London anti-Qatar conference headlined by pro-Israel, war-with-Iran cheerleaders
The Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference has been organised by exiled Qatari businessman Khalid al-Hail, who spoke critically at the event on Thursday of Qatar's ties with Iran.
"You cannot be a friend of Iran and claim to be a friend of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]," Hail said in a discussion on Iran.
"You cannot be a friend with the United States and a friend of Iran at the same time," he added.
Opponents have accused Hail of being funded by a Saudi-led bloc of Arab states boycotting Doha. The lavish conference venue of the O2 Intercontinental's Arora Ballroom came furnished with a significant security presence, with Metropolitan Police officers and sniffer dogs outside the building, and private guards inside.
The event appears to have substantial funding from unnamed sources, though a series of leaked emails show the UAE ambassador to the United States has been working towards regime change in Qatar for some time.
Qatar-linked media were unceremoniously banned from Thursday's conference, which comes amid a months-long spat between Qatar and a Saudi-led bloc of Arab states, which has accused Doha of fostering ties with Iran and supporting terrorism.
|Khalid al-Hail addresses the conference [TheNewArab]|
Doha has categorically denied the charges.
Read more: Saudi royal spin-doctor attempts to spark uprising in Qatar using 'fake news' on Twitter
The speakers at the event - broadcast live on Saudi and UAE media, as well as on YouTube - include a heavy presence of anti-Iranian speakers, neoconservative US hawks, an ex-Israeli army general, pro-Israeli think-tank members and several members of the UK's Conservative Friends of Israel:
- Shlomo Brom - a retired Brigadier-General in the Israeli Air Force and a researcher at the Israel-supporting Institute for National Security Studies, which has repeatedly written about the need to combat a "nuclear capable" Iran.
- Alan Mendoza - a founder of the neoconservative think-tank The Henry Jackson Society and presenter on the Global Jewish Channel. Mendoza was also a member of the now-defunct pressure group, Just Journalism, which sought to promote Israeli interests in Western media.
The associate director of Mendoza's think tank told the BBC in the wake of the Finsbury Park Mosque attack in London that "less Islam is obviously a good thing".
- Dov Zakheim - a US-Israeli citizen and chairperson of the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition. Zakheim was a former US defence official during the Bush administration and is a staunch supporter of aggression against Tehran. He has written numerous articles attacking the 2015 nuclear deal to roll back Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting some sanctions.
- James Rubin - a journalist and former US State Department official during the Clinton administration, who has argued for military intervention in Syria to curb Iranian influence in the Middle East.
- Bill Richardson - former US Ambassador to the UN, who recently said Washington "must protect our friends in Israel" from Iran.
- Chuck Wald, a retired US Air Force General, who has suggested that Washington should support Israel should it decides to launch a military attack on Iran.
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British Conservative Party politicians speaking at the event include Daniel Kawczynski MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP and the ex-Deputy Mayor of London, Roger Evans. Also in attendance is Liberal Democrat Lord Paddy Ashdown, an adviser to the Quilliam Foundation, a frequently criticised anti-Islamist think-tank.
Kawczynski is known as an unequivocal backer of Riyadh, having once been dubbed the "Honourable Member for Saudi Arabia", due to his unwavering support of the oil-rich kingdom.
He has defended the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which has killed more than 8,400 people since April 2015, refusing to acknowledge Riyadh has breached international humanitarian law with its aerial campaign.
|The Arora Ballroom is described as 'one of the largest
single event spaces in Europe' on its website, but only
around 150 delegates attended the conference
Mohamed Fahmy, the former Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, once jailed by the Egyptian regime on trumped-up charges for his work, will also talk at the conference.
Fahmy has been financially linked to the UAE through a multi-million dollar court case against Qatar. According to leaked emails from Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE's ambassador to Washington, Fahmy is also linked to Qatari "opposition activist" Hail.
Despite being billed as a conference for Qatar's opposition, the only speaker from gas-rich emirate set to appear is Hail, who has said he is aiming for "regime change" in the country.
At the beginning of the conference, in a session chaired by John Simpson, a veteran BBC foreign correspondent, delegates were shown a video prepared by the event's organisers which referred to Doha's rulers as "the current regime" having "aspirations of global prestige".
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