UAE hacked Qatari sites, says US

Made to seem it backed ‘ter­ror’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

US IN­TEL­LI­GENCE has ac­cused the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) of de­lib­er­ately hack­ing Qatari govern­ment, so­cial me­dia and news web­sites to make it ap­pear that Doha was ac­tively sup­port­ing cer­tain Is­lamic “ter­ror­ist” groups.

Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt, im­posed a land and sea block­ade on Qatar in early June cit­ing, among a host of rea­sons, the small emi­rate’s sup­port of what they de­scribed as “ter­ror­ist” groups in­clud­ing Gaza-based Ha­mas and the Mus­lim Brother­hood – de­spite the lat­ter not be­ing listed as a “ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion”, in­clud­ing by Wash­ing­ton.

Cit­ing US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported on Sun­day that the UAE had ar­ranged for the web­sites to be hacked in late May in or­der to post false quotes linked to Qatar’s emir – a claim the UAE re­jects.

Qatar claimed its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani, had been falsely quoted as prais­ing Ha­mas and stat­ing that Iran was an “Is­lamic power”, the Post re­ported.

In June, Doha fur­ther as­serted that it had ev­i­dence that the re­cent hack­ing of its state-run news agency and govern­ment so­cial me­dia ac­counts was linked to the coun­tries that had re­cently cut ties with it.

“Qatar has ev­i­dence that cer­tain iPhones orig­i­nat­ing from coun­tries lay­ing siege to Qatar were used in the hack,” Ali Bin Fe­tais Al Marri, Qatar’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral, said.

The UAE’s min­is­ter of state for for­eign af­fairs, An­war Gar­gash, said yes­ter­day that the UAE was not re­spon­si­ble for the al­leged hack of Qatari web­sites which helped spark the re­cent diplo­matic rift with Doha. He said the Post’s story was false. Gar­gash also said the UAE would not es­ca­late its boy­cott by ask­ing com­pa­nies to choose be­tween do­ing busi­ness with it or with Qatar.

How­ever, de­spite the UAE’s re­jec­tion of the al­le­ga­tions, US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said newly an­a­lysed in­for­ma­tion showed that se­nior UAE govern­ment of­fi­cials dis­cussed the planned hacks on May 23, the day be­fore they oc­curred.

The Amer­i­can FBI has been work­ing with Qatar to probe the hack­ing scan­dal and it re­mains un­clear if the UAE hacked the web­sites it­self or paid for the hack­ing to be car­ried out by a third party.

Last Thurs­day, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son re­turned from a shut­tle diplo­macy trip to the Gulf re­gion in an ef­fort to re­solve the stand­off in the Gulf but other than a bi­lat­eral agree­ment be­tween Qatar and the US to fight “ter­ror­ism” his ef­forts yielded lit­tle.

De­spite the stale­mate, proof of a de­lib­er­ate smear cam­paign against Qatar is a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment and may af­fect the con­tin­u­ing cri­sis.

Wash­ing­ton has yet to re­spond of­fi­cially to the new rev­e­la­tion.

This is not the first al­leged in­ci­dent of hack­ing in­volv­ing Dubai.

In early June, hack­ing of the e-malil ac­count be­long­ing to UAE’s am­bas­sador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, by a group called Glob­alLeaks showed a grow­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UAE and a pro-Is­rael, neo-con­ser­va­tive think tank called the Foun­da­tion for De­fence of Democ­ra­cies.

De­spite the UAE and Is­rael hav­ing no diplo­matic re­la­tions, the two coun­tries have worked to­gether against their com­mon ad­ver­sary Iran.

Is­rael also con­sid­ers Ha­mas and the Mus­lim Brother­hood “ter­ror­ist” or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Crit­ics have ar­gued that the un­demo­cratic Gulf monar­chies are afraid of los­ing their thrones should the Arab street protests rise through Is­lamist or­gan­i­sa­tions as hap­pened dur­ing the Arab spring.

The Arab spring which erupted in Tu­nisia in 2010 and 2011 re­sulted in the coun­try hold­ing its first-ever free elec­tion.

Sim­i­larly, the Mus­lim Brother­hood came to power in Egypt in the coun­try’s first-ever demo­cratic elec­tions in 2012.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

The Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs for the United Arab Emi­rates, An­war Gar­gash, speaks in Lon­don yes­ter­day.

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