The Greek Patriot on the shores of Hοrmuz

Huffington Post Greece – Feb. 08, 2020

On the brink of the abyss. This way I can better describe the movements of regional and international players in the Middle East files. This has been happening for the last forty years. From one war to another, from one crisis to another, from rocket strikes to airplane downing. It is impossible for any researcher or analyst on political issues of the Middle East to timely determine the end of these crises. The last forty years are just one part of the history of an area that has always been the focus of attention and the theater of economic, religious and commercial conflict.

Thousands of kilometers west of this area, on another political scene, the Greek, since the end of World War II and thereafter, the country can be described as one of the few in the world that does not intervene in international conflicts. All Greek governments have always opted for neutrality, and as a result of this choice we can say for sure that Greece is one of the safest countries in the world. But in just one moment, the new Greek government has decided to ignore this strategy and put its nose to the shores of the Strait of Hormuz, at a particularly dangerous time that we are near a bloody war more than ever in the last forty years. Did this choice come about after an in-depth study of the region and time or was it done emotionally and unknowingly for its positive and negative effects?

First of all, it should be emphasized that since the formation of the new Greek government last summer, it has not had time to relax due to external developments, especially the regional ones. This fact had a major impact on the plan drafted by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. This plan, which I had the opportunity to personally examine before the election, was based on the concept that the interior of the country was the most important. It focused on combating corruption and nepotism, turning the country into a more attractive investment destination, hence the debate on opening its doors to Western, Arab and Chinese investors through government-sponsored action.

However, since day one and during the summer season, Turkey has moved provocatively into the Cyprus waters, deploying three research vessels, searching for gas and oil in disputed areas. This external crisis has introduced a kind of tension in the government that has made decisions more emotionally and less studied. On the other hand, the Turkish violations are based on Erdoğan and his government’s ability to tame the European side through the file of the four million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. In addition, US-Turkish relations under Trump are very good in general. While Turkish moves are well thought out, the Greek government shows that it is unable to keep up with developments and moves randomly, with Turkey continuing its research and Greece backsliding.

Following Erdoğan’s meeting with the Prime Minister of the Libyan National Accord government Sarraj, it was announced that the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding that included their co-operation in various areas, such as defense, security and the economy. One of the issues, most important for Greece, was the delineation from the two sides of the Turkish-Libyan border away from earlier maps and the international law of the seas of 1982. The result was Turkey’s piracy in a huge part of Greek territorial waters. Here I must stop to highlight the agreement accompanying the Memorandum of Understanding, the details of which have not been published in the media:

The agreement stipulates that Turkey and its private companies will have the right to construct pipelines and transport Libyan gas to Turkey (through the waters that Turkey steals from Greece under the MoU) and pipelines to transport Libyan gas to Italy and from there to southern and central Europe, with enormous benefits for the Turkish economy. For this reason it was necessary to redesign the maritime border between Turkey and Libya.

The memorandum between Ankara and the Libyan National Accord government led the new Greek government to make more decisions without any prior study, the most important of which is, strangely, the dispatch of a Greek Patriot missile battery and 130 militants to the eastern part of the Gulf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia near the Strait of Ormuz. Another Greek reaction to Turkey’s moves in the eastern Mediterranean was the possibility of sending a Greek army team inside Libya to oversee the ceasefire. That is to say, as the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish says in a poem: “We pray for Andalusia while Aleppo is besieged.”

In order to clarify the dangers of this Greek move in Saudi Arabia, I must recall what the Iranian ambassador to Athens said after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the Americans, stressing that Tehran would respond to any country from which began the US attacks on Iran. When Greece becomes a party, even with one Patriot array, the least we can say is that the setting becomes very dangerous. The current regime in Iran, since its establishment in 1979, has been working to create security cells and militias in various parts of the world. From Hezbollah in Lebanon and Al-Baqr in Syria, al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq to Houthi in Yemen. Not to mention the fact that Tehran is behind many terrorist attacks in many European countries. Therefore, when the new Greek government takes such a step, it means that it places Greece on the list of Tehran militia targets. With the first terrorist attack in Greece’s geographical area, the dream of thirty million tourists this year will remain a dream and investor conferences will be empty.

Between the arriving of French naval forces and the outgoing Greek forces, Greek officials are becoming more open to French ideas and international actions. Greek Patriot sent to eastern Saudi Arabia will be accompanied by French anti-air missile systems in the context of current French policy aimed at enhancing the French role in international crises and conflicts after a long period in which France had chosen the position of spectator. Also, the Greek move to Libya to agree to send Greek forces is a French idea. France is one of Haftar’s major backers militarily and politically and will have a significant stake in Libyan oil. But what does this identification of Athens with Paris’ wishes for any political or military solution mean for us? Did we get verbal promises or gain secret deals that would prevent Turkey from continuing its exploration? And if so, why didn’t they stop it in the Cyprus area? Will they stop Ankara from exploring Greek waters? Let’s be pragmatic. Paris is unable, either diplomatically or militarily, to stop Turkey from exploring and mining, but also from supplying arms to Tripoli. So why put the hyena in our house?

On the coast of Crete, between the Turkish piracy and the French warships, the temperature is constantly rising. Greece is at a disadvantage and the surrounding atmosphere does not foresee any positive developments. Any frivolous move could lead to a broad-based or limited-size Greek-Turkish conflict. The losers will be the Greeks and the Turks, while the winners are far from the Aegean Sea.

Macron is lost because of his domestic policy. Demonstrations on the streets of Paris that have been going on for more than a year confirm it, as well as his foreign policy, with the war in Mali up to his dirty role in Algeria, Libya and the Middle East proving that this French government is not a trusted friend or mentor for Greece. The new Greek government needs to sit down and re-read the domestic, regional and international scene to draw up a proper roadmap.