Posts Tagged ‘Yousef al-Otaiba’

Qatar crisis: UAE denies hacking news agency

July 17, 2017

BBC News

The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, denies it hacked Qatar’s news agency.

The United Arab Emirates has denied it was behind the alleged hacking of Qatar’s state news agency in May.

The Washington Post cited US intelligence officials as saying the UAE had orchestrated the posting of incendiary quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir that he insisted were fabricated.

The incident helped spark a diplomatic rift between Qatar and its neighbours.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the BBC on Monday the Post’s report was “untrue”.

He also reiterated that the UAE and five other Arab nations had not written to Fifa to demand that Qatar be stripped of the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Swiss news network The Local said a fake news story quoting Fifa president Gianni Infantino had been posted on a copycat website on Saturday.

The Washington Post’s story cited unnamed US intelligence officials as saying newly-analysed information confirmed that on 23 May senior members of the UAE government had discussed a plan to hack Qatari state media sites.

Screengrabs showing the allegedly fake news story were posted on TwitterQNA/INSTAGRAM
Screengrabs showing the allegedly fake news story were posted on Instagram

Later that day, the official Qatar News Agency quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as criticising US “hostility” towards Iran, describing it as an “Islamic power that cannot be ignored”, and calling Hamas the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

Qatari officials said the agency had been hacked by an “unknown entity” and that the story had “no basis whatsoever”. However, the remarks were reported across the region and caused a stir.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt responded by blocking Qatari media.

Two weeks later, the four countries cut all links with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and relations with Iran. The boycott has caused turmoil in the oil- and gas-rich emirate, which is dependent on imports by land and sea for the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.

The US intelligence officials told the Washington Post it was unclear whether the UAE authorities had hacked the Qatar News Agency itself or paid a third party to do it.

The Guardian reported last month that an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had concluded that freelance Russian hackers were responsible.

US intelligence agencies declined to comment on the Post’s article, but the UAE’s ambassador insisted that it “had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking”.

“What is true is Qatar’s behaviour. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Gaddafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbours,” Yousef al-Otaiba wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.


Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organisations by some of its neighbours, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has denied aiding jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS).

Mr Gargash told the BBC that Qatar’s denial had been contradicted by its agreement to review a list of 59 individuals and 12 organisations who the UAE has accused of supporting terrorism and wants arrested or expelled.

“What we know now is that Qatar is admitting that the list is worthy, that the list needs to be looked at, and that they need to change some of their laws to ensure that there is a proper process to cover this list,” he said.

Mr Gargash said Qatar’s neighbours were prepared to continue the boycott for months if it did not comply with the list of demands it was handed last month and agreed to international monitoring.

“I understand the concern of our allies,” he added. “But the issue is that we are being hurt, and the world is being hurt, by a state that has $300bn (£230bn) and is the main sponsor of this jihadist agenda.”

But, he added, the four states would not escalate the boycott by asking companies to choose between doing business with them or with Qatar.


UAE planted fake news story to trigger Qatar crisis, US report claims — Who funds Iran, Hamas, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood?

July 17, 2017


© Bandar Al-Jaloud, Saudi Royal Palace / AFP | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on December 5, 2016 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) listening to UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (C).

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-17

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.



US officials claim the UAE is behind the hacking of Qatar's news agency in May which sparked a diplomatic crisis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Doha last week to try to resolve the crisis with Qatar's Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani (above together on July 11) 

US officials claim the UAE is behind the hacking of Qatar’s news agency in May which sparked a diplomatic crisis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Doha last week to try to resolve the crisis with Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani (above together on July 11)

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UAE ambassador in US got $66 million allegedly from 1MDB stolen funds

July 3, 2017

Court investigations in the US reviewed by The Wall Street Journal points to 1MDB diverted funds heading into the accounts of a United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US.

Companies connected to Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador, received $66 million from offshore companies

Singapore and US investigators had said the money was misappropirated from 1MDB.

There have been no public disclosures as to the purpose of the transfers, and Mr. Otaiba declined to comment on them, said The Journal.

The Journal also said separately, emails written by and to Otaiba, hacked by a dissident group and leaked to news organizations, include descriptions of meetings between Shaher Awartani, an Abu Dhabi-based business partner of Otaiba, and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier.

The Justice Department says Jho Low the central conspirator in the alleged $4.5 billion 1MDB fraud.

Messrs. Otaiba and Low have been associates since the early 2000s and Mr. Low has described his friendship with Mr. Otaiba in interviews over the years.

The transfers connected to Otaiba are the latest chapter in the 1MDB saga, which grew from a Malaysian fund with debt problems in early 2015 into what investigators have described as one of the biggest frauds in history.

And all this while the Malaysian PM, who is linked to the scandal, walks freely with a smile.


Yousef al-Otaiba linked to Malaysia 1MBD scandal: WSJ

Companies connected to UAE’s envoy to US received $66 million from accounts linked to Malaysia’s 1MDB fund, WSJ reports.

Hackers leaked emails from the inbox of Otaiba earlier this month. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo]

Companies connected to the UAE‘s ambassador to the US received $66 million from offshore accounts that contained money allegedly embezzled from Malaysia‘s 1MDB investment fund, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In 2015, allegations emerged that billions of dollars were stolen from Malaysia’s state-owned 1MDB.

The WSJ said leaked emails of Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba included “descriptions of meetings between Shaher Awartani, an Abu Dhabi-based business partner of Mr. Otaiba, and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier the [US] justice department says was the central conspirator in the alleged $4.5 billion 1MDB fraud”.

The US justice department said that the billions had been stolen from 1MDB by people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The fund is also at the centre of investigations in many other countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and 1MBD officials have said it has found no evidence of misappropriation.

READ MORE: US moves to seize another $540m of Malaysia’s 1MDB fund

According to the WSJ, in addition to the meetings between Awartani and Low, “a Singapore criminal case against a Swiss banker disclosed $50 million of payments made to the companies connected to Mr. Otaiba, including Densmore Investments Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands and Silver Coast Construction & Boring in the UAE”.

The WSJ added: “In separate documents reviewed by the Journal related to Singapore’s investigation of alleged 1MDB-linked money laundering, authorities describe Densmore as controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani. Those documents also describe another $16 million of separate payments to Densmore in the form of loans from a company connected to the alleged fraud.”

Hackers from a group that calls itself “Global Leaks” – which is not affiliated with the software company, GlobaLeaks – began leaking emails from Otiaba’s inbox earlier this month.

According to the WSJ, a number of those emails show communications between Otaiba, Awartani and Low.

“On May 5, 2015, a Dubai-based financial executive working at a company controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani told Mr. Otaiba in an email that Mr. Low had instructed the men to close their accounts at BSI Bank, a private Swiss bank that investigators in the U.S., Switzerland and Singapore say played an instrumental role in the alleged 1MDB fraud. Densmore held an account at BSI,” the WSJ said.

READ MORE: Hackers leak emails from UAE ambassador to US

The WSJ said Otaiba declined to comment on its findings, but a spokeswoman for the UAE embassy told the news organisation that the embassy “noted the existence of numerous orchestrated dossiers that have been prepared … targeting the ambassador and which are purported to contain hacked emails”.

She also said the embassy notes “the context of the role of the UAE in the current suspension of diplomatic and economic relations with the state of Qatar” and as a result, the embassy “will not talk to or respond to any of these dossiers”.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed sanctions on the country on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”, an allegation Doha has rejected as “baseless”.

Last week, the Saudi-led bloc gave Qatar 10 days to comply with 13 demands to end a major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, insisting, among other things, that Doha shut down Al Jazeera, close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Saudi-UAE campaign against Qatar, Iran puts China in a bind

June 5, 2017

Pressuring China to take sides, the boycott move complicates its efforts to tiptoe through the minefield of Middle Eastern rivalries by maintaining good relations with all parties


South China Morning Post
5 JUN 2017

A Saudi and UAE-driven campaign to isolate Qatar, and by extension Iran, puts non-Arab Muslim states and China in a bind and tests the degree of Saudi soft power garnered in decades of massive spending on the propagation of anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism.

The Saudi-UAE campaign, building on an increasingly vicious cyber and media war against Qatar, kicked into high gear on Monday, with the kingdom, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt breaking off diplomatic relations and cutting air and sea traffic with Qatar, and a 41-nation Saudi-led, Pakistani-commanded military alliance suspending Qatar’s participation in operations in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for supporting ‘terrorist’ groups

The four Arab countries announced their move in similar statements. In its statement, Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.

Bahrain, a majority Shiite nation ruled by a Sunni minority, has blamed Iran for a popular uprising in 2011 that it brutally squashed with the help of Saudi troops, and for subsequent intermittent protests and violence.

The Saudi-UAE campaign is reminiscent of a similar failed effort by Gulf states in 2014, but this time round sets the bar far higher: it aims to force non-Arab states to take sides in a four-decades-old proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has escalated in recent years and persuade the Trump administration to come down hard on Qatar because of its refusal to join the anti-Iranian Saudi bandwagon and its ties to Islamist and militant groups.

Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Photo: AFP

It also pressures China to take sides, complicates its effort to tiptoe through the minefield of Middle Eastern conflicts and rivalries by maintaining good relations with all parties, and threatens its Belt and Road Initiative with the likely expansion of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war into Balochistan, a key Pakistani node of the plan.

The rupture and military suspension could also complicate Chinese efforts to keep its Middle East policy in sync with that of the United States, the major power in the region, if Washington were to side with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking on the sidelines of a bilateral meeting with Australian officials in Sydney that was also attended by Defence Secretary James Mattis, appeared to express implicit support for the Saudi-UAE-led move.

“I think what we’re witnessing is a growing list of some irritants in the region that have been there for some time. And obviously they have now bubbled up to a level that countries decided they needed to take action in an effort to have those differences addressed,” Tillerson said.

How Donald Trump betrayed American values and Jeffersonian legacy with trip to Saudi Arabia

Tillerson’s remarks came amid debate in Washington about possibly stepping up pressure on Qatar to break its ties with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and crack down on alleged funders of political violence who have been designated global terrorists by the US Treasury and are resident in the Gulf state.

Robert Gates, a former US defence secretary and director of CIA, warned last week at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies gathering in Washington on Qatar and the Brotherhood that Qatar risked losing its hosting of US forces if it failed to revise its policies. “The United States military doesn’t have any irreplaceable facility,” Gates said.

Ed Royce, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee, told the same gathering that “if it doesn’t change, Qatar will be sanctioned under a new bill I’m introducing to punish Hamas backers”, a reference to Qatari support for the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. Photo: EPA

The two men were speaking as the media and cyberwar erupted with Qatari claims that several of its media websites had been hacked with a fake report attributing comments to Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that were in line with the Gulf state’s policy but that Qatar says he did not make.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is helping Qatar investigate the alleged hack.

In a leaked email, UAE ambassador to the United States Yousef Al-Otaiba told Gates on the eve of his appearance at the Foundation gathering that “MBZ (UAE Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed sends his best from Abu Dhabi” and “he says ‘give them hell tomorrow’.”

The US-Saudi plot for Iran that spells trouble for China’s new Silk Road

Al-Otaiba was responding to an email in which Gates said that his appearance gave him a chance “to put some folks on notice”.

Scores of Muslim nations signed up for a military alliance created in 2015 by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, initially to support the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen. The alliance’s purpose was reformulated to counter political violence when it became clear that many Muslim nations, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, were reluctant to become embroiled in what has become for the kingdom a fiasco and public relations disaster.

US President Donald Trump receives Saudi Arabia’s highest honour before US$350bn arms deal announced

Non-Arab Muslim nations, insisting that their commitment was to protect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and to counter political violence, were equally hesitant of being sucked into the kingdom’s military confrontation with Iran.

Monday’s rupture in Arab diplomatic relations with Qatar and military alliance suspension raises the stakes for many non-Arab Muslim nations. It threatens to jeopardise their relations with Qatar, a major gas supplier and economic and commercial partner, and force them to choose between Saudi Arabia and Iran

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies

UAE Says It Is No Longer Bound By Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement — Wants to Enrich Uranium

October 16, 2015

Post Iran nuclear deal, UAE diplomat tells congressman his country no longer feels bound by previous agreement with US.

Al Jazeera

A senior United Arab Emirates official has reportedly told an influential US congressman that it might seek the right to enrich uranium.

Republican Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador in Washington, had informed him in a telephone call that the country no longer felt bound by its previous nuclear agreement with the US.

“He told me, ‘Your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It is a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won’t be the only country,'” Royce said in a phone interview with AP earlier in the week, elaborating on his testimony.

Tensions between the UAE and Iran – trade partners and strategic rivals – have risen in recent months after the UAE, home to hundreds of thousands of Iranian expatriates, sent troops to Yemen to bolster the government against the Iranian-allied group.

A US accord with Shia Iran – viewed by mainly Sunni Arab Gulf states as a security threat – to curb its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic sanctions relief allows the country to enrich uranium.

In a 2009 pact with the UAE, the US agreed to share materials, technology and equipment for producing nuclear energy. In the accord – known as a 123 Agreement – the UAE made a clear pledge not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium, two pathways to an atomic weapon.

Asked to respond by AP, the UAE embassy in Washington said the “government has not formally changed its views or perspective on the 123 Agreement or commitments”.

The UAE has said in the past that it welcomes the nuclear deal reached with Iran. However, Royce said Otaiba told him that the UAE “no longer felt bound” by those provisions of the agreement.

While he said Otaiba did not explicitly state that the UAE was walking away from them, Royce said: “I took that to mean that they had the right to do that and that it was under consideration.”

Detention row

The diplomatic development comes against the backdrop of the detention of nine Iranian teachers in the UAE.

Reuters news agency says the Iranian foreign ministry summoned the UAE charge d’affaires in Tehran on Sunday to protest against the arrests of the men, who it said had been accused of having invalid visas.

It noted that the school had been operating legally for several years and called on the UAE authorities to release the teachers.

The teachers work at an Iranian school in Al Ain, part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, but their work permits were from Dubai, another emirate in the UAE, the Iranian ministry said.

An Iranian teacher from a different school in the UAE, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that nine teachers at the Al Ain Iranian Private School had been detained and were awaiting trial.

UAE officials did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Phone calls to the school and the court were not answered. The Iranian embassy in Abu Dhabi said it did not have further information.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said on Monday the teachers were having a “bad experience” in prison even though they had previously worked in Al Ain on their Dubai visas without any problem.

Source: Agencies