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“They [Americans] are invaders,” says Syrian President in new interview

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called the foreign troops in Syria “invaders” – stating that Russia is the only serious fighting force battling terrorists in his country.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Let’s be clear about something: Russia’s military is the only military that has been invited by Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government (the only recognized government in Syria and by the UN, last time I checked) and all other militaries present are there illegally and breaking international law.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not consider the presence of US military personnel in Syria helpful in the fight against ISIS.

READ MORE: 5 reasons Turkish forces MUST leave Syria

In an interview with Chinese PHOENIX TV, Assad responded to the question of whether his government had consented to the deployment, stating, “any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one.”

“In theory, yes, but practically, not yet, because there’s no link between Syria and the United States on the formal level. Even their raids against ISIS that I just mentioned, which are only a few raids, happened without the cooperation or the consultation with the Syrian Army or the Syrian government which is illegal as we always say. So, theoretically we share those goals, but particularly, not yet.”

“The only serious party in that regard is Russia, which is effectively attacking ISIS in cooperation with us.”

Here is the full interview by Phoenix TV:

Question 1: Thank you Mr. President for having us here in Dimashq, the capital of Syria. I think this is the first interview you have with Chinese media after the national ceasefire and after so many fresh rounds of talks, both in Astana and in Geneva, and of course after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and these days, as we have seen, your troops are making steady progress in battlefields, but peace talks do not seem just as productive. So, as far as the Geneva talks is concerned, your chief negotiator, Mr. Jaafari, was trying hard to find out who should be sitting on the other side of the negotiation table. So, according to your idea, who should be sitting there?

President Assad: This is a very crucial question. If you want those negotiations to be fruitful, we have to ask “who is going to be sitting there?” I mean, there could be a lot of good people with good intentions, but the question is: who do they represent? That’s the question. In this situation, you have different groups, you have people who are, let’s say, patriotic, but they don’t represent anyone, they represent themselves. You have others who represent the terrorists, and you have terrorists on the table, and you have others who represent the agenda of foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, like France, UK and maybe the United States. So, it’s not a homogeneous meeting. If you want it to be fruitful, going back to the first point that I mentioned, it should be a real Syrian-Syrian negotiations. In spite of that, we went to that meeting because we think any kind of dialogue could be a good step toward the solution, because even those people who are terrorists or belonging to the terrorists or to other countries, they may change their mind and go back to their normality by going back to being real Syrians, detach themselves from being terrorists or agents to other groups. That’s why I say we didn’t expect Geneva to produce anything, but it’s a step, and it’s going to be a long way, and you may have other rounds, whether in Geneva or in Astana.

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Question 2: But anyway, it is an intra-Syrian talks, right? But the matter of fact is, it is proxy dialogue. I mean, main parties do not meet and have dialogue directly.

President Assad: Exactly.

Journalist: Are you personally satisfied with the current negotiation format or mechanism?

President Assad: we didn’t forge this mechanism; it was forged by de Mistura and the UN with the influence of the countries that wanted to use those negotiations in order to make pressure on Syria, not to reach any resolution. As you just said, each one represents a different agenda, even the opposition delegations, it wasn’t one delegation; different delegations of the opposition. So, if I’m going to – as a government – if I’m going to negotiate with someone, who’s it going to be? Which one? Who represents who? That’s our question. So, you are right, this time there was no negotiations in Geneva, but this is one of the reasons, that’s why it didn’t reach anything. The only thing we discussed in Geneva was the agenda, the headlines, what are we going to discuss later, that’s it.

Question 3: But as we see, lot of time, money, energy have been put into this effort, and the clashes are still going on, people are still dying, and the refugees are still increasing.

President Assad: Exactly.

Journalist: What is the possible way of having a negotiation?

President Assad: Again, you are correct. The more delay you have, the more harm and destruction and killing and blood you’ll have within Syria, that’s why we are very eager to achieve a solution, but how and in which way? You need to have two parallel ways: the first one is to fight the terrorists, and this is our duty as government, to defend the Syrians and use any means in order to destroy the terrorists who’ve been killing and destroying in Syria. The second one is to make dialogue. This dialogue has many different aspects; you have the political one, which is related to the future of Syria; what political system do you need, what kind? It doesn’t matter which one, it depends on the Syrians, and they’re going to have referendum about what they want. The second part is to try to bring many of those people who were affiliated to the terrorists or who committed any terrorist acts to go back to their normality and lay down their armaments and to live normal life in return for amnesty that has been offered by the government, and we’ve been going in that direction for three years, and it worked very well. It worked very well. So, actually, if you want to talk about the real political solution since the beginning of the crisis, of the war on Syria, till this moment, the only solution was those reconciliations between the government and the different militants in Syria, many of them joined the government now, and they are fighting with the government. Some of them laid down their.

Question 4: But talking about the Syria war, you can never exclude the foreign factors. The Saudi-backed high negotiating committee, HNC, are saying that they are counting on the Trump administration to play a positive role instead of the mistaken policies under his predecessor Barack Obama. So, from your side, what do you expect from Trump’s Middle East policy, particularly policy on Syria?

President Assad: The first part that you mentioned about their hopes, when you pin your hopes on a foreign country, doesn’t matter which foreign country, it means you’re not patriotic, and this is proved, because they should depend on the support of the Syrian people, not any other government or administration.

Now, regarding the Trump administration, during his campaign and after the campaign, the main rhetoric of the Trump administration and the president himself was about the priority of defeating ISIS. I said since the beginning that this is a promising approach to what’s happening in Syria and in Iraq, because we live in the same area and we face the same enemy. We haven’t seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric, because we’ve been seeing now certain is a local kind of raids. You cannot deal with terrorism on local basis; it should be comprehensive, it cannot be partial or temporary. It cannot be from the air, it should be in cooperation with the troops on the ground, that’s why the Russians succeeded, since they supported the Syrian Army in pushing ISIS to shrink, not to expand as it used to be before that. So, we have hopes that this taking into consideration that talking about ISIS doesn’t mean talking about the whole terrorism; ISIS is one of the products, al-Nusra is another product, you have so many groups in Syria, they are not ISIS, but they are Al Qaeda, they have the same background of the Wahabi extremist ideology.

Question 5: So, Mr. President, you and Mr. Donald Trump actually share the same priority which is counter-terrorism, and both of you hate fake news. Do you see any room for cooperation?

President Assad: Yeah, in theory, yes, but practically, not yet, because there’s no link between Syria and the United States on the formal level. Even their raids against ISIS that I just mentioned, which are only a few raids, happened without the cooperation or the consultation with the Syrian Army or the Syrian government which is illegal as we always say. So, theoretically we share those goals, but particularly, not yet.

Question 6: Do you have personal contact with the President of the United States?

President Assad: Not at all.

Journalist: Direct or indirect.

President Assad: Indirect, you have so many channels, but you cannot bet on private channels. It should be formal, this is where you can talk about a real relation with another government.

Question 7: As we speak, top generals from Turkey, Russia, and the United States are meeting somewhere in Turkey to discuss tensions in northern Syria, where mutually- suspicious forces are allied with these countries. So, do you have a plan for a final attack on Daesh when the main players actually do need an effective coordination in order to clear Syria of all terror groups?

President Assad: Yeah, if you want to link that meeting with ISIS in particular, it won’t be objective, because at least one party, which is Turkey, has been supporting ISIS till this moment, because Erdogan, the Turkish President, is Muslim Brotherhood. He’s ideologically linked and sympathetic with ISIS and with al-Nusra, and everybody knows about this in our region, and he helped them either through armaments, logistically, through exporting oil. For the other party, which is the United States, at least during Obama’s administration, they dealt with ISIS by overlooking their smuggling the Syrian oil to Turkey, and this is how they can get money in order to recruit terrorists from around the world, and they didn’t try to do anything more than cosmetic against ISIS. The only serious party in that regard is Russia, which is effectively attacking ISIS in cooperation with us. So, the question is: how can they cooperate, and I think the Russians have hope that the two parties join the Russians and the Syrians in their fight against terrorism. So, we have more hopes now regarding the American party because of the new administration, while in Turkey nothing has changed in that regard. ISIS in the north have only one route of supply, it’s through Turkey, and they’re still alive and they’re still active and they’re still resisting different kinds of waves of attacks, because of the Turkish support.

Question 8: Now, US troops are in Manbej. Is the greenlight from your side? Did you open the door for these American troops?

President Assad: No, no, we didn’t. Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one. And we don’t think this is going to help. What are they going to do? To fight ISIS? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan, your neighboring country. They didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions.

Question 9: Talking about Russia and China, they just vetoed a new UN sanction on Syria last week. What do these Chinese vetoes mean exactly for your country?

President Assad: Let’s be very clear about their position, which is not to support the Syrian government or the Syrian president, because in the West they try to portray it as a personal problem, and as Russia and China and other countries and Iran support that person as president. It’s not the case. China is a member of the Security Council, and it’s committed to the Charter of the United Nations. In that veto, China has defended first of all the Charter, because the United Nations was created in order to restore stability around the world. Actually, the Western countries, especially the permanent members of the Council as a tool or means in order to change regimes or governments and to implement their agenda, not to restore stability, and actually to create more instability around the world. So the second part is that China restored stability in the world by creating some kind of political balance within the United Nations, of course in cooperation with Russia, which is very important for the whole world. Of course, Syria was the headline, the main headline, this is good for Syria, but again it’s good for the rest of the world. Third, the same countries that wanted to use the UN Charter for their own vested interested are the same countries who interfered or tried to intervene in your country in the late 90s, and they used different headlines, human rights, and so on, and you know that, and if they had the chance, they would change every government in the world, whether big country or small country, just when this government tries to be a little bit independent. So, China protected the Chinese interests, Syrian interests, and the world interests, especially the small countries or the weak countries.

Question 10: If I’m not mistaken, you said China is going to play a role in the reconstruction of Syria. So, in which areas you think China can contribute to bring Syrian people back to their normal life after so many years of hardships?

President Assad: Actually, if you talk about what the terrorists have been doing the last six years, it’s destroying everything regarding the infrastructure. In spite of that, the Syrian government is still effective, at least by providing the minimum needs for the Syrian people. But they’ve been destroying everything in every sector with no exception. Adding to that, the Western embargo in Syria has prevented Syria from having even the basic needs for the livelihood of any citizen in Syria. So, in which sector? In every sector. I mean, China can be in every sector with no exception, because we have damage in every sector. But if we talk about now, before this comprehensive reconstruction starts, China now is being involved directly in building many projects, mainly industrial projects, in Syria, and we have many Chinese experts now working in Syria in different projects in order to set up those projects. But of course, when you have more stability, the most important thing is building the destroyed suburbs. This is the most important part of the reconstruction. The second one is the infrastructure; the sanitation system, the electricity, the oil fields, everything, with no exception. The third one: the industrial projects, which could belong to the private sector or the public sector in Syria.

Question 11: Alright. And it seems no secret that there are some Chinese extremists are here, fighting alongside Daesh. I think it is a threat to both Syria and China. What concrete or effective measures do you have to control border and prevent these extremists from free movement in the region?

President Assad: When you talk about extremists or terrorists, it doesn’t matter what their nationality is, because they don’t recognize borders, and they don’t belong to a country. The only difference between nationality and nationality, is that those for example who came from your country, they know your country more than the others, so they can do more harm in your country that others, and the same for Syrians, the same for Russian terrorist, and so on. So now, the measures, every terrorist should be defeated and demolished, unless he changed his position to the normal life. Second, because you’re talking about different nationalities -more than 80 nationalities – you should have cooperation with the other governments, especially in the intelligence field, and that’s what’s happening for example with the Chinese intelligence regarding the Uyghur terrorists who are coming from China through Turkey. Unfortunately, the only means that we don’t have now and we don’t control is our borders with Turkey, because the Uyghur in Particular, they came from Turkey, the others coming maybe from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, from the sea, maybe, and the majority from Turkey, but the Uyghur terrorists coming mainly from Turkey. Why? I don’t know why, but they have the support of the Turkish government, and they were gathered and collected in one group, and they were sent to the northern part of Syria. So, the mission now is to attack them, wherever they existed. Of course, sometimes you cannot tell which one… who is who, they mix with each other, but sometimes they work as separate groups from different nationalities. And this is very crucial kind of cooperation between the Syrian and the Chinese intelligence, and we did many good steps in that regard.

Question 12: Mr. President, as you may be fully aware that the “White Helmets” took an Oscar this year for the best documentary short, but folks are saying that the truth about this “White Helmets” is not like what Netflix has presented, so what is your take on this?

President Assad: First of all, we have to congratulate al-Nusra for having the first Oscar! This is an unprecedented event for the West to give Al Qaeda an Oscar; this is unbelievable, and this is another proof that the Oscars, Nobel, all these things are politicized certificates, that’s how I can look at it. The White Helmets story is very simple; it is a facelift of al-Nusra Front in Syria, just to change their ugly face into a more humanitarian face, that’s it. And you have many videos on the net and of course images broadcasted by the White Helmets that condemn the White Helmets as a terrorists group, where you can see the same person wearing the white helmet and celebrating over the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers. So, that’s what the Oscar went to, to those terrorists. So, it’s a story just to try to prevent the Syrian Army during the liberation of Aleppo from making more pressure on the attacking and liberating the districts within the city that have been occupied by those terrorists, to say that the Syrian Army and the Russians are attacking the civilians and the innocents and the humanitarian people.

Question 13: Right. Now Palmyra. I took a one-day trip to Palmyra this time. Now, the city is under your control, so as its strategic position is concerned, because Homs is the heart of Syria, it’s right in the middle, now, when you have Palmyra, what is your next target? Are you going to expand a military operation into Raqqa and Dier Ezzor?

President Assad: We are very close to Raqqa now. Yesterday, our troops reached the Euphrates River which is very close to Raqqa city, and Raqqa is the stronghold of ISIS today, so it’s going to be a priority for us, but that doesn’t mean the other cities are not priority, in time that could be in parallel, because Palmyra is on the way to Dier Ezzor city in the eastern part of Syria which is close to the Iraqi borders, and those areas that have been used by ISIS as route for logistic support between ISIS in Iraq and ISIS in Syria. So, whether you attack the stronghold or you attack the route that ISIS uses, it has the same result.

Question 14: How many days do you think this war is going to last?

President Assad: if we presume that you don’t have foreign intervention, it will take a few months. It’s not very complicated internally. The complexity of this war is the foreign intervention. This is the problem. So, in the face of that intervention, the good thing that we gained during the war is the unity of the society. At the very beginning, the vision for many Syrians wasn’t very clear about what’s happening. Many believed the propaganda of the West about the reality, about the real story, that this is against the oppression. If it’s against the oppression, why the people in Saudi Arabia didn’t revolt, for example? So, now what we gained is this, this is our strongest foundation to end that war. We always have hope that this year is going to be the last year. But at the end, this is war and you can’t expect what is going to happen precisely.

Question 15: Mr. President, you are President of the Syrian Republic, at the same time, you are a loving husband and a father of three. How can you balance the role of being a President, a father, and a husband?

President Assad: If you cannot succeed in your small duty which is your family, you cannot succeed in your bigger duty or more comprehensive duty at the level of a country. So, there is no excuse that if you have a lot of work to abandon your duties; it’s a duty. You have to be very clear about that, you have to fulfill those duties in a very good way. Of course, sometimes those circumstances do not allow you to do whatever you have to do, your duties, fully, let’s say.

Journalist: During a day, how much time you spend on work, and how much time you spend with your family members?

President Assad: Actually, it’s not about the time, because even if you are at your home, you have to work.

Journalist: Okay.

President Assad: Let’s say, in the morning and the evening, you have the chance, but in between and after those times, you have the whole day to work.

Question 16: Have you ever thought of leaving this country for the sake of your family?

President Assad: Never, after six years, I mean the most difficult times passed; it was in 2012 and 2013, those times we never thought about it, how can I think about it now?

So, no, no, this is not an option. Whenever you have any kind of reluctance, you will lose. You will lose not with your enemies; you lose with your supporters. Those supporters, I mean the people you work with, the fighters, the army, they will feel if you’re not determined to defend your country. We never had any feeling neither me nor any member of my family.

Question 17: And how is Kareem’s Chinese getting along?

President Assad: He learned the basics of Chinese language, I think two years ago. Unfortunately, the lady and the man who taught him had to leave, because they were members of the Chinese Embassy. They went back to China. Now, he stopped improve his Chinese language.

Question 18: Do you think it is a good choice to learn Chinese for him?

President Assad: Of course, of course, because China is a rising power.

Journalist: You didn’t force him to learn Chinese? It’s his own option, right?

President Assad: No, no, we never thought about it, actually. I didn’t think that he has to learn Chinese, and I didn’t expect him, if I thought about it, that he would say yes, because for many in the world the Chinese language is a difficult language to learn. He took the initiative and he said I want to learn Chinese, and actually till this moment, I didn’t ask him why. I want him to feel free, but when he’s getting older, I’m going to ask him how? How did it come through your mind to learn this language, this difficult language, but of course important language.

Journalist: You didn’t ask him before? President Assad: No, not yet. Journalist: So, you think it’s a good choice?

President Assad: Of course, of course. As I said, it’s a rising power, it’s important. I mean, most of the world has different kinds of relation with China whether in science, in politics, in economy, in business, I mean, in every field you need it now. And our relation for the future is going to be on the rise. It was good, but it’s going to be on the rise because when a country like China proves that it’s a real friend, a friend that you can rely on, it’s very natural to have better relation on the popular level, not only on the formal level.

Journalist: Thank you Mr. President, thank you for your time.

President Assad: Thank you for coming to Syria, you’re most welcome.

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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