Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Striking Oil With More Precision In Financial Regulation

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In terms of informational efficiency for the stock market, is it more effective to have strict regulation or give companies more leeway? If the rules on financial reporting get tougher, does that reduce information asymmetry, i.e., does it improve the quality of the information available to all investors? Meanwhile, how does it affect companies’ stock prices?

These are fundamental questions for all stakeholders, and very apropos, given the current emphasis on tightening regulations even further. These questions are addressed in a pioneering study by IESE professors Marc Badia, Miguel Duro and Gaizka Ormazábal, in collaboration with Bjorn N. Jorgensen.

The authors focused on the oil and gas industry in the United States and Canada. Specifically, they analyzed the consequences of two nearly identical standards: Canada’s Standards of Disclosure for Oil and Gas Activities (NI 51-101) and the United States’ rules on Modernization of Oil and Gas Reporting (MOGR). Both tightened up the regulation that requires companies in the industry to disclose concrete information about their main assets for future exploitation, oil and gas reserves

This is the first time that the effects of introducing a stricter and quantifiable definition of “proved reserves”– with at least a 90% probability of being produced — have been documented. Hence the relevance of the study, which covers a large sample of oil and gas companies between 2002 and 2011

Equally significant are its findings. The introduction of both regulations resulted in greater precision and, therefore, greater informative value of companies’ reported reserves. In other words, they better reflected reality. So companies tempered their “over-optimistic” estimates when the new rules were issued.As the following chart shows, the new, stricter Canadian regulation in 2003 led to a significant downward revision of the proved reserves in Canada that same year.

The same happened in the United States in 2008, when its regulations were similarly modernized. Although note that the negative revisions were even more abrupt in the U.S., as the following graph shows.

In both countries, companies in the industry tended to explain to shareholders that strong downward revisions occurring around the change in regulations were due to issues related to oil and gas prices. However, the above graphs show that the significant decline in the Canadian revisions of 2003, the year of the regulatory change in that country, did not have its equivalent in the United States. And neither was the sharp decline in the 2008 U.S. revisions mirrored by a similar phenomenon in Canada the same year.

The research also shows that the greater precision of the new regulations resulted in an increase in the information capacity for the stock market on the variations in proved reserves and a reduction of the price spread.

The scandal that changed everything

While Canada outlined the path forward in 2003, it was a scandal that would bring about the regulatory change for its neighbor. On January 9, 2004, Royal Dutch Shell lost 8 billion pounds sterling in market value in a single day after announcing a 20% negative restatement of its reserves.

The scandal led to the ouster of the CEO and a $450 million class-action lawsuit against the British-Dutch company, as well as an uproar in the media. The press accused Shell of inflating its reserves and began to question the rules regulating estimates, echoing concerns that had swirling around the market for several years

The Shell case and other complaints prompted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to introduce tougher regulation in 2008. According to the SEC, this was in response to market concerns about the “quality, accuracy and reliability” of the reserves disclosures by the companies in the sector, information that the Alberta Securities Commission had already considered essential “to enable investors to make informed investment decisions.”

A key innovation

As the authors show, the regulators achieved their goal. The key was redefining proved reserves as those that meet a minimum recovery probability threshold of 90%. This regulatory innovation remedied the vagueness of the previous regulations, which defined them as those “estimated as recoverable” in Canada and with a “reasonable certainty” of being recovered in the United States.

According to the authors, their study helps explain the effects of these new standards in an industry as important to the global economy as oil and gas. Furthermore, while their findings may seem specific to the United States and Canada, they also believe that they have implications for international regulators and those operating in other countries

This is because their findings are “consistent with the notion that more rules-based standards enhance comparability,” a conclusion that undoubtedly contributes to the current regulatory debate

Methodology, very briefly

The authors studied a large sample of oil and gas exploration and production companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Toronto Venture Exchange, NYSE, Nasdaq and AMEX. The data are from 2002-2011. The data pertaining to Canada were furnished by CanOils Database, Alberta Securities Commission and SEDAR. Data from the United States came from Capital IQ, Evaluate Energy, the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as other sources.

Marc Badia and Gaizka Ormazábal acknowledge financial contributions from the Spanish Ministry of Economics, Industry and Competitiveness, grants ECO2010-19314, ECO2011-29533 and ECO2016-77579-C3-1-P. Miguel Duro acknowledges support from Columbia University CIBER.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)


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1. World from Michael_Novakhov (24 sites): Reuters: World News: Japanese police officer stabbed in possible targeted attack: NHK

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A Japanese police officer was stabbed several times in the chest with a kitchen knife and his loaded handgun stolen while on patrol on Sunday morning in the western city of Suita, in a rare case of violent crime in Japan, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Reuters: World News

1. World from Michael_Novakhov (24 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: The End Of The Syrian Civil War: The Many Implications – Analysis

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By Eyal Zisser*

The civil war that raged in Syria over the past eight years seems to be drawing to a close. In July 2018, the Syrian regime regained control of the southern part of the country, including the town of Dar’a where the revolt began in March 2011. Five months later in December 2018, U.S. president Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, driving the final nail in the coffin of the rebellion.[1]

Although the return of stability and security to the war-torn country
is still a far-off goal, the military campaign is effectively over. The
efforts of the rebel groups—supported by large segments of the Syrian
population—to overthrow the Assad regime, which has ruled the country
since 1970, have failed. President Bashar Assad emerged as the
undisputed winner though he did so only thanks to the massive military
aid rendered by Moscow, Tehran, and Iran’s Hezbollah Lebanese proxy. How
will the end of the war affect Syria’s relations with its patrons, and
what will be its implications for wider Middle Eastern stability?

The Ongoing Struggle for Syria

Viewed from a broad historical perspective, the end of the civil war concludes yet another chapter in “the struggle for Syria” that has plagued the country since gaining independence in April 1946, or indeed, since its designation as a distinct political entity under French mandate at the end of the 1920s.[2]

Syrian refugees in Iraq. Credit: EU
Syrian refugees in Iraq. Credit: EU

For the first one-third of this time, the Syrian state was a weak entity, lacking in stability, subject to frequent military coups and regime changes with no effective ruling center, a punching bag for regional and great power interference alike. Hafez Assad’s rise to power in November 1970 seemed to have brought this struggle to an end by ushering in a prolonged spell of domestic stability and regional preeminence that continued into the reign of Bashar, who in June 2000 succeeded his father. This was due in no small part to the broad social base underpinning the regime, comprising a diverse coalition of minority communities and groups led by the Alawites, on the one hand, and the Sunni peasantry on the other.[3]

With the outbreak of the civil war, the struggle for Syria was
renewed. For most belligerents—whether Bashar and his supporters or the
various opposition factions, including some Islamist groups not
connected to the Islamic State (ISIS)—the struggle revolved around
keeping or gaining control of the Syrian state and determining its
future character and governance (i.e., Baathist secularism vs. Islamist
rule) as none of them wished its demise or incorporation into a wider
entity.

In this respect, the role played by ISIS in the Syrian civil war, with its avowed goal of incorporating the Levant into the newly proclaimed caliphate, was the exception. If anything, ISIS is more a product of the Iraqi rather than the Syrian political scene: It is there where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi emerged, operated, and proclaimed himself caliph. By contrast, ISIS’s Syrian branch, Jabhat an-Nusra, led by the Syrian Abu Muhammad Julani, has always been considered an integral part of Greater Syria (ash-Sham): hence, Jabhat an-Nusra’s conflict with its parent organization and hence its later conflict with al-Qaeda, with which it subsequently came to be affiliated.[4]

Debunking the “Arab Spring” Illusion

In an address at Damascus University on June 20, 2011, three months
after the outbreak of the anti-regime uprising, Assad assured his
audience that these “intrigues and acts of murder do not have it in
their power to prevent the blossoming in Syria,” vowing

to turn this decisive moment into a … day, in which the hope will throb that our homeland will return to being the place of quiet and calm we have become accustomed to.[5]

It took the Syrian president nearly eight years to restore (a semblance of) the promised “quiet and calm,” albeit at the horrendous cost of more than half-a-million fatalities, two million wounded, some five to eight million refugees who fled the country, and untold mayhem and destruction. What made this bloodbath particularly ironic is that on his ascendance a decade earlier, the young Bashar tried to introduce certain changes, and even some limited reform, in the socioeconomic realm. Yet, having realized that these winds of change were turning into a storm, he backed down and brought the short-lived “Damascus Spring” to an abrupt end. Those who had raised their voices in favor of reform and change, in no small measure at the encouragement of Bashar himself, were imprisoned, and severe restrictions on the freedom of expression were reintroduced.[6]

Syria's Bashar Assad. Source: Kremlin.ru
Syria’s Bashar Assad. Source: Kremlin.ru

But in 2011, Assad was confronted with a fresh and much less controllable “spring” not of his own making, comprised of large numbers of disgruntled peasants and periphery residents yearning for improvement in their socioeconomic lot rather than Damascene intellectuals and thinkers. Now, Assad was forced to use harsher measures to repress the rapidly spreading rebellion. His predicament was substantially aggravated by the fact that the Syrian upheaval was the local manifestation of a tidal wave of regional uprisings that ensued in December 2010 and led to the fall of the long-reigning dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. More worryingly, with the uprisings lauded in the West as “the Arab Spring” and actively supported by Western powers—whether tacitly as in the Obama administration’s pressure on Egyptian president Mubarak to step down or directly through the military intervention that overthrew Libya’s dictator Mu’ammar Qaddafi—the Assad regime seemed to be next in line on the Western hit list. As President Obama put it in a May 2011 speech, “The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”[7]

The Assad regime weathered the storm through massive military support
from Tehran and Moscow, which also shielded it from repeated U.S.
intervention threats—most notably in August 2012 when Obama announced
his intention to launch a punitive strike in response to the deadly
gassing of more than a thousand Syrian civilians.

In doing so, the Assad regime not only defeated a lethal threat to its existence but also spelled the end of Western delusions of regional democratization and openness that would allow ordinary Middle Easterners to determine their own fate and the fate of their respective societies and states.[8] Eight years after it was triggered by the self-immolation of a disgruntled Tunisian peddler, the “Arab Spring” had not only failed to bring the region closer to these cherished ideals but made their attainment ever more remote, and nowhere more so than in Syria. Apart from the horrendous loss of life and disastrous destruction of properties and infrastructures, the civil war dealt a mortal blow to the yearning for change and the readiness to fight for it. Even more, it undermined the faith in the ability of the individual and society to bring about the desired changes.

Most Western observers of the Middle East should have paid greater heed to their regional counterparts who had long argued that, given the historical legacy and socioeconomic conditions attending decades of rule by authoritarian monarchies and military dictatorships, the Arab world was not ripe for a change, certainly not for democracy.[9] Local analysts were, therefore, much more cautious and circumscribed in defining the regional turbulence, using the term harak—a movement or a shift that might not necessarily lead anywhere—rather than euphoric terms signifying a sharp change of direction or break from past practices. Indeed, careful examination of the circumstances in each state affected by the “Arab Spring,” especially the dynamics of the events and the actors involved in them, reveals that nowhere were these upheavals initiated by forces seeking liberal-type freedoms and democratization. Rather, they were in many instances a corollary of socioeconomic protests by youths seeking status and a more meaningful role for their generation. They were a far cry from the Western notion of an “Arab Spring.”[10]

Denting the Pan-ideologies

Just as the Syrian civil war exposed the hollowness of the euphoric
Western depiction of the Arab uprisings, so it dealt a devastating blow
to the related ideal of pan-Arabism, which had dominated inter-Arab
politics for much of the twentieth century.

To be sure, the notion of the “Arab Nation” (or the “Arab World”) underpinning the pan-Arab ideal had been in steady decline since Syria dissolved its unification with Egypt in 1961 followed by the astounding Israeli victory over an all-Arab coalition in the June 1967 war. So much so, that American academic Fouad Ajami pronounced the “end of Pan-Arabism”[11] upon the signing of the September 1978 Israel-Egypt Camp David agreements, which culminated six months later in a full-fledged peace accord. Thus, when the Arab uprisings broke out, they were widely seen as a resurgence of Arabism (and Sunni identity) that would uplift the “Arab Nation” from the depths to which it had sunk and cut non-Arab Turkey and Iran down to size.[12]

In fact, the opposite happened. Not only did the uprisings not lead to greater Arab unity and solidarity, but they allowed Tehran and Ankara to extend their power and influence across the region. In this respect, the Syrian civil war, too, played a key role. Within this framework, Ankara exploited the civil war to gain a foot-hold in Syria’s northern part—a longstanding goal dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the post-World War I redrawing of the Middle East’s borders. For its part, Tehran used its support for the Assad regime to establish a firm military foothold in Syria, both directly via its Islamic Revolutionary Guards and indirectly through Hezbollah and other proxy Shiite militias. Tehran has thus come closer than ever to creating a land corridor from the Iranian border all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.[13]

It is indeed doubly ironic that Syria, which has long cast itself as “the beating heart of Arabism,” has been forced to rely on non-Arab Iran for survival while confronting some of its most prominent Arab sisters (notably Riyadh and the Gulf monarchies), and that its avowedly secularist Baathist government has been saved by an Islamist regime. And while this dependence has been mitigated by Russia’s military presence, it has, nevertheless, drawn Damascus into the maelstrom of international politics and reduced its control over its own destiny as when in January 2018 and February 2019, Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara held summit meetings to discuss Syria’s future.[14] This reliance on Iran has also put the Assadregime on a collision course with Israel, which has sought to prevent the entrenchment of Tehran’s military presence through sustained air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

Islamism’s Moderate Revival

Not surprisingly, the steady decline in pan-Arabism was matched by a corresponding rise in Islamist power and influence given the zero-sum relationship between the two rival ideologies. For a while, it seemed that the post-World War I Middle Eastern system, based on the territorial nation state and largely ruled by predominantly secularist, authoritarian regimes, would provide a lasting substitute to this order. But the powerful religious undercurrents among the region’s deeply devout societies continued to bedevil the regimes (e.g., the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s decades-long violent resistance), gaining strong momentum from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the attendant surge of Islamist terror groups (e.g., Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda). These currents then culminated in the “Arab Spring” with the replacement of autocratic rulers in Tunisia and (temporarily) in Egypt by Islamist regimes.

Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) parade in northwest Syria featured in propaganda

Islamization played an important role in the Syrian civil war as well, with Islamic slogans and terminology becoming a unifying factor and force multiplier for the various rebel groups while those loyal to pan-Arabism or Syrian territorial nationalism fell behind. Nor was this the first time for the regime to be endangered by violent Islamism. Hafez Assad was confronted with a nationwide Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the early 1980s, which he suppressed with great difficulty and the utmost brutality. The revolt culminated in the notorious February 1982 Hama massacre where thousands of civilians were slaughtered and large parts of the city were razed. The Syrian Brotherhood never recovered from this setback, and the Islamist banner during the 2011-18 uprising was raised by Salafist and jihadist groups whose following in the country’s rural and peripheral areas was wider than the Brotherhood’s mainly urban support base.[15] The result has been a far heavier human toll attending the suppression of the recent revolt and the preservation of the Baathist-type of “political secularism,” in which the ruling elites and significant parts of the population refuse to grant clerics political control over their lives.

Changing the Great-power Game

Apart from its far-reaching domestic and regional implications, the Syrian civil war played a key role in expediting the end of the Pax Americana that began with the 1991 Kuwait war and reached its peak following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European bloc. Yet this dominance was rapidly undone by President Obama’s hasty disengagement from Afghanistan and Iraq, which created a power vacuum that allowed the Taliban to intensify their fight against the Kabul government and laid the groundwork for the advent of ISIS and the establishment of the Islamic State in vast tracts of Iraq and Syria.[16]

The Syrian civil war accelerated the process of U.S. regional
retrenchment. With Obama’s repeated calls for Assad’s abdication and
warnings of harsh retribution ignored by the Syrian dictator, and Moscow
and Tehran throwing their weight behind their prized protégé,
Washington looked a pale shadow of the omnipotent superpower it seemed
two decades earlier—an exhausted and disillusioned power, lacking the
will and the power to engage in the region’s volatile affairs.

This image was reinforced by President Trump’s America-First policy. To be sure, in April 2017 and again in April 2018, the administration bombed Syrian regime targets in retribution for its use of chemical weapons against civilians (something repeatedly threatened but never done by Obama) thus restoring a semblance of U.S. deterrence—but this was the exception. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, the Trump administration continued to prosecute the “small war” of fighting ISIS, which played a secondary role in the Syrian civil war, while leaving Moscow a free hand to suppress the anti-regime rebels (some of whom were armed and trained by Washington). Then Washington announced in December 2018 its intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Little wonder that as Assad emerged victorious from his eight-year struggle for survival, Russian president Vladimir Putin has come to be seen as the real winner of the conflict, having put his political prestige on the line to ensure his protégé’s survival against the widespread warnings of a replay of Russia’s Afghanistan debacle. Standing in stark contrast to Washington’s passivity and inaction, this determined risk-taking allowed Moscow to regain its long-lost position as the Middle East’s preeminent foreign power.[17]

It is, nevertheless, far too premature to pronounce the end of U.S.
Middle East preeminence, let alone abdication of its regional duties and
interests. It is true that U.S. administrations have experienced
repeated setbacks since entering the region in strength in the
post-World War II era, including the 1950s loss of the Egyptian foothold
and the 1979 loss of Iran as an ally. But Washington has always found
the determination and sense of purpose to rebound as it did when
detaching Egypt from Moscow in the 1970s, reversing Iraq’s 1990
annexation of Kuwait, and presiding over Israel’s growing reconciliation
with its Arab neighbors.

Moreover, to the credit of the Obama and the Trump administrations,
it should be noted that Syria has never featured prominently in U.S.
interests. When, in the 1950s, the country came under Soviet patronage,
Washington focused on preventing Damascus from disrupting its regional
interests rather than turning Syria into a full-fledged U.S. ally. At
times, Washington tried to rally Damascus behind its interests, for
example, through participation in the 1991 anti-Iraq war coalition and
the U.S.-sponsored negotiations with Israel in the 1990s.

In this respect, the looming withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria is not out of line with Washington’s post-WWII policy or without its own logic, namely, disengaging from the Syrian marsh after attaining the desired goal, however modest and local, rather than sinking deeper into this treacherous water. President Trump’s derisive characterization reflects this policy: “Syria was lost long ago. … we’re not talking about vast wealth, we are talking about sand and death.”[18] It, nevertheless, remains an open question whether greater support for the rebels at the early stages of the conflict and enforcement of Obama’s threatened retribution for Bashar’s use of chemical weapons would have entailed real gains for Washington, perhaps even sparing the need for later military intervention.

Conclusion

With the anti-regime revolt all but suppressed, President Assad will likely focus more on reasserting his authority and rebuilding the security forces than reconstructing the Syrian state and society—beyond providing the population with the basic necessities of life. He is unlikely to be concerned about absorbing the millions of refugees who fled the country.[19] In fact, the regime seems to view the mass exodus as a blessing in disguise that rid the country of a large, hostile population and helped reduce the economic burden created by Syria’s rapid prewar natural population growth—one of the highest in the world and an important impetus for the rebellion. In Bashar’s words:

In this war we lost our best sons. The country’s economic infrastructure has been destroyed almost completely. We spent a lot of money, and the war cost us in blood and sweat. All this is true, but in return we have gained a healthier and more harmonious society in the true and deepest sense of the term harmony.[20]

This in turn means that the end of the civil war does not portend a
new departure for Syria. Domestically, it promises a return to the
prewar reality of underdevelopment and backwardness under a dictatorial
regime. Internationally, it will likely mean continued hostility and
suspicion toward the West, especially the United States and Israel, and
continued deference to Russia and Iran coupled with an attempt to widen
the regime’s room for maneuvering and freedom of action vis-à-vis these
patrons. Damascus will also endeavor to limit Israel’s military
operations against Iranian targets on Syrian soil while seeking to avoid
an all-out confrontation.

More importantly, postwar Syria can be viewed as a microcosm of
regional processes and undercurrents in the post-Arab uprisings era—a
region pointed to the past rather than the future, whose inhabitants
live in misery and hopelessness, lacking basic freedoms and human
rights, and ravaged by endemic violence, radicalism, and terrorism. With
the local dictatorial regimes that ruled the region for most of the
twentieth century proving their ability to retain power in the face of
the challenges posed by militant Islam and (to a far lesser extent)
liberal democracy, the Middle East will continue in the foreseeable
future to hover on the abyss while narrowly avoiding falling into it.

*About the author: Eyal Zisser is the vice rector of Tel Aviv University. He has written extensively on the history and the modern politics of Syria and Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Source: This article was published by Middle East Forum, Summer 2019


[1] The Guardian (London), July 31, 2018; Lara Seligman, “The Unintended Consequences of Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from Syria,Foreign Policy, Jan. 28, 2019.

[2] Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics, 1945-1958 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965).

[3] Nikolas Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria, Politics and Society under Assad and the Ba’th Party (London: Tauris, 2011).

[4] William Harris, Quicksilver War, Syria, Iraq and the Spiral Conflict (London: Hurst, 2018), pp. 55-102.

[5] “Speech by President Bashar Assad at Damascus University on the situation in Syria,” Voltaire Network (Damascus), June 20, 2011.

[6] Eyal Zisser, “A False Spring in Damascus,” Orient, no. 1, 2003, pp. 39-63.

[7] Efraim Karsh, “Obama’s Middle East Delusions,Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2016.

[8] See, for example, Thomas L. Friedman, “Out of Touch, Out of Time,” The New York Times, Feb. 10, 2011; Marc Lynch, “Obama’s ‘Arab Spring,’” Foreign Policy, Jan. 6, 2011; Lynch, The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the Middle East (New York: Public Affairs, 2012), pp. 67-100.

[9] For another view, see Daniel Pipes, “Why Egypt Will Not Soon Become Democratic,The Economist, Feb. 4, 2011.

[10] See, for example, Burhan Ghalioun, “Man al-mas’ul an Inhiyar Amal al-Islah wa-l-Dimuqratiyya min jadid fi-l-Sharq al-Awsat?al-Hiwar al-Mutamaddin (Baghdad), Nov. 21, 2006; “7 A’wam ala al-Kharif 2011,al-Khalij (UAE), Jan. 15, 2018.

[11] Fouad Ajami, “The End of Pan-Arabism,Foreign Affairs, Winter 1978/79, pp. 355-73.

[12] Simon Tisdall, “Iran has been isolated by the Arab Spring,The Guardian, May 17, 2018.

[13] Bulent Aras and Emirhan Yorulmazlar, “Turkey and Iran after the Arab Spring: Finding a Middle Ground,Middle East Policy Council, Winter 2014.

[14] Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul), Jan. 29, 2018; Euronews (Lyon), Feb. 14, 2019.

[15] Israa Saber, “What is the future of political Islam? Experts discuss,” Brookings Institute, May 4, 2018; Hicham Alaoui, “Failed dream of political Islam,Le Monde diplomatique, Nov. 2, 2018.

[16] Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson, “The End of Pax Americana. Why Washington’s Middle East Pullback Makes Sense,Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2015.

[17] Christopher J. Bolan, “Russian and Iranian ‘Victory’ in Syria: Does It Matter?Foreign Policy Research Institute, Dec. 20, 2018.

[18] Richard Hall, “Trump says Syria is ‘sand and death’ in defence of troop withdrawal,The Independent (London), Jan. 3, 2019.

[19] Oded Eran, “The Slim Prospects for a Complete Economic Recovery in Syria,Strategic Assessment, Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, Jan. 2019.

[20] Aletho News, Aug. 20, 2017; Eyal Zisser, “The Syrian refugees—left to their fate,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, no. 2, 2019.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)


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1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites): Stars and Stripes: After bill fiasco, Hong Kong chief fights for political life

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam steadily climbed her way up bureaucratic ranks to capture the top position in the former British colony, relying on sheer intelligence, ambition, canny networking and an astute deference to authority.

Stars and Stripes

1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites)


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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: The Politics of Political Profiling

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Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
.

Attempts to understand the motives and actions of political figures have a long history. Sometime around the year 100 CE, for example, the Greek historian Plutarch slipped a bit of psychological profiling into his biography of the Greek politician, Themistocles.

Themistocles was a Greek leader who, six centuries before he became Plutarch’s biographical subject, created the Athenian navy and saved Greece from conquest by the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. Themistocles’s mother was not an Athenian. She may not have even been Greek. She was therefore regarded as an “alien” in the eyes of Athenians.

 Plutarch highlighted the significance of this fact in his subject’s life when he observed that Themistocles took steps to offset this disadvantage: “Themistocles sought to induce certain well-born [Athenian] youths to go out to Cynosarges [a place frequented by “aliens”] and exercise with him; and by his success in this bit of cunning he is thought to have removed the distinction between aliens and legitimates.”

Plutarch also considered the behavior of the young Themistocles: “However lowly his birth, it is agreed on all hands that while yet a boy he was impetuous, by nature sagacious, and by election enterprising and prone to public life. In times of relaxation and leisure, when absolved from his lessons, he would not play nor indulge his ease, as the rest of the boys did, but would be found composing and rehearsing to himself mock speeches. These speeches would be in accusation or defense of some boy or other.” On other occasions, “he was taunted by men of reputed culture.”

By noting Themistocles’s mother’s status and his youthful actions, Plutarch implies that Themistocles’s considerable ambition may have been fueled by his desire to overcome his inherited alien status in Athenian society.

Some historians would undoubtedly question Plutarch’s psychohistorical dabbling. Historians depend on documentation, archeological evidence and other tangible sources of information, to draw conclusions. There are no historical records—diaries, letters, interviews, etc.– addressing Themistocles’s feelings about his mother’s outsider status in ancient Greece. And often there is no such reliable evidence to support analyses of more modern subjects of historical psychological profiling. Records providing reliable insight into the thought processes of historical figures are rare. Even diaries may mislead if the diarists slant their entries to present a flattering impression of themselves.

Furthermore, not everyone is convinced that modern psychological methods and insights can be accurately applied to past cultures and societies. Behavior is related to culture. Past cultures can differ significantly from modern culture.

The controversy increases even more when the subject of a profile is alive. More than 1,900 years after Plutarch wrote Lives, political profiling is still a popular pastime for amateurs and a focus of often heated debate for professional mental health care providers.

In 1964, 1,189 psychiatrists (out of 12,356) responded to a poll mailed to them by the publisher of Fact magazine asking them if they believed presidential candidate “Barry Goldwater is psychologically fit to serve as President of the United States?” Their responses embarrassed the profession. Goldwater was “diagnosed” with disorders like megalomania, paranoid personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and schizophrenia.

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Goldwater sued the publisher. He won one dollar for personal harm and $75,000 in damages.

Barry Goldwater sued the publisher of Fact magazine for libel and won.

Source: Photo credit: Google News Archive, Goldwater for President 1964

 A dozen years after the fiasco, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued guidelines, known as The Goldwater Rule, stating that is unethical for its members to give professional opinions about public figures whom they have not personally examined and from whom they have not received permission to forego doctor-patient confidentiality.

Interestingly, in 1976, the APA published the results of its task force called “The Psychiatrist As Psychohistorian.” The report reiterates the long-held APA position that condemns psychoanalyzing living persons, but it also “concludes that it is not necessarily unethical for a psychiatrist to produce confidential profiles of individuals in the service of national interest, and there are even occasions when such profiles may be appropriately published.”  

In recent years, the Goldwater Rule has been cited frequently in reference to mental health care professionals expressing concern about the mental health of President Donald Trump. Traditionalists like the officials of the APA insist it is still unethical to psychoanalyze a living person without direct examination and approval. The APA claims this can result in inaccurate diagnoses and stigma directed at the subject and relatives. It could also be used as a political tool.

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Advocates of openly discussing a president’s mental health insist they have a duty to warn if they, as professionals, see clear evidence based on their experience that he or she could pose a threat to others. If the leader of a nation with significant armed forces or nuclear weapons at his or her disposal was in any way subject to the instability characteristic of a mental illness or severe personality disorder, these professionals assert that they would be derelict if they remained silent.

If you combine the APA task force’s conclusion that it can be ethical to produce confidential profiles of living persons if it serves the national interest, with the fact that the citizens of every country have the right to be reassured that their leaders are mentally healthy, then you are led to the conclusion that the field of psychiatry, and by extension all citizens, could benefit from a revision of the Goldwater Rule.

Presidents and presidential candidates routinely release the results of physical medical examinations. A leader’s mental health is, if anything, more important than a leader’s physical health; at least, it is for the health of the nation.  

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠


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June 15, 2019

“fbi and trump” – Google News: Trump accuses NYT of ‘virtual act of treason’ for report on US cyberattacks against Russia – Washington Examiner
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“fbi and trump” – Google News: Trump accuses NYT of ‘virtual act of treason’ for report on US cyberattacks against Russia – Washington Examiner
Trump defends Stephanopolous interview | TheHill – The Hill
Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality – Washington Post
“fbi aclu report” – Google News: Tiffany Haddish cancels Atlanta show over abortion law – Yahoo Entertainment
Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: ‘Just call the FBI’ | TheHill – The Hill

“fbi and trump” – Google News: Trump accuses NYT of ‘virtual act of treason’ for report on US cyberattacks against Russia – Washington Examiner

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Trump defends Stephanopolous interview | TheHill – The Hill

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President Trump on Saturday night defended his interview with ABC News in which he suggested he might accept offers of intelligence on political opponents from foreign governments. 
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ATLANTA (AP) — Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish has canceled her upcoming Atlanta performance because of Georgia’s new restrictive abortion law. News outlets report that the “Girls Trip” star sent a statement to ticketholders Saturday, saying she cannot “in good faith” perform in Georgia unless it withdraws the so-called heartbeat bill.
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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: No Agreement On Euro Budgetary Tool: Ministers Send ‘Hot Potato’ Back To Leaders

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By Jorge Valero

(EurActiv) — EU finance ministers failed to reach an agreement in the early hours of Friday (14 June) on an anti-shock instrument to shield the euro, as they continued to clash over almost every feature of the new fiscal tool, including the source of funding.

There was no progress in other key areas flagged by EU leaders, such as the European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS). 

As a result, the euro area partners did not take the necessary steps
to strengthen the economic and monetary union “while the sun is shining”
and before the next crisis hits, as many voices including the European
Commission and the IMF have called for. 

After two years of a political crusade led by France, six months of
discussions among the finance ministers, and a torrent of warnings from
experts and academics about the need to complete the economic union with
a fiscal pillar, the Eurogroup failed in its endeavour to agree on a
eurozone budget.

The watered-down guidelines given by the leaders last December
already greatly limited the potential of the new instrument to the
extreme of impeding describing the new tool as a true eurozone budget. 

Back then, a group led by the Netherlands accepted to open the
discussions only if the new fiscal cushion excluded any stabilisation
role, an essential budgetary feature. They also limited its firepower to
the resources coming from the multiannual financial framework (MFF) the
EU’s long-term budget. In this context, some estimates said the volume
could be around €17 billion.

No progress

After 15 hours of negotiation, the Netherlands and others continued
to oppose those who wanted to expand the sources of revenues. The Hague
and its supporters also wanted to focus on the reform support dimension
more than on the investment part, seen as the nearest stabilisation
feature for to those who advocated the anti-shock functionality, like
France, Spain, Portugal or the Commission.

Euro area decision makers admitted that the results were far from what was needed.

When you have a high level of ambition, “my glass is less full,”
Eurogroup president, Mario Centeno, told reporters on Friday morning
after the ministers’ meeting.

“It may be true in a way” that these are only “small steps”, said commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici.  But he acknowledged that the decision “opened the door” to continue progressing toward achieving a true eurozone budget.

“It is the best agreement we could reach with the present state of play,” he added, eyeing The Netherlands.

Moscovici stressed the “symbolism” of the step taken, but added: “Let’s not congratulate ourselves too much”.

Le Maire’s enthusiasm

His advice was disregarded by his compatriot and big defender of the eurozone budget, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire.

“We have a eurozone budget,” Le Maire told reporters, and the results
of the Eurogroup met the “commitments” French President Emmanuel Macron
made on his campaign trail.

“This is a mini-revolution… a real game-changer,” said Le Maire, who
is in a campaigning mode to be chosen by Macron as France’s EU
Commissioner.

His words contrasted with Macron’s original idea of having a eurozone
budget “worth several points of GDP” of the eurozone, which is nowhere
to be seen.

Le Maire said he was “fully aware” that “a lot needs to be done” in regard to the financing of the budget.

He added that the intention would be to start “small” while giving the new instrument “the potential to grow over time”. 

But his overly optimistic reading contrasted not only with the results but also with what happened inside the room.

Back to the leaders

EU sources explained that, around midnight, France and those in
favour of the eurozone budget, already saw that little progress could be
achieved in the Eurogroup meeting, which went on until 4.30 in the
morning. 

As a result, the ministers decided to return the ‘hot potato’ sent by their bosses in December. 

Centeno said that the EU leaders should provide “guidance” on how to
proceed on issues such as the source of funding, the size of the fund,
or the objectives to finance.

Those who fought for the eurozone budget, such as Moscovici or
Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calviño, found comfort in the fact that
no option was ruled out, and that the future instrument still could play
a stabilising function to cushion economic shocks.

Despite the limited progress achieved, Calviño said she was convinced
that one day there will be a budget for the eurozone, given that it is
an “essential” fiscal instrument that completes the economic and
monetary union.

But she doubted that the leaders would try to revise the terms set up
in December, given the heavy agenda of the summit on 20-21 June,
primarily focused on picking the EU’s top posts.

MFF

The discussions will continue at the ministerial and technical level,
with the intention of reaching an agreement before the MFF is closed
(2021-2027), probably during the first quarter of next year. 

German finance minister, Olaf Scholz, said his country is “prepared
to do everything” in this regard during Germany’s rotating presidency of
the EU in the second half of 2020 to conclude a deal.

Scholz, who spoke to reporters alongside Le Maire, subscribed to the
optimistic conclusions voiced by his French counterpart but was less
enthusiastic about them.

He said that “nobody expected that we would be here” one year after
the agreement reached by France and Germany in Meseberg to strengthen
the eurozone.

No EDIS

The Eurogroup could not move forward either in regard to the other
major outstanding issues: the European Deposit Guarantee Scheme. 

After six months of technical discussions, Germany continues to be
the great obstacle. Berlin has spent more than five years opposing the
mutualisation of deposits until the risks are further reduced, despite
‘toxic’ loans in the EU represent only 3.3% of the total.

Moscovici and the managing director of the European Stability
Mechanism, Klaus Regling, also expressed his disappointment with the
lack of results on this front.

“It is crucially important that we make progress in the second half of the year” in this matter, said Moscovici.

Finance ministers only succeeded in the reform of the ESM, which is also part of the package to bolster the euro area.

The ESM revision would allow the bailout fund to provide a backstop
to the EU’s fund to resolve ailing banks so that it never loses its
maximum firepower of around €60 billion in case of a banking crisis like
in 2008. New features were also added to support member states in
distress before requesting a fully-fledged rescue programme.

The conclusion of the two-year process to complete the economic and
monetary union is, however, far from substantially bolstering the euro
defences against a future crisis.

On 9 May 2010, after almost 10 hours of discussion, eurozone
ministers agreed on the ESM embryo. At that time, Europe was in the
middle of the crisis. The single currency will probably have to wait for
the next recession to move closer to adulthood. And some believe the next big storm will come sooner, rather than later.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)


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