Thursday, March 30, 2023

Hacking, Piracy, Economy: How Qatar Has Been Undermined by the GCC Crisis | CCG News

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Efforts to end a three-and-a-half-year blockade against Qatar appear to have been stepped up.

In June 2017, the blockade countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt – accused Qatar, among others, of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran. , and severed economic and diplomatic relations.

A blockade was also imposed by the four countries by land, sea and air.

Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for severing relations.

The blocking quartet released a list of 13 demands, including shutting down the Al Jazeera media network as well as a Turkish military base, which Qatar quickly rejected.

Over the past two months, negotiations to find a resolution have taken place, with Qatar stressing that political dialogue is the only way to end the blockade.

Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said a resolution was in sight, with the four governments behind the blockade “on board” and a final deal expected soon.

Egypt and the UAE have since provided public support for the negotiations, although diplomatic sources said the UAE was reluctant to compromise.

Ahead of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh on January 5, Al Jazeera looks back on steps taken by countries blockading Qatar to undermine Qatar during the blockade.

Role of banks in economic instability

According to a lawsuit filed by Qatar in London and New York in 2019, he said three banks – the United Arab Emirates’ First Abu Dhabi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s Samba Bank and Luxembourg-based Banque Havilland – were seeking to sow economic instability by undermining confidence in Qatar’s currency and bonds.

The most recently unearthed mechanism is the role played by Banque Havilland, as reported by Bloomberg News.

The report says that in 2017, the bank came up with a proposal to destabilize Qatar’s economy on behalf of one of its biggest customers, Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the Emirates. United Arabs.

The presentation, which was sent to the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, called for a coordinated attack to deplete Qatar’s foreign exchange reserves.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Qatar claimed that the banks had tried to weaken the Qatari riyal by “submitting fraudulent quotes to New York-based exchange platforms, to manipulate New York-based indices and disrupt markets. New York, where Qatari assets are held and many investors in Qatar are located ”.

As a result, Qatar has spent billions to strengthen its monetary foothold and economy, and “while financial market manipulation has failed in its efforts to undermine confidence in the Qatari riyal and Qatar, it has nonetheless caused economic losses. The government said.

According to an International Monetary Fund report released earlier this month, Qatar is expected to increase its GDP by 2.5% in 2021, the second highest rate in the GCC.

Cyber ​​attacks

A few weeks before the imposition of the blockade, the Qatar state news agency was hacked and false stories attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani were published on its website.

Qatar’s interior ministry declared cyberattacks from UAE and had “state resources” behind it.

Cyber ​​attacks focused on Qatar have also occurred via Twitter bots, spreading and amplifying fake news, as well as manipulation of hashtags.

According to Marc Owen Jones, assistant professor of Middle Eastern and digital humanities studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, these Twitter bots “create propaganda messages that can distort the reality of ongoing discussions around the world. »And that Twitter in Arabic bots were instrumental in promoting government narratives.

This year, at least 36 Al Jazeera journalists were targeted by advanced spyware sold by an Israeli company in an attack linked to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab said.

“They used some of the content they stole from phones to blackmail reporters, posting private photos on the Internet,” said Tamer Almisshal of Al Jazeera, who was one of the hacked journalists.

BeoutQ hacked in Saudi Arabia

Customers of a beIN Sports store chain in Cairo [File: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

Shortly after the imposition of the blockade, all channels of Qatar-based BeIN Sports – which has exclusive regional rights to broadcast tournaments and international matches – were banned in the blockade countries.

Before long, a 10-channel hacking entity called beoutQ started broadcasting on satellite operator Arabsat.

BeIN Media Group has long claimed that beoutQ is steal his signal and broadcast it as his own.

An investigation by Al Jazeera last year revealed that two Saudi service providers, Selevision and Shammas, were involved in operations carried out by beoutQ.

The World Trade Organization investigated extended hacking carried out through beoutQ, and found that it “was using the broadcast transmission without permission from beIN and broadcasting throughout Saudi Arabia.”

Forced family separation

Gulf family members who hold different nationality have been separated following blockade [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Numerous reports from the UN, as well as human rights groups, show that the blockade resulted in families forcibly separated in cases where the members have a different nationality.

Blockaded countries ordered their citizens to return home in June 2017, and Qatari nationals living in those countries had 14 days to leave, divide families with members of different nationalities, Amnesty International reported.

Later, limited travel was allowed from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates for family members with a “laissez-passer” detailing the humanitarian reason for the visit, but many people did not know how to get the document.

ICJ judgment on airspace

In June 2020, the highest court of the UN supported Qatar against appeals taken by countries blocking against a decision of the world body of civil aviation in favor of Qatar on sovereign airspace.

Qatar has accused its neighbors of violating a convention that regulates the free passage of its passenger planes in foreign airspace.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected appeals by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which challenged the authority of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) – the body responsible for hearing Qatar’s complaint.

The ICJ ruling maintains that ICAO has jurisdiction over the matter.

Since the start of the blockade, Qatar has maintained that the four blockading countries acted illegally and in violation of international law.


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