Outrage after Al Jazeera posts tweet insulting Saudi king

Doha-based channel tweeted a cartoon denigrating King Salman amid a deepening rift between Qatar and its GCC allies.

Saudi King Salman and US president Donald Trump pose for photos with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, King Abdullah II of Jordan and other leaders attending the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. Evan Vucci / AP Photo
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A row between Qatar and fellow GCC members deepened yesterday after the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel posted a cartoon denigrating the Saudi king on its official Twitter feed.

The tweet set off a storm of condemnation on Twitter, and the cartoon was eventually removed by the network.

Relations between Qatar and the other GCC states were already fraught after the Qatar News Agency last week reported that the Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had criticised the aggressive rhetoric aimed at Iran by the Gulf and US during Mr Trump’s visit to Riyadh on May 20-21.


“There is no wisdom in harbouring hostility toward Iran,” the emir said at a military graduation ceremony, according to the QNA report, which was quickly taken down. Doha has claimed that the report was false and posted by hackers who took over the QNA site and associated Twitter account for several hours on Tuesday night. However, it has offered no proof of this so far.

The emir’s reported comment was out of step with Gulf attempts to contain Iran’s actions in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. After Mr Trump’s Riyadh summit, the kingdom and Washington are set to take a much harder line on Tehran and its regional policies.

The emir’s decision to accept a call from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Saturday has added to suspicions of Qatar’s position. The Iranian president’s website later reported that Sheikh Tamim had told him that talks between Iran and Arab Gulf states should continue.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash warned on Sunday that Qatar’s actions were threatening stability in the Gulf.

“Warding off the discord will require a change in behaviour ... and a regain in credibility,” Dr Gargash tweeted, in a clear reference to Qatar.

“Solving a crisis between a brother and his siblings is achieved through honesty and commitment to pledges and intentions,” he said.

Qatar is wary of Iran, but is not aligned with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the issue, in part because of a shared major gasfield. Doha, which has long sought to remain independent of its larger neighbour’s foreign policy preferences, is probably less enthusiastic about greater hostility.

Qatar has also faced criticism over its association with Islamist groups in the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been listed as a terrorist group by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.