The Cable

New UAE Documentary Claims Qatar Complicit in 9/11 Attacks

Dueling PR campaigns just reached a whole new level in the ongoing Gulf crisis.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) looks at UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint press conference with their Saudi and Bahraini counterparts, after their meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 5, 2017, discussing the Gulf diplomatic crisis with Qatar, as Doha called for dialogue to resolve the dispute.
The Saudi foreign ministry said on July 5, 2017 that it had received Qatar's response to a 13-point list of demands issued on June 22 -- which include Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera -- and would respond "at the right time". / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Khaled ELFIQI        (Photo credit should read KHALED ELFIQI/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) looks at UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint press conference with their Saudi and Bahraini counterparts, after their meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 5, 2017, discussing the Gulf diplomatic crisis with Qatar, as Doha called for dialogue to resolve the dispute. The Saudi foreign ministry said on July 5, 2017 that it had received Qatar's response to a 13-point list of demands issued on June 22 -- which include Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera -- and would respond "at the right time". / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Khaled ELFIQI (Photo credit should read KHALED ELFIQI/AFP/Getty Images)

Deported camels. Rerouted planes. Just when you thought the Gulf crisis couldn’t get any more absurd, a media outlet linked to the Abu Dhabi ruling family has announced the release of a documentary claiming that Qatar was behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sky News Arabia, owned in part by Emirati scion Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will release the documentary, called “Qatar… The Road to Manhattan,” on Wednesday. It focuses on 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s visit to Qatar in 1996 as well as “Qatar’s long-term support for him, including protection and financial assistance, to achieve his terrorist goals and plans,” according to a report by Gulf News.

The documentary comes amid an ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. In early June, long-simmering tension spilled over into open hostility when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and other countries broke ties with Qatar over what they claimed was its financing of terrorism. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt have imposed a blockade until Doha accedes to their demands, isolating the tiny Gulf peninsula and strangling its economy.

Qatar lobbed the same accusation at the UAE back in June. “Emiratis, not Qataris, were among the hijackers who flew planes into the Twin Towers,’’ wrote Qatari Ambassador to the United States Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani in a June 18 Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “The UAE was singled out in the 9/11 Commission’s report for its role in laundering money to terrorists.”

Reports that a high-ranking Qatari minister shielded Khalid Sheikh Mohammad from the CIA in 1996 are certainly known, but they are hardly new.

While none of the 9/11 hijackers were Qatari nationals, two of them were from the UAE, and 15 out of 19 were Saudi. Osama bin Laden was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, currently held in Guantanamo, is Pakistani.

In response to the blockade, Qatar has launched an international public relations blitz in an attempt to win support against the three far larger countries, including lobbying in Washington, DC to play up the human rights violations the blockade has caused. Saudi Arabia has launched its own campaign, hiring top DC lobbyists.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to the region in July, shuttling between capitals in an attempt to smooth the relationship between two of the United State’s most important regional allies. On July 10, he signed a memorandum with the Qatari government agreeing to work towards combatting terrorism financing.

An annual report released last week by the U.S. State Department indicated that Qatar cooperated with international efforts to combat terrorism and terrorism financing and that it had made strides in shutting down the informal financial system within its borders that had previously channeled some illicit funding into the wrong hands.

KHALED ELFIQI/AFP/Getty Images

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy. @BethanyAllenEbr

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