Fooled By Russians. Again ?


(Insider Bureau) The Qatari government says recent troubles with its Gulf neighbors – who have broken off relations over alleged Iran ties and connections with terror groups – were spurred by a fake news report planted by Russia.
On May 23 hackers planted a news report on its Qatar News Agency that attributed fake quotes to the country’s leader that appeared sympathetic to Iran and Israel, both Qatar and US officials claim.
The ‘fake report’ also questioned whether Donald Trump was cut out for the presidency. The hack is believed by FBI to have originated in Russia, US officials told CNN.
That raises questions over recent tweets by president Trump, who boasted Tuesday that his meeting with Middle East heads in Saudi Arabia had led to the diplomatic breaks.
He said that ‘all reference was pointing to Qatar’ as a source of funding for ‘extremism’. The president weighed in on Twitter amid the diplomatic standoff, after the Saudi-led bloc of Arab nations cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar.
‘During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!’ he wrote in a pair of tweets, referencing his trip to Riyadh on his first international trip as president.
‘So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.
‘Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!’ he concluded.
US officials said that a team of investigators was sent to Doha, the Qatari capital, to look into the placement of the controversial report.
They believe that Russia hacked the country – which houses one of the US’s largest military bases in the region, with 11,000 personnel – in an attempt to cause rifts between the US and its allies. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani echoed those thoughts.
‘Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,’ he told CNN.
‘Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.’
Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, director of the Qatari Government Communications Office, said that the UK’s National Crime Agency was also assisting the investigation.
It’s not known whether the hacks have been traced to either Russian criminal organizations or to the Russian security services that were blamed for the US election hacks.
The FBI and the CIA both declined to make an official comment. The diplomatic move Monday threw Qatar into crisis.
As well as being a US ally, the tiny nation has strong relations with Iran, which backs Hezbollah and other terror groups.
It backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar-al Assad, it has backed the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and it pumps funding into Al Jazeera, which has angered neighboring regimes at times.
‘We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,’ Rex Tillerson said Monday, the New York Times reported. The decision to part ways with Qatar was announced by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives joined in later – opening up one of the worst rifts in years.
It was revealed on Monday that one of the tipping points for Qatari-Gulf Arab relations could have been a ransom Qatar officials paid earlier this year.
A ransom of up to $1billion paid by Qatar to Iranian and Al Qaeda-linked forces in Syria to release kidnapped members of the country’s royal family may have been a trigger behind the effort to cut off Doha.  Qatar paid the ransom to al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria and Iranian security officials, a person involved in ransom negotiations said in April.
The incident was sparked when the group was kidnapped December 16, 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq.
A person involved in the ransom negotiations said in April that 11 of the captives were members of Qatar’s Al Thani ruling family.
As the fallout continued Tuesday, Qatar’s state-of-the-art Hamad International was virtually deserted, as many of the nations had blocked air travel to the oil rich country.
Trump called for united efforts against Islamic extremism during a speech on his trip last month.
The US air base in Qatar is critical to military efforts battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and to the overall security posture.