UAE hacked Qatari sites, says US
Made to seem it backed ‘terror’
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.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, speaks in London yesterday.