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US Eyes New Military Operation on Crete, Links Tighten With SYRIZA

September 18, 2018

With US relations ironically warming with Greece’s Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a former Communist youth leader, the American military presence could expand beyond a Navy base on Souda Bay on Crete.

Tsipras, who said he would not allow a US military operation in the country and would take Greece out of NATO – he’s now aiding the defense alliance – has made relations between the countries better than they have been in 50 years, a diplomat who wasn’t named told Kathimerini.

Among options being considered, the paper said, is a new base in southern Crete to host special forces following the transfer of MQ-9 drones to a US base in Larissa.

Souda Bay is a key spot for aircraft carriers and repair facilities for destroyers but was unlikely to be able to expand, sending the US looking for other spots. There has even been on-again, off-again talk of a base on an island, such as Karpathos, but nothing has come of that so far although in 2016 Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was keen on the idea.

He is the leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition led by SYRIZA and has eagerly sought closer ties and military cooperation with the US.

Boosting Greek-American ties and supporting the cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel in the region are of key strategic interest to the US, the report said, even though Tsipras, apart from courting big business, has shown little interest in the Diaspora and barred voting from those abroad.

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, who has repeatedly stressed that defense is a key pillar of cooperation between the two countries is said to be one of the driving forces behind the cooperation that is now so vital, with US relations with Turkey deteriorating although it has a base there, that the US has made little of furloughs for a terrorist who killed five Americans attached to the US Embassy over the years.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell is also said to be behind making Greece a focus in the region, along with Cyprus, with Turkey increasing provocations in the Aegean and keeping warships off Cyprus in a bid to prevent foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.

Mitchell reportedly said that Greece has the opportunity to “play ball” with the US as American relations cool with Turkey, especially after President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel, incensing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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