Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar: The New DC Steel Cage Death Match
While much of the conversation and news coverage over the past several months has been usurped by health reform and the daily drama within the Trump White House, the clear escalation of the Beltway media war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is shaping up as a Battle-Royale of negative ads and hand to hand lobbyist and consultant combat.
The Saudi-Qatar hostilities escalated following the recent diplomatic coup associated with Saudi Arabia hosting President Trump’s first foreign trip.
Saudi Arabia, which has spent heavily over the past year on lobbyists and consultants, has been successful in diligently digging out of the public relations hole associated with opposing a law allowing 9/11 victims’ families to sue the kingdom for damages.
And what better way to divert attention away from Saudi Arabia’s own legal and PR problems than slamming Qatar? The Saudi forces have painted Qatar as the real terrorist threat in the minds of key DC audiences and the broader foreign policy influencer community.
One thing is certain: Saudi Arabia’s DC lobbying operation has expertly orchestrated not just the Trump visit to Riyadh, but also the roll-out in Washington of a scathing, highly-effective TV and digital attack on Qatar — with one ad using video of Trump himself to slam Qatar as “historically a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
The TV ad — increasingly ubiquitous on Hannity in particular — appeared not just on Meet the Press but also during the British Open and several other highly-viewed influencer programs.
Through a front group called the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC) — which says its mission is to highlight “Qatar’s continued support and harboring of known terrorists” — the Saudi side is decimating Qatar on a daily basis in the pr war.
It has also established The Qatar Insider to lambaste and bombard the gulf state with negative information regarding their alleged terror ties.
Today, for example, SAPRAC is detailing how Qatar supported Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
SAPRAC issues a steady stream of daily attacks charging Qatar is corrupt, is plotting terror attacks against neighbors, and even that its sports teams are the most corrupt.
Drip, drip, drip. And so it goes.
Despite finally hiring their own DC muscle, and attempting to scale-up their efforts against the Saudis, it may be too late to reverse or mitigate the methodical savaging of Qatar’s image. If this was a political campaign, the race would be over.
Sitting in their bunker, considering options, Qatar’s most likely move — really, their only move — will be to inflict counter damage on Saudi Arabia, and run their own paid messaging focusing attention back on the preponderance of Saudis associated with the 9/11 hijackings.
The argument will be reduced to, “Which nation is the bigger terrorism hypocrite? And who is really the biggest supporter of terror?”
The truth? Both have significant exposure — but it’s now a race to the bottom, and one can feel the enmity building.
Now that health reform has cratered on the domestic policy front, there’s more space and time available to cover this tit for tat foreign policy story — a discussion that has the Saudi side already leading by a wide margin in terms of inflicting damage, and achieving its political and sovereign objectives.
s/m/c/p has no involvement on either side of this lobbying/pr battle.