Al Jazeera Hits, Misses and Ricochets
By Ian Urbina

Few could have predicted that a satellite television station would cause so much trouble. But once again, Qatari-based Al Jazeera has become a lightening rod for controversy.

On December 18, Saudi Arabia’s main national newspaper announced that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz would not be attending the gathering of Gulf leaders held in Qatar the weekend of December 21-22. The Gulf Cooperation Council meeting is a political and economic summit held annually which brings together the heads of state from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This was the first year that Prince Abdullah missed the function since its inception in 1996.

As the House of Saud goes, so follows the rest of the Gulf. After the Saudi announcement, Bahrain’s King Hamad quickly followed suit, stating that he too would stay away from the Qatar conference. Bahrain sent its foreign minister instead. For a while, Oman looked to be falling in line as well; i ts Sultan, Qaboos bin Said, expressed doubt that he would make the trip (he did in the end), and as for Kuwait and the Arab Emirate republics, their leaders are too frail for travel, so they had ready-made excuses.

In the end, if it hadn't been for Oman's bin Said, Qatari Emir Hamad ben Khalifa Al-Thani would have been left on his own to convene discussions with a coterie of the neighborhood’s lower minions.

The diplomatic snub was only the most recent move in growing tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, whose relationship was made worse in past months as the US took Doha up on the offer to use Qatar’s bases as alternatives to those in Saudi Arabia. But the larger bone of contention between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is the controversial satellite news channel Al Jazeera. In September, Riyadh yanked its ambassador from Qatar, demanding an apology from Doha for Al Jazeera’s allegedly disrespectful coverage of the Saudi royal family. Click to continue reading the article.


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