Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 04.03.16

Massenbach-Letter. News – K-T Guttenberg: Jihad & a Geopolitical G-X: Winning the War and Building the Peace

· Statement – by the NATO Secretary General on NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis*Beginn von NATO-Mission in Flüchtlingskrise verzögert sich.

· "Cumhuriyet"-Chefredakteur – "Der türkische Rechtsstaat kämpft ums Überleben"

· „Mit einem Exodus der Christen aus dem Mittleren Osten dürfen wir uns nicht abfinden“

· Iran: India’s Gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East * “Iran – Heart of Regional Crossroads” (att.)

· Bear market: Why GCC investors see opportunities in Russia

· New cargo train service links China, Russia * Poland Initiating Creation Of Transport Corridor To Adriatic

· Super Tuesday: Angry Americans: How the 2008 Crash Fueled a Political Rebellion *

· Ausarbeitungen der Wissenschaftlichen Dienste des Deutschen Bundestages werden unter www.bundestag.de/ausarbeitungen veröffentlicht.

Massenbach*Statement by the NATO Secretary General on NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis.

Last updated: 25 Feb. 2016 01:36

We have just agreed the modalities of NATO’s support in responding to the refugee and migrant crisis.

NATO Defence Ministers took a swift decision two weeks ago to respond to the proposals by Germany, Greece and Turkey. Since then, intense work has been underway.

We will participate in international efforts to cut the lines of illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean Sea. Because this crisis affects us all. And we all have to find solutions.

NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 arrived in the Aegean Sea within 48 hours of the Ministers’ decision. It is conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance activities. Our ships will be providing information to the coastguards and other national authorities of Greece and Turkey. This will help them carry out their duties even more effectively to deal with the illegal trafficking networks.

We are also establishing direct links with Frontex, the European Union’s border agency.

We will conduct our activities in the Aegean Sea. Our commanders will decide the area where they will be operating, in coordination with Greece and Turkey. NATO vessels can deploy in the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey.

Greek and Turkish forces will not operate in each other’s territorial waters and airspace.

NATO’s task is not to turn back the boats. We will provide critical information. To enable the Greek and Turkish coastguards, as well as Frontex, to do their job even more effectively.

Our added value is that we can facilitate closer cooperation and assist in greater exchange of information between Greece and Turkey, as both are NATO Allies, but only Greece is in the EU. Today’s agreement also means that we are working closer with the EU than ever before. So NATO has a unique role to play as a platform for cooperation.

Let me also address the issue of Search and Rescue. The obligation to help people in distress at sea is a general, universal responsibility. It applies to all vessels. Regardless of whether they are part of a NATO or national mission. If Allied vessels encounter people in distress at sea, they have to live up to their national responsibility to assist.

In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey. In carrying out their tasks, our nations will abide by national and international law.

The refugee and migrant crisis is a humanitarian tragedy. This is a complex challenge. And it requires all of us to work together to find solutions.

NATO is playing its part.

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_128372.htm

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Mittwoch, 02. März 2016 11:22

Beginn von Nato-Mission in Flüchtlingskrise verzögert sich.

Drei Wochen nach dem Nato-Eilbeschluss zum Einsatz gegen Schlepper in der Ägäis zwischen der Türkei und Griechenland verzögert sich der Beginn der Mission weiter. Es fänden "zurzeit die notwendigen Detailabsprachen statt", hieß es in Berlin. – (AFP / AFP )

Drei Wochen nach dem Nato-Eilbeschluss zum Einsatz gegen Schlepper in der Ägäis zwischen der Türkei und Griechenland verzögert sich der Beginn der Mission weiter. Es fänden "zurzeit die notwendigen Detailabsprachen statt", die Planungen seien aber "auf einem guten Weg", teilte ein Sprecher des Bundesverteidigungsministeriums am Mittwoch der Nachrichtenagentur AFP mit. Nato-Diplomaten hatten zuvor von einer Blockade durch die Türkei gesprochen.

Die Einsatzplanungen würden "voraussichtlich in den nächsten Tagen abgeschlossen", erklärte der Ministeriumssprecher. Die Nato-Einigung sehe vor, "dass vor dem Start der Aktivität in der Ägäis die genauen Einsatzgebiete der Schiffe in enger Abstimmung zwischen Nato, dem Kommandeur vor Ort und den Behörden der betroffenen Mitgliedstaaten festgelegt werden sollen".

Gespräche zwischen Nato-Vertretern, dem deutschen Kommandanten des Einsatzverbands, Flottillenadmiral Jörg Klein, und türkischen Militärvertretern begannen demnach am Dienstag. Ziel sei "eine effektive Zusammenarbeit" zwischen der Nato, den nationalen Behörden und der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex.

"Die Türkei und Griechenland unterstützen diesen Prozess engagiert", erklärte der Sprecher. Es treffe nicht zu, dass die Türkei "die Entsendung deutscher Schiffe in ihre Hoheitsgewässer" blockiere. Nato-Diplomaten hatten AFP am Dienstag übereinstimmend gesagt, Ankara verweigere sich der deutschen Forderung, auch Schiffe in türkische Hoheitsgewässern zu entsenden. Der Einsatz in der Ägäis hänge nun von den Verhandlungen zwischen Deutschen und Türken ab. "Deutschland wollte eine Stationierung in türkischen Gewässern, das haben die Türken abgelehnt", sagte ein Diplomat. Die Türkei habe verlangt, das Kommandant Klein nach Ankara komme, um die Frage des Einsatzgebiets zu klären.

Auch bei der Vereinbarung, dass Flüchtlinge, die von den Nato-Schiffen aus Seenot gerettet werden, auf jeden Fall in die Türkei zurückgebracht werden, gebe es Probleme, sagte der Diplomat. Die Türkei zeige "keine oder wenig Begeisterung", dies tatsächlich umzusetzen.

Der Plan für den Nato-Einsatz gegen Schlepperbanden in der Ägäis war Anfang Februar beim Besuch von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) in Ankara erstmals öffentlich gemacht worden. Nur rund 72 Stunden später gaben die Nato-Verteidigungsminister grünes Licht – trotz des traditionell schwierigen Verhältnisses zwischen Griechenland und der Türkei wegen zahlreicher Gebietsstreitigkeiten in der Ägäis.

In der vergangenen Woche verkündete die Nato den Abschluss der militärischen Einsatzplanungen, einen offiziellen Start der Mission gab es bisher nicht. Ziel ist es, Informationen über Schleppernetzwerke entlang der türkischen Küste zu sammeln, von wo aus täglich tausende Flüchtlinge nach Griechenland übersetzen. Selbst eingreifen sollen die Nato-Soldaten aber nicht; sie geben lediglich Informationen an die griechische und türkische Küstenwache sowie an Frontex weiter.

Nato-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg hatte in der vergangenen Woche bekräftigt, dass griechische Boote nicht in türkischen Hoheitsgewässern tätig werden sollten und türkische nicht in griechischen. Andere Schiffe sollten aber sehr wohl auch direkt vor der türkischen Küste agieren. Bundesverteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) hatte darauf verwiesen, dass der Einsatz auch mehr Transparenz zu den Vorgängen auf türkischer Seite schaffe.

Berlin (AFP) / © 2016 AFP

https://www.tah.de/afpnewssingle.html?&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=388737&cHash=6d9a3d11d44e202f1d1fe39e6954c5b6

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From our Russian news desk:

28.02.2016 :Russian Railway That Bypasses Ukraine Will Be Ready on Time
http://sputniknews.com/russia/20160228/1035497634/russia-ukraine-railroad-construction.html

28 April 2015 : Russia Begins Construction Of Railway Bypassing Ukraine.

The construction of a railway line from Zhuravka (Voronezh region) to Millerovo (Rostov region), bypassing Ukraine, has begun in the south of Russia. The project should be completed in 2018, the Kommersant publication writes.

Soldiers are performing the construction work. More than 360 pieces of special military equipment and about 900 personnel are involved in the construction project.

"Railway troops will have to create a roadbed over a stretch of 18 kilometers in the first phase of the project. Then they will perform the work involving the laying of rails and sleepers, balancing, and alignment. The final phase of the work will involve commissioning of the railway together with all the auxiliary structures after performance of all the necessary tests," the TASS news agency quotes a source in the Defense Ministry as saying.

Officials in the Defense Ministry also said that they were ready to build the entire 122.5 kilometers of railway from Zhuravka to Millerovo if a decision to that effect were made. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said that construction of a railway line between the Belgorod and Rostov regions via the Prokhorovka-Zhuravka-Chertkovo-Bataysk route would require RUB 56.6 billion (USD 1.13 billion).

As reported, the railroad was built in the 1960s, when there were no borders between Russia and Ukraine. Problems arose after the collapse of the USSR, as a result of which a section of this public infrastructure that was traditionally used for meeting Russian transportation needs fell within the territory of Ukraine. The length of this section on the Rossosh-Chertkovo-Millerovo railway stretch is 26 kilometers. Most of the cargo traffic from the European part of Russia to its Black Sea ports and back passes through this stretch of railway.

To bypass this Ukrainian segment of the railway, it is necessary to build a longer line. "In fact, it is longer there. 26 kilometers is what is located on the territory of Ukraine. The alternative will be much longer because of the relief and other circumstances," the Russian Railways’ President Vladimir Yakunin said recently.

In an attempt to avoid such infrastructure spending, Russia previously asked Ukraine to transfer the relevant border areas.

http://en.cfts.org.ua/news/russia_begins_construction_of_railway_bypassing_ukraine

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All Aboard! Russia, China Launch New Railway Route for Container Shipments
http://sputniknews.com/world/20160227/1035450791/russia-china-railway.html

New cargo train service links China, Russia.

Source: Xinhua 2016-02-27 14:30:58

HARBIN, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) — A cargo train with 47 containers holding Chinese-made goods left Harbin for Russia Saturday, marking the opening of a new freight route between the two countries.

The new route links Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, with Russia’s fourth largest city Ekaterinburg, said sources with Harbin Commerce Bureau.

Saturday’s train transported 1.46 million U.S. dollars worth of bicycle parts and light industrial products, mostly from southern China.

It will complete the 5,889-kilometer-journey in 10 days.

Before the route was launched, cargo from southern China to Russia was always transported via Dalian Port in the northeastern Liaoning Province for ocean shipping. "A shipment took 40 days on average and was quite expensive, too," said Meng Qingwen, general manager of a logistics company that provides freight services between Harbin and Europe.

Freight trains linking Harbin and Europe have carried more than 1,300 containers since the service began in June 2015, reaching the German city of Hamburg via Russia and Poland. These trains have so far transported 87 million U.S. dollars worth of goods.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-02/27/c_135136471.htm

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* 26.02.16 "Cumhuriyet"-Chefredakteur – "Der türkische Rechtsstaat kämpft ums Überleben"

Der türkische Chefredakteur Can Dündar saß drei Monate in Haft. Im Interview erläutert er, warum es keinen oppositionellen Journalismus in seinem Land gibt. Und warum Europa gegenüber Erdogan versagt.

Von Deniz Yücel

Can Dündar ist Chefredakteur der türkischen Tageszeitung "Cumhuriyet". Weil der 54-Jährige über Waffenlieferungen des türkischen Geheimdienstes an Milizen in Syrien berichtet hatte, erstattete (Link: http://www.welt.de/141854755) Staatspräsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan persönlich Strafanzeige gegen ihn. Ihm wird Geheimnisverrat, Verbrechen gegen die Regierung sowie politische und militärische Spionage zur Last gelegt. Im Strafantrag forderte Erdogan "lebenslänglich" wegen besonderer Schwere der Schuld, ein weiteres Mal "lebenslänglich" sowie 42 Jahre Haft. Nach dem ersten Prozesstag Ende November wurden Dündar und der mitangeklagte Hauptstadtkorrespondent Erdem Gül verhaftet (Link: http://www.welt.de/149350437 ) . Nach drei Monaten im Hochsicherheitsgefängnis Silivri vor den Toren Istanbuls wurden die beiden Journalisten auf Anordnung des Verfassungsgerichts in der Nacht auf Freitag freigelassen (Link: http://www.welt.de/152670851 ) .

Die Welt: Sie haben gleich nach Ihrer Freilassung Staatspräsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Link: http://www.welt.de/themen/recep-tayyip-erdogan/ ) zum Geburtstag gratuliert. Hat er sich bedankt oder sich gemeldet, um nach Ihnen alles Gute zu wünschen?

Can Dündar: Nein, hat er nicht. Das war auch ein ironischer Gruß. Ich vermute, dass er über unsere Freilassung nicht besonders erfreut ist. Bislang hat nur einer seiner Sprecher unsere Freilassung kommentiert.

Die Welt: Erdogans Chefberater Burhan Kuzu hat gesagt, dass eine Freilassung keinen Freispruch bedeute.

Dündar: Ja. Aber von ihm selber haben wir nichts gehört, und wir beten, dass es dabei bleibt.

Die Welt: Wie haben Sie die drei Monate im Gefängnis erlebt?

Dündar: Wir durften eine große Solidarität erleben: von Kollegen in der Türkei (Link: http://www.welt.de/themen/tuerkei-politik/ ) , von Menschen, die vor dem Gefängnistor Wache gehalten haben, von unserer Zeitung und unseren Anwälten. Aber in Haft gibt es eine unvorstellbare große Isolation. Für Menschen, um die sich draußen nicht so viele kümmern wie um uns, muss das kaum auszuhalten sein.

Die Welt: Das Verfassungsgericht hat Ihre Inhaftierung als rechtswidrig beurteilt – ein Zeichen dafür, dass die Türkei ein funktionierender Rechtsstaat ist?

Dündar: Es gibt ein Ringen darum.Es gibt einen Rechtsstaat, der um sein Überleben kämpft. Das Verfassungsgericht hat zwar in unserem Fall, dem universellen Recht folgend, das richtige Urteil gefällt. Aber gleichzeitig treffen andere Gerichte andere Urteile; passieren Dinge, die nicht mit einem Rechtsstaat zu vereinbaren sind. Dieses Urteil erachte ich als außerordentlich wichtig. Aber es kommt darauf an, dass sich andere Gerichte daran orientieren. Wir sind ja nicht die Einzigen; in der Türkei sind viele Kollegen inhaftiert oder angeklagt.

Die Welt: Am Nachmittag wurde mitten in einem Interview mit Ihnen die Sendefrequenz des Senders IMC TV einkassiert und der Betrieb abgeschaltet.

Dündar: Das meine ich mit Gleichzeitigkeit: Während wir von Pressefreiheit sprechen, wird bei laufender Kamera ein Sendebetrieb eingestellt.

Die Welt: Sie und Ihr Kollege Erdem Gül werden oft als "oppositionelle Journalisten" bezeichnet. Sie sind das?

Dündar: Nein. Wir sind Journalisten. Die journalistischen Standards sind universell, darum gibt es keine oppositionellen oder regierungsnahen Journalisten.

Die Welt: Sie sind doch keine Anhänger dieser Regierung.

Dündar: Genau. Aber das ist meine persönliche Ansicht. Vor allem bin ich Journalist. Wenn mir der Staatspräsident ein Interview geben würde, würde ich sofort hinrennen.

Die Welt: Haben Sie deshalb in Ihrer ersten Erklärung gesagt, dass Sie keinen Hass empfinden?

Dündar: In der Türkei wird versucht, eine Atmosphäre des Hasses zu schaffen. An der Spitze dieser Kampagne steht der Staatspräsident, der seine eigenen Anhänger mobilisiert, indem er andere zu Feinden erklärt. Mal trifft es Journalisten, mal Wissenschaftler, mal Oppositionspolitiker. Das vergiftet die Atmosphäre im Land. Und bei jemandem wie mir, der durch die persönliche Intervention des Staatspräsidenten inhaftiert wurde, ist die Gefahr groß, sich von diesem Gift anstecken zu lassen. Ich hoffe sehr, dass das nicht passiert ist. Denn dieses Gift zerstört die türkische Gesellschaft.

Die Welt: In Ihrem offenen Brief an Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, den Sie für die "Welt" geschrieben (Link: http://www.welt.de/151074131 ) haben, haben Sie Europa und Deutschland für die neue Zusammenarbeit mit der Türkei kritisiert. Glauben Sie, dass Erdogan und die AKP-Regierung für den Westen ein verlässlicher Partner sind, um die Flüchtlingskrise zu bewältigen?

Dündar: Ob Präsident Erdogan ein verlässlicher Partner ist, können andere Leute besser beurteilen als ich. Aber in den internationalen Beziehungen geht es weniger um Vertrauen als um Interessen. Heute entsprechen sich die Interessen von Herrn Erdogan und Frau Merkel. Wenn sie sich morgen widersprechen, kann die Lage ganz anders sein. Das zeigt das Beispiel Syrien: Noch vor ein paar Jahren hat Präsident Erdogan gemeinsam mit seinem syrischen Amtskollegen Baschar al-Assad Familienurlaub gemacht. Trotzdem hätte ich mir von Europa eine größere Unterstützung gewünscht.

Die Welt: Das Verhalten Europas hat Sie enttäuscht?

Dündar: Natürlich. Ich bin sehr enttäuscht von Europa. Ich verstehe natürlich, dass man eine Lösung für die Flüchtlingskrise sucht, und ich halte das bis zu einem gewissen Grad für akzeptabel, dafür mit der türkischen Regierung zusammenzuarbeiten. Dennoch hätte ich mir gewünscht, dass sich europäische Politiker nicht davon abhalten lassen, öffentlich deutliche Worte zum Thema Menschenrechte und Pressefreiheit zu finden.

Die Welt: Der Strafprozess gegen Sie, in dem Sie mit der Forderung nach lebenslanger Haft angeklagt werden, dauert noch an. Womit rechnen Sie?

Dündar: Meines Erachtens hat das Verfassungsgericht nicht nur unsere Freilassung veranlasst, sondern einen Freispruch ausgesprochen. Wir haben immer gesagt, dass wir nichts weiter als unsere journalistische Arbeit gemacht und von der Pressefreiheit Gebrauch gemacht haben. Das Verfassungsgericht hat unsere Auffassung bestätigt. Darum rechne ich damit, dass wir bei der nächsten Verhandlung freigesprochen werden. Aber selbst, wenn nicht: Wir werden unseren Kampf für Demokratie und Pressefreiheit fortsetzen. Und wir werden weiter Journalismus machen.

http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article152704558/Der-tuerkische-Rechtsstaat-kaempft-ums-Ueberleben.html

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Die Öffentlichkeit bekommt Zugang zu tausenden wissenschaftlichen Gutachten, um die der Bundestag lange Zeit ein Geheimnis machte. Wie Bundestagspräsident Norbert Lammert an die Bundestagsabgeordneten mitteilte, würden "ab sofort" alle wissenschaftlichen Ausarbeitungen auf der Bundestagswebsite unter www.bundestag.de/ausarbeitungen veröffentlicht. –

See more at: https://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de/blog/2016-02-18/bundestag-gibt-geheimniskramerei-auf-und-stellte-tausende-gutachten-ins-netz#sthash.Xg6fj3j9.dpuf

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

Barandat* Iran: India’s Gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East

Forecast

  • Chabahar’s proximity to existing ports in the Gulf and Arabian seas will force it to compete for shipping traffic and scarce development funds.
  • Construction on the port will begin this year, but several things will obstruct its completion.
  • The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan will further challenge the feasibility of using Chabahar as a trade route linking Iran with Central Asia.

Analysis

India wants to expand its influence beyond South Asia, and to that end it has turned to a seemingly unlikely partner: Iran. But Iran may be a more logical choice than it would first appear. Their shared history of cooperation actually dates back to the 16th century, when Persian was the official language of India’s Mughal Empire. More recently, India and Iran jointly supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan during the first phase of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. Both are also home to large Muslim populations.

Beyond history and culture, their cooperation also extends to the energy sector. Iran is India’s sixth largest supplier of oil, providing 250,000 barrels per day, roughly 6 percent of India’s crude oil imports. The two nations have also been negotiating on various energy projects. There is the Iran-Oman-India Pipeline, a $4.5 billion undersea natural gas corridor expected to transport 31.5 million cubic meters of natural gas per day to India, and a plan for India to increase its crude oil imports from a post-sanctions Iran by an additional 200,000 bpd, pending pricing negotiations. Yet the project that may best exemplify India’s ambitions of carving a greater sphere of influence in Asia — particularly Central Asia, the Middle East and Afghanistan — is the planned improvement of the Chabahar Port.

The Benefits

Situated on the Gulf of Oman near the Iranian border with Pakistan, Chabahar is just 299 kilometers (186 miles) west of one of the world’s most critical passageways for oil tankers, the Strait of Hormuz. In May 2015, India and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding whereby India pledged to invest $85 million in a first phase of construction to transform two berths in the port, one to a functional container terminal and the other to a multipurpose cargo terminal. In the second phase, India pledged to invest $110 million to develop a 901-kilometer railway linking Chabahar to the iron ore mines in Hajigak, Afghanistan. So far, Iran has invested $340 million into the port and has declared the surrounding area a free trade industrial zone.

The port could benefit both nations. While 85 percent of Iran’s seaborne traffic is processed through the country’s other port in Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz, that port can handle only 100,000-metric ton ships. Larger ships have to first off-load at the Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates en route to Iran. Chabahar — a deep-water port — could alleviate the problem by being able to process larger ships, not to mention diversifying Iran’s ports of entry. For India, the port is part of New Delhi’s broader strategy of engaging the Middle East, expanding its trade routes with Central Asia and furthering its influence in Afghanistan.

Since assuming office in May 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has courted various, and at times competing, countries in the Middle East as part of India’s historical foreign policy of non-alignment. For instance, just as India is strengthening its energy and diplomatic ties with Iran, Modi signed a defense cooperation pact in 2014 with Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, which is also Iran’s biggest supplier of crude oil. India’s strong energy dependence on the region explains this engagement: Last year, India sourced 57 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East, and its energy dependence on the region will only grow in the next decade as India’s energy needs increase.

Besides energy, India wants to use the Chabahar Port to expand trade with Afghanistan and with the rest of Central Asia, where India has also been steadily increasing its presence. Since 2001, India has provided Afghanistan with $2 billion in development assistance. In December, Modi visited Kabul to inaugurate the newly constructed Afghan parliament building, which India financed at a cost of $90 million. In 2009, India finished building Route 606, a 217-kilometer highway costing $100 million that links the southwestern Afghan city of Zaranj with Delaram, located on the Afghanistan-Iran border. From there, local roads connect to Chabahar. And India has made good use of the improved infrastructure: In 2012, New Delhi used the port to transport a 100,000-metric ton shipment of wheat to Afghanistan.

Reality Meets Expectations

The Chabahar Port could well give India a trade inlet to Afghanistan and Central Asia, deepening India’s presence in the Middle East while bypassing Pakistan. Still, the project is fraught with complications. First, Chabahar’s proximity to existing ports in the Gulf and Arabian seas will force it to compete for shipping traffic and scarce development funds. Iran estimates the port and surrounding chemical complexes will cost $31 billion, but so far India and Iran have invested just $340 million in the port and have promised only another $195 million — less than 2 percent of the full amount needed. India and Iran will need private investment to cover the rest and have the difficult task of convincing investors that Chabahar is a safe investment over other regional ports, including the Khalifa port in Abu Dhabi, the Duqm port in Oman and the Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Second, the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. Taliban gains suggest that Afghanistan will face a difficult year ahead. Consequently, the prospects for building the necessary rail lines linking Chabahar with Afghanistan will remain dim, similar to the recently inaugurated Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which languished for more than a decade thanks to Afghan insecurity.

Finally, India’s bureaucratic infighting will not make financing the port any easier. The six-month memorandum of understanding signed between India and Iran in May 2015 expired in November, with no conclusive deal reached. It is not the first time that an agreement between the two nations on Chabahar has expired; dealings to develop the port started in 2003. And while India and Iran signed an agreement Feb. 13 for New Delhi to provide Tehran with a $150 million line of credit to develop a railway, it came after six months of delays, during which the Indian Finance Ministry sought greater clarity on the project before granting the funds. Moreover, both nations have yet to settle India’s $6.5 billion oil debt owed to Iran. Iran has requested repayment in dollars or euros — more stable currencies than the Indian rupee — but India has declined.

Iran and India will have difficulty meeting the expectations of the Chabahar Port. They will be able to complete the first two construction phases, but finishing the entire project this year, if ever, is highly unlikely. Much has been made of Modi’s "Look East" policy of engaging more with Southeast Asia, a critical component of his plans to enhance Indian influence throughout Eurasia. But as the prime minister gazes west toward Chabahar, the outlook may be less promising.

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/iran-indias-gateway-central-asia-and-middle-east?id=be1ddd5371&uuid=a8d3aa97-70d7-4f8e-8e37-f06c0c50c20e

see also: “Iran – Heart of Regional Crossroads” (att.)

Bear market: Why GCC investors see opportunities in Russia.

By Sarah Townsend Saturday, 20 February 2016 1:09 AM

The Gulf’s investment tentacles have stretched across the globe for years, to Europe, North Africa and the Far East. But there is one huge market the region has been slow to target: Russia.

To date, Gulf investors have been more likely to look towards the stable returns, developed economies and secure political environments of Western markets — deemed safer havens for their assets.

But with the oil price at an all-time low and a recognition that traditional investment instruments such as European stocks and shares are no longer providing guaranteed high yields, many are cashing in on their European investments and looking to new geographical markets such as the US, India, China and Russia, for opportunities to diversify their income.

The diversification coincides with Russia’s need for foreign investment as it buckles under the pressure of low oil revenues — which account for about half the state budget — and crippling sanctions imposed by the US and European Union in response to its illegal occupation of Crimea.

It equals a match made in heaven, says Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a fund set up by the Russian government with an initial $10bn in 2011 to make equity investments in high growth sectors of the Russian economy, including healthcare, energy, agriculture, logistics and retail.

Since its inception, the RDIF has secured more than $25bn through long-term strategic partnerships with global investors, 90 percent of whom are from Asia and the Middle East.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Dmitriev says he has witnessed a “dramatic” increase in Middle Eastern investment with the RDIF over the past three years, particularly from sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).

He points to the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which was one of the first Gulf funds to co-invest with the RDIF since 2012 and which doubled its investment from $500m to $1bn last November.

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Finance has committed up to $5bn to co-invest with the RDIF in Russian infrastructure since 2013, and the UAE’s Mubadala has a $2bn joint investment venture with the RDIF. Last month, Dubai’s DP World launched a joint venture with the RDIF, called DP World Russia, to develop ports and logistics operations in Russia.

Bahrain’s Mumtalakat has invested about $250m with the fund, as revealed by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov during a trip to Russia by the king of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa this month. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) plans to invest up to $2bn.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) last year agreed to invest $10bn — the largest foreign direct investment yet in Russia. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has also partnered with the RDIF to explore investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia itself.

Officials from the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have either visited or hosted their Russian counterparts during the past six months. The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani travelled to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin on January 19, for what an RDIF spokesperson told Arabian Business was to discuss “further investment cooperation” between the two countries.

For its part, the GCC sees Russia as offering long-term growth potential in sectors perceived as key for economic diversification.

A spokesperson for Mubadala says: “Mubadala has established sovereign investment partnerships with Russia [and others] as a method of establishing active presence with experienced local partners in markets that offer long-term potential and across sectors that align with our global platforms.

“Mubadala and the RDIF established the investment partnership in 2013, and to date we’ve successfully deployed capital across a number of sectors, including energy, IT, retail and infrastructure. We continue to review an active pipeline of potential investments.”

Announcing the launch of DP World Russia last month, DP World chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, said: “Russia has always been an attractive origin and destination market for us with huge long-term growth prospects.” A DP World spokesperson was quoted as saying at the time that the company is actively looking at other opportunities in Russia.

Dubai real estate developer Damac Properties had held talks with Russia’s Rostec over the possibility of launching a $300m real estate investment fund some years ago but vice-chairman Niall McLoughlin says the venture has not been pursued. The company is, however, “continuously evaluating opportunities” in Russia, he says.

The UAE government has officially identified Russia as a key economic partner. There are about 3,000 Russian companies based in the UAE and bilateral trade amounted to $2.7bn (AED10bn) in 2014. According to figures cited by Bin Sulayem as he helped launch DP World Russia last month, non-oil bilateral trade between Dubai and Russia grew by a staggering 131 percent between 2010 and 2014, from $1.1bn to $2.6bn. Dubai-Russia trade reached $1.42bn in the first nine months of 2015, local media quoted him as saying.

Dr Igor Egorov, chairman of the UAE-based Russian Business Council, says interest in Russia from the Gulf has been heightened by the weak ruble, which fell to 76 against the US dollar in January, swinging investments in favour of the UAE, whose dirham is pegged against the dollar.

“Privatisation of large state companies also opens up opportunities for private investors, while the visit of foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to the UAE [this month] emphasised a strengthening of economic ties between the two countries,” he says.

The RDIF’s Dmitriev notes: “The Gulf is becoming more familiar with the Russian market. In the past the country was perceived as a difficult market for investors — it has gone through an important transition from being a socialist economy only 25 years ago and a lot of institutions needed reforming.

“There was also the perception that in very strong performing sectors such as financial services Russian firms would get all the good deals. This is not the case, but there were a lot of issues, as with other emerging economies, that needed ironing out.”

Post 2008 in particular, Russia saw an influx of foreign investment as troubled Western markets sought to move investments elsewhere. “When global markets were in decline, we saw economic growth in Russia, as wages and so on became more competitive,” says Dmitriev.

Fast-forward several years and Russia’s economy is struggling. EU sanctions and a persistently low oil price have taken their toll and in January the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its economic growth forecast for Russia, predicting in its World Economic Outlook that the country’s economy would contract by 1 percent in 2016. That compares with the IMF’s previous forecast in October of a 0.6 percent contraction. Similarly, the World Bank predicts that the Russian economy will contract by 0.7 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Economic Expert Group, an independent firm of analysts based in Moscow, calculated this month that Russia will have lost between $160bn and $170bn as a result of financial sanctions, depending on the oil price, $400bn from lost oil and gas revenues and around $280bn in gross capital inflows over the past four years, including $85bn of direct investments.

“The reduction in foreign direct investment, reduced opportunities for loans, reduction of inflow of capital into the market of public debt, all increase the immediate effect of the sanctions,” the report states.

It is no surprise, then, that institutions such as the RDIF are intensifying efforts to court the Gulf, and, as Dmitriev admits, “bring in much needed capital to the Russian economy”. They also point out that, while it is arguably at a low ebb at present, Russia remains the world’s sixth largest economy by GDP — the economy is expected to grow to $4 trillion by 2020 — it has one of the largest domestic markets in the world, ranking seventh among 144 countries, and one of the lowest proportions of public debt of any major economy (17.9 percent of GDP in 2014).

Dmitriev says investing in the RDIF gives GCC countries exposure to different sectors of the huge Russian economy. The fund counts investments in more than 20 holdings in its portfolio, including the Moscow Exchange, energy provider ENEL Russia, private healthcare conglomerate Mother and Child Group of Companies, national cinema chain Karo, Tigers Realm Coal, state diamond mining company Alrosa, and state telco Rostelecom.

According to Dmitriev, the GCC has particular interest in companies that are specific to Russia and less impacted by global conditions. These include agriculture, private healthcare and retail. “Gulf investors like companies with predictable dividends and cash flows and good, healthy balances.”

Dmitriev declines to provide a detailed breakdown of which companies the GCC has investments in but lists seven RDIF interests with “GCC participation”. The first is Moscow Exchange, from which he says capitalisation has doubled and total dividends have achieved more than 50 percent of net profit.

Private healthcare group MDMG is another — its network includes four hospitals and 25 clinics in 14 regions of Russia. Telecoms provider Digital Inequality provides high-speed internet access for small towns across Russia; utilities project Smart Grids aims to increase energy efficiency by up to 30 percent by identifying sources of electricity loss and automating metering accordingly, and Lenta is one of Russia’s fastest growing hypermarket chains.

GCC countries also have investments in the Ust-Luga port terminal on the Baltic Sea — a development project to increase the ports’ capacity for handling shipments of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and light oil; and ZapSibNefteKhim, an integrated petrochemicals complex in Tobolsk.

Dmitriev says: “[The GCC countries] are very successful investors that understand global trends and the opportunities presented by [global economic fluctuations]. We understand that oil prices are low, which creates a challenge for the GCC economies — for Russia as well — but also the devaluation of the ruble makes many of our industries highly competitive for Gulf investors compared to domestic markets.”

Dmitriev says he believes oil prices will start to stabilise by the end of 2016 but does not foresee a situation where Gulf investors seek to minimise their investments overseas with a negative impact on Russian foreign direct investment — all GCC countries are looking to diversify their revenue streams and plan for a non-oil-dependent future, he says.

He also says Russia has had “positive indications” from the US and EU that sanctions will be lifted within the next 12 months — and, in any case, the current sanctions do not apply to the GCC or RDIF.

In the meantime, Gulf and Russian foreign officials will continue regular tête-à-têtes aimed at stimulating bilateral trade and encouraging cooperative investments.

Egorov notes: “The Russian-Emirati intergovernmental commission met back in November and identified cooperation in finance and banking, in particular Islamic finance, cost-efficient oil exploration, increased export of food products from Russia to the UAE (chicken, turkey and other halal-standard meat), and nuclear energy as the key priorities”.

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/bear-market-why-gcc-investors-see-opportunities-in-russia-622197.html

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Middle East

National Interest/ America’s Twenty-Five-Year Fiasco in Iraq

Perry Cammack

inShare1

Twenty-five years ago this week, on February 24, 1991, the first United States ground invasion of Iraq began. The first Bush administration had clear UN and congressional mandates to liberate Kuwait. More than thirty countries contributed ground forces, and the Soviet Union was a critical diplomatic partner. After a punishing six-week air campaign, the ground battle seemed to be over almost as soon as it had started, displaying the American military’s tremendous tactical and technological superiority. But amid talk of a new world order, the hundred-hour ground invasion was only the opening chapter in America’s tragic twenty-five-year Iraq story.

Leaving Saddam in power was the correct decision, but it created a dilemma: what to do with an implacably hostile tyrant. As with Germany after World War I, Saddam had every incentive to challenge the postwar settlement. The economic embargo imposed to compel Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait remained after that withdrawal was complete. Because no real attempt was made to find a more durable postwar settlement—that would have constrained the Iraqi military and deterred chemical, biological and nuclear research, while mitigating the catastrophic impacts of a long-term full embargo—the diplomatic effort to sustain the sanctions regime was bound to increase with time.

Thus, tactical postwar adaptations gradually calcified into contradictory policy objectives of containment and regime change. Saddam’s willingness to sacrifice his people’s welfare gave him a powerful diplomatic weapon in resisting sanctions and weapons inspections. By the time the George W. Bush administration took office in 2001, the sanctions regime was unraveling amid growing outrage at the profound suffering of the Iraqi citizenry.

Then came 9/11.

It is now understood that Osama bin Laden’s masterstroke was blowback against the American military deployment in the Arabian Peninsula. But the second Bush administration’s response was a foreign policy blunder matched in modern American history only by the Vietnam War.

Saddam was removed from power in fewer than four weeks, but the incompetence of the occupation that followed defied comprehension. The simultaneous dismantling of the Iraqi army and the Baath Party exacerbated the devastation of decades of war and economic isolation, unleashing primordial forces that Washington struggled to comprehend, and that 150,000 American troops could not control.

Terrorist organizations had long operated in the shadows of the Middle East. But only since the second invasion of Iraq have they been able to recruit thousands of foreign fighters to the heart of the region, control vast territory and engage in nihilistic destruction on such a grand scale.

According to the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, an astounding 42 percent of the roughly 4,800 global suicide attacks since 1982 have occurred in Iraq, all of them since 2003. Before 2003, global suicide attacks averaged seventeen a year. Since then, they have increased by two thousand percent to an average of 370 per year.

Like Nixon’s Vietnam inheritance, President Obama faced an untenable commitment for marginal strategic benefit as he entered office in January 2009. Nearly four thousand American soldiers had died and credible estimates of the war’s full costs ran as high as $3 trillion, while Iraqi leaders were no closer to resolving fundamental political divisions.

Two months before leaving office, the second Bush administration signed a bilateral security agreement requiring American combat forces be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. Many believed the agreement would be extended, but President Obama was determined to fulfill his campaign commitment to complete the withdrawal. In December 2011, the withdrawal was completed and America’s war in Iraq—the second in two decades—was declared over. But this modicum of stability, too, proved illusory.

The American military occupation was deeply unpopular among Iraqis, and the parliament was never going to provide legal immunities necessary to allow a large-scale American troop presence to continue. But despite tepid negotiations for a follow-on military presence, Obama gave the distinct impression he was content to take no for an answer. A more determined approach might have yielded a creative political mechanism for a limited, noncombat, follow-on American troop presence.

Might the collapse of the Iraqi army against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in 2014 have been delayed or prevented? Certainly, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s unique incompetence belied the decades-long devastation of Iraq’s political culture. The reconstituted military and police retained certain dysfunctions that limited the effectiveness of their Saddam-era predecessors. On the other hand, Maliki’s most egregious blunder was the purging of Iraq’s senior officer corps, replacing them with corrupt cronies. An American noncombat military presence might have discouraged some of these worst sectarian impulses, improved accountability and ameliorated the sharp decline in morale.

Instead, Iraq began again to fall apart, slowly at first, then more quickly as armed revolution began to shake Syria. Eventually this disintegration forced Maliki’s ouster, but not before the Iraqi army collapsed like a house of cards in Mosul in June 2014, against a vastly outnumbered IS force. By August, the American bombing of Iraq had commenced again.

***

At it its core, the American experience in Iraq has been a failed twenty-five-year effort to address Iraq’s internal political dysfunction. The George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations attempted this through an awkward balance of coercion, containment and, at least rhetorically, regime change. The second Bush administration undertook a disastrous imperial nation-building effort. The Obama administration was committed to disengagement until the declaration of a terrorist caliphate pulled it back in.

With a new administration taking office in less than a year, three important lessons can be drawn from this most unhappy experience. First, the United States needs to dispense with ideological approaches. The hubristic excesses of the second Bush administration in attempting to recreate the Middle East are well documented. But the Obama administration was itself slow to adapt to changing circumstances. As a result, U.S. policy toward Iraq since 2003 has resembled an ideological pivot on the narrow question of the efficacy of military force. While the military’s overuse has repeatedly been demonstrated incapable of resolving underlying political problems in the Middle East, both neoconservative and neo-isolationist approaches have proven profoundly lacking. Meanwhile, an assortment of economic, political and diplomatic instruments is too often treated as an afterthought.

Second, policy success is difficult to find where policy objectives are ill defined. Regrettably, the United States has lacked clear objectives in Iraq since Saddam’s eviction from Kuwait twenty-five years ago. As the borders between Syria and Iraq have been erased, the central locus for U.S. policy has shifted to Syria. In contrast with Putin’s ruthless focus on Assad’s preservation—which goes a long way toward explaining Russia’s relative success—American policies in Syria are every bit as contradictory today as in Iraq a decade ago. The next administration will have to clearly decide whether its overriding priority is the defeat of the Islamic State, the removal of Bashar al-Assad or ending the humanitarian catastrophe, since each requires a somewhat different approach.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the global policy community desperately needs tools to address the profound institutional deficiencies of the broader Arab world. The U.S. military has solutions that are often quite effective in addressing security threats and challenges. Unlike in 1991, however, the fundamental challenges in the Middle East today are primarily political in nature. The Islamic State’s terrifying emergence is rooted in decades of catastrophic governance failures in Syria and Iraq, which cannot be bombed away. Yet, after twenty-five years of near-continuous U.S. military engagement, Washington is no more competent today in supporting better governance, suggesting that the United States is likely to remain marginal to such efforts going forward.

Addressing these institutional failings is central to the emergence of a more stable Middle East. An important starting point for the next administration is recognition of the magnitude of the challenge, understanding the relatively marginal role Washington will play, and appreciation for the profound tension between America’s short-term security needs and the region’s long-term reform needs.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in February 1991 marked the high water mark of American post–Cold War power. The Berlin Wall had fallen; the Soviet Union was existential nemesis turned partner; the demons of Vietnam vanquished. Yet for twenty-five years, four successive administrations have bequeathed grim inheritances to their successors involving this faraway desert land, hitherto marginal to American foreign policy.

Eleven months from now, a fifth American administration will begin its own chapter with a happy ending nowhere in sight.

Perry Cammack is an associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-twenty-five-year-fiasco-iraq-15336

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From our Russian news desk:

Baghdad Meetings: On the Results of Russian Delegation’s Breakthrough Visit to Iraq

Photo:
REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari speaks
during a news conference with Russia’s Deputy
Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in Baghdad, Iraq
February 11, 2016

The February 11, 2016 visitof the Russian High Governmental Delegation to the Republic of Iraq is a remarkable event. It definitely stands out among all the bilateral meetings and negotiations to have taken place between the two countries. What makes the visit so significant is the fact that it is largely a breakthrough event: for the first time in many years, it was conducted in the best traditions of the long-lost USSR–Iraq friendship and it significantly boosted hopes for a new chapter to be started in the modern history of Russia–Iraq relations.

Undoubtedly, the bulk of the credit must go to Russian diplomacy, which attaches great importance to the process of rapprochement with Iraq and seeks to restore, as much as possible, Russia–Iraq relations to their former level in various fields, from military-technical cooperation to cultural exchange. Moscow’s intentions are most earnest. This is much is clear from the delegation itself, which included around 100 government representatives and business leaders.

It is significant that the delegation was headed by Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Rogozin, who has held the position of Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Russia-Iraq Committee since autumn 2014, essentially oversees the Iraqi direction of Russia’s foreign policy. The Deputy Prime Minister took to the task with gusto and intelligence, achieving significant results in a short period of time. It is under his supervision that bilateral contacts have been intensified at different levels. Trade volumebetween the two countries increased tenfold over the span of two years, reaching $2 billion in 2015. Great strides have been made in military-technical cooperation, with Russia and Iraq signing a large number of arms contracts totalling about $4.2 billion. Both the visit to Baghdad itself and the preparations for it are Rogozin’s great diplomatic debut in Iraq.

For the first time in many years, it was conducted in the best traditions of the long-lost USSR–Iraq friendship and it significantly boosted hopes for a new chapter to be started in the modern history of Russia–Iraq relations.

The agenda of the two-day visit was very extensive. It included bilateral negotiations on an extremely broad range of issues, as well as the first meeting of the Russia–Iraq Intergovernmental Commission for eight years, which resulted in the development of a roadmap for bilateral relations in the near future. Four topics dominated the negotiations in Baghdad: the participation of Russian companies in developing Iraq’s electric power industry; interaction in the oil and gas sector; intensifying trade in animal products; and searching for new areas of, and opportunities for, military-technical cooperation. It should be emphasized that, compared to the previous years, such a broad range of promising areas of Russia–Iraq relations is indeed an impressive breakthrough for Russia, and it should open up a qualitatively new stage in Russia–Iraq relations.

REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
The Middle East between the U.S. and Russia:
Potential Traps for Moscow

However, given the current complicated situation, the question is whether Moscow will be able to build on this success and implement the agreements achieved in full.

It is important to notice in this respect that, unfortunately, despite all the pomp of the visit and the overloaded agenda, a serious problem exists between Russia and Iraq and that will be difficult to overcome – namely, the current lack of real possibilities and objective conditions for developing full-scale comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. The reality of international relations in the Middle East today is such that Russia and Iraq have trouble finding common ground. Iraq, which is virtually a failed state, with a ruined economy and industry, is not able to offer Russia economic benefits or the high-quality products that Russia needs. Russia, by contrast, has much to offer Iraq, but has so far been unable to gain free access to the Iraq market, which is a special U.S. economic zone dominated largely by western companies. We could recall that the Americans did not allow Russian oil companies into Iraq for several years.

Why does Russia need Iraq?

Both the visit to Baghdad itself and the preparations for it are Rogozin’s great diplomatic debut in Iraq.

Clearly, Russia’s current policy with regard to Iraq is largely linked to solving its own domestic problems, which have arisen as a result of economic sanctions and crisis conditions. Conceptually, this policy is derived from the new Russian strategy of overcoming the crisis, a strategy developed by Rogozin. The essence of his policy is that the military-industrial complex can and must become the driving force of Russia’s economy. Rogozin, who is also Vice-Chair of the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation, is deeply convinced that the military-industrial complex will be the driving force that help Russia overcome the crisis.

Military-technical cooperation with Iraq has thus taken on strategic and vital significance for Russia. Iraq is one of Russia’s largest partners in military-technical cooperation. Currently, Iraq is the second-largest buyer of Russian arms. In 2014, Russia’s arms exports exceeded$15 billion, with Iraq accounting for $1.7 billion of this sum, or 11 per cent of all arms exports.

RIA Novosti

Russia in a Changing Middle East

In 2015, the final shipment of Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems was delivered to Iraq from Russia. Naturally, the question of new military contracts with Iraq moved to the forefront. And that appears to be the principal goal for the Russian delegation’s visit to Iraq. Obviously, it was necessary to test the waters at the highest level for the possibilities of further military-technical cooperation in the context of the U.S. sanctions. The problem is that Rostec State Corporation companies that export Russian arms were included in the sanctions list. In 2015, when Russia’s arms exports to Iraq peaked, several other Russian defence companies were included in the revised sanctions list. This complicates Russia’s task significantly, and casts serious doubt on the possibility of cooperation between Russia and Iraq developing at the same pace.

Therefore, Rogozin has repeatedly voiced Moscow’s principal argument, which could influence the Iraqi government’s stance on the issue. Speaking both in Baghdad and in Moscow, he has frequently stated that it was thanks to Russian-made weapons that the Iraqi army has been able to push Islamic State back. But will that argument work? In fact, most of the Iraq territories that were liberated in 2015 were done so largely by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution of the Republic of Iran, led by General Qasem Soleimani and supported by the international coalition led by the United States and Iran. Iraq’s puppet army, largely financed by the Pentagon, is incapable of conducting major warfare, its principal function being to suppress domestic riots and unrest. Its ineptitude is evident, as dozens of towns and villages have surrendered to the jihadists without a fight.

Why does Iraq need Russia?

RIA Novosti:
Russia in a Changing Middle East

General diplomatic courtesy aside, it must be stated frankly that the current Iraqi government is guarded in its attitude towards Russia’s desire for rapprochement. The Iraqi media is a case in point. The scale and level of the Russian delegation notwithstanding, most Iraqi newspapers, unlike their Russian counterparts, ran only short pieces and comments on the signing of the Russia–Iraq agreement on increasing trade volume. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, notified the Iraqi public that an agreement on economic and electric power industry cooperation had been signed with Russia, without being particularly emphatic or gushing about it.

It should be noted that this attitude on the part of the Iraqi authorities is quite logical. Iraq is not the same state it had been prior to 2003. Firstly, Iraq is now headed by those political forces which had been cruelly repressed by the previous regime, which Russia had actively supported. Secondly, Iraq is going through a deep political, financial and economic crisis. It is a bankrupt state which is utterly dependent on investments and loans from the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Thirdly, all of Iraq’s state property has been privatized by American companies.

The reality of international relations in the Middle East today is such that Russia and Iraq have trouble finding common ground.

It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that, despite many months of preparations, consultations and extensive coordination, the results of the Russian delegation’s visit to Iraq are in fact fairly modest: a roadmap, a few agreements on cooperation in the electric power industry and on relatively small exports of meat from Russia. On the other hand, there is no need to be excessively disappointed. Though small, it is a true victory for Russia’s economic diplomacy. In order to act on this success and to develop it further, Russian diplomats should, in the nearest future, persevere and work hard on overcoming all the hurdles on that harsh and difficult path to true rapprochement with Iraq.

Comment by Editor Udo von Massenbach: It’s good to know that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq was (during that time of Feb 11, 2016) on his way to a) Rome/Italy visit to Pope Francis; b) meeting with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin (asking for financial support for Iraq); c) held a formidable speech at the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in Berlin (UvM present); c) Munich Security Conference (where he could have had the chance to discuss the results from Baghdad).

Haider al-Abadi (arabisch حيدر العبادي, DMG Ḥaidar al-ʿIbādī; * 25. April 1952 in Bagdad) ist ein irakischer Politiker und Ministerpräsident des Landes. Der Zwölferschiit libanesischer Herkunft Haider al-Abadi erhielt seinen Alma Mater an der Universität der Technologie in Bagdad und an der Universität Manchester.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haider_al-Abadi
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Jihad & a Geopolitical G-X: Winning the War and Building the Peace.

By Daniel J. Arbess and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

The civilized world is still being caught flat-footed by global Jihad, but at least we’re now realizing that our societies are engaged in a whole new kind of conflict—with a decentralized nonstate enemy, fueled by an archaic-techno mix of messianic theology and social media outreach. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) is of course not a legitimate nation-state, but it still proclaims its goal to establish a caliphate governing Islam, while al Qaeda and numerous other jihadist groups position for the same goals.

What’s needed next is an allied military strategy for reversing the jihadists’ recent shift toward territorial conquest, then, more challenging still, a coherent diplomatic process for stabilizing the Muslim world that offers its populations a path to better economic prospects and more participatory governance alternatives than they’ve enjoyed to date……(attached)

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*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

Pressemitteilungen der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz

26.02.2016
035

„Mit einem Exodus der Christen aus dem Mittleren Osten dürfen wir uns nicht abfinden“

Dialog zwischen Kirchenführern und Wissenschaftlern in Rom

Bei der internationalen Fachkonferenz „Christen, christliche Kirchen und Religion in einem sich wandelnden Mittleren Osten“, die heute (26. Februar 2016) in Rom zu Ende gegangen ist, haben zahlreiche Kirchenführer und Wissenschaftler sich intensiv über die Lage in dieser Region ausgetauscht. Die dreitägige Veranstaltung wurde im Auftrag der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz von ihrer Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitsgruppe für weltkirchliche Aufgaben durchgeführt. Die Projektleitung lag bei Prof. Stephan Stetter (Universität der Bundeswehr in München). Die Teilnehmer kamen aus mehreren europäischen Ländern, aus Nordamerika und den Staaten des Mittleren Ostens. „Wir wollten Bischöfen und Kirchenverantwortlichen die Gelegenheit geben, eigene Erfahrungen und Kenntnisse mit wissenschaftlichen Analysen und Bewertungen in Beziehung zu setzen“, sagte Erzbischof Dr. Ludwig Schick (Bamberg), Vorsitzender der Kommission Weltkirche der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz. „So konnten neue Einsichten über Hintergründe und Ursachen der heutigen Situation, über Gefahren und Zukunftsperspektiven gewonnen werden.“

In dramatischen Worten beschrieben die Bischöfe aus den arabischen Ländern das alltägliche Leiden in den Konfliktregionen und den Niedergang der christlichen Kirchen, die durch Vertreibung und Abwanderung ausgezehrt werden. Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt, Sonderberichterstatter der Vereinten Nationen über Religions- und Weltanschauungsfreiheit, sprach von einer „genozidalen Dimension“ der Verfolgung religiöser Minderheiten, die sich im Herrschaftsgebiet des sogenannten Islamischen Staates (IS) gegen Christen, Jesiden, Schiiten und muslimische Abweichler richte. Bei der Konferenz wurde wiederholt darauf hingewiesen, dass die Christen von Konflikten betroffen sind, die nicht von ihnen ausgehen. Dazu gehören die Konfrontationen zwischen Sunniten und Schiiten, Identitätskonflikte innerhalb des Islam und eine damit einhergehende Radikalisierung sowie seit Langem ungelöste politische Auseinandersetzungen, etwa zwischen Israelis und Palästinensern.

„Die massenhafte Abwanderung der Christen nach Europa und Nordamerika ist eine akute Gefährdung für den Fortbestand des orientalischen Christentums“, so Erzbischof Schick. „Mit einem Exodus der Christen aus dem Mittleren Osten dürfen wir uns nicht abfinden. Auf allen Ebenen und mit allen zur Verfügung stehenden Mitteln müssen wir darauf hinarbeiten, dass Christen in ihren angestammten Ländern Lebensbedingungen vorfinden, die es ihnen erlauben zu bleiben.“

Übereinstimmend betonten die Bischöfe die „gleichberechtigte Staatsbürgerschaft“ aller – unabhängig vom religiösen Bekenntnis – als Leitperspektive für die Erneuerung der arabischen Staaten. Einem solchen Konzept steht jedoch entgegen, dass das moderne Menschenrechtsdenken und damit auch die Religionsfreiheit in großen Teilen der muslimischen Welt nach wie vor nicht akzeptiert werden. Das Anliegen der „gleichberechtigten Staatsbürgerschaft“ müsse – so Bischöfe und Experten – in die politische Öffentlichkeit der Länder, aber auch in den interreligiösen Dialog eingebracht werden. Erzbischof Schick unterstrich, dass dieser Dialog in Wahrheit, Liebe und Respekt geführt werden müsse: „Eine neue Ernsthaftigkeit und eine konkrete Ausrichtung der Gespräche sind zwingend geboten.“

Die Teilnehmer diskutierten auch selbstkritisch das Handeln der Kirchen. Christen und Kirchen seien immer noch zu stark von einem Unterlegenheitsgefühl bestimmt, das sich in Jahrhunderten muslimischer Dominanz verfestigt habe. Auch sprächen die Kirchen – trotz ökumenischer Fortschritte in einzelnen Fragen – zu selten mit einer Stimme.

Die Bischöfe appellierten an die Staatengemeinschaft, den Schutz der Christen und anderer bedrohter Gruppen zu einer Priorität der internationalen Politik zu machen. Dabei komme, so Erzbischof Schick, der Beendigung von Kriegen und Bürgerkriegen eine wesentliche Rolle zu. „Nur mit einer echten Friedenspolitik, bei der die Interessen der auswärtigen Mächte zurücktreten müssen, kann für die Verfolgten und Bedrängten etwas erreicht werden.“

Obwohl die Region des Mittleren Ostens durch gemeinsame Trends charakterisiert ist, zeigen sich in den einzelnen Ländern doch markante Unterschiede. In Gebieten, die von Krieg und Bürgerkrieg gezeichnet sind (Irak und Syrien) ist eine dramatische Abwanderung von Christen zu beobachten. Der Präfekt der Päpstlichen Kongregation für die orientalischen Kirchen, Kardinal Leonardo Sandri, sprach mit Blick auf diese Länder von einer „Ökumene des Blutes“. Die Lage der Kirchen im Libanon ist stabil, aber angespannt, wie der Patriarch der Maronitischen Kirche, Béchara Pierre Kardinal Raï, in seinem Referat darstellte. In Ägypten haben die Christen nach der Herrschaft des islamistischen Präsidenten Mursi wieder etwas mehr Luft zum Atmen gewonnen. Einen Sonderfall stellen die Golfstaaten dar, wo die Zahl der katholischen Gastarbeiter inzwischen die Millionengrenze überschritten haben dürfte.

http://de.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/02/26/naher_osten_„mit_allen_möglichkeiten_helfen“/1211157

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Serbien

moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Poland Initiating Creation Of Transport Corridor To Adriatic.

“The new corridor is important not only to the countries involved, but also to their neighbors, primarily Belarus and Serbia.”

Poland intends to create a new transport corridor that will connect the country’s logistics centers to the Slovenian port of Koper. This was the main topic on the agenda of a meeting of the transport ministers of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia that took place in Budapest on 4 February, according to Polish media reports.

The final decision on the nature of the corridor has not yet been made. At the meeting in Budapest, the ministers agreed on a preliminary route: Koper-Ljubljana-Zalaszentivan-Sopron/Chorna-Rajka-Bratislava-Katowice/Krakow-Warsaw-Terespol (border with Belarus). The corridor is expected to have a branch to Serbia: Rajka-Leopoldov-Komárom-Budapest-Kelebija (border with Serbia).

The new corridor is important not only to the countries involved, but also to their neighbors, primarily Belarus and Serbia.

A draft letter of intent, which will be sent to the European Commission, was written after the meeting. In addition, Poland’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction plans to analyze the economic potential of the corridor and make a detailed forecast on its prospects….

According to the European legislation, the European Commission may consider the proposal within nine months. The new corridor will be created within two years if the decision on it is positive.

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Super Tuesday.

1. Super Tuesday winners and losers

Tuesday was the biggest day of the presidential primary calendar to date as Republicans and Democrats each fought 11 state contests.

The two top questions as Super Tuesday dawned were whether any Republican could stop Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination and whether Bernie Sanders could slow Hillary Clinton’s progress toward the Democratic nod.

Where do things stand as the dust settles?

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/271448-super-tuesday-winners-and-losers

http://www.agbc-berlin.de/content/hill-super-tuesday-winners-losers

2. Angry Americans: How the 2008 Crash Fueled a Political Rebellion.

The one story about the U.S. economy that has virtually no traction among American voters right now is that it’s doing OK.

Anyone inclined to tell that story, as President Barack Obama did in his final State of the Union address in January, can find headline data to back it up. But primary-season revolts — the Donald Trump mutiny against the Republican establishment, and the fiercer-than-expected challenge from Bernie Sanders against a Democratic frontrunner with all the advantages — are driven by fed-up Americans saying it isn’t so. And looking behind the headlines, the numbers might be on their side…….(continued / attachment)

http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-03-01/the-angry-americans-trump-sanders-and-the-aftershocks-of-2008

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see our letter on:

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

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

02-25-16 Iran-Iraq-Munich Security Conference by Russian comments.pdf

02-12-16 CSIS Fighting Jihad – Guttenberg-Arbess.pdf

03-01-16 Angry Americans_ How the 2008 Crash Fueled a Political Rebellion – Bloomberg.pdf

03-01-16 Iran Heart of Regional Crossroads.pdf

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