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Thread: War on Qatar

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    Default War on Qatar

    Arab powers sever Qatar ties, citing support for militants

    The Arab world's biggest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran, and reopening a festering wound two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism.

    Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later. Transport links shut down, triggering supply shortages.

    Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large U.S. military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia.

    By Noah Browning | DUBAI
    The Arab world's biggest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran, and reopening a festering wound two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism.

    Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later. Transport links shut down, triggering supply shortages.

    Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large U.S. military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia.

    Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed Trump's visit last month to Riyadh and called for the sides to overcome their differences.

    "What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump's joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting.

    Closing all transport links with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari planes from landing and forbade them from crossing their air space.

    Qatar's stock market index sank 7.3 percent, with some of the market's top blue chips hardest hit, and some Egyptian banks said they were suspending dealing with Qatari banks.

    The UAE and Saudi Arabia stopped exports of white sugar to Qatar, a potential hit to consumers during the holy month of Ramadan, when demand is high. Some residents in Qatar began stockpiling food and supplies, an expatriate said.

    "People have stormed into the supermarket hoarding food, especially imported ones. ... It's chaos - I've never seen anything like this before," said Eva Tobaji, an expatriate resident in Doha, told Reuters after returning from shopping.

    Supply difficulties quickly developed. Two Middle East trade sources spoke of thousands of trucks carrying food stuck at the Saudi border, unable make the sole overland frontier crossing into Qatar.

    About 80 percent of Qatar's food requirements are sourced via bigger Gulf Arab neighbors. Trade sources pointed to the likelihood of shortages growing in Qatar until the crisis eased.

    Along with Egypt, however, the UAE and Saudi Arabia could be vulnerable to retaliation, being highly dependent on Qatar for liquefied natural gas.


    The hawkish tone on Tehran and on terrorism that Trump brought in his visit to Muslim leaders in Riyadh is seen as having laid the groundwork for the diplomatic crisis.

    "You have a shift in the balance of power in the Gulf now because of the new presidency: Trump is strongly opposed to political Islam and Iran," said Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

    "He is totally aligned with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, who also want no compromise with either Iran or the political Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood."

    The United States called for a quick resolution of the dispute, and does not want to see a "permanent rift," a senior U.S. administration official said.

    "There’s an acknowledgement that a lot of Qatari behavior is quite worrisome not just to our Gulf neighbors but to the U.S.," the official said. "We want to bring them in the right direction."

    A State Department official said all U.S. partnerships with Gulf nations were vital and called on all parties to quickly resolve their differences.

    The U.S. military said it had seen no impact to its Gulf-area operations, intended mainly as a bulwark against Iran, and added it was grateful for Qatar's long-standing support of a U.S. presence and commitment to regional security.

    The diplomatic bust-up threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which is set to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

    Soccer's governing body, FIFA, said on Monday it was in "regular contact" with Qatar's 2022 organizing committee, but did not comment directly on the diplomatic situation.


    Qatar's backing of Islamists dates to a decision by the current emir's father to end a tradition of automatic deference to Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, and forge the widest possible array of allies.

    Doha subsequently cultivated not only Islamists like America's foes Iran, Hamas and the Taliban in pursuit of leverage, but also Washington itself, hosting the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East.

    Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. But Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar's support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political enemy.

    Muslim Brotherhood groups allied to Doha are now mostly on retreat in the region, especially after a 2013 military takeover in Egypt ousted the elected Islamist president.

    The former army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with Cairo's allies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blacklist the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood says it supports only peaceful politics.

    Saudi Arabia accused Qatar on Monday of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

    Later in the day, the kingdom shut the Saudi bureau of al Jazeera. Al Jazeera says it is an independent news service giving a voice to everyone in the region.

    Riyadh also accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in the restive, largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated eastern Saudi region of Qatif, as well as in Bahrain.

    Qatar denied it was interfering in the affairs of others.

    "The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

    Turkey also called for dialogue to settle the dispute and a government spokesman said President Tayyip Erdogan was working for a diplomatic solution to the rift.

    Sudan expressed its concern over the row and offered to mediate between all sides.


    A split between Doha and its closest allies could have repercussions around the Middle East, where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

    The economic fallout was already hitting home as Abu Dhabi's state-owned Etihad Airways, Dubai's Emirates Airline and budget carriers Flydubai and Air Arabia said they would suspend all flights to and from Doha indefinitely from Tuesday morning.

    Qatar Airways said on its official website it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia. Many Gulf airports, including in Qatar, are major hubs for international connecting flights.

    The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups. At that time, travel links were maintained and Qataris were not expelled.

    Neighboring Kuwait has been mediating in the dispute, and its emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, urged Qatar's ruler to calm tensions and refrain from escalating the rift, Kuwait state news agency Kuna said.

    Al-Sabah called on Qatar's Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani to give efforts at mediation a chance to contain differences, a few hours after Khalid al-Faisal, an adviser to the Saudi king, visited Kuwait.


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    Why the campaign against Qatar is doomed


    Saudi Arabia and UAE bit off more than they can chew once they took on Qatar, a country with vast wealth and powerful allies

    It has been apparent for some time that the war against the Islamic State (IS) group and its forebear al-Qaeda is by no means the only show in town in the Middle East. In fact, for most of the time, the war on terror has been a sideshow.

    The attempt to bring Qatar to heel by closing its borders and effectively laying siege to it has shed light on the real forces competing for dominance of the region in the post-Western world in which we live today.

    Three regional blocks are vying for control.

    The first is led by Iran - its state actors including Iraq and Syria, and non-state ones the Shia militias in Iraq, Hezbollah and the Houthis.

    The second is the ancien regimes of absolute Gulf monarchs: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while also including Jordan and Egypt.

    The third block is led by Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and the forces instrumental in the Arab Spring.

    In this three-way fight, America’s allies are just as destabilising to regional order as America’s foes, and the campaign launched against Qatar is a prime example of this.

    Saudi Arabia has made a strategic miscalculation by attempting to impose its will on little Qatar. Because in so doing, it has upset a regional order on which it relied to confront Iran’s dominance in countries all around the kingdom.

    Put another way, if the Iranian-backed civil war in Syria brought Saudi and Turkey together, the Qatari conflict has done the opposite. In fact, it could lead to the construction of a common cause among Iran, Turkey and forces of Sunni political Islam - as bizarre as this may seem.

    The two powers would not fall into each other’s arms naturally, but they could come together amid the reckless and shortsighted policies of Saudi Arabia. The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was in Ankara on Wednesday.

    Pentagon contradicts Trump’s tweets

    The two game changers for Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Qatar are the Turkish parliament’s decision to fast track legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed at a base in Qatar, and the statement by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps accusing Saudi Arabia of responsibility for the attack on the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in which 12 died.

    This leaves Saudi Arabia isolated. It can bully smaller nations, but it cannot defend its own borders without substantial amounts of foreign military support.

    Whatever their commander-in-chief may tweet, the US military in the Gulf is trying very hard to avoid having to provide it. Which is possibly one reason why the White House and the Pentagon have been saying different things about Qatar this week.

    Shortly after Qatar’s land border with Saudi was closed at dawn on 5 June, the Pentagon lauded Qatar’s “enduring commitment to regional security”.

    It said pointedly about al Udeid airbase, which is the forward base of US Air Forces Central Command, that “all flights continue as planned”. About 10,000 US troops are based there.

    Then came Trump’s tweets, which essentially claimed ownership of the extraordinary moves against Qatar by saying they were the fruits of the address he made in Riyadh before 50 Arab and Muslim leaders. And then came a second Pentagon statement, renewing praise of Qatar for hosting US forces.

    The Pentagon was joined by Europe, or least the foreign minister of its most important state, Germany. Sigmar Gabriel said: “Apparently, Qatar is to be isolated more or less completely and hit existentially. Such a Trumpization of treatment is particularly dangerous in a region already plagued by crisis.”

    Soon after the Turkish decision, Trump was on the phone to the Emir of Qatar offering mediation; 24 hours after his tweet, it seemed the message from his military had gotten through to him.


    Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have now bitten off more than they can chew.

    Their first miscalculation was to buy the Trump narrative. When you purchase a Trump product, you buy a lot more with it. There are side effects, not least the sheer amount of resentment, hostility and resistance Trump himself has created at home.

    This is not inconsiderable when you review who resents Trump - the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, senators of all colours, and the judges. This is not just America’s deep state, but if it were only them, they are enough to be going on with.

    The much-in-the-news Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, made the classic mistake of thinking that because he had former defence secretary Robert Gates eating out of his hand, the rest of the defence department would do the same. It plainly did not.

    Russia’s US ambassador Sergey Kislyak, now dubbed Washington’s most dangerous diplomat, fell to earth over a similar act of hubris. All of these ambassadors confuse their success as lobbyists with foreign policy-making. The two are different.

    Their second miscalculation was to assume that because Qatar was small, no bigger nation would come to its defence. Both Saudi and the UAE have significant investments in Turkey, one of which Abu Dhabi made after it had tried to unseat Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a coup. Both thought Turkey would be bought off.

    The opposite happened. Erdogan realised that if Qatar were crushed, he would be the only man of that camp standing.

    Their third miscalculation was to reveal their real beef with Qatar. It has nothing to do with funding terrorism or cosying up to Iran. In fact the Emiratis do a roaring trade with Iran, and they are part of the coalition accusing Qatar of siding with Tehran.

    Their real demands, which were conveyed to the Emir of Kuwait - who is acting as an intermediary - are the closure of Al Jazeera, de-funding of Al Arabi al Jadid, Al Quds al Arabi, and the Arabic edition of Huffington Post, along with the expulsion of Palestinian public intellectual Azmi Bishara.

    This is the media that reveals - in Arabic - the stories that these Arab dictators most want their citizens not to read. Not content with muzzling their own media, they want to shut down all media that reveals the inconvenient truth about their despotic, venal, corrupt regimes, wherever it is in the world.

    Israel Joins the unhappy party

    Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood only come in at number 7 of this demand wishlist. The inclusion of Hamas on this list is another miscalculation, because whatever the US may think about the Palestinian movement, it is popular in the Gulf.

    This is where Israel joins the unhappy party. As the hacked emails of Otaiba reveal, the Emiratis and the government of Binyamin Netanyahu are thick as thieves.

    The Israeli prime minister is quite right to think that he has the backing of the major Arab states in suppressing all progress to a truly independent Palestinian state. That is about the last thing Egypt, Jordan, the UAE or Saudi Arabia want. The kingdoms are so keen to normalise relations with Israel that a Saudi commentator was recently interviewed for the first time on Israel’s Channel 2.

    The Egyptian-Palestinian poet Tamim al Barghouti provided a fitting commentary to this. He wrote on the Facebook page:

    “On the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, an Egyptian-Saudi-UAE-Bahraini-Israeli alliance forms and lays ground and aerial siege around an Arab country for no reason other than supporting the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance and the Arab revolutions over the past two decades, in particular the Egyptian revolution that brought down Israel’s ally and threatened the military authority of Camp David in Cairo. They are not punishing Doha over Syria, Libya, Yemen and the American base.

    “They are punishing it for Al Jazeera’s testimony in the wars of Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza and for supporting the Palestinian resistance in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and the Lebanese resistance in 2000 and 2006. They are punishing it for the fall of Mubarak in 2011.

    “A bankrupt and terrified military officer who suffers from Macbeth syndrome and who is washing his hands of old blood with a new one and an adolescent who is in a rush to become king and who is ambitious to surpass his cousin to the throne at whatever cost chose the fifth of June specifically in order to announce that their countries had just joined the Israeli strategic depth.”

    The final miscalculation? Qatar is not Gaza. It’s got friends with big armies - a country with a population smaller than Houston has got a sovereign wealth fund worth $335bn. It is the largest producer of natural gas in the Middle East. It has a relationship with Exxon. The Saudis and Emiratis are not the only players in Washington. And even Gaza has survived its siege.


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    UAE: Social media users face jail for Qatar sympathy

    Jail term up to 15 years and $136,000 fines could be handed out to offenders, attorney general statement says.

    The United Arab Emirates has banned people from publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar and will punish offenders with a jail term of up to 15 years, the UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported.

    In a statement released on Wednesday, UAE's Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi said sympathising with Qatar was a cybercrime punishable by law.

    "Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form," Gulf News quoted Shamsi as saying in the statement.

    The Federal Public Prosecution also announced that according to the Federal Penal Code and the Federal law decree on Combating Information Technology Crimes, anyone who threaten the interests, national unity and stability of the UAE will face a jail term from three to 15 years, and a fine not less than AED 500,000 ($136,000).

    Since the diplomatic row erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have been among the top topics discussed on Twitter in Arabic, which is a hugely popular medium of expression in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting "extremism".

    The dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar's state-run news agency.

    On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris that Qatar must end its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood before ties with other Gulf Arab states could be restored.

    Hamas said in a statement that al-Jubeir's remarks "constitute a shock for our Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations".

    German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accused US President Donald Trump of stirring up conflicts in the Middle East and risking a new arms race.

    The dispute comes less than a month after Trump visited Saudi Arabia and called for Muslim nations to unite against "extremism".

    Qatar said there was "no legitimate justification" for several nations severing diplomatic ties and the decision was in "violation of its sovereignty".


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    Israel backs Saudi Arabia in confrontation with Qatar

    Israeli officials have gleefully endorsed the position of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a growing confrontation with Qatar, the most public acknowledgment yet of the deepening alliance between certain Gulf states and Tel Aviv over their common enmity towards Iran.

    Meanwhile, evidence has emerged of close cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and a key Israel lobby group to pressure Qatar over its support for the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas.

    On Monday, Saudi Arabia and several of its satellite states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a blockade, cutting land, sea and air links to the country.

    Regional media reported that shelves in stores in Qatar, whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia, were quickly emptied as residents feared a prolonged closure could lead to food shortages.

    Justifying its decision, Saudi Arabia has accused Doha of “grave violations” such as “adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and al-Qaida.

    Israel’s “opportunity”

    Israeli officials were quick to offer their support to Saudi Arabia.

    “New line drawn in the Middle Eastern sand,” Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, proclaimed on Twitter. “No longer Israel against Arabs but Israel and Arabs against Qatar-financed terror.”

    Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that the crisis was an “opportunity for cooperation” between Israel and certain Gulf states.

    “It is clear to everyone, even in the Arab countries, that the real danger to the entire region is terrorism,” Lieberman claimed. He added that the Saudi-led bloc had cut ties with Qatar “not because of Israel, not because of the Jews, not because of Zionism,” but “rather from fears of terrorism.”

    Chagai Tzuriel, a top official in Israel’s intelligence ministry, told The Times of Israel that Qatar was a “pain in the ass” to other “Sunni” Arab states allied with Israel.

    Israel’s former defense minister Moshe Yaalon also expressed backing for the Saudi-led sectarian coalition. “The Sunni Arab countries, apart from Qatar, are largely in the same boat with us since we all see a nuclear Iran as the number one threat against all of us,” he said at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights.

    On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia continued to escalate the situation, suspending the license of Qatar Airways and ordering its banks to sell the Qatari currency.

    Who supports “terror”?

    While Saudi Arabia offered no evidence for its charges against Qatar, the accusations are rich coming from a regime that has been one of the biggest sources of funding to so-called jihadi groups going back decades.

    But like Saudi Arabia, Qatar too has been accused of financing or allowing money to flow to ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria.

    Israel has also had no problem with al-Qaida linked groups, and even ISIS, in Syria, offering them various kinds of cooperation and material support.

    So the source of Saudi ire must lie elsewhere. Qatar has for years, along with Saudi Arabia, been part of the counterrevolution to thwart or reverse the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

    Qatar was taking part in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, before being kicked out of the coalition this week.

    The two-year bombing campaign in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians and brought the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

    But Qatar has often found itself backing different horses: Doha supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, while Riyadh has backed the regime of Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led the 2013 military coup that overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood president in Cairo.

    These differences had soured relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia for years.

    But Saudi Arabia may have been emboldened to act now, after US President Donald Trump gave full endorsement to strengthening a Saudi-led anti-Iran alliance during his visit to Riyadh last month.

    Targeting Hamas and Iran

    Qatar has continued to host the leaders of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and has been under pressure to expel the group’s officials – Israeli media claims that Qatar did expel two officials are unconfirmed.

    But the biggest difference appears to be that Qatar has not been willing to fully sign up to the Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.

    A deal in April in which Qatar allegedly paid about $700 million in ransom to release members of its royal family abducted by an Iran-affiliated group in Iraq reportedly enraged officials in other Gulf states.

    Qatar also reportedly paid about $300 million in ransom to several al-Qaida linked groups in Syria, according to The Financial Times.

    Also in April, Qatar lifted a self-imposed ban on developing a major maritime natural gas field it shares with Iran, which would necessitate cooperation between the two countries, according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

    Things came to a head around the time of Trump’s visit and his summit with regional leaders.

    Qatar’s national news agency published comments attributed to the country’s leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, calling Iran “a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored” and asserting that “it is unwise to face up against it.”

    Tamim also purportedly said his country’s relations with Israel were “good.” Qatar has flatly denied the statements are real, claiming that the news agency’s website and social media accounts were hacked.

    Qatar has historically maintained relations with Israel, even welcoming its then foreign minister Tzipi Livni to Doha in 2008.

    But the Qatar-based network Al Jazeera has cited the fake comments as a trigger for the crisis, accusing Saudi Arabia and its allies of using them as a pretext to move against Qatar.

    UAE embraces Israel

    Another factor is the close relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

    Hacked emails published by The Intercept reveal coordination between the Emirates ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and the neoconservative pro-Israel think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

    The emails reveal “a remarkable level of backchannel cooperation” between the Emirates and the think tank, which is funded by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to The Intercept.

    The email exchanges included complaints from the Israel lobby group about Qatar’s support for Hamas “terrorists.”

    An agenda for a meeting between leaders of the Israel lobby group and Emirates ambassador al-Otaiba scheduled for this month includes such items as “Qatar support for radical Islamists” including Hamas, Qatar’s “destabilizing role in Egypt, Syria, Libya and the Gulf” and the role of the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera network.

    It also includes ways to reduce the influence Qatar gains from hosting a major US air base.

    One of the items on the agenda is “Political, economic, security sanctions.”

    The agenda is evidence that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – a key player in Israel’s anti-Palestinian propaganda – was gearing up to deliver in Washington the anti-Qatar message coming from Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates.

    US role

    The leaked documents reveal that the Saudi-led bloc is troubled by the influence Qatar gains by hosting the massive American al-Udeid air base.

    But this is precisely why the US, the overall imperial power, has no interest in a squabble among states that it views as vassals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed the importance of US ties with all the states involved and offered to mediate, urging the feuding rulers to “remain unified.”

    The US military lauded Qatar for its “enduring commitment to regional security” and affirmed it had “no plans to change our posture in Qatar.”

    Qatar has taken these messages as signs of strong US support, but as ever Trump was quick to throw everything into doubt.

    “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday, appearing to directly endorse the Saudi-led campaign against Doha.

    “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” he added. “They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar.”

    “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” the president asserted. More likely, Trump is pouring gasoline on an already burning region.

    A long-term goal of Israel has long been to divide Arab powers against each other, to “let them bleed,” as the official Israeli doctrine on Syria goes.

    Whatever happens next, Israel will continue to benefit from the chaos and divisions that only strengthen its hand.


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    Reports: Qatari pilgrims harassed in Mecca Grand Mosque

    Qatari nationals barred from entering the Grand Mosque in Mecca, according to an Al Sharq newspaper report.

    Saudi authorities have prevented Qatari nationals from entering the Grand Mosque in Mecca, marking a sharp escalation in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, Doha-based Al Sharq newspaper has reported.

    Qatar's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received complaints from Qatari citizens that pilgrims from Qatar were barred from entering the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, the paper said on Saturday.

    Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, the NHRC head, called the incident a flagrant violation of the right to practise religious rites as permitted by human rights conventions, the paper said.

    The NHRC denounced the incident, considering the step a violation of the right to perform religious rituals guaranteed by human rights conventions, Al Sharq added.

    It should be noted that Saudi authorities do not normally question people entering the Grand Mosque on their ethnicity or sectarian affiliation.

    The claims come a few days after the UAE and Bahrain criminalised "sympathy" for Qatar on social media.

    The UAE said offenders would be punished with a jail term of up to 15 years and a $136,000 fine. Bahrain declared it punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.

    Since the diplomatic dispute erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have been among the top topics discussed on Twitter in Arabic, which is a hugely popular medium of expression in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

    The dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries escalated after a cyberattack on Qatar's state-run news agency.

    Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting "extremism".

    Qatar has vehemently denied the charges.

    In its statement, the Qatari government said it has been leading the region in attacking what it called the roots of "terrorism", including giving young people hope through jobs, educating hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and funding community programmes to challenge agendas of armed groups.

    "Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement - a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors," the government said.



    Whatever beef these arabs have among either other, Islam is above them and their ignorant nationalism. No Muslim should be barred from mecca, especially the grand Mosque for worship. Using that in their political games is so tribal and backward.

    Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,

    "He is not one us who calls for `Asabiyyah, (nationalism/tribalism) or who fights for `Asabiyyah or who dies for `Asabiyyah."

    "He who calls for `Asabiyyah is as if he bit his father's genitals."

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    Somalia turns down $80m to cut ties with Qatar
    June 12, 2017

    Somali President, Mohammed Abdullah Farmajo, has been offered $80 million in exchange for his agreement to sever diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar, the New Khalij news outlet reported a prominent journalist has revealed.

    “After two hours of enticement, Farmajo rejected the tempting offer,” journalist Jaber Al-Harimi said.

    Yesterday, the newspaper Somalia Today quoted unnamed sources saying “there was pressure put on the Somali government by Saudi Arabia to reverse Somalia’s decision to stay neutral in the siege imposed by some Arab governments on the State of Qatar.”

    The sources confirmed that Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw financial aid to the Somali government unless Somalia change its neutral stand in which it has called for an end to the political dispute between Qatar and the other Arab nations through dialogue via Islamic organisations like the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

    The sources added that “ministers of the Somali government returned from Saudi Arabia after meetings with their counterpart were unexpectedly postponed.” It is understood that the rulers of the UAE, with the knowledge of Saudi Arabia, have already sought to persuade Farmajo, who won the presidency despite opposition from the UAE, to change his position.

    Sources close to Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, explained to the New Khalij that the rulers of the UAE, in particular the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed, would have preferred the former president, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, to remain in power, especially because of the concessions that the UAE were given by Mahmoud, including contracts for the unfettered access and management of a number of Somali ports that would have provided the UAE with an important strategic position in trading across the world. The new Somali President, Farmajo, has vowed to reverse a number of agreements, some of which have been described as “illegal”.

    Also arriving yesterday in the Somali capital were a Qatari delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sultan Bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, to hold talks between the Gulf States and officials of the Somali Federal government. According to sources, the Qatari delegation met with the Somali Prime Minister, Hasan Ali Khairi, and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are also expected to meet Farmajo.

    The Qatari delegation praised the non-aligned stance taken by government towards the Gulf countries and encouraged Somali leaders to maintain their stance against the embargo on Qatar at any cost.

    Somalia allowed Qatar the use of its airspace to break the no fly restriction imposed by the Arab countries. “At least 15 Qatari planes flew through Somali Airspace on the first day of the blockade on Qatar,” the Associated Press quoted an official with the aviation authority as saying.



    UAE expels Somali from Ramadan competition over Qatar row

    Tuesday 13 June 2017


    Somalia representative expelled from Quran competition and deported due to Somalia neutrality over Gulf crisis

    A competition held during Ramadan for Muslims who have memorised the Quran might have been thought to be above politics.

    Apparently not.

    Emirati authorities on Monday expelled a Somali who was taking part in the annual competition, which takes place in Dubai, after Somalia refused to break ties with Qatar in the ongoing Gulf dispute.

    The Dubai International Holy Quran Award is given annually and is sponsored by Dubai’s government. The prize for first, second and third place, respectively, is AED 250,000 ($68,000), AED 200,000 ($54,000) and AED 150,000 ($40,800).

    Ismail Madar, considered a favourite to win, was told he couldn’t continue to compete as a representative for Somalia.

    Speaking to local media, Madar said that he felt that the decision was a result of Somalia’s position on the Gulf crisis, with tensions between Qatar and its neighbouring states remaining high.

    The United Arab Emirates has taken a lead in the economic blockade of Qatar, alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, for its alleged support of militant groups. Qatar denies the claims.

    “Since Somalia declared its position to not side with Saudi and the UAE against Qatar, there was suspicion against Somalis,” Madar told local media.

    “When the media reported the Qatari delegation visited Mogadishu, UAE officials told us to leave the competition,” said the devotional singer.

    People expressed outrage at the decision on social media.


    Abdishakur mohamud @shaakz
    This is getting petty now. Seems UAE stooped too low by this ugly action.
    They r just complicating n already volatile middle east. .

    Before being removed from the competition, Madar was considered a favourite to win.

    Madar said he was expecting to come first or second in the competition, saying that “unfortunately they punished me”. He was allegedly given only 10 minutes to leave the premises of the competition.

    With a security escort, Madar was taken to the airport and deported back to Somalia.

    The incident came after the UAE recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu to protest Somalia’s neutrality in the Gulf crisis.

    Somalia has urged both sides to seek dialogue to resolve the dispute.

    A Gulf minister allegedly attempted to bribe Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmaajo" Mohamed, with $80m to join the boycott of Qatar, and to aid the facilitation of the blockade against them, according to the New Arab.

    The former editor in chief of Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq, Jaber al-Harmi, told the New Arab: “The minister had even gone to the extent of trying to pressure Farmaajo through the help of another African country."


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    Saudi accused of blackmailing African states with Hajj visas

    June 13, 2017

    Saudi Arabia has been accused of making threats to African countries that have refused to support the blockade against Qatar, including veiled threats to deny Hajj visas to African Muslims
    , French newspaper Le Monde reported.

    Riyadh has led a campaign to influence African states to break diplomatic relations with Doha. Seven countries have already yielded but a number of African leaders have refused to support the siege on Qatar. In an attempt to coerce countries refusing to join the blockade, Saudi Arabia has been accused of resorting to coercion and blackmail.

    According to the paper, Riyadh was using veiled threats, including complicating the visa process for countries who refused to support the blockade.

    African states with a large Muslim population have come under severe pressure to support the siege since it started last week. Many African states have mosques and institutions financed by Riyadh.

    Six African countries (Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, Egypt and the Comoros) have recalled their ambassador from Doha.
    Others, including Djibouti whose border dispute with Eritrea is being mediated by Qatar, preferred to take a less drastic measure to avoid a future backlash.

    Riyadh however is struggling to obtain the support of many Muslim majority countries in Africa.
    Somalia was the latest, which turned down $80 million in aid to cut ties with Qatar. The countries of the Maghreb – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia – and Sudan, have called for dialogue without taking sides. Nigeria, which has enjoyed good relations with Qatar, is also not in any position to cut diplomatic relations with Doha without suffering negative consequences.

    Saudi was reported to have resorted to exerting pressure on those countries. The first is by threatening to cut off aid which is believed to be modestly successful and the second is said to be veiled threats to make obtaining visas more difficult for Hajj and Umrah.

    The map of diplomatic relations between African states and the GCC is more complicated than Saudi initially anticipated. Over the past decade, Qatar has made important avenues in Africa. The emirate is hoping that its generosity will pay off.



    Trump goes there to visit his little slaves and they all go crazy against Qatar over night. The end of these Arabs is near when they start blocking Muslims from doing hajj and umrah and entering the House of Allah

    Allah's Messenger (S+) said, "One of the signs of the approach of the Last Hour will be the destruction of the Arabs."

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    Saudi king gives Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar

    June 15, 2017

    King Salman of Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar. In an attempt to force Nawaz Sharif to take sides, the monarch jibed, “Are you with us or with Qatar?” the Express Tribune has reported.

    The king posed the question during a meeting between the two leaders in Jeddah on Monday as part of the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis. “Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia it will not take sides in the brewing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East after Riyadh asked Islamabad ‘are you with us or with Qatar’,” the newspaper pointed out.

    Pakistan has been treading a careful path since Saudi and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the Saudi government wants Pakistan to side with the kingdom.

    Citing a senior government official, who was briefed on the talks at the monarch’s palace in Jeddah, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan would not take sides in any event that would create divisions within the Muslim world. “Nevertheless, in order to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan offered to use its influence over Qatar to defuse the situation. For this purpose, the prime minister will undertake visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey,” the newspaper added.

    Sharif travelled to Jeddah accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials to discuss the emerging situation in the Gulf. It is thought that Prime Minister Sharif’s mediation visit to Saudi did not achieve any immediate breakthrough.

    According to an official statement, Sharif met King Salman in Jeddah and urged an early resolution of the impasse in Gulf in the best interest of all Muslims.


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    Saudi Arabia and Qatar in furious row over Hajj


    Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of politicising the Hajj, claiming Riyadh has imposed restrictions on Qatari nationals planning to travel to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage.

    Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said on Saturday that Qatari citizens have been told they can only enter Saudi Arabia through two airports and that they must travel via Doha to be allowed in.

    You The NHRC said it has filed a complaint with the UN special rapporteur on freedom of belief and religion over the restrictions, which it said were in “stark violation of international laws and agreements that guarantee the right to worship.”

    The restrictions are part of a boycott launched on June 5 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which saw the group sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and impose a blockade. They accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism,” allegations Qatar has strongly denied.

    The four Arab states cut transport links with Qatar, and Saudi Arabia has closed the peninsula’s only land border.

    The NHRC said it was “extremely concerned over [Saudi Arabia] politicising religious rituals and using [Hajj] to achieve political gains.”

    In response Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called Qatar’s demand for an internationalisation of the Hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the kingdom, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Sunday, but Qatar said it never made such a call.

    “Qatar’s demands to internationalise the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom,” Adel al-Jubeir was quoted saying on Al Arabiya’s website.

    “We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalisation of the holy sites,” he said.

    Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said no official from his country had made such a call.

    “We are tired of responding to false information and stories invented from nothing,” Sheikh Mohammed told Al Jazeera.



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