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US Senate agrees with Hillary’s Intelligence Agency hoax that Russia meddled in elections (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 45.

Alex Christoforou

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The US Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the findings of the intelligence community on an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election of 2016.

The Senate Intelligence Committee upheld the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia developed a “clear preference” for candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election and sought to help him win the White House.

According to The Hill the assessment, announced in an unclassified summary released Tuesday, represents a direct repudiation of the committee’s counterpart in the House — and of President Trump himself, who has consistently rejected assertions that Moscow sought to bolster his candidacy through its election interference.

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

The so-called “intelligence community assessment,” or ICA, is a “sound intelligence production,” according the Senate panel.

“A body of reporting, to include different intelligence disciplines, open source reporting on Russian leadership policy preferences, and Russian media content, showed that Moscow sought to denigrate Secretary Clinton,” the unclassified summary reads.

The ICA relied not only on public Russian leadership commentary and state media reports, but also “a body of intelligence reporting to support the assessment that Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for Trump,” the committee found.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris explain why the Senate Intelligence Committee simply rubber stamped a report put together, not by the “intelligence community”, but by then Intelligence Chief James Clapper and a few hand picked analysts, which based their entire ‘Russia meddling’ allegation on the now debunked British spy dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile the “hacked” DNC server has never been investigated by a US intelligence agency, and has simply gone missing never to be found. Convenient for Hillary.

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For more debunking of the Senate’s pandering to the Clinton clan and the DC swamp read the post below via Jack Matlock: The “Intelligence Community,” “Russian Interference,” and Due Diligence.


Did the U.S. “Intelligence Community” judge that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election?

Most commentators seem to think so. Every news report I have read of the planned meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin in July refers to “Russian interference” as a fact and asks whether the matter will be discussed. Reports that President Putin denied involvement in the election are scoffed at, usually with a claim that the U.S. “intelligence community” proved Russian interference. In fact, the U.S. “intelligence community” has not done so. The intelligence community as a whole has not been tasked to make a judgment and some key members of that community did not participate in the report that is routinely cited as “proof” of “Russian interference.”

I spent the 35 years of my government service with a “top secret” clearance. When I reached the rank of ambassador and also worked as Special Assistant to the President for National Security, I also had clearances for “codeword” material. At that time, intelligence reports to the president relating to Soviet and European affairs were routed through me for comment. I developed at that time a “feel” for the strengths and weaknesses of the various American intelligence agencies. It is with that background that I read the January 6. 2017 report of three intelligence agencies: the CIA, FBI, and NSA.

This report is labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment,” but in fact it is not that. A report of the intelligence community in my day would include the input of all the relevant intelligence agencies and would reveal whether all agreed with the conclusions. Individual agencies did not hesitate to “take a footnote” or explain their position if they disagreed with a particular assessment. A report would not claim to be that of the “intelligence community” if any relevant agency was omitted.

The report states that it represents the findings of three intelligence agencies: CIA, FBI, and NSA, but even that is misleading in that it implies that there was a consensus of relevant analysts in these three agencies. In fact, the report was prepared by a group of analysts from the three agencies pre-selected by their directors, with the selection process generally overseen by James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Clapper told the Senate in testimony May 8, 2017, that it was prepared by “two dozen or so analysts—hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.” If you can hand-pick the analysts, you can hand-pick the conclusions. The analysts selected would have understood what Director Clapper wanted since he made no secret of his views. Why would they endanger their careers by not delivering?

What should have struck any congressperson or reporter was that the procedure Clapper followed was the same as that used in 2003 to produce the report falsely claiming that Saddam Hussein had retained stocks of weapons of mass destruction. That should be worrisome enough to inspire questions, but that is not the only anomaly.

The DNI has under his aegis a National Intelligence Council whose officers can call any intelligence agency with relevant expertise to draft community assessments. It was created by Congress after 9/11 specifically to correct some of the flaws in intelligence collection revealed by 9/11. Director Clapper chose not to call on the NIC, which is curious since its duty is “to act as a bridge between the intelligence and policy communities.”

During my time in government, a judgment regarding national security would include reports from, as a minimum, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) of the State Department. The FBI was rarely, if ever, included unless the principal question concerned law enforcement within the United States. NSA might have provided some of the intelligence used by the other agencies but normally did not express an opinion regarding the substance of reports.

What did I notice when I read the January report? There was no mention of INR or DIA! The exclusion of DIA might be understandable since its mandate deals primarily with military forces, except that the report attributes some of the Russian activity to the GRU, Russian military intelligence. DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, is the U.S. intelligence organ most expert on the GRU. Did it concur with this attribution? The report doesn’t say.

The omission of INR is more glaring since a report on foreign political activity could not have been that of the U.S. intelligence community without its participation. After all, when it comes to assessments of foreign intentions and foreign political activity, the State Department’s intelligence service is by far the most knowledgeable and competent. In my day, it reported accurately on Gorbachev’s reforms when the CIA leaders were advising that Gorbachev had the same aims as his predecessors.

This is where due diligence comes in. The first question responsible journalists and politicians should have asked is “Why is INR not represented? Does it have a different opinion? If so, what is that opinion? Most likely the official answer would have been that this is “classified information.” But why should it be classified? If some agency heads come to a conclusion and choose (or are directed) to announce it publicly, doesn’t the public deserve to know that one of the key agencies has a different opinion?

The second question should have been directed at the CIA, NSA, and FBI: did all their analysts agree with these conclusions or were they divided in their conclusions? What was the reason behind hand-picking analysts and departing from the customary practice of enlisting analysts already in place and already responsible for following the issues involved?

As I was recently informed by a senior official, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research did, in fact, have a different opinion but was not allowed to express it. So the January report was not one of the “intelligence community,” but rather of three intelligence agencies, two of which have no responsibility or necessarily any competence to judge foreign intentions. The job of the FBI is to enforce federal law. The job of NSA is to intercept the communications of others and to protect ours. It is not staffed to assess the content of what is intercepted; that task is assumed by others, particularly the CIA, the DIA (if it is military) or the State Department’s INR (if it is political).

The second thing to remember is that reports of the intelligence agencies reflect the views of the heads of the agencies and are not necessarily a consensus of their analysts’ views. The heads of both the CIA and FBI are political appointments, while the NSA chief is a military officer; his agency is a collector of intelligence rather than an analyst of its import, except in the fields of cryptography and communications security.

One striking thing about the press coverage and Congressional discussion of the January report, and of subsequent statements by CIA, FBI, and NSA heads is that questions were never posed regarding the position of the State Department’s INR, or whether the analysts in the agencies cited were in total agreement with the conclusions.

Let’s put these questions aside for the moment and look at the report itself. On the first page of text, the following statement leapt to my attention:

We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.

Now, how can one judge whether activity “interfered” with an election without assessing its impact? After all, if the activity had no impact on the outcome of the election, it could not be properly termed interference. This disclaimer, however, has not prevented journalists and politicians from citing the report as proof that “Russia interfered” in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

As for particulars, the report is full of assertion, innuendo, and description of “capabilities” but largely devoid of any evidence to substantiate its assertions. This is “explained” by claiming that much of the evidence is classified and cannot be disclosed without revealing sources and methods. The assertions are made with “high confidence” or occasionally, “moderate confidence.” Having read many intelligence reports I can tell you that if there is irrefutable evidence of something it will be stated as a fact. The use of the term “high confidence” is what most normal people would call “our best guess.” “Moderate confidence” means “some of our analysts think this might be true.”

Among the assertions are that a persona calling itself “Guccifer 2.0” is an instrument of the GRU, and that it hacked the emails on the Democratic National Committee’s computer and conveyed them to Wikileaks. What the report does not explain is that it is easy for a hacker or foreign intelligence service to leave a false trail. In fact, a program developed by CIA with NSA assistance to do just that has been leaked and published.

Retired senior NSA technical experts have examined the “Guccifer 2.0” data on the web and have concluded that “Guccifer 2.0’s” data did not involve a hack across the web but was locally downloaded. Further, the data had been tampered with and manipulated, leading to the conclusion that “Guccifer 2.0” is a total fabrication.

The report’s assertions regarding the supply of the DNC emails to Wikileaks are dubious, but its final statement in this regard is important: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.” In other words, what was disclosed was the truth! So, Russians are accused of “degrading our democracy” by revealing that the DNC was trying to fix the nomination of a particular candidate rather than allowing the primaries and state caucuses to run their course. I had always thought that transparency is consistent with democratic values. Apparently those who think that the truth can degrade democracy have a rather bizarre—to put it mildly–concept of democracy.

Most people, hearing that it is a “fact” that “Russia” interfered in our election must think that Russian government agents hacked into vote counting machines and switched votes to favor a particular candidate. This, indeed, would be scary, and would justify the most painful sanctions. But this is the one thing that the “intelligence” report of January 6, 2017, states did not happen. Here is what it said: “DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

This is an important statement by an agency that is empowered to assess the impact of foreign activity on the United States. Why was it not consulted regarding other aspects of the study? Or—was it in fact consulted and refused to endorse the findings? Another obvious question any responsible journalist or competent politician should have asked.

Prominent American journalists and politicians seized upon this shabby, politically motivated, report as proof of “Russian interference” in the U.S. election without even the pretense of due diligence. They have objectively acted as co-conspirators in an effort to block any improvement in relations with Russia, even though cooperation with Russia to deal with common dangers is vital to both countries.

This is only part of the story of how, without good reason, U.S.-Russian relations have become dangerously confrontational. God willin and the crick don’t rise, I’ll be musing about other aspects soon.

Thanks to Ray McGovern and Bill Binney for their research assistance.

Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Booneville, Tennessee
June 29, 2018

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“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions”. I would see no reason to dispute the conclusions, either, if I had been given as much money as they have not to do so. Although I still wonder how a bunch of ignorant career politicians can presume to pass judgment on the work of intelligence professionals. I love the casual mention of “tradecraft”, which suggests that some of them have at least flicked through a John Le Carre novel at some… Read more »

Nicole Temple
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Nicole Temple

Here is an article that shows how sensitive the American government is when it comes to anti-U.S. propaganda:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-united-states-and-russia-propaganda.html

Apparently, the use of Russian anti-U.S. propaganda is a very sensitive issue in Washington.

MyWikiDisQus
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MyWikiDisQus

Our own government in Washington, DC insults the intelligence of the American people. “Meddling”, what does that exactly mean, anyways? The only occurrence of vote switching happened during the 2016 Democratic primaries that stole votes from socialist Bernie Sanders and awarded them to Hillary Clinton. Everything else is Kabuki theater. No foreign government Russia, China, etc. influenced millions of U.S. voters to cast their popular vote for Donald Trump. Look, there were two choices for the electorate. Hillary Clinton who along with her lecherous husband Bill Clinton, are freely walking felons for their blatant fraud with the Clinton Foundation, a… Read more »

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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

The Duran

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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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