Saudi lobbyist advocates for a new Emir in Qatar

Saudi Press Agency

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani with King Salman

The head of a big Saudi lobbying group shocked many people this week by openly calling for regime change in Qatar.

Salman Al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), tweeted his support for a new Qatari Emir on Eid.

The move comes as the blockade against Qatar by its neighbors passes the 90-day mark, with no end in sight.

In his tweet, Al-Ansari urged Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to support Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani as the “only legitimate” leader of Qatar.

Rising profile

Sheikh Abdullah is a member of Qatar’s ruling family, but up until recently was relatively unknown to most. He owns property in Saudi Arabia and is married to a Saudi woman.

Last month, Gulf media began praising Al Thani after he met with Saudi Arabia’s king twice on visits unconnected to the Qatari government. He also apparently spent Eid with King Salman.

Additionally, a Twitter account was recently started in his name, and gained hundreds of thousands of followers in a day.

At the time, analysts criticized what appeared to be a strategy by Qatar’s neighbors to undermine Sheikh Tamim.

Since the Gulf dispute began in June, public support for Qatar’s Emir has only grown.

Online reaction

On Twitter, some Saudis hailed the idea of regime change in Qatar, saying it could help end the ongoing crisis.

But many expats and locals in Qatar dismissed the suggestion as ludicrous and hypocritical.

They pointed out that the boycotting countries have stressed to Qatar the importance of not interfering in other nations’ internal affairs.

Attempting to prop up a new leader in Qatar is doing exactly that, many said.

Qatar has not officially commented on Al-Ansari’s tweet.

But in a statement on Eid, the nation’s foreign minister said that “the recent developments related to the Gulf crisis have not been needed, especially in this period of time of multiple conflicts.”

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