Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 21.07.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • The New Silk Road will go through Syria
  • One Belt, One Road: When a Trade Route Isn’t a Trade Route
  • Iran: Independence referendum will isolate, weaken Kurdistan
  • The “Southern Deal” Between Moscow and Washington: A Duel of Diplomacies
  • A. Gromyko: Brexit -the view from Russia

*DIW Berlin Führungskräfte-Monitor 2017: Anteil von Frauen in Führungspositionen nimmt nur noch langsam zu, Gleichstellung liegt in weiter Ferne

  • Deutsche Bank Research: Parteien schreiben Zukunftsvorsorge zu klein
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe’s Greatest Cathedrals

Massenbach*The New Silk Road will go through Syria

China and Syria have already begun discussing post-war infrastructure investment;

with a ‚Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction‘ held in Beijing

By Pepe Escobar July 13, 2017 7:12 PM (UTC+8)

Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

And there will be serious follow-ups: a Syria Reconstruction Expo; the 59th Damascus International Fair next month, where around 30 Arab and foreign nations will be represented; and the China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui province, in September.

Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.

Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.

Beijing always plans years ahead. And the government in Damascus is implicated at the highest levels. So, it’s not an accident that Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha had to come up with the clincher: China, Russia and Iran will have priority over anyone else for all infrastructure investment and reconstruction projects when the war is over.

The New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road Initiative (Obor), will inevitably feature a Syrian hub – complete with the requisite legal support for Chinese companies involved in investment, construction and banking via a special commission created by the Syrian embassy, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Beijing-based Shijing law firm.

Get me on that Shanghai-Latakia cargo

Few remember that before the war China had already invested tens of billions of US dollars in Syria’s oil and gas industry. Naturally the priority for Damascus, once the war is over, will be massive reconstruction of widely destroyed infrastructure. China could be part of that via the AIIB. Then comes investment in agriculture, industry and connectivity – transportation corridors in the Levant and connecting Syria to Iraq and Iran (other two Obor hubs).

What matters most of all is that Beijing has already taken the crucial step of being directly involved in the final settlement of the Syrian war – geopolitically and geo-economically. Beijing has had a special representative for Syria since last year – and has already been providing humanitarian aid.

Needless to add, all those elaborate plans depend on no more war. And there’s the rub.

With the demise of Daesh (ISIS), or at least its imminent loss of any significant urban center, no one knows in what manner a fragmented, phony Caliphate “Sunnistan” might be manipulated into cutting Syria from its New Silk Road future.

Qatar has already provided a game-changer; Doha has gotten closer to Tehran (common interests in South Pars/North Dome gas-field oblige), as well as Damascus – much to the despair of the House of Saud. So, unlike the recent past, Qatar is not engaged in regime change anymore. But still there are the diverging interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and, of course, Washington, to accommodate.

A possible scenario out of what Putin and Trump negotiated in Hamburg – that was not relayed by either Lavrov or Tillerson – is that the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, assuming it holds, could mean US peacekeeping forces in effect sanctioning the creation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian Golan and the rest of the country.

Translation: the Golan de facto annexed by Israel. And the “carrot” for Moscow would be Washington accepting Crimea de facto re-incorporated into the Russian Federation.

That may sound less far-fetched than it seems. The next few months will tell if this is indeed a plausible scenario.

The other big sticking point is Ankara against the YPG Kurds. Contrary to the ominous and quite possible Balkanization scenario, Washington and Moscow might well decide, in tandem, to let them sort things out by themselves. Then we will inevitably have the Turkish army occupying al-Bab for the foreseeable future.

The bottom line: that Saudi Arabia gets nothing. And Israel and Turkey get political/military “wins”. It’s hard to imagine how Moscow could possibly sell this arrangement to Iran as a victory. Still, Tehran may not have a free flow Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah route totally back in action, but it will maintain close relations with Damascus and be engaged in the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

The key question from now on seems to be whether Washington will follow the deep state “Syraq” policy – as in “Assad must go” mixed with support or weaponizing of non-existent “moderate rebels”; or whether Trump’s priority – to eliminate Daesh/ISIS for good – will prevail.

Beijing, anyway, has made up its mind. It will work non-stop for the Iran-Iraq-Syria triumvirate to become a key hub in Obor. Any bets against a future, booming Shanghai-Latakia container route?


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

  • The “Southern Deal” Between Moscow and Washington: A Duel of Diplomacies

The main result of the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7 July 2017 was a ceasefire agreement for a de-escalation zone in the governorates of Daraa, Quneitra and As-Suwayda in southwest Syria and on setting up a ceasefire monitoring center in Amman.

The United State’s involvement in the multilateral Syrian settlement format marks an important new milestone in this process. American, Jordanian and, unofficially, Israeli participation in the settlement process allows for inclusion in the negotiations of the American-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in As-Suweyda and the Syrian Desert, as well as pro-Jordanian factions on the Southern Front, which refused to send their delegations to the fifth round of the Astana process. This achievement could potentially help preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and include in the peace process all Syrian forces that are inclined to engage with other states diplomatically, and the territories they control, without any exceptions.

It should be noted that reports about a certain planned de-escalation zone with US participation in the south of Syria surfaced long before the meeting between the Russian and American presidents…..

Scenario one

The United State’s involvement in the multilateral Syrian settlement format marks an important new milestone in this process…….

Scenario two

Hall Gardner:
Breaking the U.S.-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue

The United States and Russia officially expanded the southern de-escalation zone identified in Astana by involving external players that are instumental in Syria’s southern regions, namely Jordan and, informally, Israel. If were to happen, then Washington and possibly Amman would effectively become full participants in the Astana talks. Such a development could be regarded as an undoubted success of both Russian and American diplomacy: Moscow made Washington shoulder the responsibility for the actions of the Syrian opposition, while Washington, for its part, forced Moscow to influence Damascus and Iran, which is an extremely difficult task. The Russian media prefer not to mention it, but it is in the best interests of the Al-Assad government and the Iranians, whose clout in Syria depends directly on survival of the current Syrian regime, to discredit the entire opposition without exception.

Scenario three

What the United States and Russia did was “reset” the format of the southern de-escalation zone as defined in Astana. In particular, this is the scenario at which Associated Press sources hinted when saying that the current agreement between the United States and Russia has nothing to do with the Astana memorandum.

It is possible that, following the creation of the southern de-escalation zones and the security zone, with the USA among the guarantor nations, creation of similar de-escalation zones elsewhere in Syria will be discussed or is, indeed, already being discussed…..

(for more see att.)

  • MOSCOW JUNE 2017 THESES ON RUSSIA’S FOREIGN POLICY AND GLOBAL POSITIONING (2017–2024) TEXT: IVAN TIMOFEEV EDITED BY ANDREY KORTUNOV AND SERGEY UTKIN FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY 4 Abstract and key points 5 The Situation in the Modern World 8 Russia Today: The Goals and Objectives of Global Positioning 13 Russia’s Positioning in the CIS 18 Russia and Non-Western Countries 22 Russia and the West 27 Functional areas and foreign policy instruments 31 Index 5 Abstract and key points The theses on foreign policy presented below are the result of a project co-run by the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
  • As part of the project, 30 interviews were conducted with RIAC members: prominent diplomats, major international relations experts, media executives and entrepreneurs. As a separate part of the project, a series of case studies were conducted with the participation of experts and RIAC members.
  • Work on the project was closely related to other aspects of the CSR’s activity with regard to the most topical issues of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
  • The theses were based upon the results of a parallel study conducted by a team of researchers at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • The key findings of this study are as follows: The modern world is at a crossroads. There is a high possibility that rivalry between the key players will intensify. A number of global problems are worsening. At the same time, the level of globalization that has been reached to date allows for negative trends to be mitigated by making the cost of conflicts unacceptably high. It is in Russia’s best interests to help ensure that this is the scenario that unfolds. Efforts to facilitate the resolution of conflicts and help create a comfortable, democratic, controllable and safe international environment without boundaries and divisions should form the core of Russia’s global positioning. It should not be a fundamental premise of Russia’s foreign policy to count on the inevitable “chaotization” of international relations. Russia is one of the most prominent powers in the world today. It has managed to overcome the threat of disintegration and the most difficult political consequences that resulted from the collapse of the USSR. The country conducts an active foreign policy, and is consistent in protecting its interests abroad. At the same time, Russia is lagging behind in a number of critical areas….( for more see att.)



Brexit: the view from Russia

By Alexey Gromyko (RAS Corresponding member, Director of IE RAS )

Working paper №3, 2017 (№29)

…..Brexit as a nominal term, signifying the force of centrifugal processes inside Western structures, has both indirect and direct consequences for the interests of Russia. Here we speak not only about economic and other mercantile interests of Moscow. Of course, they play a significant part in considerations about Brexit of any state and society on the Old Continent. Major potential or existing economic problems in the UK are not in the interests of a certain part of the Russian business community. More so if these problems spill over to the Single European market. We should keep in mind that the Russian trade turnover with the EU, even after two years of sanctions war, is about 44%.

Still Brexit is about something much bigger – about a potential to prolong the uncertainty in the international relations. In world affairs there are not so many countries, which are endowed with global responsibility, and Russia and the UK are among such players. From this point of view, for Russia, if to base the analysis on strategic not tactical thinking, further destabilization of the West is not beneficial. And obviously Brexit is a source of exasperation for the EU and potentially for NATO as well. Both organizations are pillars of what is called the collective West…..

Returning to Brexit, it is difficult not to make a conclusion that it is a strategic miscalculation of the British political establishment. The UK now faces a long period of uncertainty in geopolitics, geo-economics and even in its internal political cohesion. For the EU, Brexit is also an obvious loss, but it shouldn’t become the beginning of its end. If lessons are learned, the EU might be able to modernize itself and to cease looking upon the surrounding world as a territory for cultivation. There is some hope in a Global strategy for the EU foreign and security policy, which Mogherini made public several days after Brexit referendum.1 For example, this applies to the ideas of principled pragmatism, strategic autonomy, reciprocal inspiration between different regional integration projects.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster*DIW Berlin Führungskräfte-Monitor 2017:

Anteil von Frauen in Führungspositionen nimmt nur noch langsam zu, Gleichstellung liegt in weiter Ferne

Die Studie informiert auf Basis von neun Kerngrößen mit 52 Einzelindikatoren auf 168 Seiten nicht nur über die Entwicklung des Anteils von Frauen in Führungspositionen und den Verdienstunterschieden, sondern gibt auch einen Einblick in die beruflichen und privaten Lebenswirklichkeiten von angestellten Führungskräften in der Privatwirtschaft. Der Frauenanteil ist in dieser Gruppe in 20 Jahren (1995 bis 2015) um rund zehn Prozentpunkte auf etwa 30 Prozent gestiegen. Vor dem Hintergrund des rasanten Qualifikationszuwachses von Frauen in Vergangenheit bleibt die Entwicklung hinter den Erwartungen zurück.
Offenbar spielen auch kulturelle Rahmenbedingungen eine wichtige Rolle: In Ostdeutschland lag der Frauenanteil 2015 bei 44 Prozent und war innerhalb von 20 Jahren um 19 Prozentpunkte gestiegen; in Westdeutschland lag er hingen zuletzt bei 27 Prozent und nahm in 20 Jahren mit 8 Prozentpunkten deutlich schwächer zu. Damit sind in Ostdeutschland sowohl das Niveau des Frauenanteils sowie die Entwicklungsdynamik höher als in Westdeutschland.

Der Gender Pay Gap bei Führungskräften hat sich in den vergangenen Jahren im Mittel leicht verringert, die Verdienstlücke blieb mit durchschnittlich 23 Prozent aber erheblich. Vergleicht man statt des Durchschnittswertes den häufig als robustere Größe geltenden Medianwert, der von extrem hohen und niedrigen Werten kaum beeinflusst wird, hat sich der Verdienstunterschied zwischen Männern und Frauen mit 26 Prozent nicht verändert. Er lag 2015 auf dem Niveau von vor 20 Jahren (1995). Die Verdienste und der Gender Pay Gap waren in Ostdeutschland deutlich geringer als in Westdeutschland…

…lesen Sie weiter hier:

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

Barandat*Deutsche Bank Research: Parteien schreiben Zukunftsvorsorge zu klein

Die sozialpolitische Debatte in Deutschland ist erscheint paradox. Trotz steigender Sozialausgaben konstatieren manche Kritiker eine soziale Schieflage. Aber der Sozialschutz wirkt weithin, während die Sozialsystem profitieren von der guten Konjunktur. Auch für die Zukunft scheint eine weitere Expansion des Sozialstaates angelegt, wenn man an die demografische Entwicklung denkt und zugleich die Vorschläge der Parteien im Wahlkampf betrachtet. Zukunftsvorsorge der Sozialsysteme spielt nur die zweite Geige, obwohl den Steuer- und Beitragszahlern schon jetzt vermeidbare Belastungen aufgebürdet werden.


Middle East

Iran: Independence referendum will isolate, weaken Kurdistan

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran has warned a visiting Kurdish delegation that an independence referendum will isolate and weaken Kurdistan.

“Although this issue might be attractive in appearance, but actually, it will isolate and pressure the Iraqi Kurds and weaken Kurdistan and finally all of Iraq,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran on Monday.

“A peaceful, stable and united Iraq is what gives the country security and development. Friendly and neighboring countries should support Iraq,” Shamkhani said, according to Mihr agency.

He accused regional and international countries of trying to weaken Iraq.

He made his comments in a meeting with members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), including Kosrat Rasul and Mala Bakhtiar.

The PUK delegation reportedly thanked Iran for their support, noting historical ties between Tehran and Iraqi Kurds, according to IRNA.

The meeting was a friendly one, “in which strengthening relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Region was stressed,” Nazim Dabagh, the Kurdistan government’s representative to Iran, told Rudaw.

He said Iran expressed support for the achievement of Kurdish rights within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.

Iran, which backs the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi armed force and holds influence over Baghdad, has expressed strong opposition to the Kurdish referendum, instead calling for a united Iraq.

“Iraq’s national sovereignty and integrity benefits all residents of the country and any change can make the country face chaos and crisis,” a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, Bahram Qassemi, said in a weekly press conference, according to Fars News.

He said that Iraq’s integrity is “not negotiable,” noting that Tehran has ties with the central government and Iraqi ethnic groups.

The PUK visit to Iran is at the request of Tehran, Dabagh told Rudaw on the weekend.

In a meeting in Erbil on Sunday with Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told Ambassador Iraj Masjedi that Tehran could play a positive role in resolving outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

One Belt, One Road: When a Trade Route Isn’t a Trade Route.

This economic initiative is a political solution, not a commercial enterprise.


In the fall of 2013, just months after assuming office, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the One Belt, One Road initiative during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. Before Xi, Chinese strategy had been inspired by Deng Xiaoping’s warning in the 1990s. Chinese leaders, he insisted, should “hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.”

It is tempting to think of OBOR as a consequence of Chinese maturation, an ambitious program of economic development that will vault the country into the 21st century. To some, it’s a direct challenge to the United States, something that requires a new strategy from Washington if it is to remain on top of the global order. The problem with this line of thinking, and in analyzing the U.S. perspective on OBOR in general, is that there’s very little in this economic initiative to be for or against. It is little more than a pipe dream. And what has materialized from the dream, at least so far, doesn’t hurt the United States’ position. If anything, OBOR helps its position.

One Belt: Eurasia

OBOR is really two plans combined to form a larger framework of new trade routes. The first of these is One Belt, which refers to the development of new infrastructure, particularly railroads and highways, to connect China’s interior provinces with Europe by way of Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

One of the most important provinces for One Belt is Xinjiang, the restive province in which China’s Uighur Muslims reside, and its experience is a useful example of the limitations inherent within One Belt. Xinjiang has seen impressive growth in recent years – its regional gross domestic product increased 62 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The problem is that even for Xinjiang, the gravity of the global economy still pulls its economic activity east to the sea, not west to the center of Eurasia. There are no open-source numbers available that break down Chinese exports by mode of transport, but the vast majority of China’s export destinations in 2016 were all countries to which Chinese goods arrived by sea, not by land.

(click to enlarge)

Of course, insufficient regional infrastructure has tempered expectations of increasing overland exports. But the bigger problem with One Belt is geopolitical: Eurasia is in a state of crisis, and several of the countries China borders will feel the crisis particularly acutely in the coming years. Central Asia, a patchwork of states whose borders were drawn to make the countries more easily controlled from Moscow during the Soviet era, is hardly a promising market for Chinese goods. Furthermore, it is one of the most politically unstable regions in the world. One Belt is not a long march into prosperity – it’s a long march into disaster.

For the United States, there is a single overarching strategic imperative in Eurasia: to prevent the rise of a power that could potentially challenge U.S. hegemony in the world. No such power is likely to appear anytime soon, and even if One Belt were able to achieve its extremely ambitious goals, such a power would still be constrained by geography and regional rivalry. If anything, the U.S. would welcome the possibility of improved infrastructure and increased trade, providing new economic opportunities to some of these impoverished and increasingly destabilized regions. The Middle East, for example, has descended into chaos largely because of the limited economic opportunities available to young people. If the construction of a vast network of trade infrastructure brings economic opportunity to Eurasia’s most unstable regions, even if it enhances China’s international prestige, the U.S. could easily live with it.

One Road: Maritime

More important to the United States is the One Road component of the initiative – China’s vision of a new Maritime Silk Road. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, roughly 80 percent of global trade by volume and over 70 percent of global trade by value is conducted by sea. The One Road portion of OBOR is meant to increase Chinese construction of ports in countries along maritime routes that are already used in seaborne trade. China has already seen this strategy pay some dividends, having been awarded contracts to build ports in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. China also, however, has had some setbacks; a deal Beijing had with Bangladesh fell through in 2016 when Dhaka decided that an offer from Japan to build a port better suited its needs.

(click to enlarge)

Washington’s strategic imperative in the seas is similar to its imperative in Eurasia: to prevent the rise of a potential challenger, an imperative that entails dominating the seas and ensuring the flow of international trade. This is why One Road is a little more concerning than One Belt; the U.S. can accept and even benefit from Chinese influence in Eurasia, but it cannot tolerate a Chinese navy commensurate with the ambition of One Road. It signals Beijing’s intent to expand the size and capability of its navy.

Still, from a U.S. perspective, the importance of China’s projects along the Maritime Silk Road is significantly overinflated. Constructing ports will not provide China with permanent bases for Chinese destroyers or armies – the countries in question have yet to agree to host them. More important, the Chinese navy, despite its impressive advances over the past 25 years, is not capable of extended, long-term deployments in countries far away from the mainland.

As Dr. Bernard Cole, a professor at the National War College, notes in his latest book on the Chinese navy, the navy “lacks seaborne air power, and it has no fixed-wing capable ships, only nascent in-flight refueling capacity, no airborne air control, and limited joint operational capability with the [air force].” Though equipped with an aircraft carrier to parade its advances, the Chinese navy does not currently have a single carrier battle group trained and ready for action.

The priority of China’s navy is to protect Chinese territorial claims in its littoral waters. The drama that surrounded U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with the president of Taiwan in 2016 emphasized just how weak China is relative to the United States: China can’t really stop the United States from “meddling” in Taiwan, let alone match its navy pound for pound. So long as this is the case, China’s interests are actually in sync with those of the U.S., at least when it comes to global maritime trade. This is because the Chinese economy depends on exports and the vast majority of those exports are shipped via sea.

There are other reasons One Road will be ineffectual. The U.S. favors the status quo in Asia and so has no desire to change the balance of power. Smaller countries are suspicious of Chinese intentions; though they would happily accept Chinese money, there’s no guarantee they will always do Beijing’s bidding. U.S. allies, such as Japan, India, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan, moreover, have formidable navies that can curb Chinese assertion.

(click to enlarge)

All this elides a bigger flaw in China’s strategy. Even if Beijing were able to scrounge up the trillions of dollars needed to build infrastructure in the world’s most inhospitable places, the fact remains that it is appreciably cheaper to transport by sea than to transport by land. It’s partly the reason why so much trade is conducted by sea, and there’s no reason to think this will change any time soon. One Road may be the more geopolitically significant aspect of OBOR, but maritime trade already forms the basis of the global economy without any help from China.

An Empty Vessel

OBOR is frequently and incorrectly compared to the Marshall Plan, the initiative by which the United States solidified its political influence in Europe by providing economic and technical assistance to war-ravaged countries.

The differences between the two are stark. The Marshall Plan was codified into law as the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1948 is a dry, 23-page document that lays out clear guidelines for the organizations that were set up to administer the funds, the advisory boards that oversaw those organizations, and the salaries and residences of the officials in charge of these organizations. The Marshall Plan was a highly focused and specifically targeted set of measures formulated and executed with a clear goal in mind: rebuild Europe so that the Iron Curtain would not creep farther west than it did.

The OBOR action plan, published by various organs of the Chinese government in 2015, bears no resemblance to this document. It begins by touting the virtues of what it calls the “Silk Road Spirit” – “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.” (That the Silk Road was first and foremost about trade, i.e. making money, seems to have been forgotten or ignored, as has the fact that some Central Asian territories were conquered and that many dynasties paid tribute to the various tribes and enemies along the route.) There are no concrete action items set out in the Chinese government’s action plan for what has become one of Xi’s most visible policy initiatives. The document contains a number of generic proposals interspersed with platitudes about cooperation and understanding.

Those who are bullish on OBOR note that China has actually enacted some of this flowery language. For example, the Chinese government has established a Silk Road Fund worth $40 billion. In October 2014, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was founded with $100 billion of funding, more than a third of which came from China. The New Development Bank, which is a funding source for BRICS countries, has another $100 billion of investment it can draw on. These appear to be positive steps for OBOR.

But appearances can be deceiving. In truth, $240 billion is nothing compared to the trillions of dollars OBOR calls for. (HSBC has projected that OBOR will require at least $4 trillion-$6 trillion over the next 15 years. Likely, that estimate is too low.) OBOR is supposed to create multiple economic corridors covering almost two-thirds of the world’s population and a third of global GDP. The infrastructure necessary to bind Eurasia together will require the construction of roads, railways, ports and other elements across vast distances in some of the harshest geographies and least populated areas in the world. The fact that more than 4.4 billion people account for only a third of the world’s GDP is often glossed over when the goals of OBOR are touted, and that’s because it shows just how poor many of these areas are.

And yet, besides the capital necessary to get its ambitious programs off the ground, there are two bigger problems with OBOR. The first is that even if China and the various countries it has identified as its Silk Road partners come up with the money, OBOR does not have a centralized organizing body or a strategic goal it is meant to accomplish beyond enriching all of Eurasia. Looking at the projects the AIIB has approved in recent months is telling: rehabilitating a hydropower plant in Tajikistan, investing in Indian infrastructure service companies with high growth, a highway project in Georgia, a dam improvement project in Indonesia. Though they benefit local populations, they are all far-flung, one-off infrastructure projects that do not connect to form a new Silk Road and, thus, do nothing to increase Chinese power.

The second problem is that China’s main goal for OBOR is to accomplish what each successive Chinese leader has failed to do: distribute the wealth of the coast to the impoverished parts of China’s interior without destabilizing the country. China has chosen to dress its OBOR strategy in the raiment of the Silk Road, which to most of the world conjures up images of history and nostalgia for a simpler time. But that should not obscure the differences between the Silk Road and OBOR. The Silk Road was built on the exchange of goods between equally willing trading partners. China possessed silk. India possessed spices. The Romans and later the Europeans possessed silver and other precious metals. British historian Peter Frankopan estimates that in the 1st century nearly half the money produced by the mint of the Roman Empire was used to buy Chinese silk. The Silk Road was a constantly evolving marketplace that moved goods across a vast continent where they could be exchanged for other goods. And unlike today, Eurasia was the center of world civilization, home to the most important economies.

That world is gone, and Eurasia is no longer what it was. China may be the world’s second-largest economy, but the U.S. economy is still much larger. The U.S. is the largest consumer of Chinese exports and, just as important, it does not rely on exports for growth. The most concrete part of the OBOR action plan is how Chinese provinces are to profit from developments in infrastructure and increased trade. As the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies pointed out in a study published in March 2016, OBOR is not about China’s geopolitical ambitions but rather about achieving two domestic economic objectives.

(click to enlarge)

The first objective is to enrich the interior provinces, which remain woefully impoverished compared to the richer coastal regions despite China’s preternatural growth rates in the last three decades. The second objective is to find new overland markets that can absorb China’s massive excess capacity of steel, coal and other key commodities. China is struggling to cut the production of these commodities but has found that it cannot do so without sacrificing economic growth rates, and for the Chinese Communist Party, whose legitimacy has been built on the enrichment of the masses, this is not a realistic option. Beijing is hoping OBOR will help China find a place to dump the surplus commodities it has produced and to justify increased infrastructure spending in these less-developed parts of the country.

OBOR ultimately matters relatively little. The initiative itself is ill-defined and has produced little of tangible importance in the three years since it was announced. Any successes achieved through OBOR do not threaten to upend the global balance of power. And as for U.S.-China relations, Washington has far more pressing issues with China, the most important among them being trade policy, developments in the Chinese navy, and the maintenance of U.S. power in the Asia-Pacific region. For China, OBOR is about weaknesses in its domestic economy and about increasing its national prestige so as to appear more powerful than it is. China has already succeeded at the latter, but if OBOR is to be truly transformative, it must help China deal with the former, and whether it can remains an open question.


Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe’s Greatest Cathedrals

  • In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom’s greatest cathedral has become a mosque".
  • The Spanish left, governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe’s decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.
  • The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment.

Muslim supremacists seem to have fantasies — as well as a long history — of converting Christian sites to Islamic ones. Take, for example, Saint-Denis, the Gothic cathedral named for the first Christian bishop of Paris who was buried there in 250, and the burial place of Charles Martel, whose victory stopped the Muslim invasion of France in 732. Now, according to the scholar Gilles Kepel, this burial place of most of France’s kings and queens is "the Mecca in Islam of France". The French Islamists are dreaming of taking it over and replacing the church bells with the call of the muezzin.

In Turkey’s greatest cathedral, Hagia Sophia, a muezzin’s call recently reverberated inside the sixth-century church for the first time in 85 years.

In France, Muslim leaders called for converting abandoned churches into mosques. thereby echoing The late writer Emile Cioran once predicted of Europe: "The French will not wake up until Notre Dame becomes a mosque".

Now it is the turn of Spain’s greatest Catholic site, the Cathedral of Córdoba. Spanish "leftists" and secularists would now, it seems, like to convert to Islam the cathedral of Córdoba, the symbol of a time when "Islam was on the verge of turning the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake". Now that Islam is again conquering large swaths of the Middle East and Africa, is it not a coincidence that this campaign is gaining ground?

In 550 the Cathedral of Córdoba was a Christian basilica, dedicated to a saint; then, in 714, it was occupied by the Muslims, who destroyed it and converted it into the Great Mosque of Córdoba during the reign of Caliph Abd al Rahman I. The site was returned to Catholic worship by King Ferdinand III in 1523 and became the current great Cathedral of Córdoba, one of the most important sites of Western Christianity. Now an alliance of secularists and Islamists are trying to turn the church back to Islamic worship.

The Wall Street Journal called it deconquista, playing with the word reconquista, the time when Spain was returned from Islam to Catholicism. "The Great Mosque of Córdoba" is what UNESCO — also torturing, upending and turning history on its head to rewrite the past of Jerusalem and Hebron — calls it. In the last six centuries, however, only Catholic mass and confessions have been officiated there. The WSJ charges "left-wing Spanish intellectuals" with trying to "de-Christianize" the site.

The main altar of the Cathedral of Córdoba. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0)

A recent Islamic State map of domination includes not only the Middle East, but also Spain. ISIS calls it "Al-Andalus". Gatestone’s Soeren Kern, among others, has detailed ISIS’s call to retake Spain. Osama bin Laden, who targeted Spain in a terror attack in 2004, frequently referred to Al-Andalus in his videos and speeches. Daniel Pipes has further explained, "even centuries after the reconquista of 1492, Muslims continued to long to recreate Muslim Andalusia". Bin Laden’s heir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also weighed in: "The return of Andalus to Muslim hands is a duty for the umma [Muslim community]". Syrian Jihadists call Spain "the land of our ancestors". In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate.

It is self-destructive and surreal that Spanish secularists — those who claim to care about separation of church and state — are now supporting Muslim supremacists in their "reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba".

The recent wave of immigration has brought many Muslims to Spain; the Islamic Spanish population has almost doubled from about a million in 2007 to 1.9 million today. 350,000 people signed a petition promoted by the Spanish "left", calling for the expropriation of the Christian building. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom’s greatest cathedral has become a mosque".

The Spanish "left", governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. In 2010, a group of Muslim activists tried to pray inside the building. To raise support from American Catholics, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández González, recently explained that the law of Andalusia would allow the expropriation of the cathedral if a court ruled that the Catholic Church failed to preserve the building. "It has become fashionable on the left to romanticize the Islamic past of Spain", noted the Wall Street Journal.

"The Catholics of the Reconquista are thought of as crude fanatics, whereas the caliphate is presented as a haven of tolerance and learning where Jews and Christians—never mind their second-class status—lived side-by-side with Muslims in happy convivencia. Barack Obama even cited Andalusia as an example of Islam’s "proud tradition of tolerance" during his 2009 speech in Cairo".

Our secular establishment in the newspapers, universities and popular culture damns the Crusades as a proof of Western guilt towards the Islamic world. The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment. Nobody, however, seems to have any concern about Islamic muezzins rising from the roofs of many cities in the West. While the West whips itself for slavery, it never raises any questions about slavery in the Islamic world, currently in full force (although officially "abolished") in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and West Africa, among other places.

The question about Córdoba’s cathedral now on everyone’s lips is: Who will fund the campaign to bring Islam back to the great Christian site? The answer is Qatar. The emirate is supporting the campaign of Islamic organizations to convert the church to Islam. The Middle East is full of churches transformed into mosques, such as the Omayyad of Damascus, Ibn Tulun of Cairo, and the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. Islamists are now eager to do the same in Córdoba. The Catholic Church has taken a position. As the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernandez, said, "sharing the space with Muslims would be like a man sharing his wife with another man".

An analyst at the Spanish Institute of Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Emilio Sánchez de Rojas, recently gave a lecture in which he explained that Córdoba is "a reference for Islam". He charged Qatar and Saudi Arabia with "campaigns of influence in the West", and as "a source of funding for the campaign for the re-Islamization of the Cathedral in Córdoba".

If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe’s decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.



see our letter on:

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



07-17-17 Brexit_ the view from Russia .pdf

07-19-17 The _Southern Deal_ Between Moscow and Washington_ A Duel of Diplomacies.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 14.07.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Article by Vladimir Putin published in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt
  • Wir teilen die deutschen Prioritäten- Von Wladimir Putin, Präsident der Russischen Föderation
  • G-20 Leaders Find Trade Compromises but Are Split on Climate
  • Europe’s Mass Migration: The Leaders vs. the Public
  • Confronting Africa’s Water Challenge
  • Barandat: In eigener Sache: China – One Belt-One Road. Chinas neue Seidenstraßen. Vortrag bei IHK Schwerin
  • World Still Knee-Deep in Crude Oil Despite Cuts
  • Deutsche Bank Research: Deutsche Staatsfinanzen: Überschüsse dank Vollbeschäftigung und Nullzins, aber Demografie droht!
  • Atkam Suliman: “Krieg und Chaos in Nahost – Eine arabische Sicht” – suggested reading / Lesetipp

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

  • Germany, the USA, and Russia in the Changing World – July 7, 2017
  • Russia-Germany-USA in the 2000s–2010s.
  • Fifth Task Force Position Paper Released – A group of prominent Members and Supporters of the Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, including former foreign and defence ministers and senior officials from Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Poland, Germany, Italy and Finland has joined forces to appeal to the leadership of the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area to halt the downward spiral in West-Russia relations and manage its risks better through developing a more stable and sustainable security relationship.
  • Kathy Leach: UK Needs to Look at Wider European Neighborhood
  • Infographics. The statistics of the number of victims in the North Caucasian Federal District regions for a period of 6 years
  • Reasons behind Increased Recourse to Sanctions in the Region

Massenbach*WSJ:G-20 Leaders Find Trade Compromises but Are Split on Climate –

Communiqué reflects differences between U.S., other nations on climate change

HAMBURG—Leaders from the Group of 20 countries vowed to fight protectionism and secure fair trade, finding a broad consensus after President Donald Trump’s defiantly unilateral stance exposed a rift between the world’s leading economies.

In light of the broad political pushback against globalization and the rise in antiestablishment forces in recent years, however, the G-20 stepped back from an unequivocal commitment to free trade for the first time since its inaugural summit in 2008. Instead, it recognized the need for defensive measures in pursuit of balanced trade.

In another unprecedented move, the group broke from unanimity in its final communiqué, splitting off the U.S. position on climate change from that of the other members.

In the summit’s concluding statement, the G-20 noted “the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks.” But in a nod to concerns of Mr. Trump and other leaders over trade imbalances, the group also said it would “strive to ensure a level playing field.” The phrase seemed to reflect concerns of the U.S. and some European member states over China’s expanding footprint in the global economy.

Securing the support of Mr. Trump, whose “America First” policies pose a potential clash with the international economic order, was the dominant theme among officials as the gathering drew to a close.

“The negotiations on the climate issue reflected dissent—everyone against the United States of America,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who held the rotating G-20 presidency over the last year. “And that the negotiations on the trade issue were especially tough was also a result of the United States taking certain positions.”

In a tweet on Saturday, Mr. Trump wrote: “The #G20Summit was a wonderful success and carried out beautifully by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thank you!”

A European official said the talks demonstrated that a new—and different—international consensus on economic issues could be slowly rebuilt despite the challenges thrown up by Mr. Trump’s positions.

One bellwether will be an international effort to curb the world’s excess capacity of steel, as Mr. Trump considers unilateral measures to protect the U.S. market. On Saturday, the G-20 agreed to outline by November steps to temper the global overcapacity upending local markets.

“All things considered, my impression is that we’re getting back in small steps in many areas to a greater degree of business as usual,” the official said.

Yet some leaders warned the statement won’t close deep divides on trade that have emerged since Mr. Trump’s election.

French President Emmanuel Macron took swipes at Mr. Trump and others during the two-day summit for equating fair trade with avoiding bilateral deficits. Brandishing his smart phone during the session on trade, Mr. Macron said many products consumed in G-20 countries rely on global production chains, according to delegates. Mr. Trump had left the room when the French leader spoke, they said.

“A text does not efface tensions that exist and will continue to exist on this subject for a long time,” Mr. Macron said during a press briefing as the summit concluded, describing the trade approach adopted by the U.S. president as “a profound error.”

The U.S. wasn’t alone in its views on trade, officials said. On some points, such as promoting support for defensive measures against unfair trade, Mr. Trump was joined by other leaders, including the Turkish and EU presidents and Mr. Macron.

For most world leaders, however, one of the summit’s achievements was getting Mr. Trump to back international organizations that underpin global trade.

Ahead of the summit, G-20 officials cited concerns that Mr. Trump would go beyond his decision to scrap a 12-country trans-Pacific trade pact and renegotiate America’s trade agreement with Canada and Mexico to undermine broader platforms such as the World Trade Organization. The White House has launched a review of the WTO, with an eye toward proposing reforms. But in Hamburg the U.S. joined the other G-20 members in reiterating a commitment to safeguard rules-based global trade under the WTO umbrella.

‘Working together isn’t just the best option, it’s the only option.’

—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“Working together isn’t just the best option, it’s the only option. Indeed it’s the only way we can meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the end of the summit.

Leaders overseeing 80% of the global economy also need to address the anxieties of people disenfranchised by globalization, Mr. Trudeau said, adding that the G-20 had heard the concerns of tens of thousands of demonstrators—a small but violent section of whom rioted in Hamburg throughout the summit.

Signaling the difficulties ahead in squaring cooperation with Mr. Trump’s demands, G-20 members wrangled for days to find a joint position on climate change in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s decision to reject the Paris Agreement against global warming.

In the end, they could only split the difference. Germany, a staunch supporter of action against global warming, led the “very difficult” negotiations to reaffirm 19 members’ commitment to the Paris accord while accommodating Mr. Trump’s stance, officials said.

To that end, Mr. Trump’s negotiators were able to insert a line into the communiqué on the U.S. helping other countries “access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently,” according to an EU official.

“The inclusion of this paragraph is the trade-off of having a consensual approach,” the EU official said. “Obviously, to have in the text a reference to these kind of energy sources is not something we like.”

Mr. Macron’s team pushed hard to isolate the U.S. on climate change, a French official said, and safeguard the 2015 accord signed by every country in the world except Syria and Nicaragua. Signatories overwhelmingly rallied behind the deal after Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out.

“We don’t want any contagion,” the French official said.

In a move that could further isolate (sic? UvM) the U.S, Mr. Macron announced a Dec. 12 gathering to mark the second anniversary of the Paris accord, with a focus on financing environmental projects.

While isolated in leaving the climate deal, Mr. Trump wasn’t alone in criticizing its implementation so far. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that despite joining the G-20 communiqué in reaffirming Paris Agreement commitments, Ankara would withhold ratification because financial pledges by Mr. Macron’s predecessor hadn’t yet been delivered.

“Following America’s step, our stance currently is also that this should not pass in parliament,” Mr. Erdogan said, adding that the communiqué papered over unease about the climate pact.

Another sticking point at the annual G-20 gathering was migration. Russia and China blocked an effort by the European Union—supported in principle by the U.S.—to pursue United Nations sanctions against human traffickers, according to EU officials. But G-20 leaders did commit to countering migrant smuggling and human trafficking for the first time in their conclusions, without offering any specifics.

“The reference to countering migrant smugglers and bringing them to justice is a very important step,” another EU official said.

Despite the lack of greater consensus on migration and climate change, the G-20 members did find language suggesting a shared commitment to staving off what many officials had flagged ahead of the summit as a major risk: trade wars.

“International trade and investment are important engines of growth,” the G-20 leaders said. “We will strive to ensure a level playing field, in particular by promoting a favorable environment for trade and investment.”


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

  • Germany, the USA, and Russia in the Changing World – July 7, 2017
  • Russia-Germany-USA in the 2000s–2010s.
  • Fifth Task Force Position Paper Released – A group of prominent Members and Supporters of the Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, including former foreign and defence ministers and senior officials from Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Poland, Germany, Italy and Finland has joined forces to appeal to the leadership of the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area to halt the downward spiral in West-Russia relations and manage its risks better through developing a more stable and sustainable security relationship.
  • Kathy Leach: UK Needs to Look at Wider European Neighborhood
  • Infographics. The statistics of the number of victims in the North Caucasian Federal District regions for a period of 6 years
  • Reasons behind Increased Recourse to Sanctions in the Region


Article by Vladimir Putin published in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt

July 6, 2017


Ahead of my trip to Germany to take part in the Summit of the Group of Twenty, I would like to share some thoughts about cooperation within the G20 framework with the readers of Handelsblatt, one of the most popular and reputable German newspapers.

Over the years of its existence, the Group of Twenty has established itself as an important mechanism for aligning the interests and positions of the world’s leading economies. By taking coordinated action, the G20 contributed to the adoption of necessary measures that not only helped overcome the financial and economic crisis, but also laid the foundation for improving global governance, which has found itself in dire straits for a number of reasons. Importantly, by working together we have been able to find solutions to a number of long-standing issues….(For more see att.)************************************************************************************************************************

Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Deutsche Bank Research: Deutsche Staatsfinanzen: Überschüsse dank Vollbeschäftigung und Nullzins, aber Demografie droht!

Die deutschen Staatsfinanzen stehen derzeit im internationalen Vergleich sehr gut da, dank starker Konjunktur und Nullzinsen. Die günstige Entwicklung der deutschen Staatsfinanzen dürfte kurz- bis mittelfristig aufgrund dynamisch wachsender Staatseinnahmen – und trotz hohem Ausgabenwachstum – andauern. Die Staatsfinanzen profitieren derzeit sehr stark von einer brummenden Wirtschaft, Niedrigzinsen und einer „demografischen Atempause“. Steigende Zinsen und eine alternde Gesellschaft dürften die öffentlichen Finanzen ab Mitte der nächsten Dekade erheblich unter Druck setzen. Doch die langfristigen Risiken für die Staatsfinanzen scheinen im aktuellen Bundestagswahlkampf keine größere Rolle zu spielen.

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

Barandat* In eigener Sache: China – One Belt-One Road.Chinas neue Seidenstraßen. Vortrag bei IHK Schwerin

Confronting Africa’s Water Challenge
Akinwumi Adesina is President of the African Development Bank (AfDB)

JUN 27, 2017 … Owing to the effects of climate change, Africa is experiencing its worst drought since 1945, especially in Southern Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Northern Nigeria …

We need to build resilient systems to ensure access to potable water for all people, and to improve water-delivery and sanitation provisions in Africa’s rapidly growing urban areas. We should begin by expanding Africans’ capacity to harness wastewater. With investment and proper management, wastewater can become a sustainable source of wealth for many Africans …

The AfDB supports an integrated urban water-management model (IUWM) that, in keeping with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, enables communities to derive a sustainable income from management of urban liquid and solid waste …

Only a few African cities collect and treat any more than 20% of the wastewater generated through centralized wastewater-management systems.

The remaining 80% constitutes a huge untapped source of potentially valuable liquid and solid waste. With the right investment, foresight, and commitment, this underappreciated resource can create jobs and deliver sustainable growth …

Wastewater management is thus a central feature of the AfDB’s strategic priorities, known as the High 5s …

In collaboration with the Global Water Partnership, the AWF is implementing IUWM systems in five African cities …

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also tapping into the AfDB’s expertise … Improving the quality of life for all Africans will require political commitment, public-private partnerships, and robust public involvement. With the High 5s framework, the AfDB is working to bring these three ingredients together.

All stakeholders – in Africa and internationally – must redouble our efforts to ensure clean, affordable water for all, and to support African countries suffering through a historic drought. We have a moral obligation to do so. After all, water means life.

DEUTSCH: Die Lösung der Wasserprobleme Afrikas …


Middle East

World Still Knee-Deep in Crude Oil Despite Cuts

Elevated stocks of crude continue to weigh on global oil prices,

and markets are facing the likelihood that elevated crude inventories will persist much longer than expected a few months ago.

In an effort to erode global inventories and support higher prices, 11 OPEC members, along with several non-OPEC nations, in May 2017 extended an agreement to reduce global crude output by as much as 1.8 million barrels per day (mb/d) through March 2018. However, rising output from the U.S, Libya and Nigeria will likely replace most, if not all, of those barrels before the end of 2017. This has led many analysts to conclude that global crude markets will find themselves in surplus again by early next year. (tbc att.)


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Wir teilen die deutschen Prioritäten
Von Wladimir Putin, Präsident der Russischen Föderation

06.07.2017 … Nun muss es darum gehen, den Protektionismus aufzuhalten, neue Modelle des Wirtschaftens zu ermöglichen und ihre negativen Auswirkungen abzufedern … Als Instrument des globalen Krisenmanagements bleibt die G20 auch angesichts zunehmender geopolitischer Risiken und Ungewissheiten effektiv. In vielerlei Hinsicht ist dies dem exklusiven Verantwortungsbewusstsein zu verdanken, das die jeweilige G20-Präsidentschaft im Umgang mit ihren Aufgaben zeigt … bietet eine willkommene Gelegenheit, besonders dringliche Fragen der globalen Tagesordnung zur Sprache zu bringen. Wir teilen die Prioritäten der deutschen Präsidentschaft und sind bereit, an ihrer Umsetzung zu arbeiten … Wir begrüßen die Erweiterung der G20-Agenda. Hiermit meine ich Fragen der nachhaltigen Entwicklung, des Klimawandels, der Terrorismus- und Korruptionsbekämpfung, der Gesundheits-, Migrations- und Flüchtlingspolitik. Äußerst wichtig ist es aus unserer Sicht auch, dass durch das Engagement der vorjährigen chinesischen und der diesjährigen deutschen Präsidentschaft die G20 sich mittlerweile zunehmend der digitalen Wirtschaft als einem der Wachstumstreiber und einem neuen Faktor des globalen Krisenmanagements widmet. Wir stehen vor wahrlich umfangreichen Aufgaben. Frühere Wirtschaftsmodelle sind fast ausgeschöpft. Der Protektionismus entwickelt sich zu einer Verhaltensnorm. Und zu seiner verdeckten Form werden einseitige, politisch motivierte Sanktionsbeschränkungen bei Investitionen, Handel und insbesondere Technologietransfer … Ich bin der Überzeugung, dass nur offene, auf einheitlichen Normen und Standards basierende Handelsverbindungen das Wachstum der globalen Wirtschaft stimulieren und eine fortschreitende Entwicklung zwischenstaatlicher Beziehungen fördern können … Ein neues Thema im G20-Rahmen ist die Informationssicherheit. Konsequent tritt Russland für einen freien Zugang zu Kommunikationstechnologien einschließlich des Internets ein. Große Bedeutung messen wir dem Schutz von Menschenrechten im Informationsraum bei. Wie in jedem anderen Bereich darf dabei die Freiheit im digitalen Raum keinesfalls durch Willkür und Straflosigkeit ersetzt werden. Das führt zum Unwesen der Cyberverbrecher, Hackergruppierungen und all derer, die unter Einsatz von Hochtechnologien sich an der Unantastbarkeit des Privatlebens von Bürgerinnen und Bürgern beziehungsweise der staatlichen Souveränität vergreifen. Russland als eines der ersten Länder, die diese gefährliche Herausforderung erkannten, setzt sich schon seit Jahren für den Abschluss universeller internationaler Uno-Vereinbarungen gegen derartig negative Erscheinungen ein. Wir rechnen hier mit einer positiven, interessierten Reaktion seitens anderer Länder. In die Agenda der G20 sollten auch Fragen der digitalen Kompetenz als ein Schlüsselelement des Verbraucherschutzes im·E-Commerce aufgenommen werden …


Europe’s Mass Migration: The Leaders vs. the Public

by Douglas Murray
July 9, 2017 at 5:00 am

  • "[T]he more generous you are, the more word gets around about this — which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa. Germany cannot possibly take in the huge number of people who are wanting to make their way to Europe." — Bill Gates.
  • The annual survey of EU citizens, recently carried out by Project 28, found a unanimity on the issue of migration almost unequalled across an entire continent. The survey found that 76% of the public across the EU believe that the EU’s handling of the migration crisis of recent years has been "poor". There is not one country in the EU in which the majority of the public differs from that consensus.
  • At the same time as the public has known that what the politicians are doing is unsustainable, there has been a vast effort to control what the European publics have been allowed to say. German Chancellor Angela Merkel went so far as to urge Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to limit posts on social media that were critical of her policies.

Suggested reading / Lesetipp:

Atkam Suliman: “Krieg und Chaos in Nahost – Eine arabische Sicht”

Millionen Menschen auf der Flucht, auch zu uns nach Europa. Blinde Gewalt überall, auch bei uns in Europa. Krieg, Flucht und Terror drohen überhandzunehmen.

Was ist nur zwischen dem Westen und dem Nahen Osten in den letzten Jahren passiert?

Dieses Buch ist ein Aufschrei gegen Befreiungs-,Demokratisierungs-, Präventiv-, Schutz-, Anti-Terror-,Pro-Frühlings-, Welt- und Wie-Auch-Immer-Kriege

in Nahost.

Mit viel Sachverstand, Gefühl und Ironie richtet der ehemalige Al-Dschasira-Korrespondent einen speziellen, arabischen Blick auf die Entwicklungen

der letzten 25 Jahre im Orient. Der Autor zeichnet die unsichtbare Verbindungslinie zwischen dem Islamischen Staat, dem Arabischen Frühling, dem Irakkrieg,

den Angriffen vom 11. September 2001 und dem Zweiten Golfkrieg.

Er versucht das Muster hinter den »Dingen« zu erkennen und nimmt dabei seine Leser mit auf eine spannende analytische, journalistische und biografische Reise.

About the author:



see our letter on:

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



07-09-17 Europe’s Mass Migration_ The Leaders vs. the Public.pdf

07-06-17 Vladimir Putin published intheGerman business newspaper Handelsblatt.pdf

07-06-17 Handelsblatt_Gastbeitrag von Wladimir Putin.pdf

07-11-17 Germany, the USA, and Russia in the Changing World.docx

07-11-17 World Still Knee-Deep in Crude Oil Despite Cuts_DallasFed.pdf

A5 Flyer Aktam Suliman.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 07.07.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • McKinsey: Making it in America
  • Deutsche Bank Research – Sinkendes deutsches Trendwachstum zu wenig im Fokus der Parteien
  • USOil Giants Lobby Against Bill to Toughen Russia Sanctions
  • Nord Stream 2: a test of German Power
  • Bundeswehr und Tradition: Zum Beispiel Richthofen
  • DEBKAfile: Putin and Xi agree on a plan for defusing NKorea missile crisis

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

  • Ischinger/Browne/Nunn/Ivanov: Open Letter to President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin
  • Russia and NATO: A Paradoxical Crisis
  • In the Skies over Syria: Rivalry Instead of Coordinated Actions
  • Breaking the U.S.-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue
  • How is Russia Capitalizing on US-Iran Tensions in Syria?

Massenbach*USOil Giants Lobby Against Bill to Toughen Russia Sanctions

Pushback from energy companies, other industries threatens to complicate House passage of the legislation

Exxon Mobil Corp. and other energy companies have joined President Donald Trump in expressing concerns over a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia, arguing that it could shut down oil and gas projects around the world that involve Russian partners.

The pushback from energy companies such as Exxon and Chevron Corp. —and other industries—threatens to complicate House passage of the legislation, aimed partly at punishing Russia for what U.S. officials describe as interference in last year’s U.S. election. The bill breezed through the Senate last month on a bipartisan, 98-2 vote.

Exxon’s advocacy also presents a potential political problem for the Trump administration, which has been trying to avoid conflict-of-interest questions involving Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the oil giant’s former chief executive. Mr. Tillerson, who has promised to recuse himself from matters involving Exxon, hasn’t explicitly spoken out against the sanctions bill, but last month urged Congress not to take any actions that tie the administration’s hands.

Mr. Trump is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin face-to-face this week for the first time since the election at the G-20 summit of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany. The White House hasn’t ruled out a presidential veto of the sanctions measure, which includes a provision that would make it more difficult for the president to relax existing sanctions against the Kremlin, saying that it could erode Mr. Trump’s ability to conduct diplomacy.

A U.S. special prosecutor and Congress are investigating Russia’s use of cyberattacks in the election and whether there were improper ties between aides to Mr. Trump and Russia’s government. The president has denied any wrongdoing.

As the nation’s top diplomat, Mr. Tillerson has said Russia must be held accountable. A senior State Department official said Monday that “Secretary Tillerson retired from Exxon prior to assuming his position as Secretary of State” and added, “As a general matter, Russian sanctions cover broad areas, including the invasion of Ukraine, and are coordinated with our allies.”

The White House hasn’t ruled out a veto by President Donald Trump of the sanctions measure.

Lobbyists for Exxon and other oil industry players have expressed dismay to lawmakers about several provisions in the legislation, including measures to prohibit partnerships with Russian individuals or companies under sanctions around the world, and to add congressional review of certain sanctions exemptions. Companies also have expressed concern that the bill could force them to disclose information they consider proprietary.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said the company doesn’t have a position on sanctions but has provided legislators with information about how the bill could “disadvantage U.S. companies compared to our non-U.S. counterparts.” A Chevron spokesman declined to comment.

The lobbying by Exxon and other big oil companies is part of a push to preserve potential business relationships with Russia, even as U.S. ties with the Kremlin sink to new lows.

The bill has the potential to scuttle any U.S. business partnership around the world that involves Russian partners. That has prompted concerns not only from energy firms but also banking and industrial companies, according to people familiar with the matter. General Electric Co. is closely watching the legislation over concerns it could disadvantage U.S. companies relative to global peers, one person said.

“This has far-reaching impacts to a variety of companies and industries,” said Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute. “It has the potential to penalize U.S. interests and advantage Russia.”

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the House, after objections raised by some House Republicans, including Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas. A standoff was avoidable, some analysts say.

Leon Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff under former President Bill Clinton and as a cabinet member in the Obama administration, said that Congress and the Trump administration should try to forge a consensus on what sanctions should be applied.

“When it comes to sanctions policy the best course for this country is to have both the Congress and the president in the same place,” Mr. Panetta said. “If it looks like there’s a dispute between the president and Congress it sends a terrible message to our adversaries and our allies.”

For Exxon, the stakes are especially high: The legislation could further dismantle its fragile partnership with Russian oil giant PAO Rosneft, which has been mostly on hold since the U.S. imposed sanctions on the country in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The oil company previously sought a waiver from sanctions, a request the Trump administration rejected in April.

Exxon has moved ahead with an expansion of a project with Rosneft that preceded the current sanctions near Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the country’s Far East. It has produced more than 650 million barrels of oil since 2005 and is one of the largest foreign investments in Russia.

As written, the bill could affect two existing Exxon projects outside of Russia in which Rosneft holds a stake, according to people familiar with the matter. One is a development involving the use of hydraulic fracturing in the Permian basin in New Mexico, and the other is a prospect in Canada’s Alberta province.

The prohibition on Russia partnerships would strike at the heart of efforts by Rosneft to expand outside of Russia. British oil giant BP PLC owns 20% of Rosneft, and the Russian company signed a deal in March with Italian energy company Eni SpA to cooperate globally. Rosneft owns a stake in a massive Eni gas field off Egypt’s shores.

Some U.S. House members have echoed Exxon and industry concerns that the legislation could lead to the release of proprietary information. Mr. Sessions, who represents the Dallas area, said he wants to change provisions that could put U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage.

Mr. Sessions said he is “representing companies in the energy industry that don’t want to be blocked from these deals.”


Nord Stream 2: a test of German Power

Nick Butler, FT

Power in Europe speaks with a German accent. With the UK at the exit door of the EU and France still economically weak Germany is uncomfortably dominant. The latest example of this is the plan for the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline which will bring natural gas from Russia across the Baltic to the North German coast and then onwards to Central and Western Europe.

The question is how Germany will use its power.

13 EU member states have protested against the Nord Stream project, saying it will divert trade and transit revenues away from them and increase European dependence on Russian gas for decades to come. The protesting states want the European Commission to take control of negotiations of the project away from Germany and to set gas trade in the context of the Energy Union – a concept agreed in 2014 but never implemented.

The Energy Union was designed to diversify sources of supply and build pan European infrastructure in the interests of security of supply. Most of the 13 are former members of the Soviet bloc and remain overwhelmingly dependent on Russia for supplies of both gas and electricity provided through grids built in the Comecon era.

In the words of the former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, now Chair of the Industry Committee of the European Parliament, Nord Stream 2 and the Energy Union cannot coexist.

At the same time the US Senate, by a majority of 97 to 2 agreed three weeks ago to impose sanctions on companies involved in funding Russian export pipeline projects – the latest in a series of steps designed to use Russian economic interests as leverage over Kremlin policy on Ukraine.

In Berlin the official line is that Nord Stream 2 is just a straightforward commercial venture in which neither the EU or the US should interfere. The $10bn project not only cements the sensitive relationship between Germany and Russia but also establishes Germany as an entrepot in the European gas market, replacing the declining gas production from the Dutch and British sectors of the North Sea.

Seen from Russia the logic of Nord Stream 2 is clear.

The country remains dependent on oil and gas revenue which provided, even with low prices, almost half of its total export revenues in 2016. With the oil price beyond control, Russia has every incentive to maximise its revenue from gas sales and to maintain its share of the European gas market by whatever means.

From a European perspective the benefits are far less clear.

If built Nord Stream 2 will entrench Russian dominance of the European market. Russia currently supplies 34 per cent of European gas. With Nord Stream 2 that will rise perhaps to more than 40 per cent. The project destroys the concept of diversifying supplies.

There are numerous potential sources of supply, some of which could have provided much needed revenue to Europe’s neighbours across the Mediterranean such as Algeria and Libya where stabilisation through economic development is necessary to halt the flow of refugees.

With Nord Stream 2 in place Russia will be able to divert gas trade away from Ukraine, reducing the country’s income from transit fees and making Ukraine ever more dependent on EU subsidies. Even if a short term offer is made to cushion the impact of Nord Stream 2 on Ukraine, the longer term threat will remain.

Of course, Germany has the power to push aside the objections of the smaller European states. Berlin can impose any decision it wants on Brussels. But to press ahead and force the project through would have consequences.

The latest results from the fascinating Pew study of international opinion show that Germany is regarded as having too much power in Europe already – particularly in Southern Europe where Mrs Merkel is blamed for imposing unending austerity.

In Germany itself Nord Stream 2 is seen as the creation of the Social Democratic party – and in particular the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who just happens to be the chairman of the project. Mrs Merkel would lose little by allowing the project to stall and would win respect in the serious parts of the US administration and Congress who are looking for support against Russian behaviour in Ukraine and Syria and alleged Russian interference in the US election.

A political solution would be to allow Nord Stream 2 to fall into the hands of the European Commission lawyers who could find good reasons for not proceeding – many of them set out in some excellent recent articles by Professor Alan Riley.

The gas would not be missed.

Indigenous supplies are certainly declining but demand for gas is also falling – 12.5% down across the EU over the last decade according to the latest BP Statistical Review. Surging renewable supplies could push gas demand down further in the future. With a global gas glut European importers could sign long term deals with suppliers from around the world.

Nord Stream 2 is anything but a simple commercial project. What happens next matters for Russia and for the US. But most significant of all is what is what the decision on Nord Stream 2 will tell us about how Germany intends to handle its economic and political dominance of Europe.

About: Nord Stream 2:


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

  • Ischinger/Browne/Nunn/Ivanov: Open Letter to President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin
  • Russia and NATO: A Paradoxical Crisis
  • In the Skies over Syria: Rivalry Instead of Coordinated Actions
  • Breaking the U.S.-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue
  • How is Russia Capitalizing on US-Iran Tensions in Syria?


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* McKinsey:Making it in America

The United States needs to regain its competitive edge in manufacturing while also grappling with its two-tiered labor market and finding ways to make economic growth more inclusive.

The United States always assumed that its forward momentum would carry the next generation toward greater prosperity, just as it took for granted that its technical prowess in manufacturing would guarantee its global market share. But now those assumptions have been upended. Although unemployment is down and wages are finally ticking up again, these indicators can distract from the bigger picture. Tens of millions of workers are struggling to make it in America, and even a full-time job does not guarantee a decent standard of living.

Manufacturing is not the only sector with poor wage growth, nor is it the largest. But it was once the backbone of the middle class, and its erosion is symptomatic of broader shifts in the economy.

Part 1 of this research preview looks at how this unfolded and outlines how the sector could exploit changes in technology and value chains to compete for new market opportunities.

Part 2 traces what has happened to wages across the economy more broadly and considers what caused these pressures.

Finally, Part 3 starts a conversation about solutions that can lead to more inclusive growth.

  • The United States is increasingly a two-tiered economy, with millions of workers struggling to get by
  • US manufacturing needs to regain its competitive edge and retool for the 21st century
  • Where do we go from here?

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

Barandat* Deutsche Bank Research – Sinkendes deutsches Trendwachstum zu wenig im Fokus der Parteien

In vielen entwickelten Industrienationen hat sich das Trendwachstum seit Mitte der 70er Jahre deutlich abgeschwächt – so auch in Deutschland.

Gegenwärtig überstahlt die dynamische Konjunktur diese schleichende Wachstumsschwäche. In diesem Zusammenhang ist der demografische Wandel für die deutsche Volkswirtschaft von besonderer Bedeutung. Er wird die Entwicklung des Erwerbspersonenpotentials, des Kapitalstocks und des technischen Wissens dämpfen. Bis 2025 dürfte sich das deutsche Trendwachstum somit nochmals halbieren auf dann nur noch 3/4 %. Daher sind die politischen Entscheidungsträger mehr denn je gefordert, dieser tiefgreifenden Entwicklung Rechnung zu tragen. Die Wahlprogramme und das bisherige Handeln der etablierten Parteien zeigen zu diesem zentralen Thema erwartungsgemäß unterschiedliche Positionen.


Middle East

The Qatar Crisis

· Adam Hanieh

The Saudi Arabia–UAE battle against Qatar is a struggle for regional power with no heroes to cheer for.

The June 5 decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt to suspend diplomatic ties with Qatar has sent shockwaves through the Middle East.

The ensuing blockade shut down much of the Gulf’s maritime and land trade with Qatar, provoking fears that the tiny state would soon face food shortages. Major air carriers, including Emirates, Gulf Air, flydubai, and Etihad Airways, canceled flights, and Qatari citizens living in the participating nations had just two weeks to return home. Even immigrants with Qatari residency permits would be caught up in the expulsion.

The UAE outlawed any expression of sympathy for Qatar — including on Twitter — and threatened offenders with jail terms of up to fifteen years.

Governments closely linked to Saudi Arabia and the UAE quickly expressed support for the blockade, including the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in Libya (one of the country’s warring governmental factions), the Saudi-backed Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi government in Yemen, as well as the Comoros, Mauritania, and the Maldives.

The move against Qatar came after months of bad press in American and Gulf media, in which state officials repeatedly claimed that Qatar was financing Islamist groups and growing closer to Iran.

Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the United States, played a major role in this campaign. Since the beginning of the 2010 Arab uprisings, Otaiba has roamed Washington’s corridors of power, warning that these popular revolts threaten the region’s established order and claiming that Qatar supports movements and individuals hostile to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Former American government officials and think tanks — notably the neoconservative, pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a prominent supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq — have taken up this anti-Qatari crusade. On May 23, the FDD convened a high-profile seminar to discuss the Gulf nation’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and how the Trump administration should respond. There, former secretary of defense Robert Gates called on the American government to relocate its massive airbase in Qatar unless the country cut ties with such groups.

According to emails released shortly after the conference, Otaiba supposedly reviewed and encouraged Gates’s comments. Indeed, this leak reportedly helped trigger the blockade, revealing the ambassador’s cozy relationship with Gates, the FDD, and other figures close to the Trump administration.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also claimed that Qatar has sought to strengthen ties to Iran over the past months. One piece of evidence offered for this is the claim that Qatar recently paid $700 million to Iran in order to secure the release of twenty-six Qatari royals who had been kidnapped in Iraq in 2015, and had been held in Iran for a year and a half. This story — which also allegedly involved a separate payment of up to $300 million to Al Qaeda-aligned groups in Syria — was denied by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who stated on June 11 that the money remains in the Iraqi central bank.

For its part, Saudi Arabia decried a statement attributed to Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, which appeared on the state-owned Qatar News Agency. During a graduation speech for national guard officers at the Al Udeid base, Al Thani purportedly praised Iran and criticized the Gulf states that see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Qatar explained that the website had been hacked — an assertion the FBI later supported — and that Al Thani had made no such statements.

Amid all these claims and counter-claims, some observers argue that Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20 represented a key moment in the campaign against Qatar, alleging that Trump gave Saudi Arabia and the UAE the green light. Indeed, one of his characteristically eloquent tweets seems to confirm this, as the president bragged that the blockade came out of his meetings in Riyadh.

Not everyone in Washington, however, fully supports Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Other officials — notably Rex Tillerson — are calling for an easing of the blockade and a peaceful solution. The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, also weighed in, calling for an end to the conflict while also stating that Qatar “urgently needs to do more to address support for extremist groups.”

Internecine squabbling is nothing new for the Gulf’s fractious ruling families, but the decision to isolate Qatar marks a significant escalation. How should we understand the blockade in the context of wider developments in the Middle East, particularly in the wake of the Arab uprisings? Do these events mark an irreconcilable schism in Gulf politics or a fundamental shift in the historic patterns of American alliances in the region?

Shared Interests and Rivalries

We cannot understand the current conflict without analyzing the wider regional integration project, embodied in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman established this organization two years after the 1979 Iranian revolution and at the beginning of the war between Iraq and Iran that would last until 1988.

At the time, the GCC was widely seen as an American-backed response to these regional upheavals, designed to establish a security umbrella across the six member states, which the United States would encourage, equip, and oversee.

Not only do these states have rich oil and gas resources — the ultimate explanation for the United States’ interest in such an alliance — but they also share similar structures, marked by authoritarian ruling families and a labor force that primarily consists of largely rightless temporary migrant workers — a feature often forgotten in the flurry of media discussion about the Gulf over the past few weeks. The GCC’s integration project reflected these states’ collective interests, which are uniquely aligned with Western powers.

The relationship between the United States, other Western powers, and the GCC has strengthened considerably since 1981, as Qatar’s Al Udeid air base demonstrates.

Now over fourteen years old, Al Udeid hosts over ten thousand American troops and is the United States’ largest overseas airbase. As the forward headquarters of Special Operations Central Command and Air Forces Central Command, Qatar helps coordinate the United States’ military footprint throughout the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States also runs its principal naval base from Bahrain, home to the Naval Forces Central Command and Fifth Fleet. More than twenty thousand American military personnel are stationed throughout the rest of the Gulf.

The sale of military equipment to the Gulf by the United States and European nations, particularly the United Kingdom and France, is closely linked to this military presence. Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia put this aspect of the US-Saudi relationship on display: the dealmaker-in-chief reportedly signed contracts for more than one hundred billion dollars. (The precise values remain disputed, as they are largely based on letters of intent and include deals agreed upon with the Obama administration.)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms and Military Expenditure Program, nearly 20% of world military imports went to GCC nations in 2015; Saudi Arabia and the UAE ranked first and fifth. Saudi Arabia and the UAE accounted for 80% of all GCC military imports that year, but Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman also appear on the list of the world’s top forty importing countries. The GCC’s share of the global market has more than doubled since 2011, and it has become the largest market for weapons in the world.

These purchases recycle a portion of the Gulf’s petrodollar surpluses to the companies that produce the world’s military hardware. The GCC not only hosts American forces, but it also pays handsomely for the privilege.

The Gulf’s Political Economy

But the significance of the GCC project extends beyond protecting an exclusive club of oil-rich monarchies and maintaining the region’s role as forward headquarters for American military power in the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Africa.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the institutional framework laid down by the GCC encouraged the six member states to devise a much closer political and economic alignment, an arrangement often compared to the European Union. The last two decades have seen considerable progress toward this goal: increased levels of pan-GCC capital flows, a move toward standardized taxes and tariffs for imported goods, policies that encourage the free movement of citizen labor, and more unified political institutions. A common currency, the khaleeji, was even proposed.

This regional integration process supports the specific form of capitalism GCC states share. The large Gulf conglomerates (both state and privately owned) that dominate the Gulf’s political economy operate across Gulf borders, and — similar to the European Union — are also marked by a pronounced interpenetration of capital ownership structures across different Gulf states.

Importantly, however — and this helps us understand the latest conflicts in the region — this integration project did not extinguish the members’ rivalries or competitive tensions. A sharp hierarchy of political and economic power has marked the GCC since its inception, with the main pivot revolving around a Saudi-UAE axis.

These two countries have become the primary sites of capital accumulation, and firms from Saudi Arabia and the UAE dominate the GCC economy in the real estate, finance, trade, logistics, telecommunications, petrochemicals, and manufacturing sectors. There are also significant cross-border investments between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This axis is not without its own tension — reflected, for example, in the Emirati rejection of the Saudi-backed unified currency project in 2009 — but their political alignment has developed alongside their economic ties.

Bahrain is closely integrated into this axis as a junior partner. Its ruling Al Khalifa monarchy depends on Saudi financial, political, and military support, as the 2011 uprisings clearly demonstrated.

This sub-alliance influences how other GCC states relate to the rest of the world, a feature clearly illustrated by the region’s trade patterns. Due to relatively low levels of non-hydrocarbon manufacturing and small agricultural sectors, the GCC relies heavily on imports. The Saudi-UAE axis mediates these shipments: they bring goods in, then re-export them to other states, sometimes after value-added processing.

Food imports are of particular importance. The four other GCC states import more food from Saudi Arabia and the UAE combined than from any other country in the world. In 2015, Saudi Arabia and the UAE each ranked as either the first or second food exporter to every one of the other GCC states.

Remarkably — particularly since these figures include major wheat and meat exporters, including the United States, India, Brazil, and Australia — Saudi Arabia and the UAE were responsible for 53% of the total food export value to Oman, 36% to Qatar, 34% to Bahrain, and 24% to Kuwait.

These trends not only underscore the importance of placing the Saudi-UAE axis at the center of our understanding of the rest of the Gulf, but they also help explain the potential effects of the current blockade.

The Regional Scale

Dominated by this Saudi–UAE axis, the other smaller states have played a more marginal role in the Gulf’s political economy. With a tiny citizen population (only 313,000 citizens out of a total population of 2.6 million, an astonishing 12% of the country) and enormous wealth from its vast natural gas reserves, Qatar has particularly chafed at this hierarchical structure.

On a per capita basis, it is the richest country in the world — with 17.5% of its citizen households worth more than one million dollars — yet it has largely been denied a place in the GCC’s wider political and economic structures, muscled out by its bigger neighbors.

Limited by the size of their domestic markets and flush with surplus capital from nearly fifteen years of rising oil and gas prices, a key consequence of these internal competitive hierarchies has been the attempt by all Gulf states to grow beyond the GCC’s borders. Large private and state-backed conglomerates have expanded their operations globally, investing in real estate, financial institutions, emerging technologies, agribusiness, and other sectors. While all GCC states have participated in this process, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar have led the way.

Although Gulf capital flows have largely concentrated on North America and Europe, the Middle East has also become an important target. As Arab states opened their markets and liberalized key economic sectors — a process led by the World Bank’s neoliberal poster child, Mubarak’s Egypt — Gulf capital took a leading role throughout the 2000s in buying up privatized assets (often through corrupt deals with state elites) and benefitting from the market opening that followed in the wake of neoliberal reform.

From 2003 to 2015, GCC states accounted for a remarkable 42.5% of total new foreign direct investment (FDI) in other Arab nations. In this period, around half of all foreign investments in Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, and Tunisia came from the Gulf. Further, from 2010 to 2015, European, Gulf, and North American investors spent just over twenty billion euros on mergers and acquisitions in the Arab World. The GCC share made up almost half, at 44.7%.

As stunning as these figures are, they actually understate the level of internationalization. They do not include, for example, the considerable levels of bilateral aid from the Gulf, nor do they necessarily incorporate Gulf firms’ portfolio investments in regional stock markets.

As this process unfolded, the GCC’s political role became increasingly prominent. The Gulf not only drove the construction of a regional order marked by authoritarian states and liberalized economies, but also benefited from it. All of this occurred under the auspices of Western powers and international financial institutions.

As this process drew the GCC states closer together, it also intensified their rivalries. One of the most important manifestations of this tension came when Qatar attempted to adopt an autonomous regional policy, relatively independent of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar began sponsoring different political forces — the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Taliban — and hosting a variety of exiled dissidents — the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who hosts popular television shows on Qatari channels, and the Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bishara. Qatar also used its extensive media network to promote itself as a regional force, notably through Al Jazeera and its affiliates and, more recently, the daily newspaper and TV channel Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, launched in early 2015.

The Arab uprisings that began in Tunisia in late 2010 accentuated these divisions, but they also emphasized the Gulf’s shared interests. By profoundly threatening the regional order and its authoritarian regimes, the uprisings presented the GCC states with a sharp challenge: how to head off the popular movements and reconstitute the authoritarian, neoliberal order? Each state had a common interest in this counterrevolutionary process, but their responses differed along the lines described above.

Qatar supported forces allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE looked toward people like Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and former CIA asset Khalifa Haftar in Libya. A contradictory and rapidly changing constellation of alliances formed around the GCC’s common interests and their internal rivalries.

Qatar supported the Saudi-led intervention in Bahrain, participated in the war against Yemen, and, in Syria, opposed its supposed new ally, Iran. In Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Palestine, however, Qatar tended to back rival factions. The lines blur even in these cases: Qatar expressed support for Sisi following the 2013 coup, despite its clear alliance with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

These diverging alliances also extend to other participants in the current blockade; Sisi’s Egypt, for example, supports the Assad regime in Syria, lining up with Iran but against Saudi Arabia, despite its almost complete dependence on the Saudi–UAE axis.

The key point, often overlooked in the media commentary on the blockade, is that there are no principled political positions involved in these alliances — this is about calculated expediency and a pragmatic assessment by each state of how best to further their regional influence, always within the framework of reordering the region in a way amenable to their collective political and economic power.

We need to keep both these tendencies in mind when we assess the current situation. A strong unanimity of interests underpins the Gulf states’ position on top of the regional order, a situation fully supported by — and in full support of — Western powers. Simultaneously, the GCC is split by rivalries and competition, reflected in the members’ different visions of how to maintain their shared interests.

The Question of Israel

In the wake of the Arab uprisings, we are now seeing an assertion of both of these tendencies. Specifically, the current blockade is a play by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to fully assert their hegemony over the region and to put Qatar back in its place.

But this is not just about Saudi Arabia and the UAE; it fundamentally expresses a general counterrevolutionary process that has been present since the beginning of the uprisings — restoring the status quo of authoritarian neoliberal states that has served the interests of the GCC as a whole (including Qatar) for several decades. All of this must also be seen through the lens of the Gulf’s continued and ever-strengthening alliance with the US and other Western powers.

Within this process, the place of Israel plays a key role. Since the 1990s, American regional policy has sought to bring the GCC and Israel closer together, normalizing economic and political relations between the two pillars of US power in the region. Since the Arab uprising, this rapprochement has appeared more and more likely.

It is no accident that Trump’s first international trip had him visit Saudi Arabia and then Israel (flying directly between the two), a travel schedule that perfectly illustrates the United States’ strategic priorities in the region. Despite the Arab League’s long-standing boycott of relations with Israel, the Gulf region (particularly the Saudi–UAE axis) and Israel agree on key political questions, and both sides are actively seeking to build closer ties.

In late March 2017, Haaretz reported that the UAE and Israel participated in joint military exercises in Greece alongside the United States and several European countries. This was not their first collaboration: a year earlier, Israel, the UAE, Spain, and Pakistan participated in Red Flag, an aerial combat training exercise that took place in Nevada.

In late November 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic office in the UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi, as part of the International Renewable Energy Agency — the first time an official Israeli diplomatic presence appeared in that country. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in February 2017 that the office could act as an embassy for Israel’s expanding ties in the Gulf.

Israeli security firms have reportedly set up more than $6 billion worth of security infrastructure in the UAE; this comes after Israel sold an estimated $300 million worth of military technology to the Gulf nation in 2011.

Israeli high-tech military and security firms are also active in Saudi Arabia, where they are purportedly helping Saudi Aramco set up cyber-security, selling advanced missile systems, and even conducting public opinion research for the royal family. Israeli media has stated that the country has offered the Saudis its Iron Dome military technology to defend against attacks from Yemen.

These once-clandestine relationships are now being spoken about openly. The Times of Israel reported in June 2015 that Saudi Arabia and Israel had held five secret meetings since early 2014. In May 2015, then-director general of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, Dore Gold, appeared publicly with retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki. The next year, Eshki visited Israel to meet with the former spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces and current coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Israel supports the blockade against Qatar. But that doesn’t mean Qatar hasn’t also tried to normalize its relations with Israel. Like the other GCC states, Qatar’s involvement in Palestine has been designed to guarantee itself a better seat at the table — a goal the Israelis have happily supported when it serves their interests.

In 1996, Qatar permitted Israel to open a trade office in Doha, making it the only Gulf state to maintain official relations with Israel at that time. Although the office closed following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2008, Qatar has repeatedly offered to re-establish ties in return for being allowed to supply financial and material aid to Gaza. An Israeli trade delegation that visited Qatar in 2013 reportedly learned that Qatar was interested in investing in the Israeli high-tech sector.

Qatar is the only GCC state that admits Israeli visitors and has allowed Israeli athletes to participate in sporting and cultural events. In 2013, Qatar chaired the Arab League meeting that changed the 2002 peace initiative to allow Israel to keep its settlement blocs in any final agreement. Tzipi Livni, the Israeli justice minister, described the development as “very positive.” And in early February 2017, Muhammad al-Imadi, head of Doha’s national committee for the reconstruction of Gaza, claimed that “he maintains excellent ties” with Israeli political and military officials.

All of these trends indicate that none of the Gulf states — including Qatar — should be viewed in any way as a reliable ally or friend of the Palestinian struggle. But the current tensions in the Gulf also hold potentially important implications for political power in Palestine.

Mohammed Dahlan’s increasing political influence speaks to this possibility. Dahlan, a Fatah factional leader some believe will replace Abu Mazen (the current head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority), lives in Abu Dhabi, and the UAE has long supported him politically and financially. He has close ties to Israel and the United States and has become their preferred candidate to succeed the octogenarian Mazen.

Although rivalries within Fatah may cut Dahlan’s rise short, his growing importance points to how the current tensions in the Gulf might realign the power balance in neighboring areas.

Future Directions

Not all GCC states or regional actors support the current blockade. At the time of writing, Oman has allowed Qatar-bound ships to use its ports, and Kuwait has been engaged in frantic diplomatic efforts to calm the tensions. Only Bahrain has stood fully behind Saudi Arabia and the UAE, largely thanks to the Al Khalifa monarchy’s long-standing dependence on Saudi Arabia.

Turkey has offered to send troops to a Turkish military base in Qatar, and Iran has pledged to send food and water to overcome the closure of Qatar’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s attempts to recruit other countries with large Muslim populations — such as Senegal, Niger, Djibouti, and Indonesia — have largely failed. Arab countries like Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia have also rejected the blockade.

In light of these disputes, we should remember what the GCC represents as a whole. This bloc of states is fully integrated into a US-aligned regional power structure, has massively benefited from neoliberal reforms in the Arab world, and has become more and more intertwined with the region’s political dynamics.

These states share an interest in preserving their regional position and their long-standing political structures. These commitments outweigh the potential benefits of fracturing the project. Likewise, the West and Israel want to see the GCC hold together, as it has served their interests so well over recent decades.

Despite the current schisms, some kind of negotiated solution that sees Qatar defer to the Saudi–UAE axis and accept diminished regional influence is the most likely outcome.

This settlement would ultimately strengthen the Saudi–UAE axis and help consolidate the counterrevolution; it would also likely precipitate a realignment of political power in places like Tunisia, Libya, and Palestine.

But the Left must realize that none of Qatar’s putative allies — specifically Turkey and Iran — represent a progressive alternative for the region. While they may be lined up against the Saudi–UAE front in this context, these states have participated in the post-2011 counterrevolutionary process just as enthusiastically as their rivals.

Perhaps the most important lesson of the current crisis is that we must avoid simplistic readings of the Middle East, especially those based on the notion that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

It would be utterly foolish to consider Qatar, Turkey, or Iran as representative of some progressive realignment just because they happen to be — at least for the moment — on the wrong side of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel. Jostling for regional power sparked these tensions and produced all sorts of contradictory and shaky political alliances, but none of the states involved represent any kind of political alternative worthy of the Left’s support.

About the Author

Adam Hanieh is a senior lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and the author of Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Bundeswehr und Tradition: Zum Beispiel Richthofen

„..wir (sind) eben nicht einfach nur eine Firma in Konkurrenz zu anderen. Die Verteidigung unseres Landes ist kein Job wie jeder andere. Ich kenne beispielsweise keine Firmen, die von ihren Mitarbeitern per Eid erwarten, dass diese bereit sind im Extremfall ihr Leben für die Sicherung der Firmenphilosophie zu geben. Oder zum Schutz anderer Mitarbeiter. Und besser noch besonders zum Schutz der Geschäftsführung. Darüber hinaus sind wir in einem weiteren Aspekt absolut nicht vergleichbar, den man sich in einer öffentlichen oder politischen Debatte auch nicht wirklich traut anzusprechen. Von uns Soldaten wird erwartet, dass wir höchst professionell in der Verteidigung unserer Gesellschaft sind und im Extremfall bereit sein müssen dafür auch andere Menschen zu töten….“

T.Wiegold 03. Juli 2017 ·

Eigentlich hatte ich gehofft, die Debatte über die Bundeswehr und ihre Traditionspflege käme – nach zig Einträgen und Tausenden von Kommentaren allein hier im Blog – langsam ein wenig zur Ruhe. Dennoch scheint ein weiterer Eintrag nötig: Die Rede, die der stellvertretende Kommodore des Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwaders 71 Richthofen, Oberstleutnant Gero Finke, am vergangenen Wochenende beim Richthofentreffen in Wittmund gehalten hat, dürfte die Diskussion erneut anfachen.

Finkes Rede wurde bereits von der Lokalpresse aufgegriffen, und damit ist es ohnehin nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis sie weitere Kreise zieht. Deshalb dokumentiere ich sie hier (weitgehend) im Wortlaut:

Traditionen pflegen wir auch mit diesem alljährlichen Richthofentreffen.

Unser Namensgeber, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, starb am 21. April 1918. Ein Jahr zuvor – am 26. Juni 1917 – gründete er das erste Deutsche Jagdgeschwader, das folgerichtig den Namen JG 1 erhielt. Mit der Einsatztaktik, mehrere Jagdstaffeln zu einem großen Verband, sprich einem Geschwader, zusammenzuführen, um lokal schnell eine deutliche Luftüberlegenheit herzustellen, schlug Richthofen wie häufig zuvor neue und zukunftsweisende Wege ein, die sich bis heute in den Organisationsstrukturen aller Luftwaffen so weltweit wiederfinden.
Die Traditionsgemeinschaft Richthofen zusammen mit mir hat daher dieses fast genau auf den heutigen Tag 100jährige Jubiläum zum Anlass genommen, es als Motto unseres heutigen Richthofentreffens zu wählen. Darum steht auf der Einladungskarte, die Sie vor einigen Monaten erhalten haben: „100 Jahre vom JG 1 zum Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwader 71 Richthofen.“
Was einige Wochen nach dem Versand der Einladungen dann folgte, konnte ich nicht vorhersehen und es machte mich sprachlos.

Die Vorgänge um einen rechtsradikalen Oberleutnant A. waren aufgedeckt worden und beschäftigen seitdem die Bundeswehr und die Öffentlichkeit im Allgemeinen. Seitdem steht das Thema Traditionen in der Bundeswehr und der Umgang mit ihnen im Focus. Es ist folglich für uns in der Truppe ein stark beherrschendes Thema. Daher ist es mir nicht nur ein persönliches Anliegen, zu diesem Themenkomplex im Rahmen dieses ausgesprochen traditionsbewussten Richthofentreffens ein paar Worte zu sagen.

Nein, zeitgleich mit der kurzfristigst befohlenen bundeswehrweiten Suche nach Wehrmachtsdevotionalien im Rahmen der Aufarbeitung der Vorgänge um Oberleutnant A. bekam ich einen Brief vom Kommandierenden General der Luftwaffe.

Ich zitiere auszugsweise:
„In Ihrer Einladung stellen Sie die diesjährige Veranstaltung auch unter das Motto „100 Jahre vom Jagdgeschwader 1 zum Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwader 71 Richthofen“. Durch diesen missverständlichen Titel wird eine direkte Verbindung des Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwader 71 Richthofen zu den ehemaligen Richthofen-Geschwadern der Kaiserzeit sowie des Dritten Reiches hergestellt und damit eine ungebrochene Traditionslinie unserer Luftwaffe zur Wehrmacht impliziert.
Dies widerspricht dem Traditionsverständnis der Bundeswehr und damit auch der Luftwaffe. Ich weise Sie an, während der Veranstaltung das gewählte Motto in Bezug auf das vorgenannte Traditionsverständnis richtigzustellen und keinen Zweifel an der kritischen Auseinandersetzung der Luftwaffe mit der Geschichte zu belassen. Ich erwarte diesbezüglich eine eindeutige Klarstellung.“
Zitat Ende
Ich frage mich nun: Wie konnte das passieren? Was hat dazu geführt, dass es eine solche Anweisung geben muss? Wieso stehen ich, die Traditionsgemeinschaft Richthofen und möglicherweise das Geschwader insgesamt in einem Verdacht, die Gräueltaten eines menschenverachtenden, mörderischen Regimes eventuell zu befürworten oder wertzuschätzen? Wieso müssen wir uns von etwas distanzieren, neben dem wir selbstverständlich niemals gestanden haben? ( for more see att.)


Putin and Xi agree on a plan for defusing NKorea missile crisis

DEBKAfile July 4, 2017, 7:07 PM (IDT)

In a joint statement after Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Moscow Tuesday, their two foreign ministries laid out a joint plan for North Korea to declare a “moratorium on testing nuclear devices and ballistic missiles,” while the US and South Korea would “refrain from large-scale joint maneuvers.” Hinting at the US, both spoke against the “non-regional powers’” military presence in Northeast Asia “and its buildup under the pretext of countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.” They specifically opposed US missile defense systems in the region (THAAD) as “seriously damaging the strategic security interests of regional powers, including Russia and China.



see our letter on:

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



07-03-17 Bundeswehr und Tradition_ Zum Beispiel Richthofen _ Augen geradeaus.pdf

07-04-17 Ischinger_Nunn_Ivanov_Open Letter to Trump & Putin.docx

07-03-17 Sinkendes deutsches Trendwachstum zu wenig im Fokus der Parteien_PROD0446219.pdf

06-29-17 Making it in America _ McKinsey & Company.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 30.6.17

Massenbach-Letter. News Kardinal Marx zur Debatte um die „Ehe für alle

– Pressemitteilungen der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz

  • US committed to Europe force extension through 2020, Mattis says
  • Russia’s Engagement with the Taliban
  • Radio Vatican: Nuntius Zenari: „Mit 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst"
  • CTC Perspectives: The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban
  • RPT-China pumps cash into African floating LNG projects in strategic push
  • US Democrats face identity crisis

Massenbach*US Democrats face identity crisis

Democrats are grappling with how to keep their progressive base happy while winning over white working-class voters who left the party in the 2016 elections.

Defections by blue-collar voters cost Democrat Hillary the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which went to President Trump. It was the first time since 1988 that a GOP presidential candidate had won Michigan or Pennsylvania, and the first time since 1984 in Wisconsin.

The fallout has created an identity crisis for a Democratic Party seeking to find its way forward in the post-Obama era.

A string of House special election losses culminating in Democrat Jon Ossoff’s disappointing defeat in Georgia last week has only intensified the scrutiny and second-guessing of Democratic strategy, to say nothing of the hand-wringing by party activists craving a victory.

“I’m not convinced we know what the best thing is for the party right now,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley. “I’m not convinced we have the answers.”

Democrats trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong are focused on how they’ve seemingly lost a significant part of the Democratic base all while failing to turn out enough progressives.

There are different views about what to do across the party, with some questioning whether the white working-class voters can be won back by a party that seems to be tilting leftward with the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other liberal voices.

“I’ve spoken to some folks who think we have to only choose one or the other,” said one former senior aide to President Barack Obama. “And after this election cycle, I think there are some who believe there may be some truth to that.”

A lot depends on whether the party can find the right candidate with the right message, particularly in 2020.

“Democrats need a reason for showing up. Give them a reason to believe, and we won’t be having this discussion,” the former Obama aide said.

Democrats say there is a way to appeal to both progressives and white working-class voters.

“Everybody is being too simplistic,” Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said. “Voters are much more complex.”

Simmons said it’s not a matter of choosing to talk about police violence and climate change or the minimum wage and creating jobs.

Progressives, he said, want Democrats to talk about all of that.

They “want politicians to say something about Black Lives Matter and equality — they also want to know how they’re going to get their kids through college, pay off their house and get a better job,” he said. “The thing that’s most frustrating to me is this either-or dichotomy.”

Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 show Democrats can win over both groups, say some Democrats.

“This crisis is Democrats not realizing their own strengths, or being scared of articulating their core principles, rather than a crisis of having no agenda,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

He said a focus on economics, climate change and being anti-Trump would animate the party.

“These are the places that 2018 candidates need to focus on, because they are ways to distinguish themselves from the GOP and its agenda,” he added. “Then they should continue to use Trump as a unifying theme. Often experts downplay this, but Republicans were very effective at using Obama that way.”

In recent days, particularly since the Ossoff loss, Democrats have been doing a lot of finger-pointing.

There’s been a movement to stop blaming the 2016 presidential election loss on Russia. And there have been calls to cut ties with current Democratic leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Some of those calls, within the House, come from lawmakers such as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is worried about losing the white working class.

On the other end of the spectrum, some say Sanders’s bashing of Democrats has only deepened wounds.

“A lot of people are sick of it,” said Manley, a former adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “The mainstream part of the party has had it up to here with what he’s been saying.”

Some Democrats are seeking to build a bridge between the two groups.

In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the party will unveil a “strong, bold, sharp-edged and commonsense economic agenda” in the coming weeks.

Addressing both wings of his party, he added, “I’m talking to Bernie Sanders. I’m talking to Joe Manchin. This is going to be really something that Democrats can be proud of, and I’m excited about it.”

Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, is among the most centrist members of Schumer’s conference.

Michael Tyler, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats will look to expand their support across the party.

He acknowledged in an email to The Hill that in order to win elections, Democrats “have to focus on broadening and turning out our base and on reaching out to Americans who cast ballots for Donald Trump or didn’t vote at all.”

Tyler said Democrats are in the process of rebuilding a party “from an organization whose mission was solely to elect the president of the United States to one that organizes to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, from school board to Senate.”

But it may not be as easy as that, some strategists say.

Asked how the party rebounds and lures both working-class and progressive Democrats, Manley admitted: “I don’t have the faintest idea in this point in time. I’m still trying to digest what happened.”


Pressemitteilungen der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz


Kardinal Marx zur Debatte um die „Ehe für alle“

Zur aktuell in der Öffentlichkeit geführten Debatte um die Einführung der „Ehe für alle“ erklärt der Vorsitzende der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, Kardinal Reinhard Marx:

„Die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz betont, dass die Ehe – nicht nur aus christlicher Überzeugung – die Lebens- und Liebesgemeinschaft von Frau und Mann als prinzipiell lebenslange Verbindung mit der grundsätzlichen Offenheit für die Weitergabe von Leben ist.

Wir sind der Auffassung, dass der Staat auch weiterhin die Ehe in dieser Form schützen und fördern muss.

Wir bedauern, wenn dieser Ehebegriff aufgelöst werden soll und damit die christliche Auffassung von Ehe und das staatliche Konzept weiter auseinandergehen. Es ist auch wegen der von vielen Seiten geäußerten erheblichen verfassungsrechtlichen Bedenken völlig unangemessen, eine solche gesellschaftspolitische Grundentscheidung in diesem überstürzten Verfahren zu fällen.

Die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz hat in ihren Stellungnahmen zum Lebenspartnerschaftsrecht betont, dass es ein Missverständnis wäre, die hervorgehobene Rechtsstellung der Ehe und ihren bleibenden besonderen Schutz als Diskriminierung homosexuell veranlagter Männer und Frauen zu verstehen.“


Russia’s Engagement with the Taliban

June 21, 2017. In December 2015, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that Russia was engaging in intelligence sharing with the Taliban to counter the growing presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan … caught the world by surprise.

2016 saw a sudden increase in the Taliban’s offensive attacks and its establishment of control over more territory than during the past decade and a half.

Subsequently, in April 2017, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, accused Russia of providing weapons to the Taliban … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov termed the allegations ‘unprofessional and groundless’ and charged that it was an attempt to ‘put the blame for Washington’s failures in Afghanistan [on Russia]’. Russia, in turn, accused the US of supporting Islamic State operatives in Afghanistan. Even earlier, in 2016, the head of the Asia and West Asian department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov, had stated, ‘It is some miracle that Taliban leaders who wouldn’t cooperate with Islamic State in Afghanistan tend to be hit by American airstrikes.

And those who do are being left alone’. While these accusations and counter-accusations reflect Cold-War rhetoric, it is important to understand why Russia has begun to engage with the Taliban and what its aims in Afghanistan are in the foreseeable future.

Even though Russia’s links with the Taliban are purported to have begun around 2007, renewed attention was focused on such links from 2014 onwards after the West, led by the US, imposed sanctions on Russia in the wake of Crimea voting to become a part of Russia …

The open declaration of Russian assistance to the Taliban can be read as an effort to gain a bargaining position vis-à-vis Washington to extract concessions on the Crimean issue …

Many analysts and officials see the US intentionally trying to prolong the conflict for its own strategic interests and using the Islamic State as a proxy to counter these countries …

Another factor for the Russian involvement could be the need to tackle the growing menace of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Moscow takes very seriously Islamic State statements threatening attacks against its interests, especially in the aftermath of the downing of the Russian airliner in Egypt and the more recent St. Petersburg metro bombings which have been attributed to the group.

Further, Russia’s support to the Assad government in Syria is also bound to attract the wrath of the Islamic State. Russia is therefore worried that if there is a growth of Islamic State influence in Afghanistan, there is a possibility of radicalisation taking place on a larger scale in the former Soviet Central Asian states.

This would then make the Russian underbelly vulnerable to increased cross border terrorist attacks … moreover many Islamic State recruits are Central Asians as well as Russians.

Given all this, the Taliban is naturally seen as an emerging ally for Russia … Moscow may possibly be hoping that the Taliban, which is seen as more of a nationalist movement in contrast to the radical Islamist character of the Islamic State, would help secure the Central Asian borders with Afghanistan … It remains to be seen as to what extent the ‘red-line’ approach accepted in the Moscow six-party talks in February 2017 would be followed by the Kremlin … The Russian engagement with the Taliban has created new dynamics, the repercussions of which will be felt in the region and beyond.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* US committed to Europe force extension through 2020, Mattis says

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen speak at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.

GARMISCH, Germany — The United States will extend its forward presence of forces in eastern Europe through 2020, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday, continuing a commitment to the Continent’s security that was declared 70 years ago this month.

The extension of forces to train with and strengthen eastern Europe’s ability to counter any further acts of Russian aggression is in line with what former Gen. George C. Marshall, then secretary of state, outlined June 5, 1947, in what became known as the Marshall Plan — a plan to spend billions of U.S. dollars to help Europe rebuild and rebuff the influence of the Soviet Union after World War II, Mattis said.

“We can see today in Europe the realization of a strong vision,” Mattis said in a speech at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. “A peaceful, industrious and prosperous continent, free from tyranny, possessing the military strength to defend itself from aggression.”

Today, that commitment is embodied in the buildup of forces and increased U.S. spending to increase training and exercises with NATO and partner forces, he said. Some 1,000 U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, are leading a Poland-based battle group of an enhanced forward presence in Europe. Four multinational battle groups, totaling about 4,500 troops from 15 member nations, conduct exercises and train to quickly mobilize.

Mattis met with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch to commemorate the anniversary. The two also discussed Germany’s contributions to the proposed surge of forces in Afghanistan and future plans for the European enhanced forward presence, Mattis said, without providing details.

The return of U.S. forces to Europe was prompted by Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That support was temporarily put into question during the 2016 presidential campaign as then-candidate and now President Donald Trump questioned NATO’s value and criticized alliance members that failed to meet commitments to spend 2 percent of their budgets on defense.

The Trump administration has since reaffirmed the importance of that alliance and has committed $4.8 billion in the 2018 defense budget to expand the U.S. European Reassurance Initiative, Mattis said.

“Beyond any words in the newspapers, you can judge America by such actions,” he said.

Mattis said the budget includes funds to extend the presence to 2020 but could not say whether it would also increase U.S. forces.

“Russia must know what we stand for, and equally, what we will not tolerate. We stand for freedom and we will never surrender the freedom of our people or the values of our alliance that we hold dear.”

Moscow has denounced the military buildup as provocative, and has repeatedly asserted it has no designs on any NATO member state.

Mattis acknowledged that the support has not been one way: In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, European allies have contributed more than 39,000 troops to operations in Afghanistan and 59,000 to operations in Iraq,

The Marshall Plan became the underpinning of the trans-Atlantic alliances that would follow, Karen Donfried, president of George Marshall Fund of the United States, said Wednesday.

“NATO grew out of that” in 1949, Donfield said, as did the European Union, which just marked its 60th anniversary.

When Marshall proposed the initial plan in 1947, he was asking a United States weary of war to commit billions of dollars — the equivalent of 12 percent of the U.S. national budget in 1947 — to rebuild Europe, Donfried said. Marshall was able to closely tie the success and political security of Europe to the success of the United States. He mobilized Congress to go across the U.S., to rotary clubs and town halls, to sell the idea.

Today, as the U.S. government faces continued pressure to rein in spending, the idea of cutting NATO funding and U.S. presence overseas has become popular, but that would be shortsighted, said Jeff Rathke, the deputy director for the European program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank.

“The reason U.S. forces are in Europe is not out of charity to the Europeans,” he said. “The security of the U.S. would be directly affected if Europe came under the domination of an unfriendly power.”

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

Barandat* RPT-China pumps cash into African floating LNG projects in strategic push

LONDON, June 27 China plans to pour almost $7 billion into floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) projects in Africa, betting on a largely untested technology in the hope that energy markets will recover by the time they start production in the early 2020s.

Western banks are wary due to the depressed state of the shipping and gas markets, as well as the technical difficulties of pumping gas extracted from below the ocean floor, chilling it into liquid form on a floating platform and transferring it into tankers for export.

China, however, is making a strategic push into FLNG, aiming to become the lowest cost seller of the complex floating plants and lead the global rollout of a technique that remains in its infancy, with only one project in commercial production so far.

The country needs gas as a cleaner alternative to coal under a drive to improve air quality in its cities, and has already lent $12 billion to Russia’s conventional Yamal LNG project in the Arctic as U.S. sanctions scared away Western banks.

It has also lent or committed almost $4 billion to three FLNG schemes off the African coast. In two more African projects costing a total of $3 billion, it plans not only to provide the funding, but also build the production platforms.

"We see a real commitment to FLNG in China both from the construction side and from the LNG consumption side where decreasing costs mean potentially lower cost LNG," said Steve Lowden, chairman of Jersey-based NewAge which is planning FLNG projects off Congo Republic and Cameroon.

China already dominates the global market for solar panels and is a major supplier of coal-fired power plants, aided by easy money, cheaper labour and state support.

Now, with Beijing pushing President Xi Jinping’s "Belt and Road" vision of expanding trade links between Asia, Africa and Europe, it is turning to FLNG to bring high technology work to its shipyards and create jobs – a strategic priority.

FLNG is also attractive to resource-rich but debt-burdened African countries. Projects can sail into place, drop anchor, and begin exporting for much less than the cost of onshore plants, the price of which quadrupled in the decade to 2013.

That, at least, is the theory. The reality is that the technology remains complex. Royal Dutch Shell’s mammoth Prelude FLNG plant, for example will be aboard the world’s biggest floating structure, but must squeeze the equipment into a quarter of the space occupied by an LNG plant on dry land.

Wave motion and ocean currents add to the difficulties.

The $12.6 billion Prelude project, which is due to start operating off Australia in 2018, is typical of those conceived during the era of high energy prices. However, spot LNG prices have fallen 70 percent since early 2014 and are expected to remain under pressure or drop further due to extra supply from new conventional plants in Australia and the United States.

Despite this, some producers and buyers are banking on the glut ending early in the next decade, although they don’t want to lock themselves into big projects, preferring smaller, more flexible ones like in Africa.

The only operational FLNG project launched in Malaysia last year, with construction of the floating platform costing around $1.6-$1.7 billion. Bankers say this is still too expensive and if the Chinese can build one for $1 billion, they would corner the market.


With new investments in costly conventional LNG plants on hold, the only two production projects to advance this year are floating types, in Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea. Both are largely backed by Chinese loans although the platforms are being built by more established Asian shipyards.

Lowden said the two NewAge projects will be wholly financed by Chinese companies and this time also built in Chinese shipyards. "They are more than fully able to handle such projects," he said.

Still, Dutch offshore engineer SBM and JGC of Japan will partner with the Chinese players, including China Offshore Oil Engineering & Construction Ltd.

NewAge expects to sanction both the projects next year.

Last year, China’s Wison Offshore & Marine completed the first-ever FLNG ship but it remains unused following the cancellation of a project in Colombia it was intended for.


As typical Western sources of funding have slowed due to the weak state of the shipping business, highly-capitalised Chinese players believe the market has reached the bottom and are keen to step up lending before the cycle turns and pushes up costs.

"The difference is that in the West banks lend at the top of the market when they have most liquidity, but in China they’re smarter and put money in at the bottom," a financier who advises Chinese lenders on LNG shipping deals said.

This month, Chinese banks including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Bank of China committed around 1.75 billion to project finance the Coral South FLNG project in Mozambique, bankers said. ICBC declined comment while BOC did not respond to a request for comment.

By contrast Western commercial banks provided just $200 million in uncovered debt to Coral, to be developed by Italy’s Eni, instead of an originally proposed $1.9 billion. They cited uncertainties around FLNG technology and a public debt crisis in Mozambique.

Adam Byrne, Managing Director at ING Bank, said Chinese lenders "have very deep pockets indeed".

"If they decide to, they can support something for even a billion or a billion and a half dollars," Byrne told a shipping conference earlier this month.


The next big African deal, in Equatorial Guinea, is being financed by China State Shipbuilding Corp with a $1.2 billion loan for Fortuna FLNG, bankers say. This project – which is being developed by UK-listed Ophir Energy, shipping firm Golar LNG and oil services group Schlumberger – will produce 2.2 million tonnes of LNG a year and is expected to be sanctioned within weeks.

China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) also lent $960 million to Golar LNG in 2015 for the first-ever conversion of a conventional LNG tanker into an FLNG platform, which is set to enter operation this year in Cameroon. CSSC declined comment.

All these projects were awarded to established shipbuilders in South Korea, Singapore or Japan, but the experience sets up Chinese developers to take the lead on other projects in Africa and beyond, say consultants and industry sources.

Equatorial Guinea sees scope for another two FLNG projects, its petroleum minister has said, while BP and joint venture partner Kosmos Energy are also eyeing two in the waters of Senegal and Mauritania.

China also has plans for conventional LNG production in Africa. Chinese conglomerate Poly-GCL has begun construction of an onshore LNG facility in Djibouti which will export Ethiopian gas to China, according to Poly-GCL’s website.


Middle East

Radio Vatican: Nuntius Zenari: „Mit 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst"

Jeden Tag aufs Neue kommen Schreckensnachrichten aus Syrien, ein Ende der Kampfhandlungen ist trotz internationaler Aufrufe noch lange nicht in Sicht. Im Gegenteil, immer unübersichtlicher wird die Verquickung der verschiedenen internationalen Interessen auf syrischem Gebiet, und die Akteure bringen sich in Position, um bei Ende des Krieges auch ihr Stück vom Kuchen abzubekommen.

Dies alles, man kann es nicht oft genug wiederholen, auf dem Rücken der Zivilisten, die unter unmenschlichen Bedingungen im Bombenhagel ausharren müssen. Allein seit Mai seien es über 470 unbeteiligte Menschen, die dem Krieg zum Opfer gefallen sind, berichten Oppositionskreise. Auch darüber hat der Nuntius in Syrien, Kardinal Mario Zenari, an diesem Freitag mit Papst Franziskus gesprochen. Der Nuntius war im Vatikan, um an der 90. Versammlung der Hilfswerke für die Ostkirchen teilzunehmen.

Auf dem Rücken der Zivilbevölkerung

„Ich bin in Begleitung von 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst gegangen – Katholiken, Christen, Muslime und Angehörige anderer Religionen – die den Papst sehr schätzen und ihm sehr für alles danken, was er tut. Ich habe eine große Bitte überbracht: ein Ende der Gewalt und das Bedürfnis nach Frieden.“ Der Papst bete nicht nur, sondern tue auch konkret und auf internationaler Ebene etwas, würdigt der Nuntius im Gespräch mit Radio Vatikan den Einsatz von Franziskus. „Als ich schon in der Tür stand und gehen wollte, hat er mir gesagt, ,Bring allen Syrern, die leiden, eine zärtliche Geste mit!´ Das [Denken an die Leidenden] ist leider eine Priorität, denn mehr als die Hälfte der Krankenhäuser sind wegen des Krieges nicht funktionsfähig. Wir appellieren an die Großzügigkeit aller!“

Syrer wollen einfach nur Frieden

Eine politische Lösung des Konfliktes, der nunmehr im siebten Jahr tobt, sei nach wie vor in weiter Ferne, befürchtet der Nuntius. Insbesondere aus den ehemaligen IS-Hochburgen Rakka und Deir Ezzor kämen besorgniserregende Nachrichten, berichtet der Kardinal mit Blick auf die Menschen, die dort festsitzen: „Man müsste wohl humanitäre Korridore einrichten. Was die politische Lösung betrifft, da würde ich sagen, dass zuerst die Gewalt aufhören muss. Das Übereinkommen von Astana vom vergangenen 4. Mai wäre vielversprechend, aber die Probleme kommen bei der praktischen Umsetzung zutage. Das, was man jetzt erreichen muss, ist ein Ende der Gewalt.“

Hartnäckig müsse man daneben die Suche nach einer politischen Lösung weiter verfolgen, betont Nuntius Zenari. Ein Weg dazu seien die Genfer Gespräche. Doch: „Man darf sich nicht leugnen, wie kompliziert die Wirklichkeit ist. Ein Syrer hat mir vor zwei Wochen bitter die ausländischen Fahnen aufgezählt, die derzeit auf syrischem Territorium präsent sind. Da sind Truppen und Soldaten… deshalb würde ich sagen, dass es sich um einen sehr komplexen Konflikt handelt, doch mit der Hilfe der internationalen Gemeinschaft muss man zu einer politischen Lösung kommen. Doch ich wiederhole, der erste Schritt muss das Ende der Gewalt sein, um humanitäre Hilfe zu ermöglichen.“

(rv 24.06.2017 cs)

Vatikan-Staatssekretär Kardinal Pietro Parolin trifft im August in Moskau den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin und das Oberhaupt der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche, Patriarch Kyrill I. Das bestätigte Parolin am Mittwoch auf Journalistenanfragen. Der Besuch sei „schon lange geplant“ und jetzt seien „alle Bedingungen vorhanden“, sagte die „Nummer Zwei“ der Vatikan-Hierarchie: „Ich glaube, ich werde Präsident Putin und die Leitungspersönlichkeiten der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche treffen, weil dies ein hochrangig eingestufter Besuch sein soll.“ Der geplante Besuch in Moskau folgt dem historischen Treffen in Kuba zwischen Papst Franziskus und Patriarch Kyrill im Februar 2016.

Newsletter von Radio Vatikan – 22.6.2017


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.

CTC Perspectives: The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban

June 21, 2017

Author(s): Bryan Price, Muhammad al-`Ubaydi

An important part of the Islamic State’s meteoric rise to power in Syria and Iraq was due at least in part to its creative use of social media tools to distribute propaganda and recruit new members. The group’s well-documented social media skills have attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters to join the fight. As documented by the CTC weeks before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established the caliphate in Mosul, the Islamic State propaganda machine also served a critical role in psychological operations during the group’s blitzkrieg advance into northwestern Iraq in June of 2014.

It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the group has issued an official ban on social media for all of its soldiers. In a document (see below) produced by the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee a few weeks ago and disseminated via Islamic State distribution channels more recently, the group’s order to all of its soldiers stated: “effective from the date of this notification, using social networking sites is entirely and completely forbidden. Whoever violates this exposes himself to questioning and accountability.” The order was published by the group in both Arabic and English.

This is not the first time the group has warned against the use of social media by its rank-and-file, but the May 14th order is its most forceful attempt to date. As early as September 2014 and again in official releases in January and September of 2015, Islamic State officials warned against individual soldiers posting updates on social media platforms and prohibited them from publishing official statements on behalf of the group. Official Islamic State propaganda units, the leadership advised, would take care of these activities.

The May 14th ban emphasized the security reasons for staying off social media. There are several documented cases in which Islamic State soldiers have jeopardized the operational security of the group. In one infamous case two years ago in June 2015, an Islamic State foot-soldier posted a selfie in front of his headquarters building. The social media post, complete with geolocation data, enabled U.S. intelligence officials to quickly target and destroy the facility in an airstrike. The May 2017 official ban acknowledges that the Islamic State’s enemies monitor social networking day and night in an effort to “penetrate the ranks of the muwahhidin (those who worship Allah only) and to learn their secrets.” It specifically laments the group’s past losses to social media missteps of Islamic State fighters. “How many mujahid has [sic] been killed because of this! How many a maqarr (headquarters) has been destroyed!”

Stopping today’s soldiers from posting content that could jeopardize operational security is a concern for any fighting force. The same goes for the desire to speak with one voice and to stay on message. Islamic State officials stated that operational security was the reason behind the ban, but keeping the rank-and-file away from social media may serve another purpose that is potentially more important to the group—to stifle dissent and discontent within the group’s ranks and to prevent burgeoning ideological schisms within the organization from widening.

Three days after issuing the ban, Islamic State leadership followed the one-page order with a 12-page document (see below) to everyone in the caliphate. This document responded to the group’s Muslim critics, including defectors who have been active on social media, and clarified the group’s position on takfir and other contentious matters of ideological import. It was also featured in the Islamic State’s Arabic weekly, al-Naba, on May 25, 2017.

Meticulously justifying every policy decision on religious grounds is standard practice for the group, but the long-form May 17th document’s emphasis on obedience signals an attempt to heal ideological rifts that are occurring inside the organization and being stoked by defectors leaving it.

Like any political entity, the Islamic State has had to answer to critics on both their left and right, including defectors who are now criticizing the group via social media. The May 17th document, entitled “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof,” addresses these two camps. To counter the critics who believe the Islamic State is too extreme in its declarations of takfir (the practice of declaring one as an unbeliever) and those who proclaim the Islamic State is itself kafir (unbelievers) because it is not extreme enough, the group defended its positions using numerous Qur’anic verses, hadiths, and passages from notable Islamic scholars. The document states the Islamic State’s application of takfir is appropriate and in complete accordance with the Qur’an.

The May 17th justification also chides those who are cowardly criticizing the Islamic State from kafir regions outside of the caliphate instead of doing it from inside the caliphate and in accordance with Islamic customs and traditions. For example, the document features guidance from Ibn Abi ‘Asim, a 9th Century Iraqi scholar, on the proper way to criticize an authority figure in the caliphate:

“Whoever wants to sincerely advise an authority, then he should not do so publicly, but he should take him by his hand and withdraw with him. If he accepts it from him, then so be it; and if not, then he has fulfilled his responsibility.”

Other passages in the May 17th document focus on the importance of obedience to authority. The Delegating Committee stated that obeying authority figures is a religious duty. Even “if they command something that the soul dislikes, obeying them is obligatory.” Openly criticizing decisions made by the Islamic State results in “the loss of trust between the troops and their umara (emirs), as well as bad assumptions about the umara and the removal of their dignity, which leads to dissension and separatist corruption.” In the end, the document portends that “mentioning the faults and errors of the umara in private and public gatherings only leads to evil.”

Another odd passage includes a quote from ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, a companion of the Prophet Mohammad, on the importance of obedience, even obedience to a tyrant. “If the imam is just, then he gets the reward and you must be grateful. And if he is a tyrant, then he bears the burden and you must be patient.”

Finally, the document concludes by encouraging Islamic State followers “to be content, accepting, and having [sic] good assumption of those in authority.” It is improper to criticize the emir or “to insult, gossip, expose, provoke, or incite with the claim of reconciliation.” The selection of these passages, especially when viewed in relation to the Islamic State’s social media ban, suggest that the group is suffering from command and control and other related operational authority problems, and that the group views this issue not only as a strategic problem but potentially also a strategic vulnerability.

Today, one of the Islamic State’s unofficial media group, al-Wafa Media Foundation, posted a seven-page article filled with paranoid allegations about outsiders penetrating the group online in an attempt to divide the organization. Of note, the post describes an alleged conspiracy hatched by the former emir of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia and shared with current al-Qa`ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to sow doubt about the group online on Twitter and Telegram. This plot entailed a two-phase approach to initially spark an online debate about the authenticity and reliability of the Islamic State’s media ministry and al-Naba magazine and then challenge the authority of the Delegated Committee (the same organization that issued the social media ban) and various ministry emirs within the Islamic State.

It will be interesting to see what effect all of this has on the group’s followers and what counterterrorism officials do to exploit the situation. The Islamic State has long prided itself on its effective use of social media, and it has enjoyed the amplifying effects of thousands of its followers that extend the virtual reach of the group’s message and image online. Will Islamic State soldiers comply with the new edict, or will this ban, coupled with new and heightened concerns over obedience, lead to a backlash and further internal rifts?

It is said the pen is mightier than the sword, and the Islamic State has used both to great effect thus far. The group’s recent social media ban for tens of thousands of its soldiers and a follow-on manifesto on obedience and the appropriate mediums for voicing dissent, however, speaks to its growing fear of the pen.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.


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