Week of September 18th, 2015

Executive Summary

The American summer vacation period is over and we can expect to see more papers in the coming months. One of the major subjects this week was Russia’s military deployment into Syria.

The Monitor Analysis looks at the flood of refugees from the Middle East. We look at the impact it will have in Europe and America – possibly destroying the EU and impacting the US presidential election. We also note that the refugee problem is one of Europe and America’s causing as a result of their interventionist policies in the Middle East and regime change in Syria.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The Institute for the Study of War looks at satellite imagery of the Russian deployment in Syria and separates fact from fiction. They conclude, “The vulnerable condition of the Syrian regime raises the likelihood that Russian troops will come into direct contact with anti-regime elements, which may cause their mission to shift. Under such circumstances,

Russia could feasibly escalate its operations inside Syria based upon ground realities. Russian support to the Syrian regime may stave off precipitous regime collapse. It may also draw Chechen elements within Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS to seek direct confrontation with Russian forces in Syria. Russian mobilization within Syria therefore runs the risk of generating greater instability and possibly radicalization among opposition elements, counter to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition’s mission. Moreover, Russian military mobilization inside Syria undermines America’s goal of a political solution in Syria by reducing Assad’s incentive to make concessions and increasing the resistance of rebel groups to participate. It will also highlight the extreme limitations of U.S. military support to the Syrian opposition.”

The Hudson Institute looks at how to destroy ISIS. They conclude, “Biden’s suggestion that America’s Sunni allies have somehow been in cahoots with IS was a slur, but a revealing one. In truth, if the allies have been less than enthusiastic about fighting IS, it is because they believe that Obama will not work to safeguard their vital interests. In the war against IS, they correctly note, America has agreed to play only a limited role, and is doing so in pursuit of vague objectives. Therefore, should they themselves become active participants in the conflict, they may quickly find themselves alone on the battlefield, facing an enraged IS that they cannot defeat. Even more daunting to them, Obama’s phony war may well abet Iran’s drive to achieve hegemonic dominance in the region. If the choice becomes one of living under the Iranian boot or learning to accommodate IS, it is little wonder that some might decide to take their chances with the latter…As is plain to see by now, not only are our enemies adamantly disinclined to become our friends, but his strategy has contributed to significantly greater polarization and instability, generating the chaos it pretends to contain and provoking a maelstrom that may soon engulf Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This hands-off approach Islamic State fighters (from Islamic State’s Dabiq Magazine) 12 simply ensures that we will face more formidable challenges than IS in the future, with fewer allies at our side. We need to reassert American leadership—leadership from in front—and in so doing we need to ask ourselves whether we are better off managing Middle Eastern conflicts on our own or with others who share our interests.”                                                                

The American Enterprise Institute looks at Russia’s latest moves in Syria. They note, “Russia’s activities in Syria are part of Putin’s larger global game should also make Tehran nervous about their new collective adventure. Putin likely envisions his military investment will provide greater diplomatic leverage with the world powers in an eventual Syria settlement and other regional issues. Iranian long-term interests in Syria could easily be pushed aside in Moscow’s pursuit of political victory on the international stage. Russia may also underestimate what it will take to defend even a remnant Syrian state. Without the total commitment to Syria that Iran possesses, the Russians are unlikely to make unconditional sacrifices in blood and treasure should Assad’s situation become truly dire.”

The Washington Institute looks at the military implications of Russia’s deployment into Syria. They conclude, “Although the full scope and purpose of the Russian action in Syria is unclear at present, it appears to be significant. Like Hezbollah’s open entry into the war in 2013, it is a potential military game-changer, potentially halting or, if large enough, even reversing the decline of Assad’s forces, bolstering the regime’s staying power, and restricting the ability of Israeli and U.S. forces to operate there. The intervention may prove problematic for the Russians, but Moscow seems willing to take some risk to pursue its goal of regime survival and to score one on Washington. A Russian combat presence will also give pause to the Syrian opposition and those who support it, particularly governments whose support is wobbling. The prospect of getting involved in a military contest with Russia is not what most of these actors seek, and it may encourage them to support a political solution instead of a military one. Russian intervention also bolsters the argument that there can be no solution to the conflict without Moscow’s involvement. With forces on the ground, Russia’s influence on any outcome grows. And as long as the Kremlin continues to support him, the idea that Assad will leave power recedes even more.”

The CSIS looks at the Iraqi civil war and the economy. The report provides an overview of the complex interactions between economics and the other factors driving violence in Iraq, and the extent to which Iraq’s deep structural economic problems interact with its sectarian and ethnic divisions, help empower ISIS, and help increase the tensions between Arab and Kurd. The study begins by stressing the importance of focusing on the full range of reasons why a country like Iraq now faces the levels of violence and internal tensions that now divide it, and the differences between the economics of terrorism and counterinsurgency and the classic econometrics of development. It does not argue that economics contribute more to Iraq’s violence and problems than other causes, but it does show that there are some important correlations between the broad problems in Iraq’s economics, governance, and demographic pressures and the levels of violence in other failed states in the MENA region like Libya, Syria, and Yemen.





Immigration Crisis threatens American and European Political Future

And how these nations caused the problem with their interference in Middle Eastern affairs

Trashed streets. Tent camps. Chaos at railway stations. A child’s body washed up on the seashore. These are the scenes replayed over and over by the world media – depicting the worst refugee crisis to hammer Europe since World War 2. Among other refugees, some four million Syrians — nearly a quarter of its population – reportedly have fled the country as a four-year savaged imposed war on Syria rages; overwhelming surrounding countries, and sending hundreds of thousands streaming toward the heart of Europe.

While several European nations, including France and England have announced they would accept thousands of immigrants, Ground Zero quickly became Germany – perceived by many as having a virtually unlimited need for workers.

However, Germany, which initially welcomed thousands of refugees with open arms, has questioned its “open border” policy. Chancellor Angela Merkel has moved belatedly to stem the rising immigrant tide created by the government’s indecision.

On the other side of the Atlantic, under the moral pressure created   by Germany, France, Austria and England in dealing with some degree of respectable human measures with the issue, Obama and many members of Congress start showing signs in favor of opening America’s doors to this latest immigration crisis.

Obama last week announced plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to enter the US. In fact, many in the Democrat Party – and even some Republicans in the Congress – are pressuring the administration to admit many more Syrian immigrants; perhaps ten times that number.

However, this is not just a simple immigration problem. It is a serious political problem that could unhinge the European Union and swing the 2016 American presidential election. It also shows the considerable problems caused when nations like those in NATO decide to interfere with political affairs in other regions.

Political Threat to America and Europe

On Tuesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban served notice that he absolutely was not joking around about ensuring that an influx of migrants fleeing war-torn Syria did not end up “changing” Hungary’s “1000-year old Christian culture.”

So serious about this was Orban, that he quickly built a 100 mile-long, 12-foot anti-migrant fence out of razor wire along the border with Serbia, passed a set of emergency laws that allow for the arrest and subsequent prosecution of anyone who damages his new fence, and then sent police on horseback as well as the military to enforce his new laws.

The tactic worked as the number of unwelcomed immigrants went from nearly 10,000 a day to a few hundred.

However, Germany’s willingness to accept these immigrants and political pressure to force other nations of the EU to accept them has put serious pressure on the EU as a whole. Serbia and Croatia have made it clear they don’t want more immigrants and prefer that those in their country continue to move north. Other nations have also shown unease with accepting more than a token number of these refugees.

Germany has responded forcefully. “If we now have to start apologizing for showing a friendly face in response to an emergency situation, then that’s not my country,” Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday.

The question now, is whether Merkel will seek to use Germany’s financial and political clout to force other EU nations to soften their stance on refugees. The perception that Germany is forcing an unwanted demographic shift might well serve to fan the flames not only of nationalism but of religious intolerance, especially given the likelihood that those opposed to settling the migrants will be predisposed to stirring up fears of ISIS operatives slipping into Europe disguised as refugees.

And that’s not all. Some countries think that if Germany were to impose its will on recalcitrant states by force, they may well destroy the EU for good.

According to Reuters, “Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed for European unity after one of her ministers called for financial penalties against countries that refused to accommodate their share of the migrants, provoking anger in central Europe.”

“A Czech official described such threats as empty but nonetheless “damaging” while Slovakia said they would bring the “end of the EU.”

This sentiment was echoed by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank covered by the Monitor. They noted, “The unfolding refugee disaster is symptomatic of a profound European crisis. It shows yet again the fractures that have dramatically surfaced across the Eurozone. These fractures have not split the EU yet, but this summer leaders came close to a tipping point, and there is nothing to signal that there will not be another roller-coaster negotiation as long as the deeper structural deficiencies of economic convergence across the continent are not addressed.”

The damage isn’t just to Europe. America, which was already sensitized to illegal immigration from Mexico, has expanded the debate to include Syrian refugees and others from the Middle East. Two GOP presidential candidates have reversed direction and are calling for a closing of American borders to these refugees.

Frontrunner Donald Trump, who previously said the United States was obliged to take more Syrian refugees because “they’re living in hell, and something has to be done,” now says we should not take more refugees due to security concerns, and the problems already faced by American citizens.

“From a humanitarian standpoint, I’d love to help, but we have our own problems. We have so many problems that we have to solve,”

Trump also complained about the refusal of several Middle Eastern nations to accept any Syrian refugees, and repeated his previous assertion that if Obama had acted decisively against the Assad regime, the current migration from Syria would not be happening.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has been sinking in the polls, and who had previously dismissed the question as “hypothetical” and declined to take a public position, told reporters on Wednesday, “The answer is no, we shouldn’t be taking any more Syrian refugees right now.” He added that the United States has “received almost 70,000 refugees, of which nearly 2,000 are from Syria. We’ve spent something like $4 billion in humanitarian relief.”

“They drew a line in the sand, that opened the door to the problems in Syria,” Walker said of Obama’s responsibility for the refugee crisis. “They withdrew out of Iraq too early, therefore opening the ground for ISIS to claim more territory.”

Walker’s comments did focus on one problem – the fact that the NATO nations that are suffering from this refugee flood have caused much of the problem themselves as they have pursued aggressive policies in the Middle East that were designed not to create peace, but oust leaders that they didn’t like.

A Problem of Their Own Making

The refugee problem is a direct result of poor policy by NATO nations that preferred military solutions

The Daily Mail reported last year: “A self-selected group of former top military officers, CIA insiders and think-tankers, declared Tuesday in Washington that a seven-month review of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack has determined that Gaddafi offered to abdicate as leader of Libya.

‘Gaddafi wasn’t a good guy, but he was being marginalized,’ [Retired Rear Admiral Chuck ] Kubic recalled. ‘Gaddafi actually offered to abdicate’ shortly after the beginning of a 2011 rebellion.

‘But the U.S. ignored his calls for a truce,’ the commission wrote, ultimately backing the horse that would later help kill a U.S. ambassador.

Kubic said that the effort at truce talks fell apart when the White House declined to let the Pentagon pursue it seriously.

The Washington Times wrote in January: “I have been contacted by an intermediary in Libya who has indicated that President Muammar Gadhafi is willing to negotiate an end to the conflict under conditions which would seem to favor Administration policy,” [former U.S. Congressman Dennis] Kucinich wrote on Aug. 24.

Mrs. Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call with Gadhafi’s son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution, the secret recordings reveal.

“The decision to invade [Libya] had already been made, so everything coming out of the State Department at that time was to reinforce that decision,” the official explained, speaking only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The same attitude was taken towards Syria. The Guardian reported on Wednesday, “Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could accept sharing power as part of a serious peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.

Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to share power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian president was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.”

Currently U.S. and other European Countries complained about the strong support displayed by Putin and Russia to the Syrian president but in the early stages of the Syrian crisis, Bloomberg reported in 2012: “As Syria slides toward civil war, Russia is signaling that it is working with the U.S. to seek an orderly transition”.

After meeting with French President Francois Hollande, among the most adamant of Western leaders demanding President Assad’s departure, Putin said : “We aren’t for Assad or for his opponents,” Putin told reporters in Paris on June 1. “We want to achieve a situation in which violence ends and a full-scale civil war is avoided.”

Clearly, the two major refugee problems facing Europe and America are problems caused by their own policies, not ones caused by regional instability.

The Refugee Issue in America and its Impact on the Election

The refugee issue hits two issues that Obama and the Democrats are very vulnerable on – open borders and foreign policy. Consequently, expect to see the issue becoming more pronounced in the coming months.

Trump has struck already. “If Obama would have gone across the line that he drew, the artificial line in the sand that he drew, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.”

One point that every Republican candidate will address is whether they believe such claims that the current crisis should have been averted by toppling Assad (as Trump asserted).

This is where Trump is weakest. Trump offers Americans a vision of a world where national security policy is simple, with lots of benefits and little cost. However, foreign policy isn’t like making deals with other businessmen, based on threats and brinkmanship.   The appeal is obvious to voters, who want to flex American power, but also know that such a bombastic approach is doomed to failure.

As a result, the stand taken by GOP candidates will have to be well thought out and can’t be tailored for the traditional 10 second sound bite. It must not only resolve the Syrian civil war, but show a way to attract Syrian refugees to return to their homeland.

ISIS is the primary combat-effective element of the Syrian insurgents and the internal war could end if the West takes decisive action against ISIS in Syria and supports Russia and President Assad. But, that would leave Russia and Iran with the most influence in the region – although many Syrians may be convinced to return to their homeland.

Continuing the policy of attempting to remove President Assad, would prologues the crisis, risking to put most of Syria in the hands of ISIS. It will also guarantee that most Syrians will not want to return to Syria and will only increase the flood of refugees in the future.

The current option – the one Obama is pursuing – is to try to support “moderate” Syrians, while fighting ISIS and pushing for the fall of President Assad. This promises neither victory nor defeat and will only increase the flood of Syrian refugees.

Clearly, this issue will have an impact on the 2016 presidential election thanks to the immigration and foreign policy facets of the issue. The most likely winner will be the one that articulates a clear policy that ends the civil war and guarantees a return of Syrian refugees to their homes – AND coincides with the general wishes of the voters.





War and the Iraqi Economy: A Case Study

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

September 15, 2015

Iraq’s economy is only one of the factors that divides the country, encourages violence, has led to civil conflict, and has helped empower ISIS. Sectarian and ethnic divisions, population pressure, religious extremism, intervention from outside states, poor and grossly corrupt governance, authoritarianism, and a fractured political system have all made their own contribution to the present level of violence in what in many ways has long been a failed state. What is possible is to provide an overview of the complex interactions between economics and the other factors driving violence in Iraq, and the extent to which Iraq’s deep structural economic problems interact with its sectarian and ethnic divisions, help empower ISIS, and help increase the tensions between Arab and Kurd.

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Iran’s Russian play in Syria

By J. Matthew McInnis and Tara Beeny

American Enterprise Institute

September 16, 2015

The United States continues to request clarification about Russia’s sudden military buildup in Syria, but Iran’s calculations regarding Putin’s new play in the Levant raise almost as many questions. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, allegedly met with officials in Moscow at least once since the nuclear deal between Tehran and P5+1 members was announced. This meeting fueled speculation of increased Russian-Iranian regional security coordination, the results of which we are now seeing in Syria. Iran cannot allow the Syrian regime to completely collapse. Yet the outlook for President Bashar al Assad‘s forces remains grim, prompting Tehran to push for a diplomatic solution and potentially further expand the IRGC’s deployments and mission in Syria.

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Russian Deployment in Syria: Putin’s Middle East Game Changer

Institute for the Study of War

September 17, 2015

Satellite imagery provided by AllSourceAnalysis confirms the recent arrival of Russian main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and other military equipment at an airbase in Syria’s coastal Latakia province, indicating that Russia has deployed troops inside Syria. Concurrent military exercises inside Russia with the stated mission of training for long-range deployments of airborne troops suggest that Russia may intend to deploy additional forces, possibly further inside Syria. AllSource Analysis imagery of Taganrog Central airbase just east of the Ukrainian border from September 12 shows airborne troops rolling parachutes along a runway along with vehicles and tents more likely configured for sustained operations than for exercises or snap inspections. Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking ways to support the Assad regime, to thwart a possible buffer zone established by the United States and Turkey, and to embarrass the United States by positioning Russia as the leader of a new international anti-ISIS coalition.

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How to Destroy Islamic State (and How Not to)

By Michael Doran, Michael Pregent, Eric Brown, and Peter Rough

Hudson Institute

September 2015

Briefing Paper

On June 10, 2014, a little over a year ago, the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) shocked the world by seizing Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The government in Baghdad watched helplessly as its security forces crumbled and tens of thousands of residents fled their homes. Less than three weeks later, IS proclaimed itself the caliphate—that is, the legitimate successor to the state led by the Prophet Muhammad—thus casting its victory as the start of a new era of Islamic ascendancy. The rise of IS electrified Islamist extremists around the world. It also embarrassed President Barack Obama, who only months before had jauntily dismissed it as the “jayvee [junior varsity] team” and had repeatedly promised the American people an end altogether to conflict in the Middle East. “I said I’d end the war in Iraq, and I ended it” he boasted during the 2012 election. But now, although the president may not have been interested in war, war (to paraphrase Leon Trotsky) was decidedly interested in him. Soon a rising chorus of voices at home would be demanding decisive military action to roll back IS.

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Russia in Syria (Part 2): Military Implications

By Jeffrey White

Washington Institute

September 15, 2015

PolicyWatch 2484

Russia appears to have begun a significant, direct military intervention in Syria. Extensive reporting, including some attributed to U.S. government and intelligence sources, indicates that Russia is building a joint air-ground expeditionary force in Latakia and Tartus provinces along the northwestern coast, far surpassing the scope of its longstanding advisory and arms-supply role. If this force develops along the reported lines, it could be a game-changer in the war. It could also have major implications for Israel’s ability to conduct air operations over western Syria and Lebanon, and for U.S./coalition operations against the “Islamic State”/ISIS and other terrorist organizations in Syria. Moreover, if the Russian presence becomes established, it will be increasingly difficult to remove. As in Crimea and Ukraine, the United States — much less any other country — seems unlikely to challenge Russian forces militarily. And while these forces will probably suffer casualties and could become bogged down in Syria, Moscow may well accept that as the cost of keeping the Assad regime in power and frustrating Washington.

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