Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 04/12/15

Massenbach-Letter. News –“Die Christen im Land behalten! – Emigration is no solution!” –

Betretenes Schweigen bei der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz.

Die ältesten und kürzesten Wörter – ja" und "nein" – erfordern auch das stärkste Nachdenken." (Pythagoras von Samos)

· The Hill: Refugee crisis can, and must, be solved by Syria’s neighbors

· The Moral Pitfalls of Foreign Policy Weakness

· Nearly Half of Syrians Would Leave Syria if They Could

· The End of a Russian-Turkish “Golden Age”

· Azerbaijan in an Era of Cheap Oil

· France Usurps Germany as Terror Refocuses EU on Hard Power * Washington Post: Failure to stop Paris attacks reveals fatal flaws at heart of European security

· STRATOR: Considering Germany Without Merkel

Flüchtlinge in Europa : Die EU wartet auf eine Kurskorrektur durch Angela Merkel.

Von Christoph von Marschall. Die Öffnung der Grenze für Flüchtlinge im August verdient Verständnis. Aber der Bruch der Rechtsordnung ist zum Dauerzustand geworden. Die Kanzlerin muss reagieren. Ein Kommentar. Der Tagesspiegel. Berlin.

Massenbach* “Die Christen im Land behalten! – Emigration is no solution!” –

Betretenes Schweigen bei der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz.


Responding to Humanitarian Catastrophe

Mechanisms that ended the Bosnian War could be applied in Syria

The international community just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Accords, a landmark peace agreement that brought an end to the Bosnian War and a grave humanitarian crisis in the Balkans.

Today, relative peace still exists in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia — and this situation offers valuable lessons that can be applied to one of the biggest humanitarian problems of our time.

The Syrian refugee and migration crisis is overwhelming the mechanisms set up by the international community to deal with such movements. European countries are caught between their instincts to offer safety and help to desperate people, and their inability to meet the needs of an unmanageable flood of migrants.

The migration, with no apparent end in sight, also has brought growing political pressure from disgruntled populations themselves displaced by waves of migrants. This threatens increased radicalism and political instability throughout Europe. And most importantly, we must assume that uncontrolled movement of hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East will pose a growing security threat as jihadists take advantage of the movement and hide among them.

That is a threat that we Americans also must address.

The only reasonable alternative to dealing with this disaster is to create the conditions in and near Syria that will permit people to remain there, in humane conditions of relative safety near their home country, within their own culture.

Achieving this will require the United States, our allies and other cooperating powers to create areas in and near Syria where Syrians can find safety from attack.

As difficult as this task sounds — and surely it is — it has been done before.

When Yugoslavia collapsed in 1993, modern, well-equipped armies clashed in open prolonged warfare, involving sieges of towns and cities, generating hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees and displaced persons. In this, as in the current situation in Syria, violence was pervasive and inescapable.

Yet into that horror stepped the international community’s relief organizations, led by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. That organization, backed by a U.N. mandate and protected first by the U.N. Protection Force and then NATO, created safe areas for refugees and internally displaced persons, and sheltered and fed millions of Bosnians. Despite some tragic failures (the “safe area” of Srebrenica where thousands of Bosnians were slaughtered as the protectors looked on), this massive international effort to address Bosnia’s humanitarian catastrophe was an important contribution to successful efforts to end that war.

The Bosnia precedent included two essential components — the U.N. Security Council and NATO. It is remarkable that in the current crisis neither organization has devoted much attention — or any action — to addressing Syria’s humanitarian needs.

Unfortunately, the Syrian humanitarian tragedy has not generated this sort of attention and action. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are already doing their utmost to care for millions of refugees, largely relying on their own resources. Germany and other countries have opened their doors to refugees but the political and economic costs are clearly unsustainable. Clearly, a better alternative needs to be proposed.

To finally address those needs effectively, we need a massive commitment from the world community to set up, fund and manage humane safe areas both within Syria and in neighboring countries.

This will require, first, a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, unleashing the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and other international resources experienced in humanitarian relief. This will also require either a new protection force such as the U.N. Protection Force in the Bosnia precedent, or some other coalition of the willing empowered to protect the people in the safe areas established in Syria itself.

Second, protecting these areas in Syria will require no-fly zones. I have suggested that, with its planning and leadership capabilities and massive resources, NATO should take on that job. NATO did it in Bosnia — why not Syria? At the same time, NATO must work creatively to bring in the regional powers in a broad coordinated effort under NATO leadership.

Third, the international community must be willing to pay for this important humanitarian effort. We should call for major contributions from the regional states, European countries and other traditional donor countries long committed to humanitarian causes.

Dealing with so many refugees in safe, humane conditions will be expensive, but it can be no more expensive than the costs already being borne by those destination countries burdened with uncontrolled migration. Germany estimates its cost for the refugee crisis this year alone is 21 billion euros. Italy spent 628 million euros in 2014 and has budgeted 800 million for 2015. Individual islands in Greece have spent between 1 billion and 1.5 billion euros this year. The EU has allocated 560 million euros for the crisis.

The billions necessary to enable the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross and others to care for these desperate people humanely, in conditions of safety, in or near their own homeland, are easily justified.

And the extra security gained by such a solution is beyond price.-“

Kommentar: Eindeutige Stellung – eindeutige Position. Betretenes Schweigen am 30.1115 auf dem Symposion der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz auf die mehrfach formulierte Position (s. Anlage. Erzbischof Mirkis): Die Christen mögen im Lande bleiben; das Flucht stelle keine Lösung dar; die Länder veröden; die Katholische Kirche möge einen Rahmen anbieten für Organisationen guten Willens für Überlegungen zum Wiederaufbau und des zukünftigen Zusammenlebens………

Doch ich bin mir gewiss, das Symposion wird zum weiteren Handeln angeregt haben, auch wenn so mancher Teilnehmer am Abend erschöpft schien. Udo von Massenbach.

The End of a Russian-Turkish “Golden Age”

The downing of a Russian plane by Turkey is jeopardizing the strong business and political relationship built by Ankara and Moscow. The two countries’ clash over Syria suggests that relations will get worse before they get better.

The shooting down by Turkey of a Russian warplane on November 24 closes the curtain on what has been a brief golden age in Russian-Turkish relations.

Traditional rivals for centuries, Russia and Turkey had recently identified a host of mutual interests, which enabled them to smooth over contradictions and improve political and economic relations. Turkish leader—now president—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin forged a good personal relationship.

But the downing of the Su-24 jet on the Syrian-Turkish border prompted sharp language by the two strongmen, with Putin calling Turkey “an accomplice of terrorists.”

The episode coincided with a shift in Turkish politics, caused by the recent elections on November 1. Erdoğan’s Islamist party, AKP, which had been forced into a coalition government in June, scored a victory that enabled it to govern again as a single party.

However, the AKP fell just short of winning the majority in the Turkish parliament that it needs to call a referendum to change the constitution and achieve Erdoğan’s dream of establishing a new presidential republic. Erdoğan evidently believes that if he can project the image of a strong political leader, he will not only improve his rating with the public, but also be able to win the votes of wavering parliamentarians from the nationalist party, the MHP.

This is one reason the government has stepped up its rhetoric about “defending the Turkic world,” not only against the Kurdish militants of the PKK but also in its strong criticism of the Russian military operation in Syria. The Turkish authorities have said that they are defending their Turkmen “compatriots” on the other side of the Syrian border, who are allegedly being hit by Russian airstrikes.

The Kurdish question is even more key. For Ankara, the fight against the militant Kurdish PKK is as important, if not more so, than the battle against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The Turkish government has long resented Washington’s de facto alliance with the Syrian Kurdish movement, known as the PYD.

Even though the United States still formally regards the PKK as a terrorist organization, Ankara knows that Washington views any attack by Turkey on the Syrian Kurds of the PYD—which is closely associated with the PKK—as a “red line” it should not cross.

Russia’s military intervention in Syria was a new source of frustration for Turkey, not only because it helped to prop up Turkey’s adversary, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but also because it aided the Kurds. Then, the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris increased the possibility of cooperation between Russia and the West in the fight against the Islamic State and further deepened Turkey’s worries that its interests were being ignored.

In this light, Turkey’s appeal for NATO solidarity after the November 24 incident can be seen as a chess move intended to restore Turkey’s influence in Syria. Turkey used its membership in NATO to characterize Russia’s alleged infringement of its airspace as a challenge to the alliance as a whole.

The way Turkey played the NATO card was a blow to the personal relationship Erdoğan and Putin had established as the foundation of their countries’ strategic partnership. Putin bitterly complained on November 24 that “instead of immediately establishing contacts with us, as far as we know, Turkey turned to its NATO partners to discuss this incident. As if we had hit their plane and not the other way around.”

Over many years, a strong economic partnership worth billions of dollars has protected Russian-Turkish relations from political shocks. The two countries recently agreed to build the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to replace the defunct South Stream project. Russia is contracted to build a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu in southern Turkey. Russians provide a huge number of tourists every year to Turkish resorts.

This economic relationship had thus far enabled the two countries to overcome their differences on Syria and manage difficult episodes, such as when Turkey forced a Russian commercial plane bound for Syria to land in Ankara in 2012, claiming it was carrying weapons, or when Erdoğan spoke out forcefully for the rights of Tatars in Crimea.

The shooting down of the Su-24 is obviously much more serious. The political relationship is bound to suffer. Russia has declared that it is suspending military cooperation with Turkey. There are rumors that commercial projects may be cancelled. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called off a visit to Turkey. Saying that the threat of terrorism was “not lower than in Egypt,” Lavrov warned Russian tourists against visiting Turkey as well and several Russian tour operators have cancelled flights there (even though this is the dead season).

These steps are for the short term and can be reversed through diplomatic efforts. But there is every sign that the underlying cause of the new downturn in relations—Russia and Turkey’s escalating clash over Syria—is intensifying rather than diminishing.

The Russian General Staff has announced that it is increasing Russia’s military presence in the region by deploying a Russian missile cruiser to the Syrian coast and sending fighter jets to accompany its bombers. That is also likely to increase the possibility of new incidents in the air over Syria.

In other words, all of the economic and political links that have been built over the past few years between Moscow and Ankara now suddenly mean much less in the context of their international clash over Syria.

Pavel Shlykov is an analyst with the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University.


Turkish Stream Falls Under Russia’s Restrictive Measures Against Turkey

Russia’s Economic Development Minister stated that the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project falls under the restrictive measures against Turkey.

"This project is no different from any other, we are talking about our investment cooperation [with Turkey], it is one of the most perspective investment projects, and, just like any other project, it falls under the law on special economic measures," Ulyukayev said, commenting the fate of the Turkish Stream.

Construction on Turkish Stream was scheduled to begin in June, but was postponed pending a formal agreement. According the Russian Energy Ministry, Russia and Turkey were expected to sign the pipeline agreement no earlier than December 2015.

The restrictions against Ankara may also include the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently under construction in the southern province of Mersin in Turkey, Alexey Ulyukayev said.

Russia and Turkey signed an agreement in 2010 to construct and operate Turkey’s first nuclear power plant at the Akkuyu site. The minister also noted that restrictions in aerial communication may include regular and charter flights.

"Departments will soon prepare their proposals — in two to three days. The Ministry of Transport will also have suggestions. As I have said before, the law allows to limit the use of airspace and airports. Which means that limitation of both regular commercial and charter flights is possible," he said. Moscow will also halt the creation of a single Turkish-Russian investment fund, Ulyukayev added. Earlier Thursday, Dmitry Medvedev has instructed the Russian government on Thursday to work out measures against Turkey after Tuesday’s downing of a Russian military jet.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan called Kremlin’s reaction to the incident is "emotional" and "unfitting of politicians".

The Russian Su-24 Fencer bomber was shot down by two Turkish F-16s Tuesday morning while conducting operations over Syria, where Moscow has been targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group.

Ankara claimed it downed the Russian plane because it had violated Turkish airspace. However, both the Russian General Staff and the Syrian Air Defense Command confirmed that the Su-24 was downed in Syrian airspace and never crossed into Turkey, in accordance with precise objective control data.One of the two Su-24 pilots was killed by fire from the ground after ejecting from the plane and a Russian naval infantry soldier was killed during a rescue operation.


Azerbaijan in an Era of Cheap Oil.

The double blow of falling oil prices and a decrease in remittances from Russia is making Azerbaijan economically fragile. Azerbaijan’s leaders have not prepared the country for future shocks.

Having enjoyed a decade of energy-fueled prosperity, the leaders of Azerbaijan must now learn to survive in an era of cheap oil.

The state in the South Caucasus is a prime example of what political scientist Andreas Schedler calls “electoral authoritarianism.” In other words, it is a political system that has the outward attributes of democracy but lacks genuine political competition or any public oversight of its government.

Oil and gas revenues have sustained this system for many years, and they still allow the current regime room for maneuver in both foreign and domestic policy. When oil prices were high, the huge profits from hydrocarbon export preserved stability in the country. They allowed the government to make a big impression by staging massive prestige events such as the Eurovision Song Contest and the European Games, and carrying out colossal construction projects.

But it is revealing that when oil prices were high, the lion’s share of Azerbaijan’s oil revenues was invested in physical capital, while human capital (educational and cultural projects) was neglected. For example, education spending totaled only 2.8 percent of GDP in 2008—2012. This is lower than in almost all of Azerbaijan’s post-Soviet neighbors. (In Moldova, the corresponding figure is 8.6 percent.)

The economic situation in Azerbaijan is currently far from catastrophic. Inflation is under control and GDP growth is expected to clock in at 3.3 percent for 2015. However, growth forecasts had been much higher, and this is a big fall from the double-digit annual growth rates the country experienced during the 2000s.

Azerbaijani Finance Minister Samir Sharifov recently presented gloomy budget forecasts for 2016, based on a projected oil price of $50 per barrel. They show that the government expects budget revenues to be down 25.1 percent compared to 2015 and oil revenues to account for only 53.5 percent of total revenues (compared to 65.3 percent in 2015 and 66 percent in 2014).

The first serious casualty of the falling oil price was Azerbaijan’s hitherto strong currency, the manat, which was devalued in February 2015. The currency lost 33.5 percent of its value against the dollar in just one day, briefly causing panic among the population.

The devaluation exposed the lamentable financial position of many Azerbaijani banks. Several banks were revealed to have been involved in large-scale credit schemes, having handed out bad loans worth millions of dollars, and participated in other financial malpractice.

The country’s largest bank, the International Bank of Azerbaijan, was especially hard hit and its chairman Jahangir Hajiyev had to “voluntarily” resign. An investigation showed that the bank had amassed close to 6 billion manats in unrecovered loans (worth more than $7.5 billion at the pre-devaluation exchange rate). Over several years these loans had been handed out to various businessmen linked with Hajiyev or invested in dubious business projects.

The economic woes of another oil-dependent state, Russia, present Azerbaijan with an additional challenge.

More than 1 million Azerbaijani citizens work in Russia, and in 2014 their remittances were worth $1.2 billion even based on official figures. That contributed to Azerbaijan’s stability in many ways. Much of this money was used to purchase real estate in Azerbaijan. Now this source of cash from abroad is drying up and the purchasing power of Azerbaijanis is declining, as is clearly indicated by the shrinking number of sales in the local real estate market.

For now the Azerbaijani regime has sufficient resources to maintain the status quo. The question is how long it can protect itself against negative trends.

Thus far, the economic turbulence in Azerbaijan has not translated into political instability—although one long-serving minister, national security chief Eldar Mahmudov, was sacked on October 17.

On the whole, there has been almost no turnover in the Azerbaijani ruling elite since President Ilham Aliev came to power twelve years ago. The leadership has maintained stability through (sometimes preventive) repression and exploiting the political passivity of the population.

Azerbaijan currently has no strong or organized opposition. Many of its former or potential leaders are now in jail.

It is obvious that the system needs to undergo some kind of political change in order to survive, but it is unclear whether the political leadership has the political will to make meaningful reforms, rather than the superficial adjustments we have seen in the past.

Although political turmoil is unlikely at the moment, the prospect of it grows stronger as long as the economic situation continues to deteriorate. A major economic downturn could trigger public protests, especially in Baku. The unresolved Nagorny Karabakh conflict with Armenia is also an important variable and may promise new upheavals.

The state of the economy will be the key test. If oil prices continue to decline or remain at current levels, the economic welfare of the majority of the population will deteriorate. It will become much harder to predict the response of the population to rising prices, systemic corruption, nepotism, and job losses.

Another negative scenario will play out if the business activities of Azerbaijani citizens in Russia are curtailed. If these businessmen cannot continue to support their families in Azerbaijan, they will come back home and most likely join the ranks of the unhappy and unemployed.

Azerbaijan—like Russia, Kazakhstan, and other post-Soviet states—is entering yet a new period of instability. It is difficult to predict the outcome. But it looks as though its rulers like their counterparts in neighboring petro-states, have been unable to take advantage of their windfall of energy revenues and cushion the country against future shocks.

Farhad Aliyev is an independent political analyst based in Baku.


From our Russian news desk:

Please take notice of the attachments.


U.S., Russia: Presidents Discuss Syria, Ukraine in Paris

November 30, 2015 | 20:47 GMT

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria and Ukraine on the sidelines of today’s climate talks in Paris, Sputnik reported Nov. 30. Putin said he believed there is a shared understanding between the two leaders about a future course of action in Syria, including the need for a political settlement and the clear designation of opposition and terrorist organizations. Obama and Putin also spoke about the situation in southeastern Ukraine and the Nov. 24 downing of a Russian bomber by Turkey, Reuters reported. Putin declined to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today to discuss the incident, which the Russian president called "a stab in the back."

Meeting on the sidelines of the Paris climate talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed Syria and the need for a new Syrian constitution and elections.

"We talked about Syria first of all," Putin told journalists following a meeting during the Paris climate talks. "We talked about how, in the near future, the focus of our attentions should be on a list of organizations we believe to be terroristic, and a list of organizations that represent the ‚healthy‘ opposition.

"We talked about the tactics of our joint action on this political track, and overall, in my opinion, there is an understanding about where to go from here."

Russian General Staff, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Discuss Syria

The Russian president also spoke of governmental changes needed for ending the fighting in Syria.

"If we are talking about the necessity of a political settlement, it is necessary to work on a new constitution, on the new election and on ensuring its results monitoring."

According to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to the White House, Obama has "stressed that the US, Russia, Turkey, our allies and partners in the Arab world, and Iran, must negotiate."

Speaking to reporters, Rhodes said "this is a direction in which we can work together."

During the summit, President Putin also stressed the impossibility of forming an effective anti-terror coalition so long as some parties use terrorist organizations to their own advantage.

"Now, as for the creation of a broad coalition against terrorism. You know that I spoke about this at the 70th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly. We are always in favor of this, but it is impossible while some use terrorist groups to reach short-term political goals."


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Phoenix:Michael Krons mit Florence Gaub.

Der sogenannte islamische Staat hat mit seinen Attentaten in Europa sein erstes Ziel gegenüber dem verhassten Westen erreicht: In den Metropolen Europas herrscht Angst vor weiteren Anschlägen. Mit Paris habe man die Hauptstadt der Unzucht und des Lasters getroffen, jubilierten die Attentäter und kündigten an, nun ihre blutige Spur über weitere Länder zu verbreiten.

Im DIALOG mit Michael Krons in Paris erklärt die Islam- und Nahostkennerin Florence Gaub die Hintergründe und die Strategie der IS- Kämpfer. Sie hält das lange Zögern des Westens vor gemeinsamen politischen Reaktionen und einem massiven militärischen Einschreiten für einen Fehler und eine der Voraussetzungen für das schnelle Anwachsen des IS. Zudem profitieren die Terroristen von den weiter zunehmenden Spannungen zwischen den arabischen Ländern und dem ungelösten Grundkonflikt zwischen Sunniten und Schiiten, es gar nicht um Religion gehe, sondern diese nur Mittel zum Zweck seien. Florence Gaub spart nicht mit Kritik an dem Vorgehen der US geführten Koalition im Irak und welche dramatischen Folgen vor allem deren jedes Feingefühl vermissen lassende Besatzungspolitik sowie der zu schnelle Abzug nach dem Sturz des Diktators für das Zweistromland hatten. Entgegen der derzeitigen politischen Agenda, spricht sie sich für ein größeres wirtschaftliches und politisches Engagement aus, bei welchem wohl auch die militärische Option zur Schaffung von Sicherheit nicht ausgespart werde.

Florence Gaub ist Deutsch-Französin und arbeitet als Senior Analyst beim Europäischen Institut für Sicherheitsstudien in Paris ( EUISS ). Ihr Spezialgebiet ist die arabische Welt unter den Aspekten Sicherheit und geostrategische Entwicklung. Sie arbeitete zuvor beim Deutschen Bundestag in Berlin und beim Nato Defence College in Rom.

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

Barandat* Erdogan more isolated than ever on Syria.

Erdogan’s "feel good moment" backfires.

The most notable consequence so far of Turkey’s shooting down a Russian fighter Nov. 24 has been a possible opening for a deepening of Russia’s cooperation with the US-led coalition against the Islamic State and a free fall in Turkish-Russian relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande agreed Nov. 26 to share information about targets in Syria and to strike “only terrorists.” Putin added that Russia is “ready to cooperate” with the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition.

Credit for the inspired diplomacy of turning crisis into opportunity goes to Hollande and US President Barack Obama, who apparently have decided that the overall objective of ending the war in Syria should not be held hostage to Turkey’s aggressive response to the Russian warplane’s alleged violation of Turkish airspace.

In another sign of Turkey’s increasing isolation on Syria, The Wall Street Journal’s above-the-fold feature on Nov. 28 was a report on how the United States has been pressing Turkey to seal its side of the Turkish-Syrian border. The article quotes a senior Obama administration official as saying “enough is enough. … This is an international threat, and it’s all coming out of Syria and it’s coming through Turkish territory.”

Metin Gurcan explains the context of the battle that led to the confrontation between Russian and Turkish aircraft. Gurcan writes that Syrian military forces backed by Iranian Shiite militias and Russian air power have been battling Turkmens, the Army of Conquest, and Jabhat al-Nusra forces in the predominantly Turkmen Bayirbucak region since Nov. 19, which is only nine miles from the Turkish border. Syria and its allies are seeking to clean this mountainous and densely forested area from opposition fighters as a precursor of further Syrian regime and Russian moves toward Idlib and Aleppo and “to expel Chechen Caucasian fighters from Bayirbucak” in advance of a possible cease-fire.

Semih Idiz reports that Ankara had protested Russian and Syrian attacks on Syrian Turkmen forces in this region, and quotes Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying Nov. 22, two days before the incident, “We are prepared to take all the necessary diplomatic and other measures in order to protect our brothers there, and wherever they may be, against any threat, and to preserve their human rights.”

Idiz explains how Turkey’s actions have served to undermine its case in support of its Turkmen allies in Syria: “Once Turkey’s national ‚feel good‘ moment of having shown its resolve and military capability by the downing of the Russian jet fighter is over, attention will shift to the diplomatic field to see what political fallout there is in the aftermath of this incident. … NATO went through the motions of calling for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, as it has to by its charter, but few expect it to opt for an escalation of the crisis. Given that there is little sympathy in the West for radical Islamic groups following the Paris attack, and that France is acting with Russia to bomb IS targets in Raqqa, it is likely that Moscow will have the upper hand at the Security Council. This means that Turkey is unlikely to gain much sympathy from its allies for the Turkmens, or other radical Sunni groups in the region fighting the Syrian regime. Turkey ultimately remains at odds with its allies over the question of fighting the Assad regime, which US Secretary of State John Kerry has said is not part of their military mission in Syria, where they are to fight IS and to aid groups committed to fight this group. Without the active support of its allies, though, there is little that Turkey can do in the end to respond to Russia and the Assad regime in northern Syria in order to secure the Sunni-dominated political configuration in the region that it wishes to see.”

The incident has drawn increased scrutiny to Turkey’s approach to Syria’s Kurds, which is in direct contrast with both US policy and Russian initiatives in Syria. Erdogan said Oct. 14 that there is “no difference” between the Patriotic Union Party of Syria (PYD), the leading Syrian Kurdish group there, and the Islamic State. The US has singled out the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD, as among its most effective Syrian partners, so US and Turkish policy will eventually face a day of reckoning, as the differences are to date irreconcilable.

Cengiz Candar writes that “the souring of relations between Ankara and Moscow might also cast a shadow on the cooperation between Turkey and the United States to evict IS from the 98-kilometer (61-mile) border that is still under the control of IS in northern Syria. Turkey enlisted the Americans by opening up its Incirlik Air Base in exchange for a tacit pledge to prevent YPG forces from moving ‘west of the Euphrates.’ If Russia were to provide overt support to the YPG in its quest to remove IS from the border region, such a political move could further complicate not only US-Russian relations but also the cooperation between Washington and Ankara. After all, Turkey is a member of NATO, but for Washington, under an Obama administration serving its last year in office and increasingly reluctant to engage in any sort of direct military involvement in Syria, it might be difficult to push ‚the unruly teenager of the Transatlantic Alliance‘ to invoke Article 5.”

Zulfikar Dogan describes how Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has successfully divided and weakened the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by equating the HDP with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Orhan Cengiz reports that a shadowy Islamist paramilitary force, termed “Allah’s lions” (Esedullah), has been operating in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast regions against the PKK. The security situation in these areas is the worst it has been in a decade. “What has emerged so far from news reports, witness accounts and images in the media,” Cengiz writes, “suggests that a group within the police — religiously motivated, heavy-handed and hostile to Kurds — is increasingly taking the forefront in security operations in the southeast. The locals tend to believe these policemen share the same mindset as IS fighters and see them as an IS-linked paramilitary force. Regardless of whether this perception has any factual basis or stems from psychological fears only, one thing is certain: It serves no good for Turkey’s Kurdish problem, already mired in conflict, tensions and mistrust.”

Erdogan has shown signs of seeking to de-escalate the crisis, which has proved a fiasco, despite the nationalist chest thumping, as Pinar Tremblay reports, and the platitudes about self-defense from NATO allies. Erdogan has appealed, so far without success, for a meeting with Putin, perhaps during the climate talks that start in Paris on Nov. 30. Such a meeting, in the company of other world leaders, could yet be another step forward for a political settlement in Syria and a more coordinated military campaign against the Islamic State.

Syrian war enters new, more dangerous phase

Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian jet signals that the Syrian war has entered a new, more dangerous phase. No more is Syria just a "proxy war" between Syrian parties backed by Iran on the one side, and Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other. The battlefield now includes American, Russian and Iranian "boots on the ground." Russia has two military bases and provides air cover for all of Syria. Turkey prudently suspended its air operations over Syria. The stakes have far exceeded both Erdogan’s personal vendetta against Assad and his desire to thwart the Syrian Kurds. Turkey’s reckless action put NATO on the hook for a type of escalation that would have repercussions beyond Syria. The credit goes to Obama, Hollande and Putin for weathering the storm.

The incident draws attention to Turkey’s grudging and half-hearted contribution to the war in Syria. If Russian planes were indeed targeting groups affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, should Ankara not grant them a few minutes of airspace? The point here is not to get into the back-and-forth about the specifics of whether the Russian and Turkish planes followed appropriate procedures to change the flight path of the Russian plane. The point, more broadly, is that Turkey’s actions in the war against the Islamic State may be of a lesser nature than those of Russia and Iran, not to mention Assad’s forces, who are actually engaging Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters. There are also the questions of the flow of foreign fighters and illicit trade along the Turkish-Syrian border, which are the subject of several UN Security Council resolutions.

Another dimension of the new phase of the Syria war regards the role of Syrian troops in the battle against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Both Hollande and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius referred to the use of Syrian government troops to combat the Islamic State, although only in the context of a political transition without Assad. The reality is that Syrian troops, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, are the most effective Arab force battling these terrorist groups, as Arab coalition forces are almost nonexistent, as Bruce Riedel wrote last week, and many of the opposition forces are now penetrated by Jabhat al-Nusra, as the United Nations and other organizations have pointed out. It might be a fair question to ask that if Syrian military forces, backed by Iran and Hezbollah, retake Aleppo, will the citizens of Aleppo be clamoring for the return of sectarian forces backed by the Arab Gulf states, or welcome the new forces in hopes of calm?

If the Vienna process gets traction in the coming months, the next frontier will be whether those who have backed opposition and Salafi forces in Syria, especially Saudi Arabia, will keep their focus on whether Assad should go, as part of a negotiation over a transition, or continue to carry the fight against the so-called “Iranian axis” to break Iran’s relationship with Syria. This trend is worth watching, especially if the Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah alignment continues to take the fight to terrorists on the ground, and both Syrians and the international community, eager to end the scourge of Islamic State and other terrorist groups once and for all, grow tired of the sectarian agendas that have caused so much misery for the Syrian people.[English]&utm_campaign=aa5a35e0cd-Week_in_review_November_30_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-aa5a35e0cd-93106913


France Usurps Germany as Terror Refocuses EU on Hard Power.

James G. Neuger. Nov 26, 2015 11:32 am ET

(Bloomberg) — French warplanes taking off from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier may not remake the Middle East, but are already reshaping Europe’s balance of power after years of German economic dominance.

Refugees, Syria’s civil war, Libya’s dissolution, rumblings from Russia, terrorism in Paris and a red alert in Brussels put hard power back atop the European agenda, burying the notion of the economically bold but militarily shy Germany as Europe’s unchallenged leader.

France, never comfortable with Germany’s low-deficit strictures, has cast them off; President Francois Hollande first huddled with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to hammer out war plans against Islamic State, not with German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Merkel is under fire at home for letting in too many refugees, amid fears that future terrorists are among them.

“You have undisputed German power in the economic realm, but Germany is not going to be in a position, at least in the short term, to provide security for Europe, so that will have to rest with NATO and especially within Europe, the U.K. and France,” said Daniel Fiott, a researcher at the Institute for European Studies at VUB in Brussels. “There is a bit of balance of power emerging there.”

France hasn’t met euro budget-deficit targets, Germany’s prized tool for managing the economy, since 2007 and Hollande downgraded them to a regulatory footnote in announcing extra spending on defense and internal security after Islamic State murdered 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.

“In these circumstances, the security pact is more important than the stability pact,” Hollande said. The rest of Europe, including Germany’s deficit-phobic brethren, had little choice but to go along. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem called France “broadly compliant” with the fiscal rules.

“The focus, if not obsession, with the euro-zone crisis has given us the impression that Germany is the superpower in the European integration process,” said Christophe Hillion, professor of European law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. “But if we widen our view of European integration, the picture might be different.”

Charles de Gaulle

The dispatch of the nuclear-propelled Charles de Gaulle to the eastern Mediterranean as the launchpad for airstrikes on the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria was full of French symbolism. As the founder of France’s presidential system, De Gaulle had an almost paranoid belief in French independence, especially from the U.S. and the U.K., and in a Europe run by national leaders, not outsourced to surrogates in Brussels.

So when France made a precedent-setting decision to invoke European Union military aid after the Paris atrocities, it took its case to the national capitals, one by one, shunning coordination via the EU’s central bureaucracy.

One of the first responders was Britain, which has had little time for grand EU defense designs — its policy, re- emphasized in this week’s 178 billion-pound ($270 billion), 10- year military upgrade, is NATO-first — and is in the throes of a national debate over whether to quit the 28-nation bloc. Britain put an airbase in Cyprus on standby and pledged assistance with air-to-air refueling.

U.K. Wary

In making that offer at the Elysee palace, Cameron neglected to mention that it was triggered by an EU treaty obligation. As he preps a referendum by 2017 over a possible U.K. exit, the thought of Britain’s war machine being bound by EU rules is simply too toxic. Britain’s planned Syria mission, which Cameron outlined in Parliament on Thursday, will be part of the U.S.-led coalition.

As Britain orbits on the EU’s fringes, France is undergoing an upgrade at Germany’s expense. The intervention against Islamic State has led to a French rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is pursuing his own Syria agenda by trying to keep Bashar al-Assad in power.

Parlay With Putin

Hollande’s trip to Moscow on Thursday spurred concern that France will break from the EU consensus over sanctions on Russia for its backing for the Ukraine separatist movement. Some eastern European governments fear the trade and investment curbs, up for renewal by Jan. 31, could fall as a gesture to the Kremlin.

“It is likely that French and German interests over a possible alliance with Russia will diverge,” said Willem Oosterveld, an analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. “Various countries in eastern Europe will also not be happy should Europe go soft on Russia, and count on Germany first of all to have their strategic interests protected.”

Germany’s post-World War II reticence about the military is compounded by coalition politics that make it the slowest-moving of Europe’s major powers. German troops first ventured abroad for the Kosovo campaign of 1999 and joined NATO’s Afghanistan pacification mission, then boycotted the Iraq invasion and, more controversially, the Libyan air campaign of 2011.

Germany is now training and equipping Kurdish opponents of the Islamic State. Merkel’s cabinet on Thursday agreed to supply four to six Tornado surveillance planes, a frigate and air refueling capabilities, according to a coalition lawmaker. Germany will also send more soldiers to Mali and prolong the mission in Afghanistan to relieve French troops there.

“We have to use the full range of options at hand: foreign aid, diplomacy, intelligence and military as the last possible option,” said Jan Kallmorgen, a partner at political consultancy Interel in Berlin. “But this requires a genuine public debate and a new strategic mindset.”


Washington Post: Failure to stop Paris attacks reveals fatal flaws at heart of European security.

PARIS — To carry out the attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris this month, the killers relied on a cunning awareness of the weaknesses at the heart of the European security services charged with stopping them.

Poor information-sharing among intelligence agencies, a threadbare system for tracking suspects across open borders and an unmanageably long list of homegrown extremists to monitor all gave the Paris plotters an opening to carry out the deadliest attack on French soil in more than half a century.

Two weeks later, European security experts say the flaws in the continent’s defenses are as conspicuous as ever, with no clear plan for fixing them.

“We lack the most obvious tools to deal with this threat,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism. “We’re blind.”

With the Syrian war raging on the continent’s doorstep and thousands of Europe’s own citizens traveling to and from the battlefield under the influence of a spellbindingly effective propaganda campaign, Brisard’s bleak assessment is widely shared.

The mismatch between the scale of the threat and Europe’s patchwork response has contributed to a grim resignation among counterterrorism professionals: Even after a series of terrorist strikes this year — including two bursts of mayhem in Paris, deadly shootings in Copenhagen and a would-be assault on train passengers foiled by off-duty U.S. servicemen — another large-scale attack in Europe is almost inevitable.

“We have to figure out what went wrong and fix it as soon as possible. Because one thing is for sure: Islamic State will try to hit Europe again,” said a senior European intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Unlike in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when American officials vowed to do whatever it took to prevent a repeat, Europe’s leaders can offer few guarantees. They face enormous structural holes in their security networks, and they have few obvious solutions to a threat more potent than any the continent has confronted in decades.

The Paris attackers freely exploited those flaws and offered a possible guide to others who could follow in their blood-saturated wake.

Coordination between European intelligence services is poor, with no comprehensive, shared list of suspected extremists. So the attackers hopped freely and frequently over unguarded European Union borders, with at least five also traveling to Syria and back.

Most had already been flagged as potential security threats. But so had tens of thousands of others — 20,000 in France alone — and the plotters were careful not to stand out or give law enforcement an excuse to arrest them.

The attackers chose lightly guarded targets, probably conscious that doing so would only add to the burden of security services already buckling under the strain of austerity-imposed budget reductions.

“The systems of European security that at one time were useful and effective are no longer adapted for this threat,” said Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s domestic intelligence service who now leads the Paris office of the global intelligence firm Arcanum. “We are dealing with people who are cunning and determined. They’ve been in combat.”

European security officials have warned for more than two years about the threat of citizens returning from the Syrian battlefield to wage war at home. But the Paris attacks revealed how ill-equipped the continent is to reckon with the problem.

Despite returnees being at the top of Europe’s threat list, the attackers seemed to face little trouble shuttling back and forth between Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria and the downtrodden neighborhoods of Brussels and Paris, where preparations for the attacks were finalized.

The failures reflect the paradox at the heart of Europe’s security dilemma: The continent’s citizens can freely cross borders, but authorities lack access to shared databases on suspected terrorists.

One of the attackers, 28-year-old Samy Amimour, was placed under judicial supervision in France in 2012 after attempting to travel to Yemen. But he later managed to get to Syria and back.

Belgian law enforcement was aware that 20-year-old Bilal Hadfi had returned from Syria but couldn’t find him.

Another attacker, 31-year-old Brahim Abdeslam, was caught on his way to Syria by Turkish authorities. Belgian law enforcement questioned him — then let him go. His 26-year-old brother, Salah, was also questioned and released — even though Belgian authorities knew he had become radicalized. Hours after the attack, French police stopped his car. But they let him go, and he remains at large.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged architect of the attacks, was one of Europe’s most wanted men before the attacks. But the 28-year-old Belgian slipped from the radar of intelligence services and was widely thought to be in Syria, where he starred in grisly propaganda videos.

In fact, he had returned to Europe. But there was no trace of him until the night of Nov. 13 — when phone records show he stood watching from the street as police battled the militants he had sent to kill young music fans at Paris’s famed Bataclan concert hall.

At the root of the intelligence failures, Brisard said, is a European security system that was designed to guard against external threats and is ill-prepared now that it faces such a sprawling challenge from its own battle-hardened and radicalized citizens.

“The paradigm has changed,” the terrorism analyst said. “We need to adapt.”

A good starting point, he said, would be a systematic way of checking E.U. citizens against security databases when they return from outside the union’s borders. Such checks have been sporadic, as border guards typically confirm that the face of the traveler matches the one in the passport.

After the attacks, the E.U. stepped up its controls. But their effectiveness is severely limited. Europe lacks a common biometric identification system, and the one shared database covers only those with criminal records, not those who are suspected of extremist plots.

“We need a Europe-wide blacklist of jihadists,” said Manfred Weber, the head of a center-right group in the European Parliament that is pushing for tighter controls.

The idea of creating a “Passenger Name Record” — similar to the U.S. no-fly list — has been debated by E.U. politicians and bureaucrats for more than a decade. But it has been repeatedly stalled by privacy concerns among those who say the United States went too far in its response to Sept. 11 and who don’t want to repeat the same mistake.

[ France’s far right reaps political gains as fears of terrorism grow ]

There is little intelligence-sharing across Europe, despite the continent’s open borders. Intelligence services prefer to cooperate on a bilateral basis with favored partners, rather than distribute information across a 28-member bloc. Even after the attacks, analysts say, that’s unlikely to change at a time when terrorism, migration and debt are pulling E.U. members apart rather than bringing them together.

“The crises facing Europe are taking their toll on trust and unity,” said François Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The strains can be seen in European responses to the attacks, which have been marked by unanimous expressions of solidarity with France — but also little cohesive action and occasional finger-pointing.

French officials have accused Belgium of allowing Islamic extremism to incubate unchecked. Belgian authorities have hit back, but some have also admitted that the country is failing to meet the challenge.

Belgian security forces suffer from tensions between their French and Flemish halves. Hard-line Saudi preachers have long been allowed to preach in the country’s mosques, and a thriving black market for arms has made weapons readily available.

More Belgians per capita have traveled to Syria to fight than from any other E.U. country. Relatives of those who have joined the tide blame their government and security services for a lack of oversight and prevention.

The night she realized her 22-year-old son had left for Syria, Yasmine called police to inform them who had recruited him: Jean-Louis Denis, a Belgian convert.

But Yasmine, who spoke on the condition her last name not be used in order to protect her family, said authorities failed to act.

Her younger son, 16, followed his brother to Syria three months later, in April 2013. Denis was not arrested until more than a year and a half after that, despite being monitored by authorities since 2009. All the while, he was sending young Belgians to Syria — a crime for which he was ultimately convicted.

“They know what’s happening, but they don’t intervene,” Yasmine said.

Alain Winants, head of Belgium’s domestic intelligence agency until 2014, said the service simply could not cope with the strain of so many citizens becoming radicalized so quickly. He was lobbying for a 20 percent increase in personnel when he left. The agency has 600 employees.

Belgian spy chief says he warned on budget cuts as jihadi threat grew

France has considerably more agents in its domestic security service — about 3,300. But they are tasked with monitoring 20,000 people on national security watch lists, about half of whom are said to be Islamist extremists.

Experts say it is impossible for security services to run surveillance on such a large number. But unless the suspects commit a crime, they can’t be arrested, either.

Following the Paris attacks, French President François Hollande declared a state of emergency that has given security services vast new powers. Authorities have conducted more than 1,000 searches, more than 120 people have been charged, and many others have been placed under house arrest.

The measures, which will remain in place for three months, may disrupt plots in the short term. But, given the civil liberties concerns, Heisbourg said, they are hardly long-term solutions for Europe’s struggle with violent extremism.

“My house could be raided by cops tomorrow without a warrant. This is very radical stuff,” he said. “We’re doing the right thing. But this can’t be made into the new normal.”


Middle East

November 30, 2015, Gallup:Nearly Half of Syrians Would Leave Syria if They Could

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 4 million Syrians have fled their country since the onset of the conflict there in 2011, and millions more have been displaced inside their own borders. As the conflict entered its fifth year in January 2015, about half of Syrians (46%) surveyed said they would leave their country given the opportunity. Nearly as many (43%) said it is likely that they will move away from their community in the next 12 months.

The 46% of Syrians who expressed a desire to relocate to another country is essentially unchanged from the 47% who said so in 2013. In both years, about one-third of the adult population was excluded because areas were destroyed and vacant, or for security reasons. Still, the desire to migrate is more than twice as high as it was at several points before the conflict started.

Regardless of their age, education level or economic status, similar percentages of Syrians would like to leave their country if they could. Gallup’s research over a number of years into people’s desire to migrate worldwide shows young people, more educated people and those with more means to do so are more likely to want to move. This is not the case in Syria, and speaks to the dire situation many Syrians find themselves in.

Middle East, Europe Most Desired Destinations for Potential Syrian Migrants

While many displaced Syrians have fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey or made their way to European countries, Syrians who express a desire to move away name a host of countries as their most desired destinations if they relocated. Although much media attention has been given to Syrians‘ desire to move to Europe, Gallup research finds that Syrians who express a desire to leave mentioned 28 different countries within four different geographic regions as their desired destination.

Countries in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa are among the most popular; more than one-third of potential Syrian migrants mention countries in each of these two regions, although no single country stands out individually. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more Syrians are currently finding refuge in neighboring Middle Eastern countries than in European countries.

Although Gallup surveys since 2007 have shown that the U.S. is the top desired destination for potential migrants worldwide and that Northern America (which includes the U.S. and Canada) is the most desired region, only 6% of potential migrants in Syria desired to migrate to either of these areas.

Bottom Line

While nearly half of Syrians would like to leave their country, if given the opportunity, this does not mean all of them will. Gallup’s findings reflect people’s desires rather than their intentions — but the implications are still serious. Contrary to other research Gallup has done on migration, demographic characteristics such as employment, income level and age do not seem to factor in to whether Syrians wish to leave the country. As The Guardian described the situation in a September article titled "Everyone Wants to Leave," "[Syrians] leaving are not motivated by their political views, but by a situation in which few see realistic prospects for change." For many Syrians, simply finding a way to leave the country may be more important than where they end up after that.

Julie Ray contributed to this article.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.


The Hill: Refugee crisis can, and must, be solved by Syria’s neighbors.

By Ben Carson – 12/01/15 06:00 AM EST

In the decades following World War II, the world witnessed the greatest movement of populations in history. War refugees from displaced persons camps in Europe were helped to begin life anew in other countries and on other continents. Massive population exchanges in Asia were often bloody and brutal, when the new countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh were created as Muslim states and India achieved independence, its population majority Hindu. At the same time, the Jewish state of Israel achieved independence and rose to the challenge of accepting refugees from neighboring Arab countries, from Yemen to Morocco to Egypt.

With one singular exception, all people who were refugees in the second half of the 20th century have long been settled and integrated in their new countries. The one exception, which has been allowed to languish and be used as a political pawn, is Palestine. This was done with the connivance of the United Nations and the Arab League. We don’t want to see similar manipulation and mishandling of today’s Middle East refugees, with Syrians fleeing the horrors of four years of civil war and terror.

Most Syrian refugees find themselves in Turkey or Jordan, where every aspect of life is extremely difficult. Those who arrive with savings are permitted to live in the cities, such as Amman, where food and other expenses are high. Because they are not permitted to work, they soon spend their savings. When the refugee families’ funds are gone, their only choice is to move into a refugee camp and live on U.N. food vouchers. Many are now housed in refugee camps, such as the one I visited, the Azraq refugee camp.

The Azraq camp is located in a bleak and deserted stretch of desert that was built to house Iraqis and Kuwaiti Gulf war refugees. First opening in 2014, the United Nations and Jordan built Azraq with the
capacity to hold 130,000 residents, which would have made it the largest refugee camp in the region. Today it is nearly empty, with a population of around 27,000 residents.

Is the camp nearly empty because the authorities have been so efficient in resettling those refugees? Quite the contrary! Conditions in Azraq, and the failure of Arab nations to receive refugees, have led to the refugees’ desperate flight in unsafe boats to Europe.

Here is a picture of life in Azraq: The camp is a bleak expanse of row after row of white sheet metal shelters. There is no electricity or air conditioning or heat against the scalding desert summer temperatures or cold winds of winter. Lack of electricity adds further hardship, as people are forced to choose between having light to see their way to the bathroom at night (six shelters share one bathroom) and charging their cellphones, which connects them to family and the outside world.

Despite the fact that refugees are in host countries that share their language, culture, ethnicity and religion, they are not helped to integrate into those countries, or into the many neighboring Arab, Muslim countries. Many refugees are educated professionals; many have other skills and occupations. But they are not allowed to work, and their children do not attend schools.

No wonder they want to leave! And they have, in droves — some preferring to take their chances back in Syria.

The media has focused on Europe and the United States’s willingness or unwillingness to welcome these refugees. This focus is all wrong. The solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is with Syria’s neighbors.

Syrian refugee resettlement should be concentrated in Arab countries, which are in the best position to help. The rich Persian Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — have the resources to provide services that refugees require. With no language barrier and no religious or cultural gaps to overcome, refugees can find new and fulfilling lives with only enough support to make the transition. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other refugee aid organizations can best use their resources to train these Gulf states to provide housing and social services effectively.

Syrians have a reputation as being very hard working, determined people, which should only enhance the overall economic health of the neighboring Arab countries that accept and integrate them into the general population. The humanitarian crisis presented by the fleeing Syrian refugees can be addressed if the nations of the world with resources would provide financial and material support to the aforementioned countries as well as encouragement. There is much beauty in Syria, and I suspect that many displaced Syrians will return there when peace is restored.

This is a forward-thinking and wise strategy.

Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, is a candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination.




STRATOR: Considering Germany Without Merkel.

A lack of coordination among German officials is chipping away at the popular perception of the Berlin government as a well-oiled machine. In the latest example of internal discord, a government spokesperson said Thursday that Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had decided to reintroduce EU regulations on asylum seekers without first informing the country’s chancellor or refugee coordinator. On the surface, this behavior might seem erratic or even indicate a competition for power among German ministries taking place beneath the surface, but in reality it hints at a much deeper problem — one that could seriously undermine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and have wide-ranging repercussions for the rest of Europe.

The ongoing refugee crisis has overwhelmed Merkel. The German chancellor is famous for her ability to sense the direction of public opinion and adjust her policies accordingly. This time, though, many think she may have miscalculated. When asylum seekers began arriving en masse to Germany early this summer, Merkel promised that her country would receive them with open arms — and open borders. And Germans initially supported her decision, which they saw as an opportunity to show solidarity to those in need.

But as the influx of people grew, many Germans started to worry that their government had failed to assess the true magnitude of the crisis. Suddenly, Merkel was no longer the infallible leader who could do no wrong but an impulsive head of government who had put her country in danger. Some began to see the chancellor’s famous statement about refugees — "we can manage" — as proof that Berlin had lost control of the immigration problem.

Doubt began to build among the German people, and cracks formed within the coalition government. The center-right pushed for a tougher stance on immigration, while the center-left found itself trapped between its ideological sympathy for asylum seekers and its need to respond to voters‘ demands. Conservative lawmakers who were already upset by what they perceived to be a soft stance on Greece renewed their vocal criticism of Merkel. As a result, the German administration hardened its position on migration while chaos within the government reached new heights. Questions arose about whether Merkel would be able to complete her third term, which is set to end in late 2017.

At the moment, Merkel’s position is not under threat. Even if Germany’s conservatives decide to withdraw their support, the process required to replace a German chancellor is extremely cumbersome and requires lawmakers to show that they can appoint a new government to replace its fallen predecessor. But if the center-right chooses to stop backing Merkel, the center-left probably will not be far behind. At that point, early elections would be nearly impossible to avoid.

Nobody in Germany is ready for a new round of elections, at least not right now. The popularity of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has declined since the refugee crisis began, which has reduced the party’s appetite for an early vote. Meanwhile, Germany’s center-left is still trying to sort out its own contradicting imperatives and has no clear candidate to put forth for the chancellorship. And as the country’s major parties struggle in the polls, support for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party has reached a record high of about 10 percent, and attacks against immigrants are becoming more frequent. Altogether, the complexity of Germany’s current political situation means that the chances of new elections taking place in 2016 are slim.

Still, many things could happen in the coming months that would have long-term ramifications for the country and the Continent. Even if Merkel keeps her job, the ruling coalition could become increasingly ineffective, and infighting over her succession could undermine her leadership. Elections in several German regions in 2016 will test the popularity of the parties within Merkel’s coalition, and the outcome will affect their calculations about seeking early elections. Should the CDU perform poorly, party members will probably start planning for a future without Merkel.

The problem is, the CDU does not have many natural successor candidates to choose from. The only party figure who rivals Merkel is Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, an experienced politician who lost his race to head the CDU to Merkel over a decade ago. The Greek crisis revealed a more virulent side of Schaeuble, who went so far as to suggest that Athens be expelled from the eurozone, but he has remained relatively quiet throughout the refugee crisis and has only sporadically criticized the government’s policy. With his image as the defender of Germany’s fiscal stability and economic interests, some think Schaeuble may be preparing to challenge Merkel for her post.

Regardless of who heads the government, though, the current situation in German politics is important for several reasons. First, a government too focused on dealing with internal disputes and preparing for new elections will be less effective in leading the European Union as it deals with a number of major issues, including heightened tensions with Russia and the migration of massive numbers of refugees. Second, the emergence of a political crisis as the already-existing migration crisis plays out could lead to a more inward-looking and Euroskeptic government. This year’s events have already debunked several myths about the European Union, from the irreversibility of the eurozone to the sanctity of open borders; if a new German government arises from the ashes of the immigration and Greek financial crises, its effects will be felt across the entire bloc.



moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Bundestag committee backs opening of chapters with Serbia

The German Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union gave at Friday’s extraordinary session the green light for opening the first two chapters in Serbia’s EU accession talks, the German parliament announced.

McAllister welcomes Bundestag’s decision on chapter opening

EP Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister welcomed the decision by the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union to give the green light for opening the first two chapters in Serbia’s EU accession talks, stressing that the Committee’s recommendation is a proof of its consistency.

Vucic to attend opening chapters in Brussels on December 14, 2015

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday that he will attend the intergovernmental conference in Brussels on December 14 when, as he put it, the first two negotiating chapters in Serbia’s EU accession talks will be opened.

OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Belgrade on December 3, 2015

The OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in early December might be an opportunity for Russia and Turkey to improve relations after downing a Russian jet, believes Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, adding that Ankara should make the first move being the guilty side.

Also, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini agreed to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting to discuss the pressing issues and fight against terrorism.


The Moral Pitfalls of Foreign Policy Weakness.

It is not very astonishing how quickly both the fight against the self-styled Islamic State and the refugee crisis, connected as they are, have turned into textbook cases of realpolitik. French President François Hollande seeks to build an alliance with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to fight the Islamist group. Hollande even deems Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a possible ally in this standoff.

At the same time, in a different arena, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under existential political pressure back home, goes down on her knees to win Turkey’s support in the refugee crisis. So too does the entire EU, with the recently endorsed EU-Turkey refugee action plan, conceived in the fear of further uncontrolled migration.

Not long ago, Assad was the West’s evil nemesis no. 1, with Putin a close second. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was regarded as an erratic, despotic loony too embarrassing to be seen with. Now, European leaders across the political spectrum are doing exactly what leaders always do when problems are big, resources are scarce, and only bad options remain: they deviate from the path of moral purity to get a grip on a practical issue that is more urgent than ethical cleanliness. Interests have topped values again in EU foreign policy. Or have they?

Criticism of European and Western kowtowing to less-than-immaculate interlocutors is fierce. Pundit after pundit warns that Europe must not sell out its values when forging alliances with Putin and Erdoğan, the Saudis, the generals in Egypt, the mullahs in Tehran, or the Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

These warnings are understandable, for two very good reasons. First, Western politicians are hired by their voters not only as managers of tricky practical problems but also as high priests whose task is to represent what’s good and great about the tribe and to keep its moral narrative intact. Second, succumbing too quickly to cooperating with the dark side is problematic: aside from being unpleasant, it can backfire and produce quick fixes that come back to haunt you. Realpolitik is often necessary, but it is also very risky.

Be that as it may, in the end physical survival tops moral considerations, as always in the face of clear and present danger. The task of a responsible leader is to be pragmatic to the point where it hurts—and beyond, if necessary.

The real problem here is not European moral bankruptcy. The real problem is a political, economic, and military weakness that breeds a necessity to make compromises that are bigger and come more quickly than they have to. It is a weakness that drives leaders into policies and alliances that are morally questionable. It is a weakness that makes values dispensable.

Europe’s current realpolitik is a cautionary tale about what happens when states systematically undermine their own power base by not reforming economically, by disarming unilaterally, by not adapting their institutions. A leader who thinks that morals can prevail without muscle has already lost both.

What’s so annoying about the cheap warnings of Western moral sellouts is that often they come from the very people who also argued fervently against the strengthening of the West. These critics were against structural reform of ailing economies, because that was capitalist brutality. They were against a more integrated Europe, because that was undemocratic lunacy. They were against beefing up defense spending, because that was militarist saber rattling. They were against a proper EU immigration policy, because that would be too harsh on migrants (feared by the Left) or because it would open the floodgates for more foreigners to swamp Europe (feared by the Right). They were against TTIP, the proposed transatlantic trade alliance, because that was capitalist neocolonialism designed to cement global inequality.

Most of those who, often on moral grounds, argued against the very policies that could have strengthened Western positions vis-à-vis the brutes of this world are now quick to remind observers that moral sellouts would be a disgrace. But it is muscle that makes morals affordable in a world that punishes weakness. He who works actively to weaken that muscle is also the grave digger of values in foreign policy.

But strength is not just about economic vibrancy, functioning institutions, and military capabilities. Strength is also about conceptual firepower. And this is where the critics of the moral sellout are right. It would be nice if the West had more muscle so it could rely less on alliances with funny-smelling partners. It would be even nicer if the West had an idea of what it wanted to accomplish in foreign policy. Strength needs to be guided by ideas, based on proper analysis.

What is it that the West wants to achieve in the Middle East—or in Eastern Europe? What kind of world does the West want in Africa or Central Asia? What resources would the West have to assign to make those goals a reality? Who are the West’s partners? And what homework does the West have to do to get its foreign policy right?

The truth is that the West, in its current constellation, has no strategy, and it has no tactics either. Putin and Erdoğan and Assad might not have much of a strategy themselves (even though that can be vividly argued), but they certainly outsmart the West on tactics anytime. Not because they are cleverer but because they know what they want and they have their priorities established.

“The West’s problem in Syria is that it wants everybody else to lose,” says Rupert Smith, a retired British general and author of the neo-Clausewitzian classic The Utility of Force. But when you want the Islamic State, Russia, Iran, Assad, Erdoğan, and Saudi Arabia all to lose at the same time in a theater where they are all stronger than you are, you might occupy the moral high ground. But you’re also strategically confused.

Something’s got to give. Moral compromise is unavoidable. The stronger you are, the smaller the compromise will be.



see our letter on:

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



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