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Stratfor

Over the last three months, I have been republishing a number of articles from Stratfor, a US company that describes itself as ‘a global intelligence company that specializes in Web publishing and  client solutions.’ These articles have not had many hits, and I have decided that I would rather concentrate on posting things that I have written myself.

Anybody who wants to continue reading Stratfor’s reports can subscribe from this link. Enter your email in the box in the right hand column labelled ‘Sign Up for Free’ to receive the two weekly emails that I have been republishing, One is on Geopolitics and the other is about Security. You can also read them on their website, from the link labelled FREE.

Subscribers to the free reports receive regular emails inviting them to subscribe to their paid services, generally at a significant discount to the list price. I do not subscribe to these, so cannot comment on their quality.

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The Benghazi Report and the Diplomatic Security Funding Cycle – Stratfor

The  Benghazi Report and the Diplomatic Security Funding Cycle is republished  with permission of Stratfor.”

By Scott Stewart Vice President of Analysis

On Dec. 18, the U.S. State Department’s Accountability Review Board released  an unclassified version of its investigation into the  Sept. 12 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador to  Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack,  so the report was widely anticipated by the public and by government officials  alike.

Four senior State Department officials have been reassigned to other duties  since the report’s release. Among them were the assistant secretary of state for  diplomatic security; two of his deputy assistant secretaries, including the  director of the Diplomatic Security Service, the department’s most senior  special agent; and the deputy assistant secretary responsible for Libya in the  State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

The highly critical report and the subsequent personnel reassignments are not  simply a low watermark for the State Department; rather, the events following  the attack signify another  phase in the diplomatic security funding cycle. The new phase will bring  about a financial windfall for the State Department security budgets, but  increased funding alone will not prevent future attacks from occurring. After  all, plenty of attacks have occurred following similar State Department  budgetary allocations in the past. Other important factors therefore must be  addressed.

Predictable Inquiries

The cycle by which  diplomatic security is funded begins as officials gradually cut spending on  diplomatic security programs. Then, when major security failures inevitably  beset those programs, resultant public outrage compels officials to create a  panel to investigate those failures.

The first of these panels dates back to the mid-1980s, following attacks  against U.S. facilities in Beirut and Kuwait and the systematic bugging of the  U.S. Embassy in Moscow. These security lapses led to the formation of the  Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, chaired by former  Deputy CIA Director Adm. Bobby Inman. The law that passed in the wake of the  Inman Commission came to be known as the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and  Antiterrorism Act of 1986, which requires that an accountability review board be  convened following major security incidents.

There are a few subsequent examples of these panels. Former Chairman of the  U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe chaired an Accountability Review  Board following the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. And after  the Benghazi attacks, an Accountability Review Board was chaired by former U.S.  Ambassador Thomas Pickering. The Dec. 18 report was the findings of the  Pickering board.

Predictably, the review boards, including Pickering’s, always conclude that  inadequate funding and insufficient security personnel are partly to blame for  the security breaches. In response to the reports, Congress appropriates more  money to diplomatic security programs to remedy the problem. Over time, funds  are cut, and the cycle begins anew.

Funding can be cut for several reasons. In times of financial austerity,  Congress can more easily cut the relatively small foreign affairs budget than it  can entitlement benefits budgets. Cuts to the overall State Department budget  generally result in cuts for security programs.

Moreover, rivalries among the various State Department entities can affect  spending cuts. The Diplomatic Security Service’s budget falls under the main  State Department budget, so senior diplomats, rather than Diplomatic Security  Service agents, represent the agency’s interests on Capitol Hill. Some within  the security service do not believe that senior diplomats have their best  interests at heart when making the case for their budgets — at least until a  tragedy occurs and Congressional hearings are held to air these problems. For  their part, others in the department resent the Diplomatic Security Service for  the large budgetary allocations it receives after a security failure.

More than a Matter of Funding

With Congress and the presumed next Secretary of State John Kerry now calling  for increased spending on diplomatic security, the financial floodgates are  about to reopen. But merely throwing money at the problems uncovered by the  accountability review boards will not be enough to solve those problems. Were  that the case, the billions of dollars allocated to diplomatic security in the  wake of the Inman and Crowe commission reports would have sufficed.

Of course, money can be useful, but injecting large sums of it into the  system can create problems if the money provided is too much for the bureaucracy  to efficiently metabolize. Government managers tend to spend all the money  allocated to them — sometimes at the expense of efficiency — under a “use it  or lose it” mentality. Since there is no real incentive for them to perform  under budget, managers in a variety of U.S. government departments spend massive  amounts of money at the end of each fiscal year. The same is true of diplomatic  security programs when they are flush with cash. But the inevitable reports of  financial waste and mismanagement lead to calls for spending cuts in these  programs.

If the U.S. government is ever going to break the cycle of funding cuts and  security disasters, the Diplomatic Security Service will need to demonstrate  wisdom and prudence in how it spends the funds allocated to them. It will also  be necessary for Congress to provide funding in a consistent manner and with an  initial appropriation that is not too big to be spent efficiently.

Beyond money management and a consistent level of funding, the State  Department will also need to take a hard look at how it currently conducts  diplomacy and how it can reduce the demands placed on the Diplomatic Security  Service. This will require asking many difficult questions: Is it necessary to  maintain large embassies to conduct diplomacy in the information age? Does the  United States need to maintain thousands of employees in high-threat  places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the expense of smaller  missions, or can the critical work be done by hundreds or even dozens? Is a  permanent U.S. presence even required in a place like Benghazi, or can the  missions in such locations be accomplished by a combination of visiting  diplomats, covert operatives and local employees?

At the very least, the State Department will need to review its policy of  designating a facility as a “special mission” — Benghazi was designated as such  — to exempt it from meeting established physical security standards. If the  questions above are answered affirmatively, and if it is deemed necessary to  keep a permanent presence in a place like Benghazi, then security standards need  to be followed, especially when a facility is in place for several months.  Temporary facilities with substandard security cannot be allowed to persist for  months and years.

Host Countries

As they consider these issues, officials need to bear in mind that the real  key to the security of diplomatic facilities is the protection provided by the  host country’s security forces as dictated by the Vienna Convention. If the host  country will not or cannot protect foreign diplomats, then the physical security  measures mandated by security standards can do little more than provide slight  delay — which is what they are designed to do. No physical security measures  can stand up to a prolonged assault. If a militant group armed with heavy  weaponry is permitted to attack a diplomatic facility for hours with no host  government response — as was the case in Benghazi — the attack will cause  considerable damage and likely cause fatalities despite the security measures in  place.

The same is true of a large mob, which given enough time can damage and  breach U.S. embassies that meet current department security standards. The U.S.  Embassy in Tripoli, a state-of-the-art facility completed in 2009, was heavily  damaged by a mob of pro-Gadhafi supporters in May 2011 and rendered  unserviceable.

In another example, a  large crowd caused extensive damage to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the  adjacent American School just three days after the Benghazi attack. In that  incident, Tunisian authorities responded and did not provide the attacking mob  the opportunity to conduct a prolonged assault on the embassy. Though the mob  caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the compound, it was unable to  breach the main embassy office building. Without host country security support,  there is little that can be done to assure the safety of U.S. diplomats, no  matter what happens to security budgets.

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The Israeli Periphery from Stratfor

The Israeli  Periphery is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Reva Bhalla Vice President of Global  Affairs

The state of Israel has a basic,  inescapable geopolitical dilemma: Its national security requirements  outstrip its military capabilities, making it dependent on an outside power. Not  only must that power have significant military capabilities but it also must  have enough common ground with Israel to align its foreign policy toward the  Arab world with that of Israel’s. These are rather heavy requirements for such a  small nation.

Security, in the Israeli sense, is thus often characterized in terms of  survival. And for Israel to survive, it needs just the right blend of  geopolitical circumstance, complex diplomatic arrangements and military  preparedness to respond to potential threats nearby. Over the past 33 years, a  sense of complacency settled over Israel and gave rise to various theories that  it could finally overcome its dependency on outside powers. But a familiar sense  of unease crept back into the Israeli psyche before any of those arguments could  take root. A survey of the Israeli periphery in Egypt, Syria and Jordan explains  why.

Maintaining the Sinai Buffer

To Israel’s southwest lies the Sinai Desert. This land is economically  useless; only hardened Bedouins who sparsely populate the desert expanse  consider the terrain suitable for living. This makes the Sinai an ideal buffer.  Its economic lifelessness gives it extraordinary strategic importance in keeping  the largest Arab army — Egypt’s — at a safe distance from Israeli population  centers. It is the maintenance of this buffer that forms the foundation of the 1979  peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

The question percolating in Israeli policy circles is whether an Islamist  Egypt will give the same level of importance to this strategic buffer. The  answer to that question rests with the military, an institution that has formed  the backbone of the Egyptian state since the rise of Gamel  Abdul Nasser in 1952.

Achieving National Security in the Periphery

Over the past month, the  military’s role in this new Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt quietly revealed  itself. The first test came in the form of the Gaza crisis, when the military  quietly negotiated security guarantees with Israel while the Muslim Brotherhood  basked in the diplomatic spotlight. The second test came when Egypt’s Islamist  president, Mohammed Morsi, attempted a unilateral push on a constitutional draft  to institutionalize the  Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power.

 

The military bided its time, waiting for the protests to escalate to the  point that rioters began targeting the presidential palace. By then, it was  apparent that the police were not to be fully relied on to secure the streets.  Morsi had no choice but to turn to the military for help, and that request  revealed how indispensable the military is for Egyptian stability.

There will be plenty of noise and confusion in the lead-up to the Dec. 15  referendum as the  secular, anti-Muslim Brotherhood civilian opposition continues its protests  against Morsi. But filter through that noise, and one can see that the military  and the Muslim Brotherhood appear to be adjusting slowly to a new order of  Nasserite-Islamist rule. Unlike the 1979 peace treaty, this working arrangement  between the military and the Islamists is alive and temperamental. Israel can  find some comfort in seeing that the military remains central to the stability  of the Egyptian state and will thus likely play a major role in protecting the  Sinai buffer. However, merely observing this dance between the military and the  Islamists from across the desert is enough to unnerve Israel and justify a more  pre-emptive military posture on the border.

Defending Galilee

Israel lacks a good buffer to its north. The most natural, albeit imperfect,  line of defense is the Litani River in modern-day Lebanon, with a second line of  defense between Mount Hermon and the Sea of Galilee. Modern-day Israel  encompasses this second barrier, a hilly area that has been the target of  sporadic mortar shelling from Syrian government forces in pursuit of Sunni  rebels.

Israel does not face a conventional military threat to its north, nor will it  for some time. But the descent of the northern Levant into sectarian-driven,  clan-based warfare presents a different kind of threat on Israel’s northern  frontier.

It is only a matter of time before Alawite forces will have to retreat from  Damascus and defend themselves against a Sunni majority from their coastal  enclave. The conflict will necessarily subsume Lebanon, and the framework that  Israel has relied on for decades to manage more sizable, unconventional threats  like Hezbollah will come undone.

Somewhere along the way, there will be an internationally endorsed attempt to  prop up a provisional government and maintain as much of the state machinery as  possible to avoid the scenario of a post-U.S. invasion Iraq. But when  decades-old, sectarian-driven vendettas are concerned, there is cause for  pessimism in judging the viability of those plans. Israel cannot avoid thinking  in terms of worst-case scenarios, so it will continue to reinforce its northern  defenses ahead of more instability.

Neutralizing the Jordan River Valley

The status of the Jordan River Valley is essential to Israel’s sense of  security to the east. So long as Israel can dominate the west bank of the river  (the biblical area of Judea and Samaria, or the modern-day West Bank) then it  can overwhelm indigenous forces from the desert farther east. To keep this  arrangement intact, Israel will somehow attempt to politically neutralize  whichever power controls the east bank of the Jordan River. In the post-Ottoman  Middle East, this power takes the form of the Hashemite monarchs, who were  transplanted from Arabia by the British.

The vulnerability that the Hashemites felt as a foreign entity in charge of  economically lackluster terrain created ideal conditions for Israel to protect  its eastern approach. The Hashemites had to devise complex political  arrangements at home to sustain the monarchy in the face of left-wing Nasserist,  Palestinian separatist and Islamist militant threats. The key to Hashemite  survival was in aligning with the rural East Bank tribes, co-opting the  Palestinians and cooperating with Israel in security issues to keep its western  frontier calm. In short, the Hashemites were vulnerable enough for Israel to be  considered a useful security partner but not so vulnerable that Israel couldn’t  rely on the regime to protect its eastern approach. There was a level of tension  that was necessary to maintain the strategic partnership, but that level of  tension had to remain within a certain band.

That arrangement is now under considerable stress. The  Hashemites are facing outright calls for deposition from the same tribal  East Bankers, Palestinians and Islamists that for decades formed the foundation  of the state. That is because the state itself is weakening under the pressure  of high oil prices, now sapping at the subsidies that have been relied on to  tame the population.

One could assume that Jordan’s oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbors would step in to  defend one of the region’s remaining monarchies of the post-Ottoman order  against a rising tide of Muslim Brotherhood-led Islamism with heavily subsidized  energy sales. However, a still-bitter, age-old geopolitical rivalry between the  Hejaz-hailing Hashemite dynasty and the Nejd-hailing Saudi dynasty over  supremacy in Arabia is getting in the way. From across the Gulf, an emboldened  Iran is already trying to exploit this Arab tension by cozying up to the  Hashemites with subsidized energy sales to extend Tehran’s reach into the West  Bank and eventually threaten Israel. Jordan has publicly warded off Iran’s  offer, and significant logistical challenges may inhibit such cooperation. But  ongoing negotiations between Iran’s allies in Baghdad and the Jordanian regime  bear close watching as Jordan’s vulnerabilities continue to rise at home.

Powerful Partners Abroad

In this fluctuating strategic environment, Israel cannot afford to be  isolated politically. Its need for a power patron will grow alongside its  insecurities in its periphery. Israel’s current patron, the United States, is  also grappling with the emerging Islamist order in the region. But in this new  regional dynamic, the United States will eventually look past ideology in search  of partners to help manage the region. As U.S.-Turkish relations in recent years  and the United States’ recent interactions with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood  reveal, it will be an awkward and bumpy experience while Washington tries to  figure out who holds the reins of power and which brand of Islamists it can  negotiate with amid messy power transitions. This is much harder for Israel to  do independently by virtue of ideology, size and location.

Israel’s range of maneuver in foreign policy will narrow considerably as it  becomes more dependent on external powers and as its interests clash with those  of its patrons. Israel is in store for more discomfort in its decision-making  and more creativity in its diplomacy. The irony is that while Israel is a  western-style democracy, it was most secure in an age of Arab dictatorships. As  those dictatorships give way to weak and in some cases crumbling states, Israeli  survival instincts will again be put to the test.

Read more:  The Israeli Periphery | Stratfor

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