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The Mueller Investigation Is Sending People to Jail – But Not For Collusion

The belief that George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort would turn over evidence of collusion with Russia got ahead of reality.

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Via the Strategic Culture Foundation:


The anonymous government official who revealed a “resistance” inside the White House has heightened the sense of doom hanging over Donald Trump’s presidency. A stream of disparaging claims from other White House insiders, the multiple criminal cases enveloping Trump’s inner circle, and the ongoing special-counsel investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government have all also added to anticipation of Trump’s imminent downfall. But the widespread perception that “the walls are closing in”; on a “ “teetering” Trump presidency is getting ahead of reality. While figures eyed as central to the suspected Trump-Russia conspiracy—campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos, longtime fixer Michael Cohen, and campaign manager Paul Manafort—have been convicted of criminal activity, their cases have not bolstered the case for collusion as many liberals had hoped.

Last week, Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI about the timing of his contacts with a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud. According to Papadopoulos, Mifsud claimed to have connections to Russia and information that the Kremlin had obtained Hillary Clinton’s stolen e-mails. In May 2016, Papadopoulos relayed vague details about his conversation with Mifsud to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer. According to press accounts, a tip from Downer about his encounter with Papadopoulos sparked the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into alleged Trump-Russia ties.

Because Papadopoulos may have purportedly heard about stolen e-mails before their public release, he has been widely scouted as “Exhibit A” for a Trump-Kremlin conspiracy, part of a “secret channel through which the Russian government was able to communicate with the Trump campaign as it stole Democratic emails and weaponized them to help Trump win the presidency,” according to James Risen of The Intercept. In the end, Papadopoulos did not fill that role. According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo, Papadopoulos “did not provide ‘substantial assistance’” during his interviews in August and September of 2017. But in remarks made after his sentencing, Papadopoulos says that “I did my best…and offered what I knew.” It is not a surprise that he did not have much to offer. Not only did the Trump campaign rebuff Papadopoulos’s proposals to set up meetings with Russian officials, Papadopoulos now says that “I never met with a single Russian official in my life.”

Mueller’s sentencing memo also confirms that after FBI agents interviewed Papadopoulos in January 2017, they interviewed Mifsud just weeks later in Washington, DC. Despite his being the figure whose comments ostensibly led to the opening of the Trump-Russia investigation—making him a suspected Kremlin cutout—Mifsud was not detained then, nor has he been charged since.

Mueller appears to blame Papadopoulos for this. Papadopoulos, Mueller claims, “substantially hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question” Mifsud when they spoke to him just a few weeks later. Papadopoulos’s lies, they allege, “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the Professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States.… The defendant’s lies also hindered the government’s ability to discover who else may have known or been told about the Russians possessing ‘dirt’ on Clinton.”

The claim is puzzling. In his sentencing memo, Mueller acknowledges that Papadopoulos “identified” Mifsud to FBI agents voluntarily, though “only after only after being prompted by a series of specific questions.” That is why Papadopoulos has not pleaded guilty to lying about Mifsud, but only about the timing of his contacts with them: He falsely told agents that he was not yet a member of the Trump campaign when he and Mifsud spoke. In that same interview, Papadopoulos told agents that Mifsud informed him that the Russians “have dirt on [Clinton]” in the form of “thousands of emails.” Given that Papadopoulos not only informed FBI agents of Mifsud’s identity but also of the “dirt” he floated, how could Papadopoulos have “hindered” their ability to find out what Mifsud knows?

As Papadopoulos appears to exit the collusion bracket, longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen has recently emerged front and center. On July 26, CNN reported that Cohen is prepared to tell Mueller that Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian nationals. The incident has been the subject of intense focus because Donald Trump Jr. was promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Veteran Clinton operative turned Cohen spokesperson Lanny Davis fanned the flames. Hours after Cohen’s indictment on August 21, Davis told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Cohen “is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows,” including about “the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude.… in the 2016 election” and even “whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time” about Russian e-mail hacking “and even cheered it on.”

Davis’ qualified language (“obvious possibility,” “whether or not”) was easily overlooked, but the specter of perjury could not be. The co-chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, noted that Cohen had testified to them last fall that that he has no knowledge of any Trump-Russia collusion and that he didn’t even find out about the Trump Tower meeting until it was publicly reported in June 2017—one year after it took place. Burr and Warner also revealed that in response to CNN’s story, Cohen’s attorneys informed them that he is not changing his testimony.

Davis quickly dropped the innuendo. Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on August 22 if Cohen has information that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, Davis replied, “ No, he does not.” Davis also abandoned his suggestion, made just 24 hours earlier to Maddow, that Cohen can tie Trump to advance knowledge of Russian e-mail hacking. Davis told Cooper that he was “more tentative on that” and that he only meant that he believes Cohen “may or not be useful” to Mueller, even though “it’s not a certainty the way [Cohen] recalls it.” Davis was, he clarified in the same CNN interview, just relying on his own “intuition.”

Yet this clarification proved to be more consequential than perhaps Davis intended. The Washington Post and the New York Post revealed that they had used Davis as an anonymous source for their own stories “confirming” the initial July 26 CNN report. “I should have been more clear—including with you—that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis told The Washington Post, adding his regrets. Davis also continued to back off of his hacking claims, explaining that he was merely “giving an instinct that [Cohen] might have something to say of interest,” though, yet again, “I am just not sure.”

But Davis was not done; he then revealed that he had also been used as anonymous source for CNN’s initial story. This did not just raise a sourcing issue for CNN but a potential scandal: In its initial report, CNN had falsely claimed that Davis had declined to comment. This meant that CNN had not just relied on a source who no longer stood by his story, but mislead readers into believing that he was not a source. To date, CNN has yet to offer an explanation for the gaffe—which, along with the failure to explain it—is not a first.

In his dizzying retraction tour, Davis also raised doubts about another story that had been circulating for months. In April, McClatchy reported that Mueller’s team has information about Cohen that could corroborate a key claim in the Steele dossier, the DNC-funded report alleging a high-level conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The dossier claims that Cohen visited Prague in August or September 2016 to meet with Russian officials as part of his key role “in a cover up and damage limitation operation” over the hacking of Democratic Party emails. Citing two sources, McClatchy claimed that Mueller “has evidence” that Cohen secretly visited Prague during the period in question. Davis now says that that claim is false. Cohen, Davis told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, was “never, ever in Prague.”

The only story Cohen has affirmed is the one he shared in court: that Trump, in order to influence the election outcome, directed him to make a hush-money payment to cover up for an extramarital affair. That allegation may or may not prove to be sufficient grounds for impeachment, but they decidedly do not fall under Robert Mueller’s purview.

Cohen’s indictment coincided with Paul Manafort’s conviction on tax-evasion and bank-fraud charges related to his political consulting work in Ukraine. It is often speculated that Manafort’s Ukraine stint is relevant to a Trump-Russia conspiracy plot because, the theory goes, he served Kremlin interests during his time there. The opposite is the case, as Manafort’s former partner-turned-prosecution-witness, Rick Gates, reaffirmed during trial. Gates testified that Manafort pushed his client, then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, to align with the European Union and away from Russia. According to Gates, Manafort was paid lucratively to craft a policy known as “Engage Ukraine,” which “became the strategy for helping Ukraine enter the European Union.” Given that the tug-of-war between Russia and the EU (with US backing) over Ukraine sparked a full-blown international crisis and a new Cold War, Manafort’s strategy would be an odd one for a supposed Kremlin stooge.

Putting aside Manafort’s record in Ukraine, there have been attempts to tie him to a potential Russia conspiracy via his financial debts to Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska. During the campaign, Manafort wrote to an associate about leveraging his position in the Trump camp in order to “get whole” with Deripaska, even suggesting that he offer “private briefings.” Could this have been, pundits suggest, where a collusion plot was hatched?

Deripaska denies ever having been offered private briefings by Manafort. Another impediment to tying Deripaska to a Trump-Russia collusion plot is that Deripaska has connections to the figure arguably most responsible for the allegations of collusion. Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent whose DNC-funded “dossier” alleged a longstanding Trump-Kremlin conspiracy, has served as an intermediary for contacts between Deripaska and US officials. Deripaska even has a link to Mueller and the federal agency he once headed. In 2009, when Mueller was in charge of the FBI, Deripaska ponied up millions of dollars for a secret effort to rescue a captured CIA operative, Robert Levinson, in Iran. In return, the FBI—with the encouragement of Steele—helped secure a visa for Deripaska, who had been banned from the United States for alleged ties to Russian organized crime. In short, Deripaska’s various contacts make plain that Manafort’s financial ties to him, illicit or not, do not necessarily lead to a Kremlin conspiracy.

Most critically, Mueller has yet to allege one. Prosecutors openly acknowledged before Manafort’s first trial that the case had nothing to do with “evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government,” while the judge in Manafort’s upcoming second trial notes that the collusion investigation is “wholly irrelevant to the charges in this case.”

The same could be said for all of the other charges in the Mueller investigation to date. Mueller has uncovered criminal activity, but not as of yet a conspiracy with a foreign power. Should that trend continue, it need not be a defeat for the resistance. The Russiagate fixation has diverted attention from many of Trump’s damaging policies and turned vast segments of the public into spectators of an endless drama. A political opposition mobilized around a range of issues that materially impact Americans—and no longer counting on Mueller’s investigation—may be the strongest threat that Trump could face.

– Aaron MATÉ, thenation.com.

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Flying Gabrieljohn vieiraTjoeStunned_at_Sunset Recent comment authors
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Stunned_at_Sunset
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Stunned_at_Sunset

With all of the material and empirical evidence emerging that demonstrates, in proof of fact, the felonious activity of high-ranking FBI and DOJ officials, Mueller is only focused on making life difficult for Trump supporters. His “so-called” investigation is a sham and he is wasting the air that he breathes, endangering the rest of us as he consumes that vital resource.

Tjoe
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Tjoe

Remember, this is the deep state that pulled off 9.11 and Trump is not part of their gang. Rightfully so, they fear for their lives. Question is, can they co-opt Trump like they did Obama? I don’t think he can keep his mouth shut but he is a wannabe Jew, so deception for personal gain is always in play with Trump(s).

john vieira
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Hope Mueller finds time to indict himself…and the many whom he conveniently chooses to ignore…his handlers hope that keeping the pressure on Trump until the “Congressionals” that if they gain a majority then that they may be able to press on with the “impeachment” and save themselves and their cohorts in the mainstream media who are complicit in all that they HAVE done…

Flying Gabriel
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Flying Gabriel

“Trumps damaging policies” – can you be more specific please – we get enough false sweeping generalisations from MSNBC and CNN. Please don’t end up all conflicted here and pushing propaganda like the Intercept, we’re running out of reliable sources. Thanks in advance.

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US Blunders Have Made Russia The Global Trade Pivot

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead

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Authored by Mathew Maavak via ActivistPost.com:


The year 2019 had barely begun before news emerged that six Russian sailors were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Benin. It was perhaps a foretaste of risks to come. As nations reel from deteriorating economic conditions, instances of piracy and other forms of supply chain disruptions are bound to increase.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 107 cases of piracy were noted during the first half of 2018 vis-à-vis 87 throughout 2017.  The 2018 tally included 32 cases in Southeast Asian waters and 48 along African shores – representing 75% of the total. To put this figure into perspective, Asian behemoths India and China – despite their vast shorelines – recorded only 2 cases of piracy each during the study period. Russia had none. In terms of hostages taken, the IMB tally read 102 in H1 2018 vs 63 in H1 2017.

Piracy adds to shipping and retail costs worldwide as security, insurance and salaries are hiked to match associated risks in maritime transport. Merchant vessels will also take longer and costlier routes to avoid piracy hotspots.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report in 2016 sums up the perils ahead:

As over 90% of global trade is carried out by sea, the economic effects of maritime crime can be crippling. Maritime crime includes not only criminal activity directed at vessels or maritime structures, but also the use of the high seas to perpetrate transnational organized crimes such as smuggling of persons or illicit substances.  These forms of maritime crime can have devastating human consequences.

Indeed, cases of human trafficking, organ harvesting, and the smuggling of illicit substances and counterfeit goods are proliferating worldwide in tandem with rising systemic debt and suspect international agendas.

Australia offers a case in point. While it fantasizes over a Quad of allies in the Indo-Pacific – to “save Asians from China” – criminal elements from Hong Kong, Malaysia to squeaky-clean Singapore have been routinely trafficking drugs, tobacco and people right into Sydney harbour for years,  swelling the local organised crime economy to as much as $47.4 billion (Australian dollars presumably) between 2016 and 2017.

With criminal elements expected to thrive during a severe recession, they will likely enjoy a degree of prosecutorial shielding from state actors and local politicians. But this is not a Southeast Asian problem alone; any superpower wishing to disrupt Asia-Europe trade arteries – the main engine of global growth – will have targets of opportunity across oceans and lands.  The US-led war against Syria had not only cratered one potential trans-Eurasia energy and trade node, it served as a boon for child traffickingorgan harvesting and slavery as well. Yet, it is President Bashar al-Assad who is repeatedly labelled a “butcher” by the Anglo-American media.

Ultimately, industries in Asia and Europe will seek safer transit routes for their products. The inference here is inevitable: the greatest logistical undertaking in history – China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – will be highly dependent on Russian security umbrella, particularly in Central Asia. Russia also offers an alternative transit option via the Northern Sea Route, thereby avoiding any potential pan-Turkic ructions in Central Asia in the future.

Russo- and Sinophobia explained?

In retrospect, Washington’s reckless policies post-Sept 11 2001 seem aimed at disrupting growing synergies between Asia and Europe. This hypothesis helps explain the relentless US-led agitprops against Russia, China and Iran.

When the gilet jaunes (yellow vest) protests rocked France weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before some pundits blamed it on Russia. US President Donald J. Trump cheered on; just as “billionaire activist” George Soros celebrated the refugee invasion of Europe and the Arab Spring earlier.  If the yellow vest contagion spreads to the Western half of Europe, its economies will flounder. Cui bono? A Russia that can reap benefits from the two-way BRI or Arctic trade routes or a moribund United States that can no longer rule roost in an increasingly multipolar world?

Trump’s diplomatic downgrade of the European Union and his opposition to the Nord Stream 2gas pipeline matches this trade-disruption hypothesis, as do pressures applied on India and China to drop energy and trade ties with Iran.  Washington’s trade war with Beijing and recent charges against Huawei – arguably Asia’s most valuable company – seem to fit this grand strategy.

If China concedes to importing more US products, Europe will bear the consequences. Asians love European products ranging from German cars to Italian shoes and Europe remains the favourite vacation destination for its growing middle class. Eastern European products and institutions are also beginning to gain traction in Asia. However, these emerging economies will suffer if their leaders cave in to Washington’s bogeyman fetish.

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough – at least theoretically – to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead.

In the meantime, as the US-led world crumbles, it looks like Russia is patiently biding its time to become the security guarantor and kingmaker of Asia-Europe trade.  A possible state of affairs wrought more by American inanity rather than Russian ingenuity…

Dr Mathew Maavak is a regular commentator on risk-related geostrategic issues.

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Historic Eastern Christianity: An Uncertain Future

The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Elias Samo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The survival of historic Eastern Christianity has never been as urgent as it is today. Christianity saw its beginning in Greater Syria which was subdivided by France and Britain after WWI into modern day Syria, Lebanon, Palestian/Israel and Jordan. The land that housed, nurtured and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ for over two millenniums, now threatens children of that faith. The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons:

  1. Greater Syria is the homeland of Jesus and Christianity. Abraham was from modern day Iraq, Moses from Egypt, and Muhammad from Mecca; Jesus was from Syria.
  1. Paul converted to Christianity and saw the light while walking through ‘The Street Called Straight’ in Damascus.
  1. Jesus’ followers were called Christians for the first time in Antioch, formerly part of Syria.
  1. One of the earliest churches, perhaps the earliest, is in Syria.

The potential demise of historic Eastern Christianity is reflected in the key question Christians ask: should we stay or emigrate? The urgent question – in the face of the ongoing regional turmoil – precipitated with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and escalated since the Arab uprisings in 2011. Historic Eastern Christians’ fears were further magnified when Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, both of metropolitan Aleppo, were kidnapped on April, 22, 2013; with no traces of their whereabouts, dead or alive, since. For many years, I was deputy, friend, and advisor to the Archbishop Ibrahim, which provided me an opportunity to meet many Christians. I have, over time, noticed the change in their sentiment, with more considering emigration after the uprising and the kidnapping of the two Archbishops. Historic Eastern Christians survived the Ottoman Genocide in 1915 and thereafter; they multiplied and thrived in the Fertile Crescent despite some atrocities until the start of the misnamed “Arab Spring” in early 2011. Prior to the “Arab Spring”, historic Eastern Christians were victims of violence on several occasions. In the mid-1930s, the historic Assyrian community in Iraq suffered violent onslaughts and were driven to Syria. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, Christians were victims of sectarian violence. During the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians were victims of widespread sectarian violence which led to mass migration. The “Arab Spring” began with great hope for the right of the people to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, it was swiftly hijacked by Islamists and Salafists and turned into an “Islamic Spring, an Arab Fall and a Christian Winter”; bringing along with it a new massacre of Christians. Presently, Eastern Christianity is at the mercy of clear and identifiable domestic, regional, and international, historic and contemporary conflicts in the Fertile Crescent, namely:

  1. Jihad vs. Ijtihad: A long standing conflict amongst Muslims between the sword vs. the pen.
  2. Sunni vs. Shiite: A conflict which began following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  3. Arabism vs. Islamism: The former has territorial limitations, the later has no territorial limitations.
  4. Syria vs. Israel: It is an essential component of the Palestinian problem, not the presumed Arab- Israeli conflict.
  5. West vs. East: A throwback to the Cold War, or its revival.
  6. Historic Persian, Ottoman and Arab Empires animosities: Each seeking regional hegemony.

One is reminded of the proverbial saying, “When the elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Certainly, Eastern Christianity is suffering and threatened with extinction.

Syria was a model of religious tolerance, common living and peaceful interaction amongst its religious, sectarian, cultural and ethnic components. Seven years of turmoil, in which various international and regional powers manipulated segments of Syrian society by supplying them with an abundance of weapons, money and sectarian ideologies, has heightened Eastern Christians’ fears. During the seven-year turmoil in Syria, the entire society has suffered; Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others. Christians, being a weak and peaceful component of the society, have suffered immensely. Ma’aloula; a religious treasure for Christians globally, and the only city in the world where Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ – is spoken, was attacked and besieged by ISIS. Numerous historic Churches were damaged, and many destroyed. Christians in Raqqa were forced by ISIS into one of three options: 1. Pay a penalty in pure gold – known as a ‘Jizya’ to keep their life and practice their faith – albeit in secret only; 2. Convert into Islam; or 3. Face immediate death. To top their pain, the kidnap of the two prominent Archbishops meant no Eastern Christian believer was safe.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there remains hope. The survival of Christianity depends on the actions and reactions of three parties:

Eastern Christians: During the last hundred years, 1915-2015, since the Ottoman Genocide, Eastern Christians have been victims of a history of massacres, which meant that every Eastern Christian was a martyr, a potential martyr or a witness of martyrdom; if you fool me once, shame on you, if you fool me twice, shame on me. The ongoing regional turmoil has heightened their sense of insecurity. The answer to an age-old question Eastern Christians had on their mind: To flee Westwards or remain in their land, in the face of death, is increasingly becoming the former.

Eastern Muslims: There is a difference in perceptions between Eastern Christians and mainstream Muslims regarding the massacres committed against Christians. When certain violent groups or individuals kill Christians, while shouting a traditional Islamic profession: “No God but one God and Muhammad is God’s messenger”, it is reasonable for Christians to assume the killers are Muslims. However, for mainstream Muslims, the killers do not represent Islam; they are extremists, violating basic Islamic norms such as Muhammad’s sayings, “Whoever hurts a Thummy – Christian or Jew – has hurt me”, “no compulsion in religion” and other Islamic norms regarding just treatment of people of the Book; Christians and Jews. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Muslim elites to impress upon their fellow Muslims that:

a. The three monotheistic religions believe in one God and all ‘faithfuls’ are equal in citizenship, rights and duties.

b. Christians participated in the rise of Arab Islamic civilization. They were pioneers in the modern Arab renaissance and they joined their Muslim brethren in resisting the Crusades, the Ottomans and Western colonialism.

c. Christians are natives of the land and they provide cultural, religious, educational, and economic, diversity.

d. Christians are a positive link between the Muslims and the Christian West, particularly in view of the rise of Islamophobia. Massacres of Christians and their migration provide a pretext for the further precipitation of Islamophobia.

e. Civilization is measured by the way it treats its minorities.

The Christian West: The Crusades, Western colonialism, creation and continued support of Israel, support of authoritarian Arab political systems, military interventions, regime change, and the destabilization of Arab states made Muslims view Eastern Christians ‘guilty by association’. The Christian West helped Jews come to Palestine to establish Israel. Shouldn’t the same Christian West also help Eastern Christians remain in their homeland, rather than facilitate their emigration? Western Christians, particularly Christian Zionists, believe that the existence of Israel is necessary for the return of Jesus to his homeland. However, it would be a great disappointment for Jesus to return to his homeland, Syria and not find any of his followers.

Prior to 2011, Eastern Christian religious leaders were encouraging Syrian Christians in the diaspora to return to Syria, their homeland, where life was safe and secure with great potential. Now, the same leaders are desperately trying to slow down Christian emigration. Eastern Christians’ loud cries for help to remain are blowing in the wind.

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Protests erupt in Athens, as ‘North Macedonia’ vote fast approaches (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 62.

Alex Christoforou

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NATO and the EU are full of joy with the Prespes agreement, which is sure to pass the Greek Parliament and fast rack the newly minted Republic of North Macedonia into NATO and the EU.

Meanwhile in Athens and Skopje, anger is reaching dangerous levels, as each side debates the pros and cons of the deal inked by Tsipras and Zaev.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at yesterday’s protests in Athens, Greece, where things got very ugly as radical left Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras used tear gas and a heavy police hand to put down protests, that reached upwards of 60,000 people in the Syntagma downtown square.

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Via Ekathimerini

As Greece gets ready for a political showdown this week over the Prespes agreement, we are witnessing a relentless, often cynical, maneuvering between parties, their leaders and even individual deputies.

What is at stake is not only the ratification of the deal between Athens and Skopje, but also the potential redrawing of the domestic political map.

Greek society and the country’s political world are deeply divided. The public is clearly against the deal, with up to 70% opposed to it.

The tens of thousands that demonstrated in Sunday’s rally in Athens, showed once more that sentiments run high.

The violence, which the Prime Minister blamed on extremists, while the opposition leader criticized the extended use of tear gas and called for an investigation to find out who was responsible, is indicative of the slippery slope the country is facing in the months leading to the national elections.

Despite the voices of reason calling for a minimum of cooperation and looking for common ground, Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis are in an all out war.

The leftist Prime Minister is attempting to use the Prespes agreement to create a broad “progressive” coalition that extends well beyond SYRIZA, while the conservative opposition leader, who is leading in the polls, is trying to keep his party united (on the name issue there are differing approaches) and win the next elections with an absolute majority.

With respect to the Prespes deal itself, the rare confluence of shrewd political considerations with deeply held feelings about one’s history, makes for an explosive mix and ensures a heated debate in parliament.

As for the raw numbers, despite the public opposition, the passage of the Prespes agreement in the 300 member Greek Parliament should be considered a done deal. In the most plausible senario 153 deputies will support the deal in the vote expected later in the week.

The governing SYRIZA has 145 deputies, and one should add to those the positive votes of Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, centrist To Potami deputies Stavros Theodorakis, Spyros Lykoudis and Giorgos Mavrotas, former To Potami MP Spiros Danellis, and ANEL MP Thanasis Papachristopoulos.

This leads to a majority of 151. Last night one more positive vote was announced, that of Thanasis Theocharopoulos, leader of Democratic Left which untill now was part of the Movement for Change coalition, from which he was ejected as a result of his decision to support the deal.

Finally, Citizens Security Deputy Minister Katerina Papacosta, a former member of New Democracy, is expected to also vote for the agreement, but has not officially said so. Thus, for all practical purposes, the Prespes agreement is expected to pass, with 152 or 153 votes.

Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is not a member of parliament and who has worked tiressly on the issue, both as foreign minister and PM, has gone public in support of the deal.

Despite the discomfort this move created in the leadership of the Movement for Change, doing otherwise would have made him look inconsistent. As he is not voting, the damage is seen as limited, although the symbolism does not help the Movement for Change approach.

To the extent that Greece’s transatlantic partners and allies want to see the agreement implemented, they should feel relief. Of course, nothing is done until the “fat lady sings”, but one can clearly hear her whispering the notes in the corridors of the Greek Parliament.

Still, for the astute observer of Greek politics and the foreign officials and analysts who value the crucial role of Greece as an anchor of stability in the Balkans – being by far the strongest country in this region, both militarily and economically, despite the crisis of the last eight years – the deep divisions the issue has created in the society and the political world, are a cause for concern and could spell trouble in the future.

Dealing with such a volatile landscape calls for delicate moves by all.

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