Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 17.3.17


  • News Chatham House:Western Policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned
  • Iran and the South Caucasus after the Nuclear Deal
  • Russia and Europe in the context of US presidential elections
  • Friedman: Water and Geopolitical Imperatives
  • Islamic State’s Strategy Involving Jordan and Israel
  • U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Names Siemens USA CEO Judy Marks to U.S. Investment Advisory Council
  • Atelierauflösung Jorge Machold im März 2017

Massenbach*Iran and the South Caucasus after the Nuclear Deal

The lifting of international sanctions in 2016 appeared to create new economic opportunities for Iran in the Caucasus. Contributions to this issue put into perspective the extent to which this has been the case, taking a closer look at energy and pipeline politics, competing transport corridor projects and economic relations between Iran and the South Caucasus more generally. They also take into account specific ways in which Iran has envisioned and asserted its role in the region since 1991.

Iran and Energy Cooperation in the South Caucasus: Prospects for the Post-Sanctions Era
By Hamed Kazemzadeh
The collapse of the Soviet Union and its replacement by independent republics had a significant effect on the geopolitics of Iran, especially on its northern borders. Within these new geopolitics, Iran functions as a land bridge connecting the two major energy-producing regions of the world, i.e., the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. This new situation has had a profound impact on Iran’s security and foreign policy, as have the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of related international sanctions on Iran, which—for years—had obstructed the expansion of international economic relations and energy cooperation between Iran and the Caucasus. Thus, it can be argued that the prospect of cooperation between Iran and the South Caucasian countries will change in the post-sanctions era, especially regarding investment expansion policies and the joining of potential regional pipelines for the purpose of supplying energy resources.
Connecting Iran and the South Caucasus: Competing Visions of the North–South Corridor
By Yana Zabanova
Due to its geographic location, the South Caucasus could provide alternative trade routes between Iran and Europe as part of a larger vision of an international North–South Transport Corridor. Potential benefits to Iran include having an alternative to its overland route to Europe via Turkey, which has been a source of major problems in recent years, and—in the longer term—becoming a transit country for cargo traffic between South Asia and Europe. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which share a common border with Iran, have been promoting competing rail routes. Azerbaijan’s projected rail link to Iran along the Caspian Sea coast has gained momentum since the nuclear deal thanks to the availability of funding and Russia’s interest. In contrast, the rival Southern Armenian Railway project, which would connect Iran to Georgia’s Black Sea ports via Armenia, was more attractive to Iran during the sanctions era, when it had fewer options at its disposal. This 3.2 billion USD project has failed to secure external funding, making its implementation increasingly unlikely. However, the ongoing large-scale road rehabilitation and construction program in Armenia, financed by international donors, can still improve Armenia’s attractiveness as a transit country. While Iran has expressed interest in all these initiatives, it has adopted a cautious approach, as it is also exploring transport corridor options in other regions, including Central Asia.
The Role of Iranian Azeris, Armenians and Georgians in Iran’s Economic Relations with the Countries of the South Caucasus
By Andrea Weiss
This contribution examines Iran’s economic relations with the South Caucasus through the (admittedly marginal) roles of Iranian Azeris, Armenians and Georgians. In quantitative terms, such as the movement of goods, economic interdependency between Iran and the South Caucasus is rather low and the ties are weak. Because the prevailing understanding of nationality in Iran is primarily of a civic nature, and not least due to their low numbers, these Iranian minority populations do not form the strong links to the Caucasus that one might expect.
The Unfreezing of Iran: Economic Opportunities for Georgia
By David Jijelava
In the aftermath of the Iran deal, there has been considerable speculation about the likely impact of the deal on the Caucasus. In Georgia, there has been speculation about the degree to which Iran could drive economic growth through development of the energy sector by providing a new market for Georgian exports or by becoming a source of FDI or tourists. This article looks at each of these areas and concludes that none of them are likely to be major drivers of growth in the short to medium term.


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Russia and Europe in the context of US presidential elections

Mikhail Nosov – RAS Corresponding Member, Deputy Director of IE RAS

  • End of the year provides a great opportunity to look back, draw lessons from the past and think about the future. With 2016 came a lot of anxiety together with positive expectations. Two major events are to be pointed out. Russia’s obtaining the status of a great power on the global arena was the first significant fact and the most important political dominant for the country. The second global event was the US presidential elections and Donald Trump’s becoming president of the United States with his promise «to make America great again». Thus the two countries, which are thought to have been ideological opponents and rivals for global leadership throughout the second half of the 20th century, declared the idea of regaining their former greatness.
  • In the 1990s Russia, which had long had the world’s second economy, equal to the western countries’ military potential and the great power status (confirmed by Yalta agreements in 1945), lost its global positions. The speech of President Putin in Munich in 2007 raised the necessity of the country’s regaining its role in the world economy. First steps towards the goal were made through the increase of military budget, military operations in Syria and massive support of the actions of Russian government. Vladimir Putin became one of the world’s most popular leaders at that time. (For more see att.)


Chatham HouseWestern Policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned

Summary points:

  • Six years into Syria’s conflict, ‘victory’ for any particular actor is likely to prove a relative term. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad holds the military advantage, but lacks the capacity and resources to recapture and govern the whole of Syria.
  • The absence of a coherent strategic vision – or the political will to see it through – on the part of Western governments has contributed to the increasing strength and influence of extremist groups. These groups cannot be countered by military means alone. Without a political agreement to end the conflict, tactical measures for fighting extremism in Syria will fail, as they have elsewhere.
  • Policymakers must align ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ measures, as no national solution in Syria can be implemented effectively without the buy-in of local communities. To date, local-level humanitarian and governance initiatives have largely overlooked political issues, while national-level peace initiatives have focused on political issues but without enough attention to local dynamics and actors. A successful Western strategy must balance national-level policies with local-level priorities and concerns in order to cultivate the support of local constituencies.
  • Western powers – specifically the US, the EU, the UK and France – must make the most of their limited leverage to extract concessions from the Assad regime and its international backers. The greatest leverage that the West possesses is economic: through sanctions, trade and reconstruction. This may prove significant in determining Syria’s post-settlement future. The regime’s external sponsors, Russia and Iran, have neither the capital to fund large-scale reconstruction efforts nor the interest in doing so.

(Comment UvM: Germany still missing. The authors (British hopefuls) and their approach to French and British money. We can wait for French + UK budget money for reconstruction. British paradise island. )


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Atelierauflösung Jorge Machold im März 2017

Es soll kein trauriger Anlass sein. Wenn ein Atelier, dem immerwährenden Geist der Kunst gewidmet, seine Bestimmung aufgibt.

Es soll die Kraft des Jorge Machold sein zu spüren sein, die sein Werk beschreibt:

>Großes Format, die besondere Kraft<

So empfehle ich auf besonderen Wunsch unseres Vorstandsmitgliedes Thomas Waterstradt mit nachfolgendem Text dem Geist, dem Atelier von Jorge Machold die Aufwartung zu machen.

„Heike Machold muss leider das Atelier von meinem vor fast zwei Jahre verstorbenen Freund Jorge auflösen.

Ich habe mir erlaubt, zur Illustration des Künstler `s Fähigkeiten Fotos aus dem 2007 herausgegebenen Buches „Plastiken/ Zeichnungen“ anzufertigen, die sein Wirken und seine Biografie darstellen. Das Buch mit ausgewählten Werken kann bei mir gern eingesehen werden. Es wäre sehr schön, wenn aus der „AGBC Welt“ Unterstützung bei der Auflösen des Ateliers entstünde – und sicherlich macht sich das eine oder andere Kunstwerk auch bei unseren Freunden gut.

An den März Wochenenden bestünde die Gelegenheit des Atelierbesuchs (siehe hierzu den Anhang „Verkaufsausstellung“)

Ich bitte die Gäste um Anmeldung bei Frau Machold unter: joheimachold .

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

Barandat* Water and Geopolitical Imperatives

March 6, 2017 Access to and control over water is a strategic imperative that has been the impetus of conflict throughout history.

George Friedman and Allison Fedirka

Geographic features and conditions are part of the building blocks of geopolitical analysis. And yet, the influence that geography has on a country’s imperatives and constraints can be underappreciated. Access to water is an important example. While the media and academics treat water primarily as an issue of climate and human rights, access to and control over water is a strategic imperative that has been the impetus of conflict throughout history.

Something as simple as water access can impact the geopolitical realities a country faces in multiple ways. The first and perhaps the most obvious way is sea access. Access to the world’s oceans enables a country to more easily participate in major maritime shipping routes. It also opens an additional route by which a country could project force by having a navy.

The imperative to attain and maintain ocean access can drive a country to extreme measures, including war. One major component in the War of the Pacific in South America (1879-1883) was control over access to the southern Pacific. Bolivia lost its ocean access as a result of this war and continues to this day to seek ways to recover it.

A more current example is Russia’s invasion of Crimea to create a larger buffer around Russian naval facilities in Sevastopol.

The Mighty Mississippi

(click to enlarge)

Waterways also provide cheaper means of shipping goods to port for export, making exports more competitive.

One of the most strategic riverways in the world is the Mississippi River system in the United States. Two great rivers, the Missouri and the Ohio, along with several smaller rivers flow into the Mississippi. This river system is navigable and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

That means virtually any part of the land between the Rockies and Appalachians that would produce agricultural products (and later minerals) could ship goods inexpensively through this river system and eventually to Europe.

In this case, the US acquired these lands primarily through the Louisiana Purchase, followed by a war with Mexico and the annexation of Texas. This led to the expansion of a buffer zone to the west of the Mississippi River.

The Nile

(click to enlarge)

Rivers can also be sources of geopolitical power in terms of relations between states. This is the case with the Nile River. Approximately 85% of all water reaching the Nile River in Egypt originates in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, Atbara, and Sobat rivers. Of these rivers, the most important is the Blue Nile. It accounts for nearly 60% of the Nile’s water in Egypt. Given that Egypt is overwhelmingly a desert climate, the country (especially populations near the Nile) depends heavily on the river for water and agriculture.

Controlling the source of the river’s water and the upper-most segment of the Blue Nile means that any moves Ethiopia makes that affect water flow or quality could jeopardize water access downstream. Currently, there is much concern over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (expected to be operational this year) regarding how filling its reservoir could deplete water flowing into Egypt.

So far, this concern has been dealt with through diplomacy. However, in the mid-1870s, the Khedevite of Egypt invaded Ethiopia via Eritrea and waged war for two years in an attempt to gain control of the Nile River.


(click to enlarge)

Lastly, the absence of water can indirectly lead to conflict. The map above shows areas in Syria that experienced six or more years of drought from 2000 to 2010. Prolonged droughts can decimate a region’s agriculture and livestock, exposing local food supplies to great risk.

In addition, the Islamic State took control of some of this overlapping territory only a few years after the drought. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction published a 2011 study implying that social and economic devastation caused by drought contributed to the rise of IS. Historians have also noted a correlation between major famine due to drought in Ethiopia and the fall of regimes, such as the Derg. While drought in these cases did not serve as a direct trigger for observed violence, there is a strong correlation between the absence of water and social and economic instability.

The Importance of Access

Water serves as a mainstay component of geopolitical imperatives and should be understood as such. Access and control over waterways and bodies of water can provide strategic standing to a country. In some cases, it can even enhance this standing in terms of military projection, trade, domestic stability, and leverage over other countries. For this reason, water has an underlying geopolitical importance. Access to and control over water can be a serious source of conflict among nations… conflict that has the potential to rise to the level of warfare.


Middle East

Islamic State’s Strategy Involving Jordan and Israel

March 9, 2017. IS may try to draw in Israel by threatening Amman.

By Kamran Bokhari

Given that the Islamic State is increasingly losing territory, the world’s focus is on the efforts to dislodge the jihadist regime from its capital in Raqqa. Most observers tend to view the anti-IS campaign as a linear process that over time will lead to the destruction of the jihadist entity. But it is dangerous to assume that IS will simply go quietly into the night. Jordan is one place where IS could strike in order to draw in the Israelis and thus complicate and widen the conflict.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on March 8 that Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, is deeply concerned about Jordan’s stability. Israel’s envoy to Amman gave a pessimistic assessment of Jordan in a briefing to Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot in October. The two officials discussed the situation in Israel’s eastern neighbor, which has seen several hundred thousand Syrian refugees cross its border. Eisenkot reportedly told colleagues that he was disturbed by what he learned from Schlein about Jordan, which shares Israel’s longest border.

These developments are important for two reasons. First, Jordan already faces a number of threats. In December, we highlighted why we thought Jordan might destabilize. Sandwiched between the West Bank, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, the small country is vulnerable to multiple geopolitical pressures. Jordan could face threats from IS on two of its borders, and its vulnerability to this threat is compounded by its weakening political economy and large presence of Islamist forces.

Second, Jordan is Israel’s only neighbor that thus far has remained stable. Hezbollah in Lebanon has long threatened Israel’s northern frontier, and in the last several years the civil war in Syria has given rise to IS, al-Qaida and many other jihadist groups that pose a danger to Israel. On its southern flank, Israel has to worry about Hamas and since 2011 the instability in Egypt. With Jordan also in the process of destabilizing, Israel has a lot to worry about, especially given that a majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin.

Israel has a special security relationship with Jordan that goes back decades, even though formally the two had hostile relations until the 1994 peace agreement that established formal diplomatic relations. Israeli-Jordanian security cooperation, however, has been predicated on the fact that Jordan took on much of the responsibility of containing potential threats. That Israeli officials are worried about Jordan’s future stability is an indication of how precarious the current situation is.

It is unclear what has caused this concern among the Israelis. However, it is not simply the burden of taking in 657,000 Syrian refugees (this is the official figure, though the actual number is likely higher). It is rather astounding that the number of refugees Amman has absorbed equals 10 percent of its population, yet the country has not faltered. Jordan has been in an unsettled position for a while and geopolitically there’s plenty of reason to suspect it already has been considerably weakened. But to understand the nature of the threat that Amman now faces, one has to place Jordan within the context of the war to defeat the Islamic State.

IS is under a great deal of pressure in both Iraq and Syria. It has lost considerable territory in recent months. However, the jihadist entity is not without resources and has been preparing for an assault from the international coalition. IS is a formidable political entity and is not going to disappear overnight.

It has demonstrated that it has formidable organizational capabilities and is shrewd when it comes to strategic planning. Many expect IS will be pushed out of Mosul and then lose Raqqa. However, IS likely is planning for these challenges and has a strategy to deal with these threats. It would be naïve for the coalition trying to defeat IS to believe otherwise. IS has shown that when it is attacked by superior forces it will shift the battle to a time and place more advantageous to its position.

For this reason, it must strike where it is least expected. At the same time, such a place must be vulnerable to instability and within IS’ reach, and it should provide potentially significant dividends. Jordan is one possible target. In recent weeks, Jordan has seen unusual IS activity on its borders with Syria and Iraq. On Feb. 24, IS forces attacked checkpoints on the Iraqi side of the Jordanian border, and on Feb. 20, an IS-affiliated group called the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army took control of territory in southern Syria along the Jordanian border.

These incidents alone are not enough to create chaos in Jordan. They are, however, indicative of IS’ strategy. It is going to try to attack a weak spot and attempt to use the regional distrust of Israel to its advantage. There is no better way to get the Israelis involved than to launch attacks in Jordan. IS knows that Israel cannot ignore a serious destabilization of the status quo in Jordan.

It is not clear that such a situation will necessarily arise. However, this scenario is not beyond the pale if we factor in Israeli imperatives vis-à-vis Jordan, Amman’s internal and external circumstances and IS’ need to defend its caliphate. These factors as well as the recent indicators mentioned above suggest IS may be turning its sights on Jordan.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Names Siemens USA CEO Judy Marks

to U.S. Investment Advisory Council

Today, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. announced the appointment of Judy Marks, CEO of Siemens USA to the U.S. Investment Advisory Council. Marks will work with the 15 other members of the council to develop and implement strategies and programs that attract and retain investment in the United States.

“Judy has an extraordinary history of leadership that goes back decades and it is my honor to appoint her to the Council while in the midst of Women’s History Month,” said Secretary Ross. “I am an admirer of Judy and her company’s apprenticeship programs and their significant investment in U.S. workers. Judy’s knowledge and experience will no doubt be invaluable as we set out to encourage further growth and investment in the United States.”

Marks and Siemens’ record of U.S. investment is extensive – with more than 50,000 U.S. employees, the company has invested more than $35 billion in the U.S. over past 15 years. With over 60 U.S. manufacturing sites, Siemens has established an apprenticeship program to train workers for highly skilled, good-paying manufacturing jobs that many companies are struggling to fill.

“I am honored to serve on the U.S. Investment Advisory Council and look forward to working with Commerce Secretary Ross and the entire IAC to further strengthen our nation’s economy and competitiveness,” said Judy Marks, Siemens USA CEO. “Siemens has been in the U.S. for more than 160 years, and our global leadership in engineering and technology innovation has not only helped to meet America’s toughest challenges, but has contributed to workforce development, R&D, and manufacturing in the U.S.”

Marks joins a list of leaders from a diverse range of companies and organizations.

Members include:

  • Jane Garvey, Chairman, Meridiam North America and Board Director, LaGuardia Gateway Partners (Chair)
  • Catherine Smith, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (Vice Chair)
  • Mark Beariault, General Counsel, Head of Legal Affairs, Kudelski Group
  • Chris Camacho, President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Nikia Clarke, Executive Director, World Trade Center San Diego
  • Jeffrey A. Finkle, President, International Economic Development Council
  • Mani Iyer, President and CEO, Mahindra North America
  • Peter Lowy, Co-CEO, Westfield
  • Elie W. Maalouf, Chief Executive Officer, The Americas, InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Kenny McDonald, President and Chief Economic Officer, Columbus 2020
  • Ying McGuire, Vice President of Operations and Business Development, Technology Integration Group
  • Nancy McLernon, President and CEO, Organization for International Investment
  • Jan Rodgers, CEO, Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho
  • Irene Spanos, Director of Economic Development & Community Affairs, Oakland Count, Michigan
  • Jeffrey Wilson, President and CEO, Gestamp North America and Gestamp Asia Pacific Corporation
  • Charlton Whipple, Chairman, Southern Economic Development Council



see our letter on:

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



03-13-17 CAD92_Iran and the South Caucasus after the Nuclear Deal.pdf

02-09-17 Russia and Europe in the context of US presidential elections_Institute of Europe_Russian Acadmy of Sciences.pdf

03-06-17 Friedman_water-geopolitical-imperatives.pdf

Verkaufsausstellung Mrz 2017.doc

03-15-17 western-policy-towards-syria-lessons-learned.pdf