Week of November 1st, 2013


Many think tanks remain focused on the domestic issue of Obama’s healthcare program, which is facing a myriad of problems, along with growing distrust amongst the population.

The Monitor Analysis looks at the continuing leaks on the breath of the NSA spying against American allies. While the US maintains that its communications intercepts are for use in the war on terrorism, recent information about its targets show that America is using its intelligence collecting capabilities to gain economic and negotiating advantages against its allies.


Executive Summary

Many think tanks remain focused on the domestic issue of Obama’s healthcare program, which is facing a myriad of problems, along with growing distrust amongst the population.

The Monitor Analysis looks at the continuing leaks on the breath of the NSA spying against American allies. While the US maintains that its communications intercepts are for use in the war on terrorism, recent information about its targets show that America is using its intelligence collecting capabilities to gain economic and negotiating advantages against its allies.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The Carnegie Endowment looks at the political realignment taking place amongst Syrian rebels at the behest of the Saudis. They warn, “This leaves the Saudi leadership heavily dependent on Syria’s Sunni rebels. If its plan to unite them fails, Riyadh’s credibility will be diminished. Worse, Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedeen groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over…In Syria, Saudi reliance on funding and weapons supply as principal levers of acquiring influence, the concentration on escalating military pressure on the regime without developing a clear political strategy to defeat it in parallel, and the focus on mobilizing and strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni Muslim character risk contributing to a similar outcome. The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria: Muhammad’s Army may eventually come home to Mecca.”

The Washington Institute looks forward to the meeting between Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq. They recommend taking a new look at US/Iraq relations and note, “Iraq currently holds a unique and unfortunate status in U.S. regional policymaking. Any other country with the same strategic resources and challenges would receive significantly more direct assistance, most obviously in terms of counterterrorism support. But the stigma of the former military occupation has prevented Washington from viewing Iraq with fresh eyes, based on its strategic merits. Even as the administration’s focus shifts to Asia, countries like China and India are shifting their focus to Iraq, recognizing its importance and investing heavily there. In short, there is no muting Iraq. The only way to get this troubled country off of America’s television screen is to expand U.S. engagement in the near term, particularly during next year’s pivotal elections — the first national polls since the U.S. military withdrawal and a milestone against which to judge Washington’s commitment to a democratic and prosperous Iraq.”

The Brookings Institution looks at Sinai security and potential cooperation between Hamas, Egypt and Israel. The paper examines the interests of various actors in, and neighboring, Sinai; considers areas of mutual concern; and lays out the individual capabilities Egypt, Israel and Hamas have for addressing these threats, as well as opportunities for all parties to combine their core strengths to better address mutual interests. It shows the clear mutual interests Egypt, Israel and Hamas share in countering the rise of Salafi-jihadis in Sinai and avoiding border tensions that could escalate to full conflicts. Despite these shared interests, the relationship between each of these actors is also extremely complicated. As such, this paper also considers obstacles to cooperation and opportunities for the United States to encourage trust-building and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel.

The Washington Institute recommends speed in terms of negotiating with Iran. They warn, “In the Middle East, many are concerned that Iran’s progress puts it on the cusp of becoming a de facto nuclear power. Perception being a reality, Tehran is emerging as the regional hegemon, and an agreement with the West would be seen as Washington confirming this status. Even at this delicate stage, then, Washington needs to negotiate expeditiously, achieving tangible progress that defangs Iran and eases the fears of U.S. allies.”

Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute testified in front of Congress on the importance of Pakistan and Afghanistan to US security. He concludes, “There can be no rapid conclusion to the problems of South Asia, nor is there any end in sight to the threats to American security and its interests emanating from that region. The White House is quite wrong to keep repeating that al Qaeda is “decimated,” “on its last legs,” or nearly defeated. Even the “core group” still in Pakistan remains functional, but that core group is far from being the only threat to Americans. Al Qaeda franchises are expanding in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and North Africa, which should cause us great concern. But the sheer number and complexity of extremist Islamist terrorist groups based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remains by far the greatest single concentration of threats. A strategic partnership with Afghanistan, underwritten with aid and with troops, along with continued engagement with Pakistan, is the only hope for securing American interests and the safety of Americans in this region.

The CSIS looks at Morocco and its links to Sub Saharan Africa. It says, “Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly vital to Morocco’s future economic growth and security.” It recommends, “While Morocco enjoys some competitive advantage in sub-Saharan Africa, it faces several challenges to transforming its presence there. Diplomatically, it must diversify its ties with larger African economies and overcome constraints posed by the Western Sahara conflict. Economically, the challenge will be to restructure its nascent manufacturing base and diversify its products in order to meet growing African consumer demand. The United States can play a role in supporting Morocco’s engagement in Africa, which complements U.S. policy objectives in both Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Carnegie Endowment looks at the Gülen movement in Turkey and its impact on Turkish politics. They conclude, “The deterioration in relations between the AKP and the Gülen movement, or more exactly between Erdoğan and Gülen, is undeniable. The tension of this situation has led some Turkish observers to speculate that a total break may be inevitable. Others posit that the weakening of the AKP–Gülen movement alliance may exacerbate the existing divide within the AKP between the prime minister’s hardline faction and the more pragmatic contingent represented by Gül and Arinç, especially given the disputes over the Gezi Park crackdown…But such a scenario still seems unlikely. Erdoğan’s alliance with the Gülen community, although strained, is still likely to last. Despite Gülen’s concerns about the prime minister’s growing authoritarianism and Erdoğan’s fears about the Gülen movement’s growing influence over state structures, ideologically the AKP and the Gülen movement remain close.”


NSA Leaks Continue to Embarrass Obama Administration

What the spying means and how it impacts Middle Eastern nations

The most recent Guardian story about NSA spying on at least 35 world leaders not only damaged America’s relations with critical allies, but called into question the scope and focus of the NSA’s spying activities. Is the NSA really focusing on fighting terrorism or is it more interested in diluting its efforts to gather information on other subjects. At this time, it appears that the NSA, contrary to public protestations, is focused less on terrorism than it claims.

Of course, the NSA insists Merkel herself was not targeted, but that her personal cell phone calls were intercepted as part of a broad telecommunications sweep of European cell phone traffic. The Germans rightly claim that is not likely.

However, there is no doubt that NSA collects massive amounts of information from all around the world. According to a collection of the reports and leaked classified government files, in January 2013 the NSA collected 124.8 billion phone calls. Cryptome, a site that posts government and corporate documents, combined the various documents and says the largest share of calls originated in Afghanistan (21.98 billion) and Pakistan (12.76 billion). Elsewhere in the Middle East, billions of calls were monitored in Iraq (7.8 billion), Saudi Arabia (7.8 billion), Egypt (1.9 billion), Iran (1.73 billion) and Jordan (1.6 billion). 70 million phone calls were monitored from France.

According to the Italian magazine Panorama, NSA spying even extended to monitoring phone calls to the Vatican during the conclave to elect a new Pope. “The National Security Agency wiretapped the pope,” the magazine said, accusing the United States of listening in to telephone calls to and from the Vatican, including the accommodation housing cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected Pope Francis.

The allegations follow a report by Cryptome which said the United States intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy in December 2012 and early January 2013. Among those, “there are apparently also calls from and to the Vatican,” Panorama said. “It is feared that the great American ear continued to tap prelates’ conversations up to the eve of the conclave,” it said, adding that there were “suspicions that the conversations of the future pope may have been monitored”.

If America is spying on German leader Merkel, the Pope, and even average people, what is the core mission of America’s communications spying effort?

We know what it isn’t. It isn’t primarily focused on international terrorist groups like al Qaeda or countries that sponsor terrorism. Nor, is it focused totally on nations with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) like North Korea.

If America were the driving force for democracy in the world, one might expect its communication intercept program to be focused on undemocratic nations. In that case, democratically elected governments supposedly should be exempt from such coverage. That standard is easily broken. If it isn’t a desire to promote democracy or stop international terrorism, what are the criteria for intercepting communications? The answer appears to lie in the targeting of Germany’s leader, Merkel. The NSA’s spying efforts in Germany are comparable to the attention it spends on China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. And pointing to one top secret document, Der Spiegel writes that Germany is considered a “third party foreign partner” by the NSA, unentitled to the freedom from spying exclusively granted to the English speaking American allies: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK
Apparently the US desired information on the behind-the-scenes dealing between Merkel and other European leaders involving financial actions that could impact U.S. currency and its economy. In fact, the Italian magazine Panorama noted that one target of NSA intercepts was, “threats to financial systems.”

This concern is not unusual. It should be noted in the case of Germany in the past, the then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had engineered a project with the Russians to build a gas pipeline along a northern route from Vyborg, Russia, through the Baltic Sea to Greifswald, Germany. Shortly after leaving office Schroeder became chairman of the Russian-dominated Gazprom-led consortium that built the pipeline. German financial dealings are a priority for anybody interested in European security.

There has been some financial friction between the US and Germany, especially concerning the German gold being held by the US in the vaults of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The European Union and its currency, the Euro has come under pressure from some of the weaker economies in southern Europe like Greece, Cyprus, Spain, and Italy. As the major economic powerhouse of Europe, Germany is expected to act as the banker of final resort to the European Union. And, that may require that it sell some of its massive gold holdings.

Germany’s central bank indicated that it wished to move its American holdings of gold, worth about $36 billion (about half of Germany’s gold reserves), from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to the vaults at the Bundesbank’s Frankfurt headquarters. The problem is that the US government has been reticent to make the move. In fact, the Federal Reserve said it couldn’t handle the transfer and that it would take 7 years – until 2020 – to accomplish the transfer. That caused German government to ask to visit the Federal Reserve vaults to inventory the gold and determine its actual existence, but the US refused to permit Germany to examine its own gold. The reasons given were “security” and “no room for visitors.”

Source on info about Gold story: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-politicians-demand-to-see-gold-in-us-federal-reserve-a-864068.html

Germany did finally send some staff to the NY Federal Reserve Bank, and they were permitted only into the vault’s anteroom where they were shown 5 or 6 gold bars as representative of their holdings, and were permitted nothing else. They apparently came a second time, and the bank did open only one of 9 rooms and let the Germans look at the stack of gold, but were not permitted to either enter or touch.

Tapping Merkel’s cell phone not only gives the US an idea of the financial maneuvers taking place within the European Union, it also provides the Federal Reserve an idea of what actions Germany may take to repatriate its gold.

The massive spying on Saudi Arabia also points to other targets than terrorists. Saudi Arabia, as a major petroleum producer is a major economic target for an American government that desires to know pricing and production information before it becomes public. It also wants to know any Saudi movement of dollar assets because the Saudi Arabia decision to rely upon the dollar for petroleum sales is a major underpinning for the international demand for the American dollar.

However, American and Obama Administration interest in Saudi Arabian communications extends to its evolving foreign policy. The Saudi decision not to take its seat on the UN Security Council highlighted its desire to move away from American foreign policy initiatives and strike out on its own or in conjunction with other GCC nations.

Saudi Arabia has become increasingly irritated with American foreign policy concerning Syria and Iran. This disagreement is more than words. The Saudis are actively following policies that counter American policies in both countries. That means the US wants to know what the Saudis are doing so they can counter any Saudi actions.

In the case of Syria, this means the NSA not only is looking at Saudi diplomatic and military communications concerning its efforts, it is undoubtedly passing that information on to groups that may not favor Saudi Arabia or its Syrian allies. The result of these communications intercepts might be military defeats of Saudi allies in Syria or ambushes of their forces. There is also a greater likelihood of interceptions of arms shipments or financial aid.

The reality is that despite American protests that it is focused on fighting terrorism, it uses its vast communications intercept program for other national interests, including economic and foreign policy. Nations with interests that may conflict with American policy must be aware of that and operate with the understanding that if a communications is electronic, they are passing it on to American leaders.

Keeping Information Secret

Given the scope of NSA spying on friend and enemy alike, everyone is interested in keeping private information private.

Here are some tips:

The key to the NSA’s vast communications interception network is its ability to intercept electronic communications and the vast NSA computer network used to process that information. Try to avoid giving them the information or the ability to process it.

Keep communications non-electronic. Avoid transmitting private information via phone, email, text, or fax. Conventional mail is better – not because it can’t be intercepted – but, because it requires US intelligence to actually have a physical presence along the route the mail takes in order to intercept it.

Use typewriters for private communications. If additional copies are needed, use a copier to make them and then run a few blank pages through the copier to make sure that the copier drum no longer has the latent image on it.

Send mail from a mail box or post office to keep someone from easily intercepting it. The same holds to receiving mail.

If you use the mail, avoid using the same post office all the time; use alternate post offices for both sending and receiving.

Couriers are better for private messages than the mail or email – providing you can trust them. As with mail, intercepting a courier requires a physical presence by the NSA, which takes more effort. They may go to that effort to intercept a terrorist suspect’s communication, but not to intercept the average person’s communications.

Government agencies should develop courier routes between offices to transmit information rather than using email or phone calls. Israeli defense officials are prohibited from discussing “top secret” information over any phone line, even encrypted ones. Classified information can be conveyed only via envelopes with a wax seal, Maariv reports.
If electronic data must be transmitted, use a computer not physically hooked up to the internet and write the information on a CD instead of a memory stick.

Assume that your local American embassy is sweeping up all local electronic communications.

Keep in mind that the NSA only specializes in communications. Other US intelligence agencies specialize in other types of intelligence gathering that also benefit from the computer revolution. For instance, if the NSA can gather and analyze billions of phone calls, what does that mean the American spy satellite galaxy is viewing, saving and analyzing? Iran and North Korea and Syria are only a small fraction of what these satellites view every day (how about China and Russia?). Don’t assume that the US turns the cameras off when they fly over friendly countries.


Morocco’s African Future
By Haim Malka
Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 30, 2013

Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly vital to Morocco’s future economic growth and security. Morocco has pursued a soft power strategy in Africa for over a decade, but regional and global dynamics create a new urgency for Morocco to diversify its economic ties, boost multilateral security cooperation, and play a more active diplomatic role. While Morocco enjoys some competitive advantage in sub-Saharan Africa, it faces several challenges to transforming its presence there. Diplomatically, it must diversify its ties with larger African economies and overcome constraints posed by the Western Sahara conflict. Economically, the challenge will be to restructure its nascent manufacturing base and diversify its products in order to meet growing African consumer demand. The United States can play a role in supporting Morocco’s engagement in Africa, which complements U.S. policy objectives in both Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.

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An unarguable fact: American security is tied to Afghanistan and Pakistan
By Frederick W. Kagan
American Enterprise Institute
October 29, 2013

Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Reasonable people can disagree about the desirability of committing to a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, keeping American troops there, giving large amounts of financial aid to Pakistan, and many other specific policy decisions in South Asia. We can argue about the relative importance of U.S. interests in that area compared with the costs of taking this or that action-and also compared with the costs of inaction or withdrawal. We can certainly argue about what strategies might work or probably won’t work.

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Turkey’s Gülen Movement: Between Social Activism and Politics
By Bayram Balci
Carnegie Endowment
October 24, 2013

Since its election in 2002, the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has transformed Turkey. The reforms initiated by this conservative government with Islamic roots have amounted to a passive revolution—they have profoundly altered Turkish society, modernized its institutions, and strengthened its economy, which is now the sixteenth-largest in the world in terms of GDP. Yet it would be a mistake to attribute the many successes that have enhanced Turkey’s role as a major regional and international player to AKP leadership alone. Erdoğan’s government has enjoyed support from a number of political organizations as well as from influential religious and social forces within Turkey. The most invaluable, but also the hardest to assess, is a movement that plays a fundamental role in Turkey’s social and religious life: the Gülen movement of Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the terms cemaat or hizmet.

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Unifying Syria’s Rebels: Saudi Arabia Joins the Fray
By Yezid Sayigh
Carnegie Endowment
October 28, 2013

Various Syrian rebel groups have announced a spate of mergers and alliances over the past month. In theory, the trend is a welcome sign that the opposition’s extreme fragmentation is at long last being reversed. Such a development would complement the emergence of a few dominant multibrigade groupings and “fronts” within the armed rebellion over the past year. But the reality is quite the opposite. The recent announcements reflect realignment rather than unification, and they reveal a competitive logic driven by the expectation of external funding that presages greater political polarization and deepening division.

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Meeting Maliki: A Chance to Reset U.S. Policy on Iraq
By Michael Knights
Washington Institute
October 30, 2013
PolicyWatch 2164

When President Obama meets with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on November 1, he will have a rare chance to transmit strong messages to both the Iraqi leader and his people. Many Iraqis will be listening closely for a sign that the U.S. government is still a force for moderation in their country and a counterbalance to perceived meddling by Shiite Iran, Sunni Gulf states, and Turkey. If no strong U.S. voice is heard, the message will be clear: that other, less impartial states and transnational militant groups stand to become the principal external influences on Iraq, as is gradually becoming the case already.

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The Need for Speed in Negotiations with Iran
By Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen
Washington Institute
October 30, 2013

Today, two days of talks begin in Vienna between experts from the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) and their Iranian counterparts, who will discuss technical issues relating to Tehran’s nuclear program and international sanctions. The meeting will help lay the groundwork for the next round of diplomatic negotiations, scheduled to take place in Geneva on November 7-8. Expectations of progress were reinforced earlier this week by comments made after separate talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a rare joint statement, both sides called the talks “very productive” — a departure from their eleven previous meetings in recent years, which failed to make progress in resolving what the IAEA has called the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program. The statement also indicated that a document discussed in past meetings has been set aside and a new approach has been taken.

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Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas
By Zack Gold
Brookings Institution
October 22, 2013

With U.S. aid to Egypt now limited to areas of mutual interest, U.S. focus shifts to Egyptian counterterrorism and border security operations in the Sinai Peninsula. U.S. concern about Sinai is longstanding. However, since the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, what had been a buffer zone between Egypt and Israel has become increasingly lawless and unstable, threatening both countries.

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