DAILY CITES U.S. INTELLIGENCE
WASHINGTON, July 17, (Agencies): The United Arab Emirates arranged for Qatari government social media and news sites to be hacked in late May in order to post fiery but false quotes linked to Qatar’s Amir, prompting a diplomatic crisis, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing US intelligence officials.
The Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had been quoted in May as praising Hamas and saying that Iran was an “Islamic power,” the Post reported. In response, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar said in late May that hackers had posted fake remarks by the amir, an explanation rejected by Gulf states.
The Post reported that US intelligence officials learned last week of newly analyzed information that showed that top UAE government officials discussed the planned hacks on May 23, the day before they occurred. The officials said it was unclear if the UAE hacked the websites or paid for them to be carried out, the newspaper reported. The Post did not identify the intelligence officials it spoke to for the report.
UAE denies story
The United Arab Emirates was not responsible for an alleged hack of Qatari websites which helped spark a monthlong diplomatic rift with Doha, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs said on Monday. Anwar Gargash denied as false a story in the Washington Post that cited US officials saying the UAE had orchestrated the hack of Qatar’s state news agency. “The Washington Post story today that we actually hacked the Qataris is also not true,” he told the London-based thinktank Chatham House. Gargash said the four Arab powers were in the process of discussing additional sanctions on Doha.
“There will be some tightening of the screws,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the event, declining to give a time frame on when new measure could be introduced. “We will see what are these screws, whether they are financial, whether they are other, but they are completely within our (remit) as sovereign states.”
Yet the UAE would not escalate its boycott by asking companies to choose between doing business with it or with Qatar, he added. Gargash, who also suggested international monitoring of Qatar was needed, added there were no plans for a meeting between the two sides under the auspices of Kuwait, a neutral Gulf Arab country seeking to mediate in the spat.
“We are too early to speak about meetings, before we get a mediation with some traction,” he said. “The information published in the Washington Post on July 16, 2017, which revealed the involvement of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and senior Emirati officials in the hacking of Qatar News Agency, unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place,” Qatar’s government said in a statement on Monday. US officials have said that experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) helping Qatar investigate the incident are convinced QNA was hacked, but that identifying the culprit will take time. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Kuwaiti counterpart that the sanctions were being maintained “in light of what the quartet states see as Qatar’s stalling and procrastination, and lack of concern for the concerns of the four states”.
Egypt is standing by the list of demands it and three Gulf Arab countries made of Qatar and will keep sanctions against Doha in place, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Kuwaiti counterpart on Monday. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf monarchy, after accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with their regional arch-foe Iran.
Doha denies the accusations. Kuwait has been leading mediation efforts between Qatar and the four Arab states boycotting it. Its top diplomat Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah met Shoukry and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo on Monday.
“The Foreign Minister affirmed to his Kuwaiti counterpart Egypt’s commitment to the list of demands presented to the state of Qatar and the continuation of sanctions taken against it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement. The insistence comes “in light of what the quartet states see as Qatar’s stalling and procrastination, and lack of concern for the concerns of the four states,” he said. Shoukry told Sabah the only way the crisis would be resolved was if Qatar fulfilled the demands, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the pan-Arab al Jazeera satellite TV channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with rival Iran.
Sisi told Sabah he appreciated what Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah was doing to preserve Arab unity but that Egypt would not let anyone interfere in its affairs and would stand strong against policies that support terrorism, his spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement.
Access to network hit
Vodafone Qatar, an affiliate of Vodafone Group, said on Monday that access to its network was being affected by technical issues. The company is working to resolve the issue, Vodafone Qatar said on its official Twitter account. Several Vodafone customers told Reuters that they were unable to make or receive phone calls. A spokesman for Vodafone Qatar did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State-controlled Ooredoo also serves Qatar’s mobile communications market. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a claim which Qatar denies.