Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned U.S. ambassador in Doha, Dana Shell Smith, over a video that emerged of U.S. troops who appear to be making disparaging comments about Qatar.
In a statement, the ministry said Smith had been summoned to “seek clarification” regarding the video.
The U.S. diplomat, for her part, apologized to the Qatari government and called on the U.S. military to investigate the footage.
The video shows two U.S. soldiers in army fatigues standing in front of an American and a Qatari flag.
One of the soldiers acts as if he is unable to say the word “Qatar”, likely due to security reasons.
In Qatar, it is illegal to insult or express a lack of respect for the flag and violators face prison terms of up to three years, and a potential 200,000 riyal fine (about $55,000).
Smith was quick to respond on Twitter, writing in Arabic, “Dear followers, please trust that those soldiers were making fun of themselves and not the country of Qatar.”
“I offered my apologies to the Qatari government and I asked American military leaders to investigate the incident and take the proper ethical measures,” she added.
At the State Department briefing Thursday, Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters the situation was “an example of the ability of social media to send the wrong message.”
“Apparently that video offended some who saw it — some Qatari citizens who saw it,” said Toner, who explained that the video was made at an Army social event. “Amb. Smith took it upon herself as ambassador to Qatar to issue an apology on Twitter and also convey in person her apology to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook offered an apology as well, saying, “We sincerely regret any offense the video may have caused in Qatar.”
Cook also insisted that members of the military are held to the “highest standards of personal conduct,” and promised the Pentagon would take “appropriate action.”