Kosovo Leaders in International Court – Finally

September 17, 2021

The first trial opened on Sep.15th 2021 at a special court (The Kosovo Specialist Chambers- KSC) dealing with crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict.  The first case is against Salih Mustafa, 50, a former pro-independence commander who faces charges of murder, accused of running a prison unit. Prosecutors said victims were fellow Kosovo Albanians who disagreed politically with Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. The KSC has indicted eight suspects, all of whom are in custody at a detention unit in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen. 

The Kosovo tribunal’s highest-profile suspect is former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who resigned in 2020 and turned himself last year to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  One could note that less than a year ago, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after he was summoned by the same court on suspicion of war crimes.

Thaçi is from the region of Drenica in Kosovo, which is where the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) originated. He studied philosophy in Prishtina before moving to Switzerland, where he joined the KLA  in 1993. He rose through the ranks of the KLA to become leader of the most powerful faction by 1999, during the Rambouillet negotiations. He then joined the interim Kosovo administration after the war.

Thaçi became leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which won the largest share of the vote in the 2007 Kosovo elections. In 2008, Thaçi declared the independence of Kosovo and became its first prime minister. In 2016 he was elected President of Kosovo. Thaçi has pursued a pro-American policy while in office. There have been controversies regarding Thaçi’s role in the KLA and allegations about him being involved in organized crime. In 2020, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filed a ten-count Indictment, charging Hashim Thaçi and others for crimes against humanity and war crimes.Thaci, a U.S.-backed national hero, embarked on his political career after leading the KLA’s battle against forces under Milosevic. He has been the dominant political figure in the country since its independence 13 years ago. Thaçi subsequently resigned from his position as president, in his words, in order to “protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo”.

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Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA aka UÇK) were established mid-90s during war in Bosnia. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties.  In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo  (in 2008) I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. 

 

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports” . For example the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), describes Thaçi’s Drenica group “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.

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In April 2008 Madam Carla Del Ponte, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), published a book “La caccia – Io e i criminali di guerra”. In the book, almost ten years after the end of the war in Kosovo, there appeared revelations of trafficking in human organs taken from Serb prisoners, reportedly carried out by leading commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo” , for Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty, expands on allegations made by Mrs. Del Ponte.

The PACE report claims that civilians – Serbian and non-KLA-supporting Kosovan Albanians detained by the KLA in the 1999 hostilities – were shot in northern Albania and their kidneys extracted and sold on the black market. It names Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the KLA and Kosovo’s prime minister, as the boss of a “mafia-like” group engaged in criminal activity – including heroin trading – since before the 1999 war.

I agree with those who claim that it is clear that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake. While I was working in Kosovo after bombings as EU expert for local administration it was clear how Kosovo Albanian ”freedom fighters” started to transform themselves to political leaders of this then international protectorate. International community – via UN/UNMIK, NATO/KFOR, EU/TAFKO/EAR and affiliates – which were administrating Kosovo, was well aware of the direct links between organized crime clans and political leaders.

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More reading:

My articles:

About possible solutions e.g. my articles

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “leaked” German Intelligence report BND report 2005 .

The report, Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”, prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.

A good article by F. William Engdahl: Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could Destroy NATO  .

Sources e.g Reuters , live update from the KSC , Wikipedia.


Anti-Taliban War is Not Over, It’s Already Starting

August 21, 2021

On Aug. 2021 the Taliban was taking over provinces one by one till they finally reached the power centre, Kabul.  However while the militants appear firmly in control, some prominent figures vowed to continue resistance as protests erupted in two cities and millions of Afghans parsed clues about the Taliban’s intentions.  So the anti-Taliban war is not over, it’s starting and not hopefully only in Afghanistan.

Since the collapse of Kabul, there has been a comparison with similar events in Vietnam. Images of the evacuation of Americans from the embassy are similar, as are the inability of government forces to resist the occupiers. However, the main difference is in the opponent: Vietcong was superior in both manpower and skill compared to the Taliban. The only similarity was in the spirit of struggle, based on the former to Communism and the latter to radical Islamism.

Taliban fighters are mostly inexperienced poorly trained madrasa students just to know how to follow the orders of their Mullahs.  Now they have very sophisticated weapons seized from government forces but it takes time to learn how to use this arsenal.  The strength of Taliban forces is estimated to be between 70 000 – 100 000 fighters so it is not any wide people’s army.

However Taliban has been a powerful grass roots movement in the last decades in Afghanistan. The Taliban insurgents have been doing much more than the Afghan government to establish good governance and accountability. In the remote provinces, the Taliban’s efforts have reinforced two images: on the one hand an absent and/or corrupt Afghan central government and effective and accountable Taliban administration on the other. The Taliban has been answering better to the needs of ordinary citizens than the U.S. and their puppet government in Kabul.  This is the base to their success and I can agree that Talibans have real support in conservative countryside and provinces.

Base of a mass uprising

There is a wide anti-Taliban spirit based on experience or hope of better life and freedom without Taliban rule. Also there is fear that the Taliban will act like before.  In urban areas, girls have been able to go to school, women have been able to work in demanding positions, for example in the media. The younger generation has gotten a glimpse of Western freedom, entrepreneurs have seen more earning opportunities than just drug trafficking. This operating environment, especially in urban areas, lays the foundation for an anti-Taliban uprising.

One should note that many warlords did not surrendered, they moved with their militia and arms e.g. to Uzbekistan.  Also part of Afghanistan airforce –  tenths of aircrafts and pilots – moved to Uzbekistan.Already now the anti-Taliban demonstrations have begun. For example Taliban fighters used gunfire to disperse demonstrations in the northeastern city of Jalalabad and the southeastern city of Khost, with some of the protesters raising the Afghan government flags that the Taliban had taken down just days earlier. News reports said two or three people were killed in Jalalabad.  Similar events have occurred across the country.

Taliban does not rule the whole Afghanistan

Though the Taliban hold control of nearly all of the country, some prominent figures continued to hold out with a corps of loyal fighters, saying they do not recognize the Taliban as legitimate rulers. One of them, Amrullah Saleh, the vice president in the toppled government, claimed that Mr. Ghani’s flight from the country had made him the acting president.  Mr Saleh is getting support from Defense Minister Gen. Dismillan Mohammad as well Norhern Alliance leader Ahmad Massoud.

Panjshir valley has newer been occupied or captured by any external force – not USSR in 80s, not Taliban 90s and not now.  The Panjshir valley north of Kabul is still littered with the wrecked carcasses of Soviet armoured vehicles destroyed in unsuccessful battles to conquer it, and the region also held out against the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan in 1996-2001.

Mr. Saleh is allied with a regional leader, Ahmad Massoud, whose father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the leading anti-Taliban commander a generation ago, until he was assassinated two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.  Ahmad Shah Massoud always struggled and hoped for an independent, self-sufficient, and strong Afghanistan with a just and democratic political system. He was respected, and would always insist on democracy, and inclusive elections where both men and women could participate.

Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of Ahmad Shah Massoud,has pledged on Aug 19th 2021 to hold out against the Taliban from his stronghold in the Panjshir valley.

“We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come,” he said according Reuters, adding that some of the forces who had joined him had brought their weapons. “If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us,” he said. 

He said his forces would not be able to hold out without help from the West and he appealed for support and logistical help from the United States, Britain and France.

“The Taliban are not a problem for the Afghan people alone. Under Taliban control, Afghanistan will without doubt become ground zero of radical Islamist terrorism; plots against democracies will be hatched here once again,” he said.

Three scenarios

In my opinion there is now three scenarios how the situation is developing during next weeks and they are as follows:

  1. Zero-option
  2. Humanitarian intervention
  3. Coin implemented by anti-Taliban forces

The zero-option is already ongoing, the actions are focused to ad hoc evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan and to secure Kabul airport so long that they are out with so many Afghans than possible.

In my view the probable outcome will be that in one month the most part of Afghanistan, including Kabul, is under the Taliban rule meaning sharia law, some ethnic cleansing, some massacres, throwing basic human rights to trash, big amount of Afghan refugees inside and outside the country and naturally a human catastrophe e.g. due lack of food.  The international community will react to this with some high flow statements and humanitarian aid to refugee camps.

Humanitarian intervention better sooner than later is unlikely and/or expensive.   Fast decisions could be made only in U.S. and Russia and the best scenario would be a joint operation, first airstrikes and then ground operation.

Sure effective counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) operation – implemented be U.S. and Russia, financed partly EU i.a. –  could be solution.  Effective means that some 600 000 counter -insurgents/soldiers should be send to Afghanistan as soon as possible to work in cities, villages and country-side with local tribes.  The idea is to disarm local Taliban troops and with local tribes start to build some basic public services, local government  and economy with vision of even some human rights.  After few years time might be right to start build national wide cooperation based on these local units, “cantons” or provinces.  The outcome might be loose federation or  confederation with minimal central governance.  

As said I don’t see any interest in international community to implement this scenario.  (More in Will Coin work in Afghanistan? )

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Coin implemented by anti-Taliban forces

Counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) strategy was planned for Afghanistan by U.S. but it was not implemented. Coin theory emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach. Coin is predicated on the idea that it is possible to win supporters for an insurgency by providing security and basic services, and ensuring the presence of a strong, legitimate government. Idea was to split the country into smaller units that could be controlled by local warlords and tribes.

In my opinion the best option is to start anti-Taliban fight from Panjshir valley which is already ruled by anti-Taliban forces – over 10 000 well trained soldiers with superior fighting spirit. I have no doubt that Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud could lead the anti-Taliban struggle to the victory in much of Afghanistan, including Kabul.

Northern alliance has support also outside Panjshir valley as members of the Afghan military including some from the elite Special Forces units had rallied to Massaud’s cause.  In addition some troops dodged, with their weapons, recent Taliban invasion to neighbour countries and also part of Afghanistan airforce –  tenths of aircrafts and pilots – moved to Uzbekistan.  It might be possible that outside Panjshir valley there is over 50 000 armed and well trained soldier to join anti-Taliban battle. 

One yet unused potential with anti-Taliban fight are Afghan women.  Educated and skilled Afghan women can work in diverse support functions and even as armed forces after a short training. Women’s forces demonstrated their effectiveness in the Kurdish Peshmerga army in Iraq as fundamentalist ISIS forces fled their path for fear of being killed by women and thus out of Paradise.

In my view, it is clear that the so-called international community is not making any humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan, it is at most working to limit the feared influx of refugees and to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan and its borders.

Fortunately, in my view, Afghans can win the anti-Taliban struggle themselves without a foreign ground operation. Willing outsiders, states, communities, and individuals can accelerate this process by supporting the anti-Taliban struggle with donations, weapons, ammunition, intelligence, and perhaps at some point limited air strikes.

Outcome

If or when anti-Taliban forces gain power in most of Afghanistan, the civil war could end and there might be some possibilities to think Afghanistan as a state.   Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.


Afghanistan: In or Out

August 15, 2021

Leave the Rag Heads to their rocks . Close the  borders. (one alternative strategy in discussion forums)

On the beginning of August 2021 it was estimation that Kabul will collapse between 90-150 days.  As of writing this article on August 14th it seems that Kabul – as the whole Afghanistan – will be in the hands of Taliban next week. There will be anyone to defend the capital, the government army and police are useless, other units in provincies have escaped without fighting and the Taliban has got their modern U.S. donated weapons.  The situation is chaotic as time slot e.g. to evacuate U.S. collaborators, translators and their families is almost non existing. 

This means that the West does not have old ally in Kabul and the rest of country.  If they want to negotiate anything the only partner is the Taliban.

To me it’s clear that the central government in Kabul can not be effective partner while seeking any strategy for Afghanistan. On country side the Taliban are the residents of that place and historically they have proved how resistant they are towards the foreign invaders and their ideas.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War following: “Strategy without tactics is the slow road to victory, but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” I agree and would add that if there is no vision about endgame one does not even know is the road leading to victory or defeat.

Some historical background:  Soviet invasion

In Afghanistan, prior to the Soviet (Russian) invasion, the Marxist–Leninist political party in Afghanistan -PDPA  ( the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan) – invited the USSR to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure, mainly exploration and mining of minerals and natural gas. The USSR also sent contractors to build hospitals, roads and schools and to drill water wells. They also trained and equipped the Afghan army. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.

Once in power (April 1978-), the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform waiving farmers’ debts countrywide. Once in power, the PDP embarked upon a program of rapid modernization centered on separation of Mosque and State, eradication of illiteracy (which at the time stood at 90%), land reform, emancipation of women, and abolition of feudal practices. A Soviet-style national flag replaced the traditional black, red, and green.  Traditional practices that were deemed feudal – such as usury, bride price and forced marriage – were banned, and the minimum age of marriage was raised. The government stressed education for both women and men, and launched an ambitious literacy campaign.Sharia Law was abolished, and men were encouraged to cut off their beards.

These new reforms were not well received by the majority of the Afghan population, particularly in rural areas; many Afghans saw them as un-Islamic and as a forced approach to Western culture in Afghan society.[They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life.

As part of a Cold War, in 1979 the United States government began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention. The secular nature of the government made it unpopular with conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside who favoured traditionalist ” Islamic” restrictions on women’s rights and in daily life. Many groups, led by members of the traditional establishment were formed, some of them resorting to violence and sabotage to the country’s infrastructure and industry. under the umbrella of Mujahideen, or ” Holy Muslim Warriors”. The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative ‘Islamic’ ideology.

The Soviet Union intervened on December 24, 1979. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion backed by another one hundred thousand and by members of the Parcham faction. For over nine years the Soviet Army conducted military operations against the Afghan Mujahideen rebels. The American CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia assisted in the financing of the resistance also because of the anti-communist stance. Among the foreign participants in the war was Osama bin Laden, whose MAK ( maktab al-Khidamat/Office of Order) organization trained a small number of Mujahideen and provided some arms and funds to fight the Soviets. Around 1988 MAK broke away from the Mujahideen to expand the anti-Soviet resistance effort into a world-wide Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The Soviets withdrew its troops in February of 1989, but continued aid to the government led by Mohammed Najibullah. Massive amounts of aid from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen also continued. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. All support for the Republic of Afghanistan stopped. In April 1992, the PDPA regime in Afghanistan collapsed.  Fighting continued among the victorious Mujahideen factions, which gave rise to a state of warlordism. It was at this time that the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, eventually seizing Kabul in 1996 and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the end of 2000 the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.

While the total Afghan population is 28,150,000, some 3.3 million Afghans are now involved in producing opium.  Opium etc production and politics have interactive connection especially in Afghanistan. Earlier I have studied how US foreign policy tactics helped to create logistics between markets via Balkan route and producers of heroin. I have described the outcome as Fourfold or Quadruple Helix Model where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis. 

During the Taliban’s rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. Opium production was nearly wiped out by the Taliban by 2001.

COIN

An old CBS documentary – “Bombing Afghanistan– made comparison of the Russian past and then current practice of a Yank in Afghanistan. A couple of extracts:

“During the Russian invasion we have not heard of 10 members of one family being killed by Russians in one incident. But the Americans did that, “remarked a Villager.

“We used to hate the Russians much more than Americans,” replied the Villager. “But now when we see all this happening, I am telling you Russians behave much better than the Americans.”

After U.S. military win over Taliban  US President Obama finally announced his new counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) strategy in Afghanistan – which continues mostly the strategy of his predecessor Mr. Bush. Generals and influential – if not decisive – military-industrial complex got what they want and once again USA is seeking military solution to mainly political problem. US mission is seize the initiative against a resurgent Taliban while building the capacity of Afghan forces so that American and NATO forces can gradually hand off security responsibilities to the Afghans. Also, support the further development of the Afghan economy and key Afghan civilian institutions. 

Coin theory emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach. Coin is predicated on the idea that it is possible to win supporters for an insurgency by providing security and basic services, and ensuring the presence of a strong, legitimate government. Idea was to split the country in smaller units that can be controlled by warlords working with Washington. occupation forces are moving increasingly to hand over power directly to regional warlords and their militias. The foreign policy team that President Obama had assembled includes some of the same figures who advocated the ethnic-sectarian partition of Yugoslavia and Iraq. Obama’s Special Envoy to Af-Pak, Richard Holbrooke, authored the agreement that partioned Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat republics in 1995, in effect rubber-stamping the ethnic cleansing that had forcibly removed populations during a three-year civil war. He also turned a blind eye when Serb civilians were expelled from Croatia the same year, and from Kosovo in 1999.

The US Army Field manual (2006) emphasises the importance of “troop density”, or the ratio of security forces to inhabitants: “20 counter-insurgents per 1,000 residents (or 1:50) is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective Coin operations”. The size of the US-led coalition force would need to be approximately 568,000 troops. Even adding in the 97,000 Afghan police officers and the 100,000-odd Afghan soldiers leaves the NATO-led force more than 200,000 counter-insurgents short of the “minimum”.

There is a yawning gap between Coin theory and practice. “It’s all fine on paper, but that doesn’t translate into success on the ground,“The Afghan army is useless and the police are corrupt,” (More in Will Coin work in Afghanistan?

The Talibans

The history of Afghanistan shows that they’ve practised pure Greek democracy at the village level for two millennia – to export today’s western democracy idea to Afghanistan without understanding this background may work in cabinets but not on the field.  Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.

A powerful grass roots movement has blossomed last decades in Afghanistan – it’s called Taliban. The Taliban insurgents are doing much more than the Afghan government to establish good governance and accountability. In the remote provinces, the Taliban’s efforts have reinforced two images: on the other hand an absent and/or corrupt Afghan central government and effective and accountable Taliban administration on the other. It seems that the Taliban is answering better the to the needs of ordinary citizens than US and their puppet government in Kabul.

According to some observers who closely monitor the Taliban’s activities, these are new efforts to set out their priorities by focusing on Afghani interests rather than holding to a wide global network.T the Taliban have become more watchful of the foreign Jihadists in Afghanistan. Foreign militant are now not allowed, like before, to carry out their activities independently.

The Taliban are mainly local Afghans who do not want to be occupied by any invading army, local Afghan nationalists resisting occupation. They may be ultra-concervative tyrans implementing sharia-law, drug smugglers and opium growers protecting their drug territories, foreign jihadists and the angry relatives of Afghans killed by coalition forces getting revenge.  One does not need to like about Taliban nor accept their ideology, but one should agree that they more or less represent their country.

Map of Afghanistan locating the cities that have fallen to the Taliban in the past week, as of August 14 – AFP / AFP

My view

In my view the probable outcome will be that in one month the whole Afghanistan is under the Taliban rule meaning sharia law, some ethnic cleansing, some massacres, throwing basic human rights to trash, big amount of Afghan refugees inside and outside the country and naturally a human catastrophe e.g. due lack of food.  The international community will react to this with some high flow statements and humanitarian aid to refugee camps.

There is of course other possible scenarios but they are unlikely and/or expensive.  One is humanitarian intervention better sooner than later.  Fast decisions could be made only in U.S. and Russia and the best scenario would be a joint operation, first airstrikes and then ground operation.

After invasion the real works starts.   From my point of view the future strategy towards Afghanistan – if the aim is to get some sustainability – should be based on two principles:

  • Bottom-up principle, where the actions, development plans and administration are made starting from local, village level; not from high flown programmes made in Brussels or Washington.
  • Integrated approach where security, economy, local participation/commitment and administration are not separate sectors.

In my opinion this time effective Coin operation – implemented be U.S. and Russia, financed partly EU i.a. –  could be solution.  Effective means that some 600 000 counter-insurgents/soldiers should be send to Afghanistan so soon as possible to work in cities, villages and country-side with local tribes.  The idea is to disarm local Taliban troops and with local tribes start to build some basic public services, local government  and economy with vision of even some human rights.  After few years time might be right to start build national wide cooperation based on these local units, “cantons” or provinces.  The outcome might be loose federation or  confederation with minimal central governance.

So powerful international actors should quickly decide what to do with Afghanistan.  My guess is that the actions will be minimal, meaning a few statements and some humanitarian aid.  If they on the other hand go to humanitarian intervention they should do this this time right on grassroot level and not from top to bottom.  


Iran Leak Hints at Second Tier Targets as Next Terror Gateway

July 29, 2021


Leaked Iranian documents indicate a shift to hacking Tier-2 buildings and facilities, mainly in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Ilan Barda, CEO at Radiflow (Tel Aviv), a cyber-security solutions provider for critical infrastructures, said, “Access to building controls can shut down critical government services and even be used to conduct remote terror attacks.” Please see below the Guest Post by Radiflow:

London, July 28, 2021 – A recent report by Sky News exposed a trove of documents that appear to be from a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Intelligence Group 13. These findings show a coordinated attempt to collect information on the vulnerabilities of second-tier targets, including those that can capsize merchant vessels, the remote control of electrical controllers used in building management systems, and the ability to tamper with fuel pumps triggering spills or explosions.

Since 2019, hundreds of US companies and local government agencies have fallen victim to cyber-attacks. Now, leaked documents outline Iran’s intentions to gather information meant to attack Building Management Systems (BMSs) that are notoriously overlooked when setting up cybersecurity programs. BMSs are easy targets for two reasons. One, reliance on connecting building devices via the internet, even connecting to a remote facility that may operate vulnerable devices. Second, they are attractive to attackers since buildings rely on contractors to maintain facilities who may not follow proper cybersecurity practices, such as authentication and secure access. “Many of these second-tier targets seem irrelevant at first,” said Ilan Barda, Founder and CEO of Radiflow, a cybersecurity company that focuses on securing OT facilities. “What makes them so valuable is their potential to be used as a gateway to building systems. Once inside, a hacker can manipulate air circulation units, elevators, and any other critical infrastructure to carry out physical attacks.”

Another concern in the Iranian cyber report is their intention to find vulnerabilities in specific satellite communication (SATCOM) gateways. In some countries, poorly protected wireless networks can be exploited by attackers, allowing them to access vulnerable Satcom terminals on the network. While some of the report focused on hypothetical attacks, this piece showcased their potential for data collection and potential coordinated attacks.

Some questions remain regarding the intention of the Iranian military hacking group. Upon reviewing the report, Michael Langer, a renowned cyberwarfare expert and CPO of Radiflow, believes that this report may only specify their intent to pursue cyber terror further. “Iran is looking to expand the outreach and objects of their cyber-attacks,” said Langer. “Their history of disruptive cyber offensives on Saudi Arabian oil refineries and Israeli water management facilities are to be taken seriously. The Iranians mapping of BMS vulnerabilities may indicate a shift to target more easily exploitable sites. It’s time to think differently.”

While these attacks are causing CISO and cybersecurity teams to take notice, the tools most companies need to secure their systems already exist. “Familiar basic-hygiene practices are common tools that a growing number of the population recognize,” said Barda. “Segmentation, password validation, 2-factor authentication, and cyber threat detection mechanisms can act as a deterrence for attackers.”

Many companies have seen recent headlines surrounding cyberattacks without realizing they may be next. However, simple precautions may be the difference between another day at the office or a cyber-attack that deploys ransomware or exfiltration of sensitive data.


About Radiflow
Radiflow is an OT Cyber Security company that has unique tools to protect and manage digital assets for the long term. They work directly with Managed Security Service Providers to oversee the discovery and management of all relevant data security points. Their unique pinpoint approach brings the business’s team into the fold, trading the industry’s one-size-fits-all approach for a calculated, focused, and secured system without inhibiting communication or productivity.


Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

July 1, 2021

Below is a press release by Elron, which I thought will be interesting for my readers. The company appointed Elik Etzion to lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments. Etzion to begin at Elron following 20 years of service in IDF top Unit 8200 and several years as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Bank Hapoalim Group. And here the press release as a Guest Post:

Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

Tel Aviv, Israel – July 1, 2021 – Elron, a leading Israeli early-stage tech investment company, announced a new managerial appointment. Mr. Elik Etzion has been appointed to lead the Enterprise Software and Cyber Investments at Elron. Etzion will be responsible for identifying and accompanying companies specializing in Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software spaces. He will take over the role as of July 2021.

Elron specializes in early-stage investments in cyber and software companies. The company is reinforcing its management and investment teams. Following its capital offering this past April, the company has approximately $90 million in its fund that is primarily earmarked for continued investments in cyber and software sectors, the company’s leading area of focus, alongside the maturation of its medical device portfolio companies.

Simultaneous with Etzion’s appointment, Mr. Zohar Rozenberg, who successfully spearheaded cyber investments over the past six years, will continue with the company as an active independent partner (Venture Partner). He will continue to support the activities of Elron and its portfolio companies, in which he serves as a board member and a member of the investments team.

46-year-old Elik Etzion is joining Elron’s management team to head cyber and software investments in the company after a comprehensive career of 25 years in key Elron investment sectors. He brings extensive experience in all facets of cyber and data analytics and is familiar with the digital age and the complex challenges that it entails.

Etzion, a retired lieutenant colonel, began his career at the top of the tech and cyber world in the IDF, where he gained diverse technological-operational experience and knowledge over the course of 20 years in Unit 8200. In his last positions in the IDF, Etzion served as deputy commander of the cyber division, head of the R&D Department, and Head of the Cyber operations Department.

Upon his discharge from the IDF, Etzion served as CISO and member of the Technology Division Management at Bank Hapoalim Group. He enhanced the bank’s cybersecurity posture and contributed to the cyber resilience of Israel’s banking sector, alongside being party to spearheading the bank’s digital transformation.

Etzion also served as a director in SHVA and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Masav, specializing in payments and clearance. He brings in-depth expertise and understanding, a strategic vision of the market along, and practical experience.

Yaron Elad, CEO of Elron: “We are delighted to add Elik to the Elron family. Elik’s exceptional background following 20 years of military experience, his record in the financial sector, and his in-depth and practical familiarity with growing cyber threats and advanced information technologies will prove immensely valuable in identifying new investments and supporting and overseeing our portfolio companies. Elik will join Zohar, my partner in establishing Elron’s cyber portfolio, who will serve as an independent partner. Zohar will continue to support Elron’s specialization in the cyber sector.”

Elik Etzion: “I see a tremendous opportunity to lead the Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software investments at Elron and in helping Israeli startups grow and become global market leaders. Many vertical organizations undergo a deep transformation in their business model by leveraging disruptive technologies from different fields. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend. These transformations dramatically increase the total cyber risk profile and create golden opportunities for threat actors. These Market dynamics create fascinating opportunities for seeding and investing in startups that would facilitate secured business transformation and growth.”

Elik, married and the father of 5, holds a B.Sc. in Math and Computer Science (summa cum laude) and an MBA in Business Administration, both from Tel-Aviv University.


elronElron is an Israeli investment company that specializes in early-stage investments, focusing on building Israeli technological cyber and enterprise software companies. Elron provides direct capital and assistance to startups from their early stage in accelerating team building and accelerating product-market fit. 


Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of  Jerusalem: The IDF won a Military Operation, Hamas the Political One

June 2, 2021

Operation Guardian of the Wall ended on May 21, 2021. Although the operation in Israel itself focused on Gaza, the conflict – as the Palestinian term Jerusalem Sword  describes it – has its wider political spill-over effect in Israel and in palestinian areas in West Bank. These tensions remain unresolved after the end of the armed conflict itself. The positive side is that Lebanon’s Hezbollah stayed on the sidelines and Iran didn’t attack with missiles via Yemen or Iraq as well the fact that Israel was not forced entry to land operation.

From my point of view the winners of this time’s conflict are Hamas, having achieved its political goals, and the Israeli army, which achieved its military goals. The losers are civilians from all over the region, Israeli society via escalation of ethnic tensions as this conflict sparked inter-communal clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis in mixed cities, and the Palestinian Authority after becoming a bystander as usuall. The winner can also be Egypt, which once again mediated a ceasefire and is likely to take the lead in the reconstruction of Gaza.

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In 11 days, more than 4,360 rockets were fired from Gaza, of which 3,573 fell into Israeli territory, the rest fell either into Gaza or into the sea. The Iron Dome defense system was about 90% effective against the missiles. 12 Israeli civilians were killed in rockets and one IDF soldier due an anti-tank missile, a few hundred wounded. In Gaza, at least 243 people died, including 100 women and children, according to Hamas, and about 1,600 were wounded. The Israeli side claims to have killed 225 Gaza terrorists for all and the majority of women and children died when more than six hundred own rockets exploded or landed in Gaza.

Israeli army counterattacks with unprecedented accuracy

The IDF attacked about 1,500 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. I consider the attack on the Hamas tunnel system (“Hamas metro”) to be the most significant. In Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis, the IDF destroyed more than 100 kilometers of tunnels used by Hamas leadership and terrorist organizations as hiding places and command and control centers. Several attack tunnels in the North Gaza Strip were also destroyed.

The IDF estimates that at least 50 senior Hamas and PIJ commanders and senior experts were killed. Leaders killed by the IDF included commander of the Gaza Brigade, commanders of the Northern Sector and Gaza Division, commander of the Hamas cyber division, commander of the Development and Project Division, director of arms production and other experts and military leaders. In addition to expert personnel, the Gaza arms industry, mainly missile product development and manufacturing, suffered significant losses as did arms stockpiles. As regards Hamas’ administrative structures, dozens of administrative offices, 11 internal security force buildings and five banks that provided funds for terrorist activities were destroyed. In addition, the IDF destroyed dozens of anti-tank missile groups, seven air threats (armed UAVs), and two naval threats (including unmanned submarine attacks).

Thirteen rockets were fired from Lebanon and three from Syria, as well as one drone. All were repulsed or landed in uninhabited areas or at sea.

For the Israeli military, the operation was a success in many ways. The IDF broke its previous record for precision strikes and the operation is perhaps the first in military history where one of the parties uses only (100%) precision missiles with an accuracy of one or two meters. This, as well as the attack on only the military and the military target carried out at the “Hamas Metro”, allowed a record low number of civilian casualties compared to previous similar conflicts. Of course, there were also civilian casualties in Gaza, but perhaps mainly about the 680 rockets launched into Gaza by Hamas and others and not from Israeli missile strikes.

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A good example of avoiding civilian casualties was when, on May 15, the IDF bombed al-Jala high tower with three missiles in an in Gaza. In addition to the 60 apartments and the media offices of Al Jazeera and AP, among others, the 12-story house had electronic warfare equipment and control centers for the Hamas intelligence service. Residents were warned about an hour before the bombings, the apartment building was destroyed to the ground but no casualties were reported.

It should be added that while the fighting was still raging, Israel opened on 18.5. Erez and 19.5. Kerem Shalom border crossings to deliver humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza.

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Sword of Jerusalem: Hamas’ political victory

Hamas achieved its political goals by extending its power to the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. Demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem from across the West Bank to announce that Jerusalem is now the territory of Hamas, as illustrated by the name “Jerusalem Sword” given to this Palestinian conflict. There have also been signs that Hamas has gained a greater foothold among Israeli Arabs than before as ethnic tensions erupted in several Israeli cities.

ViolenceMapIsrael

The armed wing of Hamas suffered significant structural and human losses as a result of the Israeli counterattacks, but was nevertheless able to demonstrate its advanced strength. The attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were more severe than before, temporarily closing down, for example, international air traffic and part of the business community.

I now see the ceasefire as the most significant victory for Hamas over the years, precisely because the organization was able to significantly expand its power outside Gaza and specifically at the expense of Fatah in a situation where elections are planned for the Palestinian territories. The status and popularity of President Abbas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, which ruled without legitimacy (President Abbas’s term ended on January 9, 2009, when his three-year term ended) are now at record lows and it is very possible that elections will not be held again for this reason. Already in the previous 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas won the majority, winning 76 seats out of 132 – even now the winner might be Hamas, which could thus elevate the Palestinian Authority from its own ranks to succeed Abbas.

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Egypt’s growing role

According to unofficial information, Egypt’s aim is, firstly, to ensure a ceasefire between all parties, secondly, to maintain it for a longer period and, thirdly, to coordinate the reconstruction of Gaza. Egypt is also working to promote negotiations between the Palestinians (Hamas, the Palestinian Authority / Fatah) and Israel with a view to reaching a more lasting solution.

Egypt, the mediator, has invited both Israeli and Gaza delegations to Cairo to discuss the details of the ceasefire, and at least Israel has accepted the invitation. Egypt has taken the lead in rebuilding Gaza, allocating $ 500 million, while  the UN pledging $ 18.5 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza. Egypt will also set up a mechanism to coordinate donations and aid deliveries so that aid does not flow into corrupt regimes and Hamas armaments in the past. To ensure this, the reconstruction work is mainly carried out by companies belonging to the Egyptian army, instead of Turkish companies.

Epilogue

The ceasefire at the moment is only a mutual (Hamas / Israel) announcement to end hostilities for the time being. It will make it possible to send immediate humanitarian aid through Israel and Egypt to Gaza. Other details, such as the length and extent of the ceasefire, not to mention more permanent solutions, will be left to further negotiations.

This time the conflict over Gaza is settling on its military scale, with 1,571 rockets fired from Gaza in 2018, a total of 2,045 rockets in 2019, and now at least 4,360 rockets in 11 days. However, civilian losses on both sides were now only about 20% compared to the previous 2014 war in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge). From my point of view, the political implications of this conflict are very much greater than those of other similar Israeli-Arab conflicts in the last decade.

Sources i.a:  BICOM , Israel Defense , Jerusalem Post , The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center ,

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This article is an English version of my article Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of Jerusalem: IDF voitti sotilasoperaation, Hamas poliittisen which first appeared in my web-publication (in Finnish) Ariel-Israelista suomeksi .


Israeli Conflict 2021: Preliminary Analysis

May 15, 2021

The latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which began in May 2021, is escalating into a multifaceted multi-frontal war that is not yet expected to end in the coming weeks. Compared to the conflicts of the last decade, the current violence has a few specific features, including the rise of national tensions inside Israeli security wall, the use of Hamas ’advanced missile tactics to whole south and central Israel, and mass riots instead of individual terrorist attacks in the West Bank.

In addition to Gaza, the front lines now run along the West Bank, within Israel and, for the time being, also spectacularly on the Lebanese border, when Hezbollah fired a small number of its rockets at Israel. Israel has launched its operation in response to the violence under the name “Operation Guardian of the Walls” which I do not think covers the diversity of the current conflict.

Escalation of the situation

The starting point for this time of conflict can be considered a property dispute in East Jerusalem concerning the suburb of Sheikh Jarrah aka Shimon Hatzadik. The area has been Jewish-owned since 1875, in the Israeli War of Independence Jordan occupied the area, expelling the Jewish population and inhabiting it with Arabs. Israel recaptured the area in the Six Day War in 1967 and granted its Arab residents “protected tenant status” in 1982. The case returned to the courts in 1997 when a local Palestinian sued for legal ownership of the property. In response, property owners (a private Israeli NGO, Nahalat Shimon) argue that they have legal rights to that property and that tenants should be deported if tenants fail to pay rent, the courts found on the basis of documents Jewish property in the area in line with property owners ’claims. The Palestinian community claims that Israel is unfairly deporting four Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Background: Sheikh Jarrah: A Legal Background by The International Legal Forum )

To alleviate tensions, the Israeli Chancellor of Justice asked to postpone the eviction of Sheikh Jarrah residents, Israeli police changed the traditional route of the Jerusalem Day procession in the Old City so as not to offend the feelings of the Palestinians. However, these actions were not enough for Palestinian extremists.

The property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah area began to turn into a more general riot in Jerusalem as police imposed gathering restrictions on Palestinians at the gate of Damascus, on the other hand, a procession by the far-right Israeli group Lehava provoked Palestinians.

The Hamas military wing, with the support of other terrorist organizations, quickly turned the Jerusalem property dispute and riot into a massive attack on Israel.

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Hamas rocket attacks this time were not, as is often the case, spectacular in the past; such attacks targeted the Israeli border region and were so reasonable that Israel did not carry out massive air strikes and counter-attacks targeted the launch sites and not against the leadership of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Now, instead, 137 rockets were fired from Gaza on Tuesday, May 11, 211, in about five minutes, in an apparent attempt to overthrow the Iron Dome missile defense system, and A120 rockets were also fired at central Israel. From Monday to Tuesday, November 10-11, more than 630 rockets were launched from Gaza per Israel, about 200 of which were stopped by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while 150 others landed inside Gaza, causing some civilian casualties, including at least three children — that is, Gaza’s own rockets.

In response to the missiles, IDF fighter jets and tanks struck a few days into some 130 Hamas, PIJ and other terrorist targets in Gaza. At least 16 high-ranking leaders of the armed wings of Hamas and PIJ were killed by fighter jets and drone attacks with the support of Shin Bet (Security Agency). On the enemy side, Israeli attacks targeted intelligence and communications centers, arms depots and workshops, military buildings, and two attack tunnels were destroyed. .

More than a hundred Palestinians and 9 Israelis were killed and several hundred injured. Rocket attacks cause significant harm to the Israeli civilian population: schools are closed, gatherings are restricted, companies can only be open if they provide easy and quick access to bomb shelter for customers and staff. In addition to physical danger, constant stress can cause long-term health problems. The same, of course, applies to the Gazans, who are used by Hamas as human shields.

The ongoing violence in the West Bank has been funded mainly by humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs in Europe. These grants have been transferred to operations through, among other things, fictitious projects, forged documents, invoices, quotes and excessive salaries. It is run in practice by the Palestinian Liberation People’s Front (PFLP) network in the West Bank. This in itself is nothing new and I have set it out, for example, in the article Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists .

Ethnic tensions

A special feature of the ongoing conflict is the rise of ethnic tensions within Israel – arson, mass violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs, destruction of each other’s property, threats of lynching, etc. in ethnically mixed cities and villages such as Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, Lod, Previously, the same was last experienced in the autumn of 2000 during the so-called “al-Aqsa Intifada”.

Yes, the historical background can be found in the last century. The Palestinian-Jewish conflict began as a religious war and was led by Palestinian Arab leader Hajj Amin Hussein from the early 1920s to the late 1940s. In the 1930s and the 1948 war, support was given to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and later the Palestinian branches of the Brotherhood: Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza, and the Islamist movement in Israel itself.

On a larger scale and roughly widespread, violence from the Arab side can be seen as war of religion, jihadism, and violence from the Israeli side as a defense against military organizations and terrorists, including Jewish extremists – such as Price tag and Lehava – seeking friction to ignite the region.

Torah scrolls, Jewish holy scriptures, are removed from a synagogue which was torched during violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

My view

Hamas got a major propaganda victory, as it has once again created the image of a champion and defender of Palestinian interests in relation to the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. Hamas has set the rules of the game, an agenda and a timetable for the fight against Israel, setting itself up as a defender of al-Aksa and Jerusalem and showing leadership in the Palestinian national movement.

As of this writing (15.5.21), it is unclear in which direction the current conflict is evolving. In the worst-case scenario, Hamas will continue its rocket attacks even with its best missiles, forcing Israel possibly even into a ground operation; then the number of casualties on both sides increases to the dimensions of previous wars. It would be even worse if Hezbollah, backed by Iran, were to launch an attack with all its might.

According to my own assessment, Israel had to break down the current situation into smaller parts to copy this challenge.

The biggest threat, in my view, is the ethnic tensions between people inside security barrier,  Israel.  At this point, action must be taken through the friction between the Israeli police and the young Arabs, in Israeli cities. The leadership of the Israeli Arab population must be mobilized to calm and curb extremism. At the same time also Jewish extremism must be neutralized. These actions can be taken quickly and centrally. A more lasting impact can be achieved at the grassroots level – locally, in schools, in communities – in promoting mutual tolerance and cooperation.

With regard to the West Bank, alleviation of violence can take place, in my view, by working with the Palestinian Authority, in practice with Fatah. Fatah also presumably has this interest because Hamas threatens its leadership in the West Bank. In addition to security cooperation, these include a wide range of cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, which means significant living conditions and freedoms for Palestinians, as well as cross-border projects.

Perhaps the surprisingly easiest problem area is Gaza. Israel has become well accustomed to the aggression coming from Gaza for the last decade and with the purpose necessary for defense and to retaliate. The military wing of Hamas, the PIJ and other (jihadist) terrorist organizations are loosing their top commanders as well their arsenal of weapons (rockets, more advanced missiles, anti-tank missiles, naval and underground attack tunnels, etc.) in a couple of weeks.  The Hamas political leadership then enters to scene making  a long-term ceasefire (hudna) with Israel through mediation by Egypt.

In my view, the current conflict facing Israel can be resolved by breaking it down into solvable sub-problems. The solution I propose should also make it easier for the Arab countries, that have normalized their relations with Israel, to make it easier to find a more lasting regional solution.

Sources e.g:  TimesofIsrael , INSS , IDF (real-time), IDF (IDF twitter ) , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center .

Appendix: Hamas Rocket Arsenal: 

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This article is a short version of my article Israelin konflikti 2021: Alustava analyysi which first appeared in my web-publication (in Finnish) Ariel-Israelista suomeksi .


Israel’s new Government: Potential Creative Coalitions by BICOM

April 5, 2021

— BICOM (@BritainIsrael) March 31, 2021


TurkStream Converts to South Stream Lite

February 14, 2021

TurkStream (Russian: Турецкий поток; former name: Turkish Stream) is a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Turkey. Russia–Turkey intergovernmental agreement for TurkStream was signed in October 2016. Construction started in May 2017 and gas from the two-line pipeline began to flow to Turkey in November 2019 and further to Bulgaria on 1. January, 2020. Bulgaria and Serbia have made new investments and renewed their pipeline networks to utilize Russian gas coming through TurkStream. Now already six countries – Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina – in addition to Turkey use TurkStream in their gas imports and Hungary will join the club as early as this autumn. Thus, the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project, which was halted by the EU in 2014, seems to be coming true with TurkStream’s follow-up projects.

 

Nord Stream 2 is more related to conflict between the US and Germany as it is about Russian gas coming to Europe, during President Trump’s term in office, relations between Washington and Berlin deteriorated:  Instead of importing energy from Russia,  US would much preferred  that Germany imported from the US.  As US made efforts to stop Nord Stream 2, the TurkStream – with extensions in Balkans – attracted hardly any attention from US Congress or those within the EU.

Compared with the controversial Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, Gazprom’s TurkStream natural gas pipeline to Turkey and Southeast Europe has drawn less opposition.  TurkStream avoided the fate of Nord Stream 2 probably  because it was completed one month before the U.S. sanctions against both pipelines came into effect.

TurkStream starts from Russkaya compressor station near Anapa in Russia’s Krasnodar Region, crossing the Black Sea to the receiving terminal at Kıyıköy.  TurkStream  has two lines with a total capacity of 31.5 billion m3/a (1.11 trillion cu ft/a) of natural gas. The first line supplies Turkey and the second line transport natural gas further to South East and Central Europe. The costs of the pipeline are estimated to be  €11.4 billion. 

 

TurkStream 2 (South Stream Lite)

Gazprom began shipping gas via TurkStream to Bulgaria on 1. January, 2020, replacing supplies via the Trans-Balkan pipeline through Ukraine and Romania.

Now one year later Gazprom has begun supplying gas to Serbia, as well as to Bosnia and Herzegovina, via a new route across Turkey and Bulgaria. Gas from Russia is transmitted by the TurkStream offshore gas pipeline and further across Turkey. It is then brought via Bulgaria’s national gas transmission system to Serbia, where it is distributed among consumers in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Deliveries along this route were made possible through the expansion of existing gas transmission capacities and commissioning of new ones by Bulgartransgaz EAD in Bulgaria and GASTRANS d.o.o. Novi Sad in Serbia.

The new Russian pipeline through the Black Sea to western Turkey was inaugurated on  8. January 2020 in Istanbul, in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Credit: kremlin.ru

 

According to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics, in 2019, Bulgaria received 2.4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas via the Ukraine-Moldova-Romania Trans-Balkan route and transited 4 billion cubic meters more onto Turkey. A year later the volume received via that route fell to almost zero, with TurkStream instead supplying the Bulgarian market. Greece’s take of TurkStream gas in 2020 was up 18% on the 2.41 billion cubic meters of Russian gas it bought the year before delivered by the Trans-Balkan line, while North Macedonia’s imports were also up from the 0.3 billion cubic meters purchased in 2019, S&P Global Platts said on February 8th 2021.

On the 1st of January 2021, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić opened the Serbian section of the European leg of the Turkish Stream in the town of Gospodjinci near Novy Sad. The pipe is 403 km long and its capacity will be almost 14 bcm a year.  Serbia now receives most of its gas via the onshore extension of TurkStream at the newly created Kireevo/Zaychar interconnection point on the border with Bulgaria. In January, supplies into Serbia via TurkStream averaged 8 million cu m/d, with flows through the traditional entry point via Hungary down to just 1.5 million cu m/d. Previously, Serbia imported around 10 million cu m/d of Russian gas via Ukraine and Hungary.

As Bulgaria is an EU member, unlike Serbia,  Sofia completed its gas investments (TurkStream 2)  quietly. In Bulgaria the main contractor was a Saudi company Arkad, which is run by Russians who bought pipes produced in Russia from Russian companies.

 

TurkStream nominally becomes “Balkan Stream” when it enters Bulgarian / EU territory, from where it is off to Serbia and Hungary. Map: Bulgaria Analytica

Forwards to EU markets 

In 2019, Turkey received an average of 11 million cu m/d of Russian gas via the Trans-Balkan pipeline — or a total of 4 Bcm, according to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics. But from the start of 2020, all Russian gas flows to Turkey are carried either by the existing 16 Bcm/year Blue Stream line under the Black Sea or the 15.75 Bcm/year Turkish string of TurkStream.

TurkStream reliably transports Russian gas across the Black Sea to consumers in Turkey and already six European countries: Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It managed to bypass Ukraine as a transit state: the Trans-Balkan pipeline from Ukraine to Moldova and Romania has effectively become redundant and will be used in reverse for Russian gas deliveries from TurkStream to the Balkans.  And in addition Hungary  would like to import up to 6 Bcm/year of gas via TurkStream and its associated onshore infrastructure once a new link up on the border with Serbia is complete, expected in October 2021.

The further extension of the pipeline in South-East and Central European countries are responsibilities of involved countries. For the gas transport both—existing infrastructure and construction of new pipelines—will be used. For Gazprom the preferable option is to export gas from the second line to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria.  For example there is a follow-on project called as  the Tesla pipeline, to run from Greece to North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, ending at the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria. 

An older map showing both Nord Stream and the former South Stream gas transit pipeline project, gives Moscow’s basic idea to go around both Belarus and Ukraine. TurkStream 2 could be described as South Stream Lite. Map: Gazprom

Bottom line

During 2014 Ukraine crisis, gas supplies from Russia lifted again energy issues to the top of the European agenda and led to the creation of the EU Energy Union.  As EU developed its energy security strategy, Russia also developed its own strategy, primarily aimed at maintaining its share in the European gas market in the future. In addition Russia has been diverting all its gas transit to Europe away from Ukraine by 2020.

In mid-term – next two decades – EU gas consumption will rise as EU tries to get rid of coal powered and nuclear plants.  New sources of gas will came, such as liquified natural gas (LNG) and the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline so Russias’s market share will probably drop;  however as need for gas in Europe will rise so the volume of gas from Russia will be the same or rise also. For example Southern Gas Corridor, bringing Azeri gas to southern Europe, has an annual capacity of 18 bcm with half that taken by Turkey and less than 10 bcm available for Europe. In January alone, Gazprom exported 19.4 bcm to Europe, so the extra gas exported in January is almost equal to the annual capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline.  The fact is that Russia has the world’s biggest gas resources and is next door and also that Russia never tried to use gas as a threat – even at the height of the Cold war.  For Russia, selling gas to as many customers as possible is both good politics and good economics.

With TurkStream Gazprom skilfully bypassed the EU third energy package, and even better the EU states actually paid for it. Gazprom can now use the most important border points of Bulgarian transit pipelines, without having to pay billions of euros for their construction and without owning the pipes, as Gazprom did not formally engage in the construction of the Turkish Stream’s extensions (South Stream Lite) in Europe. Bulgaria and Serbia made the investments themselves as an expansion of their internal transit network and not publicly as a transit gas pipeline.

TurkStream has now changed the direction in which the Russian gas reaches southeast Europe, and with TurkStream’s onshore expansion, the picture is shifting once again how the Russian gas goes to EU’s market.

Sources i.a: NewEurope , S&PGlobal

 


Arrival of Sa’ar 6 Ships Marks Evolution of Israeli Naval Doctrine

January 20, 2021

The docking of the first of four German-made Sa’ar 6-class Israel Navy warships (dubbed Magen) at Haifa Naval Base marks the arrival of an advanced sea platform that will give Israel new capabilities to defend its critical offshore energy resources against a growing array of precision-guided enemy weaponry.

Source: Arrival of Sa’ar 6 Ships Marks Evolution of Israeli Naval Doctrine