by Sasha Uzunov
ADVENTURES IN US-ADMINISTERED MACEDONIA:
AMERICAN COVERT OPS IN THE FIGHT FOR CONTROL IN MACEDONIA
The full extent of the meddling in US-administered Macedonia is finally coming to light. It might not be a shocker to the average Macedonia, but many others might find it more than a bit curious that the most powerful country on earth has gone to such great lengths to force a tiny country, one which is even a long-time military ally, to change its name, identity, and history to suit another country, in this case Greece.
At the centre of the intrigue is not only the the controversial US Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily, but also the secretive OTI ‘regime change’ army, OTI (Office of Transition Initiatives) part of USAID (US government’s official foreign aid agency) which like the long-serving ambassador himself, just won’t seem to go away despite the ‘Mission Accomplished’ stage of forc￼ing a government vote that will open the way to constitutional changes, reached on 19 October through brute-force US pressure that shocked and angered many Macedonians.
Since August, TEAM UZUNOV has witnessed the growth of anti-American sentiment to record levels in the Republic of Macedonia because of the strong-arm tactics used. Meddling has included alleged misuse of the Special Prosecutor’s Office to abuse the rule of law to intimate opposition MPs, to threatening letters sent by people like Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer (to opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski of VMRO-DPMNE).
Now, new official documents and other data collected by TEAM UZUNOV prove conclusively that Jess Baily, provided deliberately misleading comments to our prior questions about US interference in Macedonian political affairs and society. Mr. Baily dismissed these queries as mere “bullshit,” and has refused to this day to answer any of them. The level of arrogance the good ambassador has displayed in his sparse comments and whole-sale denial of comment of basic factual questions of public interest are disgraceful for any diplomat, and beg the question of what is Baily hiding? If our comprehensive questions were mere ‘bullshit,’ then why could Baily himself, or his stable of PR talent at the embassy, not have provided simple answers? It appears to be a question of perception management and damage control, since the ambassador and his spokespeople lavish attention on journalists who depict Baily as a God’s gift to (North?) Macedonia.
WHAT’S NORTH GOT TO DO WITH IT? A SIDE COMMENT ON BAILY AND AMANDA SLOAT
In fact, the only response from the embattled ambassador, who has been the most high-profile casualty of American diplomacy during Macedonia’s protracted crisis, came with an enraged on-camera meltdown, when Mr. Baily bizarrely stated that is the “most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life,” when asked whether former State Department official Amanda Sloat had contributed to writing the Prespa Agreement.
Rather than blow up on camera, one would think that the ambassador would want to clear up a simple factual question- as would Ms. Sloat herself, who has failed to respond to several TEAN UZUNOV requests for comment following an insider tip linking her to to the controversial Prespa Agreement. Whatever the case may be there would be plenty of room for overlap between the two- after all, in his most recent incarnation as a diplomat, before getting a chance to save his career in Macedonia, Baily was posted in Turkey.
There he got into hot water too for perceived support of anti-Erdogan protesters. His Turkey expertise overlapped with that of Obama-administration State Department official Sloat, whose expertise also includes the binational dispute between the Republic of Greece and de facto Turkish enclave ‘North Cyprus.’ Baily and Sloat would have been working closely on this issue at that time.
Interestingly enough, Sloat also has prior expertise in the decades-old Northern Ireland bilateral issue. That brings in a British angle, which as TEAM UZUNOV discovered, was also highly relevant to the current Macedonia intrigue. After all the main propaganda and media-image-shaping contractor for the Macedonian government of Zoran Zaev and Radmila Sekerinska was a Northern Irish outfit called Stratagem, which also engaged in controversial PR activities- as social media critics pointed out before and after the failed 30 September referendum.
TEAM UZUNOV blog contacted an international jurist, Ms Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, who could have knocked the whole thing on the head- the claim that Amanda Sloat was involved in the Prespa Agreement – but she oddly claimed to be too busy to answer yes or no. see link here
In short, there’s simply too many coincidences to this intrigue to be overlooked. The fact that the Macedonian and Greek political elite came up with the solution of ‘North’ Macedonia in the Prespa Agreement, while advised by diplomats and experts well versed in bilateral disputes with the ‘North’ moniker (like Cyprus and Ireland), makes it hard to believe that the US State Department would not bring out its big guns for such a sensitive and important strategic initiative as is resolving the Macedonia issue.
The strangest thing about Baily, however, is his obsessive concern for his public opinion. This does not only include ignoring media questions he doesn’t like, it also includes blatant lies to the general public. For one example was the ambassador’s claim that he was not cracking the whip behind the scenes in parliament, in the hours leading up to the crucial 19 October vote. The implication that an American ambassador was literally in the seat of democratic governance and ordering MPs how to vote is sickening though hardly unexpected. To cover his tracks, Baily went to the trouble of staging a photo of himself allegedly at an Embassy party that evening. However some keen observers from the internet opposition group Bojkotiram put together this montage showing Baily’s movements during the crucial hours, and how his denial just doesn’t hold up. Simply put the man is not just a bullshit artist, he’s a serial liar with a dangerous temper to boot- not exactly what one would expect from a seasoned US diplomat.
THE SHADY OTI REGIME CHANGE UNIT – THE GIFT THAT JUST KEEPS ON GIVING
And the farce only gets worse. New data gathered since that fiery showdown by TEAM UZUNOV indicates that Baily-and the whole US policy team- has no leg to stand on when claiming that it has taken a moderate and friendly role in Macedonia. The smoking gun in this regard, was the existence of a special ‘regime change’ unit, OTI, which TEAM UZUNOV exclusively exposed in detail previously. – see link to TEAM UZUNOV article on OTI here
But why would the ambassador and his crew feel nervous about answering questions regarding OTI in Macedonia? A document from the OTI itself gives some fairly obvious reasons, if not by intention.
The revelation that OTI is largely excluded from Congressional oversight, can operate on a few days’ notice, shape-shift its mandate and not report its budget until ‘after the fact’ make it look much more like a classic CIA black ops outfit. The whole story really begs the question of who and why invited this organisation to set up shop in US ally Macedonia, just after the Przino Agreement- which itself certainly did not mandate any stealth regime change units. But this legally shady character of OTI would have been hugely appealing to a US government seeking a ‘soft’ solution to the hard problem of breaking Macedonia- as everything since has shown, the ultimate goal of changing the country’s name, language, identity and history in order to please the Greeks, Bulgarians and Albanians all came to pass. Since the US aggression against its supposed Macedonian ally is not a defensible position diplomatically, it’s handy to have shady regime units that operate through private contractors to keep diplomats’ hands clean.
But for Ambassador Baily, the whole issue of OTI in Macedonia is just another of the many questions unfairly dismissed as “bullshit.” see link here
Indeed several of the unanswered questions addressed to Ambassador Baily concerned this outfit and its role in Macedonia. To make a long story short, it is a semi-secret sector of USAID, founded by President Clinton to take down Milosevic and then expanded to worldwide operations in countries like Columbia and Cuba, occupying a murky space between humanitarian assistance, diplomatic intrigue, intelligence work and overthrowing regimes. With the highly unusual facet of being able to change its mandate with no questions asked during the middle of any mission, OTI has become a favoured go-to option for the US government seeking to get hard results through soft power in countries (like Macedonia), where it can’t legitimately go to war against.
Not Just Feeding the Poor- USAID wants Spooks !
As TEAM UZUNOV previously reported, OTI in Macedonia began operating after September 2015- in other words, just after the real infrastructure for the current forced name change was laid down (ie the Przino Agreement for new elections and the creation of a Special Prosecutor’s office about the wiretap scandal.
As will be disclosed below TEAM UZUNOV has much more to report about the origins of the latter scandal, and like the whole operation itself, it has American fingerprints all over it. But firstly to finish up with OTI, TEAM UZUNOV can reveal two bits of information that prove Ambassador Baily was deliberately negligent and misleading in his duties to support media freedom, in his constant refusals to answer TEAM UZUNOV questions about the program.
For an example of questions which Baily put into the ‘bullshit’ category, was the question of whether former USAID country director James Stein wrote to ask the ministry of foreign affairs for special (quasi-diplomatic) ID cards for his OTI staff. Perhaps we can refresh the good ambassador’s memory with this official letter obtained by TEAM UZUNOV, written by Mr. Stein to the MFA, in which he asks for special ID cards for a former OTI contractor, Michael Stanislowsky and his presumed family members. For good measure, TEAM UZUNOV also provides the actual processed ID card for the former contractor.
But that must be just ‘bullshit’ not worth answering, Mr. Ambassador?
SAFE HOUSES AND NEW RECRUITS- OTI IN ACTION!
The OTI program arrived in Macedonia through a contracting company, AECOM, located in Arlington, Virginia.
This arrangement helps the US government preserve a ‘safe distance’ from its actual field operators. The fact that AECOM is just one of several USAID contractors, and has many completely different business operations around the world, help the government keep a low profile. Nevertheless despite the contracting arrangement the company’s local subsidiary (AEKOM Macedonia (exists solely for two reasons- the now-completed Colourful Revolution/putting SDSM in power, and preparing the ground for the future (North?) Macedonia.
OTI worked on two multi million dollar projects in 2016 *see the below image literally concerned with changing the public view of the government, and mobilising youth civic engagement- together with the ‘big daddies’ of the pro-SDSM NGO scene, Metamorphosis, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and the National Youth Council band of many local NGOs. The second and larger grant was run through the East-West Management Institute, a shady New York-based front for the State Dept. that TEAM UZUNOV has reported on before. The image also reveals that a contracting partner with OTI was McCann Marketing (another question the US Embassy refused to answer).
As the below call for proposals shows, USAID was soliciting for a five-year project on civil society with only a 45-day turnaround time- a rather short time frame for a critical evaluation of any proposal. The deal smells like a pre-cooked plan in which the recipients were already decided. The kicker is that here you have USAID, one branch of the US Government, awarding a 7.5 million dollar contract to the EWMI which gets the vast bulk of its funding from the government. Thus it is just a cut-out used for US policy objectives and in Macedonia has been working in tandem with USAID’s semi-secret OTI regime change unit.
In March 2016, OTI’s local office as AEKOM (AECOM) Macedonia was registered at Bukureshka 3, Skopje, what is completely unknown and unreported until now is that the OTI intelligence team also has a ‘safe-house’ in the city. According to sources, this safe house- on one of the floors of this building pictured – is ironically enough located near the Greek Embassy in the city centre and “is meant to give the operators someplace to go in case their cover is blown or other negative outcomes occur.’
OTI SAFE HOUSE
￼The Yanks may just be paranoid as no such incidents have ever occurred. However they have been embarrassed frequently, for example when the Macedonian journalist Mirka Velinovska specifically named Shannon Martinez and Phelps Feeley as the two main OTI operatives in Macedonia. It is probably not a coincidence that the newspaper Velinovska wrote for, the long-running and respected Dnevnik, was unceremoniously shut down soon after the Zaev-Sekerinska government took control of political power, tightening their grip on all media.
As TEAM UZUNOV has noted in numerous press conferences and other gatherings since August, the new government has cultivated a climate of fear in the media. Simply stated no journalists seem brave enough to ask basic questions (for example, what individuals wrote the Prespa Agreement, or why Nazi statues are being erected in the country). The EU, OSCE and Western governments that praise the government’s progressive ideals and reforms while dubbing Zoran Zaev as the next John F. Kennedy are simply hypocrites. All of these powers joined in the SDSM chorus of criticising the previous VMRO-DPMNE for cracking down on media freedom- yet all of them are oddly silent when it comes to media freedom under Zaev. One has to wonder, why the double standards?
NEW FACES- AND CONNECTIONS
To come back to OTI’s latest antics, TEAM UZUNOV can reveal that, like Elvis, Phelps Feeley has left the building. According to TEAM UZUNOV sources, she was the key ground operator during much of the 2016 elections, subsequent local elections and OTI work during resistance to the Tirana Platform by Macedonian civil activists, that ended with the explosive events in parliament of 27 April 2017, which were so crucial to the country’s changes since. Why? Simply because they finally gave SDSM and the Western diplomatic corps some reason to associate VMRO-DPMNE with violent protests- something that had previously been only associated with the SDSM and Colourful Revolution. The parliament events were followed shortly thereafter by a special visit by Hoyt Yee, then Baily’s handler at the State Department. Yee was able to pressure President Ivanov into allowing Zaev to form a government and the rest, as they say, is history.
Last year another OTI staffer came into the picture-sources believe for eventual project evaluation, a role she performed regarding OTI’s work in Africa. The precocious young woman has also worked previously for USAID in Pakistan, as well as at the highest levels of state government in the US state of Conneticut.
Since June of this year, she was replaced by a Korean-American educated at the UK’s Nottingham University. Song is the official manager of AECOM’s Skopje operation and thus has the biggest role in seeing the program’s multi-million-dollar (though who really knows how much or what it does?) program.
Official proof of the Feeley-Song transition comes from this official AECOM letter obtained by TEAM UZUNOV:
Yet as a social media photo shows, part of the operation involves travel to Belgrade – Interestingly enough, Ilievski’s wife, Sneze, is a former employee of the US Embassy in Skopje!
￼Another new face on the OTI team, which shows that far from winding down the project is increasing, is Shalom Konstantino, who works with politics and youth activism in Skopje- and, as his twitter account shows, is a constant backer of Ambassador Baily’s activities. See https://twitter.com/shalomkon .
OTI IN SKOPJE: A CASE OF DUAL IDENTITIES? Who is Shannon Martinez? -Two places at once? -Mistaken identity in Romania?
What is really strange about the USAID role, however is the apparent double identity of the OTI’s central project manager, Shannon Martinez. Romanian sources have told TEAM UZUNOV that Martinez fits the description of another USAID official Madalina Cristina Cristovoleanu. We tried to clarify this. It might be an innocent case of mistaken identity on the part our Romanian sources.
TEAM UZUNOV on 30 October 2018 contacted Ms Martinez by telephone at the US Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia but she declined to take our questions and kicked us upstairs to the public affairs officer. We sent an email on 2 November 2018 with questions which still have not be answered !
From: Sasha Uzunov
Sent: Friday, 2 November 2018 4:18 PM
To: email@example.com; Shannon Martinez; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Questions for Shannon Martinez
It was a pleasure to finally speak to you on the phone on Tuesday 30 October 2018 briefly despite our paths never crossing over media issues in Macedonia over the past 12 months and never talking or meeting.
I have had the privilege to talk to the US Ambassador Mr Jess Baily on camera – though admittedly hurried and incomplete. You may not be aware but he declined to respond to a list of questions I emailed him.
I have some questions for you I need to ask you as you would appreciate in order to get both sides of a very controversial story. And I would be remiss if I didn’t ask them. Please appreciate this is nothing personal but a professional journalistic obligation.
1. Did OTI have anything to do with “regime change” and “name change” in Macedonia in order to satisfy US strategic interests in keeping allies Greece, Bulgaria and Albanian happy at Macedonia’s expense?
2. Did USAID / OTI have anything to do with pressuring Macedonian MPs to vote for the controversial Prespa Agreement?
3. Did ex US State Department official Dr Amanda Sloat together with OTI have anything to do with drafting the Prespa Agreement?
4. Why do USAID including OTI officials in Macedonia require special diplomatic passes from the Macedonian authorities if their work is related to “aid?”
5. Why do USAID officials including OTI run AICOM in Macedonia, a private contractor, and again why is there a need for a special diplomatic pass?
5. Can you understand that the average person is sceptical of USAID/OTI/AICOM when the officials belonging to the aforementioned organisations require a diplomatic pass it carries a negative inference of some kind clandestine work with which there is a need for immunity from possible prosecution by the host nation, in this case Macedonia?
6. The money handed out by USAID has ended up either directly or indirectly with civic groups, NGOs and individuals who have simply focused on so called Macedonian nationalism and its paraphanalia such as statues but there has been silence over WW2 Albanian Nazi collaborator statues in Macedonia? Likewise no protests against Bulgarian extremism in Macedonia.
Why the blatant bias? Nazi statues are banned in Germany for example. But the topic of Albanian Nazi statues remains taboo in Macedonia so much so US Ambassador Jess Baily has deliberately avoided it when asked about it.
7. Macedonian journalist Mirka Velinovska alleged some kind of incident involving you, your colleague Phelps Feeley and Mirka at an ATM last year or the year before . Can tell us what transpired?
8. Does the Romanian or Moldovian name Madalina Cristina Cristovoleanu ring a bell? According to my Romanian sources it is alleged that this is an alias of yours or you have borrowed this genuine identity from time to time. Is this true? Or Is it a simple case of genuine innocent mistaken identity by my Romanian sources?
9. It is also alleged you have travelled to Romania many times. What was the purpose of such visits?
10. I have heard reports from Mirka Velinovska you speak Macedonian. Is this true?
11. If called upon by the US Congress at some future date about Macedonia would you testify under oath?
12. It has been alleged there is Russian “interference” in Macedonia via Serbia. Yet there has been not one protest at the Serb embassy in Macedonia by activists financed directly or in directly by USAID. Isn’t this odd?
I thank you for your time
OTI IN THE COLOURFUL REVOLUTION- THE SECOND TIME AROUND
Whatever might be the case it’s important to note that this isn’t the first time OTI has dug its claws into Macedonia. In fact, as the following ‘midterm report’ makes clear it was activated during or after the 2001 war with the NLA. The government formed after that by SDSM and DUI consisted of head honchos still with us, like Radmila Sekerinska and ethnic Albanian warlord Ali Ahmeti. The report, written by Biljana Bejkova, is a gold mine of information about the organisation and its role in Macedonia after the war. It stands to reason that the USAID program was already well known to SDSM and its leaders by virtue of the simple fact that they were in power while it was operating.
see link here
What a surprise then to note Bejkova on a TV program with pro-SDSM, pro-Serb Colourful Revolutionary Borjan Jovanovski! – see link here
What this indicates at very least, is that at the key moments in Macedonia’s conflicts, the same cast of characters representing US diplomacy’s shadiest regime change unit is always present- and cultivating ties that will last well into the future… hence the continual obsession with youth related issues. The Americans have a long-term plan for Macedonia, and are executing it step by step- whether Macedonians like it or not.
DOES THE US STEALTH REGIME CHANGE POLICY HAVE A HIDDEN AGENDA? THE TIRANA PLATFORM, CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES AND TERRITORIAL PARTITION REVISITED
The AECOM Macedonia company’s American and local staff all work on a variety of projects typically ‘civil society’ and ‘local development.’ This has been done hand in glove with youth activists linked to the New York-based East-West Management Institute, which TEAM UZUNOV exposed last year in regards to its meddling with Macedonia’s 2016 elections through funding civil society youth groups. The EWMNI was in fact the winner of the USAID ‘rush job’ contract of 9.5 million dollars, as this official document of 28 June 2016 clearly shows:
Most scandalous was the fact that EWMI board member Delina Fico is an ex-wife of Albanian PM Edi Rama, who unleashed several months of political crisis in Macedonia in early 2017 by inviting ethnic Albanian politicians from Macedonia to his office, where they created the so-called ‘Tirana Platform’ of aggressive ultra-nationalist demands that were not part of the December 2016 election, that was frantically organised by Western powers to drive the name-change process faster. More recently, TEAM UZUNOV has exposed, through examining EWMI’s own records, that the vast majority of its funding comes from the US State Department.
What has been bubbling up to the surface recently is the public’s fear that the Tirana Platform may be inserted through the back door of the Zaev constitutional amendment process- which was supposedly meant to concern only the name issue and related issues between Macedonia and Greece. This theory would help explain why the ethnic Albanians have been so quiet since the failed referendum. Since they (and SDSM supporters and public workers faced with the threat of losing their state jobs) were the only ones who turned out for the referendum (36 percent turnout), it would stand to reason that Albanians would take to the streets to protest those ‘evil Slavs’ holding them back from the pipe-dream promise of NATO and EU membership promised by Zaev. However, if as seems highly likely, Zaev and his Albanian confreres have cooked up some other agreement behind the scenes, we may well see some version of the Tirana Platform pushed in to a future amended Macedonian constitution.
And, like clockwork, the Albanian parties are putting forth their demands. Bujar Osmani (pictured below) of DUI recently called for the Preamble of Macedonia’s constitution to be changed to include the quota-based Ohrid Agreement, though all the conditions of that agreement have long been fulfilled.
It is most likely that the Albanians – who have been blocking any national census since 2002 – would like to force this agreement (which ended the 2001 war) in place of having a census, because they know they don’t have the numbers required to fully implement it nationally. Ironically enough, Osmani’s DUI party- which, it must be remembered, descends from Ali Ahmeti’s NLA terrorist group that tried to destroy the state in 2001- would be one step closer to taking the regime change to its ultimate conclusion of forcing the Tirana Platform in through the back door, making a de facto ethnically federalised state.
If that occurs, it would be a further step towards partition of the country, and the primary ones responsible for this would be the Americans. One has to ask whether this was the US policy all along, as many have speculated for the past two decades. Indeed, during the current crisis, American bigwigs and experts have explicitly called for the partition and destruction of Macedonia as a ‘solution’ to a problem that most Macedonians would argue doesn’t even exist!
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