UAE Led a 'Demonization Campaign' Against Qatar, Al Jazeera Documentary Claims

Published September 19th, 2017 - 11:40 GMT
On Sunday, Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary packed full of lurid accusations against the UAE. “Emirates... Back Doors” claims to “reveal Abu Dhabi’s secret role in the demonization of Qatar” (file photo)
On Sunday, Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary packed full of lurid accusations against the UAE. “Emirates... Back Doors” claims to “reveal Abu Dhabi’s secret role in the demonization of Qatar” (file photo)
  • A five-year campaign to demonize Qatar is behind the Gulf Crisis, Al Jazeera documentary claims
  • Abu Dhabi paid foreign governments and 'Zionist companies' to spoil Qatar's reputation, it suggests
  • A Former US Defense Secretary declared "zero hour in the war on Qatar" ahead of the diplomatic rift, alleges Al Jazeera
  • The documentary has been slammed by Emiratis and Saudis online


On Sunday, Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast a documentary packed full of lurid accusations against the UAE.

“Emirates... Back Doors” claims to “reveal Abu Dhabi’s secret role in the demonization of Qatar”.

Accusing the UAE of paying “Zionist businesses” to “demonize Qatar”, and a former US Secretary of Defense of declaring “zero hour in the war on Qatar”, the Arabic-language documentary has the ring of a conspiracy theory.

The product of three years’ investigative journalism, the documentary maintains that an Abu Dhabi-led campaign to spoil Qatar’s reputation was launched in 2012.

It was, “Emirates...Back Doors” suggests, conducted “in full coordination with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu”.

According to Al Jazeera, the ongoing blockade of Qatar by four of its former allies which began in June this year,  was the direct result of this “systematic and sustained campaign”.

On May 23, it was former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates who had issued a battle cry against the Gulf state, the documentary attests. Just hours later, Qatar’s state news network QNA was allegedly hacked, publishing apparently fabricated remarks by its Emir.

Abu Dhabi officials were behind the hack, which preceded the cutting of diplomatic ties, Al Jazeera insists.

The documentary has not been released in English, and no mention of the accusations are made on Al Jazeera's sister English language website.

Al Jazeera has been at the center of the ‘Gulf Crisis’ that began on June 5, when four Arab nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, launching trade and travel bans against their neighbor.

Doha was accused of supporting terrorism in the region, an allegation it has denied.

The closure of the Qatar-funded network was one of a list of 13 conditions issued by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies on June 22, and rejected by Qatar. Some analysts have even suggested that Al Jazeera is the true target of the boycott.

“Emirates... Back Doors” comes as a war-of-words is raging between media organizations attached to Qatar and the boycotting nations, and the film must be taken in that context.



What has been the response to the documentary?

Online, responses to the documentary from Saudis and Emiratis were dismissive, as might be expected.

“Does the government of Hamad bin Khalifa need someone to demonize it?” @moq_r7 tweeted.

“You are the devil himself, who is being rewarded by the work of Hamad. Nothing remains beautiful for the Arabs, destroyed by this evil.”

Several individuals threw accusations of Israeli cooperation back at Al Jazeera, perhaps ironically given that the network has recently been banned by Tel Aviv.

@yosefalkaabi866 wrote: “The Israeli flag flies in Qatar and the masonry of their headquarters is Al-Jazeera channel in Qatar... The report is evidence of the bankruptcy of the Hamads and the crimes of Qatar.”

May every Arab see what has been done by the demons of Qatar; in Syria the entire country was destroyed with Qatari money in service to Israel, and what happened in Libya. Their most powerful and sly weapon is Al Jazeera and money.

“The whole report is false, you are in the last chasm of your life so you have gathered all your lying skills together in this report,” @MatSaeed added.

How much truth is there in the documentary?

The claim that Robert Gates, who was US Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, had declared “zero hour in the war against Qatar” is easy to investigate.

Gates was speaking at a conference hosted by the “Foundation for Defense of Democracies”, a Washington-based think-tank, which has been described as “neoconservative”.

Moderator Jenna Lee of Fox News repeatedly questioned Gates about Qatar. While critical of what he saw as Qatar’s reluctance to take initiative in targeting terrorist elements, he nonetheless described it as a “military ally".

When asked if he thought the US should remove Al Udeid military base from Qatar, he made clear it would be preferable to exhaustively pursue other options first.

In fact, the claims against Gates appear to be based entirely on comments he made about other regional states focusing on combatting terror only once they felt that they were under threat.

“It would be nice" to see Qatar take a more aggressive take on terrorism,  he said, “before Qatar itself is attacked.”

From context, it appears that this is not a threat, but simply a passing comment about the activities of other Gulf nations.

While his criticism of Qatar in general was measured, Gates was, however, disparaging of Al Jazeera itself.

In 2006 when he took over the post, he described that “General Abizaid [former commander of US Central Command] was convinced that Al Jazeera was working against our troops and actually providing information to our enemies.”

“There was broader concern about Al Jazeera providing a platform for terrorists, for the most militant kinds of people to use it as a platform - they would glorify the killing of US troops,” he added.

“The neighbors considered Qatar really a pariah because they believed that Qatar’s policies and Al Jazeera were fomenting instability in the region.”

Could these comments perhaps go some way to explaining why Gates was targeted by this Al Jazeera documentary?

While it is difficult to verify the remainder of the accusations fielded in "Abu Dhabi... Back Doors", what we do know is that US intelligence officials have indicated that the UAE was behind the hack on May 24, according to a Washington Post report.

“Newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation.”

The allegations were denied by the Emirati ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, himself caught up in a scandal over leaked emails reportedly hacked by pro-Qatar organization GlobalLeaks.

There is, then, at least some degree of truth to the documentary, and it is one, albeit very partisan, take on how it was that Qatar came to be the scapegoat for terrorist funding in the region.

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