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Free press bugs Saudis, Bahrainis

Qatari-based Al-Jazeera target of boycott threats

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are pressuring Gulf neighbor Qatar to rein in independent satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera – or else.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council floated a resolution at its most recent meeting calling for a boycott of Al-Jazeera.

The Saudis complain about Al-Jazeera reports critical of members of the royal family. Bahraini officials have attacked the TV channel for its "obscenities and insults" toward its leaders.

Although Qatar officially adheres to the same school of Islam – Wahhabism – as Saudi Arabia, the Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his family are moving the 600,000-population nation toward more openness and political reforms.

While Qatari officials insist that Al-Jazeera is editorially independent, other Arabs view many of its broadcasts as serving Qatari foreign policy.

But the Al-Jazeera controversy may only reflect an insult added to injury insofar as the Saudis and Bahrainis are concerned:

Qatar has permitted an Israeli trade mission in Doha to remain open.

Qatar has also allowed the U.S. to expand facilities at the al-Udaid airbase outside Doha – a base that ultimately may replace the command-and-control center from the Prince Sultan airbase near Riyadh. While Saudi Arabia has made noises about the removal of U.S. military bases and attempted to restrict activities at them, Riyadh loses influence with the U.S. if Washington can easily relocate.

So, some observers suggest Al-Jazeera is not really the target. Qatar itself is the real target.

How far will Saudi Arabia go to eliminate this new budding freedom in Qatar?

Intelligence sources report the Saudis are threatening to boycott December's meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council if they don't get their way on the boycott of Al-Jazeera.

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Tillerson must go!