BERLIN/DAMASCUS | | syrien

BERLIN/DAMASCUS (Own report) - With impressive scholarship programs, the German government seeks to establish firm ties to the future elite of post-war Syria. Already last year the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to bring more than 200 selected Syrian students to Germany, within the "Leadership for Syria" program, to be instructed - alongside their academic studies - in advanced training in "governance," organizational setup and similar courses. The program run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) - the largest foreign program the organization has ever undertaken - has the declared objective of preparing "a select elite among Syria's future leadership" for "active participation in organizing" post-war Syria. This assures Germany a wide range of channels for influence in Damascus over the next few decades. Berlin is also making efforts to sift out students from among the refugees arriving in Germany to be included in its efforts to gain influence. This would crystallize into Germany's becoming the Syrian elite's top European point of reference. more…

BERLIN/BRUSSELS |

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - A German intelligence officer has assumed the management of the EU's IntCen espionage agency and has the responsibility of enhancing its effectiveness. Last week, the BND's Gerhard Conrad was appointed the new director of the Intelligence Analysis Center (IntCent), which is under the authority of the European External Action Service and lays the groundwork for an intelligence agency in the service of the EU's foreign and military policy. The core of the agency has existed since 1999, with the objective of reducing the EU's dependence on US intelligence services, to become militarily autonomous - even, if necessary, without the USA. Because of rivalry between the national intelligence agencies, particularly those of the larger EU countries, IntCen's development had not progressed as rapidly as was hoped. As its new director, Conrad is expected to correct the situation. However, the German government continues to reject the substitution of its national intelligence services by an EU agency, because Berlin would have to give up its special advantages, for example, through the BND's cooperation with the US agencies, and give up its methods that are incompatible with the interests of other EU member countries. more…

DAMASCUS/BERLIN | | syrien

DAMASCUS/BERLIN (Own report) - Today, Thursday, the first group of Bundeswehr soldiers will be leaving to go to war against the "Islamic State" (IS or Daesh). Participation in this war, which, according to government advisors will promote Germany to a "policy-shaping power in the Middle East," will assure Berlin reinforced integration into the most important command headquarters of the western war coalition against the IS/Daesh. It will also provide the German government more influence in the international power struggle over the reorganization of the Middle East. The establishment of an international protectorate is one of the issues. The first negotiations between the government of President Bashar al Assad, the Syrian opposition, and insurgent militias are due to begin at the beginning of January. Currently, opponents of the Syrian government and insurgent militias are in Riyadh to prepare for these negotiations, with the German government's approbation. Even though jihadist holy warriors are taking part in the Riyadh talks of the opposition, the northern Syrian Kurdish forces, which play a central role in the war against the IS/Daesh were among those not invited by the Saudi leadership. more…

BAGHDAD/ERBIL/BERLIN | | irak

BAGHDAD/ERBIL/BERLIN (Own report) - With its military intervention in Syria and Iraq, Germany is emerging as a "policy-shaping power in the Middle East," according to a government advisor of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). The intervention in Syria, decided last week, could, therefore, last ten years and could be accompanied by "long-term" efforts to "politically reorganize" the entire region, with the cornerstone being military units, equipped and trained by the German government, serving as ground troops for the war against the "Islamic State" (IS/Daesh). In Iraq, the militia of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq could take on this role, whereas Berlin only provides minimal support to the Iraqi government's armed forces. Whereas the government in Baghdad has good relations with Iran and Russia, the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq is seen as loyal to the West. Having illegally remained in office beyond the August deadline in an insidious coup, the Regional Government's President Masoud Barzani, with whom German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met yesterday, is responsible for the brutal repression of civil protests. Ultimately - and with Berlin's military aid for his Peshmerga - Barzani may be able to proclaim "Iraqi Kurdistan's" statehood. more…

COPENHAGEN/HELSINKI/LONDON/THE HAGUE |

COPENHAGEN/HELSINKI/LONDON/THE HAGUE (Own report) - Demands to halt EU expansion and even begin to scale it back are being raised in several northern and northwestern European countries. In last Thursday's referendum, the Danish population rejected the proposal for Denmark to adopt EU domestic and judicial policies. Denmark will therefore retain its "opt-out," obtained following its "No"-majority in a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, in 1992. There is also little chance that Denmark will join a common EU foreign and military policy, in the near future, as favored by Berlin and Brussels. Because the single currency is perceived as the reason for Finland's economic crisis, that country's parliament will soon debate whether to hold a referendum on leaving the Euro zone. Great Britain will hold a referendum on exiting the EU by 2017, at the latest, with already a majority in favor, according to recent polls. In the Netherlands, demands are being raised to reduce the Schengen Zone to a "mini-Schengen." Following the convulsions in Southern Europe, the EU project - the foundation of German global policy - is also beginning to crumble in the North. more…

BERLIN/BRUSSELS |

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - NATO's new "Southern Strategy" and further expansion of this war alliance are on the agenda of the NATO Foreign Ministers Conference, which begins today in Brussels. Since some time, Southern European member nations have been pushing for broadening the focus of the alliance's activities beyond the limits of Eastern Europe, to concentrate more on the Arab World, reported Karl-Heinz Kamp, President of the Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS). This is now up for debate. The idea is to reinforce the ties to countries, such as Jordan or Tunisia, as "partners" - and exclusively equip and provide them with training for waging war in the Arab World. The fact that NATO also will propose membership to Montenegro, Kamp explains, is primarily directed at Russia. NATO wants to show Moscow that, in its acceptance of new members, NATO is not willing to take other powers' interests into consideration. As the President of BAKS points out, the accent will now be oriented much stronger toward accepting Finland and Sweden's membership into the war alliance, rather than an eventual Ukrainian membership. more…