In a stunning turn of events, the Washington Post is quoting US intelligence officials as saying that the “fake news” hack which started the Qatar blockade was actually the product of a plot concocted by top leaders of the United Arab Emirates, one of the blockading states.
The officials say US intelligence agencies were able to confirm a May 23 meeting by UAE leaders discussing the plan, and that the very next day, a Qatari state media outlet was hacked, and false quotes attributed to the Qatari Emir were planted there. The quotes praised Hamas and talked up Iran as an “Islamic Power,” and fueled an immediate backlash from Saudi Arabia, as well as its allies.
Qatari officials were quick to note the hack at the time, and brought in the FBI to help. At the time, there was speculation in the media that the US involvement meant Russia was suspected of involvement, though there was never any plausible reason why this might be the case.
The UAE, however, has long-standing grievances with Qatar, as do the other three blockading states, as all object to Qatari media outlets’ coverage offering more conflicting viewpoints than is common within the Middle East.
Though Qatari officials repudiated the quotes that started the whole scandal as part of a hack, the blockading states’ demands have continued to center on clamping down on Qatari state media, whether outright closing them or simply rendering them heavily censored copies of their Middle East counterparts.
US officials concede they aren’t yet sure if the UAE directly hacked the Qatari outlet, or “contracted it out,” but either way it’s clear this whole diplomatic crisis was manufactured ahead of time, with the goal of forcing Qatar to make concessions coming before the blockade was publicly discussed.
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