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Diana Alghoul

The continuing Gulf media offensive against Qatar

Qatar's emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 5 June, 2017

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The UAE and Saudi allegations against Qatar are out of context, and embarrassingly contradictory.

On Monday, Qataris woke up to the news that their fellow GCC brethren, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, had cut ties with Doha, leaving residents confused and anxious for what may come.

Sky News Arabia displyed an Islamic State group backdrop when mentioning Qatar throughout Monday, while Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya also significantly intensified its media offensive against Doha.

Also on Sky News Arabia - a 50-50 project between Rupert Murdoch and the UAE's deputy prime minister - analyst Dr Mohammad al-Arousy openly accused Qatar of funding the Nusra front in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, extremist factions in Libya, as well as Hizballah and Iran - thus massively contradicting himself on which faction of perceived instability Qatar is even siding with.

The Sky News analyst had defeated any chance of being taken seriously when he said Qatar funded Nusra and Hizballah at the same time; two factions that are at war with each other in Syria.

His contradictory comments quickly made his agenda to defame Qatar painfully overt.

"This is way worse than what happened in 2014 when ambassadors were recalled. I honestly can't predict what will happen next," one Qatari citizen who asked to remain anonymous told The New Arab.

Contradictory accusations

While media tensions against Qatar escalated dramatically since the cutting of ties on Monday morning, Saudi and Emirati smearing of Qatar is not a new phenomenon, but has been building up for several weeks.

The situation had intensified after Qatar's state news agency was hacked, though Doha voiced concerns that it was victim to a smear campaign a week before, when US President Donald Trump accused Qatar of "funding terrorists" during his visit to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Arabiya has written a host of articles over the past few weeks, vehemently criticising Qatar, implying that Doha is a threat to international security.

One article published on May 29 echoed the neoconservative American standpoint that Qatar was "whitewashing terror" by "hosting" Hamas.

Days later, another article was published in al-Arabiya, accusing Qatar of secretly working in the interest of Iran - by not being as hostile to its neighbouring republic as it could be.

Qatar's advocacy of diplomacy rather than aggression in dealing with Iran is not a policy that is unique to GCC states; both Kuwait and Oman have advocated diplomatic measures with the GCC's rival - with both countries hosting Iranian President Rouhani in February.

Al-Arabiya has also accused Doha of secretly funding the Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing neither context nor proof.

UAE news outlets were even more direct than Saudi papers, with Khaleej Times directly referring to Qatar as a "sponsor of terror". The paper also accused Qatar of "hatch[ing] many conspiracies against the Arab region", in reference to Qatar's independent foreign policy as one of the only state backers of the Arab Spring.

Ironically, the article had omitted mentioning the way in which the UAE had been covertly interfering with state affairs all over the Middle East, to halt democratic reforms and to secure its own interests, from creating military bases in Yemen's Socotra Islands and in East Africa, to facilitating the 2013 Sisi coup in Egypt, and the attempted Turkey coup in 2016, as more evidence piles up.

While it is unclear where this latest diplomatic spat will take Qatar, the GCC, or the rest of the region, it is clear that many of the allegations against Qatar are out of context, and embarrassingly contradictory.

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