SICKENING: Saudi-Backed Media Shows Simulation Shooting Down of Qatar Airways Plane

Via You Have Been Upgraded, the Saudi-backed Al Arabiya channel has produced a video simulation showing a Qatar plane being shot down, a dramatization of what they say will happen if the air embargo against Qatar is violated.

Tensions between Qatar and other regional powers especially Saudi Arabia are hardly new. And Saudi Arabia was emboldened after the U.S. President’s visit there in May.

Flights in and out of Qatar have become more difficult. Airlines like Etihad, Emirates, and Gulf Air stopped flying to Doha. And the severing of relations has created limits on Qatari-registered aircraft flying through the airspace of some of the countries involved.

Qatar does not have its own flight information region, it’s within the Bahrain region. The Doha terminal control area is from ground to 24,500 feet, and above 24,500 feet is the Bahrain Upper Information Region. Traffic is re-routing primarily via Iran.

The piece explains the blockade as a decision by ‘the anti-terrorism states’. The air blockade is arguably in violation of international agreements, yet the report suggests that not only is it legal but that “according to international law any state which forbids an airline from crossing above it possesses the right to deal with any airplane entering its realm.”

Indeed, a legitimate improper entry into a country’s air space may be ‘dealt with’. However it follows with a fairly tortured claim that international law provides a proactive right to shoot down an aircraft.

Choices in this case usually include either dispatching fighter planes to force it down… international law also gives each state the right to bring down any plane entering its atmosphere which is identified as an enemy target…

When showing the plane that’s being brought down by a missile in this illustration, Qatar Airways markings have been removed, however the implication is clear.

Once the missile scene finishes, a Qatar Airways plane returns to the screen.

Which makes Saudi Arabia look like a state sponsor of terrorism, and of course there’s been suggestion that elements of the Saudi government were complicit in 9/11 or at least aware and tolerant of the plotting.

A government proactively threatening to shoot down a civilian airliner is sickening. And even the accidental downing of a plane can have huge consequences for the world 30 years later.

No Qatar Airways plane is going to fly through Saudi airspace in violation of the blockade. But the threat is nonetheless a travesty.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t, but putting out a warning like this is definitely going to make people think twice about flying QA. I think this is all in effort to make sure they associate supporting muslim brotherhood with economic pain. It sucks they brought airlines into it, but it is still better than outright war.

  2. Well, the video doesn’t literally simulate the plane being shot down, but it comes close enough.

    It would be interesting to know how widely the video is being disseminated. Looks like part of the bag of tricks of pressuring Qatar and of discouraging travel on the airline.

    The whole dispute is ironic in view of the Saudis’ roles in the spread of international terrorism.

  3. @mike murphy. Saudi Arabia is pretending the issue is terrorism, but it is really that they view them (the folks we call terrorists) and Al-Jazeera as destabilizing to their regime. The whole Shia/Sunni infighting thing.

  4. I’m a big fan of your writing style, intellect and content. However, this feels like a major disconnect between the headline and content. For starters, the video simply does not show a simulation of the plane being shot down. It just doesn’t. It shows a fighter jet behind a commercial plane and says that one of the options under international law is for a sovereign nation to use force to eliminate a threat of an authorized aircraft in its territory. I think the Middle East kerfuffle is dangerous, unnecessary, instigated, inflated and outrageous. But, the video suggests that a Qatari plane would likely be forced down by the Saudi Air Force (the same way the US Air Force would escort an unauthorized passenger plane out of the sky) but it does not suggest a high probability of shooting it down nor does it show a simulated missile striking a commercial plane.

  5. Qatar does fund terrorists, look at all of the money they give HAMAS, the PLO and such organizations. Most of these countries will not allow EL AL to fly over them or through their airspace, I do not see you screaming about that. WHY??

    Why is it the democratic country in the region cannot fly though certain area’s because of blatant discrimination nothing is said, but let a terror sponsor get called out for the supporting terrorist and everyone cries foul, that is until they are a victim of such terrorist then they the world to be angry with them.


  6. @Janki…it’s sickening because innocent tourists could be flying as passengers on Qatar Airways. I flew Doha>Paris on Qatar Airways a few months ago and the thought that the Saudis could come up with an idea like this does give me pause when choosing airlines (although I loved my flight).

  7. I completely agree that this video is disturbing and dangerous. This is why Russia and the USA should be dragged to court for what they did to the Korean and Iranian airliners. They didn’t simply threaten to shoot down civilian planes, they have actually done so, killed hundreds of innocent lives (in addition to their “war on terror”) and got away, practically, scot-free.

    For the deterrent to be effective, first, it needs to actually be applied, and second, it needs to be applied equally.

    With the Iranian plane’s case, they weren’t even over US soil!

  8. You can blame your clown-in-chief, Trump, with his recent suck-up visit, for the Saudis newly emboldened attitude to their neighbours they don’t care for. What they don’t understand is he can pivot on a pinhead and suddenly he’s no longer your BFF.

  9. Saudis Use Podesta to Slam Qatar; Thu., Aug. 17, 2017; by Kevin McCauley, editor-in-chief slot at O’Dwyer’s

    Podesta Group inked a three-month $150K pact with the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee to support the economic and political boycott of Qatar for its alleged support of terrorism.

    Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and five other Islamic states erected the blockade in June.

    Podesta’s primary objectives, according to its work plan, are to raise awareness of “Qatari support for and funding or terrorism,” highlight Doha’s refusal to adhere to the 2014 Riyadh agreement, build on “President Donald Trump’s calls on Qatar to stop financing terrorism,” and reinforce “Saudi Arabia’s role as a leader in stabilizing the region.”

    The DC firm promised to “create and distribute a steady drumbeat of content” in line with the objectives that will resonate in the capital and beyond, targeting mainly policymakers, media, think tank analysts and business leaders.

    The communications program includes “eye-catching” online ads to “drive home our topline messaging and push US thought leaders” in publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Hill and CQ Roll Call.

    There’s also will be messaging around the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly (Sept 12-25) via a sponsored event with Foreign Policy or Politico and/or newspaper advertising.

    Unless terminated in writing, the PG’s pact automatically renews Sept. 20 for another three months.


  10. Gary – thanks for the response. I hate to argue semantics here, but the photo you embedded is a still image. The video shows exactly what you captured but does not show the missile hitting the plane nor the plane being “shot down” as the headline insinuates.

    Again, not defending the Saudis (nor the Qataris) but I just think the headline is misleading.

  11. @BC — firing on the plane to shoot it down is exactly what the image is meant to show here, it’s exactly what the video is trying to convey, I do not think it’s misleading and indeed if you’re suggesting that it’s semantics to disagree then I think we can agree I’m on solid ground even if your interpretation varies.

  12. @BC, as Gary noted, the intent of the image is perfectly understandable. Of course, if you are from The kingdom of Darkness, nothing is going to get through to you :/

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