Der lange Arm des MBS

Droht dem Libanon ein Krieg? Die Krise in Riad, wo derzeit der frühere libanesische Premierminister Saad Hariri festsitzt, deutet auf einen Kurswechsel hin. Offensichtlich ist, dass der Wüstenstaat am Arabischen Golf mit der Rückeroberung von Städten in Syrien durch Assads Truppen um seine Einflusssphäre im Nahen Osten fürchtet.

Die Beziehungen zwischen Saudi Arabien und der Zedernrepublik wurden durch den ermordeten Rafiq Hariri gefestigt. Doch der Machtwechsel in Riad hat für mehr Instabilität in der Region gesorgt. Gegen den Jemen führt MBS (Mohammed Ben Salman) schon seit zwei Jahren einen erbitterten Krieg.

Die Intervention des französischen Präsidenten Emmanuel Macron kann aus zwei Gründen nicht wirklich mehr Stabilität und Frieden bewirken…

Mehr dazu auf:

http://www.wienerzeitung.at/meinungen/gastkommentare/928740_Der-lange-Arm-des-MBS.html

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Umbrüche im Nahen Osten

Schon in der Präsidentschaft von George W. Bush kursierte eine Karte, die völlig neue Grenzen im Nahen Osten – einen “Greater Middle East” – zeigte. Darauf war auch ein unabhängiger Staat “Kurdistan” eingezeichnet.

Die andauernden Spannungen im Nordirak um Kirkuk und den Zugang zu den Erdölquellen lassen insbesondere nach dem Referendum der Kurden auf einen neuen Konflikt schließen. Syrien, die Türkei, der Iran und Irak haben sich zu einem bizarren Schulterschluss entschlossen, der die Feindschaften der Vergangenheit zurückstellt.

Die Frage bleibt, wie stark der Westen, allen voran die USA, der Unabhängigkeitsforderung der Kurden Beachtung schenken wird. Auch hier sind Auseinandersetzungen mit Ankara und Bagdad vorhersehbar. Schließlich könnte selbst die EU durch eine Anerkennung Kataloniens in der Kurdenfrage in Erklärungsnot geraten.

Mehr dazu in meinem aktuellen Gastkommentar:

http://www.wienerzeitung.at/meinungen/gastkommentare/923694_Umbrueche-im-Nahen-Osten.html

(Wiener Zeitung, 17.10.2017)

ENGLISH SYNOPSIS

Changes in the Middle East

During George W. Bush’s presidential election a map was already circulating in the web showing totally different borderlines in the Middle East – a so-called “Greater Middle East”. This map also delineates an independent state “Kurdistan”.

The ongoing tensions in Northern Iraq at Kirkuk and the access to crude oil predict a new conflict especially after the referendum of the Kurds. Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq have agreed on a surprisingly close alliance neglecting all past animosities.

The question remains how much the West, and the US in particular, will give in to the calls for independence of the Kurds. Even here a dispute with Ankara and Baghdad are predictable. In the end, the EU itself could face a hard time with the Kurds in case it chooses to acknowledge a sovereign Catalonia.

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Deutschlands gewagtes Votum

Die Entscheidung, wer diesen Monat in Deutschland die Bundestagswahlen 2017 wiedergewinnen wird, scheint festzustehen, die Meinungsumfragen sprechen für sich. Doch welche außenpolitischen Auswirkungen würde ein Sieg Angela Merkels mit sich bringen?

Wird die Kanzlerin in ihrer vierten Amtszeit sich mit jener Bestimmtheit und Vehemenz für den Frieden in Syrien und eine Entspannung zwischen Moskau und Washington einsetzen, mit der sie 2015 die Öffnung der Grenzen für Flüchtlinge in Europa gefordert hat?

Deutschland ist der drittgrößte Waffenexporteur weltweit. Sein stabiles Wirtschaftswachstum ist eng an dieses Geschäft gekoppelt, sein größter Abnehmer ist Saudi Arabien, das gerade einen erbitterten Krieg gegen den Jemen führt. Ein krasser Widerspruch zur humanitären Flüchtlingspolitik oder eine vierte Chance für Merkel, damit zu brechen und Entwicklungshilfe voranzutreiben.

Mehr dazu in meinem aktuellen Gastkommentar auf:

http://www.wienerzeitung.at/meinungen/gastkommentare/916170_Deutschlands-gewagtes-Votum.html

ENGLISH SYNOPSIS

Germany’s bold vote

The decision about who is going to win this month’s parliamentary elections in Germany seems to be made already as opinion polls have declared a clear winner. But what kind of foreign political impact would a victory of Angela Merkel really have?

Will the Chancellor stand up for peace in Syria and for releasing the tension between Moscow and Washington with the same decisiveness and vehemence with which she pledged for opening the borders in Europe to refugees in 2015?

Germany is the world’s third biggest weapons exporter. Its stable economic growth is tied to this business, its largest importer being Saudi Arabia, which is currently at war with Yemen. A crass contradiction to Germany’s humanitarian refugee policy approach or a fourth chance for Merkel to break this trend and increase development aid.

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In dearest memory: Louise Hay

Louise Hay, a dear and deeply cherished life guide, spiritual teacher and author of You Can Heal Your Life, passed away yesterday, on August 30th 2017. Even though we may feel saddened by her loss, let us all remember her legacy: the gift and the power of her thoughts which are priceless and universal and the incredible example she has been in the lives of many.

May Louise rest in peace for she has left the world the way she saw it, peacefully and filled with an abundance of mind, body and spirit.

sunset

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Hat Nachhaltigkeit in der EU noch Priorität?

Europas Regierungen sind ohnmächtig in die Flüchtlingskrise geschlittert, während die Weisung aus Washington erfolgt, die Sanktionen gegen Russland zu verschärfen. Zunehmend regt sich über beide Themen in einigen Nationalstaaten Kritik. Vor allem österreichische Unternehmen wie die OMV könnten nämlich durch künftige Sanktionen gegen Russland, das zur vierten Kernzone zählt und ein Wachstumsmarkt für den Mineralölverband darstellt, erheblichen Schaden erleiden.

Es bedarf zwei wesentlicher Leitstrategien in EU-Regierungskreisen, um in Zukunft sowohl in einer multipolaren Welt bestehen zu können als auch wieder von der eigenen Bevölkerung ernstgenommen zu werden: Nachhaltigkeit und Geradlinigkeit.

Wie diese beiden Prinzipien auf brisante Fragen wirken, habe ich in meinem aktuellen Gastkommentar “Hat Nachhaltigkeit in der EU noch Priorität” analysiert.

ENGLISH SYNOPSIS

Does sustainability still have priority in the EU?

European governments slipped into the refugee crisis helplessly while Washington has now called to increase sanctions against Russia. Both issues face critique from nation states. Austrian companies such as OMV, in particular, would severely suffer from future sanctions against Russia which counts among the enterprise’s four key areas and is a growth market for the mineral oil company.

There are two essential key strategies in EU government circles in order to persist in a multipolar world and to be taken seriously by the population again: sustainability and directness.

In my recent analysis I’ve tried to show the effect both principles have on burning issues.

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Quote of the month: About gods

 

DSC_3286Tipasa, Algeria, Summer 2016 (Photo by Stephan Haderer)

So sind sie, die Völker, denkfaul und arrogant, blicken kaum über die eigenen Götter hinaus, die sie doch aus dem gemeinsamen Fundus schöpfen, wobei sie so tun, als hätten sie dabei ein besonders glückliches Händchen gehabt. (…) Das Mittelmeer war wie ein großer Teich, in dem die ganze Menschheit herumstocherte, wobei sie sich auf kuriose, mitunter tragische Weise in die Quere kam.

Boualem Sansal, algerischer Autor und Poet

in: “Maghreb – eine kleine Weltgeschichte”

Thus they are, the peoples, mentally lazy and arrogant, hardly looking beyond their own gods, whom they create from a common fundament, while they pretend to have been especially lucky. (…) The Mediterranean was a big pond where the entire humanity stirred around while they crossed one another in an odd, sometimes tragical way.

Boualem Sansal, Algerian author and poet

in: “Maghreb – a Little World History” (translation)

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ENGLISH Interview with Ramon Schack

Ramon Schack BildRamon Schack (born in 1971) holds a Master’s degree in political sciences. He is a journalist and publisher writing for German, Swiss and Austrian quality dailies such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zeit Online, Deutschland-Radio-Kultur, Telepolis, Die Welt and many other renowned publications. In 2013, his book Neukölln ist Nirgendwo” (“Neukölln is Nowhere“), which was already strongly debated before, was published. At the end of 2015, he completed his book “Begegnungen mit Peter Scholl-Latour – ein persönliches Portrait von Ramon Schack” (Encounters with Peter Scholl-Latour – a personal portrait by Roman Schack“), memories of shared experiences and a personal exchange with the famous global observer. In 2017, Schack’s eBook “Zeitalter des Zerfalls” (“Age of Collapse”) was published, which is currently on Amazon’s bestseller list.


I had the pleasure to interview Mr. Schack for this blog and ask him some very interesting questions concerning our present situation in the world:

Mr. Schack, soon after the death of famous German publisher and global observer Peter Scholl-Latour you wrote a book about him. At what point do you feel his absence and the gap he’s left to his readers and friends the most?

I can feel the gap created by Peter Scholl-Latour’s death almost every day – especially when I look at the rapid historical developments which have become characteristic of our era but which few of us know to interpret. In this context, considering these general conditions, a chronologist of our times is missing who could analyze in historical depths and with the knowledge of the world that Peter Scholl-Latour had.

In your book you describe how, ranging from the highest diplomatic circles in Germany to an Iranian taxi driver in Berlin, a lot of people know Mr. Scholl-Latour. How can you explain that his books have never been translated to English or French and that he’s hardly known in these countries?

I can’t give you an answer to this question. In France, at least, some of his books may have sparked a lot of interest. Of course, I’m primarily thinking of Der Tod im Reisfeld (Death in the Rice Fields) but also Leben mit Frankreich (Living with France). Unfortunately, I never talked with him about this topic.

Scholl-Latour didn’t experience the climax of the European refugee crisis in summer 2015 anymore. Libya’s leader Muammar Gadhafi warned of the waves of refugees coming to Europe in his last speech on the Red Fort in Tripoli. What piece of advice would Mr. Latour give to EU policymakers in this ongoing crisis?

Particularly with regards to the recent disputes, he would say what he’d permanently say, and that is, that Europe finally needs to find its way to its own defense and foreign policy, without blindly following the directives of Washington, which has been the case for many years and decades. Scholl-Latour used to quote Paul Valery, who once called “Europe a cape of Asia”, which is true in a geographical and geopolitical sense.

Scholl-Latour often told me about his interview with Iraq’s former foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean Christian, who pointed out to us Europeans that we directly border regions in the Middle East and North Africa and that these regions would become our destiny whereas Americans can gladly withdraw behind the Atlantic. That was at the beginning of the so-called “war on terror”, which, as we all know, has turned terrorism into a globalized phenomenon.

In 2003, Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the War against Iraq. How credible is Germany’s engagement in the Middle East when the country is listed as the third-largest weapon exporting country in the world?

Their engagement is not credible at all, nor based on any standards, let alone moral standards. It also doesn’t serve any security interests in the region nor those of Europe and the world. It only served to follow the directives of Washington, including a permanent armament of Saudi Arabia, the most reactionary country in the region. And by the way, this holds true for all countries in the West including Austria. Concerning the tight relationship of the West with Saudi Arabia, which former CIA agent Robert Baer called “Sleeping with the devil”, author Salman Rushdie told me some years ago in an interview, “With the help of an enormous prosperity guaranteed by our petrodollars, the Saudis have spread a very fundamentalist version of Islam which once had the status of a sort of sect in the Islamic world. By this – the spread of this Saudi version – the entire nature of Islam has changed in a negative way.”

Your most recent book, Zeitalter des Zerfalls“ (“Age of Collapse“) reads – similar to the books written by Scholl-Latour – like a warning of increasing fundamentalism and warfare. You list the Brexit and Donald Trump as symptoms. Would the world be more peaceful with a US-president Hillary Clinton?

No, but at least some things would be more predictable. So far Trump doesn’t seem to have the intention to keep the promises of his election campaign, and I’m only talking about foreign political aspects now. No, the symptoms which I wanted to show in the book you mentioned are the crises of our liberal political systems in the western world, which are exposed to heavy inner-political upheavals. They are, among other things, caused by revolutions at ballot boxes and accompanied by still very global claims.

Francis Fukuyama thought the “end of history” had come, because from now on the liberal western order would prevail on a global scale as every other alternative had been exhausted. The American political scientist was wrong, and he was wrong right from the beginning. Anti-liberal movements are on the rise. Even though capitalism has defeated centrally planned economy, liberal democracy has given way to oligarchy. Today, the western ideal competes with Moscow’s model of a “directed democracy” or Beijing’s model of an increasingly Confucian-influenced understanding of the state. But even in the old western world, lobbyists control parliamentarianism; citizens are surveyed by search engines and secret services in ways that will soon have surpassed George Orwell’s horror visions. Everywhere anti-liberal movements are on the rise. They reveal a gap between the political elites and the broad population. They are reactions to social conflicts.

Where people cannot cope with the complexes of our free world, they long for the “well-known past”, for “the old order of things”. Once political tensions explode, they eliminate this old order, they topple governments and exchange elites. They create something new or just something different, however not necessarily something ideal. Perhaps economist Joseph Schumpeter helps us understand this phenomenon in a better way as he speaks of “creative destruction”.

As a journalist you’re writing for many dailies. With regards to many international political issues – for instance concerning the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine – western reporters have taken a clear stance. How efficient do you consider the policy of sanctions against Russia which Brussels and Berlin support without any objections?

Russia’s harsh reaction concerning the future of Crimea is also the result of western policymaking – especially of NATO policymaking – towards the largest territorial state on our planet over the past couple of years. NATO’s permanent Eastern expansion, into the realms of Eurasian post-Soviet territories, has for a long time been perceived as a threat to national security by Moscow. The question is: In which western offices are such strategies planned?

“Without Ukraine Russia will not be a Eurasian Empire any more. It can still yearn for an imperial status, but it would primarily become an Asian Empire”* [*not original quotation], was a statement in the book The Grand Chessboard written by strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US security advisor who recently passed away – a statement we remember when we think about NATO’s strategy with Russia in recent years. It would be desirable that current developments wouldn’t lead into a new Cold War but that NATO would reconsider its strategy. Meanwhile the West could ask its closest allies – like Saudi Arabia, for instance – to observe the human rights it demands from Russia.

The support of the West, of the so-called Orange, Rose and Tulip Revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kirgizstan, demonstrates the failure of the political and strategic idea which made the involved countries neither more western and more democratic nor any more stable. For this reason I consider the policy of Brussels, Berlin, Vienna and Paris towards Russia to be inefficient.

One would assume that at present the Cold War is going on in the media. “Elves” are currently fighting against “trolls”. Scholl-Latour spoke of an “era of mass manipulation”. Are the new media a curse or a blessed achievement?

Probably they’re both, but certainly they’re not only tools of progress or emancipation, as shallow commentators once raved. New media have surely increased the possibility of mass manipulation. At the same time, many people have become more aware with regards to these issues. So I’m not sure. One thing’s for sure though: The nature of mankind is always the same, regardless of the state of technological innovation.

Peter Scholl-Latour, Karin Leukefeld, Jürgen Todenhöfer – they’re all exposed to a lot of public critique. Do you find this critique fair and how do you deal with your own critics?

French political scientist Pierre-André Taguieff once wrote, “In our epoch free thinking is abhorred.”* [*translation of quotation]. I don’t know exactly if this is true, but the Manichaean thinking in black-and-white terms is ubiquitous nowadays, and that’s why nowadays we don’t counter-argue anymore, no, we only discredit and abhor so we won’t have to make an effort to provide counter-arguments. To return to your question, of course critique is important and all right. I follow this motto when facing critique and critics: Never complain, never explain.

Mr. Scholl-Latour once told you he’d loved to have become an anthropologist. Now they say he wrote his books from a western point of view, critics even claim that he made his observations like a colonial chronologist. Do you agree?

Well, of course that’s complete nonsense and mostly comes from critics who’d like to impose western achievements to the world in a colonial way, like gender mainstreaming and other sorts of nonsense.

Your first book, “Neukölln ist Nirgendwo” (“Neukölln is Nowhere”), has made you quite popular. You still live and mainly work in Berlin. What keeps you in Neukölln? And how does this metropolis attract you despite its sad past?

Well, I’m living in the present. In Berlin this present is a city full of international mobility and popularity like I wouldn’t have imagined some years ago. Berlin is a good basis, especially when you’re traveling a lot as I do. What keeps me in Neukölln is basically my apartment, to say it simply. Everything else you can read in the book you’ve mentioned.

In which region do you enjoy traveling as a journalist the most?

This question is hard to answer. Actually in every region, but especially in Central Asia, East Africa and the Middle East.

Let’s assume an EU policymaker or maybe even the US President asked you for your political expertise in international relations. What would you tell him?

That would be two very different answers which would be way too complex for this interview. However, I’d advise them, very urgently, to find an agreement with Iran and terminate the close cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Zeitalter des Zerfalls“ (“Age of Collapse“) sounds far from a bright future indeed. Do you see our future, and Europe’s future in particular, to be a disaster or is there still some hope?

There’s still some hope if we finally learn to have a more realistic view of our history and the developments in our world.

Thanks a lot for this interview!

Remark: This is a translation by the interviewer. The original interview was done in German.

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