From Consortium News
The Greek word "syriza" means radical or from the grass roots. That, however, does not describe the man who leads Syriza, Greece's ruling party of the same name.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras mishandled the dramatic standoff with the EU and international creditors three years ago. He is now meddling with the country's anti-terrorism laws concerning the Revolutionary Organization 17 November, a far-left group formed in 1975 that has carried out numerous assassinations.
I am not unbiased on this issue. I was a CIA officer in Athens from 1998-2000 working against 17 November, which has killed 23 people, including foreign diplomats, a Greek publisher of a right-wing newspaper, a member of parliament, a CIA station chief in Athens, two U.S. defense attaches, and a U.S. Air Force sergeant.
I left Greece abruptly in August 2000 after 17 November assassinated my neighbor, British Defense Attache Stephen Saunders. The group said in a subsequent communique that they had set out to kill me that morning, but they saw that I was driving an armored car and they knew that I was armed. I was evacuated two hours after the communique was published.
Under Tsipras' reforms, any prisoner who has significant physical disabilities and who is serving a life sentence may be released unconditionally. That law affects only one person, Savvas Xiros, the 17 November assassin whose bomb went off in his hands as he was positioning it to kill a shipowner in the port city of Pireaus. Xiros lost his hands and an eye. He thought he would die from his injuries, so he confessed everything to the police. Then he lived. So far he's still in prison.
Another provision gave furloughs to all of the 17 November terrorists serving life terms for murder, including the group's founder Alexandros Yiotopoulos and its two lead assassins, Christodoulos Xiros and Dimitris Koufondinas. They are all serving terms of more than 1,600 years each. Two years ago, while on a two-week Christmas furlough, Christodoulos Xiros simply walked free. He was caught a year later. But instead of being punished with a longer sentence, he is scheduled for another furlough this Christmas.
After becoming prime minister in January 2015, Tsipras, then 44, almost immediately began hinting that Greece would exit the Eurozone and return to the drachma as its national currency unless the "evil troika" -- the European Central Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- eased demands to slash government spending, primarily on pensions.
He sent his finance minister at the time, Giannis Varoufakis, who is now working with Sen. Bernie Sanders to form an international progressive movement, to Berlin and London to hold the Greek position as forcefully as possible. Varoufakis did as he was asked. He made it clear that Syriza was willing to leave the European Union and default on its loans to defend Greek citizens from hardship. His comments rattled foreign exchange markets and weakened the euro against the dollar.
As part of these hardline and high-stakes negotiation, Greece missed a payment deadline of its international creditors by 24 hours, further escalating tensions. Tsipras then pulled an infamous publicity stunt. He called for a national referendum on withdrawing from the Eurozone, calculating that it would fail. He had no intention of dropping the euro and returning to the drachma. But voters approved the referendum.
Varoufakis, who is a personal friend, told me that he was with the prime minister the night of the referendum. When it was clear it would pass, he said, Tsipras looked at him and said, "sh*t. We're going to actually win this."
Tsipras decided to ignore the voters. Instead of fulfilling his party's essential, opening promise -- to resist demands for massive budget cuts and layoffs from the public sector for Greece -- Tsipras capitulated.
Varoufakis Takes the Fall