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Political tensions between the countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are not new for the Middle Eastern region. However, the diplomatic crisis that started in June 2017 made the regional actors, as well as other countries, take this or that side in this conflict. Thus, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain stopped their diplomatic relations with Qatar, and they were supported by other nations in the region (POMEPS, 2017).
Although the conflict develops without active steps taken by both sides, the majority of the GCC countries, European countries, and the United States are interested in resolving the crisis and stopping Qatar’s propaganda in media.
Countries That Are Interested in Resolving the Qatar Crisis
Among the states focused on ceasing the diplomatic crisis involving Qatar and other GCC countries, it is important to distinguish between the GCC nations, the United States, and European states. The first attempt to end the crisis was made by the Gulf countries leading by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain when 13 demands for Qatar were formulated to be fully addressed. These demands were supported by other GCC countries, including Kuwait that acted as a mediator in providing Qatar with the list of 13 issues (POMEPS, 2017). However, Qatar rejected the demands, and the crisis was not resolved.
In the spring of 2018, it became known that Saudi Arabia supported by other Gulf states, was ready to take action and stop the boycott of Qatar by ending the air blockade. This decision was supported by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Wintour, 2018). Oman is one more GCC state that takes a neutral position in the crisis along with Kuwait, and that can be used as a mediator in conflict resolution. Thus, the Gulf countries are interested in resolving the conflict without its further escalation.
The United States is oriented towards putting an end to the Qatar diplomatic crisis with the help of accentuating the need for peaceful negotiations. In this context, much effort was made by the Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson. Thus, Tillerson directed his efforts towards the mediation between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain and de-escalation of this diplomatic crisis (POMEPS, 2017). The United Kingdom also accentuated the necessity of resolving the conflict through mediation and dialogue. As a result, the country combined its efforts in addressing the Qatar crisis with Kuwait and the United States (POMEPS, 2017; Wintour, 2018).
Germany focused on the need for de-escalating the conflict by the four opponents of Qatar because of their wider resources and the necessity of avoiding violence in the region (“Germany urges diplomatic solution,” 2017). Similar ideas regarding the necessity of dialogue were proclaimed by the President of France. Therefore, the United States and European countries also made efforts to mediate the conflict to find peaceful solutions to the crisis.
Propaganda and Fake News in Qatar
From the first days of developing the conflict, Qatar rejected any accusations of supporting terrorism, and the authorities used the media for some kind of propaganda and declaration of their views. For this purpose, the Qatari authorities actively used such a television network as Al Jazeera, and the opponents of Qatar in the conflict included the demand for closing Al Jazeera in their list (POMEPS, 2017). Qatar also used other sources to spread their vision of the situation among the public, as well as spreading fake news or information where the facts and details were manipulated to present Qatar’s perspective. In addition to using newspapers and television for spreading the news that did not reflect the actual situation related to the conflict, Qatar used social media and online information sources.
Posts with hashtags supporting Qatar’s position began to appear in social networks since the first days of the crisis. However, it also appeared that the majority of the most popular posts on Twitter that supported Qatar were promoted with the help of using bots or specific automated accounts. These bots were used to make certain posts and hashtags popular in order to impact public opinion regarding the situation in Qatar (Pinnell, 2018).
These actions and the spread of fake news allowed for manipulating the opinion of people and accusing Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and allies of an unreasonable boycott of Qatar (Pinnell, 2018). Using different types of media, it was important for the Qatari authorities to accentuate the idea that they did not support terrorism and all accusations made by the Gulf countries were groundless.
Social Media Influencers
Relying on social media in protecting their image, the Qatari authorities also used social media influencers who could publish and promote Qatar-oriented posts and hashtags. As a result, it was possible to expect that followers of the most popular social media influencers would share their views regarding the Qatar diplomatic crisis (“Qatar crisis,” 2018). These persons have a significant impact on the formation of the debate regarding the conflict, and this aspect works not only for the context of Qatar and GCC countries but also globally (POMEPS, 2017).
The accounts of the most influential bloggers in social media were used for promoting propaganda and Qatar-oriented posts with the help of thousands of likes and supporting comments. These posts were mainly used to create a negative image of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain.
In spite of certain efforts made by the Gulf countries, some European countries, and the United States to regulate the Qatar crisis, these actions were not enough to cease the conflict. As a result, the risk of developing a diplomatic crisis into a violent conflict remains. The choice of negotiations to resolve the conflict can be discussed as complicated by Qatar’s manipulation of public opinion using fake news, the inaccurate presentation of facts, and social media influencers. From this point of view, these actions allow Qatar to influence the perceptions of those nations and people that remain neutral in the conflict.
Germany urges diplomatic solutions to Qatar crisis. (2017). Web.
Pinnell, O. (2018). The online war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Web.
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POMEPS. (2017). The Qatar crisis. Web.
Qatar crisis: Top social media influencers. (2018). Web.
Wintour, P. (2018). Gulf states are considering plans to bring an end to Saudi-led Qatar boycott. The Guardian. Web.