Last Tuesday, the CEOs of United, Delta and American airlines penned an open letter in the form of an ad that ran in The New York Times and The New York Post urging the Trump administration to uphold the Open Skies Trade Agreement they worry the nation of Qatar has been violating. It’s a situation these companies say will have a negative effect on the American air travel market.
The ad may have been a necessity to address an issue that is of enough concern to have been discussed at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting, has the active support of Senator Ted Cruz, and has pushback from Qatar itself. Non-traditional ways of getting the word out involving this or, indeed any, issue involving Qatar could become the short-term norm if Conservative Review’s reporting on Qatar and their planted “analysts” at major cable news outlets is accurate.
Backing up: The American airline CEOs have been pushing for something to be done about what they say is Qatar’s attempt to go around the Open Skies agreement with their large ownership stake in an Italian airline that offers more direct flights to the U.S. and Europe than is allowed to Qatar under the treaty.
The Open Skies model is “central to ensuring a thriving American aviation sector, including the hundreds of thousands of jobs we support, the benefits we bring to consumers, the incredible innovation it has spurred particularly through global cargo networks, and the freedom to compete that has allowed our cargo and passenger carriers to become the global leaders in commercial aviation,” the executives said.
The agreement was meant to prevent Qatar from using their enormous cash reserves to subsidize their commercial flight industry and skew the market unfairly to their advantage. Although early iterations of the agreement were more attuned to national security than market fairness.
The original agreement was meant to stop Qatar's expansion into the United States and focused on national security issues, such as Doha's continued support for extremist terror groups across the Middle East. In purchasing a major stake in Meridiana, now branded as Air Italy, Qatar was able to sidestep the agreement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in recent comments before concerned members of Congress, assured lawmakers he is working on the issue and is in discussions with Qatar to ensure it upholds its commitments under the Open Skies Act.
An interesting simultaneous development related to Qatar is the recent reporting by Conservative Review that several national security experts who appear as analysts on CNN are actually Qatari friendlies with direct ties to the Middle Eastern nation’s government.
Several of the so-called national security experts at CNN that you see on television every night have direct links to the nation of Qatar, a terror-funding, Islamist enclave in the Middle East that has placed itself on the warpath against America’s most important regional allies.
CR also points out that none of these analysts reveal their institutional ties when they’re on the air, nor do they clarify those relationships when reporting on stories that present a clear conflict of interest such as those dealing with Israeli, Saudi, or UAE affairs.
With Qatar’s alleged violations of a treaty that originally had national security implications bubbling up in the news cycle, and with the press under fire during the Trump presidency for reporting “fake news,” shouldn’t CNN take great pains to ensure that their potential reporting on a developing story be free from possible foreign public relations interference?
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.