Qatar calls hack­ing ‘un­for­tu­nate’

UAE said to plant false news story be­fore break­ing ties

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press and by Sel­can Ha­caoglu, Dana Khraiche, Glen Carey, Nour Al Ali, Kaye Wig­gins and Ahmed Feteha of Bloomberg News.

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — Qatar, the Gulf state be­ing iso­lated by its neigh­bors, said Mon­day that the re­ported in­volve­ment of the United Arab Emi­rates in hack­ing its govern­ment news site in May is “un­for­tu­nate” and a breach of agree­ments among the Gulf coun­tries.

The Wash­ing­ton Post, quot­ing un­named U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, re­ported Sun­day that the UAE or­ches­trated the hack­ing and planted a false story that was used as a pre­text for the cri­sis be­tween Qatar and four Arab coun­tries.

The re­port said se­nior mem­bers of the Emi­rati govern­ment dis­cussed the hack­ing plan a day be­fore a story ap­peared on the of­fi­cial Qatar News Agency quot­ing Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Ha­mad Al Thani, al­legedly prais­ing Iran and say­ing Qatar has a good re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael.

The UAE has de­nied in­volve­ment, call­ing the Post re­port “false” and in­sist­ing that the UAE “had no role what­so­ever” in the al­leged hack­ing.

The UAE, along with Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and Bahrain, cut diplo­matic ties and sev­ered air, land and sea links with Qatar in early June over al­le­ga­tions that it sup­ports ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy — an ac­cu­sa­tion that Qatar de­nied. The cri­sis has dragged on for more than a month with nei­ther side show­ing signs of backing down.

The Saudi-led group has vowed to re­store the links only af­ter the world’s big­gest pro­ducer of liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas com­plies with a list of 13 de­mands, in­clud­ing end­ing Turkey’s mil­i­tary pres­ence in Qatar, scal­ing back ties with Iran and sev­er­ing re­la­tions with the Mus­lim Brother­hood. Qatar has re­buffed the de­mands and has de­nied the bloc’s al­le­ga­tion that it funds ter­ror­ism.

Qatar main­tained from the be­gin­ning that the quotes at­trib­uted to its ruler were the re­sult of a hack­ing. It said in a state­ment Mon­day that the Post re­port “un­equiv­o­cally proves that this hack­ing crime took place.”

Sheikh Saif bin Ah­mad Al Thani, the head of Qatar’s govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fice, said, “It is es­pe­cially un­for­tu­nate that this shameful act of cy­bert­er­ror­ism is be­ing at­trib­uted to a fel­low mem­ber of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil.

“This crim­i­nal act rep­re­sents a clear vi­o­la­tion and breach of in­ter­na­tional law and of the bi­lat­eral and col­lec­tive agree­ments signed be­tween the mem­ber states of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, as well as col­lec­tive agree­ments with the Arab League, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion, and the United Na­tions,” he said.

The coun­cil is a six-mem­ber bloc made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE. Kuwait has been serv­ing as a me­di­a­tor in try­ing to re­solve the cur­rent Gulf cri­sis.

Saif said a Qatari govern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hack­ing is on­go­ing and that pros­e­cu­tors will “take all nec­es­sary le­gal mea­sures to bring to jus­tice the per­pe­tra­tors and in­sti­ga­tors of this crime.”

Turkey, mean­while, is build­ing up its mil­i­tary pres­ence in Qatar, an ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said, in de­fi­ance of the Saudi-led bloc’s de­mand that the Turk­ish mil­i­tary pull out of the coun­try.

“Turkey’s steady buildup con­tin­ues there, pro­tect­ing the bor­der and the se­cu­rity of the Qatari govern­ment,” ad­viser Il­nur Ce­vik said Mon­day by phone. Turkey has de­ployed dozens of com­man­dos and some ar­tillery units in Qatar, the Hur­riyet news­pa­per re­ported.

The grow­ing Turk­ish mil­i­tary foot­print fur­ther en­trenches po­si­tions on ei­ther side of the Saudi-Qatar di­vide that broke open last month. The con­flict has re­sisted Kuwaiti me­di­a­tion and U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son’s shut­tle diplo­macy, and on Mon­day, a se­nior UAE of­fi­cial said the Saudi al­liance was ready for the process to take a “very long time.”

Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash said Mon­day that the Saudi-led al­liance is pre­pared for a long stand­off and that the pres­sure on Qatar seems to be work­ing.

A “pro­longed stale­mate” will change Qatar’s at­ti­tude, Gar­gash said at Chatham House in Lon­don.

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