By Andreas C Chrysafis
March, 2015 (No 70) ©
The geopolitical changes in the Eastern Mediterranean have become like shifting sand; land is gained and lands are lost; souls vanquish and lives perish at each day’s passing! With the Assad ‘regime change” and Jihad atrocities in Syria and Iraq, stability its shaky to say the least. Evidently, accordingly to military experts the greatest danger of all is the war against “Islamic State” extremism. It is envisioned that it will take a generation to eradicate it. Such assertions announced by the USA and EU governments offer reasons for serious concerns about world safety and stability.
The latest mass beheadings of twenty-one innocent Egyptian Christians by IS on a Libyan beach – orchestrated like a movie – makes one’s skin crawl over by such carnage committed at the hands of those murderers who show no mercy for human lives. The sea turned red with the blood of the slaughtered.
Add the recent attacks in the heart of Europe and the IS threat becomes so obvious they prescribe that there are homegrown Jihadist “sleeper” cells in dormancy and in readiness to unleash havoc in their own countries at a time and place of their own choosing. This terror recognizes neither borders nor nationality.
Actually, Jihadists have rediscovered an old magic formula to attract new recruits and gain notoriety; religion! They misuse the Muslim faith to justify their actions but no religion is responsible for committing such brutalities; deranged people are! Unfortunately, this is what the world is dealing with today; an archaic form of modern barbarism gone berserk!
Cyprus is smack in the eye of the storm and in close proximity to those horrors. If IS terrorists successfully gain control and formulate a corridor through Syria to reach the Mediterranean coastline, nobody would feel safe in the region. One can be sure Cyprus would become a target of conquest. Those black reapers of death on the loose, killing in the name of Allah would then seek out new trophies soaked in blood. Each day passing, they weave and spin a web of brutality never seen before.
As a Christian nation, Cyprus is quite vulnerable with the presence of 400,000 Anatolian Turks imported by Turkey to change the demographic character of the island. The threat becomes real by Ankara’s admittance that 10% of IS terrorists are considered to be Turkish Sunni nationals. Under those terms, if a tiny 3% of those settlers are radically brainwashed for Jihad, then a disturbing picture emerges; one that could transform the island forever.
Should Cyprus worry? Definitely and there are a number of factors and reasons that puts Cyprus directly in harms way:
First and foremost, the island was once a part of the Ottoman Caliphate, which IS wants to recapture; geographically Cyprus offers a good base for expansion; it has natural gas; the British use the Akrotiri military bases for air attacks against IS targets in Syria and Iraq; Turkey under “Sultan Erdogan” Buyuk Usta “Great Master” is sympathetic to the “Islamic State”; an Islamic Sunni Study Centre (the largest in the world) is being set up on the island; the British military base at Dhekelia offers good land and sea access for cross-border incursions; Turkish nationals come and go freely between the crossings and fanatics could easily cause havoc against civilians.
Under the IS threat, keeping those crossings open it’s questionable whether to maintain them open or shut until a solution to reunite the island has been reached between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
It is encouraging however, to note that the government has recently recognized the IS threat Cyprus is facing. The prospects that some Jihadist “sleeper” cells are lurking in the Turkish occupied area are not too far fetched. Mr. Kasoulides, the Foreign Minister admitted that Cyprus is susceptible to the dangers of IS and that his government is taking steps to deal with the threat.
In fact there are signs to validate Mr. Kasoulides’ warnings. The Cyprus Intelligence Service (KYP) commander Mr. Andreas Pentaras has admitted that since 2013, there is a movement for Cypriot-registered double-cabin vehicles crossing to the north, shipped to Turkey and then across the border to Syria. Those pickups are modified with weapons and are used by IS fighters while still displaying Cypriot car licensed plates. Also recently, two Syrian-Jihadists with Kalashnikovs, knives and other weaponry as well as a stash of cash were apprehended, whilst at Larnaca airport, European Muslims were stopped from entering the occupied area en-route to join Jihadist training camps. Those signs may seem insignificant at the moment but disturbing nevertheless.
As an independent nation Cyprus needs to forge strong relations with other powers to defend the country and its citizens. Since nothing is for nothing, Cyprus has to decide how much it’s prepared to give up in exchange for a strong alliance; an alliance that its own existence may depend on.
President Anastasiade’s recent visit to Russia was seen as a breakthrough in a new foreign policy; from years of passiveness, to one of an offensive and a defensive policy! Foremost, Cyprus has finally put its own interests first above others. He did well by securing important bilateral agreements in finance, culture, tourism and trade but the most important of them all it’s the agreement that would allow Russian military ships to use the Cyprus ports and waters when necessary for peaceful purposes.
The next likely initiative is to see a permanent Russian Naval Base on the island. If so, it would transform the entire geopolitical environment of the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus would no longer feel alone nor a sitting target at the mercy of its enemy.
That political move by Cyprus did not go down well with its western “allies” and “friends”. The UK wasted no time to question the President’s agreement while France did not object – since it also uses its ports and waters for its navy and military maneuvers – but the EU was not pleased at all. The Cyprus/Russian co-operation agreement took everyone by surprise but more so by the fact that it was initiated by a right-wing conservative government. Recognizing how unfairly western allies and the EU behaved politically towards Cyprus all the parties in Cyprus unanimously welcome the agreement.
Insofar as foreign policy is concerned, the Cyprus government has now moved in a new direction. Like all other countries, the government has the right to make alliances and agreements with anyone it chooses that would best serve its own interests. Seeking to make new agreements in a wider political spectrum and abandoning the 40-year old failed foreign policy of the past, it’s a wise move and well overdue in most people’s minds.
There is now a strong triangle, formulated by agreements between Cyprus with Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Greece. That triangle offers a good protection umbrella for Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean waters against provocateurs and opportunists such as Turkey. With Russia on board, Cyprus has now secured a powerful ally where others botched.
Establishing a Russia naval base, would not only encourage greater Russian investments to help kick-start the economy but also and most importantly, it would act as a deterrent to those who plan the destruction of Cyprus, namely: Turkey or the Islamic State terrorists!
They would think twice before attempting to make their next aggressive move for the Islamization of the island.
That’s what the Republic of Cyprus desperately needs; a strong ally so all people – both Greek and Turkish Cypriots – would start to feel safe and secure again in a democracy as one unified country. They can then look forward to a brighter future without been intimidated by Turkey’s constant provocations because of its military might; for might is not right!
Andreas C Chrysafis
Author – Writer – Artist