Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 20/11/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· Tarek Heggy: Middle East Countries Need Imposed Order, Discipline and Modern Education

· Searching for a Syrian Solution * Brookings *Kerry’s counterproductive Syria strategy.

· The Paris Attacks Will Have Far-Reaching Effects * STRATFOR:After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning.

· Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder * Saudi Wells Running Dry — of Water — Spell End of Desert Wheat.

· U.S. Army War College: Arab Threat Perceptions and the Future of the U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East*

· Dr. Klaus Wittmann: Russland und der Westen – Gedanken für bessere Zeiten

· (Brookings) – Missing the point on migration: The EU-Africa summit.

· kremlin.ru: Meeting on Armed Forces development.

· Mass Graves of Yazidi Women Butchered by ISIL Unearthed in Iraq

· Russia, France Will Create Joint Work Group in Syria – General Staff

Henry Kissinger: Iran and the Way Forward in the Middle East: A Conversation with Henry Kissinger –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VMmnWuCneg

Massenbach* Tarek Heggy: Middle East Countries Need Imposed Order, Discipline and Modern Education

“More people come to realize that the worst thing could be is the collapse of the Syrian state and division of Syria into number of States. We have to work for democracy in the Middle East. Countries like Singapore and South Korea started with the imposed order, discipline and modern education. Only after that people learned to act democratically. The Middle East also needs imposed order, plans for economic development and good education system. Our understanding of religion is Medieval. We use religion instead of science.”

About Heggy: Tarek Heggy (Arabic: طارق حجى‎, IPA: [ˈtˤɑːɾˤeʔ ˈħeɡɡi]; born October 12, 1950) is an Egyptian liberal author, political thinker and international petroleum strategist. Heggy is one of Egypt’s more prominent authors on the subject of Egypt’s need for political reform.[1] His extensive writings advocate the values of modernity, democracy, tolerance, and women’s rights in the Middle East – advancing them as universal values essential to the region’s progress. He has lectured at universities throughout the world and various international institutions and think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Council on Foreign Relations. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarek_Heggy

See also: Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder –

http://carnegie-mec.org/2015/11/09/refugees-and-making-of-arab-regional-disorder/ilb0?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRouu6nBZKXonjHpfsX57esuUa6g38431UFwdcjKPmjr1YQJTcV0aPyQAgobGp5I5FEIQ7XYTLB2t60MWA%3D%3D

see also: NZZ – Warum die arabische Welt einen Marshall-Plan braucht

http://www.nzz.ch/meinung/debatte/warum-die-arabische-welt-einen-marshall-plan-braucht-1.18648197

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Russia is cooperating with the moderate Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army Syrian opposition is ready to launch an anti-ISIL operation if Russia provides air support.

King Salman has been impressed by Russia’s counterterrorism campaign in Syria so much that he is allegedly planning to come to Moscow before the year is out to "forge an alliance with Russia," Dr. Mordechai Kedar wrote for Arutz Sheva. ( Arutz Sheva: Israel News | Israel’s #1 News Site ) ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Kedar )

: U.S. Warplanes Strike ISIS Oil Trucks in Syria

NATO Welcomes Russia’s Participation in International Syria Settlement – "NATO strongly supports the initiative and new efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and I welcome that Russia is part of that, and I welcome is Russia is sitting down with many other nations to try to find a political solution," Stoltenberg told reporters. –http://sptnkne.ws/aew2

Russia used 34 cruise missiles during the strike on the terrorist targets in Syria. The members of the US-led coalition were informed about the operation in advance. Russia’s actions in Syria made it possible for Syrian army to begin an offensive against terrorists. http://sptnkne.ws/ae3w

Putin Orders MoD to Cooperate With French Naval Group “and work with them as allies.". http://sptnkne.ws/ae3K

"The entire border of northern Syria — 75 percent of it has now been shut off. And we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the other remaining 98 kilometers," Kerry said in an interview with CNN.

Mass Graves of Yazidi Women Butchered by ISIL Unearthed in Iraq- http://sptnkne.ws/aeNV

– Russia, France Will Create Joint Work Group in Syria – General Staff – http://sptnkne.ws/aeST

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(Brookings) – Missing the point on migration: The EU-Africa summit.

As the migration crisis in Europe drags on, European governments are facing growing pressure to pick up the pace on finding solutions. To that end, representatives of the European Union and African governments are meeting this week in Malta to discuss migration and economic development issues. But the summit likely won’t address the root causes of the migration crisis, many of which lie on the African continent itself.

[T]he Valletta summit will likely issue bold statements that are broadly beside the point.

Don’t just contain and return

A first challenge has to do with the fact that the Valletta summit will overwhelmingly focus on containing migratory pressures and repatriating migrants who have already made it to Europe. This is a priority that has been slowly creeping up the EU’s political agenda for a number of years. The magnitude of the recent migration crisis, however, has now concentrated minds and pushed European authorities to operationalize their policy proposals.

Regional Development and Protection Programmes (RDPPs) are one key tool. With a focus on North Africa and the Horn of Africa, they are aimed at offering support and protection to migrants and refugees in their host or transit countries. RDPPs do not, however, foster long-term development opportunities. Even worse, they risk turning temporary local host communities into permanent resettlement centers.

Another key tool is repatriation. EU member states are keen to make use of this instrument not least to address the rise in xenophobic sentiment across Europe. Sensing the opportunity to gain some political traction with member states, the European Commission has presented an EU Action Plan on Return. A significant part of that plan focuses on containing migrant flows and on repatriations—but that cannot and should not be the core of a comprehensive EU-Africa relationship.

Who’s there and who’s not

A second problem is that only a few countries on both sides of the Mediterranean are really engaging with the migration agenda. On the European side, Italy and France have undertaken important diplomatic initiatives to date and are members of the steering committees of both the Rabat and the Khartoum Processes. These provide a framework for a dialogue between the EU and Africa on migration issues. The former focuses on West Africa while the latter concentrates on East Africa.

On the African side, Morocco and Ethiopia play a prominent role. On the one hand, Morocco has been offered an ambitious Mobility Partnership that, once implemented, would regulate regular migration flows between the country and the EU. On the other hand, Ethiopia is to sign up to a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility with the EU in Valletta: This is a preliminary framework that should, in due time, lead to a Mobility Partnership, by which the EU would offer legal migration opportunities to Ethiopia in return for Ethiopia’s cooperation on preventing irregular migration.

Unfortunately, within this context, two key actors are missing: Algeria and Libya. The former is for now only an observer to the Rabat process while the latter’s participation is on hold due to domestic unrest and lack of an effective government. Algeria is pivotal due to its geographic positions between West Africa, the Sahel and the Mediterranean. Libya is the main point of departure for African migrants trying to cross the sea. Without these two players on board, it will be difficult to find sustainable solutions to the daily tragedies of the southern Mediterranean.

A gap between east and west

Started in 2006, the Rabat Process has given birth to an array of operational measures aimed at stopping illegal migration flows, opening regular migration channels, and institutionalizing cooperation between key stakeholders. Launched in 2014 and only in its early stages, the Khartoum Process provides the first framework to operationalize systematic cooperation on migration between East African countries and the European Union. Unfortunately, the good progress on these two initiatives doesn’t address the root causes of Africa’s migratory movements.

As a reservoir of desperation, the Sahel is the real story behind African migration.

Between east and west Africa, the Sahel Regional Action Plan is trying to contend with some truly exceptional challenges: an EU training mission following the wrapping up the French-led Operation Serval in Mali, the EUCAP mission in Niger, and Operation Barkhane across the whole region. As a reservoir of desperation, the Sahel is the real story behind African migration. Until it is peaceful and reasonably prosperous, migrants will keep travelling through it to reach the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it is also the region least likely to see short-term improvements.

The upcoming migration summit risks wasting a critical moment. The agenda of the EU-Africa Valletta summit this week shows that it is unlikely to address the root causes of the ongoing African dimension of the migration crisis. An excessive focus on containment and return policies, limited political engagement on behalf of too many stakeholders, and too little attention to the Sahel region might undermine efforts to address the migration challenge. In the end, the Valletta summit will likely issue bold statements that are broadly beside the point. In the midst of a crisis that threatens the cohesion and solidarity of the Union, the EU can hardly afford such a missed opportunity.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/11/10-eu-africa-summit-malta-garavoglia?rssid=Order+from+Chaos**********************************************************************************************************************

UvM – Don’t forget Latin America.

STRATFOR: The New Latin America –

By Reggie Thompson

Several years into a Chinese economic slowdown, the Latin American economies that relied on China to buy up their key exports are feeling the pain. With less hard currency coming in, governments across the region are rapidly readjusting their spending plans and preparing to govern in an environment in which they will have fewer resources to secure their key constituents‘ political loyalties.

The Role of Geography

Ever since commodity prices began dropping several years ago, much has been written about how slow economic growth and potential political instability will plague Latin America in coming years. But what will Latin America as a whole look like in a decade as a result of the Chinese economic downturn? What ideologies will dominate in a continent that over the past decade veered toward leftist populism? And what issues will define its relationship with the United States, the hemisphere’s undisputed hegemon?

The region’s geopolitics hold the beginning of an answer. The first step is to view Latin America’s geographic regions and countries as a series of divided islands rather than a united entity. Unlike Western Europe, where the relative absence of natural obstacles eventually gave rise to interconnected political entities, South America is bisected by the dense Amazon rainforest and divided lengthwise by the nearly insurmountable Andean mountain range. Latin American colonies were divided even before the collapse of the Spanish Empire in the Americas more than two centuries ago. After independence, this disconnected geographic landscape created dozens of economies of wildly varying sizes often more linked by trade with partners outside the region than with each other. With few unbroken expanses of arable land and high transport costs across the forests and mountains, Latin America was simply not in a position to create capital on the scale of the United States or Western Europe. Consequently, even major Latin American states such as Brazil or Mexico remain highly reliant on inflows of cash from abroad to keep their economies afloat and rely on exports to China or the United States for a significant part of their foreign trade.

Unsurprisingly, the goal of forming institutions that can provide lasting political and economic unity has eluded Latin American statesmen. Numerous attempts have been made to unite the fractious region: Simon Bolivar’s ill-fated 19th-century bid to unite South America, a similar attempt at uniting the Central American states into a federation and the more recent creation of separate economic blocs in Latin America. Yet the isolation created by geographic barriers has foiled leaders‘ attempts to unite the region’s countries into a real economic or political union on the scale of the European Union or even the North American Free Trade Agreement. In recent history, the closest that Latin American states came to some sort of unity — besides regional trading blocs such as the Common Market of the South and the Pacific Alliance — was the wave of leftist populist governments that swept the continent beginning in the early 2000s. But after a decade of budgets and politics buoyed by high commodity prices, the raw realities of geopolitics are back with a vengeance.

The Shape of Governments to Come

We cannot define the exact nature of the national governments that will emerge during the next decade; short-term actions are less predictable than long-term trends, and attempting to forecast which people or parties will lead countries such as Brazil after its 2018 elections or Venezuela after its presidential election in 2019 is very risky. However, we have a rough idea of the shape these governments will take. With less revenue available to pacify restive populations, the new governments will likely be more economically pragmatic than their predecessors. This is not to say that populism as a means of governance in Latin America will subside; rather, rulers are likely to take more care in how they relate to their voters and the outside world.

Because the region is so dependent on foreign capital for continued economic growth, and because states‘ export revenues are so depleted (in Bolivia, for example, export revenue is down by nearly a third compared with last year), leaders are more likely to refrain from mass nationalizations or hostility to foreign companies. During the past decade, leftist governments seized numerous private assets in disputes with private firms. Except for extreme cases such as Venezuela — which, because of its default risk, economic problems and past expropriations, is already de facto cut off from most foreign lending and many investments — most states will likely now try to encourage investments rather than scare them off. Consequently, Latin America is likely entering an era in which the grand populist gestures of the past decade will no longer yield the same results as before and can, in fact, be counterproductive for leaders trying to restart their faltering economies.

The weakening of the Latin American left is another factor that will shape the coming decade. In the next 10 years, the governments that came to power during the boom times will reach the end of their tenures. The list of states that will evolve from leftist administrations into some other type of government is lengthy. Venezuela will reach the painful point of reckoning in which its ruling United Socialist Party will split apart. And as the party splits, Venezuela will undergo a painful economic restructuring and a political shift away from extreme populism. In Ecuador, leftist President Rafael Correa may not secure even another four-year term. In Bolivia, low export prices for natural gas will put President Evo Morales‘ ability to secure another decade in office to the test.

Perhaps the only exception will be Colombia, where a possible peace deal with rebel groups could bring the left into the national fold, which could lead other parties to co-opt more leftist ideas. But even Cuba, long the bastion of Latin America’s left and its ideological center, will eventually move into the United States‘ political orbit, likely in exchange for the lifting of the five-decade trade embargo.

The left’s decline will give the United States an exceptionally benign climate for managing its relationships and priorities to the south. To be sure, longstanding concerns — such as trade, drug trafficking and illegal migration — guiding the United States‘ actions in much of Latin America will remain. But the bumper crop of leftist states that were often minor hindrances to U.S. political moves in the region will become less of a factor in the next decade. Washington’s new priorities in the region, such as cushioning Venezuela’s economic collapse and bringing Cuba into some sort of improved trade relationship, will occupy the United States‘ time.

Of the states currently undergoing deep economic downturns, several seem poised to make a resurgence. Mexico is an outlier, given than it is so linked to the United States through trade. But those links will ensure that despite problematic public finances, Mexico will remain a major force in Latin American economic growth. For Peru and Colombia, international trade will drop over the next several years, but their stable public finances will likely ensure some degree of social stability. And even Brazil, in the midst of a massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, will ride out the crisis due to its strong (albeit currently strained) domestic manufacturing base and sheer economic size.

Re-Emerging Differences

The rampant populism of the past 15 years — bolstered by rapidly increasing exports to hungry markets abroad — imposed a false appearance of unity among the Latin American leftist states. Superficially, Nestor Kirchner’s Argentina appeared to have much in common with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, even though both countries‘ individual geographic and political characteristics ultimately dictated the governments‘ decisions. With the rise of another leftist bloc unlikely in the next decade, the divided nature of Latin America will again become evident.

And the continent’s divided nature means that the shortcomings of international bodies there, such as the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), will become even more self-evident. For example, Brasilia will use Mercosur to do what is in its own immediate benefit: increase trade links with Latin American states outside its immediate neighborhood, such as Mexico. But truly lucrative deals, such as a Mercosur-European Union trade agreement, will remain just out of reach because they require full approval of all the group’s members. Mercosur’s other key member, Argentina, opposes any such deals lest they harm its domestic industry. Consequently, Brazil will continue looking for small bilateral deals, but it will continue to be hamstrung by Mercosur. Unasur, on the other hand, which was originally conceived of as a sort of South American United Nations, is highly unlikely to progress beyond a regional body that meets a couple of times a year. It is not that there is no political will in Latin America to push toward greater unity, but unlike the European Union, such bodies cannot be superimposed onto a region whose trade ties and key political relationships are focused toward other continents rather than each other.

The next decade will bring with it some political and economic continuity. The region will maintain its fundamental relationship with the rest of the globe, in which its foreign trade is overwhelmingly skewed toward the export of raw materials and its economies are heavily reliant on foreign capital markets. But deeper internal changes are already in motion, and the states of the region will change accordingly. The parties at the helm of these states will be different, and the way these parties relate with the outside world on a political and economic level will be undeniably different. Over the next 10 years, the shortcomings of extreme reliance on the Chinese economy will spur cost-cutting and domestic economic diversification. The trappings of the Cold War will fade in Latin America as leaders are replaced and political institutions evolve, but the new Latin America will continue to be more defined by its divisions than by any idea of unity.

https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/new-latin-america?login=1

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* STRATFOR:After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning.

“……Poland became the first country to link the Paris attacks to the uptick in immigration. On Nov. 14, Polish Minister for European Affairs-designate Konrad Szymanski said the Paris attacks make impossible the implementation of an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the Continental bloc. As expected, France’s National Front party also demanded the end of the Schengen agreement. In a televised speech, party leader Marine Le Pen said France has to "recapture control of its borders."

In Germany, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer said the Paris attack demonstrates that border controls are more necessary than ever. Seehofer has been very critical of the German government’s handling of the refugee crisis, demanding permanent border controls as well as faster repatriation of asylum seekers. The Paris attack will likely strengthen his position and further weaken the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was already facing internal dissent because of the migration crisis. In recent weeks Germany has seen an increase in anti-immigrant violence, including arson attacks against refugee shelters. The Nov. 13 attacks may encourage more extremist groups across Europe to attack asylum seekers…..”

Analysis

French President Francois Hollande publicly placed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attack on the Islamic State, declaring it an act of war. This French response to the Paris attacks is markedly different from that of the Spanish Government following the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Instead of pulling back from the global coalition working against jihadism, it appears that the French will renew and perhaps expand their efforts to pursue revenge for the most recent assault. The precise nature of this response will be determined by who is ultimately found to be the author of the Nov. 13 attack.

To date, there has been something akin to a division of labor in the anti-jihadist effort, with the French heavily focused on the Sahel region of Africa. The French have also supported coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria, stationing six Dassault Rafale jets in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirage jets in Jordan. On Nov. 4, Paris announced it was sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to enhance ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. To date, French aircraft have flown more than 1,285 missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq, and only two sorties in Syria.

France has numerous options for retaliation at its disposal, but its response will be conditioned by who was ultimately responsible. If it is found that the Islamic State core group was indeed behind the Nov. 13 attack, France will likely ramp up its Syrian air operations. The skies over Syria, however, are already congested with coalition and Russian aircraft. With this in mind, the French may choose to retaliate by focusing instead on the Islamic State in Iraq, or perhaps even other Islamic State provinces in places such as Libya. Another option would be to increase French programs to train and support anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, or even to conduct commando strikes against key leadership nodes. France also has the option of deploying an expeditionary force like it did in the Sahel, although that would probably require outside airlift capacity from NATO allies, especially the United States.

European Ramifications

The Paris attacks occurred during a Europe-wide political crisis over migrant flows from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers, prompting a Greek official to say Nov. 14 that the name on the document belonged to a person who passed though Greece in October. This news means that a number of politicians critical of the European Union’s response to the immigrant crisis will amplify their disapproval. In particular, advocates who want to end the Schengen agreement, which eliminated border controls in Europe, will use Paris to support their cause.

This has already begun. Poland became the first country to link the Paris attacks to the uptick in immigration. On Nov. 14, Polish Minister for European Affairs-designate Konrad Szymanski said the Paris attacks make impossible the implementation of an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the Continental bloc. As expected, France’s National Front party also demanded the end of the Schengen agreement. In a televised speech, party leader Marine Le Pen said France has to "recapture control of its borders."

In Germany, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer said the Paris attack demonstrates that border controls are more necessary than ever. Seehofer has been very critical of the German government’s handling of the refugee crisis, demanding permanent border controls as well as faster repatriation of asylum seekers. The Paris attack will likely strengthen his position and further weaken the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was already facing internal dissent because of the migration crisis. In recent weeks Germany has seen an increase in anti-immigrant violence, including arson attacks against refugee shelters. The Nov. 13 attacks may encourage more extremist groups across Europe to attack asylum seekers.

The anti-Schengen camp will feel vindicated by a parallel event that took place in southern Germany last week, when a Montenegrin citizen was arrested while allegedly driving to Paris with several weapons. While German police have not established a direct connection between this incident and the Nov. 13 attacks, they have said that a link cannot be ruled out. The fact that this man was from Montenegro — a country in the Western Balkans — and made it to Germany in his car will strengthen the demands for stricter border controls along the so-called Balkan route of migration, which connects Greece to Northern Europe.

The Paris attacks will therefore improve the popularity of anti-immigration parties in many European countries, and continue to weaken popular support for the Schengen agreement. Several countries, including Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary had already re-established border controls because of the immigration crisis. Hungary and Slovenia have gone as far as building fences along their borders. After the Nov. 13 attacks, most EU governments will find it hard to justify a policy of open borders.

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/after-paris-france-contemplates-reckoning

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Barandat* Saudi Wells Running Dry — of Water — Spell End of Desert Wheat

· Riyadh will import all the wheat needed for 2016 consumption

· Aquifers that had irrigated wheat crops depleting rapidly

For decades, only a few features punctuated the vastness of the Saudi desert: oil wells, oases — and wheat fields.

Despite torrid weather and virtually no rain, the world’s largest oil producer once grew so much of the grain that its exports could feed Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. The circular wheat farms, half a mile across with a central sprinkler system, spread across the desert in the 1980s and 1990s, visible in spring to anyone overflying the Arabian peninsula as green spots amid a dun sea of sand.

The oilfields remain, but the last wheat farms have just disappeared to save the aquifers supplying them. For the first time, Saudi Arabia will rely almost completely on wheat imports in 2016, a reversal from its policy of self-sufficiency. It will become a full member of the club of Middle Eastern nations that, according to the commodity-trade adage, "sell hydrocarbons to buy carbohydrates."

The shift toward imports, which started eight years ago, is reverberating beyond the kingdom, providing business opportunities for grain traders such as Cargill Inc and Glencore Plc as well as for farmers in countries such as Germany and Canada.

"The Saudis are the largest new wheat buyer to emerge," said Swithun Still, director of grain trader Solaris Commodities SA in Morges, Switzerland.

Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Fares, managing director of the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization, the state agency in charge of cereal imports, told an industry conference in Riyadh last month that Saudi Arabia will import 3.5 million metric tons in 2016. That’s a 10-fold increase from about 300,000 tons in 2008, the first year local crops were curtailed. An agency presentation says the kingdom will rely on imports for "100 percent" of its wheat in 2016 for the first time.

By 2025, demand is forecast to rise to 4.5 million tons as population growth drives demand for flour, positioning Saudi Arabia as one of the 10 biggest wheat buyers worldwide.

The shift is propitious as the wheat market weathers the largest glut in nearly 30 years, with bumper harvests filling up silos from Russia to Argentina. Prices for high-quality wheat, which reached an all-time high in Kansas City of more than $13 per bushel in 2008, have fallen to less than $5 this year.

Saudi Arabia is already the world’s largest importer of barley, used to feed camels; and among the top 15 in sorghum, another cereal used as animal feed; and of corn.

It may not be the last country to turn away from growing its own crops. Aquifers in other key agricultural regions, including northern India and northern China, are also under pressure. The stress is compounded by erratic rains, which some blame on climate change.

Depleting Water

Saudi Arabia became a net exporter of wheat in 1984 from producing almost none in the 1970s. The self-sufficiency program became a victim of its own success, however, as it quickly depleted aquifers that haven’t been filled since the last Ice Age. In an unexpected U-turn, the government said in 2008 it was phasing out the policy, reducing purchases of domestic wheat each year by 12.5 percent and bridging the gap progressively with imports.

The last official local harvest occurred in May, although the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that a small crop of about metric 30,000 tons for traditional specialty bakery products will "prevail" in 2016. At its peak in 1992, Saudi Arabia produced 4.1 million tons of wheat and was one of the world’s top 10 wheat exporters.

In the Middle East, only Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Syria grow significant quantities of wheat, although they often import to cover domestic shortfalls. Egypt, for instance, is the world’s largest importer because of its booming population’s demand for subsidized bread.

Bright Spot

Wheat traders said that rising purchases from Saudi Arabia were one of the few bullish factors in the grain market. The kingdom has become particularly important for Canada, Germany and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, from which it procures the bulk of its wheat.

"Saudi is going to need more imports — but the world market can right now easily meet the increase in demand," said Stefan Vogel, head of agricultural commodity research at Rabobank International in London.

In turn, Saudi Arabia has been investing in foreign farmland — so far generating more headlines than crops — and grain-trading operations. In April, a Saudi-backed company agreed to buy a majority stake in the former Canadian Wheat Board in a C$250 million ($203 million) deal that gives it access to grain exports from Canada.

Bunge Ltd., one of the world’s largest grain traders, and state-owned Saudi Agricultural & Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) partnered for the acquisition. SALIC was established in November 2011 to secure adequate food supplies for Saudi Arabia, according to its website.

"Middle East food-deficit countries are moving into investing into agribusiness," said Monika Tothova, an economist at the FAO in Rome.

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STRATFOR: The Paris Attacks Will Have Far-Reaching Effects.

With the French and many others around the world still in shock after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, French President Francois Hollande said Monday in a speech before the two chambers of Parliament that France is at war and announced a series of policies to fight terrorism. The attacks revealed the extent to which the situation in Syria, the immigration crisis in Europe and international terrorism are interconnected. The repercussions of the attacks will be similarly far-reaching.

The Paris attacks will seriously challenge the continuity of the Schengen Agreement, which eliminated border controls in Europe. As of Monday, the Schengen Agreement is effectively suspended in many places. France has re-established border controls, as have Sweden, Germany and Slovenia. Hungary built a fence to protect its border with Serbia, which is not a member of the treaty. So far, these actions are taking place within the framework of Schengen, which allows for the temporary reintroduction of border controls during emergencies.

The big question is whether Schengen will be formally abolished, or if countries will begin to opt out from it. The concept of a Europe without borders has become very difficult for governments to defend. As a first reaction, European governments could enact measures to improve intelligence sharing and increase cooperation between security forces in Europe while trying to preserve the agreement. But the future of Schengen is ultimately in the hands of European voters. If the popular sentiment turns against Schengen, moderate governments — or, after the next electoral cycle, nationalist governments — could withdraw from the agreement.

Meanwhile, closing off Europe’s external borders without finding a home for the migrants could lead to serious problems in the Balkans, where migrants will be stranded. As several thousand men and women become involuntary immigrants to countries with high unemployment and latent ethnic tensions, the region’s already fragile political and social structures will experience significant strain in the next few months.

The Paris attacks could accelerate the rise of nationalist parties across Europe. After the dust settles in France, voters could decide that Hollande’s Socialist government has failed to protect them. In the upcoming municipal elections (scheduled for December), the center-right Republicans and the far-right National Front will probably have strong showings, paving the way for a strong performance for both parties in the presidential election of 2017. To different degrees, the two parties criticize Europe’s policies on migration and, in the case of the National Front, France’s membership in the eurozone.

The rise in Euroskepticism will be felt elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has already changed policy to toughen regulations on asylum. In the coming days she will be under pressure from conservative forces to follow the policy changes with political changes, potentially including an admission of mistakes in the handling of the migration crisis. If anything, the Paris attacks could accelerate Germany’s growing Euroskepticism ahead of the general elections of 2017 and especially after the vote.

The Paris attack will also make it hard for the European Commission to defend its plan to relocate refugees across the Continent. The plan was already in serious trouble: Only a few hundred of the 120,000 men and women included in the scheme have actually been relocated. Poland said it will opt out from the plan, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe will probably follow suit. Brussels will be too weak to introduce sanctions against the countries that choose not to participate in the plan.

Before the Paris attacks, the European Union was already trying to enhance cooperation with Turkey to prevent asylum seekers from entering Europe. The Turkish government basically made three requests: money, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and a no-fly zone in northern Syria. The European Union has already approved giving Ankara some 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) to deal with the migration crisis. After the Paris attacks, Brussels will probably offer more flexible visa conditions for Turkish citizens.

Now the stage is set for Turkey to solicit firmer support from the Europeans as it tries to push forward its plans to establish a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Turkey and the United States already appear to be in advanced talks over stepping up military operations in northern Syria, and Ankara is looking for diplomatic cover from NATO members to proceed, preferably with the participation of European countries willing to put boots on the ground. There is no guarantee that Turkey will get that much of a commitment from the Europeans, but it can count on broader European involvement overall in the air campaign against the Islamic State. The major question is still whether Turkey and potential coalition partners can reach an understanding with Russia to quell the fighting.

In addition, the Paris attacks could compel more EU members to seek accommodation with Russia on the end of the civil war in Syria. Countries that were originally against keeping Bashar al Assad in power could decide to stick with the devil they know to slow down emigration from Syria. This could open the door for cooperation in other issues — most notably, Ukraine — but that would happen later in the process. The European Union is still likely to extend sanctions against Moscow when they expire in late January 2016, and the United States probably will encourage its European partners to keep pressure on Russia. Moreover, even with Russian cooperation, substantial challenges remain in Syria, given the disputes over which Syrian parties can be negotiated with, the presence of extremist factions in Syria that do not want a cease-fire to be implemented, and the vast number of armed factions in the conflict.

Europe also faces limitations when it comes to a military reaction to the Paris attacks. Airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq will intensify in the coming days, but Europe is unlikely to go beyond that. Germany will oppose any form of military intervention in Syria and will push for a diplomatic solution to the civil war in the country. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Italy could join the airstrikes in Syria, but they are unlikely to send ground troops to the conflict. Even U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that putting boots on the ground would be a mistake.

The Paris attacks will accelerate some processes that were already underway in Europe, such as resistance to migration and criticism of the Schengen Agreement. The attacks will also affect the European Union’s already complex relationship with Turkey and Russia, but pre-existing factors — such as political divisions among member states on how to deal with Moscow and Ankara — as well as logistical constraints will continue to shape the European Union’s foreign policy, regardless of what has been said publicly the past three days.

https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/paris-attacks-will-have-far-reaching-effects?login=1

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U.S. Army War College: Arab Threat Perceptions and the Future of the U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East*

The threat perceptions of many Arab states aligned with the United States have changed significantly as a result of such dramatic events as the 2011 U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the emergence and then fading of the Arab Spring, the rise of Iranian power and Tehran’s nuclear agreement with key world powers, the Egyptian revolution and counterrevolution, and the development of civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya.

A particularly worrisome development has been the dramatic rise and expansion of the “Islamic State” (IS) organization, which has seized considerable tracts of territory in Iraq and Syria and inspired terrorists throughout the region.

Elsewhere in the region, the 2013 election of the pragmatic and statesmanlike Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is viewed by some Arab states as a potential opportunity but also a danger since the new Iranian government has a potentially shrewder and more effective president and cabinet than seen during the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad years.

There have also been some notable differences that have developed between the United States and its Arab allies over how to address these issues and most especially Iranian regional ambitions. Some Arab leaders, including a number of Saudis and other Gulf Arabs, have subtly but publicly criticized the United States for appearing to lose interest in the Middle East as it becomes less dependent on that region’s energy and due to serious problems encountered with U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

Many Arab states are also concerned that the United States may become increasingly interested in disengaging from the problems of the Arab world at a time when increased U.S. attention may be required to address the discord over the South China Sea and emerging problems in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine. To these Arab states, other regions are something of a distraction, and they see any increased U.S. attention on Asia or Eastern Europe as a potential long-term national security problem.

Moreover, while the rise of the Islamic State organization has refocused U.S. attention on the Middle East, most conservative Arab states remain concerned about retaining a sustained U.S. commitment to the region and are worried that Washington and Tehran are in considerable agreement over the danger posed by IS, even as they are distrustful of each other.

U.S. efforts to prepare for conflicts in the Middle East consequently remain vital, and doing so through actions which deter such conflicts is an especially optimal outcome. Shaping the Middle East strategic environment through carefully tailored collaboration with Arab partner nations presents one of the best ways to both prepare for a potential conflict and to deter that conflict through U.S. and allied defense preparedness.

In this environment, it is important that Washington has an array of options that can be used to support and reassure local allies and deter aggression so that the threat of war can be averted before it is realized. The United States continues to project its interest in the region through a number of ways examined in this work, including multilateral exercises such as Eager Lion in Jordan, regionally aligned forces, military forward presence, and military advice and assistance.

Even with increased energy independence, the United States maintains a number of core interests in the Middle East and is often drawn back to the emerging problems and crises there. In parallel, the conservative Arab states are aware that they have no good alternative to the United States as their most important security partner at the present time. A variety of U.S. officials are committed to a strong effort to convince Arab allies that the United States will not abandon them or downgrade the importance of their security concerns.

http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1297

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Middle East

Brookings *Kerry’s counterproductive Syria strategy*

As Secretary Kerry prepares to leave for Vienna for another round of peace talks with outside powers focused on that forsaken land, I worry that the simple act of trying may do more harm than good.

Here’s why: Tragically, Syria is not ripe for peace. More specifically, it is not ripe for the kind of deal Kerry appears to envision—a ceasefire on the battlefield and replacement of the Bashar Assad regime with a government of national unity. By trying to negotiate when conditions are not conductive, we fail to diagnosis the real problem and address it directly. We distract ourselves and squander precious time.

Ceasefire built on sand

At present, the moderate forces in Syria that we would like to see empowered, or at least protected in any peace deal, collectively constitute the third-strongest military force in the country, if that. The strongest force is what is left of Assad’s army: It had some 300,000 personnel at the war’s start, so even as a shell of its former self, it has a considerable capability. The second strongest is the Islamic State (or ISIS), with perhaps 30,000 fighters. The combined moderate opposition, including Kurdish and various Arab forces, might rank next. Then again, it might not—since the Nusra Front (the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria) and Hezbollah’s deployed forces there may be of comparable strength.

Translation: The good guys, even if acting together (as they rarely do), probably constitute no more than 10 percent of all armed strength on Syria’s battlefields today.

Any ceasefire that Kerry could negotiate, to go along with a new government of national unity hypothetically replacing Assad in Damascus, would therefore be built not on the foundation of favorable military balances—it would be built on a foundation of sand. There would be no mechanism to enforce it; no neutral and respected army or police force that could give authority and legitimacy to the notional government of national unity and carry out its edicts.

Tragically, Syria is not ripe for peace.

We would have to hope that extremist groups would respect the negotiated deal even in the absence of any force that could credibly enforce it, and that moderate forces could avoid fratricidal fights with each other. Many ceasefires and peace deals in civil wars fail, even after they have been negotiated, and the circumstances surrounding this conflict would make that extremely likely, even in the very unlikely event that Assad could be persuaded to step down.

The perils of a Hail Mary

Realistically, three ingredients are needed to improve the odds for durable peace:

First, a military balance in which moderate forces are at least comparably strong to their enemies—and ideally stronger.

Second, some kind of peace implementation force, with strong foreign elements, that could be deployed to monitor, and if necessary, enforce the terms of any deal.

And third, the right political model for the future Syria. Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in its original form has become a dream.

In my eyes, the most realistic approach would establish a confederal state with several autonomous regions—one for Alawites, one for Kurds, perhaps one for the Druze, perhaps a couple for Sunni Muslim regions, and one or two for the central intermixed cities from Aleppo to Damascus.

Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in its original form has become a dream.

Syria, a country of 23 million before the war (and perhaps 18 million now), would in theory require up to a half million peacekeepers if one applies the famous David Petraeus/James Mattis/James Amos force-sizing algorithm from the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency manual.

But if a confederal model were pursued, the number of troops could be cut at least in half and perhaps more, since the force would only need to patrol along the borders of autonomous zones and within the central cities. This would still be a daunting proposition, and might have to include 20,000 American troops to be credible. Yet it would be far more practicable than a force that had to deploy in every town, city, and village throughout the country. At present, however, no one is talking about such a political model—because everyone is trying to pretend that the Vienna talks have a chance, and lend them moral support.

Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on fostering these three necessary ingredients for a peace, and not on trying a Hail Mary in Vienna, which by wasting time and distracting us from the real tasks at hand is likely to further prolong the war.

·

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Co-Director, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence

Director of Research, Foreign Policy

Michael O’Hanlon specializes in national security and defense policy. Before joining Brookings, O’Hanlon worked as a national security analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His current research agenda includes military strategy and technology, Northeast Asia, U.S. Central Command and defense budgets, among other defense and security issues.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/11/13-kerry-counterproductive-syria-strategy-ohanlon?rssid=Order+from+Chaos

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*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

kremlin.ru: Meeting on Armed Forces development.

November 12, 2015 Vladimir Putin held … a series of meetings on the development of Russia’s Armed forces. The discussion focused on interaction between military and civil organisations, including private companies during exercises and measures to remove shortcomings … we have lately held a large number of exercises involving large groups of people, including civilians, as well as companies, including privately owned ones. They provide transportation, equipment, services, production facilities and so forth. This work has revealed certain problems and shortcomings … We need to carefully analyse how everything works in conjunction and give additional consideration to matters pertaining to the provision of communication channels, transportation and logistics services …

November 11, 2015 … Carrying out state defence procurement orders was the subject of discussion.

… we will … review the preliminary results of work on state defence procurement orders over the course of this year, and decide on measures that will help to make cooperation between the Defence Ministry and the defence industry companies more effective. We therefore have industry representatives present today. One of our top military development priorities is to create a modern army equipped with the latest arms and hardware, of course. This was always one of the top priorities. Our task now is to carry out all of our plans. I have said before and say again that we have no intention of getting drawn into an arms race and no plans to try to catch up to or overtake anyone. Our objective is simply to make up for the time that was lost in the 1990s, when the Armed Forces and defence industry companies were chronically underfinanced and forced to scale back programmes for modernising the armed forces units and the defence enterprises themselves. Today’s situation is different. Overall, money for carrying out the state defence procurement orders is allocated at the level set in the state arms procurement programme through to 2020. Let me say again that this is not urgent additional work, but a planned programme that was put together 10 years ago now. Ten years ago, we started talking about the need for a new state defence procurement programme through to 2020, and that was when we began drawing up these plans … The armed forces units received a quarter more new and modernised arms models than in 2014. What is important is that these new arms are being put to intensive use. The exercises and snap inspections we have carried out confirm the increase in effectiveness and level of combat preparedness … we must continue the work on import replacement of foreign components and parts used in arms and military equipment production …

November 10, 2015 … consider the development of the Armed Forces and the military-industrial complex.

… we will … considering matters pertaining to the operation of industrial facilities and corresponding departments of the Defence Ministry regarding weapons systems that are to determine the overall image of our army in the coming decade. The development and production of such systems is our response to the challenges we are facing and they guarantee the defence of this country’s security and national interests. As we all know, the United States and their allies are continuously building up their global missile defence system. Unfortunately, neither our concern nor cooperation proposals are taken into consideration … They assured us that the anti-missile defence system and its European segment were designed to defend from Iranian ballistic missiles. However, we know that the Iranian nuclear issue has been resolved, with appropriate agreements signed … but work on the anti-missile defence system continues … In the past three years, facilities of the defence industry have created and successfully tested a number of promising armament systems capable of performing combat missions in conditions of an anti-missile defence system in depth. Troops have begun receiving such systems this year …

November 9, 2015 … opens a series of discussions on developing Russia’s defence industry, carrying out state defence procurement orders, and armed forces development.

… The Armed Forces are receiving new strategic missile systems, atomic and multipurpose submarines, surface vessels. We are modernising the combat aircraft fleet and air defence systems, and supplying new arms and equipment to the ground forces and the paratroopers. We also adjusted the plans for re-equipping our forces with modern arms, and organised stable work at the defence industry companies. In this respect, I want to say that our upcoming meetings, including with industry representatives, are extremely important not just for ensuring and improving Russia’s defence capability, but in the current economic downturn, are also important for developing the industry itself and the economy as a whole …

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50675

Brookings: What is the Russian military good for?

November 4, 2015 … The Russian military intervention in Syria—launched in a great rush just over a month ago—came as a surprise; perhaps not as shocking as the swift occupation and annexation of Crimea, but a surprise nevertheless … In fact, the first month of the operation tells us little about Russian military capabilities. It does show that the Russian leadership is prepared to play with military instruments of policy way beyond the limit of, for Western politicians, acceptable risk. This readiness to face big risks constitutes a political advantage of sorts. But it remains unclear that the Russian military is up to the task.

There are many looming disasters on the battlefield in Syria, and the Russian military will inevitably take the blame if they come to pass. In hindsight, it is striking that at the start of this decade, when the key domestic political guideline in Russia was “modernization” (and foreign policy guideline was “reset”), the only real modernization that happened was that of the armed forces. The military reform launched by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov began just a couple of months after the inglorious “victory” in the August 2008 war with Georgia.

His replacement in November 2012 by Sergei Shoigu helped in correcting some mistakes in the incoherent design for reforms and also shifted the focus to combat training. The improved combat readiness, particularly of Russian special forces, made it possible to execute the spectacular operation aimed at taking control over Crimea in March 2014. But many key parts of the military machine still remain under-reformed and untouched by modernization. Reforms never come without pain, and it was the air force that suffered the most damage from the ill-conceived cuts and reorganizations …

Executing a limited intervention into the mutating Syrian civil war doesn’t challenge these assessments, even if it did produce an outsized political effect. It is important … not to see Russian capabilities through the lens of Western ways of warfare. But is also important to remember certain hard battlefield realities will impose themselves regardless of one’s way of war. The Russian intervention in Syria is only possible at all because the “hybrid war” in Eastern Ukraine, which has tied up the bulk of Russian combat-capable battalions, has seen virtually no use of the air force …

Syria appeared an easier option, and the deployment of an air regiment to the hastily prepared Hmeymym airbase outside Latakia went remarkably smoothly. As the air war has moved into the second month, however, issues with its trajectory have emerged.

The composition of the regiment (with a squadron of light Su-25SM fighter-bombers and a squadron of Mi-24 attack helicopters) makes it most suitable for close air support. But that kind of difficult mission only makes sense if it’s in support of a ground offensive by Syrian government forces … the navy command could only dream of building an amphibious assault ship that would compare with Mistral-class ships, which France has refused to deliver….

The Russian regime’s plan has clearly been to use initial battlefield success to negotiate an end to the civil war from a position of strength. But alas there has been little initial battlefield success. ISIS and other parts of the opposition have already begun to mount counter-offensives. And bringing the various sides together to negotiate appears as difficult as ever. If those negotiations fail, it will be hard for Russian leaders to find an opportunity to declare victory and go home … The bottom line is that, for the sake of regime survival, Putin has fallen back to the “safe” position of military confrontation. But the Russian military is not able to prevail in that confrontation and the Russian economy cannot possibly sustain it.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/11/04-what-is-russian-military-good-for-baev

my comment: see | Massenbach-Letter. NEWS (11 Oct 2015)

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.

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.

http://sputniknews.com/military/20151102/1029476791/mistrals-russia-egypt-equipment.html

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From the Russian news desk: Ukraine and Syria – How Far Will We Go?

A member of the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors the
withdrawal of tanks of the Ukrainian armed
forces near the village of Nyzhnje in Luhansk
region, Ukraine, October 5, 2015

Recent developments both in Ukraine and Syria show that international community is making effort to come to terms with Russia on these two stumbling blocks but there is still a lot to be done. European Leadership Network DirectorIan Kearnshas shared his expert opinion on how these issues might develop in future with RIAC. (continued see attachment )

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Dr. Klaus Wittmann: Russland und der Westen – Gedanken für bessere Zeiten.

„Neues Denken“ in der russischen Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik

Wie vor 30 Jahren die marode Sowjetunion benötigt auch Putins Russland, derzeit sich selbst isolierend und gegenüber dem Westen zunehmend aggressiv auftretend,

„neues Denken“ in der Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik als Teil seiner notwendigen Modernisierung.

Der Westen und besonders die NATO sollten das erleichtern durch selbstkritische Anerkennung ihres Teils der Verantwortung für die Verschlechterung des Verhältnisses

in den letzten fast zwanzig Jahren.

Das ist die Hauptthese dieses Beitrags, die mit konkreten Vorstellungen für kooperative statt konfrontativer Sicherheit zwischen dem Westen und Russland veranschaulicht wird.

(Forts. s. Anlage)

1

About: Brigadegeneral a. D. Dr. Klaus Wittmann

ist Senior Fellow des Aspen Institute Deutschland und Lehr-

beauftragter für Zeitgeschichte an der Universität Potsdam

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News Alert from DEBKAfile.

Acting on secret Obama-Putin Syria deal, Moscow’s air strikes focus first on rebels, next on ISIS.

DEBKAfile Special Report November 18, 2015, 7:56 AM (IDT)

The secret deal for a political solution for the Syria conflict reached by Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya over the weekend has radically changed and intensified Russia’s air strike tactics in the last 24 h ours.

For the first time since the intensified Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war in the last week of September, Russian air force planes took off Tuesday, Nov. 17 for attacks on Syrian rebel and ISIS targets, from a home base, the Morozovsk airbase in the southern Rostov district. Until now, the Russian bombers had taken off from Hmeymim airbase near Latakia.

Also for the first time, they lofted Tupolev Tu-160 and Tupolev Tu-95 bombers. The Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack is a long-range strategic bomber and the biggest combat aircraft in the world, while the Tu-95 Bear is a huge strategic bomber with four turboprop-powered engines that is also used to launch missiles.

debkafile’s military sources note that that the entry of these heavy bombers marks an increase in the frequency of the attacks and in the firepower used by Russia against the rebels and ISIS. Together with the firing of advanced Russian Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Syria – also for the first time on Tuesday – these changes substantially escalate the Russian military effort in Syria.

Western sources take these changes to mean that Putin is driving hell-bent to settle accounts with the Islamic State after the downing of the Russian plane over Sinai on Oct. 31, and that he will coordinate this effort with French President Francois Hollande, who is due in Moscow in the coming days.

However, debkafile reports that the new, stepped up Russian aerial offensive is fact bringing forward certain – not necessarily jihadist – Syrian rebel groups as Moscow’s priority targets, with ISIS only in second place.

In their 30-minute conversation on Sunday, Nov. 15, our sources reveal, Obama secretly accepted most points of Putin’s plan for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict (first revealed by DEBKA Weekly earlier this month), with the exception of the point relating to Bashar Assad’s future.

The White House and the Kremlin consequently announced a joint decision on a cease-fire in Syria to be followed by UN-mediated negotiations between the rebels and the Assad regime.

The first point of the Russian blueprint called for intensified air strikes by the US and Russia against rebel groups refusing to enter into these negotiations in order to force them to toe the line.

As a result of the deal between the two presidents, 75 percent of Russian attacks in Syria Tuesday were aimed against various rebel groups (around Hama and Aleppo), and only 25 percent against ISIS (at its Raqqa headquarters) and Al-Nusra Front targets.

Obama agreed to Russian expanding its air campaign to this end for at least three weeks. It was also decided that Russia would beef it up with another 25 heavy bombers and addition warplanes.

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Russia released the findings of its investigation into the downing of a Russian airliner on October 31 in the Sinai Peninsula that caused the deaths of all 224 passengers and crew.

Putin and the heads of the Russian intelligence community have concluded that the destruction of Metrojet Flight 9268 soon after takeoff from Sharm El Sheikh was the result of a bomb planted on board by terrorists. Egypt quickly rejected the conclusion, claiming there was no proof of it whatsoever. But thes conclusion led Putin to offer an unprecedented $50 million reward for information leading to the capture of those who planted the bomb.

According to our counterterrorism sources, Russian intelligence chiefs are convinced that certain top Egyptian military and security service officers know exactly who was responsible. The enormous reward was offered to draw them out and tempt them to break ranks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi’s dogged resistance to the charges of a terrorist hand at work behind the Russian air disaster. After all, 50 million dollars must be hard to resist.—-

Netanyahu and Putin speak by phone, agree to meet at Paris climate summit.

DEBKAfile November 18, 2015, 4:22 PM (IDT)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday afternoon and expressed the condolences of the government and people of Israel to the families of the victims of the Russian airliner disaster in the Sinai Peninsula, the Prime Minister’s Office said. The two leaders discussed the situation in Syria and the Palestinian issue, and also agreed to meet in 10 days on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Paris in order to deepen their discussions regarding Syria.—

France, US, Russia to forge military alliance against ISIS: Hollande.

DEBKAfile November 18, 2015, 3:42 PM (IDT)

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that Russia, the US and France will form a military pact to fight ISIS, adding that he will personally discuss the coordination of operations during his talks with US President Obama on November 24 and with Russian President Putin two days later.

Commenting on a major counterterror operation earlier in the day to locate the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris, Hollande said, "The events in Saint Denis reaffirm that we are in a state of war, a war with terrorism, terrorism that drove us to war. This terrorist organization, the Islamic State, has weapons, finances, oil resources and territory. It has allies, including some in our country."

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STRATFOR: Searching for a Syrian Solution.

Summary

In a notable breakthrough in negotiations over the weekend, the International Syria Support Group agreed during a meeting in Vienna to convene Syrian government and opposition representatives on Jan. 1, 2016, in formal negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations. The support group, made up of virtually every direct and indirect foreign state participant in the Syrian civil war, has aspired to find a solution to the destabilizing Syrian civil war, and progress has increasingly appeared to be within reach. However, serious obstacles remain that could rapidly undermine any gains the group hopes to accomplish going forward.

Analysis

The current timeline for the peace plan agreed to by the International Syria Support Group is as follows: By Dec. 14, the group will reconvene to review progress so that the United Nations can seek to convene Syrian government and opposition groups in formal negotiations by Jan. 1, 2016. By May 14, 2016, a cease-fire between Syrian government and opposition groups will come into force, allowing the process for drafting a new constitution to begin. Finally, by May 14, 2017, U.N.-administered free elections will be held under the new constitution, ushering in a new government and, hopefully, bringing an end to fighting in the country.

The International Syria Support Group’s aim is to get the foreign state participants in the Syrian conflict to reach an agreement on a solution to the country’s civil war that would then be presented to the Syrians. The Washington Post reported that to facilitate the cease-fire, actors in the International Syria Support Group will stop all support and supplies to "various belligerents" on both sides once negotiations are underway.

Despite the latest initiative’s ambitious goals, it is still unlikely that the plan will result in an effective end to the conflict. The following issues will prevent further progress in finding a solution:

Syrian Participation

The fact that no Syrian group from either the loyalist or rebel side was included in the negotiations points to the stark divisions that will plague the peace process. This was deliberate: The United States and other negotiating partners wanted to minimize friction during the talks so that the international group of negotiating powers could present a unified message to the key players in Syria.

However, the fact remains that while it will be difficult for the foreign powers to reach a consensus, it will be even harder for the warring parties on the ground in Syria. There are simply too many armed forces of varying ideologies and motivations driving the conflict.

The Opposition Picture

One of the principle difficulties in reaching an agreement, even at this early stage, is agreeing on which rebel groups should lead — let alone be included as representatives of — the opposition in the talks, if and when the talks take place. Even powers that support the rebels have significantly differing opinions. The United States, for instance, has long sought to mainly include the Free Syrian Army. However, it was recently reported that the United States, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, also conceded to accepting Ahrar al-Sham as a core opposition group.

The Kurdish question is another unresolved issue that does not appear to have been addressed in the latest meeting or subsequent agreement. Turkey will undoubtedly be wary of any significant role given to the Syrian Kurds in upcoming negotiations, while the Kurds are sure to push for greater autonomy, conflicting with both the wider rebel and loyalist positions.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle, however, is the sheer number of armed rebel organizations in the civil war. Hundreds of groups, from the very small to the very powerful, such as the Army of Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and the wider Free Syrian Army, are fighting in Syria. Reaching a consensus on a rebel negotiating position when the rebels themselves can only really agree on the need for President Bashar al Assad’s downfall could critically undermine the negotiation process.

Terrorist List

Even with a negotiated agreement between rebel groups and Damascus, the Syrian civil war would not completely stop because two major terrorist groups — the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra — would remain. The Islamic State is an uncontroversial issue since virtually all armed forces in Syria are the Islamic State’s enemies. The group’s attacks in Paris have also made an end to the Syrian crisis even more desirable, though the issue always had some measure of urgency. But the inclusion of Jabhat al-Nusra and similar groups on the terrorist list would considerably complicate the situation and threatens to unravel any potential agreement.

Several rebel groups including Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and the largely secular Free Syrian Army have operated and continue to operate closely with Jabhat al-Nusra. Convincing these rebel groups to disentangle themselves from their alliances with Jabhat al-Nusra, whether those alliances are ideological or out of convenience, will be difficult. It would be even more challenging to convince the same rebel groups to stop fighting the loyalist forces and turn their guns on Jabhat al-Nusra.

At the same time, continued strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra in such a narrow and clearly saturated battlefield could also rapidly undermine the negotiation process as other rebel groups are damaged. The Russians have previously struck Free Syrian Army allies of Jabhat al-Nusra, essentially arguing that they operate together and are therefore the same. The Russians will be keen to maximize the number of rebel groups on the terrorist list, likely forcing certain rebel factions into breaking from any negotiation process altogether.

Finally, Jabhat al-Nusra is hardly the only extremist group within the rebel landscape beyond the Islamic State. Jihadist groups such as Jabhat Ansar al-Din and Jund al-Aqsa maintain similar or even more extreme ideological positions. These groups will be especially opposed to a cease-fire pushed from abroad and will likely continue operations even as loyalist and rebel factions seek peace.

Ending Support

Any effort to force belligerents in the conflict to agree to a cease-fire by withdrawing supplies and support will be complicated by the fact that many of the International Syria Support Group members are themselves active participants in the conflict. Iran and Russia are present on the ground in a fighting capacity, while the United States is increasingly inserting itself into the conflict in support of its Syrian Democratic Forces allies. These nations, as well as others such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, could claim that support given to their respective proxies is meant to combat the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, rather than other loyalist or rebel forces. All sides will have an incentive to ensure their own preferred groups are better advantaged if and when they reach the negotiating table, making it extremely difficult to halt the flow of all supplies in practice.

Moreover, the International Syrian Support Group process deliberately omitted the question of the Syrian president’s future in its most recent meeting. The group’s members readily admit that al Assad’s position is a polarizing issue, and many fear that raising the issue would undermine progress before it even begins. However, this only highlights the disputes that have yet to be settled in the process.

Ultimately, Russia and Iran are not entirely committed to ensuring al Assad’s personal leadership of Syria as long as their interests are met, but stepping in to convince al Assad to leave power — let alone successfully doing so — is a step both Tehran and Moscow would only take when they are truly confortable with the talks‘ progress. But at this stage, the obstacles that still lie ahead make getting there as distant a prospect as ever.

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/searching-syrian-solution

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see our letter on:

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

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

11-05-15 Ukraine – Syria – news digest.pdf

Arab Threat Perceptions and the Future of the U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East.pdf

11-16-15 U.S. Warplanes Strike ISIS Oil Trucks in Syria – The New York Times.pdf

11-09-15 Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder-Carnegie Middle East Ce.pdf

11-00-15 Wittmann, Klaus – Russland und der Westen (EV – EAK – Oktober 2015).pdf

Russlandkontrovers Impulstext – Putins Plan in Syrien (Alexander Rahr Nov.2015).pdf

11-09-15 Deutsch-russisches Forum – Russland in Syrien (9.11.2015).docx

11-18-15 Kampf gegen den IS_ Warum die arabische Welt einen Marshall-Plan braucht – NZZ.pdf

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