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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, July 23, 2018

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Dramatic flare up in Middle East as Arab countries turn on each other

Diplomatic relations with the gas-rich country

Share on Facebook June 5, 2017, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 588

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DUBAI, UAE - In a shock development Monday the Arab world turned on tiny Qatar in what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to diminish the country's international standing.> BNN
 
Qatar has been virtually choked by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, all of which simultaneously announced on Monday they were severing diplomatic relations with the gas-rich country.
 
All Qataris in the four countries are to be evicted. They have 14 days to leave, irrespective of their living or employment conditions. Diplomats have even less time, they have been given 48 hours to depart their respective countries.
 
All sea and air access to and from Qatar has been blocked. Etihad announced it would teriminate flights to Qatar commencing at 4:00am on Tuesday. 
Saudi Arabia said it was closing its border to Qatar, citing "national security."
 
Egypt also announced the closure of Egyptian airspace and seaports for all Qatari transportation. The foreign ministry said in a statement it was "to protect its national security."
 
The Saudi-led coalition fighting al-Houthi rebels in Yemen has announced it is expelling all Qatari military involved in the fight. Qatar is one of a number of Gulf countries that has backed the coalition since it entered the Yemen Civil War more than two years ago.
 
Monday's move follows the hacking last Tuesday, which resulted in explosive and damning statements critical of Saudi Arabia and other countries, and supporting Iran, were attributed to Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The statements displayed on the Qatari news agency website.
 
The emir emphatically denied making the statements and ordered an investigation into the hacking. The Qatari government called in the FBI to assist in the investigation.  A team is currenlty in the Qatar capital, Doha, assisting Qatari officials in tracking down the hacking. They arrived in the country on Friday.
Notwithstanding the denials Gulf media continued to report the erroneous statements.
 
The results of the hacking are expected early this week, however the GCC countries that have pounced on Qatar on Monday have pre-empted any revelation that may come from the probe.
 
Surprisingly the dramatic escalation on Monday comes a week after U.S. President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia and met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders.
 
Meantime, according to the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network, hackers have released the first series of emails taken from the inbox of the UAE's ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba.
 
The Intercept website reported on Saturday the emails, released by a group called "Global Leaks," reveal a close relationship between al-Otaiba and a pro-Israel, neoconservative think-tank - the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
 
"The hacked emails, some of which date back to 2014, reveal a high level of back-channel cooperation between the FDD, which is funded by pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and the UAE," the Al Jazeera report said.
 
"They also appear to show clear collaboration between the FDD and the UAE on a campaign to downgrade the image and importance of Qatar as a regional and global power, including collusion with journalists who have published articles accusing Qatar and Kuwait of supporting "terrorism."
 
Zaid Jilani, one of the authors of The Intercept report, told Al Jazeera the emails support previous allegations "that there is a growing axis between some of the Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Israe.l" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made similar claims repeatedly in the past two years.
 
David Hearst, the Editor in Chief of Middle East Eye, told Al Jazeera the emails laid bare the "mechanism" behind "a very high stakes campaign that is being launched against Qatar."
 
Al-Otaiba is a well-known figure in U.S. national security circles -  and has participated in Pentagon strategy meetings at the invitation of defence officials.
Saturday's email leak includes an exchange in which FDD senior counsellor John Hannah - a former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney - complains to al-Otaiba that Qatar is hosting a meeting of Hamas at an Emirati-owned hotel.
 
Al-Otaiba responds that the UAE is not at fault and that the real problem lies with the U.S. military base in Qatar.
 
He writes: "How's this, you move the base then we'll move the hotel :-)"
The leak also includes a proposed agenda for an upcoming meeting between the FDD and the UAE government scheduled for June 11-14.
The agenda includes in-depth discussions specifically on Qatar, including Qatar-based Al Jazeera, and its allleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
One item on the agenda is: "Al Jazeera as an instrument of regional instability."
 
"They actually discussed recasting Al Jazeera as a disruptive network, a network that is causing instability and chaos, rather than recognised good journalism," The Intercept's Jilani told Al Jazeera.
 
Attendees set to take part in the June meeting include former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Mark Dubowitz, CEO of FDD.
Other FDD emails ask for meetings with high-ranking figures including Mohammed bin Zayed - the crown prince who runs the UAE's armed forces - as well as Mohammed Dahlan, a former strongman of the Palestinian Fatah group who now lives in Abu Dhabi.
 
A large portion of the emails focus on "U.S./UAE policies to positively impact Iranian internal situation" and to "contain and defeat Iranian aggression."
Another email in the leak shows the FDD and the UAE looking to pressure businesses to pull out of Iran.
 
In early March, Dubowitz emailed al-Otaiba a list of non-U.S. businesses operating in Saudi Arabia or the UAE "looking to invest in Iran."
"This is a target list for putting these companies to a choice, as we have discussed," Dubowitz wrote.
 
Hearst, of the Middle East Eye, told Al Jazeera he believed the leaked emails showed a clear "agenda" by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
They have "seized" on Donald Trump's presidency in the US, "and now they're using him as a way of getting the job done, which includes getting rid of Al Jazeera... and also muffling Qatar."
 
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who is in Australia urged the Gulf states to stay united.
 
"We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences," he said in Sydney on Monday.
 
"If there's any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) remain united."
The largest U.S. base in the Middle East, housing more than 10,000 service personnel is based in Qatar.

 

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