U.S. believes UAE orchestrated hacking that sparked Gulf crisis

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The U.S. intelligence community believes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) orchestrated the hacking incident that sparked the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and Gulf countries, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies showed that senior members of the UAE government discussed the hacking plan and its implementation on May 23, about a day before Qatar’s state-run news agency issued a controversial statement that was later claimed to have been fabricated.

The unnamed officials, quoted by the newspaper, said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacking itself or whether it contracted a third party to carry out the cyber attack. The UAE denied the newspaper’s report, claiming the government had “no role whatsoever” in the hacking.

The row began in May when Qatar’s news agency issued a statement from Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, which criticized Saudi Arabia while praising its arch-rival Iran. “There is no reason behind Arabs’ hostility to Iran and our relationship with Israel is good,” the emir’s alleged statement said in part, as quoted by the BBC.

Media outlets in Saudi Arabia and other countries continued to report on the emir’s alleged comments, even though Qatar insisted they were fake and the result of a cyber attack. The statement also went viral on social media and was shared many thousands of times.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates announced less than 2 weeks later that they were cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of interfering in their internal affairs and supporting terrorist groups. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen.

As part of the response, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE ordered Qatari citizens to leave their countries within 14 days. Saudi Arabia also closed its land border with Qatar, while Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE closed all sea and air connections to and from Qatar.

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