Former head of Qatar spy agency sides with Saudis in diplomatic quarrel

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani with US President Donald Trump A former director of Qatar’s intelligence agency broke ranks with the government of Qatar and accused Doha of supporting terrorism. He also warned that the United States, which has a base in Qatar, would not allow the presence of foreign troops there.

Tensions between Qatar and other predominantly Muslim countries rose dangerously in recent weeks. The crisis erupted soon after Qatar’s state-controlled news agency published an interview with the country’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, in which he appeared to praise Iran and Israel, Saudi Arabia’s primary regional adversaries. Despite protestations by the Saudi government, the Qatari emir then contacted Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, to congratulate him on his reelection, a move that was interpreted as adversarial by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia also feels threatened by Al Jazeera, a Qatari-based television network with worldwide reach, which is often critical of the Gulf’s oil monarchies other than Qatar.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and 16 other predominantly Muslim countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, announced a series of diplomatic, commercial and military sanctions on Qatar. The sanctions are ostensibly designed to curtail the country’s alleged support for international terrorism. Riyadh and its allies accuse Doha of secretly supporting militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Hamas and the Taliban, among others. Currently all sea, air and land connections between these 16 countries and Qatar have been suspended, while no diplomatic relations exist between them. The tense situation has prompted some analysts to describe the diplomatic crisis as the worst in the Gulf region since the 1991 Gulf War.

In response to the diplomatic boycott, the government of Qatar said last week that it would invite military personnel from three of its allies, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, to protect its territory. But the former director of Qatar’s intelligence service said in an interview on Monday that Qatar’s threat would not materialize. Read more of this post

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Egypt ex-president charged with spying for Qatar, faces death penalty

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi has been officially charged with spying for the government of Qatar, in what Egypt’s state prosecutor calls the biggest espionage case in the country’s history. In the summer of 2012, Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected national leader in Egyptian history, after winning the presidential election with nearly 52 percent of the vote. But he was ousted in a military coup a year later, following widespread protests against him and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been held in prison ever since. Now Egypt’s state prosecutor has charged Morsi and eight others, including two former presidential aides, with spying on behalf of the government of Qatar. Egypt’s government accuses Morsi of selling classified documents “with direct bearing on Egypt’s national security” to the intelligence services of Qatar in exchange for $1 million. The documents allegedly included sensitive information on Egyptian military strategy, as well as tactical “positioning and the nature of its armaments”. The indictment says Morsi authorized the transfer of the documents through the Muslim Brotherhood’s “international bureau”, and that the illegal exchange was facilitated by television network Al Jazeera, which is owned by the royal family of Qatar. The oil kingdom is among the strongest international supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Hamas, which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s sister organization in the Occupied Territories. Speaking to Reuters news agency, an Al Jazeera representative denied that the network played any role in transferring classified Egyptian documents to the government of Qatar. He told the news agency that “any information received by Al Jazeera is handled with the highest standard of journalistic ethics. Read more of this post

CIA helping Turkey, Saudi Arabia, smuggle weapons into Syria: sources

Turkish-Syrian borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A growing team of United States Central Intelligence Agency personnel is currently in Turkey overseeing a multinational effort to secretly deliver weapons to Syrian anti-government rebels, according to The New York Times. Quoting “American officials and Arab intelligence officers”, the paper said last week that the weapons are being smuggled into Syria primarily through the Turkish border. The financial cost of smuggling into Syria such weapons as antitank explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic rifles, has so far been covered by the governments of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to the article. The funds are partly required to bribe members of what The Times describes as “a shadowy network of intermediaries”, which reportedly includes forces loyal to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is a Sunni group that is widely viewed as the most dominant of the anti-government factions that make up the rebel side in the ongoing Syrian uprising. The paper quotes an “Arab intelligence official”, who says the CIA contingent in Turkey “is trying to make new sources and recruit people” along the porous Turkish-Syrian border. But its presence in the volatile region, which has been constant for “several weeks”, according to The Times, is also aimed at keeping the smuggled weapons out of the reach of Syrian anti-government forces that are allied with militant Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. The article notes that American support for the Syrian rebels has been minimal, when compared with that in Libya in 2011, mostly because of staunch Russian support for the government forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Read more of this post

Al Jazeera director resigns amidst ‘US intelligence links’ row

Wadah Khanfar

Wadah Khanfar

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The senior executive of the Middle East’s most recognizable news television network has resigned following revelations that he met with American intelligence officials and complied with their requests to alter the content of news reports. A brief news report  posted today on the Al Jazeera website said that Wadah Khanfar, the news network’s Palestinian-born director, had announced his resignation, eight years after assuming the station’s leadership. In a public statement, Khanfar, whose brother is a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, said that Al Jazeera “stands as a mature organization” and that he is “confident that [the station] will continue to maintain its trailblazing path”. But he did not mention the incident that might have led to his resignation: namely the recent revelation that he was in constant contact with US intelligence officials during much of his executive career, and that he agreed to alter the content of some Al Jazeera news reports at their request. According to American diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Khanfar came in contact with officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, the Pentagon’s premier spy organization) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar —the Gulf country that owns and operates Al Jazeera. The leaked cables mention that the Palestinian-born executive attended several meetings with DIA personnel in Doha, Qatar, and even agreed to “remove” news content when requested to do so. In one instance, he reportedly directed his editorial staff to remove strong images of injured Iraqi children lying on hospital beds and of a woman with extensive facial injuries. Read more of this post

Ex-Bush official advised Gaddafi until early August, documents show

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence documents found at the headquarters of Libya’s abandoned spy agency appear to show that the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi enjoyed the support of an American diplomat who served in the Bush administration. Al Jazeera reports that David Welch, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US Department of State between 2005 and 2008, met on August 2 with Gaddafi officials in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. According to a Libyan intelligence memo from the meeting, Welch, who now works for Bechtel Corporation, gave the Gaddafi officials tips on how “to win the propaganda war” against the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). He also instructed them to undermine Libya’s rebel movement by relying on several “confidence-building measures”, including controlled intelligence leaks aimed at manipulating the news output of Arab and Western media. The documents also reveal that Gaddafi maintained spies at the highest echelons of the rebel council, and that at least one of these spies offered to assassinate rebel leaders by “poisoning their food and water”. However, despite maintaining an ample amount of informants inside the NTC, the Gaddafi regime found it difficult to collect reliable and actionable intelligence during the civil war. Characteristically, many of the names of NTC’s central figures are misspelled in intelligence field reports, and one intelligence analyst complained recently that “the majority of those currently working for the intelligence administration are ill-prepared to carry out intelligence duties”. Despite these shortcomings, however, Gaddafi’s spies inside the NTC appear to have managed to intercept a large number of telephone messages and confidential emails between the NTC and foreign diplomats. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #558

Amrullah Saleh

Amrullah Saleh

►► US government says Iran aids al-Qaeda. The US Treasury Department has accused the Iranian authorities of aiding al-Qaeda, saying Tehran had entered into financial agreements with six people believed to be al-Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. According to Treasury officials, one of the six “is believed to have recently ascended to the No. 2 position in Al Qaeda, reporting directly to the organization’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri”.
►►Interview with Afghan spy chief. CNN has an exclusive interview with Amrullah Saleh, the –usually media-shy– former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security. The interview is essentially one long attack on Pakistan, which Saleh blames for destabilizing Afghanistan, hiding and sheltering al-Qaeda members, and providing funding and arms to the Taliban.
►►Sudan’s spy chief secretly visited France in June. The director of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta al-Moula Abbas, secretly traveled to Paris last June. He held talks there with Read more of this post

News you may have missed #526

  • Russia convicts colonel of exposing US spy ring. Colonel Alexander Poteyev has received a (relatively lenient) 25-year sentence for exposing a Russian ‘sleeper cell’ network in the United States. The sentence was delivered in absentia, as Poteyev is believed to have defected to the US, where he probably lives under an assumed identity. As he was fleeing Russia in June 2010, he texted his wife: “try to take this calmly: I am leaving not for a short time but forever. I am starting a new life. I shall try to help the children”. Here is the most detailed recent account the Poteyev’s case in English.
  • Libyan defector holed up in luxury hotel. Moussa Koussa, Libya’s former intelligence chief and foreign minister, faced calls last night to return to Britain for prosecution after he was tracked down to a penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where he has been living under the protection of the Qatari security services.
  • New NZ SIGINT spy agency boss named. The government of New Zealand has appointed Simon Murdoch as the acting chief executive and director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) intelligence agency.