Muslims blame Arab disunity for Jerusalem embassy move

An Israeli border guards stands guard outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem on August 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2018
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Muslims blame Arab disunity for Jerusalem embassy move

ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia: Muslims at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia criticized what they described as discordant Arab leaders for failing to block President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem after he recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
It was a reversal of decades of American policy and the embassy opened in May at a high-profile ceremony attended by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, the US envoy to the Middle East.
The status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions — is one of the biggest obstacles to any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United Nations says the status of the ancient city — whose eastern sector was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war — can only be resolved by negotiations. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek. Israel says Jerusalem is its eternal and indivisible capital.
“This happened with the complicity of the Arab leaders,” 53-year-old Saad Awad from Sudan said on Monday as he walked east of Makkah with more than 2 million fellow Muslims from around the world.
“If the Arab leaders were united and adhering to the Qur’an and the Sunna (Islamic practice based on words and deeds of the Prophet), it would be impossible for the Americans or anyone else to do something like this.”
The five-day ritual, the world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims, is a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied adherent who can afford it.
Dismay among ordinary Arabs at the embassy move has been tinged with anger at regional governments for failing to stop, or even strongly protest against, Trump’s decision last December.
“The Arabs are weak and have not taken a stand on the issue of Jerusalem,” said Algerian pilgrim Hilal Issa, 70.
While Saudi Arabia and its fellow monarchies have previously criticized the embassy decision, they have also welcomed Trump’s harder line against Iran.
King Salman has reassured Arab allies Riyadh would not endorse any peace plan that fails to address Jerusalem’s status or other key issues, Reuters reported last month.
“If the Arabs were united, nobody would have dared make such a move,” Yemeni pilgrim Amr Ahmed Ali said of the embassy transfer. “But God willing, the Arabs will unite, and this city will unite the Arabs and Muslims behind one cause which is the Palestinian cause.”


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.