Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Illegal Muslim immigrants and Geopolitics

Ioannis Theodoratou, Editorial Director of the Greek monthly Defence Review, recently wrote an important article on the recent riots by illegal Muslim immigrants in Athens, the consequences of the massed entry of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and Muslims in Greece and the role of Turkey. Antipodes has previously referenced Theodoratou here.

Theodoratou believes that Muslim immigrants protesting outside the Parliament House in downtown Athens and crying “God is Great” is only the beginning of their mobilization. He is almost certainly right. Problems will worsen due to Greece lacking a reliable system for monitoring maritime borders; and therefore, unable to control further illegal immigration. Although, there is an agreement between Greece and Turkey for the return of those who cross the border illegally, Ankara has so far refused to accept them back and Athens does not exercise any pressure.

Furthermore, Theodoratou views the latest problems with illegal Muslim immigrants in the broader context of Greece failing to uphold its national security:

This is again ample proof of the total failure of our country to defend its basic national interests. Another recent example of the “Finlandisation” of Greek policy occurred on June 4, duringthe official visit of senior Greek military personnel to Turkey in order to "normalize" bilateral relations; however, Turkish fighter planes were at the same time flying low over the island of Agathonisi. So apart from exercising military pressure on Athens, Ankara has in its “quiver” the selective dumping of Muslim immigrants to certain islands in the Aegean.

Theodoratou then asks the question why should illegal Muslim immigrants worry us more than others and why is the recent increased flow such a threat to national security. He answers:

We should be worried because of the political use of Muslims by countries whose strategic interests conflict with Greek ones. For example, Ankara has over the last five years tried to create within Greece a “window of opportunity” through which to intervene indirectly the domestic political scene. The first example of these new tactics were noticeable during the recent European elections. After the incidents in central Athens concerning the damaging of a Koran by a policeman, the Advisory Committee of Thrace, a Muslim minority institution, urged Muslims in the region to vote "blank". The incident in Athens was seen as an excellent opportunity to garner support amongst Muslims in Thrace to protest towards Europe - the abstention of about 48-49% in the prefectures of Xanthi and Rhodope was significant compared to the broader national context. At the same, a trend worth mentioning was that some people, obviously poorly informed, had taken the instructions of abovementioned committee literally and voted for the “Blank” party, in the Rhodope prefecture, which strangely came fourth, with 2,591 votes or 4.84% of the vote!

We should note that the Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan and the Foreign Minister, Davutoglou already prescribe a policy of protecting Muslim religious minorities throughout the Balkans. Antipodes has previously written about this policy here. Davutoglou has proposed that Turkey should create a legal basis to justify the intervention of Turkey; bringing forth, the example of the invasion of Cyprus in order to protect the Turkish minority there.

Theodoratou then writes that over time illegal Muslim immigrants in Greece and longstanding Muslims in Thrace will become better organised and will receive increased financing from foreign sponsors such as Saudi Arabia. He also writes:

Human rights will be used as political tools by the powerful regional/global powers to promote their wider geopolitical interests. Thus, in the case of the Muslims in Greece, they are asserting their rights, which runs counter to national security, at a time of increasing American openness towards the Islamic world. At the same time, the United States promotes the "right to self-determination" in conjunction with the obligation to accept a multi-racial and multi-religious future.

We see a path of convergence in U.S.-Turkish interests, which along with the problem of illegal Muslim immigrants in Greece, should not be ignored by Greek planners. This convergence will become progressively clearer and is expected to lead to an escalation of pressure over the next few months on other issues such as Cyprus, the Aegean Sea, the exclusive economic zone, etc.

In the media, Ankara enjoys the support of prominent Americans, who are either ignorant of history or deliberately lie in order to support the important geo-strategic role of Turkey. On 2 June, the Joint Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, Admiral Mullen, speaking at an event of the 28th Annual Meeting of the US-Turkish relations, said that Turkey fought with the United States on the side of the Allies during the WWII!

In future, we should expect other such "innocent" statements, which in combination with the exploitation of Muslim immigrants in Greece as political tools, will lead to clear political goals. Already there has been an attempt to register the Albanian Muslim minority in Greece - to provide them with more political "expression" by giving them greater political rights.

Theodoratou interprets the recent protests by Muslim illegal immigrants and the massive wave of illegal immigrantion through a geopolitical lens rather than simply being a problem of humanitarian concern. He also recognises the interesting correlation of forces at work which are likely to exert additional pressure on Greece in the medium term. Considering the spineless political class currently governing the country the future looks increasingly grim.

Source: Defence Review (Ioannis Theodoratou), Antipodes

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