Media reports that Russian hackers influenced the international shunning of Qatar are based on "zero" evidence, the Kremlin claimed. In an exclusive Tuesday, CNN reported that the FBI had determined that Russian hackers had breached Qatar's state news agency and planted fake stories.
"It's not yet clear whether the US has tracked the hackers in the Qatar incident to Russian criminal organizations or to the Russian security services blamed for the US elections hacks," CNN reported. "Not much happens without the blessing of the government," an unidentified US official told the broadcaster, pointing out that there would be little difference in who conducted the alleged hack.
Since Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have severed air, sea and land links to Qatar. They also cut off food shipments, prompting a dash to supermarkets for Qataris - although it seems that the country currently has the economic resources to weather the storm.
On Tuesday, Jordan announced that it would downgrade its own diplomatic ties to Qatar and work to revoke licenses for the Doha-based multinational broadcaster Al-Jazeera. On Wednesday, Mauritania became the latest country to cut diplomatic relations, with a statement from the Foreign Ministry accusing Qatar of having connections to terrorist organizations. Qatar has long denied such accusations.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, of the UAE's ruling family, took things a step further Wednesday when he suggested a change in leadership in Qatar and the shutting down or censoring of Al-Jazeera. The UAE also banned any show of sympathy with Qatar and threatened offenders with up to 15 years in prison.
'The right direction'
Last month, US President Donald Trump had stated his intent to move the Gulf states "in the right direction." However, it was Trump himself who had decided on the current direction during his first foreign trip in May to Riyadh, where he made it known that Saudi Arabia had Washington's support in whatever it chose to do.
In his speech in the Saudi capital, Trump accused at lease one regional neighbor of supporting terrorism. "Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups," he said. Additionally, Trump emphasized that Arab states must ensure that "terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil."
In an interview published on Wednesday, Germany's foreign minister warned that such loose talk could lead to major instability. "US President Trump's recent giant military contracts with Gulf monarchies raise the risk of a new spiral in arms sales," Sigmar Gabriel told the newspaper Handelsblatt.
Gabriel will be meeting with his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)