Palestine and Jordan reject ‘confederation trial balloon’

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) meeting with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at the Al-Husseiniya Palace in Amman. (AFP file photo)
Updated 04 September 2018

Palestine and Jordan reject ‘confederation trial balloon’

  • Discussion is premature, Fatah spokesman tells Arab News
  • Americans and Israelis really want a Jordanian federation without Gaza, says former Jordanian MP

AMMAN: Jordanian and Palestinian officials, experts and activists are united in their opposition to a confederation that precedes the end of Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state. 

Palestinian and Jordanian official speakers have rejected the idea circulating in the Israeli media following a discussion President Abbas had with Israeli peace activists. 

In the discussion, Abbas told the Israelis that Trump Administration mediators offered the idea of a confederation with Jordan but that Abbas rejected the idea unless it also includes the state of Israel.

Ziad Abu Zayyad, international spokesman for Fatah in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the confederation discussion is premature. 

“A Palestinian state must be established with security, borders and a capital before talking about any kind of confederation since it is needed to be able to achieve such a thing.”

Mahdi ABdulHadi, head of the PASIA think tank in Jerusalem, also called the US and Israeli discussion about Jordan “a new version of their obsession” and suggested that this “trial balloon should be left alone because it will soon run out of air.”

Najeeb Qadoumi, a senior Fatah leader in Jordan and a member of the Palestine National Council living in Jordan, told Arab News that this is an old topic and Abbas has tried to avoid dealing with. Qadoumi noted that a confereration is a union between “two independent states and must be approved after their independence by means of a referendum.” 

Qadoumi said that if the goal is to be a confederation “like the EU where countries like France and Germany are sovereign that there is no problem as long as all of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza are included.”

Hamadeh Faraneh, who has the distinction of having been a Jordanian member of Parliament and a member of the Palestine National Council legislative councils, told Arab News that the confederation issue was a political trick that president Abbas was able to cleverly circumvent. 

“Everyone knows that Jordanians reject confederation because it attempts to make Jordan become a replacement of the PLO and because it will be the beginning of a process that aims at kicking Palestinians from their home and country.” 

Faraneh told Arab News that “any unity at this time while occupation has not ended and Palestinians have not enjoyed true independence is totally unacceptable.”

Faraneh said that president Abbas is aware of this and that is why he escaped this issue by adding Israel. 

“Palestinians are the only common denominator that is present in all three regions in Israel, Palestine and Jordan,” he said.

Former Jordanian member of parliament Ghazi Musharbash told Arab News that the Americans and Israelis really want a Jordanian federation without Gaza. 

“This is why the late King Hussein and King Abdullah II are consistently on the record as opposing the idea and have repeatedly said that they are only willing to discuss the idea once Palestinians are genuinely independent.” 

Musharbash notes that while everyone talks about confederation to soften the blow, what the Americans and Israelis mean is a federation and this “is totally impossible.”


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

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.