Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 17.11.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Syria:Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation

· Geopolitical Future: The North Caucasus: Russia’s Soft Underbelly. The region is a key buffer zone for Moscow

· Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Die Kurden als Verbündete des Westens in Syrien und Irak

  • Arabia Foundation: Why the Saudi “Purge” Is Not What It Seems to Be

· An agreement has been reached between Morocco and Russia over the potential sale of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system

  • VIETNAM at 50 – 1967
  • Defense One: The Future of the Army

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

  • The Catalan Labyrinth – November 9, 2017-REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
  • Pyongyang is Starts and Wins. What Can the Losers Do? November 13, 2017 – KCNA – Andrey Kortunov
  • "The Emperor of Twitter" in the White House – Ilya Kravchenko
  • Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 6-12:
  • In Austria, a native of Chechnya opens fire from a wedding party cortege
  • Court upholds fine imposed on "Open Russia" Krasnodar coordinator
  • Isa Gambotov’s relatives link his persecution with Ossetian-Ingush conflict

Massenbach*Syria:Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation,

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

November 11, 2017

President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria. They expressed their satisfaction with successful U.S.-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts between U.S. and Russian military professionals that have dramatically accelerated ISIS’s losses on the battlefield in recent months.

The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.

The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President Asad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254.

The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, and urged all Syrian parties to participate actively in the Geneva political process and to support efforts to ensure its success.

Finally President Trump and President Putin confirmed the importance of de-escalation areas as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict. They reviewed progress on the ceasefire in southwest Syria that was finalized the last time the two Presidents met in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.

The two presidents, today, welcomed the Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan, on November 8, 2017, between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. This Memorandum reinforces the success of the ceasefire initiative, to include the reduction, and ultimate elimination, of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace. Monitoring this ceasefire arrangement will continue to take place through the Amman Monitoring Center, with participation by expert teams from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States.

The two Presidents discussed the ongoing need to reduce human suffering in Syria and called on all UN member states to increase their contributions to address these humanitarian needs over the coming months.

In addition, President Trump noted that he had a good meeting with President Putin. He further noted that the successful implementation of the agreements announced today will save thousands of lives‎.


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

  • The Catalan Labyrinth – November 9, 2017-REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
  • Pyongyang is Starts and Wins. What Can the Losers Do? November 13, 2017 – KCNA – Andrey Kortunov
  • "The Emperor of Twitter" in the White House – Ilya Kravchenko
  • Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 6-12:
  • In Austria, a native of Chechnya opens fire from a wedding party cortege
  • Court upholds fine imposed on "Open Russia" Krasnodar coordinator
  • Isa Gambotov’s relatives link his persecution with Ossetian-Ingush conflict


The North Caucasus: Russia’s Soft Underbelly

The region is a key buffer zone for Moscow.

The Region

In sharp contrast with the South Caucasus, the North Caucasus is not composed of separate sovereign states. Instead the North Caucasus is an integral part of Russia, divided between two of the Russian Federation’s eight districts – the North Caucasian Federal District and the Southern Federal District. Most of the region belongs to the North Caucasian district, which split from the Southern district in 2010, a year after the end of the Second Chechen War. With the Southern district lying largely to the north, the North Caucasian district is the only Muslim-majority district in the federation.

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The North Caucasus stretches from the Caspian Sea in the southeast to the Sea of Azov in the northwest. The westernmost part of the area, composed of Krasnodar region and the enclave of Adygea, lies within the Southern district. Krasnodar consists mainly of flat lands, which allowed Russia to more easily slavicize the territory after the forced exodus of its Circassian inhabitants in the late 19th century. The rest of the North Caucasus region – the North Caucasian district – has maintained its distinct Muslim identity and hence was configured into a single federal district. This district runs from Krasnodar to the Caspian Sea and consists of the republics of Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. The region of Stavropol – sandwiched between Krasnodar in the west and Dagestan in the east, and sharing borders with each of the other republics in the south – and North Ossetia are the only majority ethnic Russian and Orthodox Christian units within the North Caucasian district.

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This current administrative arrangement of the North Caucasus is the outcome of the Russians’ centuries-long struggle to subdue this region. Until the North Caucasus was brought to heel during the time of the czarist regime in the late 19th century, the region was what noted Caucasus and Central Asia scholar Marie Bennigsen Broxup referred to as a “barrier” that separated Russia from the heart of the Muslim world. At the same time, the mountainous terrain kept major Muslim powers to the south, such as the Ottoman Turks and the Safavid (and later Qajar) Persians, from truly accessing this region. Though both the Turks and the Persians had sought to expand into the Caucasus region, neither side was able to move past the South Caucasus.

By the 18th century, both the Ottomans and the Persians lacked the modern political, economic and military capabilities Russia and the other Europeans had acquired. Furthermore, they were embroiled in a bitter rivalry in the Middle East, and the Turks were heavily committed in Europe where they were starting to lose territory. Ultimately, the Ottomans and Persians were unable to seize the massive Greater Caucasus mountain range. The Russians, however, had no such trouble. Though a lengthy undertaking, Orthodox Christian Russia was much better positioned to eventually occupy the North Caucasus.

Russian Conquest

From a strategic point of view, Russia must control at least the North Caucasus, and ideally the South Caucasus, because these areas are buffer regions; should they fall into hostile hands, the entire Russian core would become vulnerable. These areas, however, have historically proven difficult to control because of both the terrain and the locals.

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Ivan the Terrible’s 1556 conquest of Astrakhan (an area of the North Caucasus that lies along the northwestern tip of the Caspian Sea) sparked Russian interest in the region. During this initial thrust into the North Caucasus, which lasted until 1604, the Russians reached as far as Dagestan, thanks to the flat terrain in the region’s northern half. This invasion did not last, however. The Ottomans, who were still a powerful force at the time, supported the Dagestanis against the Russian incursion. The Russians were forced to pull back to Astrakhan.

From 1604 to 1783, the region was more or less left to its own devices. Russia had turned its focus to Europe, and the Turks were tied down in their wars with the Persians. This relative isolation allowed Islam, which had been present in the area since the 8th century, to spread rapidly through the central and western parts of the North Caucasus – in large part because of the halt of the Russian efforts to penetrate the area and the support of the Ottoman Turks and the Crimean Tatars.

Under Catherine II, Russia was able to project power into the North Caucasus. From 1783 to 1824, Russia engaged in a systematic campaign to conquer the region. Between 1785 and 1791, the Russians faced massive resistance from the forces of the Ottoman-backed Chechen Sufi leader Sheikh Mansour, who managed to unite much of the North Caucasus. After a major defeat at the hands of these Muslim warriors, on the banks of the Sunzha River in 1785, the Russian army, buoyed by its victory in the Napoleonic Wars, was able to come back and subdue the resistance. Though ultimately defeated, the uprising established among the locals that Islam could serve as both a unifying force and the basis of armed resistance.

This experience led to a series of jihad-inspired campaigns that continued until the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922. During this time, the North Caucasus saw the decline of the traditional feudal elite and the rise of Sufi orders, further entrenching Islam within the political fabric of the North Caucasus. The U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College scholar Robert F. Baumann explains how Russian efforts to complete their conquest of the region were complicated, as religious fervor proved to be an effective mobilizer of anti-Russian resistance. But though Islamic resistance made the conquest of the region more costly to the Russians, it failed to block the conquest completely.

The ramifications of the Russian conquest of the North Caucasus is not dissimilar to that of British and French colonialism in India and Africa, respectively. As former CIA and national security official Paul Henze notes in a 1996 article, Russian colonialism brought order and development to the North Caucasus – an otherwise chaotic region of tribal highlanders cut off from the rest of the world. Indeed, Moscow provided the region with modern infrastructure in the form of roads, railroads, ports and urban centers, but only after a long campaign to suppress local dissent.

Unlike most other European powers that sought colonies in distant lands, the Russians sought to control a land much closer to home. Indeed, the Caucasus was on Russia’s doorstep, and thus, it was imperative that the Russians fully assimilate the area. They spent a great deal of time trying to convert the people of the region to Orthodox Christianity, operating on the assumption that conversion would aid in assimilation. Ultimately, that policy backfired. Despite the fact that there were many ethno-linguistic groups that inhabited this region, a majority of them had been Muslim for centuries.

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Affinity to religion varies considerably across the region. Islam plays an important role in the identity and ideology of the Chechens and the Dagestanis in the east. Yet, as one moves west, religious fervor tends to taper off. Beyond Islam, there is little commonality among the various peoples of the North Caucasus. They are divided along clan, ethnic, linguistic and territorial lines, and the Russians sought to exploit these differences.

At the social level, traditional feudal Muslim elites and religious scholars sought to preserve their power through two sets of laws. The former emphasized customary laws, while the religious leaders sought to increase their influence by promoting Shariah, or Islamic law. Until the arrival of the Russians, these two competing forces were largely able to coexist.

According to Loyola University historian Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia pursued a complex strategy in its effort to take over the North Caucasus region. In some instances, the Russians found allies. But in others, they resorted to force, especially in terms of the takeover of lands and expulsion of the locals. In need of local partners, Russia would often co-opt the feudal Muslim elite, transforming them into loyalists of Moscow through assimilation. Elites from the North Caucasus were sent to study in Moscow, where many embraced Orthodox Christianity and Russian culture. Yet these individuals did not help promote assimilation in the North Caucasus, as few returned home. By the latter half of the 19th century, the Russians realized they needed people to represent Russian interests in the North Caucasus, and Moscow began to support locals who held grievances toward the landed gentry.

The attempts to convert people of the region to Orthodox Christianity undercut the more crucial interests of securing loyalty to the empire. Attempts at conversion were obviously anathema to the Muslim clergy, but they also triggered opposition from within the traditional elite quarters. For the Russians, who saw conversion as part and parcel of their efforts to advance their imperial interests within the region, it was difficult to alter course. In addition to the need to secularize the process of assimilation, there was ambiguity on how the North Caucasus would be controlled by Moscow. Should it be fully absorbed into the empire as a full-fledged province or should it be treated as a colony?

As the Russians searched for the best way to administer the North Caucasus, the region experienced another outbreak of major resistance. The leader of this campaign was Imam Shamil, who in the mid-19th century established the Caucasian Imamate, an Islamic polity that sought to liberate the area from the Russians. The Russians were forced to recognize that the region’s legal traditions had to be incorporated into their new system of governance. But here the Russians found themselves caught in the existing duality between customary and Islamic laws. Siding with the clergy would have helped undermine the tendency toward armed religious resistance, but the Russians needed local interlocutors who would be willing to adopt Russian customs and thus preferred the local economic and political elites.

As a result, throughout the czarist era, Russia struggled with how best to manage the North Caucasus. The empire eventually succeeded in creating a pro-Russian elite class in the region because, for many local elites, the only path toward European modernization was through Russification. Yet the masses remained loyal to Islamic teachings, and the gulf between the elites and the masses widened. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the elites and the masses would find common cause through the fusion of religious identity with ethnic nationalism.

The Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras

Already isolated from the rest of the world by geography and Russian subjugation, the North Caucasus became more or less completely cloaked behind the iron curtain of communism and the Soviet Union. Well aware of the struggles their czarist predecessors had to face in the North Caucasus, the Soviets divided the region, lumping its various pieces into different Soviet Socialist Republics. The main Soviet Socialist Republic in the North Caucasus combined Chechnya and Ingushetia to form the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Furthermore, the Soviets maintained a sophisticated and efficient coercive security establishment led by the KGB, allowing them to subdue this historically restive region.

Yet the Chechens openly expressed their discontent and, under the leadership of the nationalist guerilla leader Hasan Israilov, mounted an insurgency against the Soviet regime between 1940 and 1944. To suppress opposition, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the mass displacement of people from the region after accusing the Chechens of having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. In 1944, some 650,000 people from the region – most of whom were ethnic Chechens – were forced to relocate to Central Asia. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was dissolved and its areas gerrymandered. It was not until the era of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that efforts to make amends with the Chechens began. In 1956, the Chechens were returned to their homes. Two years later, the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was restored.

The region generally remained calm for the next three decades, only to erupt yet again in the early 1990s when 15 republics declared independence and the Soviet Union dissolved. The South Caucasus divided into three independent republics — Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia — along with a few disputed territories. But the Russians were not willing to allow the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, which declared independence in 1991, to become sovereign entities. Two back-to-back wars ensued, the first lasting from 1993 to 1996 and the second from 1999 to 2009.

Initially, the Chechen wars were dominated by nationalists, who subscribed to the Sufi religious creed, seeking an independent Chechnya. Gradually, however, Salafists assumed greater control of the fighting against Russian forces. These jihadists eventually moved beyond the goal of establishing an independent Islamic Chechnya to pursue broader, transnational agendas including creating a regional Islamic state that would encompass the broader North Caucasus region. Inspired by al-Qaida and aided by the influx of many Arab foreign fighters, Chechen jihadists modeled themselves after the historic religious warriors who resisted Russians in the North Caucasus since the Russian incursions began in the 16th century. In 2007, a regional movement called the Caucasus Emirate was founded.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Caucasus Emirate group has essentially become irrelevant. Many Chechen militants and those from other parts of the North Caucasus moved to Syria and Iraq to join the jihadist regime. This weakening of the Chechen insurgency in the late 2000s allowed the republic to establish a stable regime led by the Kadyrov clan, which has kept peace for at least a decade. The key to this stability is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dedicated support of the Kadyrov regime.

If history is any guide, the peace in Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus right now is likely the calm before the next storm. The Islamic religion and the Islamist ideology remain social and political drivers and have forced Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to increase the role of religion in public life in the republic. This trend, coupled with the declining Russian political economy, suggests that the region will likely see the revival of a Muslim insurgency seeking to exploit Russia’s weakening. If Russia can’t control this area then the other historic players — Turkey and Iran — are in even less of a position to do so.


Policy= res publica


Plädoyer für mehr Lernbereitschaft in der Demokratie

… In jüngerer Zeit sind Populisten in vielen entwickelten Demokratien auf dem Vormarsch … Rationale Argumente, die sich auf wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse stützen, scheinen die Anhänger dieser Bewegungen kaum noch zu interessieren. Solche Äußerungen prallen an hochgradig emotionalisierten Wählerinnen und Wählern ab, die sich im Konflikt mit dem „Establishment“ sehen und dessen Vertretern keinen Glauben mehr schenken …

Die liberale Demokratie, so glauben viele, ist zunehmend gefährdet, weil der vernünftige Teil der Gesellschaft die frustrierten und emotionalisierten „Massen“ nicht länger erreichen kann. Problemorientierte Deliberation scheint dadurch gefährdet, dass die Gesellschaft mehr und mehr auseinanderdriftet: Die aufgeklärten Bürgerinnen und Bürger, die im sachlichen Austausch gemeinsam nach der Wahrheit und der besten Politik suchen, sind scheinbar konfrontiert mit einem wachsenden Kreis von Mitbürgern, die zur offenen Deliberation nicht mehr fähig sind, weil sie nur noch Bestätigung für ihre vorgefassten Ansichten und identitätsbasierten Gefühle suchen …

  • Diese herablassende Sicht auf die „manipulierbaren Normalbürger“ ist jedoch ebenso falsch wie gefährlich. Aus ihr spricht eine Arroganz und Selbstzufriedenheit, die verkennt, wie stark auch die angeblich vernünftigeren und gebildeteren Bürgerinnen und Meinungsmacher von irrationalen Gesichtspunkten geleitet werden

Dass intelligente und gebildete Menschen keineswegs gegen gefühlsgeleitete Realitätsverweigerung gefeit sind, haben wir wahrscheinlich alle schon in politischen Debatten erlebt und viele von uns gewiss auch an uns selbst …

Zahlreiche Studien bestätigen, dass persönliche Überzeugungen, insbesondere zu ethischen und politischen Fragen, nur selten auf rationaler Abwägung beruhen …

Wer glaubt, dass dies bei intelligenteren Personen anders abläuft, täuscht sich. Zwar können Menschen mit einem höheren Intelligenzquotienten ihre Überzeugungen meist besser begründen. Dies liegt jedoch nicht daran, dass sie ihre Meinungen aufgrund gründlicherer Abwägung gewählt haben, sondern hängt damit zusammen, dass es ihnen leichter fällt, stützende Argumente zu finden … belegen einmal mehr, dass alle Menschen einem sogenannten confirmation bias unterliegen: Sie scheuen kognitive Dissonanz und suchen deshalb einseitig nach Informationen und Argumenten, die ihre gegenwärtigen Meinungen stützen.

Und aus Sicht des Einzelnen hat das auch durchaus Vorteile: Wenn ich meine falsche Meinung zu einer politischen Streitfrage korrigiere, ist der gesellschaftliche Nutzen äußerst gering …

  • Sie zwingt mich also zu einem Eingeständnis, das besonders unangenehm ist für Menschen, die sich für reflektiert und aufgeklärt halten und schon viel in ihre politische Meinung „investiert“ haben … Intelligente und gebildete Menschen sind in dieser Hinsicht besonders geschickt. Deshalb fällt es ihnen leichter, Bestätigung für ihre Überzeugungen zu finden. Wenn es jedoch darum geht, eigene Positionen kritisch zu überprüfen oder gar zu revidieren, sind sie keineswegs offener und lernbereiter als der Rest der Bevölkerung Zukunftsfähigkeit hängt von uns Demokratinnen und Demokraten und unserer Diskussionskultur ab: „Ohne Übereinstimmung bei den grundlegenden Sachverhalten, ohne die Bereitschaft, neue Informationen zuzulassen und einzuräumen, dass ein Gegner womöglich ein gutes Argument anführt und Wissenschaft und Vernunft wichtig sind, werden wir weiter aneinander vorbeireden und es somit unmöglich machen, Gemeinsamkeiten und Kompromisse zu finden“ …

Oder wie es der scheidende Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck wenige Tage später ausgedrückt hat: „Wenn wir nur noch das als Tatsache akzeptieren, was wir ohnehin glauben, wenn Halbwahrheiten, Interpretationen, Verschwörungstheorien, Gerüchte genauso viel zählen wie Wahrheit, dann ist der Raum freigegeben für Demagogen und Autokraten.“

Demokraten müssen künftig noch mehr darauf achten, dass sie sachlich und rational debattieren. Nur so können sie in der Auseinandersetzung echte Alternativen entwickeln und gleichzeitig die Geschlossenheit gegenüber den Gegnern der Demokratie wahren …

Eine besondere Verantwortung für die Bewahrung demokratischer Diskussionskultur kommt denjenigen Bürgerinnen und Bürgern zu, die aufgrund ihrer Fähigkeiten, ihrer beruflichen Positionen oder gesellschaftlichen Funktionen stärkeren Einfluss auf gesellschaftliche Willensbildungsprozesse nehmen können. Dies gilt also für die sogenannte Intelligenz, die aufgrund ihrer überdurchschnittlichen Bildung und ihrer alltäglichen Beschäftigung mit komplexeren Zusammenhängen eine Vorbildfunktion hat … müssen Sachargumente ernst genommen und geprüft werden, auch wenn sie von der „falschen“ Seite kommen … sollten Demokraten sich abweichenden Meinungen und Argumenten bewusst und regelmäßig „aussetzen“.

Wenn wir unsere Überzeugungen nicht immer wieder kritisch überprüfen, sind sie bald schon keine „lebendigen Wahrheiten“ mehr, sondern bloß „tote Dogmen“ … sollten Freunde, Kolleginnen und Bekannte, die abweichende Meinungen vertreten, dazu aufgefordert werden, diese auch ausführlich zu äußern und zu begründen, statt sie zu entmutigen oder gar auszugrenzen … ist eine kritische Haltung gerade auch gegenüber der eigenen politischen Position einzunehmen … sollte echte Lernbereitschaft ein wesentliches Element der Identität eines aufgeklärten Demokraten sein. Er sollte nicht stolz darauf sein, dass er immer loyal zu seinem politischen Lager stand und dessen Linie nie verlassen hat, sondern vielmehr sich darauf etwas einbilden, dass er seine Meinung immer wieder geändert hat, wenn er dafür gute Gründe sah.

Der dem Ökonomen John Maynard Keynes zugeschriebene Satz „When the facts change, I change my mind“ sollte einer seiner Wahlsprüche sein … müssen anerkannte wissenschaftliche Befunde auch dann akzeptiert werden, wenn sie der eigenen politischen Einstellung widersprechen … sollten Teilnehmer an einer Debatte einander respektvoll begegnen und bewusst die Identität des Gegenübers achten. Dies ist nicht nur ein Gebot der Höflichkeit und die Voraussetzung für ein gutes Gesprächsklima. Gegenseitiger Respekt fördert nachweislich auch die Lernbereitschaft …

Von allen Staatsformen eignet sich die liberale Demokratie immer noch am besten dazu, Irrtümer zu erkennen und Fehlentwicklungen zu korrigieren. Sie ist ein lernendes System – aber nur dann, wenn wir es individuell auch sind und unsere Diskussionskultur zunehmend darauf ausrichten. In einer Welt, die immer komplexer und dynamischer wird, sollte umfassende Lernbereitschaft ein Kernelement unserer politischen Identität werden. Wer sich nicht als lernendes System versteht, weil er lieber im weltanschaulichen Schützengraben seine politische Identität verteidigt, trägt dazu bei, dass Emotionalisierung und Polarisierung immer leichteres Spiel haben und die sachliche Debatte politischer Alternativen an den Rand gedrängt wird. Er ist weder ein aufgeklärter Demokrat noch ein echter Intellektueller


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Middle East & Africa:

An agreement has been reached between Morocco and Russia over the potential sale of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system.


§ Reports suggest that a deal was reached during the official visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the North African kingdom on October 11, and was signed alongside a number of other accords covering agriculture, tourism, education, as well as defense and security cooperation. The platform will go towards improving Morocco’s air defense capabilities and they will join Turkey, Saudi Arabia as recent purchasers of the system. Morocco’s neighbor Algeria, whose adjoining border has been closed since 1994, also uses the S-400 . Between 2010-2014, Algeria and Morocco were number one and two respectively on the list of Africa’s biggest military spenders.


Middle East

Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Die Kurden als Verbündete des Westens in Syrien und Irak:

Effektive Partnerschaft oder politisches Pulverfass?

Seit 2014 unterstützt der Westen kurdische Kämpfer in Syrien und im Irak. Der Nutzen der kurdischen Milizen im Kampf gegen den sogenannten Islamischen Staat (IS) liegt auf der Hand. In unserem aktuellen Arbeitspapier gibt Philipp Biermann jedoch zu bedenken, dass es sich bei den Kurden in Irak und Syrien nicht um einen homogenen Akteur, sondern um einzelne Gruppierungen mit sehr unterschiedlichen Ideologien und konträren Zielsetzungen handele. So sind die nordirakischen Kurden untereinander zerstritten und stehen im Konflikt mit der Zentralregierung in Bagdad. Die syrischen Kurdenmilizen wiederum liefern sich Gefechte mit der Türkei. Der Autor sieht daher langfristig eine Destabilisierung der Region sowie einen Streit innerhalb der NATO als mögliche Konsequenzen für den Westen und fragt: Wie stehen Effektivität und Risiko der westlich-kurdischen Kooperation im Verhältnis zueinander?

Sie finden das Arbeitspapier unter:


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Arabia Foundation (*): Why the Saudi “Purge” Is Not What It Seems to Be

BY Ali Shihabi on 11.09.2017 –


* The Arabia Foundation is based in Washington DC but generally explains the Saudi government’s position. This lengthy statement of the reasons for the purge is worth reading not because it is necessarily correct or complete (both of which are arguable) but because it closely reflects how the authorities in Riyadh would like the changes to be perceived internally and externally (which makes it essential reading). It is also very revealing (perhaps unintentionally).

This past weekend, Saudi Arabia detained numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption. Many argued that the detentions constitute a thinly veiled attempt by the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to consolidate political power. However, this narrative misses the mark; the “purge” is not about removing political rivals who threatened MBS’s position as heir apparent but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end.

In insular nondemocratic systems, trumped-up corruption charges are often used as a pretext to eliminate political opponents. In this context, the sweeping nature of the arrests, the high profiles of the detainees (e.g., celebrity investor Prince Waleed bin Talal), and the general opaqueness of Saudi politics fueled speculation that this past weekend’s events constituted exactly that.

However, a careful examination of the list of detainees belies this assertion. With the exception of Minister of the National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdallah, the detainee list is made up entirely of individuals who had no capacity to challenge the succession. Indeed, many of those arrested, such as Prince Waleed, had gone out of their way to publicly express their support for the Crown Prince and curry favor with the new leadership.

As for Prince Mutaib, despite leading the national guard, he posed no political threat to the Crown Prince. Saudi watchers have consistently misread a royal family member’s command of key military apparatuses, specifically, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the national guard, as something that gives that family member independent control over his respective organization. This is a flawed interpretation. These ministries have always behaved as part of the extended government bureaucracy that looks to the King, rather than to the individual minister, as the ultimate source of authority. This is why no elements in the Ministry of Interior or in the national guard resisted or reacted to the removal of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN) or Prince Mutaib. For these two men, their individual authority over the entities they were responsible for ended with the loss of their command. Whatever authority they enjoyed had been delegated to them by the king, and once this was withdrawn, that authority ended.

In actuality, Saudi Arabia completed its political transition last June when King Salman replaced MBN with MBS as heir to the throne. The transition (mislabeled a coup by some) saw the elder MBN being relieved of all government responsibilities, swearing an oath of allegiance to his younger cousin, and exiting politics. MBN’s removal was swiftly followed by the appointment of a new generation of young princes and technocrats to key ministerial posts and governorates.

This step inevitably created winners and losers within the royal family. Given the relatively young age of the new Crown Prince, the action naturally alienated many of MBS’s older cousins, and even some uncles, who suddenly found themselves politically marginalized as a result of their younger relative’s rapid rise to power. But alienation does not mean that these princes possess the power to threaten the throne or to determine the succession. This has been particularly true since the passing of the founding generation of princes who originally united the country with the founder, King Abdul Aziz. Just as MBN and Prince Mutaib derived their stature and influence solely by virtue of the delegated authority granted to them by the ruling monarch, other members of the royal family do too. No royal maintains an independent constituency among the population at large. And, unlike politicians in, say, modern Lebanon, or the dukes of medieval Europe, individual Saudi royals lack any direct constituencies among the people that they can galvanize against the monarchy by, for example, ordering them to take to the streets, let alone have the capacity to mobilize sections of the military on their own behalf. This is why it is wrong to interpret last weekend’s arrests as an action that materially increases the political risk to the monarchy.

Bearing this in mind, King Salman and MBS have chosen to go the populist route by appealing to the Saudi public, and specifically to the youth, rather than seeking to placate the many “losers” in this succession by lavishing them with money (a tactic widely used in the past that was highly unpopular with the Saudi public and that has become increasingly unaffordable). Now there will be no paying-off of discontented princes in exchange for their loyalty and acquiescence.

The very public arrest of these high-profile individuals serves an important objective. To begin with, the choice of the particular individuals who were arrested is highly symbolic. The system in the Kingdom over the years has certainly produced many more examples of corruption and ill-gotten wealth than just these specific people. Rather than arrest every offender, the government made a deliberate choice, selecting a number of very high-profile individuals with wide name recognition, most of whom are instantly recognizable to the public and seen as beneficiaries of ill-gotten wealth. By doing this, the government sent the message to all elites that action will be taken and that nobody is immune, encouraging them all to cooperate with the state in returning assets and to face the new reality that the old order has been replaced with a new one and they had better reconcile themselves to it.

In the short term, these detentions will lead, directly and indirectly (i.e., by example of what can happen to those who do not cooperate), to the recovery of substantial ill-gotten assets from many members of the elite, including, in all probability, vast tracts of urban land that were “acquired” by senior royals in decades past. The monopolization of this resource limited the amount of urban land available to the masses, pushing up land and home prices, which contributed to massive land and home shortages. Remedying this situation will reduce the cost of home ownership, thereby alleviating a major source of grievance among middle- and lower-class Saudis.

Although commentators have widely criticized what they see as arbitrary and selective steps taken quickly and without “due process,” they must understand that this spate of arrests is as much a political and symbolic act as it is a legal one. In all likelihood the government made sure prior to taking this step that it had enough hard evidence to stand up in a Saudi court (and even to outside observers if required). Certainly a drip-by-drip process drawn out over months and years would have been much more disruptive.

More importantly, in a country beset by an extremely wide political spectrum ranging from the extreme religious right to the liberal left, achieving consensus on key issues is virtually impossible. Hence, if any reform is to take place within a reasonable time frame, it will have to be autocratically managed. Reforms such as removing the prohibition on women’s driving, combating extremism, and curbing elite entitlements would have been impossible to accomplish through deliberation and consensus. Coercive action and an authoritarian hand, rather than endless debate, discussion, and negotiation with thousands of royals and political, economic, and religious elites, was needed to drive home to these individuals that the monarchy is serious about fundamental reform and that the “old guard” needs to get with the program or face dire consequences.

Previous attempts to negotiate elite entitlements achieved negligible results. To cite just one example, relentless pushback and delay tactics scuttled a recent initiative that would have forced elites to pay full utility costs and newly introduced property taxes on undeveloped land. Arresting high-profile household names, people long considered to be untouchable, was the best way for the King and the Crown Prince to deliver the shock needed to recalibrate the behavior and expectations of the elite class.

What the King and MBS are attempting is not new for developing states pursuing comprehensive socioeconomic transformation. In 2008, the ruler of Dubai responded to Dubai’s financial collapse by mounting a wide-scale purge of senior government officials who had perpetuated the corrupt practices that were rife during the emirate’s rapid development. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s 2012 campaign against his fellow “princelings,” descendants of party scions whose station gave them unparalleled economic privilege and virtual control over key sectors of the national economy, also comes to mind.

Both campaigns were initially shocking and considered to be highly controversial among observers who questioned the wisdom and speed of such actions, but they proved to be politically popular because they demonstrated a firm break with a venal past. Powerful elites who for decades had avoided accountability were publicly investigated, detained, prosecuted, and sentenced. Today, both Dubai and China are better off for it.

The detention of the Kingdom’s own princelings, while clearly authoritarian and also populist in nature, is necessary to bring about the type of social and economic transformation the Kingdom needs to restructure the social contract between the throne and the people. Are these actions risky? Absolutely. But when comprehensive reform is required to safeguard the Kingdom’s post-petroleum future, and when the status quo (with, at best, a glacial approach to reform) threatens the country’s present, decisive action is not only preferable to inaction but also actually far less risky.

Paradoxically, the Saudi “purge” may very well secure the future of Saudi elites as a class, and even the future of the very elites who were arrested. In Dubai, the crackdown ended when convicted elites were quietly released after they had returned looted state assets. It is probable that the Kingdom will follow a similar path. For Saudi elites, succumbing to a “revolution” from above that requires them to forfeit some of their extreme wealth and privilege is still preferable to a real populist revolution from below, which would wipe them out completely and destroy the country.

About Arabia Foundation / Advisory Board: Advisory Board

Ambassador (Ret.) Adam Ereli

Adam Ereli is founder and principal of the Ibero-American Group, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Ambassador Ereli previously served as US ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, deputy State Department spokesman, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Ambassador (Ret.) Chas W. Freeman Jr.

Chas W. Freeman Jr. is a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He is the former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs. He served as vice chair of the Atlantic Council; cochair of the United States–China Policy Foundation; and president of the Middle East Policy Council.

Professor F. Gregory Gause III

Gregory Gause III is the John H. Lindsey ’44 chair, professor of international affairs, and head of the International Affairs Department at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. Dr. Gause received his PhD in political science from Harvard University.

Professor Bernard Haykel

Bernard Haykel is a historian of the Arabian Peninsula and a scholar of Islamic law and Islamic political movements. He is professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, where he is also director of the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. He earned his DPhil in oriental studies from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Edward L. Morse

Ed Morse is the global head of commodities research at Citigroup. He has worked as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Energy Policy; and been in management at Phillips Petroleum Company. In addition, he is a cofounder of PFC Energy, a former publisher of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, and president of Energy Intelligence Group. He is chair of the New York Energy Forum and a member of the advisory board for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.


VIETNAM at 50 – 1967!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/image.jpg


Defense One: The Future of the Army

Ever since 1845, when the Royal Army dispatched its brand-new Telegraph Detachment to the fight in Crimea, electric and

later electronic battlefield communications have been a part of war. Today’s battles — and the pseudo-conflicts dubbed hybrid war —

are shaped by online maneuvering unimaginable to the 19th century’s light brigadiers.

Tactics and technology are changing far faster than doctrine, laws, and rules. “The next great conflict will play out not just on physical

terrain but also in the electrical pulses of cyberspace and the electronic spectrum,” writes Patrick Tucker in this ebook’s first

piece, “For the US Army, ‘Cyber War’ Is Quickly Becoming Just ‘War’.” He continues, “But while anonymous enemies like ISIS or

Russia’s “little green men” are free to use the digital space as they like, U.S. Army leaders say legal requirements and a pre-digital rules

structure complicate their response.

That’s why, for the last 18 months, the service has been experimenting with different concepts of operations for the cyber units that will be

on the front lines of tomorrow’s fights.”

From these nascent tactics to research into drones and even weapons that will alter their behaviors to match the mental and physical

states of the troops who wield them, the future of the Army will reflect an ever-increasing reliance on and exploitation of data and


No doubt that some of the twists and turns of the next few years will have us feeling like the bewildered British horsemen taking orders

from mysterious clicking devices.

Bradley Peniston

Deputy Editor, Defense One



see our letter on:

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



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