Saudi Arabia invested huge money to try and draw decision makers towards their side in the ongoing gulf crisis. Now, Qatar has entered the fray in a big way and has started to spend millions to project itself as an US ally and an innocent victim.
Both the parties are trying hard to pull the support of US, which is kind of divided with Trump initially targeting Qatar for its alleged support to terrorism, and called Doha a “funder of terrorism”.
However, experts believe this media battle will have little impact on the decision makers in US who are well aware of all the facts.
Sigurd Neubauer, a Washington-based Gulf expert, said: “For Beltway insiders who are fluent in GCC lingo, this is clearly a longstanding dispute that is best avoided. Some people are more sympathetic to the Saudi side, but this PR battle is just noise that’s not changing anybody’s mind.”
Saudi-led bloc had severed ties with Qatar on June 5 after accusing it of backing terrorism, which was denied by Doha. Even the mediation efforts of Kuwait has failed to resolve the issue so far.
Qatar was given a list of 13 demands by the blockading countries to end the crisis, but, the list was rejected by the gas rich nation and said that the list was made to be rejected.
Coming back to the media war, SAPRAC (Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee) had reportedly spent $138,000 for TV ads on NBC-4 in Washington that accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and destabilising US allies in the region.
A new phrase ‘Qatarism’ was also coined by Saudi publicists and said that it explained a ‘two-faced world’ in which the Qatari royals develop relations with the west, while secretly funding Hamas, al-Qaeda and other US foes.
Meanwhile, Qatar has replied through US newspaper ads and presented itself as US’ strongest ally against ISIS.
An advertising truck, bearing the slogan “lift the blockade against the people of Qatar” has been seen driving around the capital, referring to sanctions that have left Doha relying on imports via Turkey, Iran and Oman.
“Various neighbouring countries have spent millions on ads, PR, and lobbying in an effort to drive a wedge between Qatar and the US,” a Qatar government spokesman told.
“The ads we’re running and the communications efforts we’ve made are a modest effort to counter their smear campaign with facts.”
However, most of the experts believed that face-to-face meet could be more useful than this media battle.
“These campaigns have zero impact. It’s just another way for smart Americans and Londoners to make money in contracts with unsophisticated Arab zillionaires who think that ads on buses will change US government policy,” Beirut-based analyst Rami Khouri told.
“We always knew the Saudis and Emiratis were incompetent at public diplomacy, but now they’re counter productively hurting themselves by shredding any last vestige of credibility their press had by turning their media into attack dogs.”