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Bannon, banished from the Trump team, takes on UAE talking points

Bannon, banished from the Trump team, takes on UAE talking points
From Al Jazeera - April 6, 2018

Stephen Bannon, former chief strategist to US President Donald Trump and former head of right-wing website Breitbart News, has become a prominent piece of the puzzle in the Mueller probe because of his connections to international players, including senior officials from the United Arab Emirates(UAE).

Bannon is widely viewed as the architect of Trump's "America First" policy, which many have called isolationist and Islamophobic.

Bannon reportedly oversaw the writing of executive orders prohibiting US visas for citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, commonly referred to as the "Muslim ban", which Trump signed at the beginning of his term.

But Bannon has no problem working with Muslim royalty. The former Goldman Sachs banker has represented Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in business deals and met UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (commonly referred to as MBZ) at Trump Tower in December 2016.

UAE funds and anti-Qatar campaigns

Bannon was reportedly forced out of the White House in August. He said publicly that he remained committed to the Trump administration and briefly returned to Breitbart News.

Three months after leaving the White House, a company linked to Bannon began working on a UAE-funded, anti-Qatar advertising campaign.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, launched a land, sea, and air blockade against Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of funding "terrorism". Qatar has denied the accusations.

SCL Social, the company that received the $330,000 contract in October 2017, has the same parent company asCambridge Analytica, a controversial political advertising firm that targets Facebook users.

The National Media Council of the UAE paid more than $64,000 for advertisements on Facebook, Twitter and other social media services as shown bythe contract,filed with the US Department ofJustice.

Further filings show articles placed in news sources such as the Belgium-based New Europe, an independent tabloid that specialises in coverage of the European Union, as well as the UK's The Independent.

The advertisements and articles featured anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment, a topic that Bannon spoke about at a day-long conference at conservative think-tank The Hudson Institute in October 2017.

Titled Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Bannon said the blockade of Qatar was the "most important" political event in the world.

Bannon further criticised then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson for his approach to the blockade. Tillerson, who was fired in March, recommended the Trump administration adopt an even-handed policy regarding the Arab quartet's accusations against Qatar.

Bannon, Prince and bin Zayed

Bannon's relationship with Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of controversial security firm Blackwater, further connects Trump's former chief strategist to the Mueller investigation.

Prince said in a hearing in the US Congress (PDF) that he knew Bannon "pretty well".

The former Navy SEAL sent Bannon foreign policy position papers detailing his thoughts on world events that he expected were to be given to then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

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