Thursday, May 26, 2016

Αρθρο Πούτιν στην «Κ» - Ρωσία και Ελλάδα: συνεργασία για ειρήνη και ευημερία

Η Ρωσία θα μπορούσε να συμβάλει στην αναβάθμιση των ελληνικών υποδομών στο πεδίο των μεταφορών.

ΒΛΑΝΤΙΜΙΡ ΠΟΥΤΙΝ
Την παραμονή της επίσκεψής μου στην Αθήνα, θα ήθελα να μοιραστώ με τους αναγνώστες της «Καθημερινής», μιας από τις πιο δημοφιλείς και έγκυρες ελληνικές εφημερίδες, μερικές σκέψεις μου για την περαιτέρω ανάπτυξη των εταιρικών σχέσεων μεταξύ της Ρωσίας και της Ελλάδας, καθώς και για την κατάσταση που επικρατεί στην ευρωπαϊκή ήπειρο γενικότερα.

Εκτιμούμε τις μακραίωνες παραδόσεις φιλίας που έχουν διαμορφωθεί μεταξύ των λαών μας. Οι κοινές πολιτισμικές αξίες, ο ορθόδοξος πολιτισμός και η ειλικρινής αμοιβαία συμπάθεια αποτελούν στέρεα θεμέλια της συνεργασίας μας. Ενα λαμπρό παράδειγμα για το πόσο στενά συνδέονται οι τύχες των λαών μας είναι ο βίος του Ιωάννη Καποδίστρια, ο οποίος κατά τον 19ο αιώνα διετέλεσε υπουργός Εξωτερικών της Ρωσίας και στη συνέχεια κυβερνήτης του ελληνικού κράτους.

Κατά το τρέχον έτος, ιδιαίτερη σημασία θα έχουν οι εορτασμοί της χιλιετούς παρουσίας Ρώσων μοναχών στο Αγιον Ορος. Σε πολύ διαφορετικές ιστορικές εποχές, οι πνευματικές δυνάμεις, η πίστη, ο πατριωτισμός βοηθούσαν τους λαούς μας να ξεπεράσουν τις δύσκολες δοκιμασίες και να διατηρήσουν την ταυτότητά τους.

Κάθε χρόνο τη χώρα σας επισκέπτονται εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες Ρώσοι τουρίστες. Απολαμβάνουν τις όμορφες ελληνικές παραλίες, γνωρίζουν από κοντά την πλούσια κληρονομιά της αρχαίας Ελλάδας και τα θρυλικά αρχιτεκτονικά μνημεία της. Ο τουρισμός συμβάλλει σημαντικά στην οικονομική ανάπτυξη της Ελλάδας, καθώς και στη διεύρυνση των άμεσων ανθρώπινων επαφών, στην ενίσχυση της εμπιστοσύνης και της φιλίας μεταξύ των πολιτών μας.

Ξέρω ότι οι Ελληνες διατηρούν καλά στη μνήμη τους τον ρόλο-κλειδί της Ρωσίας στην ανεξαρτητοποίηση της χώρας σας. Η ρωσική υποστήριξη του εθνικού απελευθερωτικού αγώνα των Ελλήνων καθόρισε σε μεγάλο βαθμό την πυξίδα της περαιτέρω ανάπτυξης των διμερών σχέσεων.

Σήμερα η Ελλάδα είναι ένας σημαντικός εταίρος της Ρωσίας στην Ευρώπη. Διεξάγουμε έναν
δυναμικό πολιτικό διάλογο σε πολλά επίπεδα, συμπεριλαμβανομένου και του ανώτατου. Κατά τη διάρκεια της συνάντησης με τον Πρόεδρο κ. Προκόπη Παυλόπουλο τον Ιανουάριο του τρέχοντος έτους ανακοινώσαμε την έναρξη του «Αφιερωματικού» Ετους Ρωσίας – Ελλάδας. Το πρόγραμμά του προβλέπει μια σειρά από εκδηλώσεις στον επιστημονικό, εκπαιδευτικό, ανθρωπιστικό και τουριστικό τομέα. Είμαι πεπεισμένος ότι αυτό θα βοηθήσει τους λαούς μας να γνωρίσουν ακόμη πιο κοντά ο ένας την ιστορία, τις παραδόσεις και τα έθιμα του άλλου.

Πέρυσι, ο πρωθυπουργός Αλέξης Τσίπρας επισκέφθηκε δύο φορές τη Ρωσία. Είχαμε πολύ χρήσιμες και ουσιαστικές συνομιλίες. Ενισχύονται οι επαφές μεταξύ υπουργείων και κρατικών οργανισμών, κοινοβουλίων και κοινωνικών οργανώσεων.

Δυστυχώς, την περαιτέρω εμβάθυνση της συνεργασίας μας εμποδίζει η κάμψη στις σχέσεις μεταξύ της Ρωσίας και της Ευρωπαϊκής Ενωσης και αυτό επηρεάζει αρνητικά τη δυναμική των διμερών εμπορικών συναλλαγών, οι οποίες σε σχέση με πέρυσι μειώθηκαν κατά ένα τρίτο – στα 2,75 δισ. δολ. ΗΠΑ. Η ζημία ήταν ιδιαίτερα βαριά για τους Ελληνες παραγωγούς αγροτικών προϊόντων.

Η Ρωσία ξεκινά από την ανάγκη οικοδόμησης ενός ισότιμου και γνήσιου εταιρικού διαλόγου με την Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση σε ένα ευρύτατο φάσμα θεμάτων – από την απλοποίηση του καθεστώτος θεωρήσεων διαβατηρίων μέχρι τον σχηματισμό μιας ενεργειακής συμμαχίας. Ωστόσο, δεν παρατηρούμε μέχρι τώρα ότι οι Ευρωπαίοι ομόλογοί μας έχουν την αντίστοιχη προθυμία να ακολουθήσουμε μαζί μια τέτοια αμοιβαία επωφελή και πολλά υποσχόμενη πορεία.

Παρ’ όλα αυτά, πιστεύουμε ότι στις σχέσεις μας με την Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση δεν υπάρχουν προβλήματα που δεν μπορούν να επιλυθούν. Για να επιστρέψουμε σε τροχιά ανάπτυξης της πολυδιάστατης εταιρικής σχέσης, πρέπει μόνο να απορριφθεί η εσφαλμένη λογική ότι μία πλευρά μπορεί να μονοπωλήσει το παιχνίδι. Κάθε μια από τις δύο πλευρές οφείλει να παίρνει σοβαρά υπ’ όψιν τις απόψεις και τα συμφέροντα της άλλης.

Η Ρωσία και η Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση έχουν φτάσει πλέον σ’ ένα σταυροδρόμι, όπου πρέπει να δοθεί η απάντηση στο ερώτημα: πώς βλέπουμε το μέλλον των σχέσεών μας και ποιο δρόμο θα ακολουθήσουμε; Είμαι πεπεισμένος ότι από τα γεγονότα στην Ουκρανία πρέπει να βγάλουμε τα δέοντα συμπεράσματα και να ξεκινήσουμε την οικοδόμηση, στην αχανή περιοχή από τον Ατλαντικό έως τον Ειρηνικό ωκεανό, μιας ζώνης οικονομικής και ανθρωπιστικής συνεργασίας με βάση την αρχιτεκτονική της ισότιμης και αδιαίρετης ασφάλειας. Ενα σημαντικό βήμα προς αυτήν την κατεύθυνση θα ήταν η εναρμόνιση των διαδικασιών της Ευρωπαϊκής και της Ευρασιατικής ολοκλήρωσης.

Το έργο αυτό γίνεται όλο και πιο απαραίτητο λόγω του γεγονότος ότι η Ευρώπη σήμερα αντιμετωπίζει αυξανόμενο ανταγωνισμό από άλλα κέντρα επιρροής του σύγχρονου κόσμου. Παραδείγματος χάριν, τις προάλλες, στην επετειακή σύνοδο κορυφής Ρωσίας-ASEAN στο Σότσι είχαμε εποικοδομητική συζήτηση με τους εταίρους μας για επίκαιρα διεθνή θέματα και για τις προοπτικές ακόμα στενότερης ολοκλήρωσης και συνεργασίας στην περιοχή της Ασίας και του Ειρηνικού. Είναι ολοφάνερο ότι για να εξασφαλίσει η «Γηραιά ήπειρος» τη θέση που δικαιούται στη νέα διεθνή πραγματικότητα πρέπει να συνενωθεί το δυναμικό όλων των ευρωπαϊκών χωρών, συμπεριλαμβανομένης και της Ρωσίας.

Ενα σπουδαίο στοιχείο σε αυτό το σύστημα αποτελούν οι πολυδιάστατες ρωσοελληνικές σχέσεις. Θα ήθελα να τονίσω ιδιαίτερα τη σημασία του ενεργειακού τομέα. Είμαστε σταθερά προσηλωμένοι στη διαφοροποίηση των διαδρόμων μεταφοράς ενέργειας, η οποία θα αυξήσει τη σταθερότητα των προμηθειών και, συνεπώς, την ενεργειακή ασφάλεια της Ευρώπης συνολικά.

Εδώ και δύο δεκαετίες η Ρωσία παραμένει σταθερός και ασφαλής προμηθευτής του φυσικού αερίου για την Ελλάδα. Η ισχύουσα συμφωνία με την Ελλάδα έχει ανανεωθεί έως το 2026 με ευνοϊκούς για τη χώρα σας όρους. Εχοντας υπ’ όψιν την επιθυμία των ελληνικών αρχών να αναδειχθεί η χώρα σε σημαντικό ενεργειακό κόμβο των Βαλκανίων, υπολογίζαμε πάντα την Ελλάδα στους σχεδιασμούς μας για την αύξηση των εφοδιασμών των υδρογονανθράκων στην Κεντρική και Δυτική Ευρώπη.

Από το 2006 η Gazprom προωθούσε δυναμικά το σχέδιο «Νότιος Αγωγός». Αλλά σε κάποιο στάδιο η υλοποίησή του έγινε αδύνατη λόγω της μη εποικοδομητικής στάσης της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής. Αν και αναγκαστήκαμε να σταματήσουμε το σχέδιο, το θέμα των νοτίων διαδρόμων διέλευσης των ενεργειακών πόρων μας στις χώρες της Ευρωπαϊκής Ενωσης παραμένει στην ατζέντα. Τον Φεβρουάριο στη Ρώμη οι επικεφαλής της Gazprom, της ιταλικής εταιρείας Edison και της ελληνικής ΔΕΠΑ υπέγραψαν το Μνημόνιο Κατανόησης για τη μεταφορά του ρωσικού φυσικού αερίου μέσω του βυθού της Μαύρης Θάλασσας και τρίτων χωρών προς την Ελλάδα και Ιταλία.

Η Ρωσία θα μπορούσε να συμβάλει επίσης στην αναβάθμιση των ελληνικών υποδομών στο πεδίο των μεταφορών. Πρόκειται για την συμμετοχή ρωσικών επιχειρηματικών ομίλων στους επικείμενους διαγωνισμούς για την απόκτηση περιουσιακών στοιχείων των σιδηροδρομικών εταιρειών και του λιμένα της Θεσσαλονίκης. Υπάρχει και μια σειρά άλλων σχεδίων που μπορούν να ενισχύσουν σημαντικά τη διμερή συνεργασία.

Είμαι βέβαιος ότι οι φιλικές ρωσοελληνικές σχέσεις συνιστούν κοινή μας κληρονομιά και σταθερή βάση για μια πολλά υποσχόμενη εταιρική σχέση, με το βλέμμα στραμμένο στο μέλλον. Ευελπιστώ ότι θα εντατικοποιήσουμε περαιτέρω τον πολυδιάστατο διάλογο και θα υλοποιήσουμε μαζί τα κοινά μας σχέδια.

Donald Trump becomes 'official Republican presidential nominee'


The billionaire has been unopposed since his final two rivals dropped out of the contest in early May
Donald Trump has officially done it, quietly moving past the magic number of delegates needed to ensure he is crowned Republican nominee for the White House in 2016.
According to the delegate count kept by the Associated Press, Mr Trump, the brash New York billionaire who has been unopposed since his last two rivals dropped out of the contest in early May, made it to the vaunted 1,237 threshold – and just beyond – on Thursday.
The passing of the milestone should finally dispose of any lingering sense of disbelief about the political potency of the world’s most boastful property baron and reality television entrepreneur.
It was a moment as profoundly significant – for him, for his party and possibly for the world – as it was oddly anticlimactic. For all the intense drama that had come before it, the announcement that he had finally made it was essentially little more than an electoral accounting update.
There wasn’t even some thundering primary win to push him over the top. The most recent was in Washington state on Tuesday which gave him 40 new delegates, taking him to within a whisper of the required tally. What did it, AP said, was a few so-called unbound delegates reporting their decisions to swing behind him.
The storming of the Republican bastion by Mr Trump was predicted by few. When he declared in the gold and marble confines of Trump Tower last June and uttered his now famous smears about Mexican migrants, he was widely dismissed as a noisy, impossibly offensive, freak show.
Then as he began gradually to barge his rivals from the road one by one – Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie were among his earliest victims – and it was down essentially to him and Senator Ted Cruz (with straggler John Kasich declining to give up) the conversation changed.

Who could stop him now and how?

That was then, when everything rested on Mr Trump winning the two big states at the very end of the primary marathon, California and New Jersey, both set to vote on 7 June. The anti-Trump movement had one last hope: that he would arrive at the party convention in Cleveland in July just shy of the number of delegates he needed to clinch the crown.
Barring some dramatic rebellion or boycott by delegates still unnerved by the notion of a former reality star taking their party’s helm – and some are still agitating for exactly that – there will be no contested convention. Mr Trump will run the show.  And a show it promises to be.
If anything, it is the Democrat convention in Philadelphia that now has the potential to erupt into chaos with supporters of Bernie Sanders of Hillary Clinton potentially clashing.
Speaking in North Dakota, Mr Trump derided Ms Clinton, his most likely general election rival, for her failure to conclusively sew up the Democratic nomination. “A lot of people said [the Republican nomination race] wouldn’t be solved at the convention, and here I am watching Hillary fight, and she can’t close the deal,” Mr Trump said.
The property mogul also predicted that his GOP critics would soon fall in line behind his candidacy, including Susana Martinez, the Latina Republican governor of New Mexico, whom he criticised at a rally earlier this week, and who has so far declined to endorse him. “I imagine she’ll come over to my side,” he said.

Kotsias in Tirana? The "law of War", in reciprocity ... Bushati includes Greek cemetery



Top Channel TV

Foreign Minister of Greece, Nikos Kotzias will come back to Albania on 6-7 June at the 8th meeting in two years with his Albanian counterpart, Bushati. But while the meeting is not a matter of the fact that the two countries already have a bridge of mutual and reciprocal communication.

"There are no conditions of Albania and Greece, there is a real dialogue, proposals and research for the best way on how to address these kinds of problems. But of course, if we can talk about a red line, the red line is the concept that we have invested in this process. which means dialogue between the two neighbors equitable, accountable, NATO members, watching out for the common European future. Two neighbors who respect each other, respect the constitutional traditions and, of course, observe the patterns that have the inspiration to international law, "said Minister Bushati.

But regardless, the division of outstanding issues is only one issue that keeps it suspended a number of other issues.

"Although we are divided in 3 chapters, are issues that have to do with each other. If talk about repeal of the law of war by Greece, related to the revision of history textbooks, there is the issue of property of Albanian and Albanian state in Greece. There are also links with reverence for the fallen Greek Albanian territory, because we need to end the war, in order to start all other processes. Repeal has direct political values ​​and legal, or addressing the Cham issue as a matter of fundamental freedoms and human rights, in accordance with international standards, will serve many climate of trust between our two countries, "said the Minister Bushati further.

Albanian criminal group arrested in Athens


Pronews

Τις φωτογραφίες και τα στοιχεία 17 ατόμων τα οποία ήταν μέλη της αλβανικής εγκληματικές οργάνωσης που διέπραττε ένοπλες ληστείες και κλοπές σε σπίτια στην Αττική ενώ έχει διαπιστωθεί ΄τι ευθύνονται και για το φόνο μιας τουλάχισοτν άτυχης ηλικιωμένης Ελληνίδας.

Πρόκειται για 16 αλβανούς και έναν Έλληνα σε βάρος των οποίων έχει ήδη ασκηθεί ποινική δίωξη για τα αδικήματα της σύστασης και συμμετοχής σε εγκληματική οργάνωση, της ληστείας και της θανατηφόρας ληστείας, των διακεκριμένων περιπτώσεων κλοπής και της αντίστασης καθώς και για παράβαση των νόμων περί όπλων και περί ναρκωτικών.

Οι αρχές δημοσιοποίησαν τα στοιχεία τους έπειτα από σχετική Διάταξης της Εισαγγελίας Πρωτοδικών Αθηνών και καλεί τους πολίτες να επικοινωνήσουν με τους τηλεφωνικούς αριθμούς 210-6411111 της Διεύθυνσης Ασφάλειας Αττικής και 210-6476201 του Τμήματος Εγκλημάτων κατά Ιδιοκτησίας, για την παροχή οποιασδήποτε σχετικής πληροφορίας.

Διευκρινίζεται πως μετά το νόμο για την αποσυμφόρηση των φυλακών και την συμφόρηση της κοινωνίας όλοι τους, θα αφεθούν ελεύθεροι ύστερα από κάποιο μικρό διάστημα και ουδείς από τους κατωτέρω αλβανούς δεν πρόκειται να απελαθεί.

Varoufakis Composes Song for Albania's Biennale



The former Greek finance minister has written the lyrics for one of the songs about migration that will form Albania's unusual contribution to the Venice Biennale.


BIRN

A traditional male group performing iso - poliphonic songs.  Photo: Wikipedia

Albania will be represented on Thursday at the opening of the Architecture Biennale of Venice in an innovative way.

Instead of presenting visual art, Albania will showcase "iso-polyphony" music sung by four folk groups using lyrics written by Albanians and other international personalities.

The organizers months ago asked 10 personalities - poets, writers, architects and artists - all of whom have experience of migration - to write lyrics about migration - the central topic of the Albanian pavilion during the six months of the biennale.

Their texts have been translated into Albanian and will be sung by folk music groups from Tirana, Himara, Fier and Vlora, thus creating new folk songs.

One of those who wrote lyrics transformed into a folk song for Albania is the well-known anti-austerity economist and former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

One of the curators of the Albanian pavilion, the American architect, Simon Battisti, told BIRN that Varoufakis' text was very personal.

"In the text he tells his own story of being away from home and separated from his daughter, living far away from her," he noted.

"In other cases, we have more general texts about migration, like the case of poet Etel Adnan, who retells the emotional side of being far from your loved-one," he said.

The project that Albania is presenting is called "I Have Left You the Mountain", and it seeks to evoke places and loss through song, displaying the theme of displacement and migration, both of which have been prevalent throughout Albanian history.

"In the Architectural Biennale, you walk down the hallways and what you see are buildings and pictures of cities, but we just wanted for once to explore the emotional side of the physical phenomenon of displacement, which is very present in Albania," Battisti said.

On the other hand, Battisti says the Albanian project wanted also to make a contribution to the wider topic of migration, which is a major issue all over Europe right now.

The songs during the biennale will be played by a record player that is going to play simultaneously on eight channels, to fully give listeners a taste of Albanian traditional iso-polyphony, included in UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.

The Albania representation in the biennale is sponsored by the Albanian Ministry of Culture and the project was selected from an open call for proposals at the end of last year.

The Albanian pavilion opens on Thursday and will remain open for the next six months.
- See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-presents-folk-migration-songs-in-venice-biennale-05-25-2016#sthash.bGdbCu0B.dpuf

Demolished Houses in Himara Region by the Albanian Government, with EU Funds

 

Funds for Albania –€ 28.7 million to the Government for the development of poor rural communities and the modernization of municipal infrastructures with respect for historical heritage and the environment.

Himara.gr

The implementation of a "development plan" for the region of Himara has begun by the Albanian Government, but no one officially knows exactly what is included in this project and what is the source of abundant funding. The plan is presented to the world fragmented into small individual interventions and investments, including the construction of a square or a coastal road, the reconstruction of a church, etc. So far, however, they have not been organized by the competent meetings bodies with the local community nor have posted relevant communications although the implementation of the project has begun.



What is ultimately the "development plan" and who is funding?

Although shown as autonomous interventions and investments all the projects of "development plan" have something in common: the oversight body and funding management is the Albanian Development Fund (Fondi Shqiptar i Zhvillimit F.SH.ZH.). On the website of the Albanian Development Fund find information for a large development project called "Development of the Albanian Alps and the coastal region" ( "Community Works IV: Development of the Albanian Alps and Coastal Area" Project). This project, according to F.SH.ZH., funded with 28.7 million euros from the European Development Bank and 6,000,000 euro (relating to taxation) from the Albanian government (see. Link relative).

In the Development Bank website of the European Council we find a communication dated November 6, 2014 to notify the approval of this finance to the Albanian Government in the amount of EUR 28.7 million for the purpose stated in the notice of the Albanian Development Fund (see . related link).

Why hide the Albanian Government the actual name of the project and the real source of funding?

First: The Albanian Government is trying to benefit politically and economically from the implementation of the project and presents it as its own investment. For this reason, the plan appears as an initiative of the Prime Minister Rama himself appears on every occasion on construction sites as initiator and benefactor.

Second: The Albanian Government is trying in this way to avoid the application of European procedures and principles, such as transparency and legitimacy in the implementation of the project. So in the design deliberately avoided mentioning the financing by the European Union.

Third: After the fiasco of the previous development plan was to be financed by the World Bank, it has resulted in cancellation of funding in the last stage because of the practices of the Albanian side, the Albanian Government is now trying to conceal the source of funding of the project in the hope that will manage the money at will, avoiding the local community reactions and European control.

In this way the Albanian government announced interventions in 11 churches of the Orthodox Church, of which seven are located in the region of Himara, but never consulted with the local community of Himara. And worse, they never consulted with  the Autocephalous Church of Albania, which is the administrator of temples and legitimate and recognized by the state representative of the Orthodox Christian community in Albania.

The demolition of houses and businesses in the villages of Himara are not officially informed the owners affected, although the relevant law obliges the Planning Service to inform the owner in writing at least 10 days before the demolition.

The above are not the only arbitrariness of the Albanian State in Himara, which violates its own law, but what is surprising is that all this happens in the implementation of a development project funded substantially by the European Union.

At present the implementation of the plan has sparked the ire of residents of Himara. We expect the European Union's response and hope this does not come too late for the Greek population of Himara.


http://www.albaniandf.org/Resources/Prokurime/GPN%20CWP%20IV.pdf

http://www.coebank.org/en/news-and-publications/news/november-2014-ca-approvals/

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why Hillary Clinton Will Be a Foreign-Policy Nightmare


Imagine it is the morning of January 21st, 2017: President Hillary Clinton enters the Oval Office for her first daily briefing from the CIA. Without having to do much guessing we know that this briefing will be replete with terrible news about all the many fires burning around the world. The first priority, of course, will be the Islamic State (ISIS).


Unlike her predecessor, who appeared to have mixed feelings about the use of military force throughout his presidency, Clinton appears to have no such misgivings. Hillary Clinton was a dogged champion for military intervention as Secretary of State. As a candidate, she has been among the most hawkish Democrats in living memory, outdoing most of this year’s Republicans. She has repeatedly called for “an intensification and acceleration” of President Obama’s ISIS strategy.

As president, Clinton will face few obstacles in her desire to exert decisive leadership on the global stage. In the worst-case scenario, President Clinton, in pursuit of a muscular approach to confronting ISIS, will make three related decisions that doom American foreign policy to another decade of turmoil, casualties, and terrorism.

The first decision will be to send thousands of American ground troops to eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. U.S. military leaders have made clear publicly that they believe that as many as 50,000 troops will be necessary to dig ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. A determined President Clinton who sends enough troops, planes, and tanks can certainly win the military campaign against ISIS. Even so, ISIS has had years to dig in. Given this and the dangers of urban warfare, the cost in American casualties will likely be significant. Further, ISIS could disperse its fighters among the general population, returning to either guerrilla or terrorist strategy. The United States was not able to prevent terrorist attacks in Iraq or the rise of ISIS after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There is little reason to imagine it could do so under President Clinton in 2017 when conditions in Iraq are even worse.

Moreover, this time the fight is not limited to Iraq. ISIS presents an even greater challenge in many ways in Syria, where an expanded U.S. campaign will clash with Russian interests, which include supporting Assad against American-support rebel groups.
 
And let’s not forget the nascent ISIS foothold in Libya, the scene of Hillary Clinton’s greatest triumph as Secretary of State (and President Obama’s greatest self acknowledged foreign policy mistake). Libya suffers from a political situation heavily reminiscent of both Syria and Iraq, with multiple competing factions all battling for position to take power, operating under extreme duress thanks in part to the presence of the Islamic State. Any American intervention in Libya inevitably means favoring some factions over others, not to mention killing lots of Libyans, including civilians, all of which will add to the long list of people with grievances against the United States. Nonetheless, the signs suggest that the Obama administration is already preparing for another round of intervention. There is little reason to think that Clinton is not ready to approve it.

Clinton’s second ill-fated decision will be to attempt to restore and stabilize Iraq. Regardless of how well the military phase of the campaign goes Iraq, which is already a huge mess, will be in much worse shape afterwards. President Clinton, with the support of many Republicans in Congress, will argue that the only way to prevent ISIS from rising again is to help Iraq’s devastated society and economy to recover, which in turn will require a large and permanent military presence. The notion of stationing 50,000 troops in Iraq forever as the United States has done in South Korea is a horrendously costly prospect, and one that will likely have serious destabilizing effects on the rest of the Middle East. But Iraq is not South Korea; the U.S. cannot expect to spend fifty or sixty peaceful years watching over Iraq.

The military victory will have done absolutely nothing to resolve the fundamental sectarian and political conflicts that have riven Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Nor will the victory have made the U.S. any more capable of fostering stability and democracy. Beyond this we cannot forget that ISIS itself grew out of the chaos that followed the 2003 invasion. It seems safe to assume that another intervention would raise, not lower, the risks of future terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.

The third decision President Clinton will make is to reverse President Obama’s plan to draw down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now controls more territory than at any point since 2001. The rationale for more aggressive action in Afghanistan will echo the rationale for taking on ISIS in Syria and Iraq. As Clinton said on the campaign trail, “We have invested a lot of blood and a lot of treasure in trying to help that country and we can’t afford for it to become an outpost of the Taliban and [Islamic State] one more time, threatening us, threatening the larger world.”
And yet, as with Iraq, all the evidence indicates that a more aggressive military campaign will fail for all the same reasons the policy has failed thus far. Despite 2,300 American casualties and roughly a trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan to date, fifteen years of intense effort has resulted in a country still unable to survive without life support. The simple fact is that Afghanistan’s fractured society and almost non-existent economy are incapable of providing the necessary counterweight to the Taliban. The result is that the costs of such an operation would far outweigh the benefits.

How likely is this nightmare scenario? All three decisions are entirely plausible given the decisions made by the previous two presidents. Hillary Clinton’s own behavior as Secretary of State and her comments on the campaign trail only make them more so. That said, predicting the future is a tricky business. As concerned as Americans are about ISIS, they are also tired of war in the Middle East and sending troops to the desert carries enormous political risks for any president. It may turn out, then, that foreign policy under a new Clinton administration would be far more restrained than the worst-case scenario I have outlined here. But what if it isn’t? The costs for America in lives and treasure could be momentous.

Trevor Thrall is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and an associate professor at George Mason University in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs.

Αυτοί είναι οι VIP αγοραστές του πλαστογραφημένου κτήματος στην Χιμάρα


Πριν λίγες ημέρες ο εισαγγελέας Αυλώνας ανακοίνωσε την κατάσχεση κτήματος με έκταση 20.000 τετραγωνικά μέτρα στην περιοχή του κόλπου του Πανόρμου στην Χιμάρα. Αν και πρόκειται για χοντρή και πασιφανή πλαστογράφηση, το κτήμα είχε εγγραφεί στο κτηματολόγιο Αυλώνας παρά τους ελέγχους και τις δυσκολίες που αντιμετωπίζουν άλλοι κάτοικοι της Χιμάρας στην ίδια κρατική υπηρεσία.
Το κτήμα το οποίο αρχικά ανήκε στον κάτοικο Χιμάρας Βασίλη Ράπο, είχε στην συνέχεια "πουληθεί" και παραχωρηθεί δωρεάν σε άλλους, οι οποίοι όπως προκύπτει είναι γνωστά πρόσωπα όχι μόνο στην Χιμάρα αλλά και σε ολόκληρη την Αλβανία με θέσεις και διασυνδέσεις στο αλβανικό κράτος.
Ποιοι είναι οι VIP "αγοραστές" του πλαστογραφημένου κτήματος;
Με βάση δημοσίευμα γνωστής αλβανική ιστοσελίδας ειδήσεων προκύπτει πως το κτήμα έχει πουληθεί και παραχωρηθεί δωρεάν σε δύο συγγενείς ενός γενικού υποδιευθυντή της αστυνομίας της Αλβανίας με καταγωγή από το χωριό Πήλιουρη της Χιμάρας, σε έναν γνωστό στην τοπική κοινότητα δικηγόρο, σε έναν πρώην αρχηγό της αστυνομίας και σε έναν μεγάλο επιχειρηματία στα Τίρανα.
Με βάση το δημοσίευμα του Syri,net πρόκειται για τον γνωστό δημοσιογράφο με καταγωγή από το χωριό Πήλιουρη Aleksander και τον αδερφό του Andon Cipa, τον πολύ γνωστό και δραστήριο στην Χιμάρα δικηγόρο Agron Gurabardhi με την σύζυγο του, τον πρώην αρχηγό της αστυνομίας Gjelosh Prendi, και τον γνωστό επιχειρηματία στα Τίρανα N. Janina.
Σύμφωνα με δημοσίευμα στο blog SManalysis προκύπτει πως και το υπόλοιπο κτήμα όπου έχουν κατασκευαστεί θερινές κατοικίες έχει πουληθεί σε δήμαρχο από την νότια Αλβανία και στον αδερφό του που είναι υψηλόβαθμο στέλεχος της Αλβανικής αστυνoμίας και άλλους. Ο αρχικός τίτλος ιδιοκτησίας για αυτή την επιφάνεια είχε εκδοθεί στον Βασίλη Ράπο με βάση το νόμο 7501 Περί αγροτικής γης, αν και στην συγκεκριμένη περιοχή δεν υπάρχει αγροτική γη αλλά βοσκοτόπια.
Τα στοιχεία αυτά έλυσαν τις απορίες μας για το πως κατάφερε να γραφτεί αυτό το πλαστογραφημένο κτήμα στο κτηματολόγια Αυλώνας τόσο εύκολα.

Πηγή: http://www.himara.gr

A Less Strident Battle Brews Over Greece

Geopolitical Diary

May 19, 2016

Stratfor



The interests of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde (l) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the issue of Greek debt relief diverge, a difference that could lead to another Grexit crisis this summer. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

It may not have the same fireworks as the 2015 version, but the summer of 2016 could yet bring its very own Grexit crisis. This one will feature many of the same players as its predecessor, though in some cases, they will have changed roles.

In the 2015 iteration, Germany, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund joined forces to stare down a recalcitrant (and highly indebted) Greece. At stake were the terms under which Athens would receive money to pay off the loans it took to bail out its faltering economy. The crisis unfolded while France, Italy and the European Commission counseled leniency from the sidelines. A year later, Greece is no longer rebelling. In fact, the very same government that resisted austerity measures is willingly taking its medicine in the shape of stringent reforms. But as so often happens after a victory, former allies are now fighting among themselves.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The IMF, which, along with Germany, once advocated for Greek structural economic reform, is now clashing with its Teutonic partner as it tries to lighten Greece's debt load. The two former allies have differing priorities. With federal elections coming up in 2017, Germany's leaders are feeling the pressure of all the money Greece owes its taxpayers. The IMF, meanwhile, is driven less by politics than by its mandate to lend to distressed countries on terms that will not cripple them financially. Having done the calculations, it believes the current payback agreement is unmanageable for a country in Greece's position.

Now the former allies are at loggerheads over the country that once united them. Greece is running low on funds and has a sizable debt repayment due in July — just as it did in 2015 — requiring its creditors to structure a bailout package if they want to avoid a Greek exit from the euro. The easiest way to do this, considering the IMF's awkward position on debt relief, would be for the European countries to proceed with repayment negotiations without the organization's involvement. But this is something that Germany is unwilling to do.

Though the IMF promotes leniency on debt repayments, it also favors structural reform. Greece is now following that path, one that both the Germans and the IMF believe will lead the Greek economy toward self-sufficiency. A deal without the IMF would leave Germany alone among its eurozone peers, many of which do not share its zest for reform. Even last summer, much of Southern Europe and the European Commission — whose priority is for everyone to get along — called for a softer line to be taken on Greece.

As if on cue, Germany's Mediterranean adversaries have chosen this moment to publicly air their unity. A meeting of Europe's socialist leaders will convene May 20, including the leaders of France, Portugal and Italy, which is hosting the summit; Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will also be attending as an observer. At a similar meeting in December, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi urged his socialist brethren to unite against German dominance in Europe. Debt relief and the conditions of a Greek bailout would seem a choice arena in which to demonstrate their collective resistance.

Consequently, Germany wants the IMF to back down and agree to the bailout without requiring debt relief among its conditions. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's latest statements indicate that debt relief may be considered, but only in 2018 — safely after Germany's national elections — and that the IMF should sign off on the timeline now with the longer term in mind.

But so far, the IMF is sticking to its convictions, and, for various reasons, it will be less amenable to European persuasion than it was in the past. Some of these reasons trace back to the first Greek bailout back in 2010, when the IMF broke its own rules, agreeing to contribute to Greece's assistance package even though the suggested terms did not meet its normal lending standards. This strengthened the widespread feeling that the United States and the European Union held outsized sway over the IMF, which is supposed to be a global institution. In December 2015, the United States finally ratified a 2010 reform of the IMF, designed in part to redress this imbalance. As a result, the IMF of 2016 answers to a more globally diversified set of voters than the IMF of a year ago did. Furthermore, German and EU influence within the institution have been greatly reduced.

And so the summer will bring with it the possibility of a new standoff over Greece. Without the colorful characters from last year (former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis springs to mind), the spectacle will likely be less dramatic. Since neither side is threatening its own suicide — as Greece was — the rhetoric will probably be less emotional. Indeed, there will probably be fewer tense moments than there were last year, since this time, neither side is willing to let disaster strike on its watch. Nevertheless, the same high-stakes game of brinkmanship will be played out. But this time, Greece will be playing the role not of the pugilist but of the wide-eyed victim in the middle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Exclusive Sources: U.S. Citizen from Albania Arrested in NYC on Terrorism Charges


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A naturalized U.S. citizen of Albanian descent was arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in the Bronx early Tuesday on charges of providing material support to terrorism, according to Breitbart News sources.

Breitbart News has learned that the suspect, identified as Sajmir Alimehneti, is believed to have been assisting potential terrorists inside the U.S. homeland.

The JTTF arrest, which involved the NYPD, was the result of an 18-month investigation.
Exclusive Breitbart News sources can confirm the black flag of jihad was found in the suspect’s apartment. The flag is often used by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

It remains unclear if Alimehneti has been linked to a specific terrorist organization. However, sources say he was planning to travel to Syria, where al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadist groups are operating.
Alimehneti, who has a brother in an Albanian prison, was named in a criminal complaint filed in U.S.

District Court in Manhattan, NBC News New York reports, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.
“Details of the investigation are expected to be released later today by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan,” notes the report. “Alimehneti will appear in federal court in Manhattan later today.”
“More than a half dozen individuals have been arrested since mid-2015 by the task force in New York and New Jersey on similar charges,” it adds.

FBI Director James Comey recently said that his agents are evaluating a suspect’s level of radicalization and potential for violence in “north of 1,000” cases, of which about 80 percent have been linked to ISIS.

Πρόταση-πακέτο προς τα Τίρανα

kathimerini
Μια συνολική πρόταση-πακέτο για επίλυση όλων των διμερών θεμάτων μεταξύ Ελλάδας και Αλβανίας κομίζει στα Τίρανα ο υπουργός Εξωτερικών Ν. Κοτζιάς κατά την επίσκεψη που θα πραγματοποιήσει στη γειτονική χώρα στις αρχές Ιουνίου.
Η ελληνική πρόταση θα κατατεθεί με αφορμή τη συμπλήρωση και λήξη των 20 χρόνων που μεσολάβησαν από την υπογραφή του προηγούμενου συμφώνου φιλίας και συνεργασίας ανάμεσα στις δύο χώρες το 1996.
Τα κύρια ζητήματα που πρέπει να επιλυθούν και παραμένουν εκκρεμή είναι η οριοθέτηση Αποκλειστικής Οικονομικής Ζώνης (ΑΟΖ) μεταξύ Ελλάδας και Αλβανίας, η διευθέτηση των περιουσιακών ζητημάτων που υπάρχουν και στις δύο πλευρές, καθώς και ζητήματα όπως η περισυλλογή των οστών περίπου 11.000 Ελλήνων στρατιωτών, οι οποίοι σκοτώθηκαν το 1940-41 κατά τον Ελληνοϊταλικό πόλεμο και παραμένουν θαμμένοι σε πολλές διαφορετικές τοποθεσίες. Τονίζεται ότι αυτό το θέμα έχει ανακινηθεί ατύπως ήδη από την εποχή του Ενβέρ Χότζα, αλλά παραμένει ανεπίλυτο από σειρά αλβανικών ηγεσιών, παρά το γεγονός πως αντίστοιχες περιπτώσεις (όπως π.χ. των Ιταλών στρατιωτών που βρίσκονται στην Αλβανία) έχουν κλείσει προ καιρού. Στην πρόταση που θα κατατεθεί, θα περιλαμβάνεται, βεβαίως, και μέριμνα για την προστασία της Μειονότητας στην Αλβανία, όπου και τους τελευταίους μήνες, παρά τις διαρκείς πιέσεις από την Αθήνα, έχουν καταγραφεί κρούσματα καταπάτησης των θρησκευτικών αλλά και των πολιτικών δικαιωμάτων των Ελλήνων της Βόρειας Ηπείρου.
Ο άξονας
Βασικός άξονας στην ελληνική πρόταση είναι, επίσης, η ανάγκη να κλείσουν αυτά τα διμερή θέματα το ταχύτερο δυνατόν, προτού ξεκινήσουν οι διαδικασίες για την ένταξη της Αλβανίας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση. Η Αθήνα επιθυμεί μια «καθαρή» λύση στα διμερή θέματα, προκειμένου η είσοδος της Αλβανίας στην Ε.Ε. να μη συνοδεύεται με εκκρεμότητες, οι οποίες μπορεί να διαιωνισθούν και εντός του ευρωπαϊκού πλαισίου. Τα Τίρανα έχουν λάβει καθεστώς υποψήφιας προς ένταξη χώρας από τον Ιούνιο του 2014, ωστόσο η οδός προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση άνοιξε 11 χρόνια νωρίτερα, στο Ευρωπαϊκό Συμβούλιο της Θεσσαλονίκης όπου η Αλβανία αναφέρθηκε για πρώτη φορά ως «πιθανή» υποψήφια για την Ε.Ε. Ο κ. Κοτζιάς θα επισκεφθεί τα Τίρανα για δεύτερη φορά σε ένα χρόνο, ενώ και ο Αλβανός ομόλογός του κ. Ντίτμιρ Μπουσάτι έγινε δεκτός στην Αθήνα τον περασμένο Μάρτιο με μια ατζέντα, η οποία επιπλέον έχει εμπλουτισθεί και με το προσφυγικό. Αν και οι εξελίξεις δεν οδήγησαν σε περαιτέρω όξυνση του προσφυγικού, ώς αυτή τη στιγμή οι συνεννοήσεις ανάμεσα στην Αθήνα και τα Τίρανα (τα οποία επί τούτου τελούν και υπό τη μόνιμη πίεση των Ιταλών) βρίσκονται σε μάλλον καλό επίπεδο, ενώ υφίσταται εκτεταμένη συνεργασία σε αστυνομικό επίπεδο.

 Πηγή: http://www.himara.gr

Monday, May 23, 2016

Der Spiegel: Ανεξάρτητη Θράκη ζητάνε οι Γερμανοί!

Είδηση βόμβα:

«Οι δηλώσεις Σουλτς, δείχνουν την τροπή που έχει πάρει η υπόθεση της Ελλάδας στην ΕΕ.Έχει ανοίξει η όρεξη όλων...
2016-05-21_235308

Δημοσίευση

24 Μαΐου 2016, «Οι δηλώσεις Σουλτς, δείχνουν την τροπή που έχει πάρει η υπόθεση της Ελλάδας στην ΕΕ.Έχει ανοίξει η όρεξη όλων ανεξαιρέτως και μάλιστα χωρίς στοιχειώδη αυτοσυγκράτηση και σεβασμό προς τους Έλληνες.

Ο κ.Σουλτς εδειξε το δρόμο για ΕΟΖ (Ειδικές Οικονομικές Ζώνες) που θα ελέγχονται απόλυτα και αποκλειστικά από τους Ευρωπαίους και θα στηρίζονται σε ευρωπαϊκά χρήματα. Θέλουν ανεξάρτητες διοικητικές και οικονομικές εκτάσεις με…μοναδικά προνόμια.
Αν η αρχή γίνει στην Θράκη, τότε μπαίνει ο σπόρος του ιδιότυπου καθεστώτος. Να, γιατί ο Τούρκος πρόξενος είναι πρωταγωνιστής στις προετοιμασίες στο πλευρό της κ.Καραγιάννη, του συνεργάτη της 

Deutsche Bank. “H κυβέρνηση είναι ή απρόσεκτη ή συνένοχη. Η συνέχεια θα δείξει", 

Μάλιστα, ο Μ.Σουλτς είναι σοκαριστικά ειλικρινής και γνωρίζει πολύ καλά τι λέει και πως θα ηχήσουν αυτά που λέει στα αυτιά των Ελλήνων πολιτών αφού σπεύδει να “διευκρινίσει”: “Μην νομίσετε ότι πρόκειται για καμιά εχθρική δύναμη κατοχής. Είναι εργαλείο βοήθειας”!
Δηλαδή γνωρίζει ότι αυτό που ζητά στην πραγματικότητα συνιστά ξένη κατοχή επί ελληνικού εδάφους, αλλά αυτός προτιμά να την βαπτίσει “Εργαλείο βοήθειας”. Μα, και ο Γερμανός φρούραρχος της Αθήνας στον Β’Π.Π. κατά την διάρκεια της Κατοχής είχε πει το περίφημο “Ήρθαμε να σας βοηθησουμε και να σας απελευθερώσουμε από τους Εγγλέζους”!

Αυτά που λέει ο Μ.Σουλτς είναι πραγματικά ανατριχιαστικά, ξεπερνούν την φαντασία ακόμα και του πιο σκληρού πολέμιου του Μνημονίου και το κακό είναι ότι τα λέει ψυχρά και μάλιστα θέτει και όρους ότι για να “έρθουν να βοηθήσουν” πρέπει “να είμαστε … προσηλωμένοι στο Μνημόνιο”!
Αναφερόμενος λοιπόν στις Ειδικές Οικονομικές Ζώνες υποστηρίζει ότι θα πρέπει “να δημιουργηθεί ένας οργανισμός ανάπτυξης, όπου Ευρωπαίοι και Έλληνες πολιτικοί θα εντοπίζουν έργα άξια να τύχουν υποστήριξης και θα ελέγχουν την εισροή των σχετικών κονδυλίων”.

Εκεί λοιπόν “Θα υπάρχει έλεγχος, αλλά και οικοδόμηση αμοιβαίας εμπιστοσύνης για να μπορέσουν οι Ευρωπαίοι να εφαρμόσουν τις μεταρρυθμίσεις τους. Το ελληνικό κράτος θα πρέπει να δεχτεί να εφαρμόζουν Ευρωπαίοι αξιωματούχοι μεταρρυθμίσεις επί ελληνικού εδάφους» λέει και βέβαια εννοεί να αναλάβουν την διοίκηση αυτών των περιοχών οι Ευρωπαίοι και να δεχθεί το ελληνικό κράτος κάτι τέτοιο!
Και συνεχίζει λέγοντας: “Ωστόσο, δεν πρόκειται για καμιά εχθρική δύναμη κατοχής, αλλά για εργαλείο βοήθειας”! Αλλίμονο! Ποιος μίλησε για “δύναμη κατοχής”; Επειδή οι ξένοι θα διοικούν Έλληνες σε ελληνικό έδαφος και θα εφαρμόζουν δικούς τους νόμους που θα τους έχουν βαπτίσει πριν “μεταρρυθμίσεις”; Και μάλιστα, που; Στην Θράκη βρίσκεται είναι η μία από τις ΕΟΖ που θέλει να δημιουργήσει η Γερμανία για να κάνει “μεταρρυθμίσεις”!

Μάλιστα, αναφέρει ο Μ.Σούλτς ότι “Προϋπόθεση γι’ αυτήν τις ΕΟΖ αποτελεί η προσήλωση των Ελλήνων στο ευρώ και η προθυμία της Αθήνας να εφαρμόσει μεταρρυθμίσεις και επενδυτικές διευκολύνσεις για επιχειρήσεις, οι οποίες θα επενδύουν στην Ελλάδα”. Το ότι θα βαπτιζόταν “μεταρρύθμιση” η δημιουργία αυτόνομων περιοχών στην ελληνική επιρκάτεια, ειλικκρινά δεν θα μπορούσε κανείς να το φανταστεί.

Μάλιστα, σύμφωνα με τη Deutche Welle, όπως αναφέρει το Der Spiegel στην ηλεκτρονική του έκδοση, η ιδέα μιας ειδικής οικονομικής ζώνης κερδίζει και στην Ελλάδα όλο και περισσότερο οπαδούς: Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση έχει υποβάλει ήδη σχετικό αίτημα στην Κομισιόν.
Πριν από δύο εβδομάδες όπως προείπαμε συζητήθηκε το θέμα της ΕΟΖ της Θράκης στην Βουλή μετά από σχετική ερώτηση του κοινοβουλευτικού εκπροσώπου των Ανεξάρτητων Ελλήνων Κώστα Μαρκόπουλου, όπου αποκαλύφθηκε όχι απλώς η μεθόδευση, αλλά και η έκταση του κινδύνου για την εθνική ασφάλεια.
 kyklwpas.blogspot.gr

CIA: ‘The Attacks Will Be Spectacular’

151112_whipple_gty.jpg
George Tenet says Bush/Cheney knew 9/11 was about to happen - before it did 
 

An exclusive look at how the Bush administration ignored this warning from the CIA months before 9/11, along with others that were far more detailed than previously revealed.
  
By Jake Anderson, TheAntimedia.org
Blacklisted News
Sunday, May 22, 2016

EX-CIA CHIEF: BUSH AND CHENEY KNEW 9/11 WAS IMMINENT, CONCEALED INTELLIGENCE

A new report from POLITICO corroborates a suspicion long held by critics of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. It affirms the former president and vice president not only had intelligence warning the terror attacks of 9/11 were imminent, but that they repeatedly ignored the CIA’s warnings. The most shocking assertion is that Bush and Cheney actively attempted to hide the paper trail documenting the fact that the evidence was presented to them.

The claim comes from none other than ex-CIA Chief George Tenet, who recounted with palpable frustration how Bush, Cheney, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice ignored multiple warnings from both him and then-counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black, during the late spring and summer of 2001.

Previously, the most salient proof the Bush administration had advanced warning of 9/11 was the infamous August 6th edition of the CIA Presidential Daily Brief given to George W. Bush. Titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the document has often been cited by journalists and whistleblowers making a case of willful negligence against Bush and Cheney. The new information from Tenet and Black presents a considerably deeper timeline, showing there was a consistent stream of intelligence warnings starting at least four months prior to September 11th.

According to Black, by May of 2001 “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.

Reacting to the threat, Tenet and Black formulated a plan called “the Blue Sky paper,” which called for a comprehensive but covert CIA and military campaign to wipe out Al Qaeda before it could launch attacks. Specifically, Tenet wanted a paramilitary team deployed to the Afghan sanctuary with the goal of “creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.”

Tenet says the response to the “the Blue Sky paper” was stunning. The administration did not want to address the issue, and notably, “didn’t want the clock to start ticking.” In its report, POLITICO translates this to Tenet claiming Bush and Cheney didn’t want a paper trail of the warnings. It’s unclear whether Tenet directly asserted this sentiment or if reporter Chris Whipple inferred it.

What is clear is that for the entire summer preceding the 9/11 attacks, the administration ignored warnings about the threat of Al Qaeda and outright rejected a CIA plan to destroy the terrorist group.

Tenet gets more specific with the nature of the intelligence:
“The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.”
On July 10th, Tenet met directly with Condoleezza Rice at the White House, where Richard Blee, head of the agency’s Al Qaeda division, told the national security advisor, “There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.”

Rice has consistently downplayed this meeting. In her memoir, she said her recollection of the July 10th warning is not “crisp” because she and Tenet had been regularly discussing the terrorist threat.

How the president’s national security advisor—and the president and vice president themselves—did not prioritize the urgency of new intelligence regarding a terrorist attack against the United States is still a matter of confusion and deep disappointment for Tenet.

“To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone,” says Tenet. “I still look at the ceiling at night about a lot of things. And I’ll keep them to myself forever. But we’re all human beings.”

Kosovo Might Become First 'State Under NATO Control' in History

Kosovo flag

© Flickr/ Agon Syla
Europe

The US has been actively lobbying the idea of Kosovo joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Kosovo's president Hashim Thaci, who after a visit to the United States last year said that Washington approved the idea of establishing a Kosovo army operating under NATO, might now be happy about the new developments.

The United States apparently needed an independent Kosovo for one simple reason — to build there its "cozy military nest". This can be seen in the recent developments, in particular, the US' decision to work out conditions for Kosovo's accession to NATO's Partnership for Peace program.
Analysts believe that this move is none other than an attempt by the US to spread its political influence in countries of the Western Balkans.
Washington "is readying a plan for Kosovo's NATO membership" and "the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo intends to, in the coming period, launch the process of joining NATO," the website b92.net wrote.
Can Kosovo become a NATO member at all? Theoretically it can, if Kosovo is able to bypass the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which defines it as a part of Serbia, as well as if the Serbs in the Kosovo Parliament vote in favor of the creation of an army in Kosovo. According to UN Security Council resolution 1244, only NATO military forces, namely KFOR mission, can be deployed in the territory of Kosovo. The resolution is unlikely to be canceled as Moscow and Beijing will veto such a decision in the UN Security Council. So how could Kosovo bypass the resolution and create its own army despite mandatory UN regulations?
For this case, Washington and Pristina seem to have a plan "B". They can just "rename" the security forces acting in Kosovo within the KFOR into the Kosovo Armed Forces.
In the same way, the "rebranding" helped to transform the Kosovo Protection Corps into the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), the local response force developed in line with NATO standards and set to be deployed during crisis response operations.
Although the KSF has not received permission to use heavy weapons, it can still participate in international peacekeeping operations.
Some experts argue that in a similar way the US might help Kosovo create its own army which would operate under NATO supervision. If this happens, Kosovo might become another precedent, namely the world's first "state under NATO control".

EgyptAir plane 'did not swerve' before crash


Egypt air navigation official says plane did not swerve or lose altitude before it disappeared, as claimed by Greece.

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The search for EgyptAir is especially challenging because its wreckage lies in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean [EPA]
The search for EgyptAir is especially challenging because its wreckage lies in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean [EPA]
The head of Egypt's state-run provider of air navigation services says that EgyptAir flight 804 did not swerve or lose altitude before it disappeared off radar, challenging an earlier account by Greece's defence minister.
Ehab Azmy, head of the National Air Navigation Services Company, told The Associated Press news agency on Monday that in the minutes before the plane disappeared it was flying at its normal altitude of 37,000 feet, according to the radar reading.
He said: "That fact degrades what the Greeks are saying about aircraft suddenly losing altitude before it vanished from radar."
According to Greece's defence minister Panos Kammenos, the plane swerved and dropped to 10,000 feet before it fell off radar.
Greek civil aviation authorities say all appeared fine with the flight until air traffic controllers were to hand it over to their Egyptian counterparts.
Meanwhile the search for the plane, which crashed with 66 aboard on Thursday, continues, with French navy ships arriving in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday.
The 10 crew and 56 passengers included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals.

ALSO READ: Families wait for answers to missing EgyptAir plane

The vessel is equipped with sonar that can pick up the underwater "pings" emitted by the recorders. It is specialised in maritime surveillance, and rescue and marine police missions.
Moreover, teams searching for the black box flight recorders have been facing technical constraints.
Air crash investigation experts say the search teams have around 30 days until the batteries die to listen for pings sent out once every second from beacons attached to the two black boxes, as they scour 17,000 square kilometres of sea north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.
At this stage of the search, they would typically use acoustic hydrophones, bringing in more advanced robots later to scan the seabed and retrieve any objects once they have been found.
French investigators say the Egyptian jet sent warnings indicating that smoke was detected on board. The signals did not indicate what caused the smoke, and aviation experts have not ruled out deliberate sabotage or a technical fault.
Ships and planes scouring the sea have found body parts, personal belongings and debris from the Airbus 320, but are still trying to locate the black box recorders that could shed light on the cause of the crash.
The search for EgyptAir's Airbus A320 is especially challenging because its wreckage lies in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean, at a depth of 2,000-3,000 metres, which is on the edge of the range for hearing pinger signals.
Reuters

Comment: Why Donald Trump Is Dumping On NATO

NATO Flag Raised

Article by Christopher Lee, Brussels 
In this city there are more bureaucrats on every street than soldiers in Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army.
Donald Trump seems to think they have about the same value: Objects of curiosity, and confusion as to their purpose.
Take the short 620 bus ride out from Brussels North station, in no time at all the bus drops you along Boulevard Leopold III - just across from the headquarters of the biggest multi-national military and political organisation in the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
NATO, very much the brainchild of the Norwegians and the British, had 12 member states when founded on 4 April 1949.  
 
Today there are 28 members and if the United States were not one of them, and did not supply the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), then NATO would count for nothing. At best, it would turn into an Euro Defence Force.
 
What Donald Trump has been told, and whoever did so was right, is pretty simple stuff. Four or five NATO states are in a position to treat NATO membership seriously and as Trump's people point out, keep increasing their defence spending by 2% of their national Gross Domestic Products.
 
Trump is wrong when he says the US bankrolls NATO. The UK for example makes the 2% GDP increase in annual defence spending, albeit only after some cute double entry book keeping.
 
Sir Adam Thomson, the UK's Permanent Representative at NATO (an ambassador rating) is reported as saying that Donald Trump has got it right on one thing "Europeans do need to start pulling their weight when it comes to investing in defence."
 
Trump dumps on NATO in a big way. He says America is carrying the whole alliance, or as he puts it "we are getting ripped off by every country in NATO. We are paying most of the costs."
 
When the Belgians, the Czechs, Hungarians, Italians, Luxembourgers, Slovenes and Spanish each pay less than 1% then you can see why Trump's bad-mouthing is hard to dismiss as the rantings of a redneck Republican looking for headlines.
 
There is a side of this that he has yet to get on. NATO is as important a political-military alliance as it was at its formation, when Stalin was closing the Iron Curtain around his client states.
 
Client states that with the USSR became on 14 May 1955 The Warsaw Pact - Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungry, Poland and Romania. Many of them now members of NATO.
 
That makes Putin's Russia nervous, as it would the USA if former NATO states had joined Russia.
 
Equally there is little to be said against the idea that Putin's policy on Crimea, Ukraine and thus far in Syria rings alarms along Boulevard Leopold III. In short, Europe feels unsafe - and that is without throwing ISIS into the Threat Assessment delivered every weekday morning at NATO.
 
Trump is right to biff NATO.
 
It is remember, an Alliance of political formation. Generals do not take decisions in NATO. Politicians in national capitals do, and then they come to Ministerial meetings or as they will in July this year in Warsaw, in a gathering of heads of government.
 
The greater truth is that these ministers are governed by the state of their separate economies, their political persuasion with the third imponderable 'how a crisis may or may not develop'.
 
There are three elements of NATO decision making: real polltik, economy and the impossible analysis of the relationship between strategic capability, ambition and intention. 
 
The NATO bureaucracy is home to some brilliant people who never quite make it, or have made nothing much. Machiavelli thought permanent bureaucracy's single mission was to change nothing, probably because they are neither conservative nor liberal - thus they are canny, shrewd, ruthless and conspiratorial. They adore the principle of the status quo.
 
Trump may know all of this and more. He may too have grasped that the bureaucracy has its time. It may be now.
 
Forget the 2% GDP thing. Defense economics is about what you spend on, rather than what you spend.
 
In short, instead of shutting down NATO or re-jigging it as I heard Trump remark, the analysts' bench needs to be freed up to tell the likes of Trump and whomsoever the Democrats throw up what NATO is, what it should be, what it needs to be as a minimum. And fundamentally what the true threat is and from whence it comes.
 
He will be surprised especially as it would begin with the legend 'Start By Seeing How Putin Sees It'.  A lesson from 1991 still not learned.
 
Forces TV is available on Sky 264, Virgin 277 and Freesat 652

President gives Vucic mandate to put together new cabinet


President Tomislav Nikolic on Monday announced that he had given the mandate to form Serbia's new government to SNS party leader Aleksandar Vucic.
Source: Beta, Tanjug
(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)
Vucic is currently at the helm of the country's caretaker government, that was elected in 2014.
Nikolic told reporters at the Presidency in Belgrade, after holding a series of separate meetings with representatives of all electoral lists represented in the new National Assembly, that Vucic convinced him he has a parliamentary majority.

Nikolic added that he will inform the Assembly of his decision as soon as it has been constituted.

The president also remarked that only Vucic presented a program of his future government, and its priorities.

"All the others came aware of the fact the SNS had won the most seats, and would rightfully seek seek a mandate to form a government," Nikolic said. A coalition of parties led by the SNS will have 131 seats in the 250-seat assembly. A simply majority of 126 is needed to elect a government.

The deadline for the constitution of the National Assembly is June 4. Serbia's new government must be elected within the next three months.

Addressing reporters today, Nikolic said that this government will face many challenges, "including the situation in the EU, the migrant crisis, the rise of far-right parties across Europe, the economic crisis and the need to ensure sufficient investments in Serbia and enough products to compete in foreign markets, as well as develop the agriculture."

He added that the future cabinet "will have to bear the burden at a time when it is easier to be in opposition."

"In a time of major political turbulence, when everyone is against the government, these are all challenges for the government. I wish success to the government - whoever wins the majority has the right to form a government and be wished success by us," Nikolic said.

The president also revealed that he believes "another of the electoral lists that have secured assembly seats" will join the cabinet led by the SNS - beside the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) - but added it would "not be fair" if journalists learned which list it was from him.

According to Nikolic, they should hear this "from the one who is putting together the government."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cameron Says Turkey Unlikely to Join EU Before 'Year 3000'

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, addresses the Conservative Spring Forum in central London, Britain April 9, 2016.

© REUTERS/ Kerry Davies
Europe

Turkey is unlikely to join the European Union any time soon, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday, forecasting that Ankara would not accede to the block before year 3000.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In mid-March, the European Union and Ankara agreed on a deal under which Turkey pledged to take back all undocumented migrants who arrive in the European Union through its territory in exchange for Syrian refugees accommodated in Turkey, on a one-for-one basis. In return, the 28-member bloc pledged to accelerate the Turkish EU accession bid and introduce a visa-free regime between Turkey and the Schengen area.
"It is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000 according to the latest forecasts," Cameron said on the local television, as quoted by the Sky News television channel.
Earlier this month, the European Commission recommended that the European Parliament vote on visa-free regime for Turkey once the country meets all 72 required conditions.
Most of the requirements have already been fulfilled by Ankara, though five problematic criteria remain, including the revision of Turkey’s national anti-terrorism laws and freedom of the press.

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.
The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.
Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.
Kosovo now finds itself, like the rest of Europe, fending off the threat of radical Islam. Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars — including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children — who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.
They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.
“They promoted political Islam,” said Fatos Makolli, the director of Kosovo’s counterterrorism police. “They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature. They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization.”
After two years of investigations, the police have charged 67 people, arrested 14 imams and shut down 19 Muslim organizations for acting against the Constitution, inciting hatred and recruiting for terrorism. The most recent sentences, which included a 10-year prison term, were handed down on Friday.
It is a stunning turnabout for a land of 1.8 million people that not long ago was among the most pro-American Muslim societies in the world. Americans were welcomed as liberators after leading months of NATO bombing in 1999 that spawned an independent Kosovo.
Photo
American bombing of Serbian positions in Kosovo in 1999 during the air campaign by NATO. Credit Jerome Delay/Associated Press
After the war, United Nations officials administered the territory and American forces helped keep the peace. The Saudis arrived, too, bringing millions of euros in aid to a poor and war-ravaged land.
But where the Americans saw a chance to create a new democracy, the Saudis saw a new land to spread Wahhabism.
“There is no evidence that any organization gave money directly to people to go to Syria,” Mr. Makolli said. “The issue is they supported thinkers who promote violence and jihad in the name of protecting Islam.”
A portrait of Bill Clinton on a back street in Pristina near Bill Clinton Boulevard. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Kosovo now has over 800 mosques, 240 of them built since the war and blamed for helping indoctrinate a new generation in Wahhabism. They are part of what moderate imams and officials here describe as a deliberate, long-term strategy by Saudi Arabia to reshape Islam in its image, not only in Kosovo but around the world.
Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2015 reveal a system of funding for mosques, Islamic centers and Saudi-trained clerics that spans Asia, Africa and Europe. In New Delhi alone, 140 Muslim preachers are listed as on the Saudi Consulate’s payroll.
All around Kosovo, families are grappling with the aftermath of years of proselytizing by Saudi-trained preachers. Some daughters refuse to shake hands with or talk to male relatives. Some sons have gone off to jihad. Religious vigilantes have threatened — or committed — violence against academics, journalists and politicians.
The Balkans, Europe’s historical fault line, have yet to heal from the ethnic wars of the 1990s. But they are now infected with a new intolerance, moderate imams and officials in the region warn.
How Kosovo and the very nature of its society was fundamentally recast is a story of a decades-long global ambition by Saudi Arabia to spread its hard-line version of Islam — heavily funded and systematically applied, including with threats and intimidation by followers.
Photo
Idriz Bilalli, an imam in Podujevo, has sought to curb extremists and has received death threats. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The Missionaries Arrive

After the war ended in 1999, Idriz Bilalli, the imam of the central mosque in Podujevo, welcomed any help he could get.
Podujevo, home to about 90,000 people in northeast Kosovo, was a reasonably prosperous town with high schools and small businesses in an area hugged by farmland and forests. It was known for its strong Muslim tradition even in a land where people long wore their religion lightly.
Continue reading the main story
After decades of Communist rule when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, men and women mingle freely, schools are coeducational, and girls rarely wear the veil. Still, Serbian paramilitary forces burned down 218 mosques as part of their war against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, who are 95 percent Muslim. Mr. Bilalli needed help to rebuild.
When two imams in their 30s, Fadil Musliu and Fadil Sogojeva, who were studying for master’s degrees in Saudi Arabia, showed up after the war with money to organize summer religion courses, Mr. Bilalli agreed to help.
The imams were just two of some 200 Kosovars who took advantage of scholarships after the war to study Islam in Saudi Arabia. Many, like them, returned with missionary zeal.
Soon, under Mr. Musliu’s tutelage, pupils started adopting a rigid manner of prayer, foreign to the moderate Islamic traditions of this part of Europe. Mr. Bilalli recognized the influence, and he grew concerned.
“This is Wahhabism coming into our society,” Mr. Bilalli, 52, said in a recent interview.
Mr. Bilalli trained at the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s, and as a student he had been warned by a Kosovar professor to guard against the cultural differences of Wahhabism. He understood there was a campaign of proselytizing, pushed by the Saudis.
“The first thing the Wahhabis do is to take members of our congregation, who understand Islam in the traditional Kosovo way that we had for generations, and try to draw them away from this understanding,” he said. “Once they get them away from the traditional congregation, then they start bombarding them with radical thoughts and ideas.”
“The main goal of their activity is to create conflict between people,” he said. “This first creates division, and then hatred, and then it can come to what happened in Arab countries, where war starts because of these conflicting ideas.”
From the outset, the newly arriving clerics sought to overtake the Islamic Community of Kosovo, an organization that for generations has been the custodian of the tolerant form of Islam that was practiced in the region, townspeople and officials say.
Muslims in Kosovo, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, follow the Hanafi school of Islam, traditionally a liberal version that is accepting of other religions.
But all around the country, a new breed of radical preachers was setting up in neighborhood mosques, often newly built with Saudi money.
In some cases, centuries-old buildings were bulldozed, including a historic library in Gjakova and several 400-year-old mosques, as well as shrines, graveyards and Dervish monasteries, all considered idolatrous in Wahhabi teaching.
From their bases, the Saudi-trained imams propagated Wahhabism’s tenets: the supremacy of Sharia law as well as ideas of violent jihad and takfirism, which authorizes the killing of Muslims considered heretics for not following its interpretation of Islam.
The Saudi-sponsored charities often paid salaries and overhead costs, and financed courses in religion, as well as English and computer classes, moderate imams and investigators explained.
But the charitable assistance often had conditions attached. Families were given monthly stipends on the condition that they attended sermons in the mosque and that women and girls wore the veil, human rights activists said.
“People were so needy, there was no one who did not join,” recalled Ajnishahe Halimi, a politician who campaigned to have a radical Albanian imam expelled after families complained of abuse.
Continue reading the main story
Photo
Gjilan, a town of about 90,000 where a moderate imam was kidnapped and beaten by extremists. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Threats Intensify

Within a few years of the war’s end, the older generation of traditional clerics began to encounter aggression from young Wahhabis.
Paradoxically, some of the most serious tensions built in Gjilan, an eastern Kosovo town of about 90,000, where up to 7,000 American troops were stationed as part of Kosovo’s United Nations-run peacekeeping force at Camp Bondsteel.
“They came in the name of aid,” one moderate imam in Gjilan, Enver Rexhepi, said of the Arab charities. “But they came with a background of different intentions, and that’s where the Islamic religion started splitting here.”
One day in 2004, he recalled, he was threatened by one of the most aggressive young Wahhabis, Zekirja Qazimi, a former madrasa student then in his early 20s.
Inside his mosque, Mr. Rexhepi had long displayed an Albanian flag. Emblazoned with a double-headed eagle, it was a popular symbol of Kosovo’s liberation struggle.
But strict Muslim fundamentalists consider the depiction of any living being as idolatrous. Mr. Qazimi tore the flag down. Mr. Rexhepi put it back.
“It will not go long like this,” Mr. Qazimi told him angrily, Mr. Rexhepi recounted.
Within days, Mr. Rexhepi was abducted and savagely beaten by masked men in woods above Gjilan. He later accused Mr. Qazimi of having been behind the attack, but police investigations went nowhere.
Ten years later, in 2014, after two young Kosovars blew themselves up in suicide bombings in Iraq and Turkey, investigators began an extensive investigation into the sources of radicalism. Mr. Qazimi was arrested hiding in the same woods. On Friday, a court sentenced him to 10 years in prison after he faced charges of inciting hatred and recruiting for a terrorist organization.
Before Mr. Qazimi was arrested, his influence was profound, under what investigators now say was the sway of Egyptian-based extremists and the patronage of Saudi and other gulf Arab sponsors.
By the mid-2000s, Saudi money and Saudi-trained clerics were already exerting influence over the Islamic Community of Kosovo. The leadership quietly condoned the drift toward conservatism, critics of the organization say.
Mr. Qazimi was appointed first to a village mosque, and then to El-Kuddus mosque on the edge of Gjilan. Few could counter him, not even Mustafa Bajrami, his former teacher, who was elected head of the Islamic Community of Gjilan in 2012.
Mr. Bajrami comes from a prominent religious family — his father was the first chief mufti of Yugoslavia during the Communist period. He holds a doctorate in Islamic studies. Yet he remembers pupils began rebelling against him whenever he spoke against Wahhabism.
He soon realized that the students were being taught beliefs that differed from the traditional moderate curriculum by several radical imams in lectures after hours. He banned the use of mosques after official prayer times.
Hostility only grew. He would notice a dismissive gesture in the congregation during his sermons, or someone would curse his wife, or mutter “apostate” or “infidel” as he passed.
In the village, Mr. Qazimi’s influence eventually became so disruptive that residents demanded his removal after he forbade girls and boys to shake hands. But in Gjilan he continued to draw dozens of young people to his after-hours classes.
“They were moving 100 percent according to lessons they were taking from Zekirja Qazimi,” Mr. Bajrami said in an interview. “One hundred percent, in an ideological way.”
Continue reading the main story
Photo
Evening prayer at the mosque of the radical imam Fadil Musliu on the outskirts of Pristina, the capital. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Extremism Spreads

Over time, the Saudi-trained imams expanded their work.
By 2004, Mr. Musliu, one of the master’s degree students from Podujevo who studied in Saudi Arabia, had graduated and was imam of a mosque in the capital, Pristina.
In Podujevo, he set up a local charitable organization called Devotshmeria, or Devotion, which taught religion classes and offered social programs for women, orphans and the poor. It was funded by Al Waqf al Islami, a Saudi organization that was one of the 19 eventually closed by investigators.

Mr. Musliu put a cousin, Jetmir Rrahmani, in charge.
“Then I knew something was starting that would not bring any good,” said Mr. Bilalli, the moderate cleric who had started out teaching with him. In 2004, they had a core of 20 Wahhabis.
“That was only the beginning,” Mr. Bilalli said. “They started multiplying.”
Mr. Bilalli began a vigorous campaign against the spread of unauthorized mosques and Wahhabi teaching. In 2008, he was elected head of the Islamic Community of Podujevo and instituted religion classes for women, in an effort to undercut Devotshmeria.
As he sought to curb the extremists, Mr. Bilalli received death threats, including a note left in the mosque’s alms box. An anonymous telephone caller vowed to make him and his family disappear, he said.
“Anyone who opposes them, they see as an enemy,” Mr. Bilalli said.
He appealed to the leadership of the Islamic Community of Kosovo. But by then it was heavily influenced by Arab gulf sponsors, he said, and he received little support.
When Mr. Bilalli formed a union of fellow moderates, the Islamic Community of Kosovo removed him from his post. His successor, Bekim Jashari, equally concerned by the Saudi influence, nevertheless kept up the fight.
“I spent 10 years in Arab countries and specialized in sectarianism within Islam,” Mr. Jashari said. “It’s very important to stop Arab sectarianism from being introduced to Kosovo.”
Mr. Jashari had a couple of brief successes. He blocked the Saudi-trained imam Mr. Sogojeva from opening a new mosque, and stopped a payment of 20,000 euros, about $22,400, intended for it from the Saudi charity Al Waqf al Islami.
He also began a website, Speak Now, to counter Wahhabi teaching. But he remains so concerned about Wahhabi preachers that he never lets his 19-year-old son attend prayers on his own.
The radical imams Mr. Musliu and Mr. Sogojeva still preach in Pristina, where for prayers they draw crowds of young men who glare at foreign reporters.
Mr. Sogojeva dresses in a traditional robe and banded cleric’s hat, but his newly built mosque is an incongruous modern multistory building. He admonished his congregation with a rapid-fire list of dos and don’ts in a recent Friday sermon.
Neither imam seems to lack funds.
In an interview, Mr. Musliu insisted that he was financed by local donations, but confirmed that he had received Saudi funding for his early religion courses.
The instruction, he said, is not out of line with Kosovo’s traditions. The increase in religiosity among young people was natural after Kosovo gained its freedom, he said.
“Those who are not believers and do not read enough, they feel a bit shocked,” he said. “But we coordinated with other imams, and everything was in line with Islam.”
Continue reading the main story
Photo
The entrance to the grounds of the Serbian Orthodox monastery in Decani in western Kosovo. In January, four armed Islamists passed through the checkpoint and were arrested at the monastery gates.
Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

A Tilt Toward Terrorism

The influence of the radical clerics reached its apex with the war in Syria, as they extolled the virtues of jihad and used speeches and radio and television talks shows to urge young people to go there.
Mr. Qazimi, who was given the 10-year prison sentence, even organized a summer camp for his young followers.
“It is obligated for every Muslim to participate in jihad,” he told them in one videotaped talk. “The Prophet Muhammad says that if someone has a chance to take part in jihad and doesn’t, he will die with great sins.”
“The blood of infidels is the best drink for us Muslims,” he said in another recording.
Among his recruits, investigators say, were three former civilian employees of American contracting companies at Camp Bondsteel, where American troops are stationed. They included Lavdrim Muhaxheri, an Islamic State leader who was filmed executing a man in Syria with a rocket-propelled grenade.
After the suicide bombings, the authorities opened a broad investigation and found that the Saudi charity Al Waqf al Islami had been supporting associations set up by preachers like Mr. Qazimi in almost every regional town.
Al Waqf al Islami was established in the Balkans in 1989. Most of its financing came from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, Kosovo investigators said in recent interviews. Unexplained gaps in its ledgers deepened suspicions that the group was surreptitiously funding clerics who were radicalizing young people, they said.
Investigators from Kosovo’s Financial Intelligence Unit found that Al Waqf al Islami, which had an office in central Pristina and a staff of 12, ran through €10 million from 2000 through 2012. Yet they found little paperwork to explain much of the spending.
More than €1 million went to mosque building. But one and a half times that amount was disbursed in unspecified cash withdrawals, which may have also gone to enriching its staff, the investigators said.
Only 7 percent of the budget was shown to have gone to caring for orphans, the charity’s stated mission.
By the summer of 2014, the Kosovo police shut down Al Waqf al Islami, along with 12 other Islamic charities, and arrested 40 people.
The charity’s head offices, in Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands, have since changed their name to Al Waqf, apparently separating themselves from the Balkans operation.
Asked about the accusations in a telephone interview, Nasr el Damanhoury, the director of Al Waqf in the Netherlands, said he had no direct knowledge of his group’s operations in Kosovo or the Balkans.
The charity has ceased all work outside the Netherlands since he took over in 2013, he said. His predecessor had returned to Morocco and could not be reached, and Saudi board members would not comment, he said.
“Our organization has never supported extremism,” Mr. Damanhoury said. “I have known it since 1989. I joined them three years ago. They have always been a mild group.”
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Kosovars celebrating the independence of Kosovo from Serbia in 2008. Credit Bela Szandelszky/Associated Press

Unheeded Warnings

Why the Kosovar authorities — and American and United Nations overseers — did not act sooner to forestall the spread of extremism is a question being intensely debated.
As early as 2004, the prime minister at the time, Bajram Rexhepi, tried to introduce a law to ban extremist sects. But, he said in a recent interview at his home in northern Kosovo, European officials told him that it would violate freedom of religion.
“It was not in their interest, they did not want to irritate some Islamic countries,” Mr. Rexhepi said. “They simply did not do anything.”
Not everyone was unaware of the dangers, however.
At a meeting in 2003, Richard C. Holbrooke, once the United States special envoy to the Balkans, warned Kosovar leaders not to work with the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo, an umbrella organization of Saudi charities whose name still appears on many of the mosques built since the war, along with that of the former Saudi interior minister, Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz.
A year later, it was among several Saudi organizations that were shut down in Kosovo when it came under suspicion as a front for Al Qaeda. Another was Al-Haramain, which in 2004 was designated by the United States Treasury Department as having links to terrorism.
Yet even as some organizations were shut down, others kept working. Staff and equipment from Al-Haramain shifted to Al Waqf al Islami, moderate imams familiar with their activities said.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia appears to have reduced its aid to Kosovo. Kosovo Central Bank figures show grants from Saudi Arabia averaging €100,000 a year for the past five years.
It is now money from Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — which each average approximately €1 million a year — that propagates the same hard-line version of Islam. The payments come from foundations or individuals, or sometimes from the Ministry of Zakat (Almsgiving) from the various governments, Kosovo’s investigators say.
But payments are often diverted through a second country to obscure their origin and destination, they said. One transfer of nearly €500,000 from a Saudi individual was frozen in 2014 since it was intended for a Kosovo teenager, according to the investigators and a State Department report.
Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations were still raising millions from “deep-pocket donors and charitable organizations” based in the gulf, the Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David S. Cohen, said in a speech in 2014 at the Center for a New American Security.
While Saudi Arabia has made progress in stamping out funding for Al Qaeda, sympathetic donors in the kingdom were still funding other terrorist groups, he said.
Today the Islamic Community of Kosovo has been so influenced by the largess of Arab donors that it has seeded prominent positions with radical clerics, its critics say.
Ahmet Sadriu, a spokesman for Islamic Community of Kosovo, said the group held to Kosovo’s traditionally tolerant version of Islam. But calls are growing to overhaul an organization now seen as having been corrupted by outside forces and money.
Kosovo’s interior minister, Skender Hyseni, said he had recently reprimanded some of the senior religious officials.
“I told them they were doing a great disservice to their country,” he said in an interview. “Kosovo is by definition, by Constitution, a secular society. There has always been historically an unspoken interreligious tolerance among Albanians here, and we want to make sure that we keep it that way.”
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Albert Berisha, sentenced to prison for going to Syria to fight, says he did not join the Islamic State. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Families Divided

For some in Kosovo, it may already be too late.
Families have been torn apart. Some of Kosovo’s best and brightest have been caught up in the lure of jihad.
One of Kosovo’s top political science graduates, Albert Berisha, said he left in 2013 to help the Syrian people in the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He abandoned his attempt after only two weeksand he says he never joined the Islamic State — but has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison, pending appeal.
Ismet Sakiqi, an official in the prime minister’s office and a veteran of the liberation struggle, was shaken to find his 22-year-old son, Visar, a law student, arrested on his way through Turkey to Syria with his fiancée. He now visits his son in the same Kosovo prison where he was detained under Serbian rule.
And in the hamlet of Busavate, in the wooded hills of eastern Kosovo, a widower, Shemsi Maliqi, struggles to explain how his family has been divided. One of his sons, Alejhim, 27, has taken his family to join the Islamic State in Syria.
It remains unclear how Alejhim became radicalized. He followed his grandfather, training as an imam in Gjilan, and served in the village mosque for six years. Then, two years ago, he asked his father to help him travel to Egypt to study.
Mr. Maliqi still clings to the hope that his son is studying in Egypt rather than fighting in Syria. But Kosovo’s counterterrorism police recently put out an international arrest warrant for Alejhim.
“Better that he comes back dead than alive,” Mr. Maliqi, a poor farmer, said. “I sent him to school, not to war. I sold my cow for him.”
Alejhim had married a woman from the nearby village of Vrbice who was so conservative that she was veiled up to her eyes and refused to shake hands with her brother-in-law.
The wife’s mother angrily refused to be interviewed. Her daughter did what was expected and followed her husband to Syria, she said.
Secretly, Alejhim drew three others — his sister; his best friend, who married his sister; and his wife’s sister — to follow him to Syria, too. The others have since returned, but remain radical and estranged from the family.
Alejhim’s uncle, Fehmi Maliqi, like the rest of the family, is dismayed. “It’s a catastrophe,” he said.