August 13, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8892

The UAE's Recent Achievements In Science And Technology Draw Qatari Wrath And Derision; The UAE Responds

August 13, 2020
Qatar, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 8892

The UAE recently attained two significant achievements in the fields of science and technology. On July 19, 2020, it launched the Hope probe, an unmanned spacecraft to Mars, from a Japanese launch center, in collaboration with foreign research centers. Some two weeks later, on August 1, it inaugurated the Barakah nuclear power plant, built by a South Korean company.

The UAE media, and the media affiliated with the Saudi camp in the Arab world, of which the UAE is a member, celebrated these achievements with extensive and positive coverage. However, the media of Qatar, which is a political rival of the UAE,[1] downplayed the importance of the achievements and even described them in negative and derisive terms. For example, the launch of the Mars probe was presented as a desperate and futile attempt by the UAE to improve its international image. The reports were often peppered with sarcastic comments, for instance that the Martians will flee when the UAE probe arrives. Qatari reports on the inauguration of the nuclear power plant focused on allegations that the plant is dangerous and that its inauguration was delayed several times due to safety issues. They also emphasized that the technology and expertise were South Korean while the UAE only financed the plant's construction.

Echoing the same sentiments, Qatari users on social media expressed contempt for the UAE's achievements. Emirati users responded, claiming that Qatar, lacking comparable achievements of its own, is acting out of envy and malice. 

This report presents the Qatari coverage of the UAE's recent achievements, both on traditional and social media, as well as the responses from the UAE.

Qatari Media Mocks Emirati Mars Mission

On July 21, 2020, two days after the launch of the Hope probe, the Qatari daily Al-Sharq published a satirical front-page article titled "Will Mars Be Spared the Emirati Plots?", which stated: "Mars is finally Emirati… Its resources are ready to be overtaken and the 'brave [Emirati] soldiers' will encounter no legitimate opposition [there]. [Mars] is certainly far from [the Emirati capital] Abu Dhabi… but its advantage, from the viewpoint of this capital of counter-revolutions, is that there are no competitors, neighbors or cooperation councils there [such as the Gulf Cooperation Council] that need to be toppled.  

"'Mars is Emirati' – so say today's papers in that country… The Al-Bayan [daily] declared that, 'at this very moment, the UAE is making history in space,' as though Abu Dhabi is the first to invade Mars. [As though] everything the U.S. and Russia have been doing for many long years is just an illusion, and the UAE is writing the new history of space [ventures]. Having tired of Planet Earth and its people – who oppose its missiles and weapons and the death Abu Dhabi deals out [in an attempt to] undermine the peace of every Arab capital… –  the UAE had to think outside the box and [take to] space…

"Arabs on Twitter and on other social media platforms say that it is [indeed] time for the UAE to take off to space and go to Mars, and leave Earth to its residents…"[2]

Al-Sharq's front-page article titled "Will Mars Be Spared the Emirati Plots?"

The Qatari press also published cartoons lampooning the UAE's space probe:

Mars is horrified and Martians flee as the UAE space probe approaches (Al-Sharq, Qatar, July 22, 2020)

UAE space probe arrives with bombs as "gifts for the people of Mars" (Al-Raya, Qatar, July 22, 2020)

Qatari Journalists On Twitter: The UAE Mars Mission Is Just A Failed Attempt To Improve Its Image

Disparaging comments were also made by Qatari media figures on Twitter. Senior Al-Jazeera host Jamal Rayyan shared a publicity video released by the UAE ahead of the probe launch, with the comment: "This is absurd and fake political propaganda aimed at beautifying the ugly face of the [Emirati] regime, in light of its shameful positions on Arab and Islamic issues. Oh [you] poor Emirati people. The probe is American, the launch pad and carrier rocket are Japanese, and only the financing was provided by the UAE – yet they paint it and embellish it in [their] imagination as 'a scientific achievement of the UAE.' I wish it was. Who do they think they are fooling with their lies?..."[3]

Responding  to a tweet by the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, in which he expressed pride in his country's recent achievements, Fahed Al-'Emadi, executive editor of the Qatari daily Al-Watan, tweeted: "A glance at the role of the UAE reveals that it is a plotting rogue state and the source of all evil. Nothing it does to burnish its image [and present itself] as an advanced country will avail it, for its ugly face is more prominent [than its achievements], and the person who runs it [Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed] is a very troublesome ape."[4]

Fahed Al-'Emadi's tweet

A Qatari Twitter page called "Son of Qatar" posted an image of an alien in Emirati garb, with the text: "The first image captured by the UAE's Hope probe on Mars shows a Martian who immigrated to the UAE over three million years ago. The search for the people who left the southern Arab regions for Mars is still ongoing."[5]

The post on the "Son of Qatar" Twitter page

Sharing a tweet by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he congratulated the UAE on the launch of the probe and expressed  hope that the two countries will one day undertake joint space missions, the former general director of the Al-Watan daily, Ahmed 'Ali, commented: "In his  tweet of congratulations to the 'probe country' [the UAE], Netanyahu hints that there is a plan to one day send a joint [mission] of Israeli and Emirati astronauts into space! The only thing left is to annex Israel to the United Entities State [the UAE] as part of a confederacy headed by [Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Zayed and bin Netanyahu, who will take turns ruling."[6]   

Qatari Media: The UAE Nuclear Power Plant Is A Safety Hazard

As stated, the UAE's second technological achievement – the inauguration of the Barakah nuclear power plant – likewise met with criticism in Qatar. The Qatari press stressed the safety and environmental risks it allegedly poses, citing claims by international reports and experts that the plant's activation had been delayed several times due to safety concerns.  The Al-Jazeera Twitter page posted a video on the plant's inauguration, with the comment: "The Barakah nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi was activated without anyone providing answers to the questions of energy experts regarding the potential risks it poses, and following a series of scandals involving the company in charge of overseeing it, which forged security documents."[7] Qatar's Al-Sharq posted a long article titled "The UAE Threatens the Gulf with a New Chernobyl"[8] 

Al-Sharq article: "The UAE Threatens The Gulf with a New Chernobyl"

Following the deadly blast in Beirut on August 4, the Qatari London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi published an article which drew a connection between that incident and "the safety of vital facilities, especially the nuclear reactor in the UAE." The article quoted British nuclear energy expert Dr. Paul Dorman as saying that the plant does not meet safety standards and is a hazard for the entire region.[9] 

Cartoon in Qatari daily Al-Raya: UAE and angel of death inaugurate the nuclear power plant

As stated, the Qatari press also claimed that the Barakah power plant is not really an Emirati scientific and technological achievement, since it was built by South Korea while the UAE provided the financing. This was the gist of an August 2, 2020 article on the website of the Al-Sharq daily, titled "North Korea in Arab Garb – the Martian UAE Flexes Its Nuclear Muscles,"  which stated:  "The UAE has invested all its money and valuable [resources] to position itself internationally as a strong, nuclear nation that has reached Mars, a forceful and deadly [power] that can vanquish space creatures. Mars is Emirati, as the UAE daily Al-Bayan put it, so after financing the launch of a research probe to Mars, Abu Dhabi now apparently plans to destroy the population of the earth… Today the peoples of the region held their breath and recited the Shahada [the Islamic declaration of faith, recited in moments of peril] after the UAE announced the activation of its notorious nuclear reactor, whose development was delayed more than once in the last three years, since activating it is dangerous because it does not meet safety and security standards…"[10]

Qatari journalist Jaber Al-Harmi downplayed the Emirati achievement by tweeting the names of the engineers who oversaw the plant's construction, all of whom are clearly Asian, and commented: "I congratulate the friends in South Korea for completing the first phase of the construction and activation of the Barakah nuclear power station, which  was built in Abu Dhabi and would have been inaugurated in 2017 if it were not for safety and security problems. I hope the International Renewable Energy Agency will closely supervise this [power] station."[11]

UAE Media: Qatar's Belittling Of Our Achievements Stems From Envy, Does Not Change The Facts

In response to this Qatari discourse, the Emirati media stated that the Qatari campaign against the UAE is motivated purely by malice and envy. In his column in the Emirati-owned daily Al-'Arab, which is published in London, Tunisian intellectual Habib Lassoued wrote: "The campaign of casting doubt on every Emirati achievement, which is led, with great insolence, by the Turkish-Qatari-Muslim Brother axis, will not change the facts on the ground and in space. All the dubious articles written in dark rooms and then leaked to the websites for pay, so as to become journalistic material for platforms whose management is based on a mentality of blind ideological resentment – none of them can block the [mighty] river of [Emirati] progress that has already carved out its course for the future. 

"The shrieks of those in charge of the local axis of evil reflect only the extent of the pain they feel every time the Emirati train of scientific development and research rushes forward… We must understand that a real campaign is being waged by the Turkish-Qatari-Muslim Brother coalition which pools all the feelings of resentment, hatred, fanaticism, evil and aggression in the region and in the world. This [coalition] does not want the Arab [spirit] to recover or the Arabs to overcome the centuries of backwardness, ignorance and superstition..."[12]

Emiratis On Twitter: We Have Beaten Qatar With Our Achievements

The attacks against the UAE on social media evoked responses from Emirati users, who lambasted Qatar and its Al-Jazeera channel. Emirati journalist Naji Al-'Arefi shared a video from December 2018 about a Qatari citizen's unsuccessful attempt to break the Guinness world record for the world's largest kite, and commented: "Qatar failed to fly the world's largest kite, yet now  it boldly challenges the UAE's Hope probe which has been successfully launched towards Mars. Oh you dogs of 'Azmi [Bishara, an advisor to the Qatari Emir], die in your defeat. The UAE has beaten you with its achievements."[13]   

Naji Al-'Arefi's tweet

Emirati legal expert 'Uthman Al-Husseini tweeted: "The UAE invests in nuclear power plants, in the Hope probe, in satellites, in Jebel 'Ali [the largest man-made harbor in the Middle East], and in the astronaut [Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati to venture into space]. Qatar invests in [Al-Jazeera hosts] Jamal Rayyan and Ghada 'Owais, in [terrorist organizations like Jabhat] Al-Nusra, ISIS and the Houthis…  and in [the Al-Jazeera series] Ma Hafia A'zam[14]."[15]

Emirati Twitter user Dr. Saleh 'Abd Al-Karim wrote: "The launch of the Hope probe to Mars did not surprise me, for the UAE is a bright star looking towards the future and creating [many] reasons for pride. But I am surprised by the scope of some people's inferiority complex and resentment over every Emirati achievement. How large the difference between those who aspire to reach space and lead [humanity] to high places and those who excel at nothing but whining."[16]  

Emiratis On Twitter: While The Rest Of The World Celebrates Our Achievements, Al-Jazeera Is Busy Cursing And Publishing Fake News

Many Emiratis on Twitter  criticized Al-Jazeera for its biased reports on the UAE achievements. User iAhmed posted a mock Al-Jazeera report: "Urgent report by Qatar's Al-Jazeera: 'The UAE has raided Mars with the aim of staging a coup in the Red Planet.'" He added: "The UAE's achievement belongs to all Arabs and is a slap in the face for Qatar."[17] 

Emirati journalist Yacoub Al-Raysi  shared the IAEA secretary-general's message of congratulations to the UAE for the inauguration of the Barakah power station, along with a slanted Al-Jazeera report about the plant, and commented: "The IAEA secretary-general congratulates the UAE… while the mercenary Al-Jazeera channel is busy aiming curses and blows, in the 'honorable manner' [typical] of Qatar. Say, 'die in your rage.' [Quran 3:119]. These [achievements] are things that cannot be bought with money."[18]

Yacoub Al-Raysi's tweet

Emirati blogger Ibrahim Bahzad shared links to two Al-Jazeera articles that questioned the safety of the Barakah reactor, and wrote: "To be brief and as clear as possible: As much as Qatar tries to hide its hostility, [it is obvious that] the UAE's achievements pain the residents of the Al-Wajba Palace [in Qatar], and their wails take the form of fake news reports and Al-Jazeera talk shows with figures who can be expected to say what [the channel] tells them to say. The [Barakah] plant is a dream of the homeland and a greater achievement than the Qatari regime can understand…"[19] 

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Center, tweeted: "While the entire world celebrates and the countries of the world congratulate the UAE for its successful activation of [its] first plant for [producing] nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Al-Jazeera and its supporters are busy questioning the achievement and [hinting] that it will not be used for peaceful purposes. This reminds me of an Egyptian saying, 'having failed to find fault with the flower, they said it was too red.'"[20]

Ebtesam al-Ketbi's tweet


[1] The tension between the two countries has been especially acute since June 2017, when the UAE and its three allies – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt -- severed their relations with Qatar and imposed a boycott on it. The conflict involves mutual incitement between Qatar and its rivals, and criticism by the latter of Qatar's policy. On the beginning of the crisis, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1315 - Uproar In The Gulf Following Alleged Statements By Qatari Emir Condemning Gulf States, Praising Iran, Hizbullah, Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas – May 25, 2017.

[2] Al-Sharq (Qatar), July 21, 2020.

[3], July 20, 2020.

[4], July 23, 2020.

[5], July 23, 2020.

[6], July 21, 2020.

[7], August 1, 2020.

[8] Al-Sharq (Qatar), August 2, 2020.

[9] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 5, 2020.

[10], August 2, 2020.

[11], August 2, 2020.

[12] Al-Arab (London), August 4, 2020.

[13], July 20, 2020.

[14] A investigative documentary series which exposes corruption scandals, focusing mainly on Qatar's main rivals: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.

[15], July 18, 2020.

[16], July 20, 2020.

[17] July 20, 2020.

[18], August 2, 2020.

[19], August 2, 2020.

[20], August 2, 2020.

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