Video: Appearances (excerpt) – From Barbara Meter

[vimeo 41300829 w=700&h=480]

 

 

 

2000, 22 minutes bl +wh, 16mm (excerpt)
a film by Barbara Meter

An image of early twentieth century Germany rises from a collage of family photographs and landscapes. Meter used the photo albums of her parents, who had to flee Hitler’s Germany. The shots alternately exude warmth and detachment.

Gas Pipeline Wars: The EU Threatens to Obstruct Gazprom’s South Stream Project

By R. Teichmann
Global Research, June 10, 2014
News Beacon Ireland

The European Commission has indicated it will obstruct the building of a new gas pipeline to bypass Ukraine.

Black Sea

Black Sea

The European Commission has indicated it will obstruct the building of a new gas pipeline to bypass Ukraine. South Stream is a Russian sponsored natural gas pipeline. As planned, the pipeline would run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and continue through Serbia with two branches to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia. From Serbia the pipelines crosses Hungary and Slovenia before reaching Italy. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic metres per year.

The key partner for Russia’s Gazprom in the South Stream project is Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Russia signed intergovernmental agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Greece as far back as 2008 and with Slovenia in 2009 and Croatia and Austria in 2010.

Now the EU energy chief, German Gunther Oettinger has claimed to the German media that EU objections to the South Stream project are both political and legal.

“With civil war-like conditions in eastern Ukraine and without Moscow’s recognition of the Kiev government, we will certainly not arrive at a political conclusion of our negotiations,” he said.

He added that talks in a special EU-Russia “working group” on South Stream can continue, but only if Russia is “ready for constructive co-operation on the basis of our energy law”.

The EU’s so-called third energy package forces energy firms to separate production and distribution assets and to allow competitors access to infrastructure.

Legal threat against Bulgaria

The Commission cannot force member states to abandon the project, but it can obstruct progress by launching legal cases against the contracts which underpin its future. It already threw one spanner in the works this week by launching “infringement proceedings” against Bulgaria on alleged non-compliance with EU public procurement law in its handling of tenders.

Last December, the Commission said that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream gas, signed between Russia and Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch. Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, director for energy markets at the European Commission, speaking in the European Parliament said the deals were in breach of EU law.

“The Commission has looked into these intergovernmental agreements and came to the conclusion that none of the agreements is in compliance with EU law,” Borchardt said.

The Commission official highlighted at least three major issues about the deals:

First, the EU’s so-called network ownership “unbundling” rules need to be observed, he said. This means that Gazprom, which is both a producer and a supplier of gas, cannot simultaneously own production capacity and its transmission network;

Secondly, non-discriminatory access of third parties to the pipeline needs to be ensured. There cannot be an exclusive right for Gazprom to be the only shipper; and

Thirdly, the tariff structure needed to be addressed.

EU challenged over claim that its rules should prevail over international law

Russian deputy minister for energy Anatoly Yankovski, who delivered a speech shortly afterwards made the obvious point that Russia could not accept that EU rules should apply to trans-boundary projects such as pipelines, which are not stationed solely on EU territory. He added that EU law could not prevail in EU-Russia relations, which are governed only by international law. In other words, the intergovernmental agreements concluded by Russia over South Stream were prevailing over other legal norms, Yankovski said.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso upped the ante by warning Bulgaria that the EU executive would impose infringements on Bulgaria regarding pipeline declaring that its construction is in breach of EU laws.

The total value of the construction works on Bulgarian territory will be 3.5 billion Euros, with 20 to 30% of the implementation being sub-contracted to Bulgarian firms.

The Commission has objected precisely on the grounds that the Bulgarian-Russian bilateral agreement on South Stream gives preference to companies from Bulgaria and Russia, which is against EU competition rules.

Despite the Commission’s position that the IGA violates EU law, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller confirmed last month that the building of the Bulgarian and Serbian portions of the pipeline will begin in July.

In end-April, Russia filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the European Union over the EU’s Third Energy Package.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/gas-pipeline-wars-the-eu-threatens-to-obstruct-gazproms-south-stream-project/5386475″ data-title=”Gas Pipeline Wars: The EU Threatens to Obstruct Gazprom’s South Stream Project”>

Articles by:R. Teichmann

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Obama’s Attempt at Intimidating Russia: Dispatching B-2 Stealth Bombers to Europe

obama-putin-400x242“This deployment of strategic bombers provides an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and improve interoperability with our allies and partners.”

– Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, US Strategic Command on the deployment of B-2 stealth bombers to Europe.

“Against stupidity, no amount of planning will prevail.” – Carl von Clausewitz

Less than 24 hours after Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko announced his determination to retake Crimea from Russia, US Admiral Cecil Haney confirmed that the US Air Force had deployed two B-2 stealth bombers to Europe to conduct military exercises. The addition of the multipurpose B-2, which is capable of delivering nuclear weapons, is intended to send a message to Moscow that the United States is prepared to provide backup for Ukraine’s fledgling government and to protect its interests in Central Asia. News of the deployment was reported in the Russian media, but was excluded by all the western news outlets.

The B-2 announcement was preceded by an inflammatory speech by Poroshenko at the presidential “swearing in” ceremony in Kiev. In what some analysts have called a “declaration of war”, Poroshenko promised to wrest control of Crimea from Russia which annexed the region just months earlier following a public referendum that showed 90 percent support for the measure. Here’s part of what Poroshenko said:

“The issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is not subject to discussion…I have just sworn ‘with all my deeds to protect the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,’ and I will always be faithful to this sacred promise…

“Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil…Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure…” (New York Times)

On Thursday, the day before Poroshenko was sworn in, “President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron set a deadline for Russia to comply with its demands or face harsher economic sanctions that would be imposed by members of the G-7. Once again, the threat of new sanctions was largely ignored by the western media but was reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“To avoid even harsher sanctions.. Putin must meet three conditions: Recognize Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Kiev; stop arms from crossing the border; and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

“If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow…”

Obama said the G-7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Cameron outlined.” (Haaretz)

The United States is ratcheting up the pressure in order to widen the conflict and force Russian president Vladimir Putin to meet their demands. It’s clear that the threat of sanctions, Poroshenko’s belligerent rhetoric, and the steady buildup of military assets and troops in the region, that Obama and Co. still think they can draw Putin into the conflict and make him look like a dangerous aggressor who can’t be trusted by his EU partners. Fortunately, Putin has not fallen into the trap. He’s resisted the temptation to send in the tanks to put an end to the violence in Donetsk, Lugansk and Slavyansk. This has undermined Washington’s plan to deploy NATO to Russia’s western border, assert control over the “bridgehead” between Europe and Asia, and stop the further economic integration between Russia and the EU. So far, Putin has out-witted his adversaries at every turn, but there are still big challenges ahead, particularly the new threats from Poroshenko.

If Poroshenko is determined to take Crimea back from Moscow, then there’s going to be a war. But there are indications that he is more pragmatic than his speeches would suggest. In a private meeting with Putin at the D-Day ceremonies in France, the Ukrainian president said he had a plan to “immediately stop the bloodshed”

Here’s how Putin summarized his meeting with Poroshenko:

“Poroshenko has a plan in this respect; it is up to him to say what kind of plan it is… I cannot say for sure how these plans will be implemented, but I liked the general attitude, it seemed right to me, so, if it happens this way, there will be conditions to develop our relations, in other areas, including economy.

“It’s important to stop the punitive actions in the southeast without a delay. That’s the only way to create conditions for the start of a real process of negotiations with the supporters of federalization. No one has yet said anything concrete to the people (living in the southeast of Ukraine) and nothing practical has been offered to them. People there simply don’t understand how they’ll live in the future and what the parameters of the new Constitution will look like.” (Poroshenko tells Putin of plan to immediately stop bloodshed in Ukraine, Itar-Tass)

If the report is accurate, then there’s reason to hope that Poroshenko is moving in Russia’s direction on most of the key issues which are; greater autonomy for the people in East Ukraine, Constitutional provisions that will protect them from future abuse by Kiev, and an immediate end to the violence. Putin has sought assurances on these issues from the very beginning of the crisis. Now it looks like he might get his way. Of course, it is impossible to know, since Poroshenko is sending mixed messages.

So why is Poroshenko sounding so conciliatory in his private meetings with Putin, but so belligerent in public?

It could be any number of things, but it probably has a lot to do with Monday’s scheduled tripartite meetings of representatives from the European Union, Ukraine and Russia. These meetings will have incalculable impact of Ukriane’s economic future. They will resolve the issues of price for future gas purchases as well as a plan for settling all previous claims. (Russia says that Ukraine owes $3.5 billion in back payments for natural gas.)

On April 1, Gazprom cancelled Ukraine’s discount and raised the price of gas to 485.5 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters nearly doubling the rate of payment. (It had been $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters) It is impossible to overstate the impact this will have Ukraine’s economy. Even Ukrainian hardline Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was candid in his dire assessment of the situation. He said, “I could have made a populist statement but it is not true. We cannot refrain from using Russian gas.”

If Poroshenko sounds conciliatory, this is why.

Putin refused to discuss the gas issue with the media, but implied that political developments in Ukraine would factor heavily into any decision by Gazprom.

“Russia will be compelled to enact economic protection measures to defend its market if Ukraine signs the association agreement with the EU. “As soon as that accord is signed, we’ll start taking measures to defend our economy,” Putin said. (Itar-Tass)

In other words, if Ukraine doesn’t play ball, it’s going to have to go-it-alone. Kiev cannot expect “most favored trade partner-status”, gas discounts, or other perks if they’re going to stab Moscow in the back and jump into bed with the EU. That’s just not the way things work. Putin is merely warning Poroshenko to think about what he’s about to do before taking the plunge. ( “Average gas prices for Ukrainian households began rising by more than 50 percent in May, and heating prices are expected to climb by about 40 percent, starting in July.” World Socialist Web Site)

This is a much more important issue that most analysts seem to grasp. Many seem to think that IMF, EU and US loans and other assistance can buoy Ukraine’s sinking economy and restore it to health. But that’s a pipedream. In a “must read” report by the Brookings Institute, authors Clifford G. Gaddy and Barry W. Ickes spell it out in black and white, that is, that “Ukraine is a prize that neither Russia nor the West can afford to win.” Here’s a clip from the text:

“It is clear to most observers that the West would not be able to defend Ukraine economically from a hostile Russia…The simple fact is that Russia today supports the Ukrainian economy to the tune of at least $5 billion, perhaps as much as $10 billion, each year…

When we talk about subsidies, we usually think of Russia’s ability to offer Ukraine cheap gas — which it does when it wants to. But there are many more ways Russia supports Ukraine, only they are hidden. The main support comes in form of Russian orders to Ukrainian heavy manufacturing enterprises. This part of Ukrainian industry depends almost entirely on demand from Russia. They wouldn’t be able to sell to anyone else…

If the West were somehow able to wrest full control of Ukraine from Russia, could the United States, the other NATO nations, and the EU replace Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine? The IMF, of course, would never countenance supporting these dinosaurs the way the Russians have. So the support would have to come in the way of cash transfers to compensate for lost jobs. How much are we talking about? The only known parallel for the amount of transfer needed is the case of German reunification. The transfer amounted to 2 trillion euros, or $2.76 trillion, over 20 years. If Ukraine has per capita income equal to one-tenth of Germany’s, then a minimum estimate is $276 billion to buy off the east. (In fact, since the population size of eastern Ukraine is larger than East Germany’s, this is an underestimate.) It is unthinkable that the West would pay this amount.” (Ukraine: A Prize Neither Russia Nor the West Can Afford to Win, Brookings)

The authors go on to show that “a NATO-affiliated Ukraine — is simply impossible under any real-world conditions” because it assumes that Russia will either “become an enthusiastic EU and NATO member itself” (or) “will it return to being the bankrupt, dependent, and compliant Russia of the 1990s.” In other words, the Obama administration’s strategic objectives in Ukraine do not jibe with economic reality. The US cannot afford to win in Ukraine, that’s the bottom line. Even so, we are convinced the aggression will persist regardless of the presumed outcome. The train has already left the station.

At the D-Day ceremonies, Putin and Poroshenko also met briefly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande although the content of their discussions was not revealed. Public support for the two leaders’ Ukraine policy is gradually withering as the fighting continues in the East without any end in sight. An article in the popular German newspaper Die Zeit indicates that elite opinion in Europe is gradually shifting and no longer sees Washington’s Ukraine policy as being in its interests.

Here’s a brief summary from the WSWS: “It goes on to argue that Washington’s aggression is laying the foundations for a Chinese-Russian-Iranian axis that “would force the West to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy to secure its access to important but dwindling raw materials such as oil.” In opposition to this, the commentary insists that Germany’s independent interests lie “with preserving and deepening Europe’s relations with Russia,” while pursuing similar ties with Iran.” (D-Day anniversary: Commemorating the Second World War and preparing the Third, World Socialist Web Site)

This is an important point and one that could put a swift end to US aggression in Ukraine. Washington’s objectives are at cross-purposes with those of the EU. The EU needs a reliable source of energy and one, like Russia, that will set its prices competitively without resorting to coercion or blackmail. Washington, on the other hand, intends to situate itself in this century’s most prosperous region, Eurasia, in order to control the flow of oil from East to West. This is not in Europe’s interests, but promises to be a source of conflict for the foreseeable future. Case in point: Just last week Bulgaria’s prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, “ordered a halt to work on Russia’s South Stream pipeline, on the recommendation of the EU. The decision was announced after his talks with US senators.”

According to RT News, Oresharski stopped construction after meeting with John McCain, Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson during their visit to Bulgaria on Sunday.

McCain, commenting on the situation, said that “Bulgaria should solve the South Stream problems in collaboration with European colleagues,” adding that in the current situation they would want “less Russian involvement” in the project.

“America has decided that it wants to put itself in a position where it excludes anybody it doesn’t like from countries where it thinks it might have an interest, and there is no economic rationality in this at all. Europeans are very pragmatic, they are looking for cheap energy resources – clean energy resources, and Russia can supply that. But the thing with the South Stream is that it doesn’t fit with the politics of the situation,” Ben Aris, editor of Business New Europe told RT.” (Bulgaria halts Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project, RT)

Once again, we can see how US meddling is damaging to Europe’s interests.

Western elites want to control the flow of gas and oil from East to West. This is why they’ve installed their puppet in Kiev, threatened to levy more sanctions on Moscow, and moved B-2 stealth bombers into the European theater. They are determined to succeed in their plan even if it triggers a Third World War.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/obamas-attempt-at-intimidating-russia/5386532″ data-title=”Obama’s Attempt at Intimidating Russia: Dispatching B-2 Stealth Bombers to Europe”>

Articles by:Mike Whitney

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Interview with UN Peace Envoy Brahimi: ‘Syria Will Become Another Somalia’

Destroyed buildings are pictured, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's President Assad, in Homs city

Homs in May: “People are telling me that Homs looks like Berlin in 1945.” Photo: Reuters

Published by Spiegel Online International

Interview by Susanne Koelbl

For almost two years, Lakhdar Brahimi sought to bring peace to Syria. But in May, the United Nations special envoy stepped down. He speaks with SPIEGEL about the stubbornness of Syrian President Assad, the mistakes of the West and the dangers presented by Islamic radicals.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Brahimi, in May, you stepped down as the United Nations special envoy to Syria. When you took the position in 2012, many considered the task of achieving peace in Syria to be a mission impossible. What did you hope to achieve?

Brahimi: The idea was, and still is, for Bashar al-Assad to agree to become the kingmaker instead of staying on as president, an orderly transition with his participation to go to the new Syria. This is what I was and still am dreaming of.

SPIEGEL: Can you point to a particular incident that showed you that it was time to give up?

Brahimi: When I ended the second round of discussions at the so-called Geneva II conference at the beginning of this year, I realized that this process was not going to move forward any time soon.

SPIEGEL: What happened?

Brahimi: Neither Russia nor the US could convince their friends to participate in the negotiations with serious intent.

SPIEGEL: To what degree is the dispute about the person of President Bashar al Assad?

Brahimi: The issue of President Assad was a huge hurdle. The Syrian regime only came to Geneva to please the Russians, thinking that they were winning militarily. I told them “I’m sure that your instructions were: ‘Go to Geneva. But not only don’t make any concessions, don’t discuss anything seriously.'”

SPIEGEL: What about on the other side?

Brahimi: The majority among the opposition were against coming to Geneva. They preferred a military solution and they came completely unprepared. But at least they were willing to start talking with President Assad still there as long as it was clear that, somewhere along the line, he would go.

SPIEGEL: So, you didn’t have a chance at all?

Brahimi: I told the Americans and the Russians several times while we were preparing for Geneva that they were bringing these two delegations kicking and screaming, against their will.

SPIEGEL: For the sake of his country, why couldn’t President Bashar accept a replacement leader that everybody could live with?

Brahimi: It is his regime. He still has an appetite for power. The regime is built around his person and he still has enough authority over people that having him stay in power is a fundamental part of their vision of the future. The way he puts it is, “The people want me there and I cannot say no.” He said, “I am a Syrian national. If I have 50 percent plus one vote at the elections, I’ll stay. If I have 50 percent less one vote, I will go.” Yesterday he was just re-elected for another seven years! You have a situation where one side says there can be no solution unless Assad stays in power. While the other side says there can be no solution unless Assad goes. Do you know how to square a circle?

SPIEGEL: Is Assad aware of the way the war is being conducted by his army?

Brahimi: One-hundred percent.

SPIEGEL: The barrel bombs being thrown from helicopters on civilian populations? The targeted bombing of hospitals? The systematic torture and killing of thousands or tens-of-thousands?

Brahimi: He knows a hell of a lot. Maybe he doesn’t know every single detail of what is happening, but I’m sure he is aware that people are being tortured, that people are being killed, that bombs are being thrown, that cities are being destroyed. He cannot ignore the fact that there are 2.5 million refugees. That number is going to be 4 million next year, and there are 6 million people who are internally displaced. He knows that there are 50,000 to 100,000 people in his jails. And that some of them are tortured every day.

SPIEGEL: Did you confront him with those facts?

Brahimi: Sure! I spoke to him of a list of 29,000 people in his prisons and I gave a copy of the list to his office.

SPIEGEL: Is the regime the major culprit or are war crimes also committed by others?

Brahimi: War crimes are being committed every day, by both sides. Starvation is being used as a weapon. When you prevent water and food from reaching 250,000 people, what else can you call that? And at the same time, some of the armed groups are using civilians as human shields. But the regime has a state, has an army with 300,000 men, has airplanes, which the opposition doesn’t have.

SPIEGEL: Does anybody track those war crimes and hold people responsible?

Brahimi: There is an investigation commission, working under the umbrella of the High Commission of Human Rights, that has been trying to look at all these human rights abuses and they are systematically collecting facts. People will be held responsible one day.

SPIEGEL: Who is the dominating force in the armed opposition?

Brahimi: The opposition is very fragmented, even the Free Syrian Army. But everybody understands that the jihadi group ISIS (Eds. Note: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is not really interested in Syria. They seek to establish a new order in the region. As long as there are no negotiations, the armed groups as well as the political opposition will continue to be fragmented.

SPIEGEL: Are any of those groups capable of winning the fight against Assad and his regime?

Brahimi: The United Nations secretary general has been saying all along that there is no military solution. Neither the regime, nor the opposition can win a decisive military victory.

SPIEGEL: What is your prediction for the future of Syria and the region?

Brahimi: Unless there is a real, sustained effort to work out a political solution, there is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up. The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria. It will spill over into the region. It’s already destabilizing Lebanon, there are 1.5 million refugees in the country; that represents one third of the population. If it were Germany, it would be the equivalent of 20 million. It is destabilizing because ISIS …

SPIEGEL: … the most radical and brutal armed opposition group, which seeks to establish a militant Islamic state …

Brahimi: … is active in both Syria and Iraq already, and Jordan is really struggling to continue resisting. Even Turkey! According to a senior Iraqi official, ISIS has carried out 100 operations in Syria and 1,000 operations in Iraq in just three months.

SPIEGEL: How could these radical forces emerge so quickly? Sources say that the Syrian regime itself helped unleash this phenomenon deliberately — that they have released hundreds of extremists from their prisons, even encouraging them to create an enemy that they can legitimately fight against. Is this correct?

Brahimi: I have heard this several times. People will tell you that ISIS controls one province and the government never attacks them. It is probably the government’s way of saying: “This is the future you will have if we are not there anymore.”

SPIEGEL: Will the states of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria be able to survive?

Brahimi: They will not completely disappear as states, but it reminds me a lot of 1999. Then, I resigned from my first assignment as UN special envoy to Afghanistan because the UN Security Council had no interest in Afghanistan, a small country, poor, far away. I said one day it’s going to blow up in your faces. It did.

SPIEGEL: What is the link to Syria?

Brahimi: Syria is so much worse! This ISIS, they don’t believe in just staying there. And they are training people. Your countries are terribly scared that the few Europeans that are there may come back and create all sorts of problems. So just imagine what the feelings are next door!

SPIEGEL: Did the West make significant mistakes when the conflict broke out?

Brahimi: Most people did, the product of a wrong reading of the situation inside Syria — just as events in Tunisia and even in Libya were misread by most people. People have got it wrong every time. Which is understandable. It is complicated and these events erupted on us when we weren’t looking. What is difficult to understand is that the early, mistaken assumptions have not been revised. On all sides, people still help the war effort instead of the peace effort, and it is making things worse.

SPIEGEL: If the international community had only supported the Free Syrian Army with the right weaponry in the early stages, Assad could have been ousted and a peaceful transition could have prevailed. Do you share this assessment?

Brahimi: No, because I think they did help the Free Syria Army. But the thing is they thought that the regime was going to fall easily — complete misconception. Syria has a state, it has an army, and it was assumed that it was going to fall just like Libya did.

SPIEGEL: Might the Assad regime fall at some point?

Brahimi: So far he is still President and Russia and Iran still support him.

SPIEGEL: Is there any plan you can think of that might put an end to this conflict?

Brahimi: Iraq tells us that military intervention is a very, very dangerous way of solving problems. UN intervention is something else. If you have a peace-keeping mission that comes as part of an agreed solution, that would be different.

SPIEGEL: What should such a mission look like?

Brahimi: The UN has, I think, 20,000 or 30,000 soldiers that would be there to help the Syrians implement something they have agreed upon. And then you would need to face the ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra and (other radical groups). But first, the Syrians would have to agree for the UN to come in. It doesn’t look likely today or tomorrow, but this conflict has got to be resolved. And it will be at some point. The question is: How much killing and destruction are we going to have before that happens? People are telling me that Homs looks like Berlin in 1945.

SPIEGEL: Could the recent ceasefire in Homs be a model for other places like Aleppo?

Brahimi: The government starved the people there into surrender. The negotiation in Homs took place within the war project of the government, and it led to a victory by the government. But a lot of the things that have taken place during the last phase of negotiations over Homs could be part of a peace process. On previous occasions, many among the people who surrendered were arrested. It is alleged that some have been tortured or even killed.

SPIEGEL: What role do the countries backing each party play?

Brahimi: The Russians have consistently said it was not up to them to ask President Assad to leave office: “We do not have that much influence over him, even if we wanted,” they said. The Iranians said they accept that the crisis needs to be solved through negotiations, that at the end there must be free and fair elections and that this could be organized and observed by the United Nations. But then they said that, of course Assad would be allowed to stand if he wants. All three — Russia, Iran and Iraq — are supporting Damascus and delivering a lot of aid to them; probably money and definitely weapons.

SPIEGEL: How about the support for the armed opposition?

Brahimi: The Saudis, the Qataris and the Turks are supporting all kinds of political groups and armed groups. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said several times that the Syrian people are defending themselves against a brutal regime and it is legitimate to help them protect themselves.

SPIEGEL: We have been told that the Saudis even refused to meet with you.

Brahimi: That’s a fact. I think they didn’t like what I was saying about a peaceful and negotiated settlement with concessions from both sides. I am only guessing because I did not hear that from them. The irony is that hired pens for the regime are saying that I am Saudi Arabia’s man!

SPIEGEL: Could the Saudis and the Iranians come up with a solution if they were just to sit down together instead of letting their proxies fight about who will dominate the region?

Brahimi: Saudi Arabia is a very important country. King Abdullah is a very wise man and the Iranians, I think, with the new government that they have, also want to be constructive and responsible. Both countries have a responsibility. The region has to start discussing not how to help warring parties, but how to help the Syrian people, their neighbors. The other country that can help is Egypt.

SPIEGEL: To what degree does this conflict pose a threat to Israel?

Brahimi: Israel is very happy. Things are going very, very well for them. If Bashar goes it’s great; if Bashar stays it’s great. Syria is being weakened. Syria had some kind of strategic weapon with their chemical weapons and that’s gone. So Israel is doing very well, thank you very much. You don’t need to worry about them.

SPIEGEL: It sounds like you are saying that the Israelis are leaning back and saying: “Great, our enemies are killing each other.” Is the world that cynical?

Brahimi: I’m sure they are saying that. It’s a realistic point of view. Ask your Israeli friends; they will tell you it’s so.

SPIEGEL: What is the true story about the use of chemical weapons in this war?

Brahimi: They have been used, but there are conflicting views about who the culprits were. The UN was specifically requested by the Security Council to merely establish that chemical weapons were used. Not everyone agrees that it was the Syrian government who used these chemical weapons.

SPIEGEL: The West considers it fact that the Syrian government was responsible.

Brahimi: As I said, the UN investigating mission was strictly ordered NOT to try to determinate who the guilty party was. Now, from the little I know, it does seem that in Khan al-Assal, in the north, the first time chemical weapons were used, there is a likelihood that it was used by the opposition. Regarding the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21, 2013 in the suburbs of Damascus, it is a fact that for the West and perhaps most people in the region, the responsibility lies with the regime. Moscow and Tehran say they are equally certain that the government DID NOT use chemical weapons anywhere. It is a great pity the UN was under strict instructions not to try to point the finger at anyone. More recently, there are again allegations that chemical substances have being used. I hope this time the UN will be asked to do its best to find out who the guilty party is.

SPIEGEL: What was the effect of US President Barack Obama not having done anything after poison gas was deployed in Syria; after the red line had clearly been crossed twice? Is America’s unwillingness, or inability, to intervene a dangerous portent?

Brahimi: I think that Obama — and the Russians — decided that, rather than take punishing action, they would solve the problem at its roots, and they may have done that. From their point of view, and from Israel’s, that is the better solution. But many Syrians on both sides are rather unhappy that the government is giving up the only strategic weapons they have; a weapon that was acquired at enormous cost to the people of Syria.

SPIEGEL: What do you think will ultimately become of Syria?

Brahimi: It will be become another Somalia. It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It’s going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.

SPIEGEL: What can the international community do, Europe in particular? What should Germany do?

Brahimi: The people in your governments know how dangerous this crisis is and how important it is to support a political solution.

SPIEGEL: Are you referring to the 320 Germans that have thus far joined ISIS?

Brahimi: And to the 500 or 600 French, the 500 or 600 British, and so on and so forth. There are several thousand non-Syrians. My goodness! These are your nationals that are training in Syria and that are part of ISIS, which believes that you have got to build an Islamic state all over the world, starting with Berlin. That’s a threat to you, isn’t it?