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Greece threatened with expulsion from international football competitions

This is the end result of the SYRIZA-led government’s purported efforts to “clean up” Greek football and “root out corruption,” while defending gun-toting oligarch Ivan Savvidis.

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SYRIZA may finally be achieving “Grexit.” Not the one, of course, that we were laughably led to believe it once supported in its days as a “radical anti-austerity” party, but which it always intended to eschew in the name of “Europe.” Instead, the “Grexit” coming to Greece may be of the football variety.
Following a recent spate of incidents in Greek football, topped off by the owner of PAOK FC Ivan Savvidis storming the football pitch while fully armed following a controversial call, the head of FIFA’s monitoring committee Herbert Huebel has formally recommended to FIFA Greece’s ejection from all international football competitions.
What this means is that Greek club teams as well as Greek national teams would be barred from participating in international competitions such as the qualifiers for the Euro 2020 competition, the UEFA Nations League, the UEFA Champions League, and the UEFA Europa League. Greece’s national men’s football team did not qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
The only possible saving grace for Greece is that Huebel’s recommendation leaves a period of approximately six weeks for the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) to enforce the measures that have been recommended by FIFA, in order to avert a football “Grexit,” even at the last minute. This is because the recommendations have been passed on to FIFA’s members committee, which is slated to meet in late May or June, instead of to FIFA’s emergency committee, which would issue an immediate decision.
Huebel’s document highlighted various concerns which he used to justify his recommendation for Greece’s expulsion. These include the delays in the issuance of disciplinary decisions regarding Greek football matches, the lack of implementation of FIFA recommendations, and the likelihood that the champion of this season’s Super League will be determined in the courtroom and not on the playing field.
Huebel’s document also makes specific references to PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis storming the football pitch wielding a gun, the postponements of the Greek Super League and Greek Cup imposed by the SYRIZA-led government, and the ejection of PAOK from the European Club Association (ECA) following the aforementioned incident involving Savvidis.
The issuance of these recommendations comes following a meeting he had with the president of EPO Vangelis Grammenos in Austria earlier this week.
The risk of “Grexit” comes after a series of absurd moves on the part of the SYRIZA-led government, which as with every other aspect of society, is proclaiming that it is “rooting out corruption” in Greek football as well. These claims, of course, do not reflect reality, but are great fodder for SYRIZA’s party faithful and the “fans,” blinded by fanaticism, of teams such as PAOK and AEK, whose owners are widely recognized as being very close to the SYRIZA-led government.
Following the PAOK-AEK match and the incident involving an armed, unhinged Ivan Savvidis, the SYRIZA-led Greek government imposed a temporary postponement of league and cup matches, something which has become routine for the current regime. Similar postponements were enacted in 2015, 2016 and 2017, all in the name of “combating violence” in Greek football.
It seems though that for SYRIZA, some violence is not as bad as other violence. Today, a ruling regarding the events of the PAOK-AEK match where Savvidis stormed the football pitch resulted in a three year ban for Ivan Savvidis from entering football stadiums, a monetary fine of €15,000, a fine of €63,000 for PAOK, and the loss of three points in this season’s league table and two points next season.
The fine and loss of three points this season and two points next year is the same exact penalty which was levied against Panathinaikos in 2017 for an incident where a fan tossed a can of beer at the pitch, striking an opposing player.
In other words, in SYRIZA’s Greece, throwing a beer bottle and storming the pitch wielding a gun are met with the same exact penalty. There’s no arrest or jail sentence for Savvidis, nor was PAOK demoted to the Football League, the second category in Greek football, as foreseen by the very same law passed by SYRIZA — with FIFA’s approval — professing to “clean up” football.
Earlier this season, Olympiacos was docked three points for an incident where fans (but not the team owner) stormed the pitch following a home loss — with questionable officiating — against AEK. In other words, some fans coming onto the pitch is the same as a team owner chasing a referee with a weapon. In two other incidents, PAOK fans fought with police and other fans and attempted to storm stadiums in the cities of Ioannina and Tripolis. PAOK was not docked any points in the league table for these incidents.
In last season’s league cup final between PAOK and AEK, “fans” of the two teams rioted both inside and outside the neutral Panthessalian Stadium in the city of Volos, causing major injuries and damage to the facilities. Neither team was docked points for these incidents, by the government that is otherwise “policing” Greek football.
The name of the game though seems to be to strike perennial Greek champion Olympiacos and its owner, Evangelos Marinakis, who has also been embroiled in scandal but was recently acquitted on charges of participating in a criminal organization. Marinakis is viewed by SYRIZA as being close with the opposition New Democracy party, and is viewed by the fans of teams such as PAOK and AEK as being the epitome of all of the ills in Greek football due to the dominance of Olympiacos in the past two decades. SYRIZA has done nothing to bridge this division, and in fact it seems to be actively fanning the flames, counting on support from what it sees as a bloc of voters who oppose Olympiacos and Marinakis.
For fans of teams such as PAOK, based in Thessaloniki, there is a long-standing inferiority complex vis-à-vis the supposed “Athens-centric establishment.” For them, Ivan Savvidis, who “rescued” PAOK from bankruptcy a few seasons ago, is a savior who could do no wrong. We are told he has invested over €100 million in PAOK, that he will build the team a new stadium, that he has “stood up to the establishment.”
Even more ludicrously, we are told that he “saved Thessaloniki’s port from the Turks” (for participating in a consortium of mostly foreign investors, including German and Chinese, which purchased the harbor as part of SYRIZA’s privatization program which it had once pledged to stop) and that he “saved” the SEKAP tobacco industry in northern Greece from Turkish hands. The way Savvidis “saved” SEKAP was by initially purchasing the debt-ridden company, then blackmailing the government with threats to abandon the investment if the company’s debts to the state were not written off, then selling the now debt-free SEKAP to a company owned by the Japanese state.
It’s okay though, for Savvidis can do no wrong in the eyes of his army of supporters, or for the SYRIZA-led government. And returning to the matter at hand, it is clear that FIFA is not impressed. It is an open secret among football fans in Greece that EPO is a PAOK and AEK stronghold, following changes, or according to SYRIZA “catharsis,” imposed by the government last season. The message FIFA seems to be sending to EPO is to clean up their act or for Greek football to pay the ultimate price.
And what would this ultimate price be? The consequences would be disastrous for Greek football and, by extension, the Greek economy, at a time when despite the proclamations of SYRIZA regarding imminent “recovery,” the economy needs all the help it can get. Potential consequences include:

  • The inability of Greek club teams and national teams to participate in any international competitions, including exhibition matches.
  • The inability of Greek footballers to play for club teams outside of Greece.
  • The inability of foreign players to compete with Greek club teams.
  • The loss of massive income from Greek club teams’ participation in European competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, including television revenue, sponsorships, and bonuses tied to team performance.
  • Greece being dropped to zero in the national team and club coefficients used by FIFA and UEFA to determine the relative strength of each country’s national team and club competitions. At the club level, the performance of a country’s club teams improves the country’s overall standing — the better the coefficient, the more teams from that country are permitted to compete in European competition such as the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. At the national team level, the better the coefficient, the higher the national team is ranked, meaning that it will receive theoretically more favorable draws for participation in the World Cup, the Euro cup, the Nations Cup, and the qualifiers for these tournaments. Following a potential Greek suspension, Greece would find itself starting with a coefficient of zero, which would mean the hardest, most challenging possible draws for both Greek club teams and the national team.
  • The loss of ancillary revenues, such as income from foreign teams and their fans visiting Greece for club and national team matches.
  • The total delegitimizing of the Greek football league, which would likely resemble an amateur football league much more than a professional league — one where no foreign players will compete, where revenues will be low, and international interest non-existent.

Of course, with the self-loathing and divide-and-conquer mentality that is so unfortunately prevalent in Greece today, fans who believe their teams have been “wronged,” such as PAOK and AEK, are only too happy to see a “Grexit” from international play, as they view this as being “what Greece deserves” for its “corruption” which, of course, they are not responsible for. Only Olympiacos is, clearly, and only its owner, Evangelos Marinakis.
Such attitudes are bolstered by Greece’s recklessly irresponsible and hideously biased sports journalists, all of whom seem to represent vested team interests and political interests as well, and who have for years created the impression that Greece is a hopeless basket case while touting how “civilized” athletics are in other “serious” countries. The high-level corruption in competitions such as the Olympics and the World Cup, and the more petty day-to-day incidents of biased refereeing or football riots between fans in other countries (even if they take place outside the stadium and not inside of it) are conveniently brushed off.
These outlets know, after all, who their audience is. For online sports portals in particular, it is angry and resentful young men, often unemployed or underemployed, and raised on a diet of being told, day after day, at school and from these very portals, that Greece is a backward banana republic and that other European countries are superior and civilized. These young men are probably also resentful that they were forced into military conscription in Greece. Largely apolitical, these men are nevertheless exposed to political propaganda via the “journalism” provided by these sports portals.
This mentality is epitomized by the following two examples:

  • A recent petition by PAOK fans which circulated online, stating that if PAOK is penalized for the recent incidents which took place in its home stadium, they will burn their military conscription papers and refuse to serve. This, of course, belies the gender and age group of most of the signatories of this “petition.”
  • An online poll that is active today on Sport24.gr — a portal operated by the PAOK-friendly 24 Media which is owned by Dimitris Maris, a former business partner of Ivan Savvidis — where 64 percent of “fans” have thus far voted in support of a Greek football Grexit.

There’s a saying for such people: “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” And in Greek society, where divide-and-conquer is the norm, the government is fanning the flames, using such divisions for its own petty interests and to boost its own favored oligarchs, all in the name of “routing the oligarchs” and “rooting out corruption.” But as is the case the world over, those screaming the loudest about “corruption” are usually the ones who are most blatantly guilty of it.
Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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