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Aust/Israel Jewish Affairs Council .07-Oct-16
Former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday, September 30 was attended by world leaders past and present, including US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Charles.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was joined in attendance by many Israeli figures, in addition to, notably,Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other prominent dignitaries from the Arab world. An unnamed senior Palestinian Authority Official indicated that Abbas, who was seated in the front row, attended due to his esteem for Peres and that the President had “no regrets” about attending.
The event was notable for bringing Netanyahu and Abbas publicly face to face for the first time since 2015, before which the pair had reportedly not met for five years. The two chatted briefly and shook hands, with Abbas overheard telling Netanyahu, “long time, long time.” Abbas’ attendance has drawn condemnation from Hamas, which stated that “Mahmoud Abbas weeps over the departure of a terrorist,” as well as objections from elements within his own party Fatah who have criticized his attendance. Abbas was accompanied by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
While, controversially, many Israeli Arab leaders and Parliamentary members of the Arab Joint List did not attend the funeral, theChairman of the Forum of Arab Local Councils Mazen Ghanem led an Arab delegation to the Peres Center for Peace this past week to express condolences, and commented:
“We have come here on behalf of all the [Arab] local authorities to participate in the deep grief of the Peres family. He believed in peace and equality, and the Peres Center for Peace says everything about this great person. We have come on behalf of Arab society-we undertake to continue to act in light of his actions for equality and peace.”
Another prominent leader in attendance was Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, highlighting the greater level of co-operationand dialogue recently evidenced in the past months and years between Egypt and Israel. King Abdullah of Jordan also sent a telegram of condolences.
Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, wrote on Twitter, “Rest in peace President Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace in the Middle East.”
Khalifa had only recently called on Israel to “react positively” to the Arab Peace Initiative during a speech to the United Nations, further stating, “We are entitled, and look forward, to the day when we see an independent state, living in peace and security, side by side with the State of Israel. I have no doubt whatsoever that the peoples of the region, including the Arabs and the Israelis, are eager for this day to come and look forward to this just and all-encompassing peace.”
In spite of many Arab countries boycotting the funeral, a number of national leaders were represented on the day, including Moroccan King Mohammed VI who sent his personal advisor and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who sent a deputy foreign minister.
The presence of these world leaders at the Funeral, and messages of condolence, while by no means representative of the large bloc of Arab nations not in attendance on the day, is nonetheless indicative of a wider, growing rapprochement between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbours. This has been evidenced as of late with low to senior level diplomatic meetings between dual representatives in semi-official or informal capacities serving as an acknowledgement of now burgeoning dialogue and co-operation.
Peres, who for so long has advocated Israel finding a new place in the region and the building of a “New Middle East” in which Israel would cooperate with and assist the economic development of its Arab neighbours, would no doubt have appreciated that his funeral itself served as a forum for continuing the existing cautious steps toward the vision he espoused.
RU-MSY:161007:(10-OCT-16):State Duma ratifies deal on Russian air task force’s indefinite deployment in Syria
The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, has ratified a Russian-Syrian agreement on the indefinite deployment of Russia’s air task force in Syria.
The document was signed on August 26, 2015 in Damascus and was submitted by the Russian president almost a year after – on August 9, 2016 – to the State Duma for consideration.
The agreement stipulates that the Russian aviation group is deployed in Syria at the request of the Syrian side at Hmeymim aerodrome in the province of Latakia free of charge.
Azernews 06-Oct-16 [Turkish]
The upcoming meeting between Presidents Erdogan and Putin is expected to have a broad agenda taking into account the current complex situation regarding the Syrian conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed in a phone call on October 5 the Syrian crisis and the prospects of improving Russia-Turkey ties, the Kremlin press service said.
“The sides emphasized the need to step up international efforts aimed at facilitating peaceful political process in Syria, as well as creating favorable conditions…for resolving urgent humanitarian issues in the country,” the press service said in a statement.
Putin and Erdogan last met on September 3 in China’s southeastern city of Hangzhou on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.
Shortly after those talks, Russian and Turkish defense officials reached an agreement for closer military cooperation in Syria.
Moreover, Putin and Erdogan confirmed their upcoming meeting at the World Energy Congress in Istanbul and reaffirmed mutual desire to restore bilateral economic ties as well as to implement the Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu NPP construction projects.
Relations between Turkey and Russia broke down for about seven-months after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November 2015.
But relations have improved since the August meeting of the two presidents. The visit of Erdogan marked a first since last November when the crisis in relations between the countries started and is also Erdogan’s first foreign visit after a failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Vladimir Putin, earlier, stressed that Russia and Turkey intend to hold a meeting of a strategic planning group in the first half of 2017, and noted that the countries have all opportunities to restore and strengthen full-length relations.
Timesof Israel 06-Oct-16
OurCrowd as become the biggest equity crowd-funder in the world following the significant cash injection
A company investing in Israeli technology has become the biggest equity crowd-funder in the world with a £56 million ($72 million) funding injection, which it will use to open new London offices next year, in what it described as its “Brentry”.
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OurCrowd, led by American-born investor Jon Medved, closed its Series C funding round, saying it now had “a significant war-chest” to invest in offices and platforms, and to match investment in innovative start-ups.
An upbeat Medved said the record amount showed that “the world is beating a path to Israel’s door,” as individuals look to put their own money into a range of industries while start-up companies are still private.
“It’s everything from medical devices, cyber, financial technology, autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, you name it. Israel is on fire right now. It’s time to make some money.”
OurCrowd has 15,000 members in 110 countries, and describes itself as “a start-up that helps other start-ups raise money”. Medved said: “We act as vetter and price-setter, and take on a lot of risk, in part because we put a lot of our own money in.”
On the issue of equity crowd-funding, he said: “Until now, individuals have not been able to play this game. The average guy or gal can read about these tech companies but can’t go into them when they’re private. That’s where we help. We’re looking for the next Uber or Airbnb and get individuals in early. Previously this was the preserve of the tech-savvy and the institutional investors, so we’re disrupting the industry.”
Diaspora Jews, who have for years ploughed money into Israel through philanthropy, were lately getting wise to the opportunities, he added.
“Israel is now the second most important source of innovation in the world, with $6 billion invested this year,” said Medved. “Jews have been sending money, thank God, but now it’s time to make some. The Jewish community is waking up and saying, ‘what are we, chopped liver’?”
Arutz Sheva 06-Oct-16
EU report wants UK media to omit any mention of Islam when Muslim individuals are involved in terrorism.
A report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended that the British media omit any mention of the religion of terrorists when the terrorists happen to be Muslim.
The 83-page report found that there was an increase in hate speech and racist violence in the UK between 2009 and March 2016.
Going beyond identifying a problem, the report makes 23 recommendations to the government of Theresa May to fight against racism.
However, some of the recommendations are aimed at restricting what the British press is allowed to report, raising the specter of censorship.
The report laid much of the blame for its reported rise of Islamophobic incidents in the UK on how the British press reported ISIS-linked and inspired terrorist attacks throughout Europe in recent years.
“It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said ECRI chairman Christian Ahlund.
In the report, the ECRI claimed that, “in light of the fact that Muslims are increasingly under the spotlight as a result of recent ISIS-related terror attacks around the world, fueling prejudice against Muslims shows a reckless disregard, not only for the dignity of the great majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom, but also for their safety.”
The report also states that “In this context, it draws attention to a recent study by Teeside University suggesting that where the media stress the Muslim background of perpetrators of terrorist acts, and devote significant coverage to it, the violent backlash against Muslims is likely to be greater than in cases where the perpetrators’ motivation is downplayed or rejected in favour of alternative explanations.”
The report recommended that the British government “give more rigorous training” to journalists to avoid causing what it terms further “Islamophobia.”
The British government issued a written response to the recommendations that it stop its press from reporting when terrorists are Muslims. “The Government is committed to a free and open press and does not interfere with what the press does and does not publish, as long as the press abides by the law.”
While the ECRI report mentions that there has also been a rise in anti-Semitism in the UK, with 2014 having the most anti-Semitic incidents on record, it does not make any recommendations whatsoever that the British press change how it reports on Israel or other Jewish topics despite the widespread belief among many Jewish organizations that skewed reporting on Israel has contributed to the rise in anti-Semitic discourse and violence in the UK.
Assuming he’s approved by the General Assembly on Oct. 17, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is set to become the new U.N. Secretary General, and his background suggests he could become a key global ally of Pope Francis.
Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is set to become the next United Nations secretary-general, and as a Catholic Socialist with a deep concern for refugees and global justice generally, he could become a key ally of Pope Francis.
Guterres emerged as the Security Council runaway favorite on Wednesday, when all 15 members agreed to put his name forward to a formal vote, which happened on Thursday.
Having the support of the world’s super-powers: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, makes him first in line to replace South Korean Ban Ki-moon, though he still needs the approval of the U.N. General Assembly. The voting will take place on Oct. 17.
Guterres, a trained engineer who worked as an assistant professor before joining his country’s Socialist Party in 1974, led Portugal from 1995 to 2002. From there, he moved on to international diplomacy, becoming the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees in 2005, a post he held for a decade.
Fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish, he’s a father of two. His first wife died in 1998, and in 2001 he married again.
He’s generally regarded as a man of moral integrity, well versed in the international sphere, and reform-minded: during the years he headed UNCHR, the UN’s refugee agency, Guterres reduced bureaucratic personnel by a third, sending more people to the field.
In his vision statement in applying for the position of secretary general, Guterres wrote of the challenges facing the world in terms of rising inequality, terrorism and organized crime, climate change and the proliferation of armed actors internationally.
All are issues about which Francis has often spoken, even producing a teaching document on the environment.
Last September, when addressing the UN’s General Assembly during his visit to New York, Francis called for an institutional reform that guarantees all countries have a genuine and equitable influence on decision-making processes.
He also warned against the body losing its pillar of integral human development and the ideal of saving future generations from war by becoming “idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.”
The Portuguese Guterres visited the Argentine Pontiff in Rome on December 2013.
At the end of their private audience, Guterres said: “The Catholic Church has always been a very important voice in the defense of refugees and migrants. A voice of tolerance, of respect to diversity in an indifferent world, if not hostile, to everything that’s foreign.”
At the time, Guterres also said that in Europe, as in many developing countries, there’s an eruption of xenophobia. “Pope Francis not only indicates what must be the just doctrine for the Christian community, but he’s a personal witness,” he said, before praising the pontiff’s Evangelii Gaudium exhortation and his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Speaking to Vatican Radio after the audience, Guterres also spoke about his previous visit to the Vatican, when he met with Benedict XVI. Then too, the former prime minister said, they had agreed on their positions on refugees.
On other social issues the Church has as key concerns, such as the protection of the life of the unborn, most of the information available on Gueterres dates to the late 1990s.
His country’s opposition accuses him of being key in the victory of the “no” vote on a 1998 referendum on abortion, despite being a member of the Socialist Party. He allowed for the voting to take place, but openly opposed abortion citing his personal convictions.
When a similar popular consultation was done in 2007, he remained quiet. The “yes” to abortion on demand during the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy won the second time around, but it was voided for low turnout. However, a bill allowing it was eventually passed that year.
Rapport between the Vatican and the United Nations, where the Holy See has an observer position, has always been good. Ban, the outgoing secretary general, visited Francis several times, the last time being this week, when the two leaders kicked-started a conference promoting sports at the service of the common good.
The two also worked together to guarantee the success of the Paris climate summit last year.
The Trumpet 06-Oct-16
The pope and archbishop of Canterbury prayed together publicly for the first time since the churches split nearly 500 years ago. Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby held a combined Anglican Evensong and Catholic Vespers service on October 5 at the church of San Gregorio—the church from which St. Augustine was sent to convert England to Catholicism in a.d. 597. The archbishop was visiting Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Center, an embassy of sorts for the Anglican Communion in Rome. Archbishop David Moxon, the director of the center, said that the two churches are “85 percent” in agreement. He said that seeking unity is “part of our dna.”
During the weeklong celebration of unity, the churches commissioned 19 pairs of bishops, each comprised of one Anglican and one Catholic, to work on unity around the world. The pairs will look at practical ways to unite the churches, even considering preaching from each other’s pulpits.
The pope and archbishop issued a common declaration stating that differences in the groups “cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions.”
The meeting comes just two weeks after the Catholic and Orthodox churches reached an important agreement that will pave the way for greater unity between the churches that formerly split in 1054. On September 21, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church agreed on a document titled “Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church.” Catholic World News wrote that the agreement “represented a substantial victory” for the joint commission. “The agreement on the historic function of primacy is significant because the question of papal primacy is one of the key stumbling blocks in Catholic- Orthodox ecumenical discussions,” it wrote. “The statement acknowledged that the bishop of Rome enjoyed primacy, while also noting that synods set directions for the church. The document reportedly says that the pope did not exercise canonical authority over the Eastern churches, but acted as ‘first among equals.’” Speaking in Georgia on October 1, Pope Francis told Catholics not to try and convert Orthodox Christians. “There is a very grave sin against ecumenism: proselytism,” he said. “We should never proselytize the Orthodox! They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Accusations that the Catholic Church is trying to poach Orthodox members is another wedge dividing the two. In strongly rejecting this, the pope is attempting to remove another barrier to unity. During his visit, the pope also told Christians “to avoid putting first disharmony and divisions between the baptized, because what unites us is much more than what divides us.”
“The holy tunic, a mystery of unity, exhorts us to feel deep pain over the historical divisions which have arisen among Christians: These are the true and real lacerations that wound the Lord’s flesh,” he said.
On October 31, the pope will travel to Sweden to mark the beginning of the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation. That event will begin a yearlong series of trips and scheduled events designed to foster unity between the Catholic Church and Lutherans.
Lutheran leaders have said that they hope to fully heal their divide with Rome during this 500th anniversary year. Catholic-Lutheran unity has already taken great strides over the past couple of decades. In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Vatican. The doctrine of justification was at the heart of Martin Luther’s disagreement with the Catholic Church, which led to his excommunication. Now that disagreement has been overcome. In 2007, the Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist, Anglican and Armenian-Apostolic churches in Germany all agreed to recognize each other’s baptisms as valid.
“Five hundred years ago, wars were fought over the very issues about which Lutherans and Roman Catholics have now achieved consensus,” said Elizabeth A. Eaton, the presiding bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Some points of disagreement remain, and talk of achieving full communion in 2017 has died down in recent years, but so much of the heavy lifting has been done already
. This push for unity with Christians of all different kinds has been one of the biggest themes of Francis’s papacy.
In 2013, America’s largest Presbyterian church, along with other major Protestant groups, signed an agreement with the Catholic Church recognizing each other’s baptisms. The Catholic Church is even making progress with Pentecostals. Pope Francis has held receptions with top American televangelists, including Joel Osteen’s visit in 2014.
In 2014, the pope sent a recorded message to Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a large Pentecostal group, seeking unity. “Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over. Is yours?” asked a speaker at the event. The pope also beseeched the audience, “I am [yearning] that this separation comes to an end and gives us communion.” In 1963, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, the Plain Truth reported
Today, the time is ripe—according to official Catholic views—for making the final effort to unite the church bodies of the Christian world. The mighty problem of achieving unity is twofold. First, it involves reconciliation of the Orthodox Schism that officially commenced in 1054 and divided the churches in the East—Greece, Russia, the Balkans and the Near East—from Rome. Second, it involves restoration to the Roman communion all Protestantism, which developed from 1517 onward.
Both these divides are now very close to being healed.
The Trumpet 06-Oct-16
Yemen’s civil war has recently highlighted fresh concerns about the threat Iran poses to Red Sea shipping.
On October 1, a United Arab Emirates-operated advanced transport vessel at the Yemeni port of Mokha was attacked by an antiship missile. Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. Stratfor reported that the attack, “if confirmed, would indicate that the group has acquired new capabilities, raising questions about the security of shipping in the waters off the Yemeni coast and the effectiveness of an arms embargo against the Houthis. If not the sign of a new weapon, the attack could suggest a shift in the group’s tactics that may equally threaten ships in the Red Sea.”
The Houthis said they hit the Emirati hsv-2 Swift with a Chinese- designed, C-802 antiship missile. Stratfor explained: With a range of 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), the missiles would put a sizable stretch of the area near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden in the line of fire. More important for the United Arab Emirates, though, the missiles could also reach Assab and the naval base that it has been constructing just north of the port. If such missiles have been delivered to the Houthis, the most likely supplier would be Iran, which has bought C-802 missiles from China and produced its own variant, the Noor.
The exact weapon used in the attack is still up for debate, but one thing remains frighteningly clear, as Stratfor explained: Regardless of the method used to attack the hsv-2 Swift, the Houthis have demonstrated an ability to strike effectively at costly coalition assets deployed in the waters near Yemen. Whether they did so by obtaining new advanced weaponry, or by deploying their existing weapons in an innovative way, the apparent threat they pose to coalition vessels and civilian shipping in the Red Sea is clear. …
[T]he Houthi rebellion is still holding its own inside Yemen. Houthis continue to resist Saudi-backed military offensives and the authority of the Yemeni government led by President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. Yemeni forces and their coalition allies are finding it difficult to make gains on the ground, and Houthi forces continue to hold territory inside Saudi Arabia from which they frequently launch artillery attacks on towns in the border region. On October 2, the Houthis also announced the formation of a new governing council and appointed their own prime minister, Abdel-Aziz Ben Habtour. By doing so, the Houthi movement showed its resolve in the face of the coalition’s campaign against it.
The Trumpet 07-Oct-16
Deutsche Bank’s troubles could have more than an economic consequence, as Therese Raphael reported for Bloomberg View in an article titled “Deutsche’s Troubles Touch a Nationalist Nerve”:
The International Monetary Fund warned three months ago that Deutsche Bank posed a potential systemic threat to the global financial system. Today the problems facing Germany’s largest lender are fueling a different kind of risk: that of a growing nationalist backlash in Germany.
On Monday, the chairman of the German parliament’s economics committee, Peter Ramsauer, gave an interview to Welt am Sonntag in which he called the $14 billion fine over Deutsche’s mortgage-backed securities business dating back to the financial crisis “extortionate” and said the fine “has the characteristics of an economic war.”
Another German politician, Markus Ferber, suggested that the investigation into the bank’s misdoings was “titfor- tat” revenge for the European Commission’s decision to slap Apple with a €13 billion (us$14.6 billion) tax bill. And executives of some of Germany’s biggest dax-listed companies joined in this weekend to lend their support to Deutsche Bank. “German industry needs a German bank that accompanies us out into the world,” basf Chairman Juergen Hambrecht said.
Instead of parceling some of the blame on Deutsche’s management, many Germans are circling the nationalist wagons. The idea that Deutsche Bank is in large part a victim feeds into an increasingly popular narrative that Germany’s traditions, standards and institutions are under threat from outside. As we saw with opposition to genetically modified foods and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (ttip), once entrenched, these views can create powerful policy redlines.
The main target of criticism has been the European financial system Germany helped create. The European Central Bank is blamed for hobbling Deutsche Bank, hurting German savers, and propping up profligate, debt-ridden governments on the eurozone periphery. …
For only the second time in four years, European Central Bank governor Mario Draghi went before German lawmakers in a closed session last week to defend the ecb’s policies in the wake of Deutsche’s problems. “If a bank represents a systemic threat to the eurozone, it can’t be because of low interest rates. It has to do with other reasons,” Draghi has pleaded.
In all the protests about outside meddling, there’s an element of posturing in the run-up to next year’s national elections. With the populist, anti-euro Alternative for Germany party making striking gains in local elections, Germany’s mainstream politicians are eager to lay blame elsewhere for Germany’s problems and demonstrate their own nationalist credentials to German voters weary of seeing German interests compromised for EU goals.
But the debate goes beyond election politics and interest rates. After the UK’s vote to leave the EU, but also the Greek crisis, the refugee crisis and now bank troubles, Germany is rethinking its stance on European integration. The wider the disparities between eurozone countries, the more vulnerable the entire single-currency project. If Germany is going to shoulder the burden of propping up high-debt eurozone economies, the thinking goes, then Germany ought to get more of a say in how things are run.
It’s an odd turn of events. Germany is pretty much the reason there is a European Union at all: The European Coal and Steel Community was formed in 1951 to harness German industrial might to French statecraft. The euro—which Germany accepted as the price for reunification—was fundamentally a political project to further tighten the knot. And export-oriented Germany has reaped the benefits of a currency that is substantially weaker than the deutsche mark would have been, giving it an enormous trade surplus. …
The German economy is still Europe’s largest and the world’s fourth-largest; unemployment remains at its lowest level since reunification. But there are some signs of underperformance. Growth is set to slow next year and productivity growth has been low. [Volkswagen]’s humiliation over rigged diesel emissions systems, and now Deutsche Bank’s fast-shrinking market value, punctured the ideal of the ultra-efficient, impeccably run German corporate. When the going gets tough, the tough find someone to blame. Draghi has suggested that the country could do much more on the fiscal front to stimulate growth and investment. But Germans aren’t in a mood for lectures. They are tired of being told they have to accept the standards set by others. … Indeed, the Brexiter’s mantra “take back control” is sounding better and better to German ears.
The Trumpet 07-Oct-16
Germany and France signed an agreement Tuesday to share an air base and planes as part of military changes in the European Union. The two countries will share military transport planes, France’s defense minister said. The deal was signed in Paris, and the plans should be in place by 2021. The two countries are planning to use an air base in central France and keep around six military aircraft there. The aircraft will be used by both German and French air force crews. It is the first time Germany and France have entered into such an arrangement.
RU:161007:(10-OCT-16):Russia Training Drills Involve 40 Million People—Partly to Prepare for Nuclear War
The Trumpet 07-Oct-16
Moscow initiated a nationwide civil defense training drill on Tuesday to ensure that Russians are ready in the event of a large-scale disaster, including a nuclear attack from the West.
The Independent wrote on October 6: Amid growing international tensions, particularly over Russia’s conduct in Syria, the Defense Ministry-run Zvezda tv network announced last week: “Schizophrenics from America are sharpening nuclear weapons for Moscow.” Lasting three days, the exercise being run by the Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (emercom) will involve 200,000 emergency personnel and the cooperation of 40 million civilians.
emercom of Russia wrote on its website: The drill will rehearse radiation, chemical and biological protection of the personnel and population during emergencies at crucial and potentially dangerous facilities. Fire safety, civil defense and human protection at social institutions and public buildings are also planned to be checked. Response units will deploy radiation, chemical and biological monitoring centers and sanitation posts at the emergency areas, while laboratory control networks are going to be put on standby. The exercise began just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin withdrew from a milestone nuclear security deal that the Kremlin signed back in 2000. “Times have changed,” Putin wrote in a decree signed Monday. “The threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the U.S. against Russia, and the inability of the U.S. to deliver on the obligation to dispose of excessive weapons plutonium under international treaties” force Russia’s hand. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook responded to the news, saying, “We’re disappointed with their decision.”
Meanwhile, on September 30, representatives for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the government is beginning a project to build fallout shelters capable of protecting all of Moscow’s 12 million residents in the event of a nuclear attack on the capital city.
Then on October 5, news emerged that Russia has boosted its number of deployed nuclear warheads as the United States reduces its own. Washington Free Beacon wrote: Russia increased its deployed nuclear warheads over the past six months under a strategic arms reduction treaty as U.S. nuclear warhead stocks declined sharply, according to the State Department. During the same period, the United States cut its deployed nuclear warheads by 114, increasing the disparity between the two nuclear powers. Russia’s warhead increases since 2011 suggest Moscow does not intend to cut its nuclear forces and will abandon the New start arms accord as part of a major nuclear buildup. …
At the same time, the Obama administration is continuing a program of unilateral nuclear disarmament despite promises by President Obama to modernize and maintain U.S. nuclear forces as long as strategic dangers are present. … Russian forces have deployed 249 warheads above the warhead limit set by the treaty to be reached by February 2018. Since the treaty went into force in 2011, Moscow increased its total warhead stockpile from 1,537 warheads to 1,796 warheads, an increase of 259 warheads. By contrast, the Obama administration has cut U.S. nuclear forces by 433 warheads during the same period. While U.S. nuclear forces are very old and in need of modernization, Russian nuclear forces are being modernized. …
Other troubling signs of Russian nuclear weapons advances include intelligence reports that Moscow is expanding underground nuclear command bunkers, violating New start terms, and planning to double its warhead stockpiles for new multiple-warhead missiles. “In 2011, the United States had a lead of 263 deployed warheads,” [former Pentagon nuclear weapons specialist Mark] Schneider said. “We are now 429 deployed warheads below Russia. The Russians will think this is quite important. It could impact Putin’s willingness to take risks.”
Diplomatic efforts between Ankara and Moscow are likely to get a boost Monday when President Vladimir Putin visits Turkey, where he is scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Growing differences over Syria, however, as well as Turkey’s moves to align itself closer to Saudi Arabia, threaten to overshadow Putin’s visit.
Putin’s attendance at the World Energy Congress in Istanbul is the latest effort to repair relations after Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber operating from a Syrian air base in November.
“It is a follow-up visit of Erdogan’s visit to Saint Petersburg,” said Murat Bilhan, deputy chair of the Ankara-based Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies. “While certain normalization [steps] have already taken place to get the relations back on track again, there will be some positive developments in Turkish-Russian relations after the meeting between Putin and Erdogan.”
Those positive developments are predicted to involve energy cooperation. Turkey, a geographical bridge between Russia and Europe, has long been viewed by Moscow as an alternative route to Ukraine, for a gas pipeline to serve European markets. The pipeline project — called “Turkish Stream” — was frozen after the collapse in relations between Ankara and Moscow in November.
Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar of Carnegie Europe, says Putin’s Istanbul visit likely will see concrete steps to bring the countries closer together.
“There is an expectation that there will be an intra-governmental agreement on Turkish Stream on that occasion,” he said, referring to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would connect the countries. “So there will be statements on furthering collaboration on energy.”
But Ulgen warns that Putin’s visit won’t be without its difficulties. “At the same time, there will be a discussion where Ankara and Moscow do not see eye to eye, in particular on Syria and possibly Iraq given the present developing situation there.”
To facilitate closer ties with Moscow, Erdogan softened his Syrian policy, dropping the demand for the immediate removal of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Instead, he suggested Assad could remain in power during a transition period. Reportedly, Ankara also agreed to reduce its support to Syrian rebels.
The Turkish President is again hardening his stance toward Damascus, though, in a move that coincides with deepening relations with Saudi Arabia.
“In Turkey’s case, there is this juggling act, you cannot keep the balls up in the air, at all times,” cautioned former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served widely in the region. He notes that Ankara is increasingly pursuing contradictory policies.
“You cannot give covert support to Jihadi elements and have your way with Moscow,” Selcen said.
Adding to Moscow’s unease, Turkish forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria are continuing to move deeper into Syrian territory, in the face of Russian warnings to curtail its operation.
Analyst Ulgen argues there is no contradiction in Turkish foreign policy.
“I think there has been a normalization with Russia rather than a real, genuine rapprochement. Because a rapprochement would entail a convergence of views on Syria, and they don’t and we don’t see that happening,” he said. “That was also the case before the downing of the Russian jet in November 2015, when the relationship was good, but nonetheless both sides had regional differences, where both sides almost agreed to disagree on Syria. I think that is almost the situation now, where both sides agree to disagree. So in that sense, Turkey’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia on Syria is not incompatible with the normalization with Russia.”
Ulgen also suggests Ankara’s relationship with Riyadh is likely to deepen, as pressure from Russian-backed Syrian regime forces intensifies on rebels.
Adding further tensions with Moscow, many of the rebel groups supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia are deemed terrorists by Russia. Such differences likely will be featured prominently in the discussion between Putin and Erdogan, according to regional expert Bilhan.
“The differences of opinion on Syria, these will be tried to be narrowed,” Bilhan said, “although some radical reappraisal of the situation is not expected. But of course both countries need each other, because Russia’s economy is not going well. The more needy one is Turkey. Turkey also needs friends and seems to be isolated.”
Iraq, too, threatens to complicate Russian-Turkish relations. Baghdad, another regional ally of Moscow, is locked in a deepening row with Ankara over its refusal to withdraw its military forces from the Bashiqa base in Iraq.
Ankara is likely to be banking on the lure of lucrative commercial deals, particularly in the field of energy. Such an initiative would help lubricate efforts to resolve regional differences with Moscow, or at least compartmentalize them.
Observers underscore that with regional pressure building, and Moscow and Ankara on increasingly opposing sides, sustaining closer relations can only get more difficult.
Jerusalem Post 07-Oct-16
Israel to deduct Palestinian terror funding from tax fees it hands to the PA
Palestinian Authority ‘probably’ pays terrorist families, admits German gov’t
Stipends paid to terrorists are said to have gone to families of suicide bombers and teenagers attacking Israel.
The United Kingdom suspended millions of dollars in aid payments to the Palestinian Authority amid claims that the money is ending up in the hands of terrorists.
Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel has ordered a freeze pending an investigation, The Sun reported Friday.
Earlier this summer, lawmakers demanded action after revelations that UK aid supposedly paying for civil servants in Gaza was being transferred to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which offers payment to terrorists serving sentences in Israeli jails.
One Hamas bomber was alleged to have been given more than $100,000. Other stipends paid to terrorists are said to have gone to families of suicide bombers and teenagers attacking Israel.
The UK Department for International Development has previously admitted the PLO makes “social welfare” provisions for prisoners’ families, but ruled out the idea that UK cash was being diverted in this way.
The decision by the Department for International Development means that over $29 million in cash is being withheld this year — a third of the total aid sent to the Palestinian territories. The majority goes to charities in the region.
One unnamed government source was quoted as telling The Sun: “We are not stopping the Palestinian Authority overall, just delaying it to a date when we know our money won’t be going to people who do nothing in return for it.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the reports.
“We have long been deeply concerned by the Department for International Development’s assertion that British tax money categorically does not fund terrorism and incitement,” the board’s senior vice president, Richard Verber, said in a statement. “We welcome this move and hope that a robust and thorough investigation will be carried out.”
Simon Johnson, the chief executive of Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council, said in a separate statement that British Jews have long feared the misuse of aid to the Palestinians by the British government.
“It is vital that the Department for International Development is robust in ensuring funds are used to help those in need and not to support destruction and disruption within an already tense political climate.”
CV-CE:161006:(10-OCT-16):Church of England and Catholic Church should be one, says Pope Francis and Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis are “undeterred” in their efforts to see the their two churches formally reunited.
The pair were speaking at an evening service in Rome commemorating decades of ecumenicalism between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church.
The celebrations included highlighting 50 years since the opening of the Anglican Centre in Rome, a place where Catholics and Anglicans discuss and study theology, pray, minister and socialise together.
In the last 50 years the two churches have come to agree on several issues including baptism, Communion, how to use the Bible and mission and evangelism.
However the two church leaders admitted there were still “serious obstacles” and they “do not yet see” a way forward on other key theological issues, for example the role of women in church ministry and issues surrounding sexuality.
Despite differences the pair spoke of a “common faith” and a “common baptism”, referring to believers in each other’s churches as “brothers and sisters”.
MAR-MSY-RU:161007:(10-OCT-16):Exclusive: Russia builds up forces in Syria, Reuters data analysis shows
Russia has built up its forces in Syria since a ceasefire collapsed in late September, sending in troops, planes and advanced missile systems, a Reuters analysis of publicly available tracking data shows.
The data points to a doubling of supply runs by air and sea compared to the nearly two-week period preceding the truce. It appears to be Russia’s biggest military deployment to Syria since President Vladimir Putin said in March he would pull out some of his country’s forces.
The increased manpower probably includes specialists to put into operation a newly delivered S-300 surface-to-air missile system, military analysts said.
The S-300 system will improve Russia’s ability to control air space in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and could be aimed at deterring tougher U.S. action, they said.
“The S-300 basically gives Russia the ability to declare a no-fly zone over Syria,” said Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.
“It also makes any U.S. attempt to do so impossible. Russia can just say: ‘We’re going to continue to fly and anything that tries to threaten our aircraft will be seen as hostile and destroyed’.”
Russia’s Defence Ministry did not respond to written questions. A senior air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed talk of an increase in supply shipments.
But data collated by Turkish bloggers for their online Bosphorus Naval News project, and reviewed by Reuters, shows reinforcements sent via Russia’s “Syrian Express” shipping route from the Black Sea increased throughout September and have peaked in the last week.
The data shows 10 Russian navy ships have gone through the Bosphorus en route to Syria since late September, compared with five in the 13-day period before the truce — from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7.
That number includes The Mirazh, a small missile ship which a Reuters correspondent saw heading through the Bosphorus toward the Mediterranean on Friday.
Two other Russian missile ships were deployed to the Mediterranean on Wednesday.
Some of the ships that have been sent to Syria were so heavily laden the load line was barely visible above the water, and have docked at Russia’s Tartus naval base in the Western Syrian province of Latakia. Reuters has not been able to establish what cargo they were carrying.
Troops and equipment are also returning to Syria by air, according to tracking data on website FlightRadar24.com.
Russian military cargo planes flew to Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria six times in the first six days of October — compared to 12 a month in September and August, a Reuters analysis of the data shows.
Russia sent its air force to support the Syrian Army a year ago when Moscow feared Assad was on the point of succumbing to rebel offensives. U.S.-led forces also carry out air strikes in Syria, targeting Islamic State positions.
Aerial bombardments in the past two weeks, mainly against rebel-held areas in the Syrian city of Aleppo, have been among the heaviest of the civil war, which has killed more then 300,000 people in 5-1/2 years.
Since the collapse of the ceasefire in September, acrimony between the United States and Russia has grown and Washington has suspended talks with Moscow on implementing the truce.
U.S. officials told Reuters on Sept. 28 that Washington had started considering tougher responses to the assault on Aleppo, including the possibility of air strikes on an Assad air base.
“They (Russia) probably correctly surmise that eventually American policy will change,” Bronk said, commenting on the analysis of the tracking data.
“They are thinking: ‘We’re going to have to do something about this, so better to bring in more supplies now … before it potentially becomes too touchy’.”
The FlightRadar24.com data shows Ilyushin Il-76 and Antonov An-124 cargo planes operated by the Russian military have been flying to Syria multiple times each month. It offers no indication of what the aircraft are carrying.
But the Il-76 and An-124 transporters can carry up to 50 and 150 tonnes of equipment respectively and have previously been used to airlift heavy vehicles and helicopters to Syria.
State-operated passenger planes have also made between six and eight flights from Moscow to Latakia each month. Western officials say they have been used to fly in troops, support workers and engineers.
Twice in early October, a Russian military Ilyushin plane flew to Syria from Armenia. Officials in Yerevan said the planes carried humanitarian aid from Armenia, a Russian ally.
Russia’s Izvestia newspaper reported last week that a group of Su-24 and Su-34 warplanes had arrived at the Hmeymim base in Syria, returning Russia’s fixed-wing numbers in the country to near the level before the drawdown was announced in March.
Russia & India Report 06-Oct-16
A set of defence collaboration agreements are being finalized for signing at the India-Russia annual summit to be held alongside the BRICS summit, on October 15 and 16.
India plans to sign several big-ticket defence deals with its traditional and strategic partner Russia during the annual summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 15-16, coinciding with the BRICS summit, in Goa. This is the third annual bilateral summit between Putin and Modi.
The defence deals, worth billions of dollars, have long been discussed between the two countries. Officials are expediting the exchanges to ensure some agreements are ready for signing at the Goa bilateral summit.
Both countries had begun negotiations on a number of defence cooperation projects during the 16th meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Indo-Russian Military-Technical Cooperation on September 7-8, in New Delhi. Reports indicate that substantive progress has been made on these projects, bringing the deals and pending projects “well on track.”
According to sources, some of the most important stalled defence deals, may get the “green signal’ during the Putin-Modi summit. These include purchase of five S-400 ‘Triumph’ long-range air defence missile systems, worth $6 billion, an IL-78 multi-role tanker transport by India, the joint upgrading of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters and Kamov-28 helicopters. The projects most likely to be finalized during the summit also include the long-awaited joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) worth over $20 billion, and the joint production of Kamov Ka- 26 light helicopters.
India is reported to be still in talks with the Russian side on the purchase of S-400 Triumph air defence systems. It may be recalled that under the chairmanship of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest body that takes decisions on weapons purchasing, had cleared the purchase of S-400 air defence systems from Russia in December 2015. However, Russia is still awaiting the “final go-ahead” from India on the supply of the newest missile systems.
Negotiations between New Delhi and Moscow on the deliveries of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and on some other aspects of military-technical cooperation between the two countries are in progress, Pankaj Saran, India’s Ambassador to Russia, said recently.
“There are many platforms for discussions and S-400 is one of them,” Saran said.
If the deal on S-400s is signed, it will become the biggest defence deal between the two countries since 2001, when India reached agreement with Russia to buy 140 Su-30MKI fighter jets. India might also become the second country to possess S-400s.
“Open Partner” Russia has advantage in Indian defence arena
Russia signed an agreement with China in April 2015, for the delivery of the S-400s. Russia’s delivery of the cutting-edge missile systems to India, will strengthen its air defences along the borders with China and Pakistan.
Discussions on the joint development of FGFA resumed earlier this year, after they were suspended over differences on the percentage of work- share in the research and development content between India and Russia. The preliminary agreement on the joint production of FGFA was signed in 2010, and a final agreement would release about $6 billion for joint development.
Following a series of negotiations on technical details over the past few months, the two countries are now ready with a detailed work-share agreement, under which Russia will share new generation aircraft technologies as a part of a deal to produce more than 100 fighters in India.
During the two-day meeting of the JWG of the Military-Technical Cooperation in September, Russia submitted a “technical-commercial proposal” to supply India with four multi-purpose frigates equipped with sensors and weapons, including BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. Under the proposal, out of four frigates, two will be delivered from Russia, and the other two will be built in India. There are already six frigates, including three Talwar-class and three Teg-class frigates, with the Indian Navy.
The JWG also discussed the issue of joint production of 200 Ka-226 twin engine multi-role helicopters. The deal on joint production of the Ka-226 helicopters in India under technology transfer from Russia, was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Moscow in December 2015. Sources said 60 helicopters would be supplied for assembly in India, while the remaining 140 will be manufactured in India. It is the first major project to be implemented under Indian government’s “Make in India” programme. The contract is estimated to cost over $1 billion.
Russia and India have agreed to incorporate a new company in October for the joint production of Ka-226 helicopters, and the deal is expected to be signed during the coming summit, in Goa.
Who needs to down the FGFA?
Media reports in September also indicated that India is also interested in leasing a second nuclear- powered submarine from Russia. Negotiations for leasing another Akula-class submarine for about $1.5 billion, are already in the final stages. India’s only nuclear attack submarine, INS Chakra, was also leased from Russia in 2012 for 10 years for a price of $900 million.
India is interested in a different and newer class of vessel. Officials have expressed hope that a deal may be signed very soon. Russia is also assisting India in building its indigenous nuclear submarines.
The two countries have also made significant progress in the negotiations for the modernization of Su-30 MKI multi-role fighters and an agreement is planned to be signed very soon. Discussions have been going on for some time for upgrading the aircraft which was called “Super Sukhoi,” but the talks gained momentum recently in the run up to the Putin-Modi summit in Goa. The cost of the deal, in the range of $7 to 8 billion, is yet to be finalized, sources said.
The military-technical cooperation between India and Russia is as an important pillar of the “privileged, special strategic partnership.” It is not merely a relationship of a “buyer and seller,” but works on complex joint research, designing, development and production projects, with participation of the Indian public and private sectors, and licensed production in India, thereby advancing the ‘Make in India’ programme.
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 370 07-Oct-16
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel should rule out building a natural gas pipeline to Islamist Turkey because of the political risk involved. It should instead consider using LNG technology for export through Cyprus. Although this would be expensive, it would be a less risky and more durable option over the long term. This should be in addition to exporting to Jordan and possibly to Egypt.
As Israel begins closing deals for its natural gas, it should avoid linking itself to any expensive long-term pipeline deal with Turkey at the expense of allies Cyprus, Greece, or even Egypt.
Notwithstanding the recent easing of tensions between the two countries, Israel cannot trust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist regime as a linchpin in its natural gas export strategy.
A crisis could erupt at any moment that might cause Erdoğan, an erratic anti-Semite, to stop the gas from flowing, essentially holding Israel hostage. The trigger could be a new war with Hamas-ruled Gaza, which is allied with Turkey, or a general escalation in violence with the Palestinians, or any of a host of other unexpected incidents. The deterioration of the already cool relationship is only a matter of time.
The recent improvement in ties between Israel and Turkey must be viewed within the context of the poor relations Ankara had with Russia and other states at the time, and should not be viewed as reflecting any real change in Erdoğan’s attitude toward Israel.
Turkey experienced a crisis in its relations with Russia after Turkey’s air force downed a Russian fighter jet near its border with Syria last November. The crisis had Turkey scrambling, as it depends on Russia for over half its gas needs and over 12% of its oil. Turkey also has tense relations with the US and the EU, as well as with various Arab states that oppose its support for Islamists in their countries.
The subsequent rapprochement between Turkey and Russia changes the picture, and will give Erdoğan a freer hand to dispose of the Israel relationship as he sees fit. In addition, there are various other countries from which Turkey can receive gas, including Russia and Iran. Turkey would therefore have leverage in any gas deal with Israel.
The proposed gas pipeline to Turkey would cost around US$5 billion and take seven to eight years to build. Other options for gas export are Egypt and Greece.
Though Cairo is friendly with Jerusalem, Egypt suffers from political instability and terrorism. Even without those issues, Egypt is not an ideal option, because it has its own gas reserves and will not need Israel’s gas in the long run. And while Greece could be part of a plan to export to Europe, this would involve Cyprus as a way-station.
On September 26, investors in Israel’s large Leviathan natural gas field closed a $10 billion deal to export gas to Jordan, though production is still a few years away. A pipeline between the two countries is under construction.
However, the deal with Jordan still leaves much gas to be sold elsewhere.
This leaves what appears to be the safer but more expensive option of developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Cyprus. LNG technology converts natural gas to liquid to make transport easier.
Israel would be wise to focus its long-term gas strategy on Cyprus. The Aphrodite gas field south of the Cyprus coast and Israel’s nearby Leviathan gas field could turn Cyprus into a hub for further export of gas to Europe and Asia. An LNG facility would need to be built on a coastline, and it has been estimated that building one in Cyprus would cost upwards of $20 billion.
Asked about the possibility of Israel’s building its own LNG facility in Eilat or anywhere else on the Israeli coast, an industry source in Israel dealing with LNG told the author that this will not happen because environmentalists and their political supporters would block it. The opportunity to use LNG thus appears to be narrowed down to using the existing facility in Egypt, building a new one in Cyprus, or creating a floating one at sea.
“Cyprus is the safest bet,” the source said. “It is stable for the long term and if Lebanon finds gas, it could be transported by pipeline to Cyprus.”
The other idea under discussion is a gas pipeline that would go from Israel to Cyprus and then on to Greece, but some experts see this as unrealistic. A report in the Israeli business newspaper Globes stated in April that while officials from the three countries have discussed this option, it would require at least 1,100 kilometers of pipeline, some of which would pass through depths of 3,000 meters, making it a complex and expensive option.
Another industry insider, questioned about the chances of building an LNG facility in Cyprus, responded that it depends on politics and on the building up of feed gas and customers. He added that there is also “a price issue, and if the math works and politics isn’t an obstacle, then a project gets financing.”
Some still see Egypt as a viable option. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to US presidential candidate Donald Trump, says that Egypt “faces its worst power crisis in decades due to long-term inefficiencies in the gas sector and is desperate for imported gas until its own legacy production ramps back up.” Egypt is weighing importing gas from Israel and Cyprus.
“The Israeli Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, along with the Egyptian Zohr and Cypriot Aphrodite, have the potential to be the linchpins that transform the region into an integrated energy zone,” he said.
Accordingly, a strategic relationship between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt could involve energy cooperation around a prospective Cyprus hub. These countries are all ideologically opposed to Islamist Turkey’s agenda, and Greece and Cyprus have their own historical reasons for preferring cooperation with Israel over Turkey.
The Guardian 09-Oct-16
PM’s suggestion that Britain will prioritise immigration control over single market draws united and sharp response
Britain and the EU appear more bitterly divided over Brexit than at any time since the referendum, with European leaders ramping up their rhetoric after Theresa May signalled she would seek a clean break with the bloc.
The prime minister’s Conservative conference speech, in which she indicated Britain would prioritise immigration control and restore the primacy of UK law to become an “independent, sovereign nation” without full access to the single market, drew a sharp response from continental capitals.
In Paris, François Hollande said Britain must suffer the consequences of its decision. “The UK has decided to do a Brexit. I believe even a hard Brexit,” he said. “Well, then we must go all the way through the UK’s willingness to leave the EU. We have to have this firmness.”
If not, “we would jeopardise the fundamental principles of the EU”, the French president said on Thursday night. “Other countries would want to leave the EU to get the supposed advantages without the obligations … There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price.”
François Hollande: UK must pay price for Brexit
Hollande’s message was underlined on Friday by the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who said the 27 remaining member states must not give an inch in exit negotiations. “You can’t have one foot in and one foot out,” he said. “We must be unyielding on this point.”
Britain risked “trampling everything that has been built” over six decades of European integration, he said.
In Berlin, Angela Merkel rammed home the same point. “If we don’t insist that full access to the single market is tied to complete acceptance of the four basic freedoms, then a process will spread across Europe whereby everyone does and is allowed what they want.”
Merkel called on German industry leaders to back the government’s line in Brexit talks, even if it hit their profits. “We have to make sure our interests are coherent here so that we won’t be put under pressure constantly via European industry associations to eventually allow full access to the internal market even if all freedoms aren’t respected,” she said.
The British government has yet to confirm what kind of future relationship it will seek with the EU, but the conditions set down in May’s speech – in particular migration controls on EU citizens and the insistence that Britain will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European court of justice – effectively rule out membership of the single market.
That will be hard to square with the prime minister’s determination for British firms to have the maximum opportunity to operate within the single market.
In an interview with the Guardian, Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, which will hold the EU’s rotating presidency when Britain triggers article 50 early next year, said the four freedoms – the movement of goods, capital, services and people – could not be decoupled. “That cannot be negotiated … These principles are the basis for everything the EU does,” he said.
The French finance minister, Michel Sapin, said on Friday that eurozone governments would not accept the City of London remaining the main euro clearing centre once Britain left the EU. “There will be activities taking place in London that will only be able to take place on the territory of the European Union,” he said.
The leaders’ statements reflect an increasing feeling in European capitals that the hard line the prime minister and others adopted during the Conservative conference – including the home secretary, Amber Rudd’s plans to prevent migrants “taking jobs British people could do” – may reveal a far deeper hostility to the EU than they had imagined.
Despite well-publicised divisions, the EU 27 have shown consistent unity on Brexit. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform thinktank said in a research paper last week that this was partly because of a rising fear of Eurosceptic populism.
“A lot of British politicians believe that the hard line of the 27 is merely an opening stance,” Grant said. “Rather more Britons assume that, in the end, Angela Merkel will look after the UK. But for Merkel, the interests of the EU come first. She believes that maintaining the institutional integrity of the EU, and the link between the four freedoms, is in Europe’s interest and therefore Germany’s.”
He said many British politicians were over-optimistic about the kind of deal they might achieve because they failed to understand the continental debate on migration. “They tend to assume that because the British dislike EU migration, other Europeans must think similarly,” he said.
“In most EU countries the big issue is inflows of people from outside, not inside the EU. In Germany, for example, mainstream politicians do not see intra-EU migration as a big problem. So the 27 are not going to allow the British to combine single-market membership with controls on EU migration.”
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 371 09-Oct-16
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Russians are determined to reacquire some of the status once enjoyed by the Soviet Union of yore. They believe Western carelessness is to blame for the rise of Islamic State, and are using the Syrian theater to demonstrate their strategic capability.
Russia’s status in the Middle East has changed remarkably in recent years. Some go so far as to argue, with some justification, that it has become the most powerful superpower in the region, or at least within the context of the Syrian conflict. The main reason for this has been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to invest significant resources in the region, coupled with his willingness to take significant risk.
The extent of Russia’s involvement in the region has been vast. It has encompassed active warfare meant to stabilize the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad; participation in efforts to destroy Islamic State (IS); the establishment of a Russian air base in northern Syria and the deployment of ground forces to protect it (beginning in Autumn 2015); the operation of the Russian air force from a base in Iran (for few days in August 2016); a rift and subsequent reconciliation with Turkey; the supply of weapons to Iran; and, most recently, the signing of a (doomed) deal with US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the future of Syria wherein Russia, unlike the US, does not abandon its positions.
To understand why Russia is making such an extraordinary effort in the region, one must look at what happens outside the Middle East in parallel with what happens inside it. Consider, for example, the war against Georgia in 2008, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the warnings to the Baltic states. All of these were the decisions of a single man, so they have a common foundation.
In all these cases, it appears that Russia – as embodied by president Putin – is motivated by its unwillingness to accept as a fait accompli the marginal position into which it was pushed by the West following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russians are determined to recover at least some of the status enjoyed by the Soviet Union of yore. This desire is given expression on both symbolic and practical levels.
On the symbolic front, Russia makes a point of emphasizing the role the Soviet Union played in the Second World War, its contribution to the Allied victory, and the number of people it sacrificed. On the practical front, Russia is actively trying to maintain its influence in its own region and around the world.
This is why Russia reacted so aggressively when it felt that NATO was trying to deploy in additional nearby countries. Moscow is not prepared to agree to containment and exclusion efforts against it, which it believes are being led by the US. Russia sees NATO’s and the EU’s steps as a threat, and does not accept the explanation that they are meant only as protective measures. Russia believes they are part of an American attempt to isolate and weaken it.
Thus, a significant proportion of Russia’s efforts are being directed against the US, which it perceives as its main rival – and at the same time a superpower at a point of historic weakness. That weakness is due primarily to the character of the current US administration, which fears any conflict that could ultimately might deteriorates to a military one.
This perception explains why Russia is not compromising on anything. It is not bending on the annexation of Crimea, or on continued aid to eastern Ukraine. Nor is it wavering on Assad’s status in Damascus. The Russians have been consistently tough in talks on all these topics, and have shown themselves determined in their use of military force. So far, their approach has been successful.
With its national motive in mind and its perception of the US in the background, it is easier to understand Russia’s activities in the Middle East, a region close to home. Russia is still feeling the effects of the trauma of the Libyan crisis. In March 2011, Russia agreed to get on board with the UN Security Council resolution, which had been carefully worded so as to prevent an all-out war on late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
Ultimately, Russia found itself surprised by Western powers, which – under the umbrella of the resolution – took out the regime in which Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, had invested considerable funds and political energy.
The operation led to chaos in the country that has yet to settle. Libya became the main weapons source for major terrorist organizations, and has attracted refugees from all over Africa on their way to Europe.
The wildly disordered situation in Libya is an ongoing illustration to the Russians (and to others) of why a repeat scenario must be prevented. This is why, when unrest erupted in Syria, Russia refused any resolution that could have provided an opening for action against the Syrian regime.
Events in Egypt also influenced Russia’s decision-making. As a result of the Arab Spring and the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the US took on the image of an ally that is ready to abandon its long-time friends. For the Russians, an opportunity thus presented itself to make themselves appear completely different from the US in this respect – that is to say, loyal rather than traitorous.
These two sets of events, in Libya and in Egypt, shaped Moscow’s immediate reaction to the unrest in Syria. Russia quickly and unequivocally stood by Assad.
Another important issue influencing Russian policies in the region is concern over the spread of radical Sunni Islam in the direction of Russia, which has a large Sunni population. The rise of IS and its emissaries around the world –along with the large number of IS volunteers who have come to join the organization from Russia, and the horrific terrorist attacks Russia has suffered in the past – justifies Russia’s fears and strengthens its claims.
The Russians have repeatedly claimed that the American destruction of Saddam Hussein regime, and the strengthening of Syria’s Sunni opposition by US allies and with US encouragement, is responsible for the rise of IS. The world, Russia argues, is paying the price of Western carelessness. Russia claims that it is trying to prevent much more problematic situation that will be the immediate consequence of the fall of Assad.
Russian intervention in Syria developed in three stages. The first was a product of the Syrian military’s complete reliance on Russian weapons. Russia continued to supply the Syrian army’s needs at full speed, enabling it by expanding its hold on the Tartus port.
At first, the arms delivered were mostly ammunition, but they later included advanced weapons systems that the regime did not need for the fighting. The sale of these weapons indicates that profit may be an important consideration here. (Some of these advanced systems were ultimately transferred to Hezbollah, a move the Russians did nothing to stop.)
The second stage of Russia’s intervention was less clear. At a certain point, the involvement of Russian intelligence advisers and officials in the fighting grew significantly. It is difficult to determine exactly how many Russian officials there were and how deeply involved they were, but it is clear that their participation went beyond weapons provision. It appears that Russia’s sophisticated intelligence efforts tipped the scales and stopped the deterioration of Assad’s army on the battlefield.
The third stage, which still prevails, began only after the Iranian nuclear deal was signed. It includes the deployment of advanced planes, which have taken on a visible, direct and very important role in the warfare. This stage also includes ground forces to secure areas such as the airport and the naval port.
The Russians are operating at full force, at times without any humanitarian consideration, in full cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in order to save the Alawite regime. As a secondary priority, they are seeking to harm IS and other radical organizations.
Russia took full advantage of the opportunity in its path. It turned the Syrian battlefield into a testing ground for its new weapons systems, and, more significantly, into an arena for the display of its own strategic capabilities – which is much more than what is required to deal with the situation on the ground.
For example, Russia fired cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea when it had planes stationed 150 kilometers (about 90 miles) away from its targets. Russia used strategic bombers and deployed the S-400 air defense system, despite the lack of any airborne threat to Russia’s forces in Syria,. Russia took these excessive measure to demonstrate its capability as a superpower to the regional powers, and – perhaps even more so – to decision-makers in Europe and the US.
Its successes have not only been military. The Russian leadership faced a difficult test with Turkey, but managed to get through it in a manner than demonstrated an ability to deal with crises.
Prior to the Russian intervention in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had worked against Assad, whom he loathes. Russia’s intervention in Assad’s favor meant that Russian troops were deployed south of Turkey. These troops operated directly along the Turkish border, with Russian planes flying overhead in what Erdoğan took as a deliberate display of Russian disrespect for Turkey. In response, in November 2015, the Turks prepared an ambush and shot down a Russian plane they claimed had invaded Turkish airspace.
This was a test for Putin, and he reacted forcefully. Trade with Turkey (excluding gas) was immediately halted, and Russia began a personal campaign against Erdoğan and his family. Even more significantly, Russia made the strategic move of “courting” the Kurds in northern Syria – even though these Kurds, who desire regional autonomy, are Assad’s enemies. This was the most powerful card Russia could play against Turkey, which fears any sign of Kurdish sovereignty along the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Syrian Kurds have a strong relationship with the armed Kurdish group in Turkey, the PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization and which its army is fighting. Erdoğan understood the strategic risk involved in the steps taken by the Russians, and decided to entirely change the relationship with Russia. He took the opportunity after the failed coup in Turkey in July to apologize to the Russians for downing the plane, and conceded his demand for Assad’s immediate ouster. Putin came out on top in this struggle between two leaders, both of whom are very powerful at home.
Russia did not get involved in saving the Alawite regime for the same reasons Iran did, but the two countries have found themselves fighting on the same side. Both want to harm the US and minimize its influence in the region. The Iranians appear to be struggling to keep up the relationship with Russia, which accelerated after the signing of the nuclear deal.
Leadership meetings have taken place, and significant cooperation agreements have been signed in the fields of energy (including the sale of nuclear power plants to Iran) and weapons supply. But Iran still remembers the occupation of parts of its territory by Russia during World War II, and is very sensitive to the involvement of foreign countries. When it became public, about a month ago, that the Russian air force was using a base in Iran, Iran quickly nipped that in the bud.
In addition to recasting its relationship with Iran, Russia is also trying to establish a different relationship with the Sunni Arab states. There have been more talks of late regarding Russian arms sales to Egypt and the construction of nuclear reactors in Jordan. Relations with Saudi Arabia are more complicated, due primarily to Russian outrage over the Saudis’ flooding of the oil market. There is, however, a possibility of growing Saudi investment in Russia and maybe even Russian arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Russian efforts on that front have been fruitless to date because in some Sunni states, there is no faith to be had in Moscow’s intentions.)
It is interesting to speculate at what point Russia’s ambitions will be curtailed by its limited resources. While Russia is a large country, its population is shrinking and its economy is, according to all theoretical calculations, on the verge of collapse. It has nevertheless made a huge investment in modernizing its army and in expensive adventures abroad.
How long can this go on? There is no good answer to this question. The world will continue to be surprised every time Russia takes another step that expands the deployment and operations of its forces.
As for Israel, it has some major disagreements with Russia, especially after the sale of sophisticated weapons to Iran and Syria and the transfer of many weapons systems to Hezbollah. On the other hand, Russia’s willingness to tolerate Israeli Air Force operations over Syria reflects a certain understanding of Israel’s position. In a way the tacit permission it grants to Israeli operations to stop the arms transfers legitimizes those operations.
Overall, in its relationship with Russia, Israel is realistic. It tries to understand what can be achieved (for example, a lengthy delay in supplying Iran with the S-300 missile system) and what cannot be achieved (for example, the outright cancelation of the sale of the S-300 missile system).
Israel understands that it cannot stop cooperation between Iran, Hezbollah and Syria in the war against the rebels. Israel has been able, however, to establish a conflict-prevention mechanism to prevent any incidents that could occur if Israel and Russia were to operate in the same area without reliable communication.
This mechanism is not an alliance, nor even a coordination agreement. It is a technical arrangement with the goal of preventing incidents. It is limited to the narrow field of preventing error in an area where both sides are active, each for its own purposes. The diplomatic significance of the conflict-prevention mechanism should not be overstated. Nor should Israel rely on the hope that the Russians will limit Hezbollah’s and Iran’s operations against Israel or do anything to mitigate them.
It is up to Israel to continue to live with Russian troops in its neighborhood, while making its interests clear. It will need on occasion to use force to safeguard those interests, but should do so without engaging in a head-on collision with Russia. Israel must maintain dialogue with Russia at all levels.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is also a distinguished fellow at JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy.
This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Israel Hayom on September 30, 2016.
Russia Today 10-Oct-16
The Russian military plans to expand its supply base in Syria into a fully-fledged permanent naval base. The Russian facility in Tartus has long been used to resupply Russian warships during Mediterranean Sea missions.
“We are going to have a permanent Navy base in Tartus. We have prepared the paperwork, which is now being reviewed by other government agencies. The documents are pretty much ready, so we hope to submit them to you for ratification soon,” General Nikolay Pankov, deputy defense minister responsible for communication with other parts of the Russian government, told the Federation Council, Russia’s senate.
The upgraded base would have comprehensive defense systems and other capabilities, which the current supply post does not have, Leonid Slutsky, the chair of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, told Rossiya 24 news TV.
“It will have not only docking facilities, but also a command and control system, an air defense system. A naval base needs to be able to defend itself and all its infrastructure,” he said. “Of course it would have anti-submarine defense capabilities.”
The Tartus facility has been in place since 1977. After the collapse of the Soviet Union it was used to resupply and repair Russian warships deployed to missions in the Mediterranean Sea, but did not serve as a permanent base for any of them.
Last week Russia confirmed delivery of an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Tartus to protect the port facility and mooring warships from potential airstrikes and missile attacks.
The delivery came amid media reports that the Pentagon planned a massive cruise missile attack on Syrian airfields, which would dismantle Damascus’ aerial capabilities.
The US accuses Syria and Russia of perpetrating war crimes in Syria over the offensive operation against militant forces in eastern Aleppo. Russia says the operation followed US failure to deliver on its promise to separate the so-called moderate rebels form terrorist forces in Aleppo and that Washington is playing the blame game to draw attention away from its failures.
RU-TU:161010:(10-OCT-16):Putin & Erdogan talk restoring trade, Turkish Stream, Syria cooperation in Istanbul
Russsia Today 10-Oct-16
Russia and Turkey are set to find common ground on Syria, revamp stalled energy projects and boost bilateral trade, closing a sour chapter in relations with an array of deals as President Putin and President Erdogan meet in Istanbul.
Vladimir Putin arrived in Istanbul on Monday at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to participate in the 23rd World Energy Congress, which opened on October 9.
During his speech at the conference, the Russian president said that he was glad that the Turkish authorities had managed to “keep the situation under control” and prevent a coup in July. Putin also wished the country luck in its continued recovery from the coup attempt.
Putin said that he and President Erdogan had thoroughly discussed the joint Turkish Stream pipeline ahead of the visit, saying they “intend to implement” the project.
He also assured Russia’s foreign customers that the country will remain a reliable energy supplier to global markets.
The Russian leader expressed hope that an agreement on the stabilization of the oil market could be reached at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting on November 30.
“We support the recent OPEC initiative to fix production limits and hope that this idea will be embodied in specific agreements at the OPEC meeting in November, giving a positive signal to markets and investors,” he said.
The meeting of the two leaders will focus on restoring Russian-Turkish relations “in all aspects” and is going to provide the presidents with an opportunity to exchange views on a broad range of regional and international topics, first and foremost on the situation in Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti on Sunday.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed hope that cooperation within the war-ravaged country will bear fruit and may even pave the way for joint action, pointing out that Ankara is ready to assist in the renewal of a ceasefire and to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries.
On Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isık said that Turkey wishes that “Russia and the US would not oppose [each other]” referring to the recent escalation of tensions between the two powers after Washington suspended cooperation on Syria. While the US cited Russia’s non-compliance with the deal, Moscow accused US of shielding terrorists, in particular former Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters, by failing to separate them from moderate rebels.
The expectations from the second Putin-Erdogan face-to-face meeting since August 9, which has already signaled a thaw in relations, are running high. In particular, there are hints that the recently resumed Turkish Stream project could be brought into force.
“All of us aim to finalize the works on this intergovernmental agreement by the [time of the] meeting of Mr. President Putin and Mr. President Erdogan on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, adding that its implementation will “drive further development of Turkey’s economic growth.”
The Turkish Stream gas pipeline would see Russian natural gas delivered directly to Turkey via the Russian Black Sea coast and on to Greece. The project, with an estimated total cost of 11.4 billion euros, was initially unveiled by Putin in December 2014 during a visit to Turkey as an alternative to the canceled South Stream route through Bulgaria. After the downing of a Russian jet in November 2015, Russia suspended the project. It was revived only after Turkey publicly apologized for the incident in August.
The capacity of the pipeline would reach some 32 billion cubic meters per year, from which Turkey would take 15.75 billion cubic meters in the first leg of the pipeline, transiting the rest to Europe via the second leg. The construction of pipelines was expected to be finalized by 2019.
The construction of the Akkuyu nuclear plant, with four 1,200 MW reactors, will be also given an extra impulse, according to Novak, who hopes that it “is going to get the status of a strategic investment.” Russia and Turkey signed an agreement for the facility to be built by Russia’s Rosatom back in May 2010. The first block of the $22 billion power station will be put into operation in 2020, the minister said.
“Energy is one of the main issues in the normalization process. That’s why both the Turkish Stream and Akkuyu nuclear plant projects play a key role in the revitalization of bilateral relations,” Novak said in an interview to Turkish Daily Hürriyet, as cited by TASS.
‘Making up for lost time’
In response to the downing of its jet in November, Russia has imposed a string of harsh sanctions on Turkish goods, fruit and vegetables, as well as placed travel restrictions and reintroduced visas for Turkish citizens. The diplomatic downturn dealt a heavy blow to the Turkish economy with bilateral trade volume plummeting from $24 billion in 2015 to just $11.2 billion for the first eight months of 2016, Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci told TASS.
Now, the countries are seeking to restore the volume of Russian-Turkish trade turnover to its pre-crisis levels.
To reach the goal of $100 billion trade volume reinstated by Erdogan at the August meeting, the countries are looking at mutual settlements in Turkish liras and Russian rubles. “I hope that the Central Banks are going to discuss it now,” Russian Economy Minister Alexey Ulyukayev said, confirming that dialog on the issue has been resumed.
In January 2017, Russian and Turkey plan to sign a comprehensive services and investment agreement, the details of which are still being thrashed out.
“We have settled all our differences. The document is practically ready for signing. We hope it will be signed in the presence of the two countries’ presidents in January, during a session of the top-level cooperation council,” Ulyukayev told Rossiya-24 television channel.
By the end of 2017, the countries may also enter into a free trade agreement, according to Zeybekci.
“In general, I want to say that we have actively set our hands to work and have been making up for what was lost in the last few months,” Ulyukayev said upon meeting with his Turkish counterpart.
MAR-MSY-RU:161010:(10-OCT-16):Russian Military Bases in Syria Necessary to Boost Anti-Terrorism Fight
The establishment of permanent Russian military bases in Syria will help in the fight against terrorism, the Syrian Defense Ministry told Sputnik on Monday.
The establishment of permanent Russian military bases in Syria, including a naval base in the port of Tartus, is necessary to boost combat capabilities of the Syrian army in the fight against terrorism, the Syrian Defense Ministry told Sputnik on Monday.
“These bases will enhance combat capabilities of Russia and Syria, as well as its other allies fighting terrorism, to bring the victory over terrorism even closer,” Brigadier General Samir Suleiman, head of the Media Affairs of the Syrian Army’s Political Office, said.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said at the upper house of Russian parliament earlier on Monday that Moscow was planning to establish a permanent naval base in the western Syrian port city of Tartus.
In addition, Russia’s lower house of parliament ratified on October 7 an agreement with Syria that authorizes the deployment of a Russian air group at the Hmeimim airbase for an indefinite period of time.
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