Did UAE plant Fake News about Qatar to Fool Trump?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The intrepid Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima report at WaPo that anonymous US intelligence officials have decided to go public with what they know about the attempt of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to frame Qatar.

The hacking attack on May 23 that planted fake news, such as doctored video showing the emir of Qatar praising Hamas, the fundamentalist Palestinian party-militia, and praising Iran, was planned out by high officials of the UAE government. Either they had UAE hackers carry out the cyber-attack or they hired someone else. Qatar seems to have some evidence that the hack attack came from the UAE.

The cyber campaign to plant fake news was launched just after Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

WaPo doesn’t say so, but it seems there is circumstantial evidence that the UAE arranged for the fake news in part in order to fool Trump.

Unlike his secretary of state Rex Tillerson and secretary of defense Jim Mattis, Trump fell for the fake news about Qatar supporting terrorism and Iran, lock stock and barrel.

The UAE is a country of 1.4 million citizens and 7.8 million expatriates that groups seven emirates, some of which are awash with petroleum. The UAE is Japan’s major oil supplier, without which Japanese automobiles would be immobilized. The country’s citizen population is about that of the US city of San Diego. Its nominal GDP of roughly $380 billion per year makes it the 31st largest economy among 194 countries tracked by the World Bank.

Arguably, if the UAE is going to behave this way, it is more dangerous than Russia. It has a smaller and more cohesive elite, it has money to waste, it is under the Saudi thumb, and it can target manipulation of news directly through hired hackers and well as indirectly through its Alarabiya satellite news service, which has been smearing Qatar since mid-May.

A rogue state UAE is a significant danger to regional and global security.

If the UAE succeeds in getting rid of Qatar, what if it decides it likes having Trump in office and goes after the 2020 election in the US?

Again, WaPo does not hint at this possibility, but it seems to me that someone in the Washington Intel community may be afraid of precisely that kind of scenario, explaining why they decided to go public. Otherwise, the tiff of Saudi Arabia and its satellites like the UAE with Qatar wouldn’t seem to be marked by the kind of urgency that would require this sort of leaking.

Of course, the US intel community may also be worried that the division in the GCC is making Iran more powerful (Iran has come to Qatar’s defense).

And, the possibility that the whole thing was staged for the gullible Trump’s benefit is extremely disturbing.

Either way, this leak strongly suggests that Washington insiders are afraid that this story is not about the Gulf, but about dangers to the United States of America.

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Related video:

Al Jazeera English: “Qatar-Gulf crisis: French foreign minister urges more dialogue”

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7 Responses

  1. As we go about our daily lives, it it hard for Americans to grasp just how seriously threatened the lives of our children and grandchildren (and any of us who plan on living much after about 2025-30) are, by the institutionalized power of two most important aspects of human selfishness and destruction in the modern world. First is the political sphere where arguably half (or more or less) live in nations where state is run by small elites with authoritarian/totalitarian effectiveness; second is the economic sphere, where historically all economic activity (and today still a large percentage of all economic activity) depends on dumping all of their waste products into/onto our planet’s lands, waters and atmosphere, without cost.

    Unless we as a world experience rapid and massive changes in our psychological, philosophical and political attitudes and institutions, it seems likely that the mischief of dictatorial regimes (and misled populations) will unnecessarily aggravate the social/civilizational breakdowns that await us anyway from the climate change we caused by the dumping of all our waste products — remember, every gallon of gasoline burnt is 8 pounds of carbon dioxide in our air.

  2. The whole aim of the lavish ceremony in Riyadh, the sword dance and the agreements to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on US weapons was to unite the Sunni Arabs against Iran and to seal a covert alliance with Israel. The alliance between the two young crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was to bring other members of the GCC under total Saudi domination. Qatar that shares the world’s largest gas field with Iran could not cut off relations with Iran, and traditionally it has also supported Muslim Brotherhood and HAMAS, both anathema to Israel and to the new coalition of Persian Gulf states and Egypt. Therefore, they had to demonize Qatar in order to force it to surrender to their demands, and in order to achieve that aim they turned to some influential US publicists to win support for their cause in the United States. The following article by Glenn Greenwald sheds some light on the murky proceedings:
    link to theintercept.com

  3. The Qatar Air CEO was interviewed recently about the sanctions and expressed the view that some people have climbed a very tall tree and are going to find it difficult to come down without getting hurt. link to aljazeera.com In the same interview he mentions customer loyalty support. I have been using Qatar Air for some ten years and plan to do so again shortly for a trip from Madrid via Doha to Singapore to attend a wedding. The fare will be slightly higher, understandably, but I find myself motivated to stick with them by a sort of defiance and I suspect a number of other customers may feel the same. Add that to similar attitudes to Al Jazeera and you could have quite a formidable level of international support that the instigators of these demands may not have taken into account.

  4. Basically, every government is potentially at war with everyone else’s media and elections. Once it was learned how to hack democracy, it can’t be unlearned. They learned how 2400 years ago, in the snakepit of conspiracy of the Peloponnesian Wars when sophists and coupsters made the direct democracy of Athens unviable. It took 2200 years before anyone else dared to try again.

  5. “what if it decides it “UAE” likes having Trump in office and goes after the 2020”
    It a little late for that. From Afghan, Najibullah to Egypt, Morsi, Yemen and Libya Gaddafi. In Syria too they tried. regime change, coalition, sanctions and blockade are polite words, cannibalizing is more like it.

  6. Trump’s position on Qatar most likely did not gain much favor with more than a few Generals with operations, assets and personnel in Qatar, totaling about 11,000 troops. The U.S. operates the Combined Air Operations Center out of Al Udeid Air Base, near Doha which is one of the most important U.S. airbases in the world serving as the forward headquarters of CENTCOM.

    Trump puts his personal fossil-fuel interests ahead of the U.S. military. Apparently, all one has to do is permit him rub your orbs with his greasy tiny little hands to gain his petro-loyalty.

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