2011 elections. Tayyip Erdogan’s biggest mistake was being elected president according to the terms of the existing consitiution. He was a political animal who could not remove himself from the political activisim. Also, his wish to change the role of the presidency failed due to the lack of concensus among the other parites in the parliament and in society. He had become president by a thin margin with a 52% majority in an election that took place during the holidays in August 2014, resulting in 17 million voters not going to the polls.

The election results put an end to his ideas and now he has to face reality. This does not mean, however, that he will give up on his ideas; rather, things are now more difficult than ever.

Ironically, now that the elections have provided an opportunity for a coalition government, the political parties seem to lack appetite for coalition. What does this mean? The next step for the AKP is to form a government, and talks about coalition will begin soon.

With 13% of the votes and 80 elected deputies, the HDP, known as the Kurdish party is the real winner in the elections. The nationalist party, MHP, also increased the number of its deputies to 80, but could not achieve a breakthrough similar to its success in the elections in April 1998 when the party received nearly 19% of the votes. Both HDP and MHP declared their intention not to form a coalition with the AKP. Many consider this to be an ‘’early and unwise decision’’ on the part of the political leaders of both parties. Whether they will change their attitudes remains to be seen.

The main opposition party, CHP, is in a situation between the ‘’winner and the loser’’. Their votes remained constant despite having made very attractive economic promises to voters, such as increasing the pension salary and issuing two extra payments to the retired. This marks the first time that CHP had used its ‘’economic mindset’’ and forced the ruling AKP to counter them with new arguments. Also, CHP has rejected, so far, forming a coalition with the AKP. As a result, the AKP under prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu seems unable to form a government! Whether Davudoglu will ‘’convince’’ one of the three political leader to form a coalition government is the key question for Turkey.

The three opposition parties should form a government in order to put an end to the AKP political dominance and make it an opposition party. This would be the most expected form of coalition. Then, president Erdogan would have great difficulties surviving the next 4 years as president. But it looks like it would be very difficult for the Kurdish HDP and the nationalist MHP to support each other in a coalition under the leadership of the main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroglu.

What happens if there is no coalition government formed in the next few days?

The natural democratic process would be to hold new elections, which, at this point, will be a ‘’nightmare for the new[ly] elected ‘’ deputies. Today, it looks like in the new elections the AKP will receive an absolute majority of votes. President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu would probably play to this option. This means that any failure in the oppositions parties would strengthen the AKP. This would then become a ‘’nightmare for the secular forces’’ who thought that their defeat of the AKP would also bring about the end of Turkey’s religous orientation under President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu.

The ‘’coalition games’’ in Turkey start soon and every political party is responsible for playing a fair game. Otherwise, the expected result will be new elections. It is expected both domestically and internationally that Turkey will form a coalition government. Every political party tries to maximize their expectations and get more ministries to satisfy their own voters.

Will Turkey fall in to political chaos if no coalition is formed? Probably not this early on. But everyone would lose if an early election was called.

Now the ‘’coalition tango’’ for AKP leader Davutoglu has begun. He needs a partner for the tango and he has at least three possiblilities. Even one would be enough, but who would dare to be the partner? We will see. It takes two to tango!

Hüseyin Bagci is Professor of International Relations at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, TV and Radio Commentator in Turkey and а columnist for The New Anatolian.



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