Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 06/11/15

Massenbach-Letter. News Wer als letzter einen Zaun baut hat verloren. Er wird zum Hotspot."

· CSIS: Negotiating a “Peace” in Syria: Between Whom and for What? * STRATFOR: Syrian Summit Guest List Reflects New Normal

· Russia Begins Talks With Egypt on Helicopters, Equipment For Mistrals * Serbia to Take Part in NATO Drills With Russian

· FES-Papier: Zum Wert gleicher Lebensverhältnisse

· New U.S.-Backed Alliance to Counter ISIS in Syria Falters

· To remind you: Volkswagen – Super GAU ( Sept 25, 2015)

· In eigener Sache: „Für die Rechte derer kämpfen, die die Wahrheit sagen.“ –

H.-H. Tiedje: Merkeldämmerung

Massenbach* STRATFOR: Why Germany Cannot Stop the Flow of Migrants


  • Germany will not be able to compel Greece or Turkey to stem the flow of migrants without jeopardizing other, more pressing priorities.
  • Winter will lower the number of arrivals, giving the European Union room to strategize and negotiate.
  • Ongoing fighting in Syria means that the surge in arrivals will likely pick up again in 2016.

…..Behind the Surge

To find the source of this surge, one must begin with Turkey — the starting point for immigrants into Greece and Bulgaria. Turkey is also home to the largest Syrian refugee population: 2 million people live in Turkish cities trying to eke out a living or in camps along the Syrian border. The refugee population has steadily grown in Turkey since the beginning of the Syrian civil war but spiked suddenly in October 2014 from 840,000 to 1.5 million in the course of three months. That month marked the Islamic State siege of Kobani on the border of Turkey and Syria. The fighting pushed around 400,000 Syrians into Turkey.

Kobani was certainly one factor that drove the surge into Europe, but another factor has been the Turkish economy. Many Syrians living in Turkey have been able to make a living only because of temporary employment or casual labor. This is largely in the informal sector, since Turkey has rejected requests to issue Syrians with work permits. But the Turkish economy has begun to deteriorate, and Ankara is now struggling with capital flight triggered by shifting global trends. The lira has weakened and since 2012, Turkish unemployment has crept upward, making it difficult for the Syrians to get by.

Kobani and Turkish economic troubles have also coincided with an easing in Greece’s formerly hostile migrant policies. International attention has been transfixed on the left-wing Syriza government’s economic strategy and tussles with the European Union, but fewer have noted Athens‘ changing approach to migration. During the previous administration, the opposition Syriza party had been a vocal critic of the 2012 Operation Xenios Zeus. The measure, designed to seek out illegal immigrants using ethnic profiling, led to a number of arrests and widespread immigration detention. When Syriza came to power in January 2015, the party declared the end of the operation and spent several months shutting down internment camps and releasing detainees. This made Greece a considerably less hazardous place for migrants. Syriza has simultaneously focused on sending migrants quickly onward into the rest of Europe instead of hanging onto them.

As migrants began to realize that this eastern path was open, they passed information to others, increasing the flow. There is no sign that this has an end — the latest fighting in Aleppo, Syria, has displaced an estimated 50,000 people relatively close to the Turkish border who will almost certainly try to move on.

The Consequences

The massive influx of migrants has undermined so many existing EU immigration agreements that some are unlikely to survive in their current form. The Dublin agreement, which stipulates that the member country of entry must fingerprint and take responsibility for new arrivals, is one such agreement that has been ignored many times. Consequently, tensions have cropped up across the Continent: between Germany and Austria, between Hungary and its neighbors as well as within the Balkans. The last of these is particularly concerning because of the recent history of ethnic conflict.

And politically, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered the most. When migrants began to arrive in large numbers over the summer, she announced publicly that they were to be welcomed rather than turned away. …….

Problematic Solutions

To ensure her continued leadership in Germany — and the European Union as a whole — Merkel has been searching for a solution to the migrant crisis. But the way forward is not clear. One thought was to try to attack the problem at its source by ending the civil war in Syria. This is much easier said than done — Russia recently entered the fray, complicating a battlefield already divided among multiple players with radically different motivations. From Germany’s perspective, this is not a viable approach.

Another component has been to move one link further up the chain and request Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cooperation to stop the flow of migrants. Merkel tried this tack over the course of several meetings with Erdogan in October. Turkey’s price, however, was quite high. Erdogan asked for 3 billion euros ($3.31 billion), the relaxation of visa restrictions on Turkish travel in Europe and a jump-start to Turkey’s EU accession.

Berlin could likely raise the money, but the other two conditions are more difficult. Germany is home to the vast majority of past Turkish immigrants into Europe, and tensions have long been high over the issue. The head of the Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, has a history of publicly arguing against Turkish accession into the European Union to appeal to local sentiments. With Seehofer’s party at the root of Merkel’s domestic problems over the current surge, a solution that mitigates this issue but brings in more Turkish migrants would simply replace one problem with another. EU member state Cyprus has a historically fraught relationship with Turkey and has opposed accession as well. Merkel has hit a wall.

This brings Germany another step along the route to Greece, which could hypothetically return to the draconian measures of the previous administration to discourage migration. But Berlin would find it difficult to call for such a move. Greece’s immigration policies were roundly criticized on human rights grounds. If Merkel called for this publicly, she would likely face a backlash — not least of all from Syriza. More important, if Germany were to ask a favor from Greece, Syriza would be able to use this as a bargaining chip. Berlin spent the first half of 2015 forcing Athens to adopt economic reform; the last thing Merkel wants to do is give Athens an excuse to delay. Nevertheless, at the Oct. 25 summit, Greece was asked to set up facilities that could hold 50,000 immigrants with support from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. There is some room for agreement here — Greece is not alone in coping with these issues, and there are plans to send EU staff to the border.

After the migrants leave Greece, it becomes harder for Germany to contain the problem. From Merkel’s perspective, even if the flow of migrants cannot be stopped immediately, sharing them around Europe will alleviate some of Germany’s burden. The Syrians have a particularly strong case for asylum, and it is extremely hard to repatriate them. The European Union wants to keep the Balkan countries from confronting one another over migrant flows. At the same time, the bloc wants to keep borders within Europe as open as possible to preserve the union’s structure while apportioning them fairly across the Continent. This means overcoming negativity among member countries. Several European summits already this year have been devoted to trying to establish a quota system, but Eastern European countries have strongly resisted. The Oct. 25 summit likely discussed all of the possible solutions along the migrant route.

The coming months could offer some relief even if Germany cannot find a solution. As winter approaches and temperatures drop, it is likely that the immigrant flow will begin to slow. The European Union, however, will have to be careful to prevent deaths among those who do cross the frozen Balkans. The latest flows have also revealed a drop in the portion of migrants from Syria and a rise in Afghan and African migrants, partly because of cheap Turkish Airlines flights to North Africa. Unlike Syrians, authorities will find it much easier to send back migrants from these points of origin. Of course, the cold weather will abate as spring approaches, and with Syria’s civil war giving no sign of ending soon, 2016 will most likely see the migrant crisis continue.


Eight points agreed at multinational Vienna conference on Syria

DEBKAfile October 30, 2015, 9:00 PM (IDT)

The 17 nations meeting in Vienna Friday, led by the US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, reached accord on seven points for a political resolution of the Syrian civil war.

1) Syria’s territorial integrity and secular character will be preserved.

2) Government institutions, including the army and security forces, will continue to function after a political accord is achieved.

3) Syrian territory must be secured. (Under whose responsibility?)

4) ISIS and other extremist Muslim groups must be defeated.

5) Syrian government and rebel parties will meet to hammer out a political solution for ending the conflict.

6) General elections will take place under UN auspices.

7) The Syrians will administer their own political moves without outside interference.
8) The Syrian question will be solved by political means alone.

DEBKAfile: The main issue still outstanding is the fate of Bashar Assad. This will be discussed when the multinational session conference is reconvened in two weeks’ time.


Joint Press Availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura*

Remarks – John Kerry – Secretary of State – Grand Hotel Vienna, Austria – October 30, 2015

Lavrov:” I would also like to highlight some modalities of the joint statement. We have agreed to continue with Syria as a unit, and so that Syria keeps its territorial integrity, so it would be a united country with secular government and to retain the institutions. The rights of all Syrians, despite their religious beliefs or ethnic group, should be protected and observed. Humanitarian access should be provided and the momentum should be accelerated to help refugees and internally displaced people.

And one of the most important agreements of today’s meeting is that this group is asking the UN to invite stakeholders, the Syrian Government and the opposition, to begin the political process. This inclusive political group should create the basis for an inclusive administration, so this administration can create the new constitution and new institutions. We have also agreed so that the new elections would be conducted under the active participation of the UN, and so that all Syrian people, despite of where they are – whether they are refugees or in the neighboring countries – should be able to take part in those elections.

We have also discussed the issue of a ceasefire parallel to the political process, and there was a consensus that the ceasefire should be held in the consultations with the UN with the understanding that if the ceasefire is declared, no terrorist organizations should be subject to that.

As John has said, we have no agreement on the destiny of Assad. Russia believes that it is up to Syrian people to decide within the framework of the political process. It is said in the joint statement that the political process should be done by the Syrian people and belong to the Syrian people, and the Syrian people should decide the future of their country.”


Negotiating a “Peace” in Syria: Between Whom and for What?

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Oct 30, 2015

Most of the discussion of the Vienna talks on the war in Syria so far has focused on ISIS and its role in terrorism, on the relative roles of the United States and Russia, on bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table, and/or on whether Assad stays. What is far from clear, however, is that any negotiations that focus on ISIS can address the key issues involved, that outside voices can bring any real order within Syria, and that Assad or any elements claiming to represent the various rebel movements can speak for Syrians.

What is even more unclear, is what the future shape of Syria will be, and how it can recover from the present conflict, and more towards any stable process of development.

Assad Created the Revolt against Him Through Sheer Corruption and Incompetence

ISIS is the symptom, and not the disease. Syria exploded into civil war because the Assad regime failed to meet the needs of its people over a period of decades, was intensely corrupt and brought a form of stability and acceptance of Alawite rule through crony capitalism with a small Sunni business elite, and suppressed any sectarian and ethnic opposition ranging from the Arab Shi’ite majority to a Kurdish minority that it came close to treating as non-citizens.

The negotiators need to remember why Syria exploded into violence. It was not because of outside interference, extremist voices and actors, or the actions of some minority. It exploded because – as World Bank ranking from 1996 to the present show, Assad not only fell back upon repression every time he was challenged, he provided some of the worst and most corrupt governance in the world – impoverishing much of Syria’s population in the process.

Moreover, Assad followed his father in playing Syria’s other minorities off against its Sunni Muslims – suppressing Islamist challenges no matter how peaceful. Assad and his father laid the groundwork for sectarian warfare in a count where the CIA estimates that the population is 74% Sunni; 13% Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia, 10% Christian (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian) 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), 3% Druze, with a few Jews remaining in Damascus and Aleppo. The end result is a legacy where the divisions are not simply an Alawite vs. Sunni, but to some extent, Sunni Arabs versus everyone else.

Neither Assad, nor his father, came to grips with population growth so high that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that it grew from 3.5 million in 1950 to 22.9 million in 2015 – including the millions of refugees that have been driven out of the country. They never created enough jobs or promises of a meaningful future for one of the youngest populations in the world – one where the CIA estimates that 32.5% are 14 years of age or younger, and 19.9% are in the age group from 15 to 24.

The GDP was only some $5,200 in 2010, ranking only 165th in the world. Even then, real world youth direct and indirect unemployment almost certainly exceeded 25%, and the CIA estimates that the total rate of unemployment for all Syrians is now well over 30%. The World Bank ranked Syria as the 144 th worst of 183 countries in terms of the ease of doing business in 2010 and 2011. In 2015, it ranked Syria as the 175th worst of 185 countries.

Assad had the option of reform from the time when he came to power in 2000 to the point where he faced only peaceful demands in 2011. He chose repression and he governed as an incompetent thug.

The Price in Blood

The years that have followed have seen his repression and choice of violence over reform in 2011 create a truly monumental butcher’s bill. The civil war has thrust Syria into far too deep a level of chaos to track the damage accurately, but bad as ISIS or Daesh is, the human cost of ISIS has been limited compared to the fighting between Assad and other rebel groups. If one takes a hard look at the map, at least 80% of the some 250,000-300,000 civilian dead are the product of the pro-Assad forces fighting rebels other than ISIS, and the same is true of some 750,000 to 1,000,000 injured civilians.

Assad also has primary responsibility for the far broader damage done to Syria. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found it increasingly harder to gather data on a steadily worsening situation, and the maps issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) show there are large areas where no recent data are present. The current estimates of the UNHCR and OCHA indicate, however, that the total human damage at a minimum include:

· 12.2 million people, including 5.6 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance (6.2015)

· 7.6 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still inside in Syria that have lost their homes, jobs, and businesses

· 1.5 million were displaced in the first six months of 2015, and 1.0 million more are expected to become IDPs by the end of 2015.

· 4.8 million of the IDPs are in hard to reach areas or areas besieged by the Assad regime, and get little or no aid.

· Life expectancy shortened by 13 years between 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2013, and school attendance cut by 50%.

· 4.1 Million Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

· 1.9 million Syrian Refugees in Turkey

· 1.1 million Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

· 628,887 Syrian Refugees in Jordan

· 248,503 Syrian Refugees in Iraq

· 132,375 Syrian Refugees in Egypt

There is no official estimate of the scale of Syrian government attacks by Assad, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) – a United Kingdom-based human rights organization provided some good examples. Its mid-August report documented more than 33,000 Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) air raids in Syria from October 2014 to August 2015, including more than 18,000 barrel bomb attacks and more than 15,000 other aerial attacks. During the same period, SOHR documented nearly 5,500 civilian deaths, including more than 1,100 children, and injuries to at least 30,000 civilians.

The Price For Syria’s Economic Future

There is no reliable way to estimate the cost of the fighting in economic terms, but it is again clear that most of these costs have been borne by people in the areas where Assad forces have fought other rebel movements. The OCHA estimated in September 2015 that,

· Three in four Syrians were living in poverty by the end of 2013, and 54% were living in extreme poverty.

· The Syrian economy had contracted by at least 40%. (Some estimates put this at 60-75%.)

The World Bank summary of the Syrian economy for 2015 estimates that:

Lack of access to health care and scarcity of medicine have led to a catastrophic health situation. Poor food availability and quality and successive cuts in subsidies on bread have exacerbated nutritional deprivation. An estimated 25 percent of schools were not operational by 2014.

The conflict has significantly damaged public and private assets including health, education, energy, water and sanitation, agriculture, transportation, housing and infrastructure. The World Bank Damage and Needs Assessment report of July 2015 (conducted for six governorate capitals namely Aleppo; Dar’a; Hama; Homs; Idlib; and Latakia) estimated the total damages for the six cities to be between $ 3.7 to 4.5 billion. Aleppo is the most affected city accounting for roughly 40 percent of the estimated damages. Latakia is the least affected city; however, the conflict’s impact on the city is manifested in the increased pressure on infrastructure and services from the population increase from Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The economic impact of the conflict is difficult to estimate precisely given limited data but is large and growing. Syria’s GDP is estimated to have contracted by an average of 15.4 percent for the period (2011-14) and is expected to decline further by nearly 16 percent in 2015. The decline in GDP growth was in part attributed to a sharp decline in oil production, down from 368,000 barrels per day in 2010 to an estimated 40,000 barrels per day in 2015. After increasing by nearly 90 percent in 2013, average inflation increased by 29 percent in 2014. CPI inflation is estimated to increase by 30 percent in 2015 because of continued trade disruption, shortages and a sharp depreciation of the Syrian pound.

Public finances have materially worsened since the start of the conflict. The overall fiscal deficit increased sharply, by an average of 14 percent of GDP during the period 2011-14, and is estimated to reach 22 percent of GDP in 2015. Underlying fiscal developments were, however, much more adverse than suggested by changes in the deficit. Total revenue fell to an all-time low of below 6 percent of GDP in 2014 and 2015 due to the collapse of oil revenues and tax revenues. In response, government spending was cut back, but not by enough to offset the fall in revenues. Reduction in outlays on wages and salaries were not high enough, while military spending increased.

The severe decline in oil receipts since the second half of 2012 and disruptions of trade due to the conflict put pressure on the balance of payments and exchange rate. Revenues from oil exports decreased from $4.7 billion in 2011 to an estimated $0.22 billion in 2014, and are estimated to decline further to $0.14 billion in 2015. Therefore, the current account balance is estimated to continue its trend and reach a deficit of 13 percent of GDP in 2015. As a result of the civil war, total international reserves have declined from $20 billion at end-2010 to an estimated $2.6 billion at end-2014, and are estimated to fall further to $0.7 billion by the end of 2015. Depressed export revenue caused by the impact of the conflict and declining international reserves have caused a significant depreciation of the Syrian pound from 47 pounds per USD in 2010 to an estimated 177 pounds per USD at end-2014 and have depreciated further to 305 pounds per USD at end-August 2015.

Once the situation stabilizes, Syria will have to grapple with immediate economic challenges. It will also need to support the return of internally displaced people and refugees in neighboring countries, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, enhance the provision of public services including health and education, and rebuild the social fabric of the country.

A study by David Butter of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, published in June 2015, estimated that:

The Syrian economy has been devastated by conflict to an extent that defies comprehensive numerical analysis. Nevertheless, any meaningful assessment of the Syrian crisis requires an understanding of the economic context. This study finds that, after four years of conflict, Syria’s economic output – as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) at constant prices – has more than halved in real terms. This comes in a context in which the country’s population has shrunk from 21 million to approximately 17.5 million as a result of outward migration (mainly refugee flows) and more than a quarter of a million deaths. More than one-third of the remaining population is internally displaced.

The conflict has pervaded all aspects of the economy. Agriculture has assumed a dominant position in overall production as other sectors have been devastated, but farm output has also been severely affected. Meanwhile, oil production under state control has dwindled from 387,000 barrels per day (b/d) to less than 10,000 b/d, depriving the government of one of its main sources of revenue. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls oilfields with the capacity to produce some 60,000 b/d, although its refining operations in particular have been impaired by coalition airstrikes. Most of the other oilfields are located in areas under Kurdish control. Government-controlled refineries have been supplied with oil under an Iranian credit line to allow them to produce sufficient fuel for regime-controlled areas.

The majority of Syria’s power stations run on natural gas. Effective electricity generation capacity has fallen by more than 70 per cent since 2011. This is despite the fact that natural gas production, by official data, reached a record level in 2011 as a result of the start-up of two major projects between Palmyra and Homs. The conflict saw production fall by around a third by 2014. ISIS gains on the ground threaten to exacerbate the situation: should the group seize control of the area to the west of Palmyra, electricity production may suffer a further significant fall. Moreover, the capture of Palmyra by ISIS has put the government’s phosphate exports – worth some $100 million in 2014 – at risk.

Iran has assumed a dominant position in Syria’s trade relations, by virtue of its crude oil and other credit and investment programs. Imports from Turkey fell sharply in 2012 and 2013 but have since recovered, partly as a result of the aid supplies through Syria’s northern border and partly as a result of new trade relationships – including sales by Syrian companies that have established themselves in eastern Turkey.

…The government of Bashar al-Assad has reined in subsidies on fuel and food as its budget operations have been undermined by the loss of oil revenue. The fiscal deficit (excluding subsidies) stands at 20 per cent of GDP by the government’s reckoning, which it has sought to finance largely through borrowing from the central bank and state-owned commercial banks. It is important to note that economic grievances, including popular resentment at market-oriented reforms, played a part in the 2011 uprising against the regime in Damascus.

Although they were not a determining factor, increased poverty and inequality alongside the rise of a new wealthy business elite made for a combustible mix. The conflict has served only to exacerbate the situation: inflation surged to 120 per cent in mid-2013; and although it eased over the following 12 months, it began to rise once again in late 2014. The value of the Syrian pound has fallen very sharply as Syria has felt the impact of both the conflict and UN sanctions. As at June 2015, the official exchange rate had depreciated by about 78 per cent since 2011, and the black market rate by some 83 per cent.

No one has begun to publically estimate the cost of bringing Syria back to the level of a “failed state” it had reached in 2011, much less the cost of giving it a level of governance and economic development that could bring stability and give all its peoples a reason to support its unity and work together.

It is striking, however, that Syria was almost the poster child for the 2011 estimates in the Arab Development Report that it would take many Arab states some ten years of effort under almost ideal conditions to bring their governance and economy to the point where they would be on the right path towards solid growth, development, and stability.

Who Can Speak for Syria at the Negotiating Table?

The outside states are divided enough to make any negotiation extremely difficult, and possibly more a source of increased tension than a solution: The United States, Saudi Arabia, European states, other Arab States, Iran, Russia, and Turkey all have different goals and perceptions centered around their own national interests.

Even if the outside states can agree, it is also unclear that they can do anything more than see the end result collapse because of the far more bitter and deep divisions within Syria. Nearly half a decade of fighting has left a heritage in blood, suffering, economic decline and failed governance that has divided Syria into at least four major factions – no one of which can possibly speak for Syria.

There is no way to know how much lasting sectarian and ethnic anger, hatred, and revenge various elements of Syria’s population now feel, how much trust they can ever put in other factions, or even who can possibly speak for any given element.

Consider the four factions involved.

First, it is far from clear that the current pro-Assad forces form a cohesive bloc supporting Assad. They include Alawites who now have every reason to fear Syria’s Sunnis, but also many other factions with different priorities and goals. They also include large numbers of forcibly drafted Sunnis and other minorities, as well as key cadres of Hezbollah, Iranian, and other Shi’ite volunteers.

The non-Syrian voices in the Assad faction present a major problem just by themselves. No one on the government side can now risk speaking against Assad, but it is far from clear how many would speak for him if they had the choice. As for other factions, how do you negotiate with a failed leader who has gone from military doctor and ophthalmologist to human butcher?

Second, the non-ISIS rebels remain deeply divided as does the level and kind of support they get from the U.S., European states, Turkey, and outside Arab states like Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. There is no even an agreed count of how many non-ISIS rebel factions exist, much less an agreement of what each faction stands for, the stability of its leadership, and its ability to cooperate with the others.

While some Arabs are happy to blame the U.S. for Syria’s plight, outside Arab efforts to back different rebel factions have helped weaken moderate elements, and strengthen ones like the Al Nusra Front that compete with ISIS for extremism. The U.S. and the West may want moderate rebel fighters and leaders to have control over these rebels, but creating shell organization is not real power, and it is all too clear the rebels know who they are against, but do not agree on what they are for. Moreover, the small moderate elements of governance that do exist have no experience approaching the kind necessary to cope with today’s Syria.

Third, the Syrian Kurds have emerged as a political and territorial entity with no clear structure of governance or unity. They clearly, however, have no reason to trust Assad or any Arab faction, have their own ambitions, and have their own tensions with Turkey and Iraq. They have been some of the best fights against ISIS, but the Turks now accuse them of supporting violence against Turkey by its own PKK Kurds, and the Syrian Arab revel factions that support the Kurdish YPG fighters do so out of necessity, not out of trust or a common view of the future.

Fourth, there is nothing that can be said in favor of ISIS or Daesh. It is a truly repellent mix of violence and extremist ideology that makes it the natural target of both the negotiations and the other elements in both Syria and Iraq. What is striking, however, is that it seems unlikely that even the best outcome of Vienna could create a stable ceasefire between the other three factions in Syria, much less some unified effort against ISIS. How could the Assad forces, other rebels, and Kurds cooperate effectively? Being the faction that everyone fears and hates is scarcely an enviable position, but it is not clear that it is an especially vulnerable one.

And as for the Syrian People…

Finally, it is even less clear how any form of agreement will lead to the kind of government and aid plan necessary to support Syrian recovery in any form, and rebuild the state. It may help provide better emergency relief, but this will only slow the pace of decline. Short term aid can serve short term humanitarian needs, but it does not put an end to conflict or move the country back towards a level of progress the can bring stability, inspire refugees to return, or give a clear alternative to all the anger and divisions from years of fighting.

So far, no one has even mentioned the need to bring the UN and World Bank into planning for recovery. The image is one of dragging outside states to the negotiating table, without bothering to deal with fact that the table is Syrian and that it is their fate that is really at stake.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.

“Few revelations of substance will come out of the discussions in Vienna,

but the image of the United States and Iran negotiating openly on issues of mutual interest

is one that everyone is still just getting used to.”

Syrian Summit Guest List Reflects New Normal*


UPDATE: Soon after this analysis was published, reports surfaced that the U.S. government is expected to announce plans to dispatch 20-30 special operations military advisers to Syria to assist forces combating the Islamic State. The advisers will reportedly support air operations against the group through training and coordination efforts. It is unclear which groups they will be working with, although one official said they would work primarily with Kurdish fighters and groups with a proven record against the Islamic State. Another U.S. official said the move would not change Washington’s overall strategy in Syria.

On Oct. 30, for the first time in recent history, Iran and the United States are publicly sitting down at the same negotiating table to discuss something other than the Iranian nuclear issue. This is the new normal for the Middle East.

Despite Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s repeated warnings that Iran cannot trust the United States in discussions beyond the nuclear issue, the reality is that the nuclear deal was merely the stepping stone to a much broader strategic dialogue. This dialogue has already been underway on a tactical level, hidden from the public eye in Iraq, where the United States is reluctantly deepening its military involvement and where Iran-backed Shiite militias are leading the fight against Islamic State on Baghdad’s behalf. Washington and Tehran have also conducted a backchannel discussion to feel out each other’s stance on shaping a political transition in Syria. Public engagement on an array of issues will only reinforce an unsettling reality for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states: They can no longer use an exclusive relationship with Washington to shape U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

This is not say that the multi-party meeting in Vienna counts as a diplomatic break-through on Syria. Russian and Iranian reinforcement of pro-government forces in Syria has created only more incentive for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan to fortify their support for their favored rebel groups to try to even out the playing field. This creates an even bigger dilemma for Washington, which has its hands full trying to deny Russia the diplomatic spotlight in engineering a Syria negotiation while restraining Gulf Arab states from supplying rebels with man-portable air defense systems. The United States is also working with the Turks to coordinate an offensive involving passably moderate rebels against the Islamic State west of the Euphrates, while simultaneously managing Turkish outrage over U.S. support for Kurdish rebels to the east. Notably, no rebel representatives will be present at the meeting in Vienna; so long as Russia continues to target rebel factions in support of the loyalists, there is little chance of credible rebel factions coming to the table.

Then there is the question of what to do about Syrian President Bashar al Assad. All parties in Vienna have more or less acquiesced to Russia’s insistence that negotiations over a political transition in Damascus take place before al Assad is formally removed. But the military support from Russia and Iran, along with the negotiation process itself, is providing al Assad with a boost of legitimacy that may encourage him to stick around. Oman, the resident mediator of the region, had Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah meet with al Assad in Damascus on Oct. 26 following the president’s trip to Moscow. There are indications that Oman could provide the Syrian president with asylum as part of a transition plan. However, a Stratfor source claims that al Assad has also asked Oman to open up a backchannel to the White House. Uncomfortable with relying too heavily on Russia, the al Assad may be trying to feel out whether he has any room to engage directly with the United States in this negotiation and thereby regain some level of legitimacy with the West. To be sure, Washington is unlikely to show flexibility at this point when it comes to removing al Assad. Still, the alleged attempt to open a dialogue with the White House points to growing confidence by al Assad that he still has time and room to maneuver.

Even if the issue of al Assad’s amnesty were settled, the method of his removal would remain in question. If the method is elections, as Russia and Syria insist, then someone will first have to implement and enforce a cease-fire. Someone will also have to ensure that the vote is even remotely free and fair and involves as much of the rebel-held areas as those held by the loyalists. Then there is the not-so-small question of how to implement a cease-fire at a time when the Islamic State remains a major force on the battlefield, ready to take advantage of any openings in the fight to surge into new areas. Given that not a single credible rebel faction is at the negotiating table, as well as that most parties at the table are far more interested in fighting al Assad than the Islamic State, talk of a cease-fire is highly premature.

Few revelations of substance will come out of the discussions in Vienna, but the image of the United States and Iran negotiating openly on issues of mutual interest is one that everyone is still just getting used to.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* NZZ: Merkeldämmerung*

Die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel müsste zugeben, dass sie in der Flüchtlingskrise einen Fehler gemacht hat.

Es wäre ihr politisches Ende, aber dieses rückt auch so näher.

Gastkommentar: von Hans-Hermann Tiedje.

Es ist wenige Wochen her, dass die Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel der Welt signalisierte, Deutschland sei offen für alle, die Asyl begehrten. Sie sprach, völlig unkonditioniert: «Das Grundrecht auf Asyl kennt keine Obergrenze.» Das war der Schlüsselsatz für den Flüchtlingsstrom, der sich Richtung Bundesrepublik in Bewegung setzte. In der Unionsfraktion zur Rede gestellt, setzte Merkel noch einen drauf: «Ist mir egal, ob ich schuld am Zustrom der Flüchtlinge bin. Nun sind sie halt da.» Bei Anne Will, im Fernsehen, folgte dann die Einlassung, sie wolle jetzt nicht über Zahlen sprechen. Die Frage, warum nicht, wurde von der sonst souveränen Moderatorin leider nicht gestellt. Merkel indes wiederholte ihr Mantra: «Wir schaffen das.»

Dies nur zur Erinnerung, wer wann wie in Mitteleuropa die Flüchtlingsströme Richtung Deutschland gelenkt hat. Es war nicht der serbische Ministerpräsident Aleksandar Vučić. Der rät den Deutschen, die Mittel für echte oder falsche Flüchtlinge zu kürzen, um die Anreize zu verkleinern. Vučić spricht ganz offen von vielen «falschen Flüchtlingen». Es war übrigens auch nicht Ungarns umstrittener Ministerpräsident Viktor Orban, das Hassobjekt der öffentlichen deutschen Empörungsindustrie. So unangenehm sich das anhört: Orban wendet geltendes Europarecht an, um seine Grenzen zu schützen. Merkel verletzt genau dieses, nicht zum ersten Mal. In dieser Frage schuldet Angela Merkel Europa seit langem eine Erklärung.

Denn es war Merkel, die – kaum drei Monate ist das her – Griechenland unter Verweis auf europäische Verabredungen in die Knie zwang. Der griechische Ministerpräsident Tsipras soll, so die Erwartung, vertragstreu handeln, während die deutsche Kanzlerin für sich Sonderrechte oder Notstandsrechte in Anspruch nimmt, ohne sich vorher in Europa abzustimmen.

Der Lack ist ab

Eine erste Bilanz beweist: Die vergangenen sechs Wochen haben nicht nur Europa verändert, sie haben auch die Kräfteverhältnisse in Europa verändert. Aus der «mächtigsten Frau der Welt» wurde über Nacht eine internationale Bittstellerin. Während die Kanzlerin ihrem Land business as usual vorspielt – einmal Gewerkschaftskongresse besucht, einmal Regionalkonferenzen der CDU abhält –, ist in den Augen der meisten europäischen Staatschefs der Lack bei ihr ab. Sie können und wollen nicht hinnehmen, wie Merkel sich verhält. Schon heute steht fest: Am deutschen Wesen wird die Welt einmal mehr nicht genesen.

Frau Merkel ist angezählt. Zehn Jahre lang hat sie sich den türkischen Wünschen Richtung Europa erfolgreich verweigert – jetzt ist sie umgefallen. Wie anders soll man ihren Hofknicks vor Staatschef Erdogan, dem Sultan von Ankara, sonst bewerten? Was immer mit Erdogan noch vereinbart wird – es läuft hinaus auf einen demütigenden Deal mit einem Mann, der es mit der Demokratie angeblich nicht so genau nimmt und deshalb im Kreise der europäischen lupenreinen Demokraten bisher eher unerwünscht war. Wie schön für Erdogan obendrein, dass die Deutsche mitten im Wahlkampf kommen musste – mehr Amtshilfe geht nicht. Womit wir bei Putin sind: Vor kaum zehn Monaten musste Russlands Präsident beim G-8-Gipfel von Australien am Katzentisch Platz nehmen, was seine vorzeitige Abreise zur Folge hatte. Asad-Versteher Putin wurde von Merkel und ihrem Adlaten, Frankreichs Staatschef François Hollande, mit Wirtschaftssanktionen bedacht, Einreiseverbote wurden verhängt, Konten wurden gesperrt. Das von Putin auf die Tagesordnung gesetzte Thema Ukraine/Krim wurde zum Inbegriff der Völkerrechtsverletzung stilisiert, die Ost-Interessen der deutschen Wirtschaft wurden lässig beiseitegeschoben.

Putin, eben noch von US-Präsident Barack Obama zum Chef einer «Regionalmacht» befördert, ist genau wie Erdogan über Nacht zum Hoffnungsträger mutiert. Vielleicht gelingt dem Russen ja, was Obama nie ernsthaft versucht hat, genauso wenig wie übrigens das Europa von Juncker, Martin Schulz und Merkel: eine Entscheidung in Syrien zu erzwingen, die dann – so oder so – den Flüchtlingsstrom zum Erliegen bringt. Erdogans Unterstützung, Putins Erfolg, weitere Massnahmen in Südeuropa – all das ist für Deutschland unerlässlich. Vor allem aber ist es unerlässlich für das politische Überleben von Angela Merkel.

Wie auch die Stimmungslage im Land. Die Stimmung kippt, jeden Tag mehr. Daran ändern auch merkwürdige Meinungsumfragen und Durchhalteparolen wenig. Hajo Friedrichs, herausragender deutscher Fernsehmoderator, hat sich unsterblich gemacht mit diesem Satz: «Einen guten Journalisten erkennt man daran, dass er sich nicht gemein macht mit einer Sache, auch nicht mit einer guten.» Wenn Friedrichs das noch miterlebt hätte, was seine Medien, vor allem das Fernsehen, heute veranstalten: Empörung, Betroffenheit, Moralin morgens, mittags, abends, nachts. Das Ausblenden der Realitäten in Flüchtlingslagern, jeden Tag 10 000 neue Flüchtlinge, von denen die Hälfte entweder gar keine sind – oder Analphabeten oder künftig Fälle für die Sozialkassen. Auslöser für diese katastrophale Lage in Deutschland ist genau jene Person, die geschworen hat, Schaden vom deutschen Volk abzuwenden. Es ist schon eine intellektuelle Zumutung, glauben zu sollen, die Kanzlerin habe nicht geahnt, was ihre Selfies mit Asylbewerbern auslösen: noch mehr Asylbewerber. Die Bilder fliegen in Sekunden um die Welt, bis in den hintersten Winkel, also auch nach Eritrea, Nigeria und in den Sudan. Die Botschaft: In Deutschland wird man herzlich begrüsst, speziell von der Bundeskanzlerin. Merkel äusserte sich dazu wie immer, wenn es eng wird, patzig: «Wenn man in der Flüchtlingskrise kein freundliches Gesicht zeigen darf, ist das nicht mein Land.» Für viele Deutsche ist das Land Merkels in der Tat nicht mehr ihr Land. Politikverdrossenheit und Politikerverachtung nehmen zu, täglich. Während sich viele Medien diesbezüglich am sächsisch-thüringischen Phänomen Pegida abarbeiten – einer insgesamt ebenso schmuddeligen wie abstossenden Veranstaltung vieler politisch heimatloser Richtungssuchender, deutschtümelnd, Wirkungsstätte und Jagdrevier für Neonazis –, lautet die entscheidende Frage doch: Wer hat uns das alles eingebrockt?

Denn: Pegida ist eine Antwort, wenn auch eine unerfreuliche, aber Pegida ist nicht die Ursache des Desasters. Schuld sind auch nicht die von Amtswegen überlasteten und überforderten Behörden, schuld sind nicht Journalisten mit Karl-May-artigen Überschriften wie «Mehr Balkan wagen» («Die Zeit») oder wortkonfuse Idealistinnen wie die Sängerin Sarah Connor, die, nachdem sie hoffentlich nun endlich den Text der deutschen Nationalhymne beherrscht, eine syrische Mutter mit fünf Kindern aufnahm. Dafür ist Frau Connor zu loben.

Nein, die Schuld liegt auch nicht bei denen, die ihre Chance wahrnehmen. Was würde jeder von uns tun, wenn er in einem Trümmerfeld lebte, Hunger hätte und von einer warmen Mahlzeit träumte? Mit den Flüchtlingsmassen, die dem deutschen Winter entgegenfrieren, kann man nur Mitleid haben. Ursächlich für das alles ist der Politikstil, der in der weiten Welt mit Aufmerksamkeit registriert wurde. Laut Thilo Sarrazin, Autor des Megasellers «Deutschland schafft sich ab», oszilliert die deutsche Politik derzeit «zwischen irre und verantwortungslos». Stefan Aust, der langjährige «Spiegel»-Chef, stellte in der «Welt» soeben fest: Merkel verkauft Untätigkeit als Politik.

Das Desaster ist nicht wie ein Schicksalsschlag über uns gekommen, und das wissen die Menschen in Deutschland. Neben Merkel gibt es noch einen zweiten Hauptschuldigen: Innenminister Thomas de Maizière, der viel zu lange schwieg und viel zu wenig unternahm. Unter normalen Umständen wäre er schon lange nicht mehr im Amt. Denn wie kann es sein, dass der verantwortliche Innenminister eines Landes wie Deutschland bis vor wenigen Monaten von 200 000 Asylbewerbern spricht und dann über Nacht von 800 000, woraus inzwischen eine Prognose von mehr als einer Million für dieses Jahr wurde? Wenn das kein Politikversagen ist – was ist dann Politikversagen?

Aber auch linke und insbesondere grüne Landes- und Regionalpolitiker sollten ihre Hände besser nicht in Unschuld waschen. Für Abschiebungen – Hunderttausende wären nach geltendem Recht fällig – sind die Bundesländer zuständig. Dort sind oft jene Zeitgenossen ausschlaggebend, denen der Asylbewerber vom Balkan (also ohne Bleibe-Perspektive) nähersteht als der deutsche Steuerzahler, dessen Wut auch deshalb täglich zunimmt. Wie einer aus der Verantwortungsfalle herauszukommen versucht, sieht man in Baden-Württemberg, wo der grüne Ministerpräsident Kretschmann (in wenigen Monaten ist Wahl) zu überraschenden Abschiebe-Aktivitäten aufgebrochen ist.

Deutschland hat sich unterdessen auseinanderzusetzen mit bitteren Wahrheiten. Die bitterste: Die Kanzlerin, die zehn Jahre die Politik dominiert hat, erweist sich als komplett überfordert. «Wir schaffen das», wiederholt sie gebetsmühlenartig. Wir schaffen was? Mehr als eine wohlfeile Parole ist das nicht. Wie konnte sie alles das zulassen? Die Deutungen sind vielfältig. Einige meinen, Merkel strebe mittelfristig nach New York, auf den Posten des Uno-Generalsekretärs Ban Ki Moon, und empfehle sich der Weltöffentlichkeit als «Mutter Angela». Das dürfte sich dann angesichts des Chaos in Europa erledigt haben. Andere glauben, Merkel habe immer ein eigenes Projekt gewollt. So wie Adenauer einst die Westbindung, Erhard die Soziale Marktwirtschaft, Brandt die Ostpolitik, Kohl die deutsche Einheit und die europäische Union und Schröder die Agenda 2010. Da sei ihr das Flüchtlingsthema gerade recht gekommen.

Falls das so war, dann ist es ihr komplett auf die Füsse gefallen. Seit Wochen ist Angela Merkel in den Umfragen im Sinkflug. Beliebt noch bei grünen Menschheitsrettern, dem Philosophen Habermas und dem indischstämmigen TV-Populärphysiker Ranga Yogeshwar. Immer ungeliebter in der eigenen Partei, auch wenn CDU-Funktionäre öffentlich anders reden. Deutsche Landräte, auch von der SPD, fragt man derzeit besser gar nicht. Apropos: Die deutsche Sozialdemokratie steckt auch mit drin im Schlamassel. Mitgefangen, mitgehangen. Parteichef Gabriel, der sich klugerweise Pegida-Sprecher einmal persönlich angehört hat, darf jetzt miterleben, wie der Innenminister de Maizière, der die Misere mitzuverantworten hat, Pegida öffentlich auf Nazi-Niveau erhöht. Aber die SPD hat eben auch nicht nur Politiker vom intellektuellen Mass eines Ralf Stegner, sondern ebenso handfeste Landräte und Bürgermeister und Kommunalpolitiker vom Schlage eines Heinz Buschkowsky, denen das Flüchtlingsfiasko täglich vor Augen steht.

Was Frau Merkel früher so perfekt gelang: die Abwesenheit von Politik als Politik zu verkaufen und dadurch die Republik zu entpolitisieren – jetzt funktioniert diese Masche nicht mehr. Deutschland ist quasi über Nacht hoch politisiert. Merkels Definition von der Christlich-Demokratischen Union als «liberal, christlichsozial und konservativ» erweist sich als Fehleinschätzung. Als Parteichefin müsste sie es besser wissen: Die CDU ist eine konservative Partei, die in Teilen auch liberal und sozial ist. Vor allen Dingen ist es immer noch – auch nach 16 Jahren unter Merkel – eine Partei der christlichen Werte und Wurzeln.

Belastungsgrenze des Staates

Die Menschen im Land haben angesichts der muslimischen Flüchtlingsmassen Fragen: Wie gehen wir mit unseren Frauen um? Wie stehen wir zum Staat Israel? Wie tolerant sind wir gegenüber Andersgläubigen? Wie viel ist uns unsere Verfassung wert? CDU-Wähler hätten gerne, dass die angeblichen oder tatsächlichen Flüchtlinge darauf einen Schwur ablegten, am besten schon bei der Ankunft – dann wären sie willkommen. Denn Asylbewerber sind nicht an sich und als solche willkommen, wie Frau Merkel offenbar glaubt. Ihr Satz «Das Grundrecht auf Asyl kennt keine Obergrenze» ist nicht nur weltfremd, er ist verantwortungslos wegen der Botschaft, die in ihm steckt. Natürlich gibt es auch im Asylrecht eine Grenze, und zwar die Belastungsgrenze des Staates. So einfach ist es. Dass Angela Merkel dieses nicht (mehr) auszusprechen imstande ist, zeigt, wie weit sie sich entfernt hat von ihren Wählern. Diese würden gerne einmal hören, wie Deutschland 2020 aussehen soll oder 2025 oder 2030.Was ist das Ziel, was ist der Plan? Stattdessen hören sie, wie die Kanzlerin mit beleidigtem Unterton einer höflichen und ernsthaften Fragestellerin, die sich wegen des massenhaften Zuzugs von Muslimen sorgte, riet, es wäre gut, wenn die Christen wieder öfter in Kirche gingen. Aha. Das haben die Christen in Syrien auch getan. Viele von ihnen leben nicht mehr.

Zurück zu den Ursachen von Politikverdrossenheit und Politikerverachtung. Eben noch wurde den deutschen Steuerzahlern und Wählern erzählt, für Lohnerhöhungen, Strassenbau und Kitas sei kein Geld mehr da. Und kaum trafen die ersten Flüchtlingszüge ein, war wieder Geld da. Wie soll das einer verstehen, der an den Staat glaubt? Wie soll einer die täglichen Sozialfloskeln von Politikern bewerten, nach dem Motto: «Sie haben doch nichts gegen Flüchtlinge, oder?» und: «Mit der Integration machen Sie sich bitte keine Sorgen, das wird schon klappen.»

Die Wähler aber machen sich Sorgen, und sie haben ihre täglichen Erfahrungen mit dem Thema Integration. Bei drei Millionen Türken in Deutschland hat sie geklappt, wenn auch erst nach drei Generationen in jedem zweiten Fall. Die deutschen Vorzeigetürken im Fernsehen sind schön und erfreulich, allerdings sind sie nicht die Einzigen. Die Integration von Millionen Algeriern in Frankreich hat zu den weltbekannten Banlieues geführt. Und jetzt laufen durch die deutschen Medien landauf, landab die Laschets und Ramelows und Haseloffs und Sellerings und verkünden: Diesmal klappt es mit der Integration. Auch hier sind Hoffnung und Glauben stärker als die Fakten.

Was aber weiss die Kanzlerin noch von den Sorgen der Menschen? Spürt sie nicht, dass sich grosse Teile der Unionswähler abwenden? Manche noch unbemerkt, manche noch leise. Aber man möchte gar nicht hören, was da herumtelefoniert wird zwischen den Würdenträgern und Mitgliedern der Partei. Angesichts der Sätze, die Frau Merkel sprach und die sie nie wieder zurückholen kann. Sie müsste vor ihre Bevölkerung treten und drei Sätze sagen: «Ich habe einen Fehler gemacht. Ich habe einen Milliardenschaden angerichtet. Ich bitte um Verzeihung.» Das wäre ihr politisches Ende, aber auch so rückt es näher.

Angela Merkel scheint immer noch keine Konkurrenz zu haben, aber das ist falsch. Wenn Finanzminister Schäuble nicht mehr mitmacht, dann zerbricht das System Merkel. Schäuble ist ein badischer Preusse, pflichtbewusst, korrekt, sparsam. Geduldig. Aber wenn für Schäuble das Mass voll ist, dann wird er gefährlich. Helmut Kohl und Iannis Varoufakis können das bestätigen. Noch macht Schäuble gute Miene. Und wann zieht er den Stecker raus?

Hans-Hermann Tiedje war Chefredakteur von «Bild» und persönlicher Berater von Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl; heute ist er Aufsichtsratschef der Kommunikationsagentur WMP EuroCom AG in Berlin.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* STRATFOR: Germany Tests the Waters With Russia*

Germany sent a signal Wednesday that it is rethinking its relationship with Russia, when Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The visit’s official purpose was to discuss bilateral trade, but since trade is linked to EU sanctions on Russia, the meeting suggests that Berlin is looking for ways to modify or even lift the current punitive measures against Moscow. However, such a decision would probably create friction between Germany and most Central and Eastern European countries, which means that Berlin is still not ready for a formal change of direction.

Before Gabriel’s visit to Moscow, the German Ministry of Economy issued a news release focusing primarily on bilateral trade. According to the statement, during the first half of 2015, German exports to Russia contracted by 31.5 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Russia is only Germany’s 13th most important exports destination, but at a time when Europe’s economic recovery is still fragile and China’s growth is slowing, Berlin probably thinks it needs to diversify its exports as much as possible. The EU sanctions against Moscow make exporting goods to Russia complicated. In addition, Germany and Russia had planned to increase trade before the crisis, with talks for trains, chemical plants and other projects on the table.

Gabriel’s visit happens only three months before the European Union has to decide whether to extend, expand or lift its economic sanctions against Russia. Germany may think it has reasons to push for a softer stance on Moscow. In recent months, the situation in Ukraine has become relatively stable, with only sporadic cease-fire violations. There were no major security breaches during Ukraine’s regional elections this past weekend (though certain parts of eastern Ukraine did not vote), and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic recently started the second stage of withdrawing light weaponry.

Germany is also interested in improving its ties with Russia for energy. On Oct. 8, Gabriel met with Gazprom’s CEO in Berlin to discuss new infrastructure projects for Russian natural gas, including an expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline……


The Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding,the_centre,about_us.html

The Transatlantic Forum on Russia

Friday, Nov 13, 2015 | 8:30 am – 2:30 pm

CSIS and the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding are pleased to invite you to attend:


8:00 am: Registration and Light Breakfast

8:30 am: Welcome Remarks by

Ms. Heather A. Conley
Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, CSIS

Dr. Sławomir Dębski
Director, Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding

8:45 am: Introduction to the Panel

Professor Adam Daniel Rotfeld
Co-Chairman, Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Matters (Invited)

9:15am: Panel I: False history if the mother of false politics: history as a means of Russian foreign policy


Dr. Andrzej Nowak
Professor, Jagiellonian University, Cracow (Confirmed)

Dr. Timothy Snyder
Professor, Yale University (Confirmed)

Dr. Andrei Zubov
Professor (Confirmed)

Moderated by

Dr. Sławomir Dębski
Director, Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding

11:15 am: Coffee Break

11:30 am: Panel II: If George Kennan wrote the Long Telegram today, what would it say?


Dr. Ulrich Speck
Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Academy (Confirmed)

Ms. Olga Oliker
Senior Advisor and Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS (Confirmed)

Dr. Marek Menkiszak
Head of the Russian Department, Centre for Eastern Studies (Invited)

Moderated by

Ms. Heather A. Conley
Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, CSIS

1:30 pm: Buffet Lunch

2:00 pm: Luncheon Keynote Address


Professor Walter Russell Mead
James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities, Bard College (Confirmed)

2:30 pm: Concluding Remarks

Please join us for the fourth joint conference of CSIS and the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding (CPRDU), entitled, "Transatlantic Forum on Russia." Since 2012 CSIS and CPRDU have partnered to examine the impact of Polish-Russian reconciliation and its wider regional and transatlantic implications. Significant structural cracks in Europe’s security architecture – crafted at the end of the Second World War and refined by the Helsinki Final Act – have appeared since Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea and its incursions into eastern Ukraine. As a result, the principal challenge to the transatlantic community is to formulate a new foreign policy approach towards Russia. Our expert panelists will discuss the nature and scope of this new policy while considering historical relations between Russia and the West.

This conversation is made possible by support from the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding.

This event will be ON the record.


Russia Begins Talks With Egypt on Helicopters, Equipment For Mistrals*

Russia and Egypt have begun consultations on the purchase and management of a communication system and Ka-52K helicopters for Mistral-type warships, a high-ranking source in the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said on Monday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said Russia would supply equipment and helicopters worth over $1 billion to Egypt for their Mistral helicopter carriers. “The negotiations with Egypt took place, consultations with the country are in process. They have expressed a desire to acquire Russian equipment, including helicopters,” the source told RIA Novosti. According to the source, it is yet unclear how many helicopters Cairo would acquire.

© Sputnik/ Sergey Pivovarov

Russian Company Ready to Supply Helicopter Equipment for Egypt’s Mistrals

Cairo and Paris signed a contract in October for the purchase of two French-made Mistral-class helicopter carriers originally built for Russia.

Egypt emerged as France’s replacement customer for the Mistrals in September, after Paris and Moscow formally terminated a 2011 deal on construction and delivery of the two ships. In November 2014, France had suspended the contract, citing Moscow’s alleged participation in the Ukrainian conflict as a reason to terminate the deal. The Russian equipment for the Mistrals is due to be returned to Moscow by November 21.


FES-Papier: Zum Wert gleicher Lebensverhältnisse*

Gleichwertige Lebensverhältnisse sind nichts für Sonntagsreden

Deutschland driftet trotz anhaltend guter Konjunktur auseinander. Die wirtschaftlich starken hängen die peripheren Regionen ab, zumal die schwächeren durch Abwanderung, Arbeitslosigkeit und neuerdings auch der Versorgung von Flüchtlingen drohen, überfordert zu werden. Das verfassungsrechtliche Gebot der Schaffung gleichwertiger Lebensverhältnisse kann schlicht nicht eingelöst werden. Zeit für einen dringenden Appell an die Politik, ihrer Verantwortung gerecht zu werden.

Denn wie die Autor_innen Claudia Neu, Jens Kersten und Berthold Vogel anmerken, repräsentiert der Wert der gleichen Lebensverhältnisse ein zentrales Prinzip des sozialen Rechtsstaates. Gleichheit und Zusammenhalt sind keine politischen Bonusleistungen, sondern die Basis für gesellschaftliches Zusammenleben und demokratische Teilhabe.

Zu den Autoren

Prof. Dr. Jens Kersten lehrt öffentliches Recht und Verwaltungswissenschaften an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in München.

Prof. Dr. Claudia Neu lehrt Allgemeine Soziologie an der Hochschule Niederrhein in Mönchengladbach.

Prof. Dr. Berthold Vogel ist Direktor des Soziologischen Forschungsinstituts (SOFI) an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen und Soziologe am Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung.




German, Chinese Major Stock Exchanges Create Joint Venture*
Germany’s biggest exchange operator Deutsche Borse Group announced on Thursday that it has established a joint venture together with the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) and the China Financial Futures Exchange (CFFEX). AFP 2015/ STR.The new project, the China Europe International Exchange (CEINEX), will be a new marketplace for interbank products, renminbi-denominated currency and interest-rate trading.

"CEINEX will offer investment products based on Chinese underlyings to international investors, starting with cash market products like ETFs [exchange-traded funds] and bonds. All cash market instruments will be tradable via Xetra, Deutsche Borse’s established cash marketplace with approximately 200 participants," the German company said in a statement.

The agreement was signed in Beijing at a ceremony overseen by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China’s Premier Li Keqiang. The new partnership, based in Frankfurt, will be officially launched on November 18. Earlier in the day, Deutsche Boerse and the China Foreign Exchange Trade System signed a strategic cooperation agreement aimed at connecting both markets and developing new financial products. Deutche Boerse AG was founded in 1993. It operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.


Brookings: What the budding China-UK romance means for the global economy*

Editors’ Note: The United Kingdom is gradually becoming China’s best Western friend, Philippe Le Corre argues, though many uncertainties in the relationship still remain. This post is adapted from a piece originally published by Foreign Affairs.

From a Chinese perspective, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States was a disappointment , at least on the media front. Despite long planning by both countries’ officials, the trip was overshadowed by Pope Francis’s visit, Russia’s unexpected military intervention in the Syrian crisis, and the surprise resignation of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. In the end, American media overlooked many of the positive results of the visit, including the U.S.-Chinese renewed dialogue on climate change, an agreement on cybersecurity, and Xi’s reassuring speech to the U.S. business community on China’s economic reforms.

Despite the disappointment, all eyes are now focused on China’s current state visit: on October 20, Xi arrived in London at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth. His visit included the usual symbolic perks—a stay at Buckingham Palace, a ride in a royal carriage, and an address to the British Parliament—but his stay has also featured important trade and economic announcements, and has emphasized a new and unexpected honeymoon between two former enemies.

For the past two years, the United Kingdom has been cozying up to China in a way that has surprised even the Chinese. After all, it has been only 18 years since the British colony of Hong Kong was returned to China, following a century and half of Chinese humiliation. The long list of humiliations include the two Opium Wars, the ransacking of the old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860, and the United Kingdom’s “borrowing” of Chinese territories (which became foreign concessions), not to mention the cession and colonization of Hong Kong—a territory where certain public places were once forbidden to ethnic Chinese residents.

It is now fair to say that the United Kingdom is gradually becoming China’s best Western friend.

The relationship began to change in December 2013, when British Prime Minister David Cameron, accompanied by six of his ministers, led an impressive 120-member strong British business delegation to China which included the CEOS of Rolls-Royce, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Barclays, HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline, and Virgin, among other heavyweights. Calling for more Chinese investors in his country, Cameron declared: “I am not embarrassed that China is investing in British nuclear power, or has shares in Heathrow airport, or Thames Water, or Manchester airport. I think it’s a positive sign of economic strength that we are open and welcome to Chinese investment.” Last September, during a visit to China that took him as far as the western Xinjiang autonomous region, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne even proclaimed the advent of a “golden decade” in the Sino-British relationship.

It is now fair to say that the United Kingdom is gradually becoming China’s best Western friend. A few months ago, London was the first European country to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member, paving the way for Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, and other close U.S. allies to join and threatening Western-led financial institutions such as the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank. The United Kingdom is also helping China train some of its peacekeeping forces (in September, China has committed to stabilize a U.N. peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops) and has been sending numerous consultants to China in fields as diverse as finance, infrastructure management, higher education, and civil engineering.

China may not be looking for a European friend in London so much as a Western friend that can serve as one of the links to the United States.

Meanwhile, in less than five years, Britain has become Europe’s top destination for Chinese foreign direct investment ($16 billion in 2014). Chinese banks, such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the China Construction Bank, have been allowed to open branches in London. In southwest England, China is expected to finalize a £25 billion (almost $39 billion) contract to build the country’s first new nuclear power plant in 25 years. In this venture, China General Nuclear and the China National Nuclear Corporation will join forces with EDF, the French energy group that would be responsible for construction and operation. Huawei, a controversial Chinese telecommunication infrastructure company (which U.S. security agencies consider to be a potential threat to national security and a conduit for Chinese espionage), is now a major supplier to British Telecom. On a lighter note, the British retailer Marks & Spencer recently decided to open a flagship store in China. Chinese companies now hold a 9 percent share of Heathrow airport and a 9.5 percent share of Thames Water, through sovereign fund China Investment Corporation (CIC); they are also getting heavily involved in British rail and harbor facilities. Chinese firms have acquired smaller companies as well, such as Weetabix, Pizza Express, and Sunseekers, in addition to pursuing property deals in London worth billions of pounds.

There have been political dividends, and China is clearly appreciative of the UK’s rearrangement of priorities over the past year. In their visits to China, British politicians have publicly avoided controversial subjects, such as human rights, Tibet, or even the future of Hong Kong as a semi-autonomous region. Regarding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), whose president-designate Jin Liqun was recently at Brookings, Australia and South Korea are said to have decided to join the bank after the British announcement, which came as a surprise to Washington. Since the start of its open-door policy 37 years ago, China has also shown an astute knowledge of continental politics and a real aptitude for playing one European country against another. In the building of the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai in the early 1990s, for example, China played German interests against those of France by requesting more and more technology transfers from companies such as Siemens and Alstom (in the end, a Chinese consortium built the train line, with Siemens’ help).

Britain could possibly help China bring the United States closer to the negotiating table if the security situation in Asia Pacific were to deteriorate.

In the current circumstances, with Europe facing lingering currency troubles and a volatile migration crisis, China may not be looking for a European friend in London so much as a Western friend that can serve as one of the links to the United States. Just as the United Kingdom served as a bridge between Americans and Europeans in the past, London is now aiming at playing such a role with China.

This will not be particularly easy for Britain, which has retreated somewhat from its global role. But China has other options within the EU: France was the first Western country to establish full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1964 and retains, as another permanent member of the U.N. Security council, a good relationship with Beijing. It is developing a new partnership with China on Africa and is also aiming to attract both Chinese tourists and investors. Germany is China’s top European economic partner and the two countries have developed a mature relationship fields such as automobile, transport, and, energy. China also increasingly considers Germany to be the leader of Europe and will welcome German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of October for her eighth official visit since 2005.

Although Germany has access to many of the technologies and industries that China wants and France has the post-colonial connections China needs in Africa, Britain can boast about its sought-after service industry, real estate, and finance sectors. Despite not being a member of the eurozone, London has been granted the privilege of becoming the first Renminbi trading platform. Chinese Treasury bonds in RMB will soon be issued in London, which will pave the way to the internationalization of the Chinese currency.

Given these links, Britain could possibly help China bring the United States closer to the negotiating table if the security situation in Asia Pacific were to deteriorate as Beijing becomes more assertive, especially in the South China Sea. Can it succeed? The so-called special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom began to fray during the Iraq war, when Washington discovered that it could no longer rely on London to make its voice heard in Europe. At the time, Germany and France clearly rejected the U.S. decision to invade Iraq—and many would now say they were right. Will the United Kingdom be any better at convincing the United States to enhance its strategic dialogue with China than it was at convincing Europe to back the Bush administration’s military intervention in 2003? The United States is worried about a rising China in the military field. Six months after the British sudden decision to join AIIB without seeking its advice, Washington has concerns about one of its key European and NATO allies, giving away some of its energy and telecommunication assets to Chinese enterprises.

China has between now and the British referendum on EU membership to find out. David Cameron may have proudly declared to the Chinese media that the United Kingdom was “uniquely placed to make the case for deepening the European Union’s trade and investment relationship with China,” but the truth of that statement remains to be seen. Like the rest of the world, China is aware that the next twelve or fifteen months could see a British exit from the EU, which would lose Britain much of its advantage over its European rivals. If that was to be the case, Germany and France, who have also been baffled by Britain’s pro-China stance, would be ready to step in.



moderated by Srecko Velimirovic *

Serbia to Take Part in NATO Drills With Russian Weapons

As Serbia has signed an agreement with Moscow to buy Russian weapons, Serbian soldiers are preparing to participate in US-led NATO drills. Serbia’s policy of balancing between Russia and the West is due the country’s doctrine of military neutrality adopted in 2007. However, experts say that sooner or later Belgrade will have to choose a side.

During his visit to Moscow, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic reached an agreement with Moscow on the purchase of Russian weapons. At the same time, Serbian troops are getting ready to participate in a NATO military exercise in Germany.

Experts say military ties with Russia will not endanger Serbia’s European perspective, but warn that balancing between Moscow and the West cannot be a long-term policy.

Serbia’s decision to buy Russian arms will not be a great concern for the EU as Serbian officials have repeatedly said that EU membership remains the strategic goal, Zoran Dragisic, a security studies professor in Belgrade, told Balkan Insight.

"Serbian officials have told the same thing to their Russian partners. However, Serbia is not a member of the EU at the moment and is trying to sit in two chairs. I do not think it is possible in the long run," he said.

Military analyst Aleksandar Radic also said that the purchase of Russian weapons by Serbia is unlikely to worsen relations with the West.

"There is no need to think it will worsen our relations with the EU because Serbia cooperates with NATO a lot more than it does with Russia when it comes to military drills and equipment," Radic was quoted as saying by Balkan Insight.

According to Vucic, Serbia intends to buy Russian weapons and military equipment to maintain "a security balance" in the region, after Croatia purchased new military hardware.

However, Vucic underscored that Serbia will not buy offensive weapons.

© AP Photo/ Geert Vanden Wijngaert

NATO Hopes to Return to Constructive Cooperation With Russia – Russia can be key to solving [international] problems but it depends on the decisions that Russia makes," Vershbow said.

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Russian and Serbian officials signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow Russia to intensify its arms supplies to Serbia.

At the same time, nearly 100 Serbian infantry troops are getting ready to take part in a US-led NATO drill in Germany. Soldiers from Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro and Slovenia will also join the exercise.

Not everyone believes that new military deals with Russia are good for Serbia, the article read.

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, a Belgrade think tank, urged the Serbian government not to sign any economic agreement with Moscow which could violate Western anti-Russian sanctions imposed over the Ukrainian crisis. Such agreement would endanger the negotiation process on Serbia’s EU membership.

"One should not forget that even some NATO country members, which were the members of the Warsaw pact, still have Russian weapons as well. Replacing the weapons is an expensive and timely process. Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic have yet to do so, therefore no one can expect Serbia to do it," Dragisic told Balkan Insight.

In 2007, Serbia adopted a military neutrality doctrine, and the government has no plans to change it.Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic said the Serbian army tries to run a balanced policy of military and international cooperation. "We have had joint exercises with the Russians and with NATO, and our military personnel underwent training programs both in Russia and in the US," Gasic told the Serbian daily Blic in August. However, Dragisic underscored that cannot be a long-term policy. "We will soon find ourselves in a situation where we will have to clearly choose sides," he concluded.



New York Times: New U.S.-Backed Alliance to Counter ISIS in Syria Falters *

Untangling the Overlapping Conflicts in the Syrian War


What started as a popular uprising against the Syrian government four years ago has become a proto-world war with nearly a dozen countries embroiled in two overlapping conflicts:


EIN EISSA, Syria — Weeks after the Obama administration canceled a failed Pentagon program to train and arm Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State, American officials announced a new effort to equip newly named ground forces in Syria to fight the jihadists.But 10 days of interviews and front-line visits across northern Syria with many of the forces in the alliance made clear that so far it exists in name only, and that the political and logistical challenges it faces are daunting.

One Arab commander, sitting near the earthen wall that separates this deserted town in Syria from the Islamic State’s front line, bitterly recalled being chased from his Syrian hometown by the jihadists and said he would do anything to reclaim that territory. But then he detailed a list of things his forces needed: ammunition, radios, heavy weapons and more American airstrikes.

“This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means,” he said, pointing to a fighter in broken boots, tattered fatigues and a dirty sweatshirt that read “Skateboarding ruined my life.”

Beyond the early logistical factors, the new alliance faces what is perhaps a more serious challenge in the long term: Though it is intended to begin clawing back territory from the Islamic State in mostly Arab areas, nearly all of the group’s fighting power comes from ethnic Kurdish militias.

That demographic reality is likely to further alarm Turkey, a vital American ally that considers Kurdish autonomy near its southern border a security threat. It also limits the forces’ ability to strike the jihadists in predominantly Arab communities — Kurdish fighters have less motivation to fight for those areas, and could deeply anger residents by doing so.

“The backbone of these forces are the Kurdish groups because of their experience fighting ISIS and their numbers,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman for Syria’s dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G. But he talked about how that could be a limiting factor in fighting for cities like Raqqa, the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria: “We have to be realistic that the Y.P.G. can’t go by itself into Raqqa, or people will say, ‘What are you doing there?’ ”

A newly appointed spokesman for the alliance briefed reporters in Syria beneath a yellow banner bearing its name in Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian. But the meeting took place inside a Kurdish militia facility because the alliance does not have its own bases yet, nor flags to put on its cars or a defined command structure, said the spokesman, Talal Sillu.

The combined force is to be commanded by a six-person military council, Mr. Sillu said. But he acknowledged that only one member had been selected so far — Mr. Sillu himself.

Last week, President Obama announced plans to deploy dozens of Special Operations troops to support the new alliance. And before that, American officials said 50 tons of ammunition had been airdropped for Arab fighters with the new group.

But already, things have not always gone as planned. Since the ammunition airdrop, American officials have privately acknowledged that the Arab units it was intended for did not have the logistical capability to move it. So, again, the Kurds were called to help.

An array of smaller groups have allied with the Kurds, including Arab and Turkmen rebels, Christian militias and Bedouin fighters loyal to a sheikh who considered the Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi a friend.

While these groups hate the Islamic State, most are small, and some have been repeatedly routed by the very jihadists the United States now hopes they will defeat.

While the Kurds have become used to securing territory, with uniformed forces and a clear chain of command, their Arab allies often leave teenagers with Kalashnikovs at checkpoints who stop and release cars at random, scaring drivers.

A commander of one Arab group lamented that while Kurdish commanders could simply order their fighters to move, he could only make suggestions and hope his men complied.

Some of the alliance’s forces have cooperated before, but relations are not always smooth. The Kurdish military strength in the area means that Kurds set the agenda, and many clearly look down on their Arab partners.

For their part, Arab rebel fighters say they worry about their partners’ close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which the United States, Turkey and others list as a terrorist organization. They also distrust the motives of the thousands of Kurdish fighters who have come to Syria from Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

“ISIS brings foreign fighters for an Islamic State, while they bring foreign fighters for a Kurdish project,” said one Arab commander with the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade who goes by the name Abu Hamza. “But if that is how they think, they’ll fail.”

At another position near Ein Eissa, a swaggering Kurdish commander listed his militia’s victories against the Islamic State before acknowledging that he — like many of his fighters — was not Syrian. He was from Iran, and unabashed about being another foreign fighter in Syria’s civil war.

“I came to bring democracy, while ISIS came to kill,” said the commander, Gali Cilo. “That is the difference.”

The roots of the Syrian Democratic Forces lie in Syria’s northeast corner, a long-neglected region where most of Syria’s Kurdish minority lives alongside other ethnic groups in impoverished towns scattered among wheat fields dotted with aging oil wells.

While world attention since the Syria conflict began has focused on fighting between the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, Sunni rebels and the Islamic State, the Kurds have taken advantage of the chaos to carve out an autonomous zone.

Much of that has been done over the last year, as the Y.P.G. — the Kurdish abbreviation for the People’s Protection Units, the dominant Kurdish force in Syria — has closely coordinated with the United States and its allies to seize land from the Islamic State in a long strip along the Turkish border.

Evidence of the Kurdish group’s dominance is obvious. The militia runs ubiquitous checkpoints; photos of its “martyrs” adorn billboards; and its fighters hold most of the more than 280-mile-long front line with the Islamic State. Parts of it have come to resemble an international border, with deep trenches and high berms running for miles, lined with bright lights to prevent jihadist infiltrators. The whole line is dotted with heavily sandbagged positions to protect against machine gun and mortar attacks by the jihadists.

A senior United States military official said the United States had encouraged the Kurdish militia to create an umbrella group that would make more sense to an international audience, and Kurdish leaders decided to call it the Syrian Democratic Forces.

But the name of a subgroup of Arab brigades called the Syrian Arab Coalition was “an American invention,” the senior official acknowledged. It had about 5,000 fighters, and roughly 20 percent of them said they would defend their land but would not go on the offensive against the Islamic State.

The dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G., meanwhile, is believed to have about 40,000 fighters — including thousands from neighboring countries and many linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

“The Y.P.G. is a very effective fighting force, and it can do a lot,” said Barak Barfi, a research fellow at the New American Foundation, a policy group in Washington, who recently spent time with Kurdish units in Syria. “But these Arab groups are weak and just a fig leaf for the Y.P.G.”

The alliance sought to help the Kurds by dampening fear among Arabs of Kurdish domination, and the United States hoped it would play down its close relationship with the Kurds so as not to alarm Turkey, Mr. Barfi said.

But the alliance itself has internal tensions.

“There is no deep-rooted alliance between these groups; this is a shifting, tactical alliance,” Mr. Barfi said.

The motivations of the Kurds’ allies varied. Some lived in Kurdish majority areas, so attached themselves to the dominant power. Others had lost their communities to the Islamic State and hoped that Kurdish military might help them go home.

“What is important for us is to protect our area, and the security of our children, our homes and our women,” said Sheikh Hmeidi Daham al-Jarba, whose Arab tribal militia, the Sanadeed Forces, has joined the alliance. “We have the Kurds on one side and ISIS on the other, so who should we choose?”

Seated in the vast reception hall of his five-story palace, Sheikh Hmeidi said his tribesmen, living in a collection of poor farming and herding villages, formed an armed group in 2011 when rebels attacked their area.

The sheikh’s son, Bandar, the force’s military commander, said they would consider fighting the Islamic State elsewhere but needed support. Many of his fighters had sold land to buy ammunition, he said.

At a front-line position on the road to Raqqa, Abu Hamza of the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade explained his group’s long path to its alliance with the Kurds.

It had formed in Raqqa Province in 2011 to fight Mr. Assad’s forces, sometimes alongside Islamist rebels including the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda. For awhile, they even fought against the Kurds.

But early last year, Islamic State militants kicked his men out of the city of Raqqa, and then out of a nearby village. So they sought refuge with the Kurds.

Four years of fighting had worn them down. Scores of their colleagues had been killed, and the group had to blow up two valuable tanks it had captured from the Syrian government so that Islamic State militants would not take them.

Now, Abu Hamza said, they hoped their alliance with the Kurdish forces would let them get back at the jihadists, and perhaps open a new line of support.

“We need uniforms, we need ammunition, we need everything,” he said.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.



see our letter on:

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



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