Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 05.05.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • WSJ:The Calculated Rise of France’s Emmanuel Macron
  • Mega-ship era is starting early at the Port of New York and Jersey
  • OPEC output cuts whet Asia’s appetite for North Sea oil
  • Bundeswehr-Debatte: Überzogen und ungerecht
  • Officials: DoD must update how it buys and uses new equipment, technology for future battlefield
  • GPF/Friedman: Recasting Hamas

Massenbach*Bundeswehr-Debatte: Überzogen und ungerecht

Die Bundeswehr hat kein „Haltungsproblem“. Es scheint eher auf Seiten der Politik zu bestehen. Wer deutsche Soldaten und Soldatinnen in Krisen und Kriege schickt, muss sie – und sich – auf die Härte vorbereiten, die sie dort erwartet.

So manches verkürzte öffentliche Urteil über die Bundeswehr erscheint in seiner Pauschalität überzogen und ungerecht“, schreibt Bundesverteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen in einem offenen Brief an die Angehörigen der Bundeswehr. Diese Feststellung wird in deren Reihen auf große Zustimmung stoßen – auch weil das nach einer Selbstbezichtigung klingt. Die Ministerin hatte zuvor der Bundeswehr „ein Haltungsproblem“, „falsch verstandenen Korpsgeist“ und „Führungsschwäche auf verschiedenen Ebenen“ vorgeworfen.

Autor: Berthold Kohler, Herausgeber.

Das ist starker Tobak für die Inhaberin der Befehls- und Kommandogewalt, die damit wohl eher einem zivilen Publikum zeigen will, dass jedenfalls die oberste Leitung nicht von Führungsschwäche befallen sei. Der Truppe aber kann dieses Pauschalurteil nur unangemessen und unfair erscheinen. Denn die „übergroße Mehrheit“ der Soldatinnen und Soldaten leistet, wie die Ministerin nachschob, um die Wogen der Empörung wieder etwas zu glätten, „tagtäglich anständig und tadellos ihren wichtigen Dienst für unser Land“.

Die Bundeswehr –ein Staat im Staate?

Anständig und tadellos, aber mit falsch verstandenem Korpsgeist und einem Haltungsproblem gegenüber dem „völkischen Gedankengut“, das in der Masterarbeit eines Oberleutnants erst dann entdeckt wurde, als dieser auch noch als falscher Flüchtling aufflog? Dieser merkwürdige Fall, der für ein krasses Behördenversagen vor allem außerhalb der Bundeswehr steht und auch noch einmal wie eine glühende Nadel in die immer noch schwärende Wunde der verfehlten Flüchtlingspolitik der Regierung Merkel sticht, war offenkundig der letzte Tropfen, der das Frühwarnfass der Ministerin zum Überlaufen brachte.

Wenn ein möglicher Missstand bis zu ihr streuen könnte, siehe G36, dann fackelt sie nicht lange. Man könne nun, so äußerte sie unter Verweis auch auf die Exzesse und Schikanen in den Kasernen von Pfullendorf, Bad Reichenhall und Sondershausen, nicht mehr von Einzelfällen sprechen. In zu vielen Bereichen der Bundeswehr gebe es keinen Konsens darüber, wo die Grenze zum Extremismus, aber auch zu überzogener Härte, Herabwürdigung und Schikane überschritten werde. Diese Grenzlinien müssten klarer definiert und die Ausbildung neu ausgerichtet werden.

Mehr zum Thema

Nun steht außer Frage, dass die Bundeswehr nicht zu einem Sammelbecken für Sadisten und Extremisten aller Art werden darf. Diese Gefahr mag sogar etwas größer geworden sein, seit die Wehrpflicht ausgesetzt wurde. Denn seither bekommt die Bundeswehr ihren Nachwuchs nicht mehr aus der Mitte des Volkes zugeteilt, sondern muss ihn selbst rekrutieren. Und nicht alle, die ihrem Werben erliegen, werden wegen der kinderfreundlichen Kasernen kommen, auf die von der Leyen großen Wert legt. Doch muss man deswegen schon befürchten, die demokratischste Armee, die Deutschland je hatte, könnte zu einem Staat im Staate werden, in dem der oberste Wert der Republik nichts mehr gelte?

Zweifellos ging der Rollenwechsel, den die Politik der Bundeswehr befahl, nicht spurlos an ihr vorüber. Bis zum Ende des Kalten Krieges war sie eine Übungsarmee, die allenfalls nach Unwettern zum Räumeinsatz kam. Der Ernstfall trat für sie erst mit den Luftschlägen gegen Belgrad ein, in den Kampf Mann gegen Mann musste sie erst in Afghanistan ziehen. Seither halten ihre Soldatinnen und Soldaten vom Hindukusch bis ins tiefste Afrika ihre Knochen hin, wenn es darum geht, die Interessen Deutschlands und seiner Verbündeten zu verteidigen.

Mechanismen der Kontrolle und Selbstkontrolle

Sie bringen aus diesen Einsätzen, von denen sich die meisten Zivilisten keine Vorstellung machen (können), Erfahrungen mit, die nicht immer perfekt zu den Vorstellungen des makellosen Bürgers in Ausgehuniform passen, denen man in der deutschen Politik nachhängt. Gerade weil es für die Soldaten um Leben und Tod geht, dürfen die Mechanismen der Kontrolle und Selbstkontrolle nicht versagen. Doch scheint in der Kritik an den exzessiven Ritualen und Schikanen in manchen Einheiten noch immer das Wunschbild durch, die Bundeswehr möge eine Art Pfadfindertruppe sein, die überall die frohe Botschaft des Grundgesetzes verbreitet, damit die Welt endlich am neuen deutschen Wesen genese.

Auch das wird eine Illusion bleiben. Wer Soldaten und Soldatinnen in Krisen und Kriege schickt, muss sie – und sich – auf die Härte und Grausamkeit vorbereiten, die sie dort erwarten. Wie weit man in der Ausbildung gehen darf, wird vom Grundgesetz und von den einschlägigen Gesetzen festgelegt. Diese Grenzen dürfen, wie es auch das bewährte Prinzip der „Inneren Führung“ gebietet, nicht überschritten werden. Soldaten müssen die Einschränkung einiger Rechte hinnehmen; doch auch ihre Menschenwürde bleibt unantastbar.

Hier hat die Bundeswehr wahrlich kein „Haltungsproblem“: Sie übt und kämpft seit ihrer Gründung in diesem Geist. Weil die Bundeswehr aber in der Tat „keine Institution wie jede andere“ (von der Leyen) ist, sondern eine, die ihren Angehörigen das Kämpfen und Töten beibringt, auch um nicht selbst getötet zu werden, muss sie bei der Ausbildung ihrer Kampfeinheiten bis hart an die Grenzen der noch zulässigen Härte gehen dürfen. Eine Armee, der das untersagt wird und in der Kameradschaft und Korpsgeist eher als problematisch denn als wünschenswert angesehen werden, könnte man auch gleich auflösen.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/warum-die-debatte-ueber-das-haltungsproblem-der-bundeswehr-ueberzogen-und-ungerecht-ist-14997059.html

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

No article this week.

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Public discussion

"Russia 2017: (De) Activation of the scope for civil society commitment?"

May 16th, 2017, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Location: Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

*

Öffentliche Diskussion

“Russland 2017: (De)Aktivierung des Spielraums für zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement?”

16. Mai 2017, 18:00-20:00 Uhr

Ort: Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

*

Открытая дискуссия
«Россия-2017:
(не)возможность гражданской деятельности?»

16 мая 2017 года, 18:00-20:00

Место проведения: МузейБерлинской стены — дом-музейу Чекпойнт Чарли

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* WSJ: The Calculated Rise of France’s Emmanuel Macron

French presidential candidate skipped electoral politics, instead connecting with the elite and acquiring market experience; at stake, the future of Europe.

April 28, 2017 2:32 p.m. ET

PARIS—At the height of the financial crisis, Rothschild & Cie. assigned one of its veteran bankers to groom a new hire named Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Macron had no experience in banking. Instead, he had powerful mentors who had recommended him to Rothschild as a danseur mondain—literally, high-society dancer—who could drum up business.

“He was identified as being a very singular person with lots of contacts,” recalls Cyrille Harfouche, the veteran assigned to shepherd Mr. Macron. By the time Mr. Macron left Rothschild four years later, he had negotiated a multibillion-dollar deal and become one of its youngest-ever partners.

Mr. Macron’s banking career followed a playbook that now has upended the political order and placed the French presidency within his grasp, with a final-round election against Marine Le Pen on May 7. Mr. Macron made friends in high places who propelled him to ever-higher echelons of French society. Along the way he acquired a repertoire of skills, from piano and philosophy to acting and finance, that helped impress future mentors.

The approach allowed Mr. Macron to shortcut the traditional political path. Rather than run for office in his hometown, gradually building a constituency, he proceeded straight to Paris, where he became an expert on banking and European technocracy. He acquired a mastery of arcane regulations, from the 3,334-page French national labor code to the plumbing of the European Union’s single market, that made him a valuable potential aide to politicians being whipsawed by the EU’s complexity and the gyrations of global markets.

Now the future of France, and in considerable measure of the EU itself, could be in the hands of a 39-year-old who was little-known to much of the world until this year. His duel with Ms. Le Pen over France’s place in Europe has redrawn French politics, sweeping aside mainstream candidates and the traditional left-right divide they represent.

Mainstream French parties have called on their supporters to rally behind Mr. Macron in the contest against Ms. Le Pen, the far-right nationalist who would withdraw France from the EU’s common currency.

A Macron win would put Europe’s second-largest economy under an outspoken EU supporter who wants to establish a command center for the Continent’s defense, create a border police force, loosen France’s rigid labor rules, cut payroll taxes and reduce French public-sector employment by 120,000.

Mr. Macron is a political pragmatist who has long cast himself as an outsider. He was musician to his banking colleagues and a capitalist inside a Socialist government before squaring off with nationalists as a pro-Europe candidate.

Interviews with Mr. Macron over two years, as well as with campaign aides, government officials and friends, reveal a man who set his sights on high office early, showing a willingness to defy convention in pursuit of that goal. That drive ultimately set Mr. Macron on a collision course with the one mentor who elevated him to the senior ranks of government, President François Hollande.

Born to a family of doctors in the northern city of Amiens, Mr. Macron met his future wife, Brigitte Trogneux, while he was in high school and she was his drama coach. She was more than 20 years his senior, a member of a prominent business family of chocolatiers, and married. 0

The teenager spent hours with Ms. Trogneux to adapt a play by the Italian playwright Eduardo de Filippo about a clever actor who tries to outsmart a powerful local official. She cast him in the lead role. “We worked a lot together,” he recalled.

Mr. Macron’s parents sent him to finish high school in Paris, but he remained in touch with Ms. Trogneux. A couple of years later, she broke off her marriage and moved to Paris to live with Mr. Macron.

By then he was making his way into rarefied circles. He studied philosophy and became the assistant of Paul Ricoeur, one of France’s best-known philosophers. He enrolled in the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, the elite academy that trains French ministers, central bankers and presidents.

Graduating near the top of his class, Mr. Macron earned a post in the Inspectorate General of Finance, a corps of state auditors that serves as a finishing school for the establishment. He cultivated powerful alumni such as French power broker Alain Minc and former Prime Minister Michel Rocard.

One alumnus he courted recalled sitting down with Mr. Macron for the first time and asking him where he saw himself in 30 years. “President of the Republic,” he replied, according to this person.

Mr. Macron remembered the exchange differently—that he simply said he was open to a career in politics.

Emmanuel Macron with his wife, Brigitte Trogneux, in Le Touquet, France.

The alumnus advised Mr. Macron to avoid conventional politics, saying it wouldn’t guarantee him financial security, and helped line up a job for him at Rothschild, a venerable investment bank that straddles the worlds of French finance and politics.

Mr. Macron impressed his bosses by seeking to do more than open doors. Mr. Harfouche said Mr. Macron wanted to learn “the hard way.” So he was given a crash course in the number-crunching and financial modeling that goes into mergers and acquisitions. Word also spread of his piano virtuosity. “He could have been an artist,” Mr. Harfouche said.

While at the Inspectorate, Mr. Macron had worked as an assistant to an economic committee of eminences grises that included Nestlé SA Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. Mr. Macron began meeting with the executive regularly, pitching an acquisition target: Pfizer Inc.’s baby-food business.

Ultimately he persuaded Nestlé about the acquisition as a way to boost its presence in China, one of the few baby-food markets where the Swiss company wasn’t a market leader. When a bidding war broke out with French rival Danone SA, Mr. Macron scrambled to clinch the $11.8 billion Nestlé purchase.

Macron’s Platform

· Economy: Cut corporate income tax rate to 25% from 33.3%. Abolish some local taxes. Eliminate 120,000 public-sector jobs over five years. Spend more on renewable energy, upgrades to public services.

· Labor: Cut payroll taxes. Expand unemployment-benefit eligibility. Let firms negotiate directly with employees on working hours

· Security, Foreign Policy: Hire 10,000 more police. Increase prison capacity. Boost defense spending to 2% of GDP. Negotiate with EU countries to create border force of 5,000. Process refugee applications faster.

· Education : Cut class size. Allow bilingual instruction. Don’t expand ban on Islamic headscarfs to universities.

· Electoral Reform: Reduce number of lawmakers and senators. Bar them from hiring family as assistants.

The deal made Mr. Macron, by then a partner at Rothschild, a wealthy man. It also made him an adviser sought after in French political circles, including Mr. Hollande, the Socialist Party leader who was then challenging French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Hollande hired Mr. Macron as an aide, dispatching him to reassure investors and business leaders nervous about the candidate’s plan for a 75% tax on incomes above €1 million.

After winning the presidency in 2012, Mr. Hollande brought Mr. Macron to the Élysée Palace as deputy chief of staff. As business leaders threatened to leave France, citing the tax policy, Mr. Macron warned his boss in an email that he risked turning France into “Cuba without the sun.”

Mr. Hollande relented, scaling back his contentious tax plan and introducing some corporate tax cuts dubbed the “responsibility pact.” The U-turn enhanced the reputation of his pro-business consigliere among members of the Socialist Party’s frustrated free-market wing who had flocked to Mr. Macron’s side.

Among them was Gérard Collomb, a senator and mayor of Lyon. “I was quite on edge about Mr. Hollande’s policies, so [Mr. Macron] dined with me and some lawmakers to try and calm things down,” Mr. Collomb said.

Other interventions followed. When Mr. Hollande’s left-wing economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, tried to scuttle a General Electric Co. bid for Alstom SA’s turbine business, Mr. Macron stepped in and brokered GE’s $17 billion purchase.

With the wind in his sails, Mr. Macron abruptly quit as an Hollande aide in the summer of 2014, saying he wanted to try starting his own business. Mr. Hollande hosted an elaborate Élysée Palace send-off at which the president quipped in a toast that whenever he travelled abroad, people remarked: “Ah! You work with Emmanuel Macron.”

Mr. Macron responded with a serious speech, urging the assembled politicians to overhaul the country.

Weeks later, Mr. Hollande ousted Mr. Montebourg over the economy minister’s opposition to spending cuts—and offered Mr. Macron the job.

Mr. Macron didn’t immediately say yes. He demanded a mandate to overhaul the economy.

“You will be here to reform,” Mr. Hollande replied.

Four days into the new post, Mr. Macron invited Sigmar Gabriel, then Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, to a private dinner in Paris. They agreed to commission a report from economists that could serve as a blueprint for a grand bargain Mr. Macron envisioned to revive the EU’s fortunes: Germany would provide stimulus by spending more, and France would become a European model of economic rectitude by paring back its generous labor protections.

Emmanuel Macron, right, in late 2014, when he was France’s economy minister, talking with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

“From the start I proposed a European New Deal—undertake reform, but at the same time persuade Europe to invest more,” Mr. Macron said in an interview last year shortly before declaring his run for the presidency.

In his view, France’s job market was hemmed in by a rigid educational system that set young people on a narrow career trajectory and by labor rules that discouraged companies from hiring them. The result was an unemployment rate of nearly 10%, and twice that among the young.

Mr. Macron, as economy minister, crafted a bill to streamline hiring and firing procedures, slash red tape and permit more shops to open on Sunday. The contentious proposals, dubbed the Macron Law, thrust him into the limelight as unions organized large street protests.

Mr. Hollande, fearing the bill would fail in Parliament, to the embarrassment of his government, didn’t put it to a vote. He instead stripped out key provisions that would ease hiring and firing restrictions, then enacted the bill by decree.

That sowed the seeds of Mr. Macron’s future rebellion. Interviewed by The Wall Street Journal later on that day in early 2015, Mr. Macron was asked whether he had ever harbored presidential ambitions.

“No, but when you decide to do something, it’s to do the best—to become [a] billionaire when you create a startup,” Mr. Macron said.

He joked: “Or king. I want to change the regime.”

He continued prodding Mr. Hollande, sending him a letter on Christmas Eve 2015 that again urged the president to make deeper economic changes and to push Europe and Germany to loosen their purse strings.

Emmanuel Macron, right, greeting French President François Hollande, left, in whose government Mr. Macron formerly served.

“We need to go further, and, at the same time, it’s crucial that Europe have a stimulus policy,” Mr. Macron said months later, describing the contents of the letter.

Mr. Hollande didn’t write back. He was grappling with historically low poll numbers that jeopardized his chance of re-election. The last thing he needed was to revive street protests.

Mr. Hollande’s inaction was a final spur to Mr. Macron’s presidential ambitions, said Richard Ferrand, a veteran Socialist politician who sometimes guided Mr. Macron in the legislative process.

In the months that followed, Mr. Macron huddled with Socialist heavyweights such as Messrs. Ferrand and Collomb to plot a run for the presidency. Without the backing of a long-established party, he would need to tap his contacts in the business world. That meant taking the unusual step in French politics of hosting private fundraising dinners, inviting people who had their own networks of potential donors.

Last spring, Mr. Macron unveiled his own political party, En Marche, or “On The Move,” mortally wounding Mr. Hollande’s re-election chances. At first, the president refused to publicly acknowledge Mr. Macron wanted his job.

“It’s not just a question of hierarchy—he knows what he owes me. It’s a question of personal and political loyalty,” Mr. Hollande said in a TV interview at the time.

Days later, Mr. Macron delivered the coup de grâce in a local newspaper interview confirmed by his spokeswoman.

“When a president names someone minister,” he said, it’s “not to make him a servant.”

Last Aug. 30, with TV cameras watching, Mr. Macron boarded a covered riverboat docked at the economy ministry and rode it down the river Seine to the Élysée Palace to deliver his resignation.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-calculated-rise-of-frances-emmanuel-macron-1493404345#_=_

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

Barandat* Officials: DoD must update how it buys and uses new equipment, technology for future battlefield.

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Future soldiers may enter a battlefield alongside autonomous fighting vehicles on the ground and a "ghost fleet" of unmanned ships at sea, as swarms of miniature drones buzz overhead.

All the while, commanders will analyze data from social networks to understand the public sentiment and trends as the fighting unfolds.

This is what the battlefield of the future likely will resemble.

But for that to happen, several speakers at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Armament Systems Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said Tuesday that much has to change about how the military acquires and implements new gear.

And based on what the speakers said, the defense industry, both on the government and civilian side, may need to take some pointers from Silicon Valley’s approach to research and development.

The conference schedule this week combines more than 300 military and industrial participants and covers topics that range from leadless bullet primers to special operations equipment acquisitions.

The defense community is in the beginning stages of a “Third Offset” that will radically transform the military in ways that may take decades to unfold. Much of what is going to happen is in testing stages or on the drawing board, and much remains unknown.

But experts at the conference made clear that these changes are happening, and enemies are not waiting. Instead, they are adapting.

The “First Offset” was when the U.S. military shifted from traditional war fighting common during the Korean War and previous modern wars that often resulted in “many soldiers — many bullets — one kill,” said Ted Maciuba, deputy director of the Army’s Mounted Requirements Division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia.

Then-President Dwight Eisenhower moved the military into a nuclear-focused, Cold War fighting organization that meant “fewer soldiers — one big nuclear bullet — many kills.”

But the collateral damage associated with such attacks, along with nuclear waste and the Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD, doctrine, was unsustainable and not applicable to counterinsurgency warfare and post-Cold War realities, Maciuba said.

At that time came the “Second Offset,” which meant precision-guided weapons and communications systems such as GPS. That is credited for much of the stunning success of the Persian Gulf War, said Vincent Sabio, program manager at the Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

The military is in the beginning stages of the “Third Offset,” which will include robotics, miniaturization of technologies and big data to produce “one soldier — many bullets — many kills.”

But to do that, Sabio argues, the industry/defense partnership needs to move away from a “high quality” production system that sometimes brings costly systems into the inventory, or fails to produce systems after decades of investment, to a “good enough” approach that aims to “fail early and fix early.”

That means prototypes being made and tested much earlier in the process, rather than trying to create a perfect system before putting it into the hands of the war fighter, Sabio said.

He quickly cautioned that systems that protect people’s lives must retain the highest standards of quality.

Sabio said there cannot be anymore $100 million field tests where “failure is not an option.” He did not specify any program as an example.

The future soldier must be adaptable, but the systems must have an “intuitive interface” like an iPhone, said Maciuba.

Historically, training has been the last consideration when new equipment was developed. But direction from the Joint Chiefs of Staff has integrated training and users into the process, he said.

Maciuba said new systems will require training, but the military cannot equip a high-school educated soldier with equipment that takes PhD-level expertise to operate.

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/officials-dod-must-update-how-it-buys-and-uses-new-equipment-technology-for-future-battlefield?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2005.03.2017&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

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Middle East

Recasting Hamas

(founded by George Friedman)

May 2, 2017 Hamas’ new charter seeks to soften the group’s tone.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Hamas has produced an updated version of its charter. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal presented it Monday at a press conference in Doha.

Sections of the document were leaked early Monday, and by evening the entire draft was made public in English. Al-Jazeera reported on one of the leaked sections that garnered the most attention earlier in the day.

It said that Hamas “considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967 … to be a formula of national consensus.” This seemed to suggest Hamas was on the verge of at least tolerating Israel’s existence, if not entirely recognizing it. Israel quickly sought to douse the move in cold water. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas is “attempting to fool the world.” An official statement from Netanyahu’s office called the new charter a “smokescreen.”

Based on what the new charter states, there is reason for skepticism. (Read the entire version of the charter in English here.)

It says that Hamas will not relinquish a single acre of land in what it describes as historic Palestine. Hamas also still embraces armed resistance in its quest to liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea.” The existence of internal contradictions in the new document doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility that Hamas is undertaking a monumental shift in its position. But it does raise doubts from the outset. It is also possible that Hamas is only doing this for international legitimacy. Some countries may require the correct formula of words to be enshrined on paper before they can accept Hamas as a legitimate political entity. (That a full copy was immediately available in English buttresses this point.)

Determining whether Hamas is changing its position requires a better understanding of its current one and how Hamas got here.

Hamas was founded in 1987, but the religious currents that were its lifespring had been developing for decades. Hamas saw itself as a religious alternative to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization. Its development was tacitly encouraged by Israel, which viewed the formation of another Palestinian faction as a net positive because it would weaken the overall Palestinian position. In the long run, Hamas did just that. Hamas won U.S.-backed Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2006. The transition of power was not peaceful. The result was that Hamas ruled Gaza and Fatah ruled the West Bank. This split remains in place today.

Hamas gained legitimacy and credibility among Palestinians from its use of force against Israel during the first and second intifadas. Hamas also provided much-needed social services and a version of Palestinian nationalism that embraced the role of Islam. This worked well for Hamas when its raison d’être was resistance, not governance. The moment Hamas took over official governance in the Gaza Strip, the group began to weaken. Hamas tried to become more than a militant organization: It wanted to assume the mantle of the Palestinian people’s rightful representative. This was more difficult in practice than in theory. Gaza is a crowded, isolated, poor enclave blockaded by Israel. With much of the world identifying Hamas as a terrorist organization, Gaza became even more isolated when Hamas took over in 2007.

Hamas continued to fight Israel in small wars in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014. But its rule in the Gaza Strip has failed to make the daily lives of Gazans any better. This is not due to a lack of desire.

Any government attempting to rule Gaza would find it incredibly difficult due to overcrowding and a lack of resources. Hamas’ problem is that it is now held accountable for these failures. It is not just a militant group – it is the political entity responsible for governance. This problem has defined Hamas’ development for the last decade, and different factions have been fighting over how to address this issue the entire time. The faction that wants to moderate Hamas to legitimize its position in the world has been pushing for the publication of an updated charter for years. It finally succeeded.

This faction correctly views the old charter as an albatross. The Hamas Covenant of 1988 is a document rife with allusions to the destruction of both Israel and Jews. It pitches the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious war requiring jihad on the part of all Muslims. Israel has relations with many countries that do not recognize its existence. But Hamas is an enemy that has stated on paper that one of its main missions is to destroy the state of Israel. This gave Israel an easy Palestinian scapegoat and substantiated Israel’s claim that it did not have a willing partner for peace on the other side. Hamas’ actions after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip and its violent assumption of power there have been used to confirm this position.

The new charter removes the emphasis on religious conflict, and in its place employs the words and ideals of both nationalism and Western liberalism. The new document uses the language of natural right, declaring that the Palestinian desire for nationhood is an “inalienable right” possessed by the Palestinian people.

This is not just clever language. It gets to the heart of the conflict. Article 1 of the U.N. Charter says that one of the U.N.’s purposes is to promote equal rights and the self-determination of all peoples. The problem is that the U.N., the French and American revolutions, and the entire corpus of international law – based as it is on relationships between nation-states – do not have a solution for when two peoples claim self-determination over the same land.

This tension is also reflected in a section of the new charter. It states that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, not religious, and that Hamas’ fight is with Zionism, not with Jews by virtue of their religion.

This is an attempt by Hamas to purge its association with anti-Semitism, which is hard to avoid when reading Hamas’ founding charter. The problem with this argument is that it is impossible to separate Zionism from Judaism. An equally appropriate name for Zionism is “Jewish nationalism.” Zionism was just one form of Jewish nationalism that developed in many strands in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The focus on settlement in what was then called Palestine gave Zionism its name, but the notion that Zionism can be evaluated as separate from Judaism is a fallacy.

Why Hamas decided to do this now is unclear. It could be that the internal factional war finally had a victor. It could be that the Saudis pressured Hamas to do it, which would explain the “Gulf Arab sources” that initially broke the news to Reuters. It could be that Qatar, which has housed Hamas since 2012, wants to show that it has power over important things and should be treated with more respect by major regional players.

The why is ultimately less important than understanding how constrained Hamas is. The problem for Hamas is that it does not have any good options. It is currently in an impossible political situation, and moderating its views and garnering acceptance from the international community makes sense. But Hamas cannot turn in its credentials of resistance. It is already struggling for supremacy in the Gaza Strip, and repudiating its stance on fighting Israel would open the door to the Islamic State, which has an active chapter across the desert in the Sinai. This also could facilitate other jihadist groups looking for pockets of discontent in which to grow. If Hamas were to give up the fight against Israel, another group would attempt to fill the gap.

It is unlikely, then, that this will come to much of anything. Hamas wants international legitimacy, but to obtain it Hamas must moderate its positions. Moderating its positions opens up Hamas’ tenuous hold on Gaza to attack. Three weeks ago, Geopolitical Futures investigated the possibility of another war between Hamas and Israel because of dire economic conditions in the Gaza Strip. The publication of a new document and the installation of a new leader after Mashaal steps down does not change the underlying conditions that prompted the investigation. Ironically, Israel is most susceptible to Hamas’ moderation, not to the forces it can bring to bear. The development of a nonviolent Palestinian movement demanding equal rights (or even a less violent one that unambiguously recognized Israel as a country) would put Israel in an extremely difficult position both at home and abroad.

But that is not what this is. This is a low-cost, Hail Mary attempt by Hamas to improve its international standing without giving up its aspirations for an Islamic, Palestinian state without an Israeli neighbor. This document won’t compel Israel to end the blockade. It won’t add money to Hamas’ coffers to pay salaries or provide services to the Gazan people. It won’t compel the region’s Muslim states to accept Hamas or to push Israel into making a deal with Hamas it does not need or want. And it is too weak a facelift for the West to consider recognizing Hamas as something other than the terrorist group that the European Union, the United States, the Egyptians and others categorize Hamas as. It is useful for understanding how difficult Hamas’ position is. But other than that, this “Document of General Principles and Policies” will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/recasting-hamas/

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

OPEC output cuts whet Asia’s appetite for North Sea oil

OPEC production cuts have created record Asian demand for European oil and made China the second biggest consumer of North Sea crude as flows from its usual Middle East suppliers dip.

Rising Asian appetite for North Sea crude has largely been fueled by the falling premium charged for North Sea crude over rival Middle East oil and this demand could last beyond OPEC’s supply cuts if that favorable pricing persists.

Thomson Reuters Eikon data shows China imported almost 38 million barrels of North Sea crude from the start of the year until late April, compared with about 8 million barrels by the same point in 2016.

China now lies second to Britain, the biggest consumer of North Sea crude, which had bought 49.7 million barrels by late April this year. In January to April 2016, China ranked seventh.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other non-OPEC producers agreed to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017 to lift prices and reduce global inventories.

With stockpiles still bulging, Gulf producers and other producers say cuts could be extended to December, adding a further incentive for Asian buyers to look beyond their usual suppliers.

"East of Suez, crude balances look like they will get progressively tighter year-on-year all the way through to the end of 2017," FGE analyst James Davis said.

"We suspect there will be, from a supply perspective, a need for crude to move across to Asia from the North Sea," he said.

Reluctant to relinquish market share to U.S. oil shale producers, OPEC states have kept their official selling prices low and used their crude stockpiles to keep clients supplied.

But they have tended to cut output of medium, more sulphurous crudes that are cheaper, and maintained flows of lighter, less sulphur-rich oil, which usually sell for more.

With less of those medium crudes on the market prices for that oil have climbed, sending the premium that is usually paid for North Sea oil to its lowest since 2010.

CRUDE DIET

The premium for North Sea Brent, the peg for many of world’s lighter crudes, over the Dubai benchmark, which underpins medium and heavier grades common in the Middle East, has fallen below 50 cents a barrel from $2.50 in late November, when OPEC announced its cuts.

"North Sea crude keeps coming to Asia and now there should be more given the price structure," a trader at a North Asian refinery said.

China customs data shows the cost of importing North Sea oil was even more favorable in March, showing importing a barrel of British crude cost $56.70, compared with $57.80 for a barrel from the United Arab Emirates, even when the UAE lies 8,000 miles closer to China than Scotland’s North Sea coast.

"North Sea oil suits the Korean diet and the Chinese can still take it if the price is right,” a Singapore-based trader said.

Other factors are also encouraging Asian consumers to seek out new suppliers. Chinese domestic oil production has been eroded because of weak oil prices, while refineries in the world’s biggest car market have been expanding.

Overall, Asian refining capacity will expand by a net 450,000 bpd in 2017, a rise of 1.5 percent over Asia’s total installed capacity now of nearly 29 million bpd, Thomson Reuters Eikon data shows.

"We expect imports to continue registering year-on-year gains as a narrow Brent-Dubai spread … encourages the purchasing of Atlantic Basin crudes in Asia," Energy Aspects said in a note, even though it said China had "clearly overbought" crude in the first quarter of the year.

For graphic on North Sea crude oil flows to Asia, click: reut.rs/2qbrHet

For graphic on biggest buyers of North Sea crude, click: reut.rs/2pp2SLb

For graphic on North Sea crude oil flows to China vs. Brent/Dubai preminum, click: reut.rs/2q9qHVm

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-opec-north-sea-idUSKBN17T1HF

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WSJ: The mega-ship era is starting early at the Port of New York and Jersey—or at least earlier than the port envisioned. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced the $1.6 billion project to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge will be completed six months ahead of schedule, the WSJ’s Paul Berger reports. That means the biggest port on the U.S. East Coast can start hosting larger container ships as soon as June 30, capping off a major step in the changing structure of maritime operations. It’s perhaps the most visible of the billions of dollars’ worth of initiatives ports have undertaken, from the addition of massive new cranes to ambitious harbor-deepening projects, to adjust to the big ships carriers are adding to their fleets. The shipping industry isn’t expecting a massive increase in cargo headed to the port, but port officials say it will allow carriers to lower costs and deliver goods faster to consumers. Raising the roadway is the final element of a massive program to prepare the port for changes in shipping following the widening of the Panama Canal. http://www.agbc-berlin.de/content/wsj-bayonne-bridge-project-finish-six-months-early

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see our letter on: http://www.massenbach-world.de/41259.html

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

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

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