Category Archives: Qatar

Al-Jazeera, Insurgent TV Station That Divides the Arab World, Faces Closure

Hugh Miles, author of Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Al-JazeeraOn Monday a bold and controversial experiment in Middle Eastern media and politics may be abruptly brought to an end. Al-Jazeera – once heralded as the beacon of free Arab media that broke the hegemony of the western networks and reversed the flow of information from east to west for the first time since the middle ages – faces closing its doors for good.

On 23 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt subjected Qatar to unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions, followed by an aggressive blockade and threats of further action if Qatar fails to meet a list of 13 demands, one of which is to shut down the al-Jazeera network.

If Doha capitulates – and there are no signs it will – it will effectively have lost its sovereignty and become a vassal state of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Yet defying the deadline could lead to regime change in Qatar, or even war.

Whatever happens, it is a credit to al-Jazeera that, 21 years after its launch, it is still so disruptive and challenging to those in power. Few other media outlets can claim to be so influential. But al-Jazeera is not like other broadcasters. It is a unique phenomenon which, since it started broadcasting in 1996, has revolutionised the Arab media, and in 2010 played a major role in bringing about a real political revolution across much of the Arab world.



Theresa May Blames ‘Tolerance of Extremism’ But UK Policies Help Terrorists

Aaron Mate speaks with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed who says British government policies benefit extremists and endanger civilians. (The Real News)

Glenn Greenwald: Why Are the Saudis Donating Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

Amy Goodman speaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept about the Clinton Foundation and its donors. An issue Greenwald covers in his latest article: Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation? Greenwald also discusses the role of the media in the U.S. election and their different approaches to covering Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Democracy Now!)

Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by“the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.


Migrant Workers Suffer ‘Appalling Treatment’ In Qatar World Cup Stadiums, Says Amnesty International

Owen Gibson reports for The Guardian:

Despite five years of growing criticism, Fifa and the Qatari authorities have been accused of ongoing indifference towards systemic abuse and “appalling treatment” of migrant workers working on stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup.

A damning new report by Amnesty International, which interviewed 132 contractors working on refurbishing the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and a further 102 landscapers who work in the Aspire Zone sports complex that surrounds it, claimed that they all reported human rights abuses of one kind or another.

The findings will prove controversial because Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has made ensuring minimum standards are met on World Cup stadium projects a priority in the wake of widespread criticism of the broader conditions in which migrant labourers, who make up more than 90% of Qatar’s 2.1m population, live and work.

For the first time, Amnesty said it had definitively identified mistreatment and abuses on a World Cup stadium site rather than on infrastructure projects that underpin Qatar’s ambitious 2030 Vision, of which the football tournament has become an integral part.


Al Jazeera America: Requiem for a News Channel

Ari Paul writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

USA Today: Is the USA ready for Al Jazeera America?Skeptics said it wouldn’t last, and they were right.

Al Jazeera America launched in the summer of 2013, a spin-off of the Doha-based channel’s English version to specifically target a United States audience. For the last decade, Al Jazeera had built what some might consider the one of the most coveted of journalistic reputations: It was considered anti-American and anti-Zionist in the US, while Arab governments saw its stories as pure Western propaganda. By the time of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera English became indispensable for anyone in the United States who wanted to know what was going on.

Having poached English language talent from other news providers, Al Jazeera’s English-language service could no longer be ignored in North America. In a market where television news is saturated with screaming pundits and websites that spend more time on aggregation and the click-hungry hot takes, a new channel dedicated to covering US issues and the world with a cold and serious eye seemed like a worthy gamble.

On January 13, the world learned that Al Jazeera America would soon close. And while some employees could migrate into the network’s expanded digital operations, many will spend the coming days and weeks looking for new work.

The news comes as Al Jazeera’s primary patron, the Qatari government, enters a financial downturn; it will have its first budget deficit in 15 years. AJAM always struggled with low ratings; as the New York Times reported last May, “The station has been a nonfactor in news, drawing about 30,000 viewers a night.” And while its online presence has been expansive, that still isn’t what brings home the proverbial bacon. Al Jazeera English always struggled to get onto US cable service, and so too was it difficult for AJAM—not to mention that especially for younger viewers, more and more news is consumed online rather than through traditional cable. People aren’t sitting at home waiting for the nightly news anymore—they’re getting their information on their phones throughout the day.


Al Jazeera America Terminates All TV and Digital Operations

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Executives of Al Jazeera America (AJAM) held a meeting at 2 p.m. Eastern Time to tell their employees that the company is terminating all news and digital operations in the U.S. as of April 2016, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs. The announcement marks a stunning and rapid collapse of what, from the start, has been a towering failure.

AJAM began when Al Jazeera purchased Current TV in late 2012 from founder Al Gore for $500 million, and the channel launched six months later. From the start, the project was beset with massive failures, frombitter internal strife and employee discrimination lawsuits to minuscule ratings and distribution failures. AJAM and Gore ended up in a protracted, embittered lawsuit with one another. Ratings were so low as to be almost unquantifiable; even by 2015, the network was averaging a tiny 30,000 viewers in prime-time and at some points had literally a zero rating in the key 25-54 demographic.

From the start, employees complained vociferously that network executives were paralyzed by fear, believing they had to avoid all hints of bias and opinion in order to steer clear of what these executives regarded as the lethal stench of the Al Jazeera brand for American audiences. This turned much of the network into a diluted, extra-fearful version of CNN, which itself has suffered from remarkably low ratings for years. AJAM journalists typically blame one AJAM executive in particular, Ehab Al Shihabi, its executive director of international operations. Al Shihabi, whose background is in business and not journalism, was widely regarded as the prime author of the network’s identity problems and obsession with voiceless content.


Al Jazeera Blocks Anti-Saudi Arabia Article

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

The corporate headquarters of Al Jazeera appears to have blocked an article critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record from viewers outside the United States. The news network, which is funded by the government of Qatar, told local press that it did not intend to offend Saudi Arabia or any other state ally, and would remove the piece.

The op-ed, written by Georgetown University professor and lawyer Arjun Sethi and titled, “Saudi Arabia Uses Terrorism as an Excuse for Human Rights Abuses,” ran on the website of Al Jazeera America, the network’s U.S. outlet. It comments on reports of 50 people recently sentenced to death for alleged terrorist activity and criticizes the U.S. government’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The article ran on December 3, and is still available [as of December 18th] in the United States, but people attempting to view the link in other countries were given an error or “not found” page. (For international readers, we’ve reprinted the full text of the article here.)


Europe Is Harbouring The Islamic State’s Backers

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

[…] The ripple effect from the attacks in terms of the impact on Western societies is likely to be permanent. In much the same way that 9/11 saw the birth of a new era of perpetual war in the Muslim world, the 13/11 Paris attacks are already giving rise to a brave new phase in that perpetual war: a new age of Constant Vigilance, in which citizens are vital accessories to the police state, enacted in the name of defending a democracy eroded by the very act of defending it through Constant Vigilance.

Mass surveillance at home and endless military projection abroad are the twin sides of the same coin of national security, which must simply be maximized as much as possible.

“France is at war,” Hollande told French parliament at the Palace of Versailles.

“We’re not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world.”

Conspicuously missing from President Hollande’s decisive declaration of war however, was any mention of the biggest elephant in the room: state-sponsorship.


Pentagon Chief: Gulf countries don’t need billions of dollars in weapons U.S. sells them each year

Jeffrey Goldberg reports for The Atlantic:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had reassuring words for Israel when I interviewed him last week in his office at the Pentagon, but he also had blunt criticism of other American allies in the Middle East: the Arab Gulf states, who, he argued, sometimes appear unwilling to effectively engage their enemies. Carter suggested that these states—the members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Egypt as well—would rather build show-horse air forces than commit to the dangerous work of countering ISIS and Iran, the main bogeymen of moderate Arab states.

“If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground,” Carter said, referring to Iranian military activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. “We don’t like it that they’re in the game on the ground, but they are in the game. There is a sense that some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet,” more interested in acquiring advanced fighter jets than in building—and deploying—special-operations forces.


Visions of FIFA reform obscured by international politics and resentment

Owen Gibson writes for The Guardian:

Vladimir PutinDispense with the tactics board, send for the Risk-style war room. If battle lines were not already drawn jaggedly between football’s superpowers (and its many minnows who share equal voting rights) after the damning US indictment of 18 football executives on 47 corruption charges, they certainly are now.

It is a once-in-a-generation tussle for power and control of world football that will play out over the coming months and could decide whether Fifa is reformed from top to bottom or ends up an even more compromised version of the dysfunctional beast ridden by Sepp Blatter for the past 17 years.

As the FBI continued judiciously leaking details of its investigation, it casually lobbed a new grenade that will have caused apoplexy from Doha to Durban to St Petersburg, where they are already planning next month’s preliminary draw for the qualifying phase of the 2018 World Cup.

In extending its investigation into Fifa corruption to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups it opened up a new front and increased the chances of a re-vote. But it played into already undisguised fury in Russia and elsewhere at the perception the US is acting beyond its jurisdiction as the world’s policeman and meddling in the affairs of other nations.’


The Enron of Sports: FIFA’s Upheaval, from Corruption Arrests to Rising Death Toll in Qatar

‘In what’s been described as the largest scandal in modern sports history, nine high-ranking soccer officials, including two current vice presidents of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, were indicted along with five sports marketing executives on federal corruption charges by the U.S. Justice Department. Among those arrested in connection with the probe is Jack Warner, former vice president of FIFA, who is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to cast his ballot for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. Despite the arrests, FIFA is holding an election today to pick the next president of the organization. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is seeking re-election for the post he has held since 1998. Many commentators have predicted he will be re-elected, though some nations, including the United States, have vowed to vote against him. We speak to sportswriter Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff, former professional soccer player who represented the U.S. Olympic soccer team.’ (Democracy Now!)

Corrupt FIFA Has Clinton Foundation Ties; World Cup Host Qatar Gave Millions

Jackie Kucinich reports for The Daily Beast:

The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website.

Several top FIFA executives were arrested Wednesday in Zurich and face corruption charges stretching back two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Involvement with the embattled body extends beyond the foundation to Bill Clinton himself. The former president was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

When the U.S. lost the 2022 bid to Qatar, Clinton was rumored to be so upset he shattered a mirror.

But apparently Qatar tried to make it up to him.’


The Hypocrisy World Cup

Campaigners target Qatar World Cup: Interview with Andrew Jennings

Andrew Jennings a British investigative journalist who has been covering corruption involving FIFA and the IOC for many years. He is the author of a number of books including The Great Olympic Swindle, FOUL! and Omerta. All of which are available via his website, Transparency In Sport.

Arab nations’ donations to Clinton Foundation: Curing world’s ills or currying favor?

Greg Gordon reports for McClatchy:

Four oil-rich Arab nations, all with histories of philanthropy to United Nations and Middle Eastern causes, have donated vastly more money to the Clinton Foundation than they have to most other large private charities involved in the kinds of global work championed by the Clinton family.

Since 2001, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates gave as much as $40 million to the Clinton Foundation. In contrast, six similar non-governmental global charities collected no money from those same four Middle Eastern countries; the International Committee of the Red Cross was given $6.82 million. Since 2001, these global foundations have raised a staggering $40 billion to $50 billion to fund their humanitarian work.

The existence of foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation has been well-documented in the media. What hasn’t been revealed, however, is the disparity in donations by these four nations, all of which have been criticized by the State Department over the years for a spate of issues ranging from the mistreatment of women to stoking ethnic discord in the flammable Middle East.

Moreover, the level of Arab support for the Clinton Foundation, which occurred during the time Hillary Clinton was a U.S. senator, was seeking the Democratic nomination for president against Barack Obama, and was serving as secretary of state, fuels questions about the reasons for the donations. Were they solely to support the foundation’s causes, or were they designed to curry favor with the ex-president and with a potential future president?’


Rebranding: US May Look to al-Qaeda Faction as New ‘Moderate’ Allies in Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The dissolution of the Hazm Movement, one of the last US-armed “moderate” rebel factions in northern Syria, has created a paucity of factions for the US to throw weapons at, at a time when the Pentagon is talking up the creation of a huge moderate force.

Enter al-Qaeda? It’s hard to imagine, but Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is insisting now that moderates are “anyone who is not affiliated with ISIS,” and that the only obstacle to arming such groups are the international rules of law.’


Who Is Bankrolling the Islamic State? Interview with Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and the author of “The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.”

Qatar’s unofficial motto: To attract at all costs

IDEX 2015: Arms exporters eye deals at Middle East’s largest defense show

Stanley Carvalho reports for Reuters:

‘International firms will scramble for new orders at the Middle East’s largest arms show which opens in Abu Dhabi next week as oil-rich Gulf states load up on weapons in a region rocked by instability and violence.

The Middle East is the largest market driver in the industry with billions of dollars spent annually on buying military equipment, from drones and jet fighters to guided missiles.

Around 1,200 companies from 55 countries are showcasing their latest military wares and technologies at the biennial International Defense Exhibition (IDEX), starting Sunday in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.’


Gen. Wesley Clark: “ISIS got started through funding from our friends and allies to destroy Hezbollah”

Qatar World Cup 2022: Construction firms accused amid building boom

FIFA to publish ‘appropriate’ version of Michael Garcia’s World Cup report

Owen Gibson reports for The Guardian:

Michael GarciaFifa’s executive committee has unanimously agreed to publish Michael Garcia’s investigation into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but only in an “appropriate form” and not until ongoing investigations against individuals have been resolved.

However, Fifa president Sepp Blatter also immediately slammed the door permanently on any question of a revote for the controversial 2018 tournament in Russia or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We will not revisit the 2018 and 2022 vote and a report by independent, external legal experts supports the view that there are no legal grounds to revoke the executive committee’s decision on the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups,” he said following a meeting of the Fifa executive committee in Marrakech.

Around half the 22 voting members of the Fifa executive committee who voted in December 2010 have since left the organisation, many with a cloud of corruption allegations trailing in their wake.

Blatter said work was already underway on drawing up a new framework for World Cup bidding process.’


FIFA: Further Allegations of Impropriety Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids Emerge

Mark Hanrahan reports for the International Business Times:

fifa.jpg‘Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which has published a number of stories alleging that the bidding process for the two tournaments was corrupt, has turned over a cache of previously unpublished material to a committee of the U.K. parliament.

The material reportedly includes allegations of vote buying and vote trading between Russia and Qatar; that Russia gifted paintings from the archives of a museum to key voters and that former German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer’s vote was allegedly offered for sale by associates in exchange for millions of dollars worth of consultancy fees, according to the paper.

The material was sourced by England’s Football Association, which was responsible for running the country’s unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup. The organization collected a database of rumors and intelligence, gathered by private companies, British embassies around the world, and former agents of the U.K. intelligence agency MI6, who were hired to spy on rival bidders.

The paper describes the allegations contained in the dossier as “unproven,” while a report from the BBC said that there is not clear evidence to support the allegations.’


Foul Play! Anatomy of a FIFA Whitewash

From Private Eye:

Foul Play! Anatomy of a FIFA Whitewash‘It’s pass-the-toxic-“ethics”-parcel time again at Fifa’s glass palace above Zürich. President Sepp Blatter’s latest hired investigator has overdone his exoneration of Fifa’s venal leaders over claims they solicited bribes from Qatar and Russia. As the world hoots, the scandal officially closed two weeks ago has been reopened.

The “re-examination” of the evidence by Domenico Scala, a former CEO recruited from Big Pharma, will be in secret, as is the Fifa way. It will also lack the help of his colleague on Fifa’s audit committee, Cayman’s Canover Watson, who was charged last week with corruption, fraud and money laundering.

How did it all go so wrong for Blatter? His tame “investigator”, former New York prosecutor Michael Garcia, had successfully produced a secret whitewash in 2013, clearing Blatter of involvement in the notorious $100m scandal of kickbacks to Fifa’s leaders from a Swiss marketing company. In issue 1367, Columbia University professor Scott Horton told the Eye: “The one thing that could be predicted with utter confidence on the basis of Garcia’s professional career is that he would zealously protect whoever appointed him and paid his bills. He might actually go after corrupt figures, but only to the extent it served the agenda of the person who appointed him.”

But Garcia was too zealous this time, producing an “investigation” so generous to the Fifa crooks the FBI has been provoked to step up its own inquiries into Fifa money laundering and corruption.

Garcia had submitted his report in September, knowing Blatter would bury it. Garcia and the “Fifa family” had approved Blatter’s 2012 “ethics code” that rules out publication – and which cannot be changed unless the Blatter-controlled Fifa congress alters the rules in six months’ time.’


Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai: The oil-rich billionaires who want to run the world of sport

Ben Smith writes for BBC Sport:

Map‘Where once, sport looked west for investment and inspiration, now it looks east.

The oil-rich billionaires of the Gulf have planted a flag at the heart of the sporting landscape in recent years. They have invested their inconceivable wealth across an array of sports into all corners of the world and now they are using their influence to bring sport to the region, as a global statement of their ambition.

Three Gulf states are at the heart of this extraordinary revolution: Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai alone, you will find one billionaire in every 200,000 people.

In Abu Dhabi, a rival state in the United Arab Emirates, the figures are just as extraordinary. It is in the process of building the jaw-dropping Louvre Abu Dhabi,  having paid the world-famous Paris museum more than £400m just to use the name. While in Qatar, more than 14% of households have at least £1m of private wealth in the bank.

And it is that wealth, that influence, which has lured sport to the Gulf.’


Have I Got News For You on FIFA’s corruption

Gulf Nations Split With Qatar Over Terror Funding Ends

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s very high profile eight month split with member nation Qatar has come to an end today, as Saudi officials announced an “understanding” had been reached.

The dispute centered around Qatar’s funding for the Muslim Brotherhood, which increased significantly after last summer’s Egyptian coup. The other GCC nations have been more favorable to the Egyptian junta, and accused Qatar of undermining stability both in Egypt and in their own nations.’


Britain has sold its soul with the Qatari deal

Editor’s Note: Britain sold its soul a long time ago, the Qatari deal is just business as usual.

Andrew Gilligan writes for The Telegraph:

Under scrutiny: Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani joined the Queen and Lord Vestey in the Royal Procession at Ascot[…] This is Qatar, the country with which David Cameron has just signed a defence and security agreement. Did the deal, perhaps, include a promise by the Qataris to stop this sort of behaviour [hosting terror financiers]? Did it commit Qatar to end its support for the Islamist militias who have helped reduce Libya to anarchy, or to kick out the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood? It did not.

In fact, it was Britain that made the concessions, committing to share its classified intelligence and expertise with the Qatari state, and agreeing to work more closely with its security forces. We were told that Mr Cameron would talk tough at his meeting with the Emir of Qatar last week. Instead, he seems to have spent much of his time asking for money.

In the words of the Downing Street statement, he “encouraged the Emir to consider more opportunities across [Britain], particularly the Government’s plan to establish a Northern powerhouse by connecting our great northern cities and the development of high-speed rail”. The trinket offered to us is that if we are sufficiently nice to them, the Qataris will buy some of our weapons.’


FIFA: Michael Garcia disowns findings of his own report

World Soccer reports:

Michael Garcia‘The FIFA investigator who investigated the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has said today’s report on his findings contain “numerous and erroneous” inaccuracies.

FIFA-appointed judge Hans-Joachim Eckert published an interim report into Michael Garcia’s findings today, in which he cleared both Russia and Qatar, but questioned the conduct of both England and Australia in the bidding process.

But Garcia has disputed the way his findings were represented, saying: “Today’s decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report.

“I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee.”’