Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 10.11.17

Massenbach-Letter. News – The Battle to Come Over Reconstruction in Syria –

  • Report: Full cost of U.S. wars overseas approaching $6 trillion
  • The Arab View of Russia’s Role in the MENA: Changing Arab Perceptions of Russia, and the Implications for US Policy
  • John Kemp (Reuters): Modern Saudi politics and government
  • Geopolitical Futures/Friedman: Saudi Arabia, at War With Itself
  • Foreign Policy: The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth
  • Nick Butler (FT): Lessons from Britain’s broken energy market

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

  • Igor Ivanov – One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections
  • EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV – 1917 Russian Revolution: Changing the Geopolitical Map of the World Revolution Had a Huge Impact on the Events of the Twentieth Century, November 7, 2017
  • On November 6–11, the city of Da Nang in central Vietnam will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting
  • European Union Is Back in the Game
  • “The Caucasian Knot”:
  • – Human Rights Watch calls Russian Authorities
  • – Details of attack in Ingushetia
  • – Armed conflict in Northern Caucasus
  • – In Volgograd, 27 people hold march in defence of Constitution


Residents walk through the rubble of the resort town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside, Syria, May 18, 2017

The Battle to Come Over Reconstruction in Syria

Frederick Deknatel Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017

Last month, for the first time in six years, the Syrian government hosted an international trade fair in Damascus. Staged at a fairground in the southern outskirts of the capital, near the airport, the exhibition was promoted as a sign of victory for President Bashar al-Assad. Russian, Iranian and Chinese companies headlined the list of attendees, which also included representatives of European firms.

The fair—last held in the summer of 2011, as Syria’s uprising was just turning into a civil war—“sends a message that the war has ended … and we are at the start of the path towards reconstruction,” said Bouthaina Shaaban, an Assad adviser who is often the face of the regime to Western media.

But the war is still rumbling on. When they arrived at the fair, attendees might have seen smoke rising in the distance in Damascus’ battered suburbs or heard the sound of shelling up the highway. Two days after the event opened, mortar fire hit the fairground’s entrance, reportedly killing six people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war. The violence went unmentioned by Syrian state media.

Instead, the Assad regime is talking reconstruction and striking deals. In early September, Iran signed a potentially lucrative agreement with Assad’s government to rebuild Syria’s destroyed power grid. This week, Syria’s ambassador to China spoke buoyantly about the war winding down in much of the country and government forces retaking key oil fields in eastern Syria, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State is being forced out. Firms from China would be given priority in reconstruction contracts, the ambassador said. “Chinese companies are more welcome than, say, Western companies and will find a very friendly environment in Syria.”

The contours of the conflict are still following a familiar script, at least at the level of foreign ministers and spokespeople: Western powers, including the United States, say one thing, while the regime and its backers—mainly Russia and Iran, which both have forces in Syria—say something else entirely. Yet the reality on the ground is becoming clearer, as Assad’s regime steadily consolidates its control of territories it won back from rebels, from Aleppo to Homs to the outskirts of Damascus. The end game is also getting more apparent: Rebels will be driven out, or they will surrender under siege and bombardment. The suburbs of Damascus are set to share the fate of Aleppo, which was bombed and besieged into submission by a regime offensive last year that included Russian air power and some of the worst urban warfare of this century.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, which is steadily losing territory, seems more removed than ever from Syria’s civil war and questions about Assad’s position. President Donald Trump’s madhouse address to the United Nations General Assembly was just the latest proof. He offered token criticism of the “criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad” but little outline of U.S. policy in Syria beyond “big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS.” Trump slowly delivered a teleprompter line about seeking “the de-escalation of the Syrian conflict,” as if he was reading it for the first time.

Government plans for “redeveloped” neighborhoods are a vision of a country emptied of Assad’s opponents.

Earlier this month, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who has tried to mediate round after round of failed peace talks, urged the Syrian opposition to accept that it had lost the war. “For the opposition, the message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case,” he told reporters. “So now it’s time to win the peace.”

Whether the opposition can adapt to this new reality is an open question. Last week in New York, the “Friends of Syria”—a group of Western and Arab nations opposed to Assad who have never agreed on a unified strategy in Syria—declared that they would not support reconstruction efforts without a political transition in place. Like many of the group’s previous statements, this one described things in Syria as it wishes they were, rather than as they are.

But there is little doubt these days that an eventual peace—if that word can be used to describe a shattered and divided Syria—will be mostly on Assad’s terms. He has fewer reasons than ever to give in to Western demands about political reform or offer concessions in the hope of national reconciliation. “Assad lost half of the country, half of Aleppo and parts of Damascus, and he wouldn’t budge,” Aron Lund, a fellow at the Century Foundation, told The Washington Post. “Now that he’s taken most of that back, it’s ridiculous to think he’ll budge now.”

Reconstruction, then, is shaping up to be the next battleground, and it could pit the regime against a different array of antagonists. Pro-Assad militias—which have increasingly fought outside the purview of the state, creating competing power centers in regime-controlled territory—could fight over patronage and influence in order to try and preserve their place as racketeers and local strongmen in the new, splintered Syria.

Heavy-handed and corruption-tainted reconstruction efforts could also alienate other Syrians, from Assad supporters to those who have surrendered or been displaced under the terms of “evacuation” deals that have ended long sieges. “The regime’s rush to reconstruction may be little more than a prelude to the renewal of violence,” Steven Heydemann, a professor of Middle East studies at Smith College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, warned last month. “What we know about the conditions that promote the recurrence of violence after civil war gives rise to ominous warning signals about what is happening in the Syrian case.”

In Syria’s cities, which have been the central battlegrounds in the war, “reconstruction is also an opportunity to reconfigure the urban landscape … and, in doing so, to reshape or consolidate political and power dynamics,” according to Benedetta Berti, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. That process already appears to be underway outside Damascus and in Homs, where neighborhoods that were hotbeds for the uprising—poor, informal, mostly Sunni districts that the government likened before the war to slums—are being cleared and “redeveloped.”

Plans with generic renderings of high-rises and modernist housing blocks evoke a drab corner of Dubai, or Moscow, with little connection to Syria’s urban fabric or the people in it. They are a vision of a country largely emptied of Assad’s opponents. As Tom Rollins reported for IRIN last spring, in Basateen al-Razi, the Damascus neighborhood that is the model for this urban plan, activists, outside analysts and former residents say the policy “is not only being used to forcibly dispossess Basateen al-Razi civilians but also to engineer demographic change.”

Whenever the fighting ends, some of the worst aspects of the war—forced displacement, the division of ethnic groups, the reconfiguration of Syrian society—could still continue, just through other means.


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

  • Igor Ivanov – One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections
  • EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV – 1917 Russian Revolution: Changing the Geopolitical Map of the World Revolution Had a Huge Impact on the Events of the Twentieth Century, November 7, 2017
  • On November 6–11, the city of Da Nang in central Vietnam will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting
  • European Union Is Back in the Game
  • “The Caucasian Knot”:
  • – Human Rights Watch calls Russian Authorities
  • – Details of attack in Ingushetia
  • – Armed conflict in Northern Caucasus
  • In Volgograd, 27 people hold march in defence of Constitution


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Report: Full cost of U.S. wars overseas approaching $6 trillion

WASHINGTON — Overseas combat operations since 2001 have cost the United States an estimated $4.3 trillion so far, and trillions more in veterans benefits spending in years to come, according to the latest analysis from the Costs of War project.

The annual analysis from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows a steadily growing tally for the 16 years of wars overseas. Study author Neta Crawford said the goal of the ongoing project is to better illustrate the true costs of overseas military operations.

“Every war costs money before, during and after it occurs — as governments prepare for, wage, and recover from armed conflict by replacing equipment, caring for the wounded and repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fighting,” she wrote in the 2017 report.

Of the total, only about $1.9 trillion has been reported by defense officials as official overseas contingency operations funding.

But the research includes another $880 billion in new base defense spending related to combat efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan since 2001, as well as about $780 billion in boosted Department of Homeland Security costs in that time frame.

Veterans spending has increased by almost $300 billion so far as a result of those conflicts, and future spending on those benefits over the next four decades is estimated to top $1 trillion more.

Crawford noted that all of the costs could rise with President Donald Trump’s recent decision to boost U.S. end strength in Afghanistan.

“There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan,” she wrote.

Administration officials have already requested about $70 billion more in overseas contingency spending as part of their fiscal 2018 budget proposal. The entire federal budget plan, including mandatory benefits spending, totals about $4 billion.

The full Costs of War report is available on the university’s web site. ( or att.)


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Jamestown – The Arab View of Russia’s Role in the MENA: Changing Arab Perceptions of Russia, and the Implications for US Policy

October 5, 2017 … According to international law, the Russian intervention in Syria is legitimate, since it was launched at the request of the Syrian government. Yet, the Western powers have accused Russia of aggression and expansionism.

This rebuke likely stems from the fact that the United States and other Western powers feel that they are losing influence in the Middle East, while Russia is gaining strategic advantage in this crucial region, which Moscow considers its “near abroad.”

For Russia, the Middle East is instrumental to its national security, especially along Russia’s mostly Muslim-populated southern border areas, whose citizens have in their scores joined various terrorist factions in both Syria and Iraq … Decades of US interventions in the Middle East, in particular the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq, and later Libya, have put the United States in a position of being blamed by both the terrorist factions and the ordinary Muslim public for the crisis embroiling the region …

Moscow’s alternative vision appeals to many in the Arab world, much more than the Western approach that seeks to upend the status quo and impose, by the application of both soft and hard power, neoconservative, liberal democracy to the region.

Due to the failures that US interventions of the past two decades have brought upon a range of Middle Eastern countries, from Afghanistan and Iraq, to Libya and Syria, to name but a few, the region seems to be more susceptible to fresh approaches; and Russia, with silent backing from China, seems to be offering that alternative.

Unlike Soviet foreign policy, which was strongly ideological in nature and sought to spread Communist ideas across countries of interest, post-Soviet Russian policy is markedly non-ideological and pragmatic in nature …

As a member of the BRICS—a political-economic bloc of major developing economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—Russia is not alone in its pursuit of influence in the region. China is silently backing most Russian moves. And despite assessments to the contrary by some Western policy analysts and think tanks, there is little room for speculation about a Sino-Russian rivalry in this region or elsewhere. What China lacks, Russia has and vice versa.

Thus, each member of this duo perfectly complements the other, together building a strong foundation for long-term partnership across the board. Chinese financial might and the size of its economy, in addition to its energy dependence on both Russia and Iran, among others, make the duo perfect partners for creating a new world order in this crucial region. This point has been made clear by Chinese announcements of investments in Syrian post-war reconstruction.

Washington’s moves to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, as well US efforts to put pressure on Iran and Turkey, are achieving results that may run contrary to established American policy.

Specifically, those actions may draw Russia, China, Iran and Turkey closer together into an unbreakable Eurasian alliance that has the potential to change the political discourse for decades to come.

The case in point is the admission of India and Pakistan as full members of the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Security Cooperation Organization (SCO); while Iran is poised to join soon, likely followed by Iraq, and Turkey in the near future. Devoid of ideological undertones, including “exporting democracy” and military interventionism, which underpin Western attitudes toward the region, the Russia-China duo’s regional approach is markedly pragmatic and focuses on four key pillars of cooperation:
-Economic, and
-Political/diplomatic cooperation on regional and global issues.

While Russia is rising politically and militarily as a key global player, China is expanding economically, ascending at the expense of other economic giants such as Japan and Germany.

Both countries are seeking strategic partnerships in crucial regions and developing markets, including the Middle East¯for its energy resources¯as well as developmental and infrastructural investments, the latter being particularly attractive to China in pursuit of its larger global agenda

In addition to the military, economic and social security as well as investment that the BRICS offer as a group, Middle Eastern states also value certain contributions that China and Russia may proffer individually. In particular, the Chinese multi-billion, mega-development project “One Belt One Road” (OBOR)—which encompasses a number of regional countries, including Syria, Jordan and Turkey—is extremely attractive to key regional states.

China and Russia have principally devised their economic and political ties based on a sprouting cluster of strategic partnerships that involve economic and military cooperation at all levels. The strong ties between China and Russia are temporary, but they share their expansionist tactics together on various continents including Asia, Africa and South America, where China is cultivating a strong presence that can serve as a springboard for its future economic leap at the expense of the US. China, of course, cannot proceed or vie for the international market without fully being supported by Russian, which itself seeks to control many continents regardless of American interests …

As the trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran alliance gains traction, Russia, due to its advantage as a major world power, is securing access to the whole of Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and major parts of Europe. By locking Iran within the alliance, together with China, Russia is gaining access to strategic sea-lanes and maritime choke points, therefore developing an upper hand in countering possible Western-led disruptions in energy supplies. Adding to the Russian Arab alliance is Qatar, which of late has been courting both Russia and Iran in light of the GCC diplomatic crisis. By coming together, Russia, Iran and Qatar—the three top world producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG)—can effectively control global gas supplies, and by extension gain a significant say over much of the global geopolitical discourse …


Middle East

There is no definitive book on modern Saudi politics and government but the outlines of the system as it operated between the 1960s and the accession of King Salman in 2015 are clearly visible in Vassiliev’s King Faisal: Personality, Faith and Times and Hertog’s Princes, Brokers and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia. Vassiliev’s book is a bit of a hagiography and ends in the 1970s but is very readable and essential to understand how the collective government system developed after the death of the founding king. Hertog brings the story up to date and tackles the complex question of corruption and patronage.

US shale firms promise higher output and returns

White House is conducting its own foreign policy

Saudi purge to prove popular and useful ($WSJ)

Saudi purge is widening with more arrests

Saudi purge removes last independent power centre

Saudi purge takes the kingdom into uncharted waters

Saudi Aramco’s reserves audit is progressing

John Kemp

Senior Market Analyst



Saudi Arabia, at War With Itself

Nov 6, 2017
By Kamran Bokhari

Forget Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, just a few of the countries in which Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war with Iran, its long-time enemy. The Saudi royal family now appears to be at war with itself. Regardless of who wins, the conflict could destabilize Saudi Arabia, which was already weakening anyway.

Palace Intrigue

What’s happening in the country is the definition of palace intrigue. The king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, took the throne in January 2015 following the death of his half brother, Abdullah, a son of the nation’s founder who had ruled the country for two decades. It was a relatively straightforward succession. It’s now common knowledge that it took a behind-the-scenes power struggle for King Salman to crown his son, Mohammed bin Salman, a prince and name him his chosen successor. But on Nov. 4, the power struggle became brazenly public. That day, Salman and his son had more than a dozen princes and former high-level officials arrested, including a world-famous billionaire. The reason for their detention is simple: Salman is trying to remove obstacles that could prevent Mohammed bin Salman from succeeding him.

King Salman is the first monarch in the history of the modern kingdom to buck this particular tradition. Usually, a successor is chosen by consensus among the sons of the founder of the kingdom. But now that the second generation is nearly all dead, and now that there are too many third-generation princes to convene, it has become more difficult to choose who will become the next king.

He has bucked other traditions too. Salman has strengthened his son’s claim by bestowing on him sweeping powers over security and economic affairs. Mohammed bin Salman is the defense minister, the head of a strategic economic council, controller of Saudi Aramco and, after Nov. 4, the chief of an anti-corruption agency. And Salman did all this by removing from power his half brother and his nephew, both of whom were crown princes. He has also sidelined powerful members of the clerical and tribal establishments.

Some rumors suggest that the purges were made in response to a plot against Mohammed bin Salman. It’s unclear if that is actually the case. But whether the rumors are true or whether the arrests were pre-emptive, the outcome is the same: There are fewer threats to a Mohammed bin Salman reign. One of the princes arrested, Mitab bin Abdullah, for example, was the minister of the National Guard – the parallel military force to the regular armed forces under the Ministry of Defense. He and Mohammed bin Salman shared responsibility for Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. Until Nov. 4, that is.

Mitab’s brother, Turki bin Abdullah, was also arrested. (He was removed from his post as governor of Riyadh in 2015, the year King Salman took the throne.) Perhaps the most famous target was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He is an entrepreneur who is mostly disinterested in politics, but his father is a known liberal who opposed Salman as king and now opposes Mohammed bin Salman as his successor.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, on Oct. 24, 2017.

Facing the Facts

Arresting these individuals accomplishes two things. First, it guarantees their capitulation to Mohammed bin Salman. Second, it gives the Salman faction more mileage out of the anti-corruption drive. Between that and their calls for a more moderate version of Islam, the king and his son are moving away from the traditional sources of support (clerics and tribal establishments) and toward new ones: popular appeal among the country’s youth, which makes up about two-thirds of the population. The old guard is an obstacle for the reforms needed to move the kingdom beyond its current impasse – put simply: depending almost solely on oil revenue – and thus a threat for the leadership. They are using populism to inoculate themselves from the potential consequences of their power grab.

In the process, though, they are inadvertently laying the foundations for the next crisis. Relying on popular support means they will be forced to enact more reforms than they actually want to – or are even capable of. Despots who try to be populists usually end up being neither and, in their failure, lose power.

It is too early to tell what will be the outcome of the power struggle. Whoever comes out on top will be unable to ignore the fact: that Saudi Arabia is a country in decline, largely because of low oil prices but also because of the general disarray in the Middle East. In this context, then, the events of Nov. 4 are more than petty power grabs – they are attempts to make the country pliable enough to accept necessary reform at a time of increasing regional chaos.

The kingdom cannot both change its nature and hope to meet the external challenges at the same time. It has to consolidate at home before it can act effectively beyond its borders. But this sequence of priorities is not a luxury that the Saudis enjoy. Their historical enemies the Iranians are gaining ground, and they cannot simply focus on domestic politics.

Take, for example, another thing that happened Nov. 4. The leader of Riyadh’s main proxy in Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, resigned after criticizing Iranian interference in his country. By having Hariri pull out of the coalition government in Lebanon, the Saudis hope to weaken Iran’s premier proxy, Hezbollah, which benefits from the coalition government in Beirut. But it’s a weak and probably ineffective move. Now that the Islamic State is weakened, Iran has the advantage in Iraq and Syria.

Riyadh’s inability to deal with external threats, if anything, will only intensify its domestic ones. Even though the king and his son have the upper hand, an inability to effectively counter the Iranian threat could weaken their position at home and thus aggravate the infighting.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Foreign Policy: Argument

The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth

It’s time to realize that Washington and Ankara share neither values nor interests,

and that their partnership cannot return to its Cold War heyday.

By Steven A. Cook

| October 12, 2017, 9:00 AM

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed the U.S.-Turkey relationship from bad to worse. On Tuesday, he claimed that “spies” had infiltrated U.S. missions in Turkey and said that Turkey didn’t consider the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, to be a legitimate representative of the United States.

Turkey’s president thus escalated a tit-for-tat diplomatic crisis that started on Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy announced that the United States had been forced “to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel,” and as a result would no longer process non-immigrant visas. The decision was undoubtedly a response to the arrest of Metin Topuz, a “foreign service national” who has worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s office in the Turkish capital for many years, but was accused of supporting the Fethullahist Terror Organization by the Turkish government, which holds the group responsible for the failed coup in July 2016. The Turkish government responded in kind to the U.S. refusal to process visas — before Erdogan followed up with his rhetorical broadside.

The Topuz case can be logged into an increasingly long list of conflicts that have challenged the U.S. relationship with Erdogan’s Turkey over the last few years. It is now clear that Turkey and the United States are less allies and partners than antagonists and strategic competitors, especially in the Middle East.

But it would be a mistake to lay Washington and Ankara’s troubled relations at the feet of Turkey’s charismatic and pugnacious president. In truth, the United States and Turkey have been headed for a collision since Christmas Day in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.

So much analysis and commentary about Turkey over the last decade has emphasized Erdogan’s consolidation of his personal political power. Although this work has been generally accurate, it tends to obscure three important factors in Turkish politics and foreign policy. First, for all that Erdogan is the central decision-maker, his ideas about Turkish power and mistrust of the West have broad support among Turks — and with good historical reasons. Second, the United States and Turkey share neither values nor interests.

Second, the United States and Turkey share neither values nor interests.

Finally, the world has changed a lot since the heyday of the U.S.-Turkey alliance, over a quarter century ago.

Given the changing international dynamics, the U.S. relationship with any plausible Turkish ruling party would likely be frayed at this point. If Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), were in power, for instance, there would still be considerable tension in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. It would of course look different, but the “strategic relationship” or “model partnership” would have no more content and meaning than it does now. For example, the CHP leadership has taken a pro-Bashar al-Assad stance in Syria and is as strongly opposed to Kurdish nationalism, if not more so, than Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. And to varying degrees, all political parties in Turkey have tended to flirt with Iran over the years.

This is a reality that often dumbfounds American officials, who tend to work with a set of outdated ideas about Turkey. Policy continues to be made based on the mythology of the Cold War, which has produced a romantic retrospective of Americans and Turks “standing shoulder-to-shoulder during the great ideological battle with the Soviet Union” or some such formulation. The myths of the Cold War era obscure the reality that, without the common Soviet threat, there was not much to bind Washington and Ankara together. The bilateral relationship was not based on friendship, trust, or values, but rather the exigencies of the countries’ shared conflict.

Even after Russian guards lowered the hammer and sickle from atop the Kremlin all those years ago, American officials erroneously assumed that Turkey would remain shoulder-to-shoulder with its American partners. In the early 1990s, some in the foreign policy community thought Turkey was uniquely positioned to guide the newly independent Turkic states of Central Asia — whose citizens share cultural and linguistic affinities with Turks — in stable, democratic governance. In the middle and latter part of that decade, the foreign-policy community regarded Ankara as a driver of security and peace in the Middle East. More recently, Turkey was held out as a “model” for Arab countries seeking to build more prosperous and democratic societies.

None of these projects proved successful, because they overestimated Turkey’s capacities, underestimated the historical legacies of the Ottoman domination of the Middle East, and misread Turkish domestic politics and the worldview of the country’s current leadership. With each failure, the United States and Turkey drifted further apart.

Although the details of each of these episodes are important, there was something else at work that contributed to the unsuccessful outcomes. The American foreign-policy community is slowly learning that much of what it believed about Turkey turned out not to be the case. The country’s leaders — including the military command — are neither democrats nor pro-Western. In fact, they are deeply suspicious of the West, especially the United States.

It is a common misconception that relations between the United States and Turkey were always warm, similar to traditional allies like the British or Germans. There were good working relationships between American and Turkish officers at NATO, of course, but those ties always had an element of mistrust, stemming from the often prickly nationalism of the Turkish side suspicious of American intent regarding Kurds and Washington’s commitment to Turkish security. The officers were not as “staunchly pro-Western” as so many press reports over the years indicated, but rather first and only pro-Turkey. The same could be said for the Turkish political leadership.

Most importantly, Turkey’s leaders do not share the interests of the United States.

Most importantly, Turkey’s leaders do not share the interests of the United States.

At a level of abstraction, of course, both Ankara and Washington oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, support peace between Israelis and Palestinians, fight terrorism, and want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fall. Yet Turkish and American prescriptions for achieving their ambitions are so far apart that it stretches credulity to suggest that these goals are actually shared. In each case, officials from both governments can articulate how the other has undercut their efforts in these areas. From an American perspective, Turkey’s periodic warming of its ties with Iran has weakened efforts to contain Tehran’s nuclear development, while Ankara is also guilty of enabling extremists in Syria and supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

These tensions pre-date Erdogan and the rise of the Justice and Development Party. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, for example, the Turks chafed mightily over international sanctions on Iraq. And of course, there were differences over many years concerning Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the subsequent American arms embargo, and security in the Aegean.

The world has changed so much that Turkey, a NATO ally, works with Russia — whose leaders are intent on weakening the Western alliance — in Syria while the United States fights the self-declared Islamic State with Syrian Kurdish forces who the Turks believe (rightly) to be part and parcel of a terrorist organization that has waged war against Ankara since 1984. The strategic relationship has now been reduced to American access to Incirlik Air Base, from which the United States and its allies conduct operations against the Islamic State. From time to time, the Turks have threatened to rescind permission to use the facility for this purpose.

The very fact that it has become relatively easy for each country to work with the other’s adversary suggests that the strain in U.S.-Turkey ties is less about Erdogan’s worldview or former President Barack Obama’s retrenchment but about the way international politics is ordered a quarter century after the Cold War.

Since the “war of the visas” began, journalists have been asking whether the spat between the United States and Turkey will escalate. There is no way of knowing, of course, though much depends on Erdogan’s domestic political calculations. Given the reservoir of anti-Americanism in Turkey, any Turkish leader derives political benefits from conflict with the United States.

But the larger question is: How does the United States manage Turkey’s shift from strategic partner to a relationship that recognizes Turkey’s importance as both a onetime partner and an adversary? If American policymakers continue to view Turkey through the Cold War lens, they will continue to get nowhere. Already, American diplomats are fruitlessly invoking U.S. and Turkish shared values, while American citizens and U.S. government employees are jailed and abused. It’s time to recognize that the world has changed — and so has the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East, was published in June.


Lessons from Britain’s broken energy market

Nick Butler’s blog

The report published last month by Professor Dieter Helm on what the British prime minister calls “the UK’s broken energy market” is an intelligent response to the question posed by the ministers who commissioned it.

The proposals it makes are radical and it will be intriguing to see if the government has the nerve to implement them.

But there is a wider point of interest. Many countries are embarking on strategies of decarbonisation with the aim of reducing emissions, and there are serious reviews of energy policy underway across the world. Patterns of use vary with economic circumstances and so do existing policies. But there are some very important common aspects and those wanting to find a rational way of decarbonising at the lowest practical cost can learn a lot by understanding Britain’s mistakes.

Four clear lessons can be learnt from Professor Helm’s analysis and proposals.

First, set the objectives and then allow market mechanisms to identify the solutions. The energy market is a hybrid system involving both public power and private capital. The optimal outcome is one in which the public policy objectives — security of supply, a progressive reduction in emissions and competitiveness — can be met in the most cost-effective way. That should not involve specifying the technologies to be used.

Some will argue that the UK’s subsidies for technologies such as wind and solar over the last decade have produced the cost reductions and efficiency gains which have now made both highly competitive. That is not clearly proven — and in any case the situation has changed. Neither wind nor solar now need special treatment. They can compete effectively in any system that puts a cost on carbon.

Policy objectives can therefore be delivered through open competition. As the Helm report demonstrates, many of the UK’s problems — such as unnecessarily high prices — are the result of competition being excluded from the process. The easiest way to achieve the desired outcomes, and to encourage both research and investment, is to establish a carbon price.

The failure to set this at a level where it would begin to alter behaviour has constrained the approach to decarbonisation across Europe over the last decade. Ideally, a carbon price would be universal but even in the context of national policy-making it is the best tool for the job.

Second, look for the lowest cost solutions across the whole energy system. In too many countries the dominant focus of policy is on power generation. The electricity sector is important but not all important. What matters is that the policy of reducing emissions should be delivered at the lowest possible net cost.

Electricity provides around 40 per cent of final energy supplies across the EU and that number should grow as more activity, starting with transportation, is electrified.

But the remaining 60 per cent contains many activities, including industry and agriculture, where decarbonisation gains are possible and probably cheaper than relying on super-expensive electricity generation projects such as Hinkley Point.

Efficiency, too, is very effective in reducing demand and costs, although again the UK, with its ludicrously complicated and ineffective “green deal”, is an example to avoid.

Third, keep ministers and inexperienced officials out of the process that allocates contracts. Ministers should set the policy objectives but delivery should be managed by people who know what they are doing. This seems obvious when considering the provision of healthcare but tends to be ignored when it comes to energy.

Any country embarking on the development of a new policy should study the abysmal track record of the UK’s energy department in 2013 when ministers and officials made gross mistakes first in forecasting future prices and then in negotiating with highly experienced and well-funded companies backed by lavish lobbying efforts. Needless to say the companies won. The consumer lost and will be paying the bill for decades to come.

Prof Helm proposes a single authority, a National System Operator, to manage the acquisition of supplies through a simplified system of auctions. I would go further and encourage countries to ban ministers and officials from going through the revolving door to work for any company involved in a public policy decision with which they have been involved. Removing the tax deductibility of lobbying activity would also help.

Fourth, remember that climate change policy needs public support. Among those who understand what is at stake, support for action is substantial but across the wider population interest is limited.

Climate change was barely debated at the last elections in the US, UK or France. If policies to deliver emissions reduction are associated with high costs — which amount to corporate welfare payments — enthusiasm for action will fall.

As Prof Helm says, the “ excessive costs are not only an unnecessary burden on households and businesses, they also risk undermining the broader democratic support for decarbonisation”. Consumers rightly expect new technologies and productivity increases to mean lower not higher costs. When world prices for both renewables and conventional supplies such as natural gas are falling they are understandably disillusioned to find bills still rising.

The positive and encouraging message from Prof Helm’s report is that there are realistic alternatives. The costs of decarbonisation are coming down. Well-designed policies can help reduce them further. The process of getting to a lower carbon economy does not have to involve an intolerable economic cost.



see our letter on:

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



11-08-17 One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections – Caucasian Affairs.pdf

11-08-17 Costs of U.S. Post-9_11 NC Crawford FINAL .pdf