Rabat – United States intelligence officials have just announced that, following information made available to them last week, the United Arab Emirates “hacked government websites in Qatar in late May,” sparking the worst crisis in the Gulf in years, according to a report by the Washington Post.
According to the same source, American intelligence has announced that it became aware last week that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) “arranged the hacking of news and social media sites in Qatar.” The purpose of the hacking was to embed false news stories of an incendiary nature that led to the current Gulf crisis. The fabricated stories were all attributed to Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
US officials cited by the Washington Post said that, on May 23rd, officials identified as senior members of the “UAE government held a discussion about the hacking and its implementation.”
According to the same source, the hacks and posting took place on May 24. This was after US president, Donald Trump completed a back to back meetings with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including the Emir of Qatar.
Among other fake news stories planted in the hacking, the UAE charges that the Emir of Qatar had called regional pariah Iran, an “Islamic power”” and celebrated Hamas.
Reacting to the Washington Post story, the UAE ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, claimed it was “false.”
“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” the statement said according to the Washington Post. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors,” he added.
Otaiba’s own private email account has been cited as a source of hacking information. Emails from the account were circulated to the media by an organization called GlobalLeaks. The emails highlight a years-long campaign on the part of the UAE to court Washington support for its ongoing dispute with Qatar.
On June 5, a group of Gulf countries including Saudi Arabi, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced they were breaking diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging its financial support of terrorist organizations. This was followed almost immediately by a trade embargo and the closing of all air, land and see borders to Qatar, effectively leaving Qatar in its current isolated state.
On June 22, the bloc presented Qatar with a list of demands necessary to break the blockade, a list that Qatar deemed unworkable. Staunchly defending its innocence against the allegations from the onset of the crisis, Qatar claimed the demands were deliberately designed to be impossible for it to meet and rejected them, causing the current stalemate in negotiations.
At no time in the situation has the bloc offered any evidence in support of its allegations, prompting speculation, even by the US, that its motivations for the blockade might be fueled by pre-existing issues, rather than a concern for global security.