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Gulf of Oman incident: Did Qatar really have prior knowledge of a ‘sabotage attack’?

FoxNews.com falsely accused Qatar of being informed of a ‘sabotage attack’ on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman on May 12, 2019. Qatar has rejected such allegations and asked the news outlet to correct its facts. 

Qatar

According to a Western Intelligence report, Qatar had advance knowledge of Iran’s attacks on four ships in the Gulf of Oman in May and it failed to warn the US, France and the United Kingdom. This report comes in contrast to the anti-terrorism cooperation between the US and Qatar.

However, in a latest development, the state of Qatar has categorically rejected the allegations leveled against it by a western media outlet. Ministry of Foreign Affairs came out with a statement against an article published by FoxNews.com that made baseless allegations against Qatar. Qatar has rejected the allegations and clarified its position on the matter.

Read more: Gulf of Oman attacks: how merchant ships can keep safe in dangerous water

The ministry clearly stated that Qatar had no prior knowledge of the attack on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman on May 12, 2019. The reports claiming Qatar had advance information are misleading, it added.

In its statement, the ministry said “It is well beneath the standards of FoxNews.com to post the November 16, 2019 article by Benjamin Weinthal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) full of baseless assertions and attacks. The State of Qatar had no advance knowledge of the attack on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman on May 12, 2019. Nowhere in Weinthal’s article does a United States government official or any Western government official corroborate or support Weinthal’s claim. Yet FoxNews.com allows him to use an unseen and unverified report”.

Qatar, an ally of the USA, has also clarified that it always cooperates and never backtracks from the promises it makes. “In its role as an ally of the United States, Qatar provides unfettered access to a state-of-the-art military base, along with intelligence and logistical support. Significant intelligence sharing takes place and Qatar would never withhold critical intelligence from its allies, the statement said.

Weinthal misleads and distorts throughout his piece. The Associated Press reported that Weinthal’s employer, FDD, worked with one of the blockading countries paid representative Elliot Broidy to commission and published articles exactly like the FoxNews.com’s piece, as well as execute an anti-Qatar conference in May 2017. As a result, it is not surprising Weinthal and FDD would attempt to advance these false narratives.

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties and trade relations with Qatar, closing land, air and sea links, as they accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” and their regional rival, Iran. Doha vehemently denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

As a result of the blockade, Qatar is facing several challenges. Maryam bint Abdullah al-Attiyah, Secretary-General National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), pointed to “the seriousness of the violations affecting Qatari children as a result of the blockade imposed on the country, expressing regret that the celebration of the Universal Children’s Day coincided with the continuing violations and discriminatory measures of the blockade countries, which did not exclude any category of Qatari society, including children”.

Read more: Ending blockade: Qatar and Saudi Arabia are moving towards a major breakthrough

According to media reports, after the attack, Riyadh identified two of the ships as Saudi, and a Norwegian company said it owned another. The fourth ship was a storage tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s seven emirates.

U.S. officials, notably former U.S. National Security Adviser Jon Bolton, pinned the blame on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a charge Tehran has categorically rejected. “Credible intelligence reports indicate that the IRGC-Quds Forces Naval unit is responsible for the Fujairah Port attacks, and the elements of civilian government of Iran, as well as the State of Qatar, were aware of the IRGC’s activities,” Fox News quoted the western intelligence report as saying.

May 2019 Gulf of Oman Incident

On 12 May 2019, four commercial ships were damaged off Fujairah’s coast in the Gulf of Oman. The ships included two Saudi Arabian registered oil tankers, a Norwegian registered oil tanker, and an Emirati registered bunkering ship. The ships were anchored on the United Arab Emirates territorial waters for bunkering in Port of Fujairah. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates reported that the ships had been subject to a “sabotage attack”.

An official inquiry was carried out by the UAE with the help of the United States and France. Initial investigation report confirmed that 5-to-10-foot (1.5 to 3.0 m) holes near or below all the ships’ waterlines were probably caused by explosive charges.

Read more: Iran foils attack on Revolutionary Guards Commander Qassem Soleimani

The USA blamed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for attacking the ship. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the alleged attack in order to raise the price of oil as Washington works to end Iran’s exports of crude. On the other hand, Iran categorically rejected the allegations and demanded an international investigation. Iran believes that this ‘sabotage attack’ can be a possible false flag operation or an “Israeli mischief” to attempt and cause a military reaction.

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