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Will Qatar withdraw its funds from London in the wake of the Telegraph's campaign?

October 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm

British newspaper The Telegraph, and its sister paper The Sunday Telegraph, have recently published a series of reports linking Qatar with support for terrorism around the world, including on account of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. This despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is not designated a terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom or in the European Union.

The paper has sought to lump together the Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and even ISIS, so as to leave Qataris open to charges of supporting and financing terrorism. Arabi21 has monitored the articles and the reports published by the London paper’s weekly and Sunday editions, and found that the newspaper published seven reports on the same subject within two weeks.

An analysis shows that the target is not limited to the Muslim Brotherhood or efforts to ban their activities within Britain. Rather, the objective is actually to link the state of Qatar with funding terrorism around the world. For example, one article said: “Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya which is collaborating with armed militias that wage war in order to topple the secularists and remove them from power.”

It is worth noting that one of the seven reports was titled ‘Harrods shoppers are buying into terror.’ The Harrods department store in central London is the most prestigious and expensive store in all of Europe, and has nothing to do with politics. The store is owned by the state of Qatar, one of its many investments in Britain.

The Telegraph report highlighted a small protest organised in front of the store by pro-Israel activists, who accused it of funding terrorism and called for a boycott of the store. This is the story around which the Telegraph report was weaved.

The reports, all authored or co-authored by senior correspondent Robert Mendick, are as follows:

This series of articles is reminiscent of a U.S.-focused propaganda campaign exposed recently by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept. According to the report, hostility between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has produced a new campaign in the West “to demonize the Qataris as the key supporter of terrorism.”

While “the Israelis have chosen the direct approach of publicly accusing their new enemy in Doha of being terrorist supporters”, the UAE has opted for “a more covert strategy: paying millions of dollars to a U.S. lobbying firm – composed of former high-ranking Treasury officials from both parties – to plant anti-Qatar stories with American journalists.” Greenwald noted that this “more subtle tactic has been remarkably successful, and shines important light on how easily political narratives in U.S. media discourse can be literally purchased.”

The information published by The Intercept followed on from, and confirmed, an earlier report in The New York Times:

The United Arab Emirates have retained an American consulting firm, Camstoll Group, staffed by several former United States Treasury Department officials. Its public disclosure forms, filed as a registered foreign agent, showed a pattern of conversations with journalists who subsequently wrote articles critical of Qatar’s role in terrorist fund-raising.

The report contextualised these efforts as the result of “an unlikely alignment of interests, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel”, that sought to depict Doha as “a godfather to terrorists everywhere.”

Should the seemingly politically-motivated reports in The Telegraph, a paper close to the ruling Conservative party, indicate a broader and more serious attempt to provoke a crisis between Britain and the Qatari government, then billions of pounds of investments and strategic interests could be in jeopardy.

In November 2013, Centrica, which owns the biggest energy supplier to British households British Gas, signed a £4.4 billion deal with Qatar to import liquefied natural gas (an amount equivalent to 13 per cent of Britain’s annual residential gas demand). There are also diverse Qatari investments in the stock exchange, real estate and retail, and any withdrawal or relocation of investments would have a significant impact on the UK economy.

Translated form Arabi21, October 21, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.