Talking to Boko Haram

by Sandra Ivanov. Sandra Ivanov is from New Zealand with a postgraduate education in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is currently an editor of the blog “Conflict and Security“, and primarily works in the non-government sector. You can find her through Linkedin or follow her updates on Twitter.

Man claiming to be leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in video screengrab, unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.

Man claiming to be leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in video screengrab, unknown location, Sept. 25, 2013.

Recently, a non-state armed group in Nigeria called Boko Haram has been brought to the forefront by Western media. Through a worldwide “hashtag campaign” on Twitter, attention has been drawn to the kidnappings of over 200 school girls in the Borno State. Public outrage and international condemnation has led to the United Nations applying sanctions, and adding the group to their proscribed list of “terrorist organisations”. But, could this be hindering chances of dialogue between the government of Nigeria and Boko Haram? So far, military offenses have been undertaken, but how long until it is realised that violence against violence is not an effective means to address grievances? Dialogue needs to be the action taken if the world really wants to “bring back our girls” and look deeply into the causes of the crisis.

Boko who?
The Boko Haram movement goes back to the early 2000s, propagated by spiritual leader and preacher, Mohammed Yusuf. In the early days, the group was referred to as the “Nigerian Taliban”, wanting to withdraw from the secular state of Nigeria, and form a society based on Islamic Sharia law. Initially, the movement sought to overthrow the government through a doctrine of withdrawal, and not through violence. However, radicalisation was spurred by clashes with government security forces, including pervasive police brutality. The followers of Boko Haram consist of university students, clerics and professionals, many of whom are unemployed.

The movement was eventually renamed to “Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad” (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), and it was domestic and foreign media which popularised the name Boko Haram, a phrase interpreted to mean “Western education is sinful”. In a statement by Boko Haram, they revealed their beliefs and intentions:

We will not allow the Nigerian Constitution to replace the laws that have been enshrined in the Holy Qur’an, we will not allow adulterated conventional education (Boko) to replace Islamic teachings. We will not respect the Nigerian government because it is illegal. We will continue to fight its military and the police because they are not protecting Islam. — Boko Haram statement stated in Human Rights Watch, “Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria“, October 2012.

Clashes which occurred in July 2009 were a significant turning point, and cemented Boko Haram’s choice to use violent tactics to achieve their aims. Targeted killings by Boko Haram, and extrajudicial killings of detainees of members by security forces, were a prelude to what would end up being a brutal massacre of more than 800 people in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, and Kano states. Yusuf was killed in police custody, and Abubakar Shekau succeeded him. In the aftermath of crushing Boko Haram, security forces tore down mosques, and properties were demolished or seized from those suspected to be part of Boko Haram, as well as of relatives of any members – it was a strategy attempting to wipe out their physical presence in order for them to be forgotten.

A local journalist at the time reflected on the situation saying that the 2009 violence was seen to be bubbling in the weeks beforehand, noting a failure of security and intelligence forces to monitor and act early. Government inaction has seen the movement grow stronger and stronger.

The current situation
Since Abubakar Shekau took leadership of the group, Boko Haram is no longer monolithic – there are at least two organisations operating alongside each other: a larger organisation focused on discrediting the government, and a smaller one becoming more sophisticated, but also more lethal in their actions. Boko Haram’s objectives also expanded after Yusuf’s death to include prosecution of those who killed their leaders, release of members in police custody, compensation for the families of dead members, and rebuilding their mosques and schools. Since 2010, they have taken up violent methods to attempt to achieve these goals, including bombings, shoot-and-run attacks, arsons, robberies, and more recently in the media, abductions.

A police officer walks past shops destroyed in a suicide car bomb attack at the entrance to the Bompai police barracks near the police headquarters in the city of Kano. At least 185 people were killed during coordinated attacks by Boko Haram members on police facilities in the city on January 20, 2012.

A police officer walks past shops destroyed in a suicide car bomb attack at the entrance to the Bompai police barracks near the police headquarters in the city of Kano. At least 185 people were killed during coordinated attacks by Boko Haram members on police facilities in the city on January 20, 2012.

Protests, petitions and social media campaigns helped spread the awareness of the kidnapping of over 200 school girls by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in April 2014. Widespread public pressure called for action – and the international community did indeed respond. The United States gave experts, resources, and defence personnel, and the United Kingdom sent an aircraft and government experts. Other states have also expressed their willingness to assist Nigeria. Most notably, however, is the United Nations’ blacklisting of Boko Haram and imposing sanctions on them as suspicions linger that they are linked to al-Qaeda. But it is not verified that Boko Haram is involved with al-Qaeda, all evidence has so far been unsubstantiated and remains anecdotal.

Nigeria has had previous interaction with Boko Haram, Borno state officials tried to reach out to the group in 2011 where a negotiated settlement was a possibility. Nevertheless, the situation has changed – having the UN listing the group as official terrorists, and with states such as the US who are leading the so called “War on Terror” aiding Nigeria’s search for the group and girls, the chances of talking to Boko Haram have suddenly reduced. Being branded as terrorists, Boko Haram may radicalise even further because it has cast them in a non-negotiable category, ignoring attempts to examine how the group has emerged and understanding their grievances.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

A global issue?
Boko Haram has made out to be a global terrorist threat, but the tensions have boiled inside Nigeria. The group is concerned with the country’s internal dialogue within Islam, in northern Nigeria, and as a consequence of socio-economic and political imbalances. Many living in northern Nigeria have lost faith in their institutions and their leaders, as well as being deprived of basic infrastructure and reliable electricity and roads. The north is considered relatively backward in comparison to south of Nigeria – disproportionate educational development, wealth distribution, and corruption, are contributing factors to the desire for a rebirth of fundamentalist Islam in the region. The state security forces have also contributed to the tensions in the region as they have been accused of abuses which include the killing of civilians, the burning of homes, and summary executions.

Dialogue first
“We do not negotiate with terrorists” is the famous phrase uttered by states, but it’s important to distinguish between “dialogue” and “negotiation”. Negotiation comes in the form of a formal peace process, usually with the means to resolve a tension, and the parties both have to make compromises to achieve a resolution. Dialogue is different; it comes before negotiation, and does not have to lead into a formal process at all. This form of talking is beneficial to unmask the identity of an armed group, to understand grievances, and to reveal root causes of tensions.

At this point, it is important to consider that terrorist tactics used by a group should be seen as a form of political communication – an intentional and pre-determined strategy of political violence which is intended to cause fear and intimidate its audience. Through these methods, armed groups are grabbing the attention of those in power to respond – but this is where those in power can make a choice: violence or non-violence, arms or dialogue. So far, Nigeria has attempted to supress the movement by military and police force, but once this fails, they will eventually have to consider some form of political engagement. The more Boko Haram engages with state security forces, the stronger the intrusive nature of the state in the internal dialogue among fundamentalist Islamic groups is perceived, fuelling the cycle of violence further.

There is definite potential for the Nigerian government to engage in dialogue – Boko Haram, in academic terms, could be classified as “contingent terrorists” – a group which actively seeks to negotiate as part of their strategy. In the case of the recent kidnapping, they claim that nothing will happen to the girls as long as the government releases their group members from prison. Once there is something tangible to bargain for, it is easier to enter talks.

Nigeria’s reluctance to engage and possible pitfalls
When deciding to open dialogue with a group, there will always be potential risks. The Nigerian government may sense that engaging in talks will be perceived as legitimising the group and their actions. It may also risk side-lining other groups with more moderate views who have been using peaceful means to voice their concerns, and a group may splinter and divide because of this engagement.

Boko Haram has attacked many schools in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram has attacked many schools in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram, like other non-state armed groups usually comprise of loosely linked networks, and have splinter groups which make it difficult for the government to know who to interact with. Another hurdle the government will need to overcome is that dialogue will not be able to take place over Boko Haram’s aim to create a state built on Sharia law. The government would be breaching the Nigerian constitution if it makes any attempt of interfering in the internal changes within any religious group, as all groups are at liberty to direct their own affairs. Any attempt to change religious ideology can only be credibly left to Islamic spiritual leaders and clerics. This has already been a suggestion, to reach out to moderates and clerics who can engage with Islamists intellectually to deconstruct their radical views about Islam.

Dialogue, can however occur around concerns over excessive brutality, and provide talks on how to limit violence by both sides. The state can also address grievances over Boko Haram members currently in prisons – Nigeria has the responsibility to bring these members to trial and punish them accordingly, if there happens to be members kept in prisons without trial it can cause further injustice.

The Nigerian government also has to be genuinely willing to engage with Boko Haram. The government has previously been accused by the group for being deceptive, by opening calls for dialogue and arresting members instead. An intermediary between Boko Haram and the government also decided to quit his role because the government was insincere.

There are opportunities to create channels for dialogue which are informal and non-commital to promote understanding and find common ground. Dialogue is a significant mechanism for accountability and justice, especially for the victims of Boko Haram’s actions. Boko Haram has chosen to use terrorist tactics to achieve their aims, but can choose to use non-violent alternatives if they can see the strength and success in them. Through experience and observation of previous armed groups, it has prompted them to choose violence. If the government can make creative open channels for grievances, and methods to genuinely listen to groups such as Boko Haram, violence may be discarded as an option for groups to pursue their aims. Opening up opportunities for dialogue may also prevent other groups in the region from taking up arms in the future.

In the end, the international community may assist in the search for these girls, but ultimately, this is a local problem and Nigeria will have to resolve it. International pressure, however, may be a positive catalyst for Nigeria to begin to address the root causes which encompass the grievances of groups such as Boko Haram. Nevertheless, what should not be forgotten is that talking should not be a consideration, it should be the first action. Dialogue is simply a conversation and it can always stop. Listening and talking to a group does not mean their claims and methods are legitimate or are being endorsed, and that needs to be understood from the outset. There will always be risks involved when engaging, but these risks can be mitigated. It is difficult to see how the girls will be rescued through the use of force – engagement is necessary to bring them back safely, and to understand long standing tensions.

More information
Patrick Truffer, “The softening of Hamas – Moderation through political participation“,, 23.01.2012.

Posted in English, Nigeria, Sandra Ivanov, Security Policy, Terrorism | 1 Comment

The Iraq-Vietnam Comparison is Easy to Make But False

Last Monday, we published “What the Fall of Saigon Teaches Us About the Latest ISIS Offensive” by Jeong Lee and Stephanie Chenault, who showed many similarities between recent events in Iraq and the fall of South Vietnam. To give the readers of a second, different perspective, we selected a commentary by Joseph Trevithick, who believes this comparison is inaccurate. We hope that both articles will motivate our readers to think about just how similar the two situations might be based on these viewpoints – there is no “right” or “wrong”.

Joseph Trevithick is a freelance journalist and researcher. He is also a regular contributing writer at War is Boring and a Fellow at

A soldier from the Commando Battalion of the Iraqi Army's 17th Brigade during a training exercise in 2010 (Photo: U.S. Army).

A soldier from the Commando Battalion of the Iraqi Army’s 17th Brigade during a training exercise in 2010 (Photo: U.S. Army).

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s dramatic triumph over Iraqi security forces last month is upsetting for the United States and worrisome for the country’s neighbors. Washington has been compelled to respond not only to this new crisis in southwest Asia, but also to domestic political attacks over the recent historical record. Now, comparisons to the American debacle in southeast Asia some four decades ago are being added to the mix.

The rapid disintegration of an American trained foreign military in the face of a determined opponent make a comparison to the collapse of South Vietnam quite appealing. Iraq’s weak political institutions only make it easier to link the two case studies. However, the two situations are fundamentally different when scrutinized in depth.

Firstly, Iraq and Vietnam simply occupy very different geopolitical spaces. The Vietnamese as a distinct ethnic group had a long and significant history prior to French colonization, marked by aggressive territorial expansion and consolidation. The “Vietnamese Empire” had both successfully absorbed the Kingdom of Champa and ejected the Angkor Kings from the Mekong Delta by the nineteenth century. Imperial Vietnam had established borders and treated its neighbors at least as equal – and often as inferior.

Conversely, Iraq has far less in the way of national identity or cohesive history, having been carved out of Ottoman territory by the British and the French following World War I. Saddam Hussein’s regime consolidated and held power largely by playing the country’s powerful Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish communities against each other. The country’s borders, full of hard lines and sharp angles, show little appreciation for any traditional boundaries.

Iraqi troops from the 6th Regional Commando Battalion are inserted by helicopter during a combined training exercise with American forces in 2011 (Photo: U.S. Army).

Iraqi troops from the 6th Regional Commando Battalion are inserted by helicopter during a combined training exercise with American forces in 2011 (Photo: U.S. Army).

This separates the basic goals of the belligerents in both cases. North and the South Vietnam both understood that they were locked in a battle for the fate of a single nation. Neither regime disputed the country’s existing history or was keen to cede any territorial claims. On the other hand, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fighting a multi-front war to establish a new regional entity based on their own interpretation of the historical record. They offer an extremely specific religious ideology unhindered by borders rather than advocating any sort of broad-minded national program.

Iraq’s political situation is also significantly different from South Vietnam in 1973. South Vietnam’s head of state changed 10 times in 20 years. While weak, Iraq’s institutions look robust and stable compared to the Republic of Vietnam. Since 2003, Iraq has had only three prime ministers. In Vietnam, the transfers of power were also often marked by violence. The most notable case being the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

General Dương Văn Minh, who led the coup against Diem and ordered his execution, manged to become head of state four separate times. On the other hand, the Shi’ite dominated security forces are likely the only thing keeping Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power in Iraq. Maliki has also worked on appealing to his base just like Saddam Hussein did, as well as calling upon regional allies to help out.

Maliki’s appeal, no matter how limited it might be, is not something that should be dismissed out of hand either. Unlike South Vietnam, Iraq’s government offers a political program that is designed to appeal at least to the country’s Shi’ite majority. The program will likely persist even if Maliki is forced out. This is unlike South Vietnam’s political establishment, which was fractious and inept, prone to violence against itself, and offered a program that could appeal only to those in power.

Iraq’s military also appears to be regrouping in spite of serious concerns about its capabilities. Kurdish forces also appear to be holding their own against ISIS. By contrast, North Vietnam’s renewed push southward in December 1974 never let up. The North’s People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) was closely matched with the South’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of personnel and equipment. Whatever North Vietnamese troops might have lacked in technical experience, they made up in discipline and determination. The PAVN also benefited greatly from various advanced weapons – notably long-range artillery and air defenses – to rout their ARVN opponents and keep them on the run.

Soldiers from the South Vietnamese Army sit on top of a captured North Vietnamese Army Type 59 tank during the 1972 Easter Offensive (Photo: U.S. Army).

Soldiers from the South Vietnamese Army sit on top of a captured North Vietnamese Army Type 59 tank during the 1972 Easter Offensive (Photo: U.S. Army).

ISIS has none of these advantages and cannot afford to have their advance burn out. The Sunni fighters are outnumbered approximately 35 to one and having no significant heavy weapons. The insurgents have repeatedly gloated about equipment captured from retreating Iraqi forces, but it remains unclear just how much of it they will actually be able to use. Iraq may well be able to use sectarian support and foreign military assistance to fight the movement to a stalemate even if they cannot defeat the movement outright.

This potential for a drawn out conflict is perhaps the most significant difference in the end. Iraq has already lasted longer than South Vietnam did after the withdrawal of American combat troops. Washington has also reengaged militarily in Iraq and looks set to expand this new support if need be, which it did not do in Vietnam in 1975. The Joint Forces Land Component Command – Iraq is a division-level task force led by a two-star Army general that could theoretically control over 10,000 US troops. Would pundits be more inclined to make alternative comparisons to the Pentagon’s role in beating back the 1972 Easter Offensive if Obama authorized American airstrikes?

Lastly, Maliki’s regime has just not yet collapsed and he has not fled the country like Nguyễn Văn ThiệuNguyễn Văn Thiệu. The crisis in Iraq has not reached its final outcome, whatever it might be. Comparing the current situation to what happened in South Vietnam might be a little presumptuous in general.


Posted in English, Iraq, Joseph Trevithick, Security Policy, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Cartoon of the month: CR(ISIS)


As large parts of Iraq are taken over by ISIS, Nouri al-Maliki, who won the 30 April elections, faces dissent between Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds in Parliament as well, making the future leadership in Iraq very uncertain.

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The cartoon was drawn by the Syrian cartoonist Yaser Abo Hamed, who is living now in Australia. For additional cartoons by Marian Kamensky check out his page on Cartoon Movement, his Facebook page or his Google+ page.

Posted in Cartoon, English, Iraq, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Sea Control 41 – The View From China

In this very interesting episode, Matthew Hipple talks with Dean Cheng, a Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Center at the The Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Cheng is specialized in China’s military and foreign policy, in particular its relationship with the rest of Asia and with the United States. He has detailed knowledge of China’s military and space capabilities and has written extensively on China’s military doctrine, technological implications of its space program and “dual use” issues associated with the communist nation’s industrial and scientific infrastructure.

According to Cheng, China sees itself as a status quo power, but they define it very differently than the US does. The influence of the US in Asia spans about the last 250 years, when China has its weakest period of the last thousand years – also known as the “Century of humiliation“. On the other hand, China defines his status quo power over the last 4’500 years, during which China has been always the centre of Asia. Understandably, China seeks to gain back its influence in Asia and to expand its borders, including outer Mongolia and the territory seized by Russia, Taiwan, southern Tibet, the various islands of the South China Sea and probably more in the long term (see Geoff Wade, “China’s six wars in the next 50 years“, The Strategist, 26.11.2013). But this doesn’t mean that a war is imminent between China and the neighbouring countries. China has no imperialistic attitude – it tries to reach its goals in an indirect way by influencing and intimidating their neighbours and through their salami-slice strategy in the South China Sea.

China under the  Qing Dinasty (1644 – 1911) and as Republic of China until 1949.

China under the Qing Dinasty (1644 – 1911) and as Republic of China until 1949.

Dealing with China requires another view on International Relations. From the European and US-American perspective, International Relations often has something to do with “Balance of Power“, but in Asia it’s more about “Bandwagoning“. Accordingly, China’s neighbours are reacting differently, but not really hostile. For example the Philippines sued China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which leaved China unimpressed. There were also multiple ramming incidences between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels, but both countries are not interested to escalate these skirmishes.

The US is exploiting the disaffection of the Chinese neighbours by building an alliance structure to contain China. This is seen by China as a fundamental problem, which they like to get rid of it. Additional, the US conduct recognition operations along the Chinese coast, publish annually DOD’s report to Congress about China and sell arms to Taiwan. All these actions are antagonising China. Even China will not go to war about these disputes, it sees the US-American influence in Asia as the core of the problem. Should these disputes escalate to a question about the dominance over Asia in the 21th century, China could see itself forced to take up arms.

Should the situation escalate, China’s economic center of gravity lies at the coastlines, which they protect with an anti-access-aerial-deny strategy. Cheng lines out that the US, most likely, will not find the solution to an escalated situation by military means. Relating to submarine tactics of the US and their allies, he criticizes vehemently the Chinese participation at RIMPAC 2014.

During the podcast, Cheng speaks about the Chinese “status quo”, about the South China Sea, India, Pakistan, the use of crises as policy tools and about a lot more, which gives you a look behind the headlines.

Listen to episode #41 immediately

Latest: Episode #41 – Archive: all episodes – Don’t miss any future episodes and subscribe on iTunes.

More information

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CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

Posted in China, English, Sea Control, Sea Powers, Security Policy | 1 Comment

What the Fall of Saigon Teaches Us About the Latest ISIS Offensive

by Jeong Lee and Stephanie Chenault. Jeong Lee is a freelance writer whose writings on U.S. defense and foreign policy issues and inter-Korean affairs have appeared on various online publications. Lee looks forward to start his Master of Arts program in International Security Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies this September. Stephanie Chenault is the Chief Operating Officer of Venio Inc. and a Strategy Consultant for the Department of Defense. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University and an Master of Science in Astrophysics from the Naval Postgraduate School. This article originally appeared on the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs’ online blog on July 3rd, 2014, and is posted by permission.

Evacuation of CIA station personnel and Vietnamese citizens from Saigon, April 29, 1975 (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

Evacuation of CIA station personnel and Vietnamese citizens from Saigon, April 29, 1975 (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

The capture of Mosul and Tal Afar by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) throughout the month of June coupled with the terrorist group’s press towards Baghdad via Samarra and recent declaration an independent caliphate a week ago has led some foreign policy analysts to worry that Iraq may be on the verge of a sectarian civil war. Barbaric images from the areas captured during the ISIS campaign are near-ubiquitous online, and feed concerns that a similar fate awaits the Iraqi capital.

While the uniqueness of the ISIS challenge cannot be underestimated, and while no wars are exactly alike, historical parallels between what happened in South Vietnam in 1975 and the current situation in Iraq are striking. The targeting of Iraq’s capital city by an extremist jihadist group from the north just two-and-a-half years after the formal withdrawal of American combat troops recollects the successful North Vietnamese Army (NVA) offensive to capturethe South Vietnamese capital city of Saigon two years after U.S.-President Richard Nixon ordered the evacuation of the last U.S. combat troops from the country. Four critical parallels between the two cases may help inform the American and Iraqi response to ISIS as well as articulate the challenges that confront both countries as the crisis progresses.

First, in both 1975 Vietnam and today’s Iraq, the inheritance of foreign entanglements resulted from the departure of American troops. A year after the United States, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, North Vietnamese Communist leaders in Hanoi drew up a two-year campaign to capture South Vietnam. The NVA’s push to reunify the country began with the capture of the province of Phuoc Long. By the time Ban Me Thuot fell in March 1975, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was in disarray. Although U.S.-President Nixon had repeatedly promised South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu that the United States would “not tolerate violations of the Peace Agreement“, his resignation and succession by Gerald Ford ultimately meant that the United States was unable to “make good on Nixon’s promises to Saigon“. Similarly, the fact that ISIS has set its sights on Baghdad so soon after the formal withdrawal of American combat troops suggests that a hasty administrative handover from Washington left critical Iraqi institutions vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

ISIS fighters round up captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit.

ISIS fighters round up captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit.

Secondly, political unrest and weak leadership were also legacies of the United States’ military withdrawal from both South Vietnam and Iraq. In response to the NVA blitzkrieg, South Vietnamese President Thiệu adopted the so-called “enclave policy” of holding on to coastal urban centers in hopes that U.S. B-52 bombers would come to the rescue. A series of confusing orders from Thiệu — who feared a possible coup against him — coupled with mounting political instability within South Vietnam ultimately resulted in Saigon’s capitulation. As tensions increase with Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish population over a lack of political representation, the country’s ruling Shiite sect, spearheaded by Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, may face a similar situation to that of the South Vietnamese four decades prior.

Avoiding further military entanglement is as much on President Obama’s mind in 2014 as it was on Nixon’s and Ford’s forty years ago. The dispatch of 300 U.S. Army Special Forces combat advisers to Iraq echo President Obama’s commencement speech given at the United States Military Academy last month, in which he stated that “[on issues that] do not pose a direct threat to the United States [...] we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action”. On this matter, Obama seems to be walking a fine political line between collaboration with the Iraqi government and direct military intervention. Indeed, it should be noted that the president dispatched the advisers with a cautiously worded directive “to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward”. It will be critical for these advisers to balance multiple objectives on the ground, including setting up a joint operations center and supporting the Iraqi Army. And, while these are very noble pursuits, it will likely require a projection of Iraqi nationalism via American soft power to unify a people whose sectarian lines run deep.

Thirdly, as with South Vietnam in 1975, the Iraqi government faces more than just the threat of violent removal by ISIS. Even more important than their military campaigns, the NVA effectively employed so-called Armed Propaganda Teams who made use of storytelling and dramatic theater in rural areas to propagandize an idealized image of communist postwar rule. While ISIS does not yet field a fully conventional army able to physically overrun Baghdad, the terrorist group possesses a dangerous, modernized propaganda machine potentially capable of dismantling the city from the inside. Whereas the NVA used theater, ISIS is waging its propaganda war through Twitter and online videos.

South Vietnamese marines line beaches and swim out to ships, fleeing from the northern port city of Da Nang on March 29, 1975 before its fall to the Viet Cong and north Vietnamese. This picture was taken as some marines successfully fled, abandoning scores of weapons, vehicles and even a helicopter. In the foreground, men on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) prepare to throw rope to marines coming up on inner tubes. Only a fraction of the city’s 100,000 defenders were evacuated before its fall.

South Vietnamese marines line beaches and swim out to ships, fleeing from the northern port city of Da Nang on March 29, 1975 before its fall to the Viet Cong and north Vietnamese. This picture was taken as some marines successfully fled, abandoning scores of weapons, vehicles and even a helicopter. In the foreground, men on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) prepare to throw rope to marines coming up on inner tubes. Only a fraction of the city’s 100,000 defenders were evacuated before its fall.

Through a Western lens, ISIS’s psychological warfare is decidedly distorted—underpinned by exaggeration, inflated resources, and augmented by the violence of documented extrajudicial killings and summary executions. The extremist group employed these tactics to secure its territorial expansion among an already shell-shocked Iraqi population. Violence coupled with social media successfully thwarted potential resistance against ISIS fighters, which could have formed in Iraq’s Al-Anbar, Nineveh, Diyala, or Salah al-Din provinces.

The ISIS propaganda campaign has also received an external boost from several factions in the region hostile to Washington. The notable emergence last week of the decidedly anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army kept Sadr City under siege from 2003-2007, rekindled anti-interventionist fervor at the mere suggestion of American involvement. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent accusation that the Obama Administration is attempting to “exploit sectarian rivalries” to influence events in the Middle East may also suggest that the United States’ ability to exert leverage in the region has diminished. Given these circumstances, communication may be the only way for the Obama administration and its combat advisers to maximize their effect. In addition to their military endeavors, these advisers must assist in the running of a successful counter-propaganda mission as vocal opposition to the perceived reprise of U.S. military involvement intensifies.

This image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows a convoy of vehicles and fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Iraq's Anbar Province.

This image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows a convoy of vehicles and fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Iraq’s Anbar Province.

A fourth and final parallel concerns the nature of political extremism itself. Despite marked differences in their governing philosophies, communism and religious radicalism behave similarly when it comes to justifying and implementing retaliation against perceived foreign occupations and sectarian rivals. Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book, “The True Believer, instructively notes the ease with which even manifestly different forms of fanaticism can be whipped up among marginalized masses through similar means. As in the case of protracted communist struggles against foreign occupiers in South Vietnam, communication will likely be key to winning over marginalized Muslims whose mistrust of American influence may be their one commonality. Given that Iraq’s anti-American sentiment crosses sectarian lines, U.S. military advisers and the Obama administration must acknowledge that the al-Maliki government cannot appear heavily dependent on the United States.

Just before South Vietnam fell, President Thiệu blamed Americans for “r[unning] away and l[eaving] us to do the job that you could not do”. As the fall of South Vietnam demonstrates, early vulnerabilities—including the effects of foreign military intervention, real or perceived presidential or political weakness, the withdrawal of military support from one’s principal military ally, a successfully executed propaganda campaign, and the nature of political radicalism, conspire to create an environment ripe for exploitation by extremists. Almost four decades later, facing a similar crisis, the United States cannot expect its junior allies in Iraq to perform miracles in the hope of successfully creating a functioning democratic government. It can, however, assist in countering the effective propaganda war waged by ISIS by empowering marginalized religious and ethnic groups to create a “cross-sectarian” government. Ultimately, it is up to the Iraqi government to gradually achieve political legitimacy in the eyes of its own people in order to stall or blunt ISIS’s advance.

Posted in English, Iraq, Jeong Lee, Stephanie Chenault, Terrorism | 1 Comment

The Future of Shale Gas III – The Case of Turkey as Transit Country

by Jörn Richert, Mercator-IPC Fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC) at Sabancı University in Istanbul, where he conducts a foresight project on EU-Turkish energy relations. This article was published first on Richert’s blog “Future and Politics” and is part of the project “Turkish Energy Leadership Foresight“.

In two previous posts (part I and part II), I have discussed studies that have dealt with the potential geopolitical implication of the shale gas revolution on a global level, as well as for exporters of conventional fossil fuels. In this third post on the future of shale gas, I discuss what impact the shale gas revolution might have for transit states and particularly for Turkey. Although often seen as improving Turkish energy security, I conclude that increasing levels of shale gas production might become problematic for Turkish ambitions regarding regional energy leadership.

Turkey, just as Ukraine, falls into an important category of players in gas politics: It is a transit state. Turkey became a focus of energy debates – particularly in Europe – in the 2000s, when energy jumped up the security and foreign policy agendas of European states and the European Union. Worries about scarce resources and two Russian-Ukrainian gas crises in 2006 and 2009 had pushed Europeans to seriously discuss the diversification of their energy, and particularly gas, supplies.

For the EU, the latter two promised to reduce dependency on Russia. For Turkey, Europe’s diversification efforts meant a boost in political importance. Indeed, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has specified its vision in its Strategic Plan 2010–2014 in terms of making “our country the leader in its region in energy and natural resources”. As Energy Minister Taner Yıldız specifies at the same occasion: “Turkey has acquired an identity of an ‘energy corridor’”.

Turkey, strategically located between Europe in the West and the Middle East and Central Asia in the East:


Basic Assumptions of Turkish Energy Policy hit by a Variety of Uncertainties
The ambition to become a regional energy leader by becoming an energy corridor is based on several assumptions: In the future, there will be growing demand for natural gas in Europe and there will be growing supplies in countries such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, and Iran. If gas would be transported from producers to consumers, so it further implies, the natural choice would be to transport it through Turkey, via pipeline.

There are several problematic aspects to these seemingly common-sense assumptions. Supply might be hampered by actual or potential political struggles in the region. Among these are the still unresolved Kurdish question in Turkey itself, the political struggles between the Iraqi central government in Bagdad and the Kurdish Regional Government, the Syrian civil war that might spill over beyond Syrian borders, the future Russian approach to its ‘near abroad’ in Central Asia, the continuing geopolitical struggles surrounding Iran, as well as unresolved legal issues in the Caspian Sea that hamper the westward transport of Turkmen gas. For countries such as Turkmenistan and Iran, it might furthermore be appealing to turn to China as an alternative target market. This tendency might be fostered by recent economic difficulties and debates about the future of renewable energies in Europe that generate uncertainty about future European gas demand.

While all these are important issues, I want to focus on another and less recognized factor in the Turkish energy transit equation: the role of new shale gas supply. I therefore turn to several studies that have recently analyzed Turkish energy politics and the role of (non-)conventional gas therein. Their main focus clearly is on the domestic market.

Turkey's Natural Gas Import in 2012 by source country (Source: EMRA, Natural Gas Market Sector Report, 2012).

Turkey’s Natural Gas Import in 2012 by source country (Source: EMRA, “Natural Gas Market Sector Report“, 2012).

Indirect Positive Effects of Shale Gas for Turkish Supply Security
Turkey is not only an important transit state. It is in itself a large, and Europe’s fastest growing energy market. As outlined by a study recently published by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), Turkey consumed 45.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas in 2012 and was (and still is) almost entirely dependent on imports. Imports came from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran as well as – via LNG (7.8 bcm in total) – from Algeria, Nigeria, and Qatar.

Future projections of demand differ somewhat: The OIES study estimates that Turkish demand in gas will increase to 70 bcm by 2030. It is more cautious than BOTAŞ, Turkey’s oil and gas transport and trading company, estimating that gas consumption will increase to approximately 81 bcm by 2030.

Despite its lower estimates, the OIES study concludes that there are two future periods in which gas supply shortages might occur in Turkey. It bases these conclusions on a discussion of factors such as existing generation capacity, licensing practices for new capacity, political progress in market liberalization, and changing market structure.

  • A first phase of potential shortages is identified between 2015 and 2018, when growing demand might outpace supply arrangements. After 2018, market tightness might be lessened by additional capacity from the second exploration stage of the Shah Deniz field, an offshore project in the Azeri Caspian Sea.
  • After 2021–2022, a second shortage might occur as a consequence of ending supply contracts with Russia (Western Line) and Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz I).

How to prevent these shortages? This is where shale gas comes in, if only indirectly. Increasing shale gas production is said to have three effects, all of them positive:

  • First, when discussing the prevention of supply shortages, much emphasis is put on LNG-imports. In the LNG market, in turn, the effect of increasing shale gas production is felt. The OIES study mentions that reduced US needs to import gas have freed new supplies, particularly from Qatar.
  • Second, it is mentioned in passing that US shale gas has provoked increasing coal exports to Europe and that also Turkey might profit from cheap coal in the future.
  • Third, shale gas is held to push gas prices down by expanding supply. If the side effects of the US shale gas revolution would force Gazprom to lower prices in Europe, so the study argues, this would also benefit Turkey by improving its bargaining position vis-à-vis Russia.

From Projections to Scenarios: Less Shale Gas might be Better than More for Turkey
Shale gas is a good thing for Turkey, so it seems. One recent analysis even claims that any “increase in output, whether through conventional or unconventional means will of course work in Turkey’s favour”. This assessment, however, might be overly optimistic. To show this, I turn to a scenario-analysis of Turkey’s recent and future situation with regard to natural gas, published in the context of Baker Institute’s program that I have referred to in the first post on the future of shale gas. This Turkey-specific analysis applies the same successful/unsuccessful shale production, successful/unsuccessful liberalization logic as the overall scenarios discussed in that previous post.

The four scenarios emerging form this logic contain a domestic and an international part respectively. I first discuss the domestic parts of the scenarios. Indeed, the OIES analysis is very similar to the domestic parts of the ‘high shale success, high liberalization’ as well as the ‘high shale success, low liberalization’ scenarios. In both ‘high shale success’ scenarios, energy prices are expected to drop, positively affecting domestic political and economic development in Turkey. Price decreases are higher in the high liberalization scenario where actual global shale gas trade takes place. If liberalization should remain low, price effects would remain indirect (as described above). Also the ‘low shale success, low liberalization’ scenario seems to conform the above analysis. Here energy prices remain high or increase with negative political and economic consequences for Turkey. Interestingly, however the ‘most economically and geopolitically beneficial scenario’, in the words of the authors, does not include significantly increasing shale gas production. It is instead the ‘low shale success, high liberalization’ scenario. The reason for this assessment lies in the interaction of domestic and international politics – something that is largely overseen by the other analyses.

The International Dimension, or: Transit Countries in a Shale Rich World
The reason why a ‘low shale success, high liberalization’ scenario might turn out being particularly beneficial for Turkey is the following: Turkey’s position as a transit country is intimately intertwined with European demand for gas traded via Turkey. If there is only low success with regard to shale production, three alternative sources for gas supply to Europe drop out: LNG volumes re-directed as a consequence of decreasing US imports, eventual direct shale gas imports from the US, as well as domestic European shale gas production. High liberalization also extends to the Turkish domestic energy market in this scenario, allowing for easier relations with a liberalized European gas market and well-functioning energy trade.


However, the other three scenarios are less favorable for Turkey’s role in international gas politics. In a ‘low shale success, low liberalization’, so the Baker Institute’s study argues, limited internal EU liberalization might foreclose a coordinated European energy policy. This would result in less political force behind the Southern Corridor idea. With no concerted policy to diversify European supplies, also Turkey’s position would be limited. The scenario assumes that Turkey might opt for an alternative strategy of supporting Russian efforts to establish the South Stream pipeline. This would grant economic benefits for Turkey, but it would limit the country’s potential standing as an alternative to Russia.

For the future of shale gas, however, the two ‘high shale success’ scenarios are more interesting. If shale success combines with ‘low liberalization’, the result for Turkey would be ‘doubly painful’, as the scenario study puts it. Not only would Europe demonstrate limited will to foster the Southern Corridor due to missing internal liberalization and thus unity (also see this study, in German). Moreover, while Europe increasingly develops its own shale gas resources, Turkey would remain largely dependent on higher cost pipeline gas. Turkish domestic shale gas production would take place largely in areas with strong Kurdish population, thus adding a new dimension to the still largely unresolved Kurdish question.

The last scenario, ‘high shale success, high liberalization’ bears different challenges for Turkey as a transit state: Increasing competition from US shale gas might move Russia to abandon oil price pegging (the above mentioned OIES-study highlights the possibility of Russia moving to a HH+5 formula, meaning that Russian gas could be priced following spot prices at the US Henry Hub plus an extra 5 $US). In general, the European gas market could transform into a constant buyer’s market and a general move towards spot market indexed prices could occur (also see here). Under these conditions, so the scenario study holds, the Southern Corridor would become uninteresting and eventually uneconomical and European consumers would lose interest. Particularly in this latter scenario, Turkey could move from the center to the periphery of global and regional energy politics.

Shale Gas for Turkey: A not so Appealing Future Outlook
So what would an increasing shale gas production entail for Turkey? Domestically speaking, indirect and maybe direct effects of the shale gas revolution might be beneficial in terms affordability of gas and supply security. Looking at the international dimension of the shale gas revolution, however, the picture is not all that promising (see the figure on the right for the impact of different scenarios on Turkish ambitions to become a regional energy leader). The most beneficial energy future, from a Turkish perspective, might be one with high liberalization and low success in shale gas production.

tabelle-turkey-and-shaleThe high shale success scenarios, are less beneficial: With abundant shale resources at hand, European leaders might lose interest in Turkey as a transit state. Even if they would not, the shale gas revolution is likely to provoke a transformation of gas trading and pricing structures – away from long-term contracts and oil-pegged prices towards spot trade and gas contract prices pegged to gas spot prices. These developments would imply significant re-distributions of risks and benefits in gas trade and transit that would also shake the Turkish approach to energy transit. What is more, in a world of flexible markets, also producers might be increasingly driven to shift their exports towards more flexible LNG trade.

With gas markets gaining flexibility, potentially globalizing, and increasingly relying on LNG-tankers as major means of transporting gas, Turkey’s position – built on long-lasting, regional trading arrangements and over-land pipeline connections – could be severely hampered. Although further analysis needs to follow, ‘being a transit country’ might less and less transform into ‘being an energy leader’ in the future.

Posted in Energy Security, English, Jörn Richert, Turkey | Leave a comment

RIMPAC 2014 – The Ins and Outs

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Haikou (171) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Haikou (171) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

On June 26th, one of the world’s largest and most significant naval exercises began in and around Hawaii. Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is a biannual event led by the United States Navy and usually involves maritime forces from more than 23 Pacific countries, including Canada. Although the exercises have been held consistently since 1971, this year’s edition promises to have an unprecedented impact on military and strategic affairs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Of particular note, 2014 marks the first time China actively participates in RIMPAC. Previous editions have involved regional neighbours, like Japan and South Korea, but curiously excluded the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Early this year, as planning was underway for the upcoming edition of RIMPAC, the US extended an invitation to China for the first time. However, the fallout from the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 31 – June 1 left considerable doubt that China would accept the invitation. It therefore came as a surprise when China formally accepted the invitation one week after the heated debate in Singapore. In a move that could help reduce regional tensions, four PLAN vessels will participate in the exercise, serving alongside ships from other participating countries, like Japan, the Philippines, and Canada.

This is also the first RIMPAC exercise for the small Southeast Asian state of Brunei. The Royal Brunei Navy is a rather small force, especially in comparison to the impressive naval might of nearby Singapore, but it has contributed two off-shore patrol vessels. These smaller ships, the KDB Darussalam and KDB Darulaman, are also Brunei’s newest acquisitions and so RIMPAC is viewed as an opportunity to test out their capabilities in simulations of large-scale maritime combat operations.

U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment disembark Amphibious Assault Vehicles during a mechanized raid in support of exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, July 18, 2004 (Photo: Photographer's Mate 1st Class Jane West / US Navy).

U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment disembark Amphibious Assault Vehicles during a mechanized raid in support of exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, July 18, 2004 (Photo: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Jane West / US Navy).

With Brunei, participation in RIMPAC increases among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members to six out of ten, indicating a willingness by the bloc to become more actively involved in Pacific security. The four member states not participating in 2014 either lack the capacity to participate, such as landlocked Laos, or they were not invited to participate, such as the despotic regime in Burma.

While China and Brunei are in this year, Russia is out. In 2012, Russian maritime forces joined RIMPAC for the first time. Three vessels took part, led by the destroyer RFS Panteleyev, which had previously served alongside NATO forces as part of Operation Ocean Shield. But with tensions rising over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, no invitation was extended to join RIMPAC in 2014.

In May 2014, Russia and China held a large-scale joint naval exercise of their own in the East China Sea, but Russia has otherwise been left isolated in Pacific military affairs since the Crimean crisis. Aside from supplying Vietnam with new submarines and other vessels, Russia has scant opportunities to build security ties with the countries of Southeast Asia, stalling any effort by Vladimir Putin to pivot eastward. This suggests that any ‘soft power’ influence Russia may have had is now in severe decline, with many governments in the region reluctant to trust or engage with Putin.

Multinational fleet during RIMPAC 2012.

Multinational fleet during RIMPAC 2012.

RIMPAC 2014 is also a significant opportunity for Canada to demonstrate its capacity to become a major player in the Pacific. This has clearly not been lost on Canadian defence officials as there is a considerably increased contribution from Canada as compared to 2012, despite the fact that many Royal Canadian Navy vessels are either undergoing repairs or are being retrofitted. This time, Canada’s fleet is led by the HMCS Calgary, a Halifax-class frigate, joined by a Victoria-class submarine and two Kingston-class patrol vessels. As RIMPAC is a combined arms exercise, Canada has also sent an infantry company from the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to act as marines, while a Royal Canadian Air Force component will be deployed that includes eight CF-18 Hornets.

By involving all three elements of the Canadian Forces, it will be possible to demonstrate Canada’s ability to participate meaningfully in a multilateral intervention in the Pacific. As tensions between countries in the Asia-Pacific region are enflamed, discussion surrounding the potential for a Pacific equivalent to NATO occasionally surfaces. By showing leadership through RIMPAC and developing interoperability with countries ranging from Brunei to China, Canada secures a place at the table for itself in case those discussions ever turn serious.

• • •

CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

Posted in English, International, Paul Pryce, Sea Powers | 1 Comment

Mit deutscher Ausbildung in den Krieg

von Peter Dörrie

Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen besuchte am 6. Februar die Truppen in Mali. In Koulikoro informiert sich die Ministerin über die Trainingsmission der Europäischen Union zur Ausbildung malischer Soldaten.

Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen besuchte am 6. Februar die Truppen in Mali. In Koulikoro informiert sich die Ministerin über die Trainingsmission der Europäischen Union zur Ausbildung malischer Soldaten.

Für Bundesverteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen ist das westafrikanische Mali “ein Schwerpunkt” der Bundesregierung in Afrika, der “intensiviert” werden solle. Das bedeute vor allem den Ausbau der militärischen Kooperation: “die Ausbildung der malischen Streitkräfte [muss] weiter geleistet werden,” sagte die Ministerin während der Bundestagsdebatte im Februar über die Aufstockung der deutschen Beteiligung an der europäischen Ausbildungsmission EUTM Mali auf 250 Soldaten.

Nach Auskunft des Einsatzführungskommandos der Bundeswehr in Potsdam sind aktuell etwa 150 deutsche Soldaten im Rahmen der EUTM Mali eingesetzt, davon 45 fest in der Ausbildung, etwa von Pioniereinheiten. Bisher haben drei Bataillone der malischen Armee den jeweils dreimonatigen Lehrgang durchlaufen, an dem sich auch Frankreich, Spanien und andere europäische Nationen beteiligen. Das Training soll, so die Bundeswehr, das malische Militär dazu befähigen “die Stabilisierung des Landes in eigener Verantwortung wieder voranzubringen,” nachdem 2012 ein Aufstand bewaffneter Tuareg-Rebellen, ein anschließender Putsch und die Machtübernahme von Islamisten in weiten Teilen des Landes Mali an den Rand des Kollaps getrieben hatten. Erst eine Intervention Frankreichs konnte die Krise damals unter Kontrolle bringen.

Alles andere als stabilisierend wirkten allerdings die jüngsten Kämpfe zwischen malischer Armee und Tuareg-Rebellen, an denen nach Recherchen von auch von Deutschland ausgebildete Truppen massiv beteiligt waren. Am 21. Mai startete die Armee eine Offensive mit 1.800 Soldaten zur Wiedereinnahme der nordmalischen Stadt Kidal, die nach einer Reihe gegenseitiger Provokationen in der Woche zuvor durch die Rebellengruppe Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) und ihren Verbündeten besetzt worden war. Etwa ein Viertel der auf malischer Seite beteiligten Truppen hatten zuvor eine Ausbildung durch die Europäische Union erhalten, konnte aus Kreisen der Koalitionsfraktionen im Bundestag erfahren.

Die Offensive endete für die malische Armee in einem Desaster: nach sechsstündigen Kämpfen musste sie sich den erheblich besser organisierten und ausgerüsteten Rebellen geschlagen geben und sich fluchtartig aus Kidal zurückziehen. Mehr als hundert Opfer soll die Armee dabei nach Informationen von zu beklagen gehabt haben, darunter den stellvertretenden Kommandeur der eingesetzten Einheiten. Aus Angst vor einer Gegenoffensive der Rebellen räumten daraufhin im gesamten Norden Armeeeinheiten ihre Stellungen kampflos und flüchteten in das südlicher gelegene Gao.

Deutsche Soldaten bei der Ausbildung der malischen Pioniere in Koulikoro - Thema: praktische Ausbildung (EOD/EOR) im Gelände (Foto: Falk Bärwald / Deutsche Bundeswehr).

Deutsche Soldaten bei der Ausbildung der malischen Pioniere in Koulikoro – Thema: praktische Ausbildung (EOD/EOR) im Gelände (Foto: Falk Bärwald / Deutsche Bundeswehr).

Die Entwicklungen werfen für das Konzept der Bundesregierung für das deutsche Engagement in Mali erhebliche Fragen auf, finden Vertreter der Opposition. Agnieszka Brugger, Bundestagsabgeordnete der Grünen, war kurz nach den Kämpfen im Rahmen eines offiziellen Besuchs in Mali. Sie sei nicht grundsätzlich gegen eine militärische Kooperation mit der malischen Regierung, sagte sie gegenüber, die “kann [aber] nur Sinn machen, wenn sie eingebettet ist in eine vernünftige Gesamtstrategie. Diese muss die Konfliktursachen bearbeiten und zwar nicht mit militärischen, sondern mit zivilen Mitteln.” An dieser Gesamtstrategie, dass sei ihr Eindruck, mangele es der Bundesregierung, so Brugger.

Dieser Kritik schließt sich Jan van Aken, Verteidigungsexperte der Linken im Bundestag an. Es sei “das Absurdeste überhaupt,” dass Deutschland malische Soldaten ausbilde, die dann gegen die Verbündeten Frankreichs kämpfen, so Aken. Er spielt damit auf wiederholte Berichte durch internationale Medien und unabhängige Experten an, nach denen die französische Armee in ihrem Kampf gegen Islamisten im Norden Malis eng mit der MNLA zusammenarbeitet. Van Aken kritisiert auch die Qualität der deutschen Ausbildung: “was wir aus Mali hören ist, dass diese Einheiten [in Kidal] Kanonenfutter waren.”

Ein Sprecher des Verteidigungsministeriums widersprach gegenüber den Vorwürfen: “die Beteiligung Deutschlands an der Ausbildungsmission EUTM Mali ist Teil eines umfassenden Engagements der Bundesregierung für Mali im Rahmen eines vernetzten Ansatzes,” der auch politische Maßnahmen zur Friedenssicherung und Entwicklungshilfe beinhalte. Malische Soldaten auf “komplexe Operationen, z.B. einen Angriff auf urbanes Gebiet” vorzubereiten, sei darüber hinaus nie Ziel der EUTM Mali gewesen. “Informationen hinsichtlich einer angeblichen ‘Kooperation’ der französischen Streitkräfte mit der MNLA liegen derzeit nicht vor,” so das Verteidigungsministerium.

Deutsche Truppen defilieren am 27. Januar 2014 in Mali an den Feierlichkeiten zum 53. Jahrestag der malischen Streitkräfte.

Deutsche Truppen defilieren am 27. Januar 2014 in Mali an den Feierlichkeiten zum 53. Jahrestag der malischen Streitkräfte.

Unabhängig von offenen Fragen um einen eventuellen Informationsrückstand des Verteidigungsministeriums oder der Qualität deutscher Ausbildung ist das Vorgehen der malischen Armee und Regierung aber auch aus anderen Gründen problematisch. Der Besuch des malischen Premierministers in Kidal, der allgemein als Auslöser der gegenwärtigen Krise angesehen wird, wurde nach Informationen trotz erheblicher Bedenken der internationalen Gemeinschaft durchgeführt, die das Gefahrenpotenzial einer solche Provokation durchaus erkannt hatte. Als die MNLA daraufhin 30 malische Beamte entführte, soll sich die Armee ohne Befehl der Regierung zum Angriff auf Kidal entschlossen haben. “Die malische Regierung bestreitet, den Angriffsbefehl gegeben zu haben,” muss der Sprecher des Verteidigungsministeriums gegenüber einräumen.

Gerade aufgrund der jüngeren malischen Geschichte sei dies höchst bedenklich, so Agnieszka Brugger von den Grünen. “vor allem vor dem Hintergrund des Putsches, den es ja 2012 in Mali gab, muss die politische Kontrolle über das Militär gestärkt werden,” so Brugger. Hier, genauso wie im Bereich des nationalen Friedensprozesses zwischen Teilen der Tuareg und der Regierung, engagiere sich die Bundesregierung nicht genug, zu viel Aufmerksamkeit würde der rein militärischen Kooperation geschenkt. Das sei durch die Geschehnisse der letzten Wochen deutlich geworden.

Die Bundesregierung sieht das anders. “Von einer Konzentration des deutschen Engagements in Mali auf das Militärische kann man nicht sprechen,” so ein Sprecher des Verteidigungsministeriums gegenüber Einen Anlass, die deutsche Mali-Politik zu überdenken, sieht man auf Seiten der Bundesregierung offenbar nicht.

Posted in International, Mali, Peter Dörrie, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Energierevolution aus der Wüste

von Seka Smith. Seka Smith ist Politikwissenschaftlerin, lebt in Berlin und arbeitet im Politikbereich. Für schreibt sie unter Pseudonym.

Eine Initiative von vornehmlich deutschen Unternehmen will die Strombranche revolutionieren. Der Name:Desertec – das Ziel: die Einspeisung von “Wüstenstrom” aus Nordafrika und dem Nahen Osten in das europäische Netz.

Das DESERTEC Konzept ermöglicht mehr als 90 Prozent der Weltbevölkerung effizienten Zugang zu Solar- und Windstrom aus den energiereichen Wüstengebieten der Erde – und damit auch eine günstige Ergänzung des jeweiligen regionalen regenerativen Energiemixes. — Desertec Foundation, Red Paper. Seite 7.

Derzeit werden etwa 85 % des weltweiten Bedarfs an Energie durch fossile Energiequellen gedeckt, d.h. mithilfe von Erdöl, Erdgas und Biomasse. Die europäische Industrie ist zum größten Teil vom Strom aus fossilen Energieträgern abhängig, dessen Verbrennung große Mengen an umweltschädlichen CO2-Gasen produziert und damit maßgeblich für den Klimawandel verantwortlich ist.


Solar- und Windenergie in der EU-MENA-Region

Volkswirtschaftlich ist die Verwendung von Öl und Gas ein teures Vergnügen. Die Verknappung der Öl- und Gasvorräte sowie Konflikte in den Förderländern ließen die Preise in der Vergangenheit enorm ansteigen. Innerhalb von zehn Jahren (2000 – 2010) kletterte der Preis eines Barrel Öls von 26,80 US-Dollar auf 78,92 US-Dollar, das ist ein Anstieg um 294,48%. Gegenwärtig (Juni 2014) liegt der Barrelpreis bei 103,13 US-Dollar. Die graduelle Teuerung hat ernsthafte Folgen: bereits die Erhöhung des Barrel-Preises um einen US-Dollar bedeutet eine weltweite Zusatzbelastung der Wirtschaft um 31 Milliarden US-Dollar. Steigt der Gaspreis ebenfalls um denselben Betrag, so verdoppelt sich die wirtschaftliche Zusatzbelastung auf ca. 62 Milliarden US-Dollar.

Nimmt man für Deutschland eine Strompreissteigerung von nur 0,1 Cent/KWh an, fallen damit Zusatzbelastungen in Höhe von 550 Mio. Euro für die deutschen Haushalte und die einheimische Wirtschaft an. Aber auch trotz der zunehmenden Kosten darf ein wichtiger Aspekt nicht vergessen werden, der des Umweltschutzes und der notwendigen Investitionen in die erneuerbare Energieerzeugung.

Wüstenstrom für Deutschland

Prognosedaten – Deutschland

Die Technik hinter Desertec
Durch HGÜ-Leitungen wird der durch Windkraftwerke und solarthermische Anlagen gewonnene Strom nach Europa geliefert. Für die langen Transportstrecken eignen sich nur Spezialleitungen, da herkömmliche Kabel über eine Strecke von 3.000 km einen Leistungsverlust von 45 % aufweisen. HGÜ-Kabel hingegen haben einen Leistungsverlust von nur etwa 10 %. Der Nachteil: Diese Leitungen sind sehr teuer. Nach Berechnungen des DLR müssten allein für den Bau von 20 HGÜ-Leitungen mit einer Kapazität von je fünf GW in der EU-MENA-Region eine Gesamtinvestitionssumme von 45 Mrd. Euro aufgewendet werden.

Der Strom soll in erster Linie mit solarthermischen Kraftwerken gewonnen werden. Sie fangen mit großen Parabolrinnenkollektoren Licht ein, lenken sie auf eine Trägerflüssigkeit (z.B. spezielle Öle) und erhitzen diese. Der daraus gewonnene Dampf treibt dann Turbinen zur Stromerzeugung an. Diese Wärme kann später in Flüssigsalztanks gespeichert und in der Nacht zur Stromgewinnung genutzt oder Nachfragespitzen abgedeckt werden. Damit wäre eine 24-stündige Stromentnahme gewährleistet. Mit dem Ausbau dieser Anlagen könnte für Deutschland der Ausstieg aus der Atomkraft sichergestellt werden, ohne Befürchtungen hegen zu müssen, die Versorgungsnachhaltigkeit [1] könnte beeinträchtigt werden.



Für den Bau der Windkraft- und solarthermischen Anlagen mit einer Gesamtfläche von mehr als 50 km² müssten bis 2050 mindestens 355 Mrd. Euro investiert werden. Ab 2050 könnte das Industriekonsortium anschließend mit einem Jahresumsatz von ca. 35 Mrd. Euro rechnen. Die derzeitige Kostenschätzung geht davon aus, dass der “Wüstenstrom” zwischen 10 und 20 Cent/kWh inklusive des Transports aus Nordafrika oder dem Nahen Osten kosten wird. Derzeit bezahlen Privathaushalte für eine Kwh im Durchschnitt 26,4 Cent.

Bis 2050 könnte der Anteil des “Wüstenstroms” zwischen 10 und 25 % am Energiemix betragen. Langfristig könnte Europa sogar bis zu 85% seines Stroms aus alternativen Quellen, d.h. nicht fossilen und nichtatomaren, beziehen. Damit würde der CO2-Ausstoß bis 2050 um 25 % gesenkt werden können. [2]

Energiemix 2010

Energiemix 2010

Energiemix 2050

Energiemix 2050

Der Strom aus der Wüste: ein Ausblick
Die Studie “Concentrating Solar Power for the Mediterranean Region – Final Report” des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLE) kam zum Ergebnis, dass

  • nur durch die Installation von erneuerbaren Energiequellen die ökonomische, soziale und umweltpolitische Entwicklung [3] der EU-MENA-Region entscheidend verbessert werden kann,
  • ein gut austarierter Mix erneuerbarer Energiesysteme Nachfragespitzen abdecken kann und die Verfügbarkeit von fossilen Quellen verlängert,
  • erneuerbare Energiequellen die kostengünstigste Option für Energie- und Wassersicherheit in der EU-MENA-Region darstellen.

Sauberer Strom aus den Wüsten der Erde kann innerhalb weniger Jahrzehnte einen erheblichen Beitrag zu Klima- und Energiesicherheit leisten. Besonders die Region rund um das Mittelmeer würde, wie es das DESERTEC Konzept vorsieht, wirtschaftlich wie humanitär von der Nutzung der Sonnen- und Windkraft in den Wüstengebieten profitieren. — Max Schön, Präsident der Deutschen Gesellschaft Club of Rome / Kuratoriumsmitglied der Desertec Foundation und seit 2010 Mitglied im Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung der Deutschen Bundesregierung, Pressemitteilung Desertec (17.03.2009).

Das Projekt ist für diese Region, also für Afrika und Europa, aber auch für viele andere Regionen in der Welt von großer Bedeutung. — Klaus Töpfer, Bundesumweltminister a.D. / Exekutivdirektor am IASS in Potsdam, Interview mit dem Deutschlandfunk (10.07.2013).

Kraftzentren in der EU-MENA-Region

Kraftzentren in der EU-MENA-Region

Doch bevor Desertec bzw. Dii den “Wüstenstrom” nach Europa exportieren wird, müssen politische Rahmenbedingungen geklärt werden. Insbesondere die des Technologietransfers, der Finanzierung und der Versorgungssicherheit. Kritiker wenden ein, dass sich Europa durch die Auslagerung der Stromproduktion nach Nordafrika politisch erpressbar machen könnte, z.B. durch Lieferstopps (analog: Gasstreit Ukraine-Russland) oder der Drohung der Enteignung durch Verstaatlichung. [4] Nichtsdestotrotz würden diese Maßnahmen mittel- bis langfristig den entsprechenden Ländern mehr schaden als nützen. Des Weiteren könnte eine intensive Vernetzung (Supergrid) der Kraftwerke in der EU-MENA-Region regionale Ausfälle kompensieren helfen.

Ein weiteres Problem ergibt sich aus der Instabilität der MENA-Region, zu der u.a. Ägypten, Algerien, Israel, Libyen, Saudi-Arabien, Syrien, der Irak und Iran zählen. Also Staaten, in denen insbesondere die Sicherheitslage relativ bis äußerst labil ist (Syrischer Bürgerkrieg, Staatskrise in Ägypten; generell: Arabischer Frühling) oder eine terroristische Bedrohung (ISIL in Syrien und im Irak, al-Qaida im Maghreb, Hamas, Ansar al-Scharia, al-Nusra Front, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis u.a.) aufweist.

Andererseits würden die Region durch die Energie-Kooperation einen wirtschaftlichen Aufschwung erfahren. Nicht nur die eigene Abhängigkeit von teuren Ölimporten würde sinken, die etwaige Entsorgung von radioaktivem Abfall würde entfallen ebenso die Möglichkeit der Plutonium-Proliferation, die langfristige Subventionierung von Atomkraftwerken könnte eingespart werden und eine klimaschonende Technik Vorzug finden. Ebenso könnte auch die Wasserversorgung in der Region beträchtlich verbessert werden, indem der Solarstrom für die emmissionsfreie Entsalzung von Meereswasser und damit zur Trinkwasserproduktion verwendet werden könnte. [5]

Dem Desertec-Weißbuch [6] zufolge werden 10 Milliarden Euro als Initialförderung benötigt und der Ausbau der solarthermischen Kraftwerke geht stetig weiter: Andasol 1 bis 3 in Südspanien, El Kureimat in Ägypten und Hassi R´mel in Algerien und ein weiteres Kraftwerk, Ain-Ben-Mathar, wurde in Marokko in Betrieb genommen. [7] Mit einem konsequenten Ausbau will man bis 2020 mindestens 50 GW an Leistung emittieren können sowie eine oder zwei interkontinentale Stromleitungen zwischen Nordafrika und Europa (z.B. zwischen Tunesien und Italien) gebaut haben. [8]

Die Finanzierung des gesamten Projektes und die politische Instabilität der MENA-Region entwickeln sich derzeit unbefriedigend. Gründungsmitglied E.ON sowie das Unternehmen Bilfinger werden bis zum Ende des Jahres 2014 das Konsortium Dii (Desertec Industrial Initiative) verlassen. Bereits am 27. Juni 2013 hat die Desertec Foundation, die Ideen- und Namensgeberin des Desertec-Konzeptes, einstimmig beschlossen, die Industriekooperation wegen “unüberbrückbaren Meinungsverschiedenheiten bezüglich der zukünftigen Strategie, den Aufgaben und der dafür notwendigen Kommunikation sowie nicht zuletzt des Führungsstils der Dii-Spitze zu verlassen”. [9] Im Gegensatz dazu konnte ein neuer potenter Partner gewonnen werden – der weltweit größte Stromnetzbetreiber: State Grid Corporation of China.

Desertec/Dii stehen vor großen Herausforderungen – politischer wie finanzieller Natur, doch das Ziel ist überaus erstrebenswert. Mit dem “Wüstenstrom” könnte Europa einen wichtigen und nötigen Schritt in eine grüne und nachhaltige Zukunft gehen.

Weitere Informationen


CO2 Kohlenstoffdioxid
DLR Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt
EU-MENA Europe, Middle East, North Africa
HGÜ-Leitungen Hochspannungs-Gleichstrom-Übertragungsleitungen
GW Gigawatt
kWh Kilowattstunde


[1] Zur Versorgungsnachhaltigkeit zählt: Kostengünstige Energie, möglichst geringe Auswirkungen auf die Umwelt, geringes Konfliktpotential, Ressourcenschutz, fairer Energiezugang, wirtschaftliche Stabilität, Energieversorgungsgewährleistung, Power on Demand, internationale Energiekooperation.
[2] Im Vergleich zum Jahr 2000.
[3] Vgl. dazu auch:TRANS-CSP Trans-Mediterranean interconnection for Concentrating Solar Power – Final Report. S. 105 ff.
[4] Bspw. Verstaatlichung oder Drohung mit Enteignung der auslänischen Ölindustrie wie u.a. in Venezuela, Bolivien und Ecuador.
[5] Vgl. dazu auch: AQUA-CSP Concentrating Solar Power for Seawater Desalination – Final Report.
[6] Desertec (2009): Clean Power from Desertes. S. 58.
[7] Siehe auch: Solar Thermal Power Stations Announced In Other Countries.
[8] Bisher besteht zwischen Europa und Nordafrika eine Wechselspannungsverbindung.
[9] Pressemitteilung Desertec (1.07.2013).

Posted in Energy Security, General Knowledge, International, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Security Policy, Seka Smith | Leave a comment

U.S. Army: We Have No Idea How to Wage War in Megacities

A U.S. National Guard Black Hawk helicopter flies over New York after Hurricane Sandy on Nov. 4, 2012. National Guard photo

A U.S. National Guard Black Hawk helicopter flies over New York after Hurricane Sandy on Nov. 4, 2012. National Guard photo

by Robert Beckhusen. Robert Beckhusen is a freelance writer who contributes regularly at War is Boring. He’s also written for publications including C4ISR JournalWiredThe Daily Beast and World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter.

If you want to picture the characteristically 21st century living environment, imagine cities like Lagos and Shanghai; or Sao Paulo, New York and Cairo. Now double the population, and you have a pretty close approximation of what the world’s largest urban areas will be like by mid-century.

Now ask: How does the Army control a city of that size? How does an infantry force of thousands cut off and surround and city of 10 million? What about 20 or 30 million? The answer is that the United States can’t, at least not yet.

That’s the conclusion of a study released in June from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Group. Researchers from the group’s Megacities Concept Team spent a year visiting the world’s megacities — defined as having a population greater than 10 million people — to study how the Army might conceivably fight a war inside them.

“The Army, and the [Department of Defense] community more broadly, neither understands or prepares for these environments,” the report states. The result is that the Army’s fundamental assumptions about urban warfare will collapse when it’s tasked with intervening in the growing megacities of the future.

Emphasis on when. The Army does not have experience fighting in megacities, but sees conflict in these cities as an inevitability due to their strategic importance. Even the Army’s experience in Baghdad — population 6.5 million — is of a smaller scale compared to the really massive and growing megacities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. As a comparison, the Army notes there will be an estimated “37 cities across the world that are 200-400 percent larger than Baghdad” by the year 2030.

Brazilian riot police take aim in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2014. Gabriel Cabral/Flickr photo

Brazilian riot police take aim in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2014. Gabriel Cabral/Flickr photo

To simplify why the U.S. is having trouble, it’s because the way the Army normally plans for urban war is similar to how it plans for war everywhere else. This is generally by having the approaching — or attacking — element attempt to shape its environment in order to gain tactical, operational and strategic surprise and advantage over its foe. This forces the enemy to react to your moves, rather than the other way around.

A classic example is for the advancing force to maneuver around a city in order to threaten the defending force’s lines of supply — which are simultaneously targeted with stand-off weapons such as artillery and air strikes. The attacking force also targets the defenders and the civilian population with propaganda and psychological warfare. The U.S. military’s 2003 “shock and awe” campaign towards Baghdad is an example of this strategy, the main exception here being the tank-driven “thunder runs” into the heart of the city as the Iraqi army collapsed.

Megacities totally disrupt this strategy for a load of reasons. “The scale of megacities, in essence, defies the military’s ability to apply historical methods,” the report states. To use one example, Lagos, Nigeria contains more than 20 million people packed into 910 square kilometers of rickety urban sprawl. This environment is so huge, it cannot be feasibly surrounded with any force the U.S. could reasonably expect to deploy. Were the U.S. to intervene in a conflict, it couldn’t realistically control the flow of people, goods or communications — everyone has cell phones. There’s no element of surprise. The military could barely even maneuver inside the city, for the simple fact that there’s too much traffic and many of the streets cannot support heavy logistics vehicles.

“The congestion of ground avenues of approach, combined with the massive size of the megacity environments, makes even getting to an objective from the periphery questionable, let alone achieving an operational effect,” the report states.

Lagos, Nigeria. Stefan Magdalinski/Flickr photo

Lagos, Nigeria. Stefan Magdalinski/Flickr photo

Another problem for military planners is that each megacity is very different from one another, which undercuts a lot of the military’s assumptions when creating doctrine. To use a comparison, let’s say you’re in charge of leading troops up an enemy-controlled hill. The hill could be in Vietnam, Panama or Afghanistan. In any case, the attack will generally follow a set of similar rules. One hill — while having its own unique characteristics — will be a lot more like another hill than one megacity is to another.

Just compare the differences between Lagos and — to use another example — Sao Paulo. Or the difference between either of those cities and Bangkok and New York. Transportation infrastructure, social inequalities, social conflicts, the capabilities of city administrators, the presence of ad-hoc militias — all of these factors vary so much that you require an entirely unique doctrine for operating in each city.

Another problem is that megacities can make conflict more likely. This is less likely in a relatively smoothly-operated place like New York, but the same social pressures that exist there — gentrification, rising inequality and over-crowdedness — are on overdrive in a seething metropolis like Sao Paulo, with its millionaire elites riding to work in helicopters above AK-47-toting drug traffickers who control the streets.

The Army’s Strategic Studies Group doesn’t make many specific recommendations about what to do — except for the Pentagon to start thinking seriously about it. It simply poses questions, such as showing a photo of the crowded skyline of Dhaka, Bangladesh with the words, “How many soldiers does this require?” It also asks how Special Operations Forces and how the military’s own institutions can start figuring out the nuts and bolts of controlling the unimaginably huge cities of the future.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, Robert Beckhusen, Security Policy | 9 Comments