Hack or attack? Qatari emir's allegedly contrarian 'comments' unsettle neighbors

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Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (second left) is seen in a group photo with US President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman, and other leaders of Muslim nations during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. Qatari news media reports quoting Sheikh Tamim as allegedly endorsing Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and criticizing the summit has caused tensions with Qatar’s Gulf neighbors. (AFP file photo)
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US President Donald Trump (R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. In an alleged statement by Sheikh Tamim, carried by Qatar's official news agency QNA, he endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — strongly diverging from the stance of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
Updated 25 May 2017
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Hack or attack? Qatari emir's allegedly contrarian 'comments' unsettle neighbors

JEDDAH: Tensions rose in the Gulf on Tuesday after a series of controversial comments attributed to Qatar’s emir, in a row that led to the blocking of Doha-aligned news websites in some neighboring states.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s alleged comments, carried by the official state news agency QNA, apparently saw him endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — strongly diverging from the stance of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors.
Doha claimed the report was the result of a hacking attack — but its Gulf neighbors responded nonetheless, particularly after the same comments were repeated in more than one language, on more than one outlet and at various times of the day in a manner which makes the story true and the hacking seem less likely. 
The Arabic-language website and phone application of Al-Jazeera and the Middle East Eye website were blocked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE a day after the Qatari state news agency carried inflammatory comments attributed to Sheikh Tamim. Egypt also blocked some Qatari outlets, Al-Watan reported.
Earlier reports also attributed to the official Qatar News Agency said that Doha has withdrawn its ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE, according to the Al Arabiya News Channel.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister said early Wednesday that he did not make any statement regarding the withdrawal or eviction of five Arab ambassadors from Doha, Al Arabiya reported.
Qatar maintains that the statement posted to QNA was the result of a hack, and says it is being investigated. But the report in question was simultaneously posted in different languages and on social media platforms, where they remained, according to Al Arabiya.
The remarks led to a widespread backlash on social media, while access to some Qatar-sponsored media outlets was restricted elsewhere in the Gulf.
The emir’s alleged comments were in line with recent criticism waged against the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by other Qatar-sponsored media outlets such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arab and the London-based Middle East Eye.
Sheikh Tamim also allegedly spoke of “tensions” with the new US administration and predicted that US President Donald Trump will not last long, citing domestic political problems in Washington over ties with Russia.
Sheikh Tamim also seems to have praised Iran, which even the previous US administration under President Obama labeled as the “biggest state sponsor of terror.”
The emir reportedly said: “There is no wisdom in harboring hostility toward Iran.”
Despite the emir allegedly saying that the relations with Israel are “good,” he went on to describe Hamas — which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Israel and is condemned even by Arab countries for firing missiles toward civilians — as the “official representative of Palestinians.”
Despite this apparent endorsement of Hamas, the emir seems to have still refuted allegations of his country supporting terror. Yet many claim Doha supports both Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated a terrorist group by some fellow GCC countries.
The emir reportedly also criticized the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for waging a campaign against Doha. All three countries are fierce critics of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the emir seems to have not mentioned Saudi Arabia by name.
He did seem, however, to criticize what he described as “exaggerated” arms deals and said that countries should be spending such funds on development projects. That was an apparent attack on the recent enormous Saudi-US arms deals signed in Riyadh during President Trump’s visit.
The emir is said to have credited Al-Udeid Air Base, which houses the biggest US Air Force base in the region, with protecting Doha from some neighboring countries, without mentioning any names.
Whether the comments attributed to the emir are real or not, much of it reflects what was previously being reported by Qatari media outlets attacking Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
In a series of comments posted on his twitter account, Deputy Head of Dubai Police and General Security Dhahi Khalfan expressed his shock over the alleged statements.
In one tweet the Khalfan asked why Qatar would break the line of unity Riyadh has built, while in another he asked why Qatar would extend bridges with Iran.
Addressing Qatari citizens, Khalfan said: “You should not worry about Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt, you should be worried about Iran."
“Saudi Arabia succeeded in convincing the world of its stances but Qatar refused to listen,” the Dubai police chief added.
“What does Qatar mean that the US base is there to protect it from its neighbors? Qatari people are dear to their neighbors.”


Huge expectations from Saudi crown prince’s Korea visit

Updated 15 min 36 sec ago
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Huge expectations from Saudi crown prince’s Korea visit

  • The export of South Korea’s APR-1400 nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia is high on the agenda

SEOUL: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday to discuss wider economic ties between the two countries, according to the presidential office.
The crown prince’s visit to South Korea is the first by an heir to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter since then-Crown Prince Abdullah’s tour in 1998. The crown prince will also attend the G20 Summit next week in Osaka, Japan.
The two-day visit is expected to deliver key agreements with South Korea in a variety of industrial fields, including cooperation on nuclear reactor and defense technologies.
“Saudi Arabia, a key ally of South Korea, is the biggest oil supplier to our government and the largest economic partner among the Middle Eastern countries,” presidential spokeswoman Koh Min-jung told reporters.
“Both leaders are expected to discuss detailed measures to expand bilateral cooperation beyond the traditional areas of construction and energy to the sectors of information and technology, nuclear energy, green cars, health, public service and exchange of human resources.”
The crown prince and his economic advisers are scheduled to have luncheon with South Korean business leaders after his summit with President Moon, she said.
Business leaders attending the luncheon will include Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics; Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group; Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, and Koo Kwang-mo, chairman of LG Group.
A Samsung spokesman, who declined to be named, told Arab News that his company has a package of business proposals to present to Saudi Arabia.
“We’re not sure at the moment what business elements the Kingdom wants, but we have a variety of business packages that can meet the Saudi Vision 2030 requirements, ranging from engineering, procurement and construction to information and communications technology, and artificial intelligence,” the spokesman said.
Hyundai Motor Group was cautious about revealing potential business projects with Riyadh.
“We’ll see what’s happening. We have high expectations about potential business cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” a Hyundai Motor spokesman said, while asking not to be named.
The export of South Korea’s APR-1400 nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia is high on the agenda.
Team Korea, led by the Korea Electric Power Corp., was shortlisted last year for a nuclear power plant construction project in Saudi Arabia, along with the US, China, France and Russia. The project by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy is aimed at building two nuclear power plants by 2030.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Different South Korean companies are reportedly keen to invest in Saudi Arabia and become part of Vision 2030’s success.

• The Saudi leader is also expected to attend a ceremony celebrating the completion of Saudi-owned S-Oil’s residue upgrading facility.

• Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also attend the G20 Summit next week in Osaka, Japan.

With Riyadh reportedly leaning toward the US bidder, Team Korea is considering forming a strategic consortium with the US side, according to government sources.
“The possibility of the Korea-US consortium for the Saudi project is a feasible option,” said Huh Min-ho, a researcher of Shinhan Invest Corp., referring to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the technical design of South Korea’s APR-1400 reactors.
“For South Korea, joining hands with the US is a feasible option to win the Saudi nuclear reactor contract, though the total order amount would be reduced,” the analyst said. “Once the Saudi project is won, more orders are expected to come from other countries such as the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland.”
South Korea already has a nuclear power footprint in in the Middle East after its construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE. The country recently won a five-year maintenance deal for the nuclear plant with Nawah Energy Co., the operator of the plant.
The Saudi crown prince is also interested in South Korea’s weapons development technology, according to defense sources, and is scheduled to visit the Agency for Defense Development, South Korea’s only weapons developing agency, during his stay.
“We heard the crown prince is interested in the transfer of weapons technology when his country imports foreign weapons systems,” a Defense Ministry official told Arab News.
The Saudi leader is also expected to attend a ceremony celebrating the completion of Saudi-owned S-Oil’s residue upgrading facility. S-Oil, which is wholly owned by state-run Saudi Aramco, is third-largest oil refiner in South Korea.