UAE planted fake news story to trigger Qatar crisis, US report claims
The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in May, planting a false story that was used as a pretext for the current Gulf diplomatic crisis, according to a Sunday report by The Washington Post.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had been falsely quoted in May as praising Hamas and saying that Iran was an “Islamic power,” the Washington 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 emir, an explanation rejected by Gulf states.
The Washington Post reported that US intelligence officials learned last week of newly analysed 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 Washington Post did not identify the intelligence officials it spoke to for the report.
UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba denied the report in a statement, saying it was “false,” the Washington Post said.
“What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Gaddafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalisation, and undermining the stability of its neighbours,” the statement said.
The US State Department declined comment in response to a Reuters query. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was previously known to be working with Qatar to probe the hacking.
The ongoing crisis has threatened to complicate the US-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State (IS) group as all participants are US. allies and members of the anti-IS group coalition. Qatar is home to more than 10,000 US troops and the regional headquarters of the US Central Command while Bahrain is the home of the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
President Donald Trump has sided strongly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the dispute, publicly backing their contention that Doha is a supporter of Islamic militant groups and a destabilising force in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently concluded several days of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf, but he departed the region without any public signs of a resolution.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)