Posts Tagged ‘Yousef al-Otaiba’

Emails Indicated Saudi Plan To Attack Qatar — To “solve everyone’s problems”

September 17, 2017
Image of the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba [File photo]

Image of the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba [File photo]

Saudi Arabia was preparing for a military attack on its neighbour Qatar, leaked emails dated May 2017 appear to show.

The emails between UAE Ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and US diplomat Elliott Abrams in May 2017 claim that Saudi came close to “conquering” Qatar and this would “solve everyone’s problems”, according to the Emirati official.

Al-Otaiba added that deceased Saudi monarch King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz “came pretty close to doing something in Qatar” a few months before his death in January 2015.

Abrams was surprised by the revelation, the emails show, declaring: “I did not know that. It is dramatic.”

“How hard could it be?” he asked, adding:

Foreigners won’t interfere … Promise the Indians a raise, promise the police a raise and who is going to fight to the death?

Al-Otaiba replied: “That was the conclusion. It would be an easy lift.”

Khalil Al-Anani: The shifts in the Gulf crisis

Alleged leaked emails between UAE Ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and US diplomat Elliott Abrams from May 2017, suggesting Saudi Arabia was preparing for a military attack on its neighbour Qatar.

Abrams went on to say that former US President Barack Obama would not have supported an attack on Qatar “but the new guy…” in reference to current American Presisdent Donald Trump.

In the emails, Abrams suggested Jordan control Qatar. “The Hashemites need to control Qatar … that would solve their financial problems and Qatar’s support of extremism.” as he put it.

It is noteworthy that Abrams served as deputy assistant to US President George W. Bush and as his deputy national security adviser.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

The four countries also imposed an embargo on Qatar and issued a long list of demands, including the closure of Doha-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera, under the threat of further sanctions.

Qatar has refused to submit, denying charges that it supports terrorism and describing the bloc’s efforts to isolate it as a violation of international law and an infringement of its national sovereignty.

A spokesperson at the UAE embassy in the US told Middle East Eye that she was “not in a position to confirm or deny” the emails were genuine.


Qatar Says No Sign Arab States Willing to Negotiate Over Boycott

August 30, 2017

DOHA — Qatar’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that his country was willing to negotiate an end to a Gulf diplomatic rift but had seen no sign that Saudi Arabia and other countries imposing sanctions on Doha were open to mediation.

Kuwait and the United States are trying to heal a bitter dispute between Qatar and four Arab countries that has damaged business ties and disrupted travel for thousands of citizens in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Emirates severed political and trade ties with the small gas-rich country on June 4, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charges.

A visit this week to the UAE and Qatar by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov showed no signs of having eased tensions among the Gulf Arab powers.

“Qatar maintains its position that this crisis can only be achieved through a constructive dialogue … but the blockading counties are not responding to any efforts being conducted by Kuwait or other friendly countries,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Doha on Wednesday at a news conference with his Russian counterpart.

 Image result for news for Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, photos
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani

The UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, in an interview with U.S.-based magazine the Atlantic on Monday, said his country would negotiate with Qatar so long as Doha did not set any preconditions for talks.

 Image result for Yousef al-Otaiba, photos
Yousef al-Otaiba

Sheikh Mohammed said on Wednesday Qatar planned to bolster trade with Russia, one of the world’s biggest gas exporters, and that Qatar could no longer rely on neighboring states to support its economy or guarantee food security.

Lavrov said if face-to-face negotiations started, Russia would be ready to contribute to the mediation and that it was in Russia’s interest “for the GCC to be united and strong”.

(Reporting by Tom Finn; Editing by Alison Williams)


  (UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, in an interview with U.S.-based magazine the Atlantic)

Emirati Ambassador: Qatar Is a Destructive Force in the Region

August 30, 2017

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United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef al Otaiba.  Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Yousef al-Otaiba on the Gulf crisis and the future of the Middle East


The Atlantic

AUG 28, 2017

Three months ago, six countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar’s foes declared it complicit with extremism—citing, among other things, its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas—and argued that it was too close to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s nemesis in the Middle East. Not long after, they issued 13 demands to Qatar, including that it “curb diplomatic ties with Iran” and “shut down” the state-backed broadcaster Al Jazeera, and more generally “end interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs” through contacts with opposition figures. Qatar vowed not to negotiate; despite some mediation efforts from the United States and Kuwait, the standoff has continued ever since. Last week, Qatar, trolling its erstwhile Gulf partners, restored diplomatic relations with Iran, which had been broken in  2016.

The battle for leadership of the Gulf is also playing out in Washington, through hacks, leaks, and influence campaigns. Weeks before Qatar-GCC relations reached a crisis point, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States—a person widely seen as the most influential Arab ambassador in Washington—saw his email account breached; new reports based on their contents are still surfacing. Immediately preceding the break in relations, other hackers allegedly planted a false story on Qatari news sites in which the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is quoted calling Iran an “Islamic power” and urging the other Gulf states to drop their policy of confrontation with the country. The Qataris disavowed those remarks. The UAE was accused of orchestrating that hack; and the UAE in turn denied involvement.

The level of dysfunction in the GCC has become breathtaking, even more so because President Trump has lined up with Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar, declaring on Twitter that it was “so good to see” Saudi Arabia and others taking a hard line on Qatar, and that “perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” It was not clear if Trump knew that Qatar hosted the biggest American air base in the Middle East, Al Udeid, which houses about 10,000 American military personnel and facilitates the campaign against ISIS. Trump’s State Department, though, apparently did know this, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, expressed the hope that Qatar’s antagonists would lift the trade and travel blockade they’d imposed on the country. The blockade remains largely in place.

Otaiba usually prefers to keep out of the media spotlight. But in an interview with us, he set out to explain what precipitated the break with Qatar. “This is not the first rodeo,” he says. “We went through this in November of 2014”—when the Saudis and Emiratis withdrew their ambassadors for eight months—and “we had the same exact concerns and grievances.” Back then, relations were restored when Qatar signed on to a list of principles Otaiba says resembles the current set of demands; the demands are more detailed and onerous now, he says, because Qatar broke the 2014 agreement.

Still, he says the break in relations and the impasse over restoring them does not represent a crisis. Qatar seems poised to endure it; economists who spoke to Bloomberg News recently noted, in the news organization’s words, that “Qatar has absorbed the embargo’s economic shock”—to such an extent that its rate of economic growth next year is expected to be the highest among the GCC countries. (This is due in part to the gas deposit it shares with Iran.)

“We’re three months in now,” Otaiba says, “and I’m more convinced than ever that [the Qataris] are not serious about sitting down and having a conversation about how this gets resolved.” Of Qatar’s leader, who took power from his father in 2013, Otaiba speculated: “This is just my opinion, that perhaps Emir Tamim is not fully in charge. It’s possible his parents continue to call the shots in Qatar.”

Otaiba sees the two biggest threats to his country and the region as being Iran and extremist groups. “Iran is a sovereign state,” he says. “You see that their behavior is harming the region, you see that their support for terrorist and proxy groups is destabilizing the region. Sunni extremism comes from within. Sunni extremism attempts to hijack our religion and then use it for political reasons to gain power, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, like Hamas in Palestine. These groups hide behind religion but use religion for political purposes. So the two threats are very, very serious, they just manifest themselves differently.”

A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Read the rest:


Stolen Emails Show Ties Between U.A.E. Envoy and 1MDB Fund’s Central Figure — Misappropriation of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian state development fund

August 5, 2017

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba had longstanding ties to a financier the U.S. says is at the center of a scandal surrounding a Malaysian state development fund

The relationship between Yousef Al Otaiba and a Malaysian financier is drawing new scrutiny.
The relationship between Yousef Al Otaiba and a Malaysian financier is drawing new scrutiny. PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S., is a high-profile power player in Washington, trying to shape American policy toward the Middle East and lobbying over a regional dispute with Qatar.

He is also being drawn deeper into a major global corruption scandal.

Newly released stolen emails show a long-running relationship between Mr. Otaiba and Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who U.S. law-enforcement officials say is at the center of the misappropriation of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian state development fund.

That relationship is drawing new scrutiny from U.S., Swiss and Singaporean authorities, according to people familiar with the probes. The stolen emails show Mr. Otaiba and Shaher Awartani, his Jordanian partner, discussing inquiries from those countries about transactions they received from entities investigators say are connected to Mr. Low.

In one email, Mr. Awartani suggested buying a Ferrari after what Mr. Otaiba described as a “transfer from Jho.”

“I think we each deserve to buy a nice toy in celebration, what do you think ?? The 458 ITALIA maybe?,” Mr. Awartani wrote to Mr. Otaiba in 2009.

Mr. Otaiba responded that buying such “toys” in Abu Dhabi “will just attract unnecessary attention.” Messrs. Awartani and Otaiba both declined to comment. The probes are continuing.

The group that says it obtained the stolen emails and showed them to The Wall Street Journal, Global Leaks, declined to identify its members or say how they got the communications. In a statement to the Journal, Global Leaks said it wanted to “expose corruption, financial frauds which are done by rich governments.”

The Journal reported in June that companies connected to Mr. Otaiba received $66 million from entities investigators say acted as conduits for money allegedly stolen from the state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. The Journal cited court and investigative documents and emails Mr. Otaiba wrote.

A 1MDB spokesman declined to comment. The fund has denied any funds were misappropriated or any wrongdoing on its part. It pledged to cooperate with any “lawful” investigation. Malaysian authorities cleared the fund of wrongdoing, but it remains under investigation in the U.S. and several other countries.

Jho Low, a Malaysian financier, seen in 2014 during an event in New York.
Jho Low, a Malaysian financier, seen in 2014 during an event in New York. PHOTO: DEBBY WONG/CORBIS

Mr. Low hasn’t been accused of a crime and has denied wrongdoing. A Low spokeswoman said the leaked emails created a “biased and inaccurate picture.”

Mr. Otaiba has been a key figure in U.S.-U.A.E. relations for years. Diplomats and officials in Washington know him for power lunches at Cafe Milano and lavish gatherings at his residence.

The emails detail Mr. Otaiba’s sizable personal wealth, including millions of dollars of shares in Palantir Technologies, a data-analysis company that has numerous contracts with the U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement community, and the Carlyle Group investment firm.

Lately, Mr. Otaiba has become a frequent source of advice to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, on Middle East policy, people familiar with the matter said. He has also urged the Trump administration to back efforts by the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries to isolate Qatar, which they accuse of supporting Islamist terror groups like al Qaeda. Qatar says it doesn’t fund terror.

Mr. Otaiba in July issued a statement denying media reports that the U.A.E. had participated in an alleged scheme to hack Qatar government websites and post fake quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir.

The U.A.E. Embassy in Washington declined to comment about the emails stolen from Mr. Otaiba except to say they were part of a campaign by political opponents to smear him.

They also acknowledged that Mr. Otaiba has private business interests outside his diplomatic role.

The people familiar with the 1MDB investigations in Switzerland, Singapore and the U.S. said officials are looking into the circumstances of the transfers to companies controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani, and whether they bought assets with funds originating from 1MDB.

The stolen emails appear to show Mr. Otaiba using his diplomatic influence to persuade banks to give loans, saying it was important for U.A.E.-Malaysian relations.

In one, from September 2014, Mr. Otaiba encouraged Abu Dhabi banks to participate in a short-term refinancing loan being arranged by Deutsche Bank for 1MDB. The emailed request was identical to a draft sent to Mr. Otaiba from Eric Tan, an associate of Mr. Low, that was seen by the Journal.

“We appreciate your attention and commitment to successfully executing this facility,” Mr. Otaiba wrote to the banks, according to the stolen emails.

In a recent civil-asset forfeiture filing, the Justice Department said about $700 million of a $975 million Deutsche Bank loan to 1MDB was embezzled, with some of that money allegedly used by Mr. Low to buy jewelry for his then-girlfriend, Australian model Miranda Kerr. Several Abu Dhabi banks provided funds for the Deutsche Bank loan to 1MDB, people familiar with the deal said.

Singapore investigative documents reviewed by the Journal show a $3 million payment to a British Virgin Islands company controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani a few days before the email from Mr. Tan, and another $13 million payment to the same company two months later. The sender of both payments was a British Virgin Islands company owned by Mr. Tan that the Justice Department says distributed money embezzled from 1MDB, including the Deutsche Bank loan, according to the civil asset-forfeiture filing.

Efforts to reach Mr. Tan were unsuccessful. His whereabouts are unknown. He hasn’t commented before on the matter.

Another email, from December 2009, shows Mr. Otaiba urging Thomas Barrack Jr. , the billionaire founder of Colony Capital in California, to accept a bid from a hotel operator partly owned by Mr. Low’s family trust to buy L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Colony Capital owned the hotel.

“I’m contacting you today to endorse this bid as the U.A.E. ambassador but also as someone who understands that the full weight of a major investment entity is behind this project,” he wrote.

Mr. Barrack Jr. responded in an email that he would get back to him.

Mr. Low’s private investment company eventually bought the hotel in 2010 for more than $45 million. The Justice Department has filed civil-asset-forfeiture suits seeking to seize the hotel, alleging it was bought with stolen 1MDB funds.

Mr. Barrack said Mr. Otaiba was a friend and that the winning bid for the hotel was the highest offered.

Scrutiny of Mr. Otaiba’s U.S., Swiss and Singaporean accounts appeared to kick off in 2015, when several countries were starting 1MDB-related probes. Swiss private bank Lombard Odier began demanding more information about transfers to accounts controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani, according to the newly released emails reviewed by the Journal.

“We need to work with them to make this go away,” wrote Tobias Pfister, a former Credit Suisse banker based in Dubai who the emails show handled finances for Mr. Otaiba and Mr. Awartani, his Jordanian partner. He specified he was referring to Lombard Odier’s queries. Mr. Pfister told Mr. Otaiba in the email that Mr. Low had instructed Msrss. Otaiba and Mr. Awartani to close bank accounts and answer queries about the accounts and payments in person—“no emails.”

A few weeks later, Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani closed their accounts and moved funds elsewhere, according to the stolen emails that showed this request and confirmation.

The bank said it was cooperating with “any and all inquiries from regulatory and law enforcement authorities” related to 1MDB. Mr. Pfister declined to comment.

Writing from an e-mail address affiliated with the island of St. Helena in May, Mr. Low wrote Mr. Awartani asking how to get in touch quickly. “Need to speak as questions being asked. Want to ensure coordinated,” according to the stolen emails, which were forwarded to Mr. Otaiba.

It is unclear if they ever spoke.

Write to Bradley Hope at and Tom Wright at

Appeared in the August 2, 2017, print edition as ‘Stolen Emails Tie Envoy to 1MDB.’


Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and text

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that state fund 1MDB has cleared over 3 billion ringgit (S$947.1 million) in debt over the past two years. He had chaired 1MDB’s advisory board until it was dissolved in May 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Getty Images

Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway in 2012.


Afghan Taliban: Qatar plays major role in peace talks

August 1, 2017

Al Jazeera

Comments come as email leak suggests Emirati FM was disappointed US chose Doha over Abu Dhabi to host group’s office.

 Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Qatar played a major role in facilitating peace talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban by opening an office for the group in Doha, a senior Taliban offical told Al Jazeera.

The Taliban official’s comments on Tuesday come as a series of leaked emails from UAE diplomats suggest the Emirati foreign minister was disappointed that US officials had chosen Doha over Abu Dhabi to host the office.

The June 2013 opening of the unofficial embassy allowed for talks to develop, said the Taliban official, who is based in the Qatari capital.

“We got a chance to discuss with Afghan diplomats, journalists and analysts face-to-face on how peace can be achieved in Afghanistan,” he told Al Jazeera, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

In 2016, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international crisis group, organised a meeting in Doha bringing Afghan diplomats, analysts and journalists to the table with the Taliban to discuss how to achieve peace.

“We’ve conducted many peace conferences in Doha and discussed many issues with the help of Qatari officials who played the role of mediators, and nothing else.”

READ MORE: Qatar hosted Taliban ‘at request of US government’

That conference was not a part of the official process between officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US aimed at charting a roadmap to peace.

But the Taliban official said such meetings were important.

He also noted a separate meeting was held between the Taliban and Afghan journalists where both sides were able to discuss their ideas for peace.

The official went on to say that demands on Doha by a Saudi-led bloc currently boycotting the peninsula are “unfair”, and that the quartet should not “accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism”.

Leaked UAE emails

As part of its attempt to isolate the peninsula, the kingdom, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have derided Qatar for hosting an office for the Afghan armed group.

But a series of leaked emails show UAE diplomats lobbied US officials so Abu Dhabi could host the office.

Reported by the New York Times on Monday, the emails from UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba apparently contradict a mounted campaign against Qatar for its alleged support of “terrorist groups”.

Otaiba said he received an “angry call” from UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, complaining that the Taliban had ended up in Qatar and not the UAE, according to messages in the ambassador’s Hotmail account.

“I got an angry call from [Zayed] saying how come we weren’t told,” Otaiba wrote to an American official.

The newspaper obtained another email dated September 12, 2011, in which an Emirati official questioned the US position on the Taliban office’s location.

READ MORE: Yousef Al Otaiba linked to Malaysia 1MBD scandal – WSJ

“There is an article in the London Times that mentions US is backing setting up a Taliban embassy in Doha,” the diplomat, Mohamed Mahmoud al-Khaja, wrote to Jeffrey Feltman, then assistant secretary of state for near east affairs.

“HH says that we were under the impression that Abu Dhabi was your first choice and this is what we were informed”, Khaja said in the email, referring to bin Zayed.

The latest email leak comes from a group called “GlobalLeaks”, which is not affiliated with the software developer, GlobaLeaks.

GlobalLeaks told Newsweek that the recent messages are proof of the “biggest hypocrisy” in the Qatar crisis.

The office was part of a broader US-led effort to facilitate peace talks in Afghanistan – not to support their ideology or the group itself.

Qatar agreed to open the mission for the Taliban with Washington’s blessing four years ago.

In 2011, when the emails were sent, the Obama administration was making efforts to hold peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government as it sought to remove NATO troops from the country.

Most of the troops withdrew in 2014, but peace was not achieved.

The opening of the office enraged the Afghan president at the time, Hamid Karzai, by styling itself as an unofficial embassy for a government-in-exile.

Karzai broke off bilateral talks with the Americans and threatened to boycott any peace process altogether after the Taliban opened the offices with a flag-raising ceremony for the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the name of the country under Taliban rule.

That flag has since been removed.

Source: Al Jazeera News

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