Russian Hackers Responsible for Sowing Discord Middle East

Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Picture by Presidencia de la República Mexicana

CNN reported on Tuesday that Russian hackers were able to insert a made-up news story into Qatar’s state news agency in order to influence diplomacy in the Middle East in a negative way.

According to US authorities, Russia was most likely trying to create a breach in relations between the United States and its allies in the Gulf region.

US intelligence agencies hinted that Russian hackers were connected to the first cyberattack that took place two weeks ago. Since that event FBI agents went to Doha, the capital of Qatar, to help them investigate who was responsible for the original attack.

Although it is clear that some entities based in Russia are the source of the hacking, it is not yet known if they are criminal organizations or Russian military groups, like perhaps the GRU. The actual source might not be that significant since, as one unnamed official said, based on previous intelligence on Russia’s cyber-hacking behavior,

“nothing much happens in that country without the blessing of the government.”

The Qatar News Agency published a story on May 23 that they stated was falsely attributed to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the country’s emir. The story quoted the emir as wondering what the future has in store for President Trump and the hostility the US harbors towards Iran. Iran is an ally of Qatar, but an enemy of the other Gulf states, including US ally Saudi Arabia.

The story said that Al-Thani said, “There is no wisdom in harboring hostility towards Iran.” Qatar said that the report itself as well as the quote were not true, calling the report a “shameful cybercrime.”

Relations between Qatar and the other Gulf Cooperation states hit a new low this week when it was announced that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were going to withdraw their ambassadors and support staff out of Qatar, and cease flights in the region.

“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said. “Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.”

Forum for Saudi-US Cooperation Opening in Atlanta

The Second Annual U.S. – Saudi Business Opportunities Forum, scheduled to open in Atlanta on Monday, December 5, and last three days, will discuss a variety of cooperative ventures worth an estimated $325 billion. The sectors which will most likely receive the lion’s share of the support are in education, oil, gas, infrastructure, petrochemical industry, transportation, water and electricity and information technologies.

Long-Lasting Partnership

The goals of the forum are many, but high on the agenda will be a desire to forge lasting bonds of cooperation and partnership between leading Saudi and American business executives while exploring the many new opportunities arising in the further development of both countries.

It is expected that there will be at least 1,200 delegates to the forum, including four Saudi Arabian ministers. In addition the head of the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy will be present and participating in the forum.

“The forum will enable American companies to make use of the huge investment opportunities worth $385 billion offered by the Saudi government’s ambitious development plan in infrastructure, health, education and other projects,”

an official statement commented. The statement added further that there will also be discussions of the prospect of Saudi investments in Georgia, the US state which is hosting the forum.

Potential Cooperation Realized

Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Alireza

One of the Saudi speakers, Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah Alireza, commented on the renewed motivation to develop strategic US-Saudi partnerships and cooperation. He said that he expects this relationship to continue for many years, saying that “this forum will work to ensure that this great potential is realized.”

“Saudi Arabia is the top market in the region, and potential US exports are forecast to more than double by 2015,” he added.

For more information visit the US-Saudi Business Opportunities Web Site.