FIFA World Cup host Qatar ‘used ex-CIA agents to sabotage rival bids’

Qatar FIFA 2022The government of Qatar, which won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, hired a high-profile public relations group and a team of former officers of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in order to undermine rival bids to host the tournament, according to a British newspaper. In December 2010, Qatar was named as the host of the lucrative tournament, which is held every four years under the auspices of the International Federation of Association Football. In winning the right to host the tournament, the Middle Eastern oil kingdom beat formidable rival bids from Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States. FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been heavily criticized –not least because it will take place in the winter, so as to avoid Qatar’s scorching summer temperatures. Many countries in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere will therefore have to resort to the highly unusual step of disrupting their domestic football seasons in order to send their national teams to compete in Qatar.

Now controversy over Qatar’s winning bid is likely to intensify following a claim by a leading British newspaper that the oil kingdom hired former CIA officers and public-relations specialists to discredit rival bids. According to the London-based Sunday Times newspaper, Qatar employed the public-relations firm Brown Lloyd Jones (now known as BLJ Worlwide) and a team of ex-CIA operatives. The Times said it had seen internal documents leaked by an unnamed whistleblower, which reveal the sinister nature of Qatar’s public-relations offensive. Much of it, said The Times, centered on propagating the view that World Cup bids by the United States and Australia would not be supported by the two countries’ domestic audiences. Organizations, academics, journalists and pressure groups from Australia and the United States, who were critical of their countries’ efforts to host the tournament, were clandestinely funded in order to promote their views. Additionally, BLJ and the former CIA operatives compiled intelligence folders on the leading figures of the rival countries’ bids.

If The Sunday Times’ allegations are correct, it would mean that Qatari authorities violated FIFA’s regulations for bidding to host tournaments. But last night the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar’s state-run group that organized the country’s World Cup bid, disimssed the newspaper’s accusations. Its spokesman rejected “each and every allegation put forward by The Sunday Times” and assured reporters that Qatar had “strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations”.

 

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 July 2018 | Permalink

Emirati royal seeks asylum in rival Qatar in unprecedented move

Sheikh Rashid bin Hamad al-SharqiA member of one of the United Arab Emirates’ seven royal families has defected to Qatar and asked for political asylum, in what appears to be the first time that an Emirati royal has publicly turned against the oil-rich kingdom. In May of last year, the UAE joined an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which broke off all diplomatic relations with Qatar. The coalition accuses the tiny oil kingdom of clandestinely supporting Iran and funding Iranian-backed militant groups in the region. The UAE also participates in an ongoing large-scale commercial embargo against Qatar, which observers say is part of the regional cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But on the morning of May 16, 2018, security officers in the Qatari capital Doha were stunned when an Emirati royal appeared before them and asked for political asylum and protection from the UAE. The royal was Sheikh Rashid bin Hamad al-Sharqi, the second son of the emir of Fujairah, one of the seven kingdoms that form the UAE. As a son of Fujairah’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed al-Sharqi, Sheikh Rashid, 31, had been placed in charge of the kingdom’s state-owned media arm. But in a stunning development, which appears to be a first in the 47-year history of the UAE, the prince has now defected to the UAE’s rival Qatar, and is publicly airing criticism of the UAE’s secretive rulers. In an interview with The New York Times last weekend, the prince provided what the paper described as “a rare glimpse into tensions among the rulers of the UAE” —especially between the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which dominates the UAE, and the other six kingdoms.

Sheikh Rashid told The Times that Emirati officials were displeased with the country’s military intervention in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling against Iranian-backed rebels. The increasingly bloody war is now in its third year without a clear end in sight. According to the prince, the rulers of Abu Dhabi have repeatedly failed to consult the country’s six remaining kingdoms before making major decisions about the war in Yemen. The sheikh also accused the leadership of the UAE of money laundering, and claimed that it was routine for UAE royals like himself to be asked by the country’s rulers to make secret payments “to people he did not know in other countries”, in direct violation of international money-laundering laws. Prince Rashid also alleged that the UAE government had tried to blackmail him by threatening to reveal audiovisual material that would discredit his reputation.

The Times said it reached out to the government of the Emirate of Fujairah, but its messages were not returned. The paper also contacted the UAE’s embassy in Washington, DC, but officials there declined to comment. For the time being, Sheikh Rashid remains at an unspecified location in Qatar, but the Qatari government will not comment as to his whereabouts.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 July 2018 | Permalink

News you may have missed #894: Economic warfare edition

Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri►►This website has covered extensively the ongoing diplomatic war between Qatar, widely seen as an Iranian ally, and a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia. In July of last year, the Saudi-led coalition —namely the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain— broke relations with Qatar and imposed a commercial embargo on the small oil kingdom, which they accuse of supporting Iran and Iranian-backed militant groups in the region. On January 8, the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of carrying out a “unilateral, abusive, arbitrary” and illegal economic blockade. The head of the committee, Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, said that the Saudi-led blockade amounted to “economic warfare”. Does he have a point? Does economic warfare constitute a tangible part of the arsenal of modern nations, or is it a fantastical concept with little relation to reality?

►►Giuseppe Gagliano, director of the Centro Studi Strategici Carlo De Cristoforis in Italy, argues that economic warfare has been practiced for centuries. While examining the concept of economic intelligence in contemporary French strategic thinking, Professor Gagliano, explains that the concept of economic warfare has deep historical roots. He argues that, in its contemporary form, economic warfare originates in the period immediately after the end of World War II. Traditionally, it has defensive and offensive applications: Nations strive to limit outsourcing in order to preserve their industrial resources; at the same time, they seek to conquer international markets and, when able, resources. Although outsourcing has played a major role in economic warfare, the financial crisis of 2008 significantly upped the stakes and renewed the central role of the state in economic warfare theory and practice, argues Gagliano.

►►It should perhaps be noted that economic warfare does not operate simply an appendage to traditional warfare. In fact, it often takes place in the absence of traditional warfare, or indeed between wars. David Katz, senior analyst at the United States Special Operations Command and a career Foreign Service Officer, argues that economic warfare can, if used substantially and effectively, deter proxy warfare. In an article [pdf] published last year in Parameters, the quarterly journal of the United States Army War College, Katz suggests that the principles of economic warfare could be used “independently and within campaigns” by state actors. He also argues that the US should not hesitate to employ economic warfare to preempt the non-traditional warfare capabilities of its adversaries.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 26 January 2018 | Permalink

US spies confirm Qatar’s claims that its media were hacked by Emirates to spark crisis

Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-ThaniAmerican officials appear to confirm Qatar’s allegations that its news media were hacked by its Gulf adversaries, who then used the fake news posted by hackers to launch a massive campaign against it. Tensions between Qatar and other Muslim countries have risen since late May, when the country’s state-controlled news agency appeared to publish an incendiary interview with Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. In the interview, which appeared on May 24, the sheikh appeared to praise Saudi regional rival Iran as a “great Islamic power” and to express support for the militant Palestinian group Hamas. On the following day, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain immediately banned all Qatari media —primarily Al Jazeera— from broadcasting in their territories and broke diplomatic relations with Doha. Later on, they declared a large-scale commercial embargo against the small oil kingdom. They have since threatened war unless Qatar changes its alleged support for Iran and for a number of militant groups in the region.

The Qatari government has dismissed the embargo as unjust and has claimed that Sheikh al-Thani’s controversial interview was fake, and was placed on the country’s state-owned news agency and social media as a result of a computer hack. It has also claimed to have evidence of a number of iPhones that were used from locations in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to launch the hacks on its networks. Qatari officials have also said that an investigation into the incident is underway, but their claims have been criticized as outlandish by Qatar’s regional rivals.

Now, however, a report by The Washington Post claims that American officials have uncovered evidence that Qatar’s allegations of a computer hack are true. The paper cited “US intelligence and other officials” who spoke “on the condition of anonymity”. The officials said that US intelligence agencies recently became aware of a meeting of senior UAE state administrators that took place on May 23 in Abu Dhabi. At the meeting, the officials discussed a plan to hack Qatari news websites and social media, in order to post incendiary messages that could be used to spark a row between Qatar, the Saudi government and its allies. The alleged computer hacks is reported to have taken place on the following day. According to The Post, the only thing that US intelligence is unsure about is “whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done” by a third party.

The Post said that several US intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, refused to comment on its report. The paper received a response from the UAE embassy in Washington, DC, which said that the Emirates had “no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 July 2017 | Permalink

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

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