UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan called on the US military to bomb the Doha-based Al-Jazeera channel headquarters during the US invasion of Afghanistan and ahead of the Iraq war, a leaked diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed.
The comments were given as part of Mohammad bin Zayed’s efforts to foster onto the US administration the importance of “reigning in” the Al-Jazeera network in order to dampen Arab public opinion in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The cable alleges that former Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani “complained about a report he had received that [Mohammad Bin Zayed] had asked [US] General Franks to bomb Al-Jazeera,” during a conversation with Shaykh Zayed bin Sultan, Abu Dhabi’s then-ruler and father of the current crown prince.
The Crown Prince of the UAE Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan asked the Americans to bomb the headquarters of the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television channel in 2003, Wikileaks cables revealed.
The meeting was “laughingly recalled” by the crown prince himself, according to the cable.
The cable further said that Mohammad bin Zayed’s father, Shaykh Zayed said “can you blame him?” in his reply to the Qatari Emir.
The same cable also alleged that Mohammed bin Zayed urged the US to prohibit journalists from accompanying them during the invasion in order to prevent them from reporting civilian causalities.
“He recommended against sending in journalists with war fighters – at least in the beginning – as the prospect of televising scenes of civilian casualties was just too risky,” the cable said.
The US military has previously struck Al-Jazeera offices during both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq – though both attacks were claimed to have been unintentional.
A missile strike in 2001 completely destroyed Al-Jazeera’s Kabul office in Afghanistan, while a second strike in 2003 against Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad led to the death of one journalist and the wounding of others.
The leaked cable emerged amid a continuing blockade of Qatar by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, within which Mohammad bin Zayed is said to have played a prominent role.
The complete closure of the Al-Jazeera network is one of the 13-point list of demands given by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Qatari authorities.