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Moscow outmaneuvers Washington’s Kurdistan Mideast destabilization project

Kurdistan’s Barzani has rapidly lost power while Russia has rapidly gained influence in the region

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(New Eastern Outlook) – For the moment it looks as if Russian three-dimensional geopolitical chess moves in the turbulent Middle East have thrown a giant monkey wrench into Washington plans to create an independent Kurdistan. In September the Kurdish population in Iraq voted apparently overwhelmingly for creation of an independent Kurdistan that would control some of the richest oil fields of Iraq in and around Kirkuk as well. Today, a month later, Massoud Barzani, the US and Israel-backed Kurd leader, is facing a major loss of powers from the Iraq Kurd Parliament. In the middle of the fast-changing developments—whose outcome is decisive to far more than the Middle East—is Russia and the Russian state-owned oil giant, Rosneft.

Contrary to the slick US and EU propaganda that has portrayed former President Massoud Barzani and his Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) as champions of western-style democracy, Barzani is a clan warlord who has ruthlessly pursued ethnic cleansing against a Yazidi and Christian Assyrian minority in order to gain control of oil lands those peoples had historically occupied until 2014. The Barzani clan and his Peshmerga military arm were trained beginning the late 1960s by Israeli Mossad Lt Colonel Tzuri Sagi, initially to go against Saddam Hussein’s rule. Israeli ties to the Barzani clan have remained since.

Since that time the Massoud Barzani clan has built a dictatorial power in the Kurdish region of Iraq using assassination, corruption and since 2014, control of sales of Iraqi oil via Turkey. Such is Barzani’s mafia-power, despite the fact that his term as President of the Iraqi Kurdistan ended in 2015 and the Kurd regional parliament refused to renew it, he has ruled since without any legal basis by preventing the parliament from convening and formally ousting him. Massoud’s son controls the region’s security council and all all military and civilian intelligence.

Barzani, with open backing of Israel’s Netanyahu, despite major opposition from most of the world, went ahead with a referendum for an independent Kurdish state. It was to have been the beginning of a domino-style reshaping of the geopolitical map of the entire Middle East along the lines of US Army Col. Ralph Peters’ 2006 Armed Forces Journal, “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look.”

Since the British and French carved up the oil-rich lands of the collapsing Ottoman Empire in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 during the First World War, the ethnic peoples known as Kurds were divided, deliberately, between the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and of Turkey. To now create a single Kurdish state would destabilize the entire region and beyond. The issues among the various ethnic Kurds themselves are as well vast with differences in Kurd dialects sometimes being as vast as that between English and modern German. The political differences as well are significant.

Had the US and Israel succeeded in forming an independent Kurdish state in Iraq as a precursor to a Greater Kurdistan of some 23 million people, it would have thrown the entire region from Iran to Iraq to Syria and Turkey into war, the kind of really big war the Pentagon neoconservatives have salivated over since they concocted the fake proof in 2003 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Interesting to note, the same California PR firm, Russo Marsh & Rogers, that created Move America Forward (MAF), as a pro-war lobby for the 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, using fabrications to whip up popular support in the US for war in Iraq, is the PR firm used since 2005 by the Barzani clan to promote the idea in the US that Kirkuk oil should be part of an independent Kurdistan.

One month later…

One month later and how the Iraqi Kurd landscape has changed. In a blitz military action that was clearly supported by a strong anti-Barzani faction of the Kurds, the Baghdad army retook Kirkuk and the key oilfields occupied since 2014 illegally by Barzani’s forces.

This meant that the financial key to Barzani and Tel Aviv’s “independent” Iraqi Kurdistan, the oil revenues from Kirkuk and Bai Hasaan fields of around 1.2 million barrels per day are no longer in the hands of the Barzani mafia.

After Barzani’s gang took control of the Kirkuk oil-rich region in 2014, driving hundreds of thousands of ethnic Yazidis and Assyrian Christians from their homes, US oil interests helped to build Barzani’s power. Rex Tillerson as CEO of ExxonMobil defied the Baghdad government and invested in the Kurd region of Iraq along with Chevron after 2014 as a clear part of the US preparation for an independent oil-rich Kurdistan.

Amidst the chaos of the conquests of ISIS across Iraq and Syria after 2014, a conquest that was initially facilitated by Barzani in his bid to grab Kirkuk oil, Barzani’s clan made an illegal deal with the family of Turkish President Erdogan to sell the oil via Turkish pipelines where it was sold on to Israel earning Barzani’s clan billions of dollars. By August 2015 the Jerusalem Post reported that as much as 77% of Israel oil imports were coming from Kurd-occupied Kirkuk region, via pipeline from Turkish Ceyhan to the Israel oil port at Ashkelon.

Following Barzani’s bombastic declaration of a 93% independence referendum yes vote, the Iraq government, as did others including that of Turkey and Iran, declared the vote illegal. Baghdad swiftly moved to impose sanctions on the Iraqi Kurdish region. Erdogan’s Turkey, fearing a spread of Kurdish independence to Turkish Kurds, a significant minority bordering Syria and Iraq, cut off Kurd pipeline flows.

Then Baghdad held secret talks with the opposition Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of the recently deceased Jalal Talabani. PUK had opposed the idea of referendum, and it was their soldiers who largely controlled Kirkuk.

According to Bafel Talabani, the son of recently-deceased Jalal Talabani, just before the Iraqi forces, in a joint operation of the Iraqi army and the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militias were moving to retake Kirkuk, a deal was reached with Baghdad to peacefully withdraw PUK-controlled Peshmerga forces from the city, opening the way for dialogue and saving thousands of lives. Talabani called the decision of Barzani to go ahead with a referendum, despite clear warnings of the consequences, a “colossal mistake.”

On October 29, Massoud Barzani announced he would step down as (illegitimate) President of the Iraqi Kurdish region, acknowledging the utter failure of the Israel-backed referendum ploy.

Russian Oil Geopolitics

A crucial if little-noted factor in making the strategic shift in the geopolitical energy field of the Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish regions in the last months has been Russia, specifically Russia’s giant state-owned Rosneft.

Surprising many, just after the September 25 Iraqi Kurd referendum vote, Rosneft CEO, Igor Sechin announced that Rosneft had agreed to buy control of Iraqi Kurdistan’s main oil pipeline, boosting its investment in the autonomous region to $4 billion according to remarks by Sechin on October 18 at a conference this author attended in Italy two days before the signing of the deal.

Rosneft plans to increase pipeline capacity to 950,000 bpd. Under the agreement Rosneft will control the majority 60% with the rest held by the current operator, the Kurdish KAR Group in Erbil. In addition to investing $3.5 billion into the Kurdish pipeline, Rosneft earlier this year lent the regional Kurdish government $1.2 billion to ease a budget crisis, making Russia far and away the largest foreign investor in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

The same day, October 19, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), strongly backed by US weapons and training, in the ongoing war in Syria’s oil and gas-rich Deir Ezzor province, made a surprise deal to turn over the rich gas field to troops of the Russian Ground Forces, according to a report in the Beirut Almasdar News.

The report that the Kurdish SDF agreed to turn over Al-Tabiya gas field it had just taken from ISIS control on September 23 suggests more than a minor role of Russia in both Syrian and in Iraqi oil and gas developments as well, of course, in Kurdish developments. The Al-Tabiya gas field, formerly operated by Conoco of the US had the largest capacity of any field in Syria, capable of producing 13 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. The Almasdar News report states that the Russians will turn control back to the Syrian Damascus government. The deal followed secret talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East in the self-declared Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava to meet with Kurdish and Syrian leaders in the northern city of Qamishli.

On October 25 Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, a significant thaw in their relations. The US-Israeli-backed Kurdistan independence ploy of Barzani has completely backfired. Again, Washington geopolitical stupidity and neoconservative war mania has driven hitherto geopolitical foes to cooperate in ways unimaginable just three years ago.

Russia has shrewdly played a game of geopolitical chess. Moscow knows that if Rosneft holds the trump card in the Iraqi Kurdish energy economy, the Kurds have no option to get their oil out but via Turkey. Two years ago, before Erdogan offered a rapprochement to Russia over the shooting of a Russian jet over Syria, Turkey was financing ISIS against the regime of Bashar al Assad and at the same time reportedly facilitating export sales of oil from Syria via a Turkish state company. Qatar was spending billions of dollars to finance Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and other Salafist terror groups in Syria. Now Turkey has to deal with Rosneft for Iraqi gas and with Damascus where Bashar al Assad remains firmly entrenched with Russian support. And Turkey seems to be doing just that, one reason for the growing hostility between Ankara and Washington.

Further setback for Washington is the development around Qatar. Since Washington and Israel goaded the incalculable Saudis last summer into the laughable idea of creating an “Arab NATO” of Sunni oil states (plus Israel), aimed at Iran, that “Arab NATO” as its first act imposed an economic embargo against former Gulf Cooperation Council ally and Muslim Brotherhood-backed Qatar. Qatar was targeted by the Saudis because they had openly sought the cooperation of former arch foe Iran in building a common gas route to the EU. Now Qatar is working with Iran, Turkey, Russia and China in a new geopolitical alignment opposed by Saudi Arabia.

Russia, placing herself in the midst of the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria has managed a brilliant political coup against the Anglo-American and Israeli designs for a Greater Kurdistan and a NATO-controlled Greater Middle East.

Checkmate! Washington. You have just lost the Middle East. The unfolding of further events with Russia and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, are just a matter of time, as the unprecedented recent visit of the Saudi King to Moscow to ask for Russian weaponry suggests.

The neocons around D.J. Trump and his neophyte son-in-law, 36-year-old “Senior Advisor” Jared Kushner, and the increasingly pathetic ExxonMobil Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, are a sad bunch. The world has tired of their wars of destruction. It’s time to build up new.

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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