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Sulaimani – death means trouble

One aspect of the killing of an Iranian General which has NOT been mentioned by the mainstream media, is how it throws the spotlight once again on a controversial link between Wales’ main airport and a country accused of supporting terrorism.

The assassination of Qassem Suleimani puts centre stage the troubled state of Qatar, as all the other Arab states are hostile to Iran, and some have even shown their support for killing him.

The UK Government issued a strong warning

Qatar has also been the subject of a warning from the UK Government to travellers going there, and holds pariah status among many other nations.

Saudi Arabia is one of several countries around the world which have cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar,  and is still smarting from Iran’s attack on its oil facilities in September; officials there also bitterly resent Iranian support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

‘We want them to be successful’

Yet Cardiff Airport (CA) has linked up with state-controlled Qatar Airways (QA), and has even proclaimed it wants the airline to be ‘successful’.

The flight to Qatar’s capital Doha from CA has also been hugely-praised in the mainstream media, despite the fact that the troubled desert emirate has often hit the headlines following the contentious connection with CA.

The airport’s Chief Commercial Officer Spencer Birns has stated baldly:   “Qatar Airways (QA) are committed to the route (with Doha) and we want them to be successful”.

Roger Lewis, then Chairman of Cardiff Airport (third from left) with Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akber Al Baker, (fourth from left) the Welsh Secretary at the time Alun Cairns (fourth from right) and the Welsh first minister at the time Carwyn Jones (second from right) greeting Qatar Airways

The extraordinary statement came as figures showed that just 6,077 passengers had used the service in June, although this too was viewed as a ‘success’ by CA because it represented a big increase on the previous year. It came after other remarkable comments. The Chairman of CA at the time, Roger Lewis described as “transformational” the link with QA.

The airport itself has been enormously controversial after being bought by the Welsh Government (WG) for £52 million (while Glasgow Prestwick Airport was bought by the Scottish Government {SG} for £1) and with it emerging the WG has also granted a £21 million loan.

Meanwhile disturbing headlines have also swirled around Qatar’s alleged actvities, putting further pressure on the association with CA. The UK Government has issued a stern warning about the state. It told potential travellers to the country they faced major risks, and it stated on its advice website:  “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Qatar.

Some people do not like Qatar

Eight sovereign nations around the world have severed diplomatic ties altogether with Qatar and in July 2017 it was reported that the state had been cut off by some of its neighbours over its alleged terrorist support. Qatar denies supporting groups linked to IS although it does admit it supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

The emirate had refused to comply with an initial list of 13 demands, saying it would not agree to any measures that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law. But it was told by its neighbours that they wanted it to accept six broad principles on combating extremism and terrorism.

Omar al-Bashir – convicted of corruption

Qatar also hosted the ousted ruler of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who was convicted of corruption in a Sudanese court on December 14 but he seems unlikely to be extradited to stand trial for overseeing genocide in Darfur.

It also kept silent as hundreds of thousands of Algerians protested, chanting “the people want the regime to go”.

Qatar’s successful World Cup bid has prompted major questions

Hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘aid’ money has too been given by Qatar to Hamas, the group which holds sway in the Gaza Strip, and which has been designated by the USA as a terrorist organisation.

Qatar’s successful football World Cup bid has prompted major questions as well, putting under more strain the relationship with CA. The Sunday Times, has revealed that the tiny desert state had secretly offered £400 million to FIFA just 21 days before the worrying decision was announced to hold the 2022 football World Cup there.

Carwyn Jones has ‘interesting’ meeting with Qatari

Despite all these controversies the mainstream media, senior politicians in Wales as well as executives at CA have lauded the connection with QA, and The Eye have been the only Welsh media organisation to report uncomfortable facts about the country.

In interviews, the First Minister of Wales at the time, Carwyn Jones stated:  “We would like to work with his excellency (Akbar Al Baker the Chief Executive of QA). He tweeted that he “welcomed” the first QA flight into CA and said it represented a “huge boost” for Wales.

Alun Cairns – ‘plugged in’

The then Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns informed us:  “The new flight from Cardiff to Doha plugs our entrepreneurs straight into one of the most dynamic economies in the Middle East, and an airport which offers a further 150 global destinations”.

The mainstream media’s response to the announcement of the new route at the time was also remarkable, and became a target of our satirical writer Edwin Phillips.

Flights to Doha’s airport were welcomed

The new flight to Qatar’s Hamed International Airport was described positively in the South Wales Echo as providing “capacity for 150,000 passengers a year, as well as significant freight capacity for Welsh exporters at around 10 tonnes a flight”. In April 2017 BBC Wales’s Economics Correspondent Sarah Dickins said approvingly:  “The new direct route from Cardiff to Doha is a reminder not just that the economy of Qatar is growing significantly but also that trade between Wales, the Arab world and beyond is increasing”.

Roger Lewis – ‘a pivotal moment’

When the first flight from Doha was due, WalesOnline reported faithfully the words of Mr Lewis when he said: “This is a pivotal moment for Cardiff Airport, for Wales and the South West of EnglandThe far reaching consequences of this service for passengers and businesses will be transformational”.

The same praising word was used by the present Chief Executive of CA Deb Bowen Rees who told the South Wales Echo:  “The Qatar Airways service has been transformational…”

The National Museum of Wales/Amgueddfa Cymru – ‘tranformational’

It seems Mr Lewis has also transformed himself since the tie-up with QA. He is to take on a new position as president of the National Museum of Wales/Amgueddfa Cymru.

But he is no stranger to controversies.

Before his tenure at CA, he was fully immersed during a tumultuous period in charge of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) when his institution engaged in a fierce row with the regions, which he lost.

Dafydd Elis Thomas – ‘delighted’

Yet despite this chequered history, on his appointment, the Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Sport and Tourism, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said: “I’m delighted with Roger’s appointment as the new president for Amgueddfa Cymru”.

Mr Lewis too has apparently seen his moves in a positive light and has commented on television in the past:  “I know my success is staggering to many”. Part of that ‘staggering success’ may be that he has also threatened to place a legal injunction on The Eye to stop a previous article about him being published which he did not like, but was effectively only a pull-together of previous statements such as this.

Book posterPerhaps it will also be staggering that the recent assassination of an Iranian General brings in a controversial link-up at CA which has been praised by the mainstream media in Wales.

 

Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his astonishing lengthy award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!

 

 

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