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Germany, France and UK issue joint statement to US: DON’T DUMP JCPOA – AKA IRAN DEAL

Germany’s Foreign Minister has echoed the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in saying that a US withdrawl from the JCPOA would send the wrong message to North Korea.

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Berlin has released a statement jointly signed by the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, urging the United States not to pull out of the 2015 JCPOA, often referred to as the ‘Iran deal’.

The news comes as many suspect that Donald Trump is preparing to defy the advice of his own state department, his allies in Germany, France, Britain and the EU as a whole, as well as the stated wishes of Russia and China and withdraw from the deal.

The statement was presented by Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel previously stated that the “world will change” if the US pulls out of the deal, warning that Germany believes Trump may be on the verge of withdrawal.

Today, Gabriel echoed the words of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in stating that if the US withdraws from the JCPOA, it would send the wrong message to North Korea, one which indicates that the US is not willing nor able to adhere to internationally reached agreements.

This comes as Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has stated,

“The current situation proves that our party chose the right path by developing the economy and nuclear power simultaneously… In spite of the brutal sanctions of the United States and its satellites, the national economy has expanded”.

With Russia and even South Korea leaving the door for economic cooperation with Pyongyang open, as an incentive to de-escalate tensions in East Asia, the United States is finding itself increasingly isolated in respect of its bellicose threats against both Tehran and Pyongyang. Such threats are rejected not only by Russia and China, but also by America’s EU allies.

Today, Russia’s Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, also expressed Russia’s desire not to see the JCPOA undermined by the United States. Peskov said,

“President Putin has repeatedly spoken about the importance of the agreement on the so-called Iranian nuclear dossier. Of course, the withdrawal of one of the countries, especially a key country like the United States, from this agreement will only have negative consequences”.

Two Koreas–One Road: The future of cooperation between North Korea, South Korea and Russia

If the US de-certifies the deal, Iran may consider the deal null and void. However, there remains a possibility that Russia, China and Europe could work with Iran to preserve elements of the deal in spite of the Trump administration’s intransigence against any sort of cooperation with Iran.

As I recently wrote in respect of the crisis in Washington over the JCPOA:

“When it comes to North Korea, there is a global consensus (whether this consensus is moral or otherwise) which states that Pyongyang should cease testing its weapons and that further more, dialogue between all concerned sides, including China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US, must restart.

In respect of Iran, even among countries which are generally on the different side of major geo-political issues vis-a-vis the Iranian government, there is a concensus that Iran is in full compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement which alleviated western fears (however irrational) about supposed long-term Iranian plans to develop nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA was agreed upon after joint talks between Iran, China, Russia, US, UK, France, Germany and the EU as a whole. Currently, all of the aforementioned parties formally agree that Iran is in full compliance with the agreement. However, Donald Trump has given frequent vocal indications that he is displeased with the JCPOA. He even went so far as to call to JCPOA an “embarrassment” at the United Nations, during the same speech in which he threatened a “destroy” North Korea while insulting the North Korean leader by referring to him as “rocket man”.

During the opening session of the General Assembly just weeks ago, every party to the JCPOA affirmed their commitment to the deal, including the United States. Even more recently, both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, have agreed that Iran is complying with the deal.

In spite of this, Donald Trump has continually sought to use speeches and Twitter posts to undermine the deal. However, few people seem to be buying Trump’s reasoning, including members of his own cabinet.

The only other world figure who has perpetually worked to aggressively undermine the JCPOA, is Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. While many world figures including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used their speech before the United Nations General Assembly to praise the deal, only Trump and Netanyahu took direct aim at the deal, in speeches filled with wildly inaccurate anti-Iranian rhetoric.

Donald Trump recently met with top US military figures, although the only thing Trump publicly disclosed about the meeting was that it represented “the calm  before the storm”. Other White House officials have been equally cryptic when asked about the worrisome remark.

There are several explanations for what might be going on

1. Internal White House Chaos 

Starting with Michael Flynn and more recently culminating with Steve Bannon, the Trump White House has struggled to keep key foreign policy makers on board. Firings and resignations have plagued a Trump administration that is less than a year old.

Rex Tillerson is currently in the spotlight in what can only be called “resignation watch” after unverified reports that have not been specifically denied by Tillerson, stated that the Secretary of State called Donald Trump a “moron”. By some accounts he used the words “fucking moron” to described the US President after a heated meeting.

Donald Trump has denied such an event’s existence, but what is undeniable, is that Trump and Tillerson have had many open disagreements on US foreign policy. Such disagreement include Tillerson’s statement that the US must quietly pursue dialogue with Pyongyang, something Trump called a waste of time. It also includes Tillerson’s State Department’s support of the JCPOA which Trump clearly wants to scrap and finally, Tillerson has said he favours dialogue and neutrality over the Saudi-Qatar dispute, while Trump openly Tweeted pro-Saudi rhetoric saying that Qatar is a state sponsor of terrorism in line with Saudi accusations.

In this sense. the ongoing row between Trump and Tillerson could be manifesting itself in the form of semi-public test of wills over Iran. In an administration seemingly organised on the petty whims of personal vanity, it is entirely conceivable that Trump and Tillerson’s disagreements over the JCPOA have led to Trump taking an autocratic approach to public policy making. Certainly this would appear to be the case when it comes to the unfounded anti-JCPOA rhetoric which is not shared by any other parties to the agreement.

2. The Israel Lobby versus The World 

It is no secret that the US based Israel lobby is the most powerful of the many powerful lobbying bodies in the United States. Israel is unique in its hostility to Iran and is particular hostility to the JCPOA, even by Saudi standards.

What’s more is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, which neither Iran nor its rival Saudi Arabia has.

In spite of this, while Israel has pivoted its foreign policy to be more anti-Iranian than anti-Arab, Israel has yet attack let alone occupy Iran in the way it continues to do in respect of Arab countries.

Having totally failed to manufacture international consensus against Iran, even among Israel’s putative allies, the powerful US Israel lobby has been spewing anti-Iranian rhetoric in an attempt to further taint Iran’s reputation among the American public.

In respect of Donald Trump, who has been on good personal terms with Benjamin Netanyahu even before becoming President, Trump may be simply doing the bidding of the Israel lobby and his self-described “friend” in order to go against the more moderate voices in his own administration which includes both Rex Tillerson and apparently James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

If it really is a matter of Israel ‘wagging the dog’ in respect of Donald Trump, this is proof positive that Trump is not fit to be the US President as he is no longer putting the interests of his own country, nor the collective interests of world peace, before the war mongering desires of the rogue Israeli regime.

3. From Mad Man Theory to “Moron Theory”

Richard Nixon was many things, but he was certainly not a “moron”. He may have been the most intelligent US President of the 20th century. One of Nixon’s ploys was known as the mad man theory. According to this theory, which was often put into practice by the Nixon White House, statements that Nixon had apparently made indicating his willingness to use extreme force, including nuclear weapons, even in the seemingly most mundane situations, were purposefully leaked to foreign powers.

Dovetailing onto the idea of mutually assured destruction, Nixon’s mad man image was said to force other powers to the negotiating table, for fear that anything less would mean a Nixon pressing the nuclear button.

While the mad man theory defies the laws of ethics and of transparency, it is a classic case of extreme brinkmanship that was common during the Cold War and which Nixon mastered so much that he actually managed to achieve both detente with the Soviet Union as well as opening up western diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Many have proffered the idea that Donald Trump’s public image as a trigger happy leader with no real knowledge of world affairs, is a giant bluff in order to try and bring others to the table. While it is not beyond the realm of the possible that Donald Trump’s objectively idiotic remarks on world affairs, his threatening rhetoric and apparent disorderly administration are in fact contrived measures designed to scare others into some sort of negotiating, this theory, even if true, is highly misguided.

During the Nixon era, it was clear what the United States wanted from the powers which the ‘mad man theory’ was tested upon. In respect of Donald Trump, apart from levying more sanctions on Iran, something that would infuriate America’s EU allies, there is little else that Trump could achieve apart from provoking Iran into war which even many in the Pentagon admit would be a disaster.

In respect of North Korea, brinkmanship has already failed. The more the US threatens Pyongyang with war and the more unilateral sanctions the US passes, the more North Korea retorts with further threats and with further weapons tests. China has already made clear that it will not allow a preemptive US led attack on North Korea and Pyongyang for its part, is always careful to temper its threats with statements indicating that North Korea would never be the first to strike against the US or allied target. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also warned the US that the North Koreans would rather “eat grass” than surrender to the United States. Where the Iraqi army ran away during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, North Korea would likely fight to the death, with every weapon and man at its disposal.

As for America’s proxy wars directly primarily against China but also Russia, there is also little that a “moron theory” could do other than entrench the Sino-Russian alliance more so than it already is.

To put it bluntly, while the “moron theory” may work on certain domestic issues, it is not, has not and almost certainly will not work in foreign affairs.

CONCLUSION: 

The Trump administration appears to be compromised by its own disorganisation and personal disputes and like many US administrations, the Trump administration is also apparently torn between moderate voices urging a balance and an extremist Israeli position that far too many in the US are utterly beholden to. When this is combined with Trump’s “take no prisoners” attitude towards negotiation, Trump is going to lose far more than he will win.

He has totally lost the trust of Iran and North Korea, he has lost the respect of China and Russia, he has fully alienated Pakistan, Turkey and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, he has exhausted the patience of America’s traditional EU and East Asian allies and he has seemingly lost control over his own administration and country. The only danger is if Donald Trump is powerful enough to do something truly dangerous to the world, but too weak and ill-informed to actually understand what he is doing”.

http://theduran.com/trump-vs-jcpoa-really-trupm-vs-world/

 

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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