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El Pais interview, Varoufakis reveals how EU used “asphyxiation” strategy to bring Greece to its knees

Yanis Varoufakis in El Pais interview: “Fiscal waterboarding: I am very proud of this term. It is a precise, an accurate description of what has been happening for years now.”

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge:

…with the ECB using the Greek bank run nuclear option, the Syriza government did indeed undestand that the Troika “has all the leverage.” and today, Yanis Varoufakis – who is now embroiled in a national scandal which may see him charged with treason for daring to contemplate and implement a Plan B which saw the return of Greece to the Drachma, presented the full transcript of his interview with El Pais conducted last week, in which he put in his own words just what this battle of leverage which we first laid out in January, would be:

“Think of it as a ‘demonstration effect’: this is what will happen to you if you don’t fully submit to the Troika. What happened in Greece was definitely a coup. The asphyxiation of the Government through the liquidity squeeze, a series of denials of any serious debt restructuring… What was astonishing is that we kept coming to them with proposals which they refused seriously to discuss, they were insisting that we do not make them public and, at the same time, they leaked that we had no proposals. Any independent observer watching this would agree that they were never interested in a mutually beneficial agreement. By imposing the liquidity squeeze, they forced the economy to shrink so as to blame it on us… We had constantly to make payments to the IMF which where scheduled along with disbursements which never came through. So they kept doing this, delaying any agreement, until we run out of liquidity. Then they gave us an ultimatum under the further threat of bank closure. This was nothing but a coup. In 1967 there were the tanks and in 2015 there were the banks. But the result is the same in the sense of having overthrown the Government or having forced it to overthrow itself.”

Here is the full, unedited transcript of the interview with Claudi Perez from Varoufakis’ blog:

Why do all the interviews of you I have read begin with a question about how are you if it is clear, as I see, that you are really ok?

I suspect journalists assume that I am somehow downhearted now that I am not in the ministry. But I didn’t enter politics as a career. I entered politics to try to change things. There is a price to pay if one tries to change things.

What is the price?

The disdain of the establishment. The deep feelings of loathing by the vested interests one must dislodge to make a difference. They felt threatened. If you enter politics with an uncompromising position, you cop it.

You say that you have to change things. In these 6 months, do you have the feeling that you did?

Absolutely. Why are you here? You are here because something changed. There was a government that was elected to negotiate hard on the basis of a line of argument that wasn’t considered acceptable in the eurozone. At the same time, history necessitated it. So you have an unstoppable force striking an immovable object. The immovable logic is the irrationality of the Eurogroup and the unstoppable force is history. The result is a great deal of heat and noise… Hopefully there will be some light too.

I was reading your book, about your daughter… And then I was doing some numbers. The bailout will finish in 2018. Then the supervision will be there until Greece pays back the majority of its loans: the average maturity is 32 years. So the ex troika, now quadriga, and the men in black, will be here in Athens till your grandchildren will be adults. How do you deal with this?

Let’s not call them the ex troika anymore. It’s the troika again. We gave them the chance to become “the institutions”, to legitimize them. But they insisted in behaving like the illegitimate troika of the past five years.

Didn’t you kill the troika?

Well, we got rid of them here in Athens. Now they are back: the troika is back. They could have acted as legitimate institutions. But they seem to have a clear preference to act as the troika of lenders. It’s their choice.

But they’ll be here until 2050, when your grandchildren will be adults.

No, they won’t. Because this agreement doesn’t have a future. It is continuing the extending and pretending charade: extending the crisis with new unsustainable loans, and pretending that this solves the problem… It can’t go on forever. You can fool the people and the markets for a short period of time, but in the end you can’t fool them for fifty years. Either Europe changes, and this process is replaced by something more democratic, and durable, manageable, humanistic. Or Europe will no longer exist as a Monetary Union.

What do you expect for the next 6 months? We expect a 3rd bailout agreement in mid-August.

This is a program designed to fail. And so it will fail. It’s not easy for an architect to build a solid building, but it’s easy for him or her to construct a building that will collapse. Anyone can do it. It was planned to fail, because, let’s face it: Wolfgang Schauble is not interested in an agreement that works. He categorically stated that he wanted to redesign the eurozone and part of that redesign is that Greece should be thrown out of the eurozone. I think that he is completely mistaken but nevertheless this is his plan and he is a very powerful player. One of the great fallacies at the moment is to present the deal imposed on our government on 12th July as an alternative to Schauble’s plan. I see things differently: This deal is a part of the Schauble plan. Of course, this is not the conventional wisdom.

So do you expect a Grexit?

I hope not. But what I expect is a lot of noise, as I said: delays, failure to meet unreachable targets, more recession, political dead ends. And then things will come to head and Europe will have to decide whether to go ahead with Schauble’s plan or not.

But which is your central scenario? Is Schauble condemning Greece to go out?

You can see that there is a plan being implemented and which is in progress. Today we have read that Schauble wants to sideline the Commission and to create something like a Budget commissioner who oversees the ‘rules’ that strike down national budgets, even if a country is not under a program. In other words: to turn every country into a program country! One of the great successes of Spain in the middle of the crisis was that you avoided a full MoU (and only had a limited one stemming from the bank recapitalization program). Schauble’s plan is to put the troika everywhere, in Madrid too, but especially in… Paris!

So Paris is the final game.

Paris is the larger prize. It’s the final destination of the troika. Grexit is used to create the fear necessary to force Paris, Rome and Madrid to acquiesce.

Is it to sacrifice Greece for saving Europe?

Think of it as a ‘demonstration effect’: this is what will happen to you if you don’t fully submit to the Troika. What happened in Greece was definitely a coup. The asphyxiation of the Government through the liquidity squeeze, a series of denials of any serious debt restructuring… What was astonishing is that we kept coming to them with proposals which they refused seriously to discuss, they were insisting that we do not make them public and, at the same time, they leaked that we had no proposals. Any independent observer watching this would agree that they were never interested in a mutually beneficial agreement. By imposing the liquidity squeeze, they forced the economy to shrink so as to blame it on us… We had constantly to make payments to the IMF which where scheduled along with disbursements which never came through. So they kept doing this, delaying any agreement, until we run out of liquidity. Then they gave us an ultimatum under the further threat of bank closure. This was nothing but a coup. In 1967 there were the tanks and in 2015 there were the banks. But the result is the same in the sense of having overthrown the Government or having forced it to overthrow itself.

And for Europe as a whole?

Nobody can be free even if one person is a slave. That is Hegel’s well known master-slave paradox. Europe has to pay serious attention to it. Spain cannot prosper, or be free, or sovereign or democratic if its prosperity hinges on another member state being denied growth, prosperity or democracy.

Rajoy has said that if Spaniards vote for parties like Podemos, we will be like Greece in the coming months.

I remind you that Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign in 2012 was run also on the basis of that ‘if Obama wins, the US will become like Greece’. So Greece has become a football on the feet of politicians of the right who try to scare their population. This is the great utility of Greece for the Grexit policy of Dr Schauble.

Do you think that Podemos could have damaged Greece because the fear of the political contagion?

I would never say that Podemos is a problem for us. Even if Podemos didn’t exist, the forces of regression in Europe would have used fear because, let’s face it: whenever a province of an empire rebels, the emperor and his minions feel obliged to make an example of those who make a dash for liberty. Maybe Podemos intensified this process but, in reality, we had no alternative: we had an economy caught in a large deflation spiral, no credit even for profitable businesses, no investment except for some speculation.

The previous government was adopting increasing degrees of authoritarianism, shutting down the state’s own radio and television stations. This self-defeating austerity drive, which leads to further losses in income, further debt in order to keep fueling this beast of austerity, can only be kept going by curtailing democracy. So what alternative did we have?

The Greeks voted for us not because they didn’t know we would be treated in a hostile way, but because they had had enough. Whatever happens in Spain, in France, in the Baltics, in Portugal, we had a duty to our people to say: We believe in Europe and we’re going to say to Europeans that we owe them money, we want to repay, but we cannot repay from incomes that keep shrinking. “If you keep squeezing us in this inhuman, irrational manner, you will lose your money and we will lose our country.”

Now, there comes a time when you simply need to say and do what is right, and if Europe as a whole chooses to punish us for it, because it is not ready to accept the truth, then we have no alternative but to say to them: “We are doing our best and we hope you find it in yourselves to do your best too!”

I think that is a uncontroversial: your ideas about austerity and debt relief, everybody says you are right.

If you were talking to me in January it would not have been so. The only reason why now this is not controversial anymore is because we struggled for six months. For those who say to me we failed, these six months were in vain, I say “No we did not fail”. Now we have a debate in Europe which it’s not just about Greece, it’s about the continent. A debate we would have not had otherwise. A debate which is worth Greece’s, our continent’s, weight in gold.

But politics is about results. You called the first and second bailout like the Versailles Treaty. How would you define the third?

The Eurozone began life in 2000. It was badly designed and we realized that, or we should have realized that, in 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. From 2009-2010 we have been in complete denial as official Europe has been doing precisely the wrong thing. This is a European phenomenon, it is an Europe-wide problem. Little Greece, 2% of Eurozone’s GDP, elected a government that raised issues crucial for all of Europe.  After 6 months of struggles we had a major setback, we lost the battle. But we won the war of changing the debate. And this is a result!

The debate is the result?

Certainly! I cannot quantify this result for you. I cannot tell you how many billons it is worth. But some things are not measured in terms of prices but in terms of their value.

You had a plan B, with a parallel currency, but Tsipras didn’t want to press the button, to summarize the story.

He is the prime minister, it was his call. My job, as his financial minister, was to provide the best tools I could and it was his decision whether he chose to use them or not. That is what matters. There were good arguments to utilize these tools and there were arguments for not pressing the button.

When you closed the banks, did you think at that moment that you must press the button?

I clearly thought that we should have reacted in kind when the Eurogroup closed the Greek banks and I have stated this for the record. But this is what collective decision making is all about. It means you have an inner cabinet that decides. I tabled my recommendation but I was in a minority. I respected the decision of the majority and acted according to it, as a team player ought to. This is how democracy and governments work and I fully accept it.

But can this plan B still being implemented?

Let’s separate two things. There was a Plan B, which, in fact, we called Plan X, in contrast to the ECB’s 2012 Plan Z, as reported in the Financial Times some time ago. Plan X was a contingency plan for responding to aggressive acts by the ECB, the Eurogroup and so on. Then there was a quite separate design for a new payments system using the tax office’s interface. This system, as I explained in a recent article in the Financial Times, is something that should have been implemented anyway. I think Spain might benefit from implementing it to, or Italy for example. Countries lacking a central bank can potentially benefit from this efficient way of creating more liquidity, and more effectively dealing with multilateral extinguishment of arrears between the state and its citizens, but also among citizens.

So, let’s keep these two ‘plans’ separate. The payment system could, and should, be implemented tomorrow. Plan X is now, I think, part of history because it was intended as a response to aggressive acts that would have as their objective to make us surrender during the negotiations. Now that we have surrendered, it has become part of economic history.

Tsipras said in the parliament before the vote, after the referendum, that there was no alternative to the packages, but I think with this plan you are saying to the people that there is an alternative to the package.

My political thinking, from a very young age, was shaped by a principled, intellectual opposition to TINA – to the neoliberal logic that There Is No Alternative. This opposition shaped me from the time I lived in Britain under Margaret Thatcher who launched TINA. My political thinking was always directed at countering… TINA. I even concocted an alternative, saying that I believe not in TINA but in TATIANA: That Astonishingly There Is AN Alternative! So I would never accept the view that there was no alternative. I would accept that a prime minister, considering all the alternatives, opts for the least bad alternative. We can have a debate on whether his was the least bad, or optimal, alternative. But the proposition that there exists no alternative is constitutionally alien to every fibre of my body and mind.

Let me ask you about your rhetoric: mafia, criminals…

I never used the word Mafia

Terrorism, fiscal waterboarding…

Fiscal waterboarding: I am very proud of this term. It is a precise, an accurate description of what has been happening for years now. What is waterboarding? You take a subject, you push his head in the water until he suffocates but, at some point, before death comes you stop. You pull the head out just in time, before asphyxiation is complete, you allow the subject to take a few deep breaths, and then you push the head again in the water. You repeat until he… confesses. Fiscal waterboarding, on the other hand, is obviously not physical, it’s fiscal. But the idea is the same and it is exactly what happened to successive Greek governments since 2010. Instead of air, Greek governments nursing unsustainable debts were starved of liquidity. Facing payments to their creditors, or meeting its obligations, they were denied liquidity till the very last moment just before formal bankruptcy, until they ‘confessed’’; until they signed on agreements they knew to add new impetus on the real economy’s crisis. At that moment, the troika would provide enough liquidity, like they did now with the 7 billion the Greek government received in order to repay the… ECB and the IMF. Just like waterboarding, this liquidity, or ‘oxygen’, is calculated to be barely enough to keep the ‘subject’ going, without defaulting formally, but never more than that. And so the torture continues with the effect that the government remains completely under the troika’s control. This is how fiscal waterboarding functions and I cannot imagine a better and more accurate term to describe what has been going on.

On my use of the word ‘terror’, take the case of the referendum. On the 25th of June we were presented with a comprehensive proposal by the troika. We studied it with an open mind and concluded that it was a non-viable proposal. If we signed it, we would have definitely failed within 4-5 months and then Dr. Schäuble would say “See, you accepted conditions you could not fulfill”. The Greek government cannot afford to do this anymore. We need to reclaim our credibility by only signing agreements we can fulfill. So I said to my colleagues in the Eurogroup, on the 27th, that our team convened and decided that we could not accept this proposal, because it wouldn’t work. But at the same time, we are Europeanists and we don’t have a mandate, nor the will or interest, to clash with Europe. So we decided to put their proposal to the Greek people to decide.

And what did the Eurogroup do? It refused us an extension of a few weeks in order to hold this referendum in peace and instead they closed down our banks. Closing down the banks of a monetized economy is the worst form of monetary terrorism. It instills fear in people. Imagine if in Spain tomorrow morning the banks didn’t open because of a Eurogroup decision with which to force your government to agree to something untenable. Spaniards would be caught up in a vortex of monetary terror. What is terrorism? Terrorism is to pursue a political agenda through the spread of generalized fear. That is what they did. Meanwhile the Greek systemic media were terrorizing people to think that, if they voted No in the referendum, Armageddon would come. This was also a fear-based campaign. And this is what I said. Maybe people in Brussels don’t like it to hear the truth. If they refrained from trying to scare the Greek, then I would have refrained from using this term.

My point is the rhetoric calling criminals to IMF, as Tsipras did, is not good for the results of the negotiation. And with this rhetoric it is difficult.

He didn’t call the IMF criminal. Let’s be precise. He talked about a criminally negligent program that imposed upon Greeks a monumental crisis, including a humanitarian emergency. Which is exactly what the Greek ‘programs’ fo 2010 and 2012 were. But let me add an important point here: We did not turn up the ‘sharpness’ of our rhetoric (e.g. Tsipras’ remark) until late June. From 25th of January until late June we had been negotiating in good faith while the troika was not. We had been exceptionally mild and polite, in the face of incredible hostility and denigration. We went into each Eurogroup meeting with good proposals, suggesting to them that we should all agree on two or three major reforms immediately (e.g. tax evasion and corruption, a new tax authority independent of politics but also of the oligarchy). They rejected our overtures and they threatened us with cessation of the negotiations if we dared make our proposals public, while they were leaking at the same time to the Financial Times that we had no proposals. They insisted on a denigrating, endless round of ‘technical’ discussions while asphyxiating our economy. They behaved abominably while we continued to respond with solid arguments and in a highly civilized fashion.

And we sat there and took it, month after month. We never stopped compromising. By late June, our Prime Minister had met them 9/10ths of the way. And what did they do? They backtracked even from their own positions, insisting on 25th June, for example, that VAT on hotels should rise to 23%! This was an act of aggression. At that point we decided, very reasonably, to tell the truth, to talk about their program’s criminal negligence, to allude to their fiscal waterboarding. At some point the truth needs to be told. Europeans are losing trust in the EU because of their wall of lies and propaganda which presents itself in the form of nuanced terminology, when in reality what is happening is a complete violation of the basic rules of logic, of the EU Treaties, of polite behaviour and of democracy.

But then why did Tsipras accept it?

You should interview him if you wish to put questions to him. It is not right that I should answer on anyone else’s behalf, especially my Prime Minister.

In the Eurogroup, some ministers portrayed you like difficult to predict, luxurious way of life, many photos… What do you think when you hear this type of portrait?

It is not true. Nobody said anything like that in the Eurogroup. They may very well have said such things outside the Eurogroup, I would neither know nor care. Everybody, in the end, gets judged by the quality of their public narratives. I will leave you and your readers to pass judgment on their demeanour. We all need to be judged by our voters, by the people of Europe. In my case, I have a clear conscience. After the third Eurogroup I posted on my website my interventions in all three meetings. Read them and tell me if I was unpredictable, impolite, whatever. In my estimation, my interventions were clear, economically beyond reproach, and constructive. Readers can read them and judge.

Do people understand your pictures on Paris Match for example? Do you think that people that have voted Syriza, which is a left party, understand this type of pictures?

Well, you want to walk around with me on the streets of Athens and see what people say to me about all this? Our people are not bothered by any of this, even though I said it clearly that the Paris Match aesthetic was terrible and I regret accepting to do the photoshoot. You may not believe me but, when I accepted, I didn’t know what Paris Match was – it is not the kind of press I ever knew much about. I asked to see the article’s text before agreeing to do the photoshoot. The text was fine and so I made the mistake to agree to the photoshoot. I rushed home for it and only had 15 minutes to spare. Danae, my wife, told me it felt like a bad idea but I was already committed and so I decided to do it quickly, rushing from one ‘set’ to the next before leaving for a meeting with the Prime Minister. It was my mistake to have accepted it and I have apologized for it. But all this talk about Paris Match and its photoshoot had one purpose: to ensure that my message, especially the rational criticisms of Europe’s ways, gets drowned in ugly pictures and toxic noise.

What are you going to do about your political career?

Politics should not be a career. I am a member of the Parliament and extremely honored by the trust vested in me by voters. My commitment to them when I entered politics last January was that I will stand my ground and fight along their side for democracy and prosperity in Greece but also throughout Eyrope. I’m here for the course, I´m not going anywhere.

You are an academic, a professor and author of really good books like the Minotaur. Did you like the politics, what you saw in Brussels?

I certainly didn’t like what I saw in Brussels and I don’t think any European would like it if they had the chance to see it for themselves. But this is what we have, that is the EU we have, and we have to fix it. The worst enemy of democracy is citizens who say this is a terrible system but I’m not prepared to do anything to change it.

Why don’t you have allies in the Eurogroup? I mean, nor France, nor Italy, Spain, Ireland… Countries that at the beginning, with Syriza, had positive thinkings and at the end there were 18 against 1.

What you have to understand is that this 18-1 balance in the Eurogroup is an illusion. The 18 are divided very significantly in three groups. The very tiny, tiny minority who believe in austerity. The largest group of countries don’t believe in austerity but imposed austerity on their own people. And then there is another group of countries that neither believe in austerity nor practise it – e.g. France. But they fear that if they support us openly then austerity and the troika will come their way.

What is your relationship with Schäuble, de Guindos and maybe Dijsselbloem?

No relationship could have existed with Dijsselbloem. This is not just because he is so intellectually lightweight but, primarily, because he is untrustworthy. For example, he chose to lie to me in my first Eurogroup about procedure. It is one thing to disagree with the Eurogroup President. It is quite another thing to have him lie to you about gravely important procedures. On the other hand, Schäuble and de Guindos are two colleagues that I very much enjoy talking to, at a personal level. Our conversations were often tough but they were also interesting exchanges. As an academic, there is nothing more interesting than interesting exchanges. Our disagreements were serious but, at personal level, there was mutual respect and a useful exchange of ideas was had. The problem is that when you put all these people together in the Eurogroup, because of the catastrophically bad institutional design of the Eurogroup, you end up with governance failure that damages Europe. So, in a different context, institutional framework, I am sure that with colleagues like de Guindos and Schäuble our working relationship would have ended up producing tastier fruits.

Coming back to the question about Spain. What are the lessons of Greece for Spain? The Spanish government has said that if people vote for Podemos, problems will come and Spain will become Greece after a few months.

I think that the people of Spain need to look at the economic and social situation in Spain and base the judgment on what their society needs, independently of what is happening in Greece, France… The danger of becoming Greece is always there and will materialize if you keep repeating the same mistakes that were imposed on Greece. Punishing one proud nation in order to put fear in another is not what Europe should be about. It is not the Europe we signed up for, not the Europe that González had signed for or Papandreou, or Giscard d’Estaing, or Helmut Schmidt etc. We need to recover the sense of being Europeans and finding ways of recreating the dream of shared prosperity with democracy. The idea that fear and loathing are going to be the creators of the new Europe is an idea that is going to lead us headlong to a postmodern 1930s. I believe that the people of Spain and of Greece know exactly what the 1930s did to them.

You said once that the legacy of Thatcher was financialization, malls and Tony Blair. And I ask you, what is the legacy of Merkel, of her leadership?

Europe is in the process of turning from a realm of shared prosperity, which is how we imagined it, into an iron cage for our peoples. I hope that Mrs Merkel decides that this is not a legacy she wants to leave behind.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-08-02/varoufakis-1967-there-were-tanks-and-2015-there-were-banks

http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/08/02/in-conversation-with-el-pais-claudi-perez-the-complete-long-transcript/

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Erdogan accepts Syria DMZ off-ramp, in deal with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The deal struck in Sochi averts a large scale Syria’s offensive on Idlib, as Turkey gives it guarantee to monitor what will effectively become a demilitarized zone.

According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Idlib, from which ISIS/Al Qaeda rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 15 to 20 km-wide zone would be established by October 15th. The DMZ would require a complete “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Putin also noted that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from the DMZ by all opposition forces by October 10th, which is a move supported by the Syrian government.

The Russian President described the agreement as a “serious result” further saying that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms”.

Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarized zone:

“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime.”

“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area.”

According to Al Jazeera Iran’s foreign minister has hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province, as an example of “responsible diplomacy”.

An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the agreement reached in Sochi, which for now avoids full scale conflict in Idlib, Syria. Who won, who lost, and which interests were met with the DMZ agreement?

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Via Xinhuanet

An anticipated Syrian military offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib is on hold after Turkey and Russia reached a deal following Ankara’s guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, experts said.

The deal was reached Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, as the two sides agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

This agreement brings Turkey to a position of giving a guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, the experts said.

“Moscow is convinced that it would not be able to handle the burden of a humanitarian tragedy in case of a military offensive in Idlib,” said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst with the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University.

Russia has also secured its airbases in northern Syria, including its airbase in Hmeymim as a guarantee by Turkey under the Sochi agreement, he said.

Gurcan recalled a trilateral summit of Turkey, Iran and Russia held in Iranian capital Tehran early September, which ended without agreement as Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire in Idlib was rejected by Moscow and Tehran.

Erdogan’s proposal for a ceasefire by all parties in Idlib was rejected by Putin on the grounds that those groups were not represented at the table there, he said.

“Now Turkey has given a guarantee on behalf of radical groups which Putin earlier said that ceasefire cannot be discussed because they were not represented at Tehran meeting,” Gurcan said.

Now everyone is curious how Turkey has given guarantee to Moscow and how will those radical groups accept a proposal for demilitarization by surrendering heavy weapons and withdrawing from the demilitarized zone, Gurcan noted.

“Ankara has given this promise relying on its military power on the ground and on its capacity to convince armed opposition groups,” he said.

Turkish army has reinforced its presence in Idlib in the past few months, and Turkey has 12 military outposts with 1,200-1,300 troops on the border line of the province separating the rebel stronghold from the pro-Iran militia-controlled South of Aleppo and the government-controlled southeast, Gurcan said.

Rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, in the region are gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”

Putin and Erdogan agreed on Monday in Sochi to create a 15-20 km buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said at the joint press conference after signing the deal with Erdogan.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as the city of Hama must be restored, Putin added.

The Russian leader also said all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from the zone by Oct. 10, according to Erdogan’s proposal.

Ankara has been warning against any military offensive by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in Idlib, warning that it would lead to a humanitarian crisis and refugee influx to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Russia, along with Iran, are guarantors of the Astana deal which declared ceasefire in four de-escalation zones in Syria, including Idlib.

Turkey will deploy more troops in Idlib province after the Sochi deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We will need extra troop reinforcements. Turkey and Russia will patrol on the border areas. Civilians and moderate (opposition) will stay here,” Cavusoglu said.

Another outcome of the Sochi deal is that Turkey and Russia prevented a possible attack by the United States in Idlib, Naim Baburoglu from Aydin University said.

He recalled that the U.S. was giving signals that it wanted to intervene in the situation in Idlib, if Syrian government troops launch an assault on the rebel stronghold.

Washington recently threatened to take swift and decisive actions against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

“This agreement showed that the U.S. has room for maneuver only in the east of Euphrates and Manbij region,” Baburoglu said.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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