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

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Earlier reports also attributed to the official Qatar News Agency said that Doha has withdrawn its ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE, according to the Al Arabiya News Channel.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.”


US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

Updated 10 July 2020

US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

  • The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material for the attack
  • The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were housing US forces when it was bombed in 1996

DUBAI: A United States federal court held Iran responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia where US forces were housed, and ordered Tehran to pay $879 million to survivors. 

The Khobar Towers was a housing complex in the eastern city of Khobar, near the Abdulaziz Air Base and Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran, that housed American servicemen working on Operation Southern Watch.

A truck bomb was detonated on June 25, 1996, near an eight-story building of the housing complex, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national and wounded 498 others.

The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah who detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb, a Chicago law firm press release said. The attackers reportedly smuggled the explosives used in the attack from Lebanon. 


The lawsuit was brought under the terrorism exception of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by the 14 injured US airmen and 21 of their immediate family members.

The defendants in the case were listed as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

 

 

“We will continue to seek to hold the Government of Iran accountable for this terrorist attack as long as is necessary,” said Adora Sauer, the lead attorney of MM LAW LLC.

US District Judge Beryl A. Howell found the defendants liable and awarded the plaintiffs $132 million for pain and suffering, as well as prejudgment interest, for a total compensatory damage award of $747 million and $132 million for punitive damages.


The court also said the plaintiffs are eligible for partial payments from the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons. 

The attorneys also intend to pursue enforcement of the judgments through litigation intended to seize Iranian assets.

“The physical and psychological toll on our families has been extremely high, but this judgment is welcome news. More than 20 years on, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did at the Khobar Towers. Through the work of our attorneys, we intend to do just that,” said Glenn Christie, a retired Air Force staff sergeant crew chief who was severely injured in the bombing.


“The massive explosion took so much from their minds and bodies on the day of the attack in 1996 and every day and night since then. They can now live with that balance justice provides,” according to John Urquhart of the Urquhart Law Firm, who also represents the bombing victims.