Tag Archives: Greece

Turkish Military Blocks Off Italian Drill Ship in Mediterranean

On February 11th, Cyprus accused the Turkish military of blocking a drill ship exploring for natural gas. The Cypriot-flagged ship was contracted by an Italian oil company, Eni.

A spokesman from Eni said the Saipem 12000 drill ship was heading from an area southwest of Cyprus to an area that was southeast of Cyprus when it was stopped by 6 Turkish military ships and told that it could not proceed any further. The Saipem 12000 was 15 miles away from its target when it was stopped. A spokesman from the Italian foreign ministry confirmed that the Turkish ships did not allow the Saipem to go towards its destination.

Turkey claims certain areas off Cyprus’s maritime zone fall under Turkish jurisdiction, or that of Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus. This zone is known as Block 3 and Turkey claims it as their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Greek Cypriots also claim this area as part of their EEZ. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkey violated international law by blocking the ship.

Turkey issued a navigation telex to reserve an area for military exercises. The area reserved covers the 6th-9th blocks that Cyprus declared as their EEZ. The declaration by Turkey came when the Saipem 12000 arrived in the Mediterranean.

No country other than Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus as an independent country. Turkish Cypriots run the breakaway state and say that resources around the island belong to them, while Greek Cypriots run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government in southern Cyprus. The United Nations General assembly has repeatedly passed resolutions declaring the independence of Turkey’s northern Cyprus is legally invalid.

Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs said February 11th that exploration of Block 3 was a unilateral move by Greek Cypriots which violated the sovereign rights of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically divided island.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry said that this is a “blatant violation” by Turkey in regards to international law of Cyprus’s sovereign rights. The European Union (EU) has told Turkey to respect the territories of its member states. In 2004, Cyprus joined the EU but only the south enjoys full benefits.

EU council President Donald Tusk called on Turkey to “avoid threats or actions” and to settle the issue peacefully.

The Saipem 12000 was not the only ship that the Turkish military prevented form approaching the area according to a Cyprus government spokesman, although no details were provided.

This is the first time that Turkey has taken such steps to prevent drilling from occurring in the area. Turkey is showing off their military might and want to be taken seriously throughout the region while seeking to promote its influence in regards to the East Med natural gas pipeline project.

East Med pipeline project is facilitated by Israel, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus. The pipeline is expected to be 2000 km long running from the Levantine Basin in the far east corner of the Mediterranean, through Greece and Italy. It is expected to cost approximately 6 billion euros. On December 5th of 2017 Israel, Cyprus, Italy, and Greece signed a memorandum of understanding for the pipeline project.

The project provides the backdrop for an increased security relationship between the four countries, each of which has its own concerns with Turkish activities in the region.

Turkey’s efforts to assert influence in the Mediterranean comes as part of its response to recent advancements of the East Med pipeline project. The next advancement for the East Med pipeline project will be the signing of an intergovernmental agreement between the four countries in the spring of 2018 in Crete.

The danger of left-wing terrorism in Europe

On March 21st the Greek police intercepted eight booby-trapped packages “addressed to officials at economic institutions and companies”. On March 15, the German police intercepted a similar package addressed to the country’s Finance Minister while the day after a booby-trapped letter exploded in French IMF headquarters slightly injuring an employee.

A Greek anarchist-terror group Conspiracy of Fire Cells (CFC) claimed responsibility for the German package. Although the CFC has not claimed responsibility for the IMF attack or the eight intercepted packages, Greek authorities believe the same group is also behind those attacks. The attempted bombing in Germany and the explosive packages were probably part of “Operation Nemesis,” which is a campaign of revenge by the CFC for the imprisonment of its members.

The CFC first started using explosives in 2009 and since then has been responsible for over 150 crimes. In 2010 the group mailed parcel bombs to several embassies in Athens and to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Greek police caught the packages before they could reach their destinations.

Another anarcho-terrorist group, the Sect of Revolutionaries (SR), is responsible for the assassination of Greek journalist Sokratis Giolias in 2010. Both SR and the CFC arose as a response to the 2007 Financial Crisis, which resulted in Greece enacting austerity measures to remain solvent and pay off its $400 billion debt. The austerity measures are widely resented through Greek society, which contributed to the rise of the left-wing terrorist groups.

Many Greeks blame Germany and the E.U. for the harsh austerity measures, which the European Union, imposed on the country as part of the bail out meant to save Greece. So far the series of E.U. and IMF bailouts have done little to help the Greek population and with the country’s economy contracting last quarter Greek resentment towards Germany and other E.U. members will probably continue to grow.

Greece’s continued economic woes could drive Greece out of the E.U. and into the Russian sphere of influence. Moscow may even help push Greece out of the E.U. by providing assistance to groups like CFC, which would only increase instability in the country making Greece even more of a burden to the Union.

Right after World War II Greece almost became part of the Soviet sphere when forces from Communist Yugoslavia were providing support to Greek Communist rebels during the country’s Civil war. Although the Soviet Union never gave any direct aid to Greek communists the Greek Communist Party (KKE) did declare its loyalty to Stalin, which means there were ties between Greece’s far left and Moscow going back as far as 1946.

Russia could try to renew those ties by giving clandestine financial assistance to CFC. Moscow sending cash to a European far left terrorist groups is not so farfetched given Russian cooperation with far-left political parties. Syriza (Greece’s current governing party) considers Russia a close partner while the German Die Linke sent observers to the Crimea referendum and declared the area’s annexation by Russia to be legal.

Besides the far-left Moscow might have also extended its backing to Eurosceptic parties. For example, the French Front Nationale received a 9 million euro loan from a Russian bank in 2014. So with the current Russian support for far-left and Eurosceptic parties, it is possible that Moscow might start providing similar assistance to violent groups like CFC which also oppose the European Union.

Belgian Raids Finally Lead to Capture of Suspected Man in the Hat Terrorist

On Friday April 8, 2016, Belgium police made six arrests of suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists throughout Brussels. Authorities captured Mohammed Abrini, the close friend of Salah Abdeslam, and suspected of being the third accomplice known the “man in the hat” during the Brussels attack.

Abrini was arrested at the Petillion Metro Station in the Anderlecht District of Brussels, which was a known home to many of the Paris and Brussels terrorists.

While being interviewed by investigators Abrini admitted that he had been at Zaventem Airport with suicide bombers Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bokraoui on the morning of March 22. Abrini had been wanted for his role in last November’s Paris attacks that left 130 dead. Abrini also admitted that he is the “man in the hat” when the federal prosecutor presented evidence implicating him of being the mysterious individual.

His finger prints have also been linked to two safe houses including the Renault Cilo used in the Paris attacks and another in Forrest used by Abdeslam.

He also admitted Brussels was never an intended target but plans changed after the arrest of Abdeslam. Abrini and fellow jihadists were surprised by the speed of the ongoing investigation. The initial target was the Euro 2016 football championships which are held in ten French cities from June 10 to July 10.

The other suspects identities released included a Swede named Osama Krayem from Malmo, who disappeared in 2014 to go fight in Syria. Krayem was of Syrian heritage and he posted a picture of himself on Facebook wearing military fatigues while holding an Ak-47 and standing in front of the Tawheed, official flag of the IS.

Krayem was spotted on CCTV’s at the City 2 shopping mall buying the rucksacks that would be later used for the terrorists attacks in Brussels. He was also spotted on by security cameras at the Maelbeek Metro with Khalid El Bakraoui right before the attacks. Krayem reportedly used a fake passport and  reentered Europe through the “migrant route” of going through Turkey and reaching Greece. He traveled along with a man named Monir Ahmed Alaaj and the two reached the Greek Island of Leros last September before crossing into Austria reaching a refuge camp in Ulm, Germany. Prosecutors believe he met up with Abdeslam picked up the pair from the Ibis hotel in Germany on October 3 and drove them back to Brussels.

The IS has had great mobility traveling throughout Europe with the open border system and utilizing false passports they have largely avoided detection.

The four remaining suspects included two brothers who were arrested but later released, Bilal El Makhouhki, who had been convicted last January of being involved with Sharia4Belgium, a now disbanded group that encouraged people to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq.Originally sentenced to five years in prison he had three years suspended and was allowed to serve the remainder of the sentence under electronic surveillance.  The last suspect was a Rwandan named Herve B.M., who was charged with helping Abrini and Krayem.

Police along with prosecutors are working harder than ever to destroy these IS cells that have plague Brussels for more than a decade. The task may seem daunting but with good improved cooperation and intelligence gathering there may be some hope that one day these jihadists groups will be eradicated from Brussels.










Influx of Syrian Refugees into Greece is a Security Disaster

According to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released on July 1, Italy is no longer the top destination for migrants and refugees coming into Europe. Greece is.

68,000 people have come to Greece so far this year, a number that is nearly 20,000 people more than arrived in Greece throughout the entirety of 2014. 67,500 people have arrived in Italy in the same amount of time.

Of the many refugees in Greece, only 5,100 have applied for asylum, implying that the rest do not plan to remain in Greece but instead intend on going somewhere else in Europe. Often, they aim to go to Sweden and Germany. Both countries are known for the support they offer to asylum-seekers, and many of refugees have family living there already.

Though the UNHCR has increased its presence in Greece to help deal with the arriving migrants, the refugee camps are becoming severely overcrowded, leading to deteriorating conditions and fighting between people coming from different countries.

Concerns have been raised over Europe’s capacity to handle such a large influx of migrants due to its Common European Asylum System, which states that every refugee that enters Europe is entitled to asylum. However, a deeper security issue lies beyond the simple ability of Europe to take in so many people: it is nearly impossible, with so many refugees entering European countries, to ensure that they all have peaceful intentions.

Many of those coming to Greece are fleeing the war in Syria. Though the vast majority of them are likely hoping for a better life in Europe, the reality is that dozens of terrorist organizations and armed groups are operating in Syria. All of them, especially larger and better-resources ones like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) have significantly benefited from the refugee crisis. They have been inserting their own fighters in amongst the true asylum-seekers, and the Common European Asylum System has given them the capability to spread throughout Europe to conduct operations. The increase in Syrian refugees will allow even more militants from IS, Al Qaeda, and other smaller groups into Europe because border controls throughout Europe are dealing with more people than they can handle. Finding the terrorists sneaking into Europe, masked by all of the well-intentioned people, will turn into a search for a needles in a haystack. In addition, IS has been running some of the refugee-smuggling operations themselves, which gives it hundreds of millions of dollars in income and a greater ability to place its fighters in amongst those people legitimately fleeing war.

The current political unrest in Greece due to its default on its loans and its potential exit from the Eurozone will only serve to help terrorists groups sending their fighters into Europe. Not only has the Greek government had difficulties controlling its borders, but the turmoil could weaken both the EU and NATO. If its relationship with member countries of both international organizations is damaged, it could become less willing to cooperate with either. If it chooses to ignore security measures put in place by them, the repercussions could include an influx of terrorists throughout the entirety of Europe.