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Afghanistan: A war tailor made for Donald Trump AND Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon has said that ‘screwing up’ China’s One Belt–One Road should be a priority for the US. In this sense Bannon is as mainstream and as neo-con as they come.

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In many ways the moral, logistical and ethical simplicity of the Syrian conflict, meant that it was always destined to be the conflict that would wake up at least some in the west, to the nature of how the US and its allies often foment wars by aligning with the most immoral forces on the planet in order to attempt to achieve a geo-strategic goal.

When ordinary Americans and Europeans saw a secular Ba’athsit government in Damascus which protected the rights of ethnic and religious minorities as well as one which gives full rights to women, such people could hardly internalise the idea that  head-chopping, bomb planting, woman enslaving, minority murdering Wahhabi Sunni supremacists were a more ethical or moral option than the secular Ba’athist government–no matter how many times Obama called them ‘moderate rebels’.

READ MORE: 4 reasons the Syrian conflict has grabbed world attention more than Afghanistan

Donald Trump as a candidate and Steve Bannon as a campaign partner and before that a media ally, realised this and pushed an anti-war message in Syria. The message was one which played on the natural tendencies of most Americans to favour a secular/pro-Christian government over an opposition that includes al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Where Bannon carefully swayed secular/pro-Christian US opinion against Obama’s war in Syria, in respect of Afghanistan, the Bannon/Trump message was far more duplicitous, even before the troop surge.

Long before the 2016 US election, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon expressed anti-war sentiments in respect of Afghanistan. The message boiled down to the line from the Vietnam War era Country Joe McDonald song “What are we fighting for, don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, the next stop is Vietnam Afghanistan”.

But while delivering an anti-war message which even in his ‘troop surge’ announcement Donald Trump admitted was his “instinct”, both men were and remain totally in favour of the primary goal of the Afghan conflict: Disrupting China’s One Belt–One Road and specifically the important roles that Pakistan is playing as an important stop long the Belt and Road.

Bannon and Trump are known to hold anti-Chinese views. In a recent interview, one of his first since leaving the White House, Bannon said that one of the primary US policy goals should be to “screw up One Belt–One Road”. 

With Trump’s troop surge in Afghanistan and specifically his threats against Pakistan which includes the stated desire to drag India into the conflict, Bannon just got what he wished for.

The India scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan and China is as follows:

Today, Pakistan is increasingly supportive of proposals by China and Russia which involve a negotiated settlement to the conflict which involves both the current fractious government as well as the increasingly powerful, influential and in many regions popular Taliban factions. Such proposals fit in with Pakistan’s long term strategy in Afghanistan and suit Islamabad’s contemporary regional desire for stability.

While in the 1980s and 1990s India tended to side with Russia, it is looking increasingly likely that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to take a more American approach to the conflict.

 However, it remains far from certain whether India will commit troops to the recently announced ‘Trump surge’ or whether India can offer anything at a peace keeping table beyond joining with the United States to further alienate Pakistan, causing Islamabad to grow even closer to Beijing than it already is. In this context, growing closer to Beijing also means implicitly growing closer to Moscow as China and Russia have offered similar solutions to the conflict, both of which involve fostering dialogue between the government in Kabul and the Taliban.

China is all too aware that The United States is isolated in the region in respect of a peace process. Iran is increasingly seeing things along the same lines as Russia and China and in any case, the chances of Donald Trump working with Iran anywhere are nil. The lone exception to this pattern of isolation is India. Under Modi, New Delhi may use Trump’s offer to try and upset the status quo of the region in which all of the key powers are increasingly cooperating with China’s One Belt–One Road project, India being the lone country which under Modi is increasingly hellbent on antagonising China at every opportunity.

With this in mind, China has issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump talked about close US-Indian relations, we are glad to see the development of normal and friendly relations between these countries if these relations do not harm other countries’ interests and create positive conditions for regional development”.

China’s position is clear, India is welcome in Afghanistan as such a thing is not up to China in any case and Beijing is comfortable with this reality of international law. What China is not comfortably with is India’s presence in Afghanistan acting as a force which could impede the progress of important projects with Pakistan, namely the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The statement above makes this known implicitly.

In a worst case scenario, India could disrupt a peace process involving dialogue with the Taliban that could distract Pakistan from its long term goals in China. However, Pakistan under its current leadership would appear to be steadfast in its commitments to China. Distractions won’t work as well as they would have done even 10 years ago.

Both the governing PML-N and the surging opposition party PTI, led by the charismatic Imran Khan have expressed full support of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Khan in particular seems to be pivoting his traditional views which are deeply sceptical of US power in the region towards one which seeks to equally assure China.

In many ways, the Trump plan could backfire. Pakistan will only grow closer to China and further from the US and likewise, India might feel about the US what many of America’s long-time European allies have felt under Donald Trump. Trump has recently asked the NATO states of Europe to do more for the alliance in terms of both financial contributions as well as ramping up military strength in order for the US to bear less of the costly burden.

Trump has already alluded to the fact that he wants India to ‘do more’ in Afghanistan. Suddenly India’s privilege as a peacemaker (largely unwelcome by Pakistan and China) has turned into a responsibility that realistically New Delhi is not in a position to carry out

Modi may be a man driven by ego more than a pragmatic understanding of economics, but at the end of the day, all men have a price. If Donald Trump asks too much from India, the chips in Afghanistan will fall where they would have fallen in spite of the US and India. The only real result will be India learning that when it comes to geo-politics, America has deputies and servants but never partners or equals.

READ MORE: China tells Trump not to allow India to interfere in regional interests

The stated goal in Afghanistan, to fight both the Taliban and its opponent ISIS simultaneously while propping up an Afghan government which is increasingly unfit for purpose is a goal which the US has set up as a straw-man. Both Trump and Tillerson have stated that they will be willing to negotiate with the Taliban just as soon as they’re done bombing them.

The obvious response from the rest of the world has been, “avoid the bombing and negotiate with moderate rebels within the Taliban now”.

This of course will not be done because it would cease to accomplish the real US goal of prolonging the war in Afghanistan for as long as possible in order to accomplish the following in order from most to least important:

1. Disrupt Pakistan’s progress as a partner of China in One Belt–One Road with a specific emphasis on sowing a lack of confidence over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

2. Disrupt China’s ability to peacefully link Pakistan with Iran as part of One Belt–One Road.

3. Surround Pakistan with Indian troops on all sides with a proposed Indian presence in Pasthunistan (Afghan side of the border).

4. Cause instability in Pakistan with increased drone strikes on Pakistani territory.

5. Make sure that China is out of reach of Afghanistan’s rich resources such as lithium and valuable minerals.  While the US may have to fight blood-for-blood in order to get these resources, in many ways it is more important for the US to prevent China from obtaining them than it is for the US to have easy access to them, a task which is increasingly Quixotic for the US.

6. Keep the CIA’s game of cat, mouse and merchant with Afghan drug lords flourishing for as long as possible.

As geo-political expert Andrew Korbyko writes,

“Trump’s new Afghan strategy is less about changing any of the battlefield dynamics there per se, though it does aim to extract some of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion of minerals, and more about formalizing the US’ pivot from Pakistan to India, the latter of which became an unprecedented military-strategic partner of the US through year’s LEMOA deal and its official attendant designation as the Pentagon’s “Major Defense Partner”.

What Trump really wants to do is put multi pronged pressure on Pakistan as part of the Hybrid War on CPEC [China Pakistan-Economic Corridor] through the American-backed strategic interlinking of its Afghan and Indian neighbors, with the goal being to influence, disrupt, and then ultimately control China’s game-changing corridor to the Indian Ocean through state and non-state proxy warfare”.

Thus it becomes clear that Bannon has clearly positioned himself to have it both ways in Afghanistan. He’ll claim that he is opposed to war in the Middle East and Asia, which in part may be a sincere and in that case positive statement, but his penultimate goal of trying to “screw up One Belt–One Road” is very much the master plan in Afghanistan. Whether it succeeds is another matter.

In this sense Bannon got what he wished for in the short term, but he ought to be careful what he wishes for in the longer term. China is not going to roll over in South Asia, just as Russia did not roll over in respect of Russia’s Syrian ally.

For Bannon and Trump, the ‘worst’ may be yet to come.

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stevek9
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stevek9

‘… the primary goal of the Afghan conflict: Disrupting China’s One Belt–One Road… ‘

You give them way too much credit. That was certainly not the plan 17 years ago. This is just a screw-up from beginning to … maybe there is no end.

plamenpetkov
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plamenpetkov

and if they leave Afghanistan those 1 trillion in rare metals will go to either CHina or Russia and USA cannot allow that. Plus, drugs. Don’t forget the drugs.

BettyTDominique
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BettyTDominique

Party113d

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seby
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seby

pompous fat head banging-on was only against a surge in Afghanistan if it wasn’t done by blackwater or dynacorp, private military contractors. i.e. very expensive mercenaries. I’ve no doubt he has shares in them.

Great Expectations
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Great Expectations

It seems you were right all along, seby, about Trump. There’s no point in remaining optimistic about Trump. He’s a tool.

seby
Guest
seby

I don’t know about being right GE. If I was, I take no pride. I never really had much hope in the son of a robber baron. Plus knowledge of tiny hands tRump own history prior, one shouldn’t have been too optimistic. See work of the late Wayne Barrett. I believe in the end he was part of the controlled opposition, like I also believe bernie sanders is. Killary wasn’t let in on it. She thought the powers that should not be, had lined her up for the first female US president. They knew, like the people, she was poison.… Read more »

Great Expectations
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Great Expectations

The extent to which there is controlled opposition is unbelievable, once you start realising what is going on. These global elites really do have everyone looking in the wrong direction, while they steal every drop of wealth they can from us all. No wonder they have no respect for human life except their own. And that is the one saving grace, as far as war mongering to the point of a nuclear holocaust is concerned, I think. Having learned recently that the whole Soviet era was a controlled opposition and Lenin and Stalin were bought and paid for, and there… Read more »

seby
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seby

“deplorables” of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Very good Mr. Garrie, and Mr. Korybko. — The “fog of war” is lifting on the phoney “generals” vs. “anti-globalist”/Breitbart clique dichotomy. Still, I am not satisfied, perhaps I am insatiable. The analysis here, all fine and good: India will not be able to deliver etc. But from the “bird’s eye view” all we get is a geopolitical lineup with some dynamics. This shows the US is once again miscalculating its way into its own disaster. What we do not yet know, but what we need to know in order to guage the extent of spill-over of the US’ desperate… Read more »

samo war
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samo war

banoon is banan ?comment image

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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