An account previously exposed to have links with the UAE has posted fake news on Qatari threats to cut gas supplies to the world if Israel continues to bombard Gaza.
Disinformation experts have exposed an account “masquerading” as a Qatari news source that has spread false reports on an alleged Qatari threat to cut its gas supplies to the world if Israel continues to bomb the besieged Gaza Strip.
The ‘Qatar Affairs’ account shared a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday, alleging “the State of Qatar threatened to stop gas supplies to the world if the bombing of Gaza does not stop.”
The remarks raised eyebrows among Qatar watchers on social media with many calling out the suspicious account for the unverified claims.
“Qattar_affairs is an account used to try and frame Qatar in a negative light. It masquerades as a legitimate news account and the majority of its content is designed to make it look like a standard Qatar news account, but like many disinfo ops, it will occasionally include obvious disinformation,” Marc Owen Jones, an associate professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, told Doha News on Thursday.
The expert had already exposed the account back in 2021 and detailed the similarities it had with another account called “Qatar_Affairs”, which was suspended after the 2017 blockade on Qatar.
The initial account promoted itself as: “What the Qatari Media Won’t Show You.”
Both accounts are believed to be linked to the UAE’s propaganda machine.
During the four-year blockade on Qatar, sensationalist headlines, clickbait videos and outlandish accusations, many of which centered on the theme that Doha supported terrorism, flooded the internet. Despite the lifting of the blockade in 2021, remnants of the regional rift have appeared to linger, with more online campaigns being exposed over the past year.
“The tactic is to give a veneer of plausibility so people are more likely to believe the fake news. Its previous account was suspended, and it has been active in trying to stir up trouble around Qatar before – namely during the Shura council elections,” Jones told Doha News regarding the latest post by Qatar Affairs.
Notably during the Shura Council elections in 2021, Qatar’s first legislative vote, a wave of misinformation emerged with the aim of vilifying the Gulf state. During the previous exposé, Jones found that Qatar Affairs was the second most influential account in this misinformation network.
Meanwhile, social media users in Qatar hit back at the account, dismissing the fake news while urging others to fact-check the information before spreading it.
Qatar’s gas diplomacy
In recent years, the gas rich Gulf nation says it has proven to be a reliable energy partner to nations around the world, especially during the onset of the Russian war on Ukraine. Since the crisis, Doha has repeatedly expressed its willingness to support its international partners with a flow of gas supply.
Speaking on the false reports, Jones said the dubious account is attempting “to make Qatar look like an unreliable partner for nations who rely on it for gas.”
Throughout the 2017 blockade, Qatar vowed it would not cut gas supplies to neighbouring UAE, despite the latter’s severance of ties with Doha. At the time, QatarEnergy CEO Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told Al Jazeera that his country would not halt supplies “to its brothers”.
“But if we cut the gas, it does great harm to the UAE and the people of the UAE, who are considered like brothers…we decided not to cut the gas now,” Al-Kaabi said at the time.
Last year, the Qatari energy official stated that business will not be affected by politics.
“If you look at all the statements that came out from Qatar, from our leadership, from our position on energy and business, we have always separated our business dealings from our politics,” Al-Kaabi, who also serves as the energy minister, told CNN last year.
The Qatari official’s comments came in response to a question on a major liquified natural gas (LNG) deal the Gulf state signed with Germany amid its criticism over Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup.
Gaza under attack
The claims come as Qatar mobilises to mediate between Hamas and Israel as the latter continues to bombard Gaza. So far, at least 1,200 Palestinians have been killed in the brutal onslaught.
Qatar, which hosts a Hamas political office, has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza since the onset of the latest events. Earlier this week, the Gulf state confirmed communications “with the relevant parties, as part of regional and international efforts to de-escalate the situation”.
On Sunday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani stressed the importance of “safeguarding the lives of civilians” in a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Amir stressed, during the call, that safeguarding the lives of civilians, sparing them the consequences of conflict, and reducing escalation are top priorities for the State of Qatar, which is making all its diplomatic efforts with various concerned parties to achieve this goal,” an Amiri Diwan statement said.
The Qatari leader then held separate calls on Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani. Statements on the calls from the Amiri Diwan said that the leaders discussed the developments in Palestine.
Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has also been in contact with officials from the United States and the Arab region—namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
Meanwhile on Saturday, President of the United States Joe Biden said he directed his administration to remain in contact with regional leaders.
“I’ve also directed my team to remain in constant contact with leaders throughout the region, including Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, the UAE, as well as with our European partners and the Palestinian Authority,” Biden said at the time.
However, in a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, the Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, appeared to adopt a cautious approach to reports on progress being made in mediation efforts, saying the current crisis in Gaza is not “mere escalation”.
“It is a bit early to comment on any mediation efforts by Qatar or other players of the region. Qatar has had many successes in de-escalating between two parties in the past … at this moment (it is) very difficult to say that any party can start mediation.” Al-Ansari told reporters during a weekly media briefing.
He said the government’s core objective remains to harmonise international and regional responses to the aggression and consider potential peace-building interventions.
The immediate cessation of hostilities, ending the bloodshed, ensuring the safe release of detainees, and preventing this conflict from spiralling into a broader regional crisis are all central to Qatar’s peace negotiations.