US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news behind Qatar crisis


Remarks attributed to Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, appeared to be friendly to Iran and Israel, and questioned how long US President Donald Trump would last in the office.

The FBI is helping the government of Qatar investigate what appears to be a hacking of its state news agency, leading to the planting of a fake news story and a growing crisis between Middle East nations, according to multiple reports.

On Tuesday, Trump surprised many in Washington by stepping into the dispute, taking credit in a series of tweets for encouraging the Arab nations to isolate Qatar for its support for terrorism. "Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism".

While the USA military has said it wouldn't change its posture at Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base, Mr. Trump posted a series of tweets calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation.

Outlets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ran with it, accusing the Qatari royal family of backing Iran and supporting terrorists.

It's a change in tone for a president who had seemed to welcome the crisis brewing among America's Mideast allies.

At any rate, Riyadh was confident enough to give the USA a heads-up only just before it made the announcement, blindsiding officials here.

Qatar is a small Middle Eastern country surrounded by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Persion Gulf.

Qatar and the other Arab states fell out over Doha's alleged support for Islamist militants and Shia Iran.

Qatar reportedly denied funding terrorists and speculated that recent controversy is entirely "based on misinformation".

Qatar has an independent streak that has often angered its neighbours.

Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Corker responded, in a notably lower register, "The president?"

For Trump, the rift has emerged as a key test of his goal to unite the region around destroying IS and other extremist groups, and containing Iranian influence.

The Pentagon announced earlier that there was no change in military cooperation between the USA and Qatar. The official wasn't authorized to comment publicly Tuesday and requested anonymity.

"The Saudis and the Emiratis probably felt they had license to act in this way without the USA intervening", said Michael Knights, a Boston-based analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, adding that the message sent by US officials at the Riyadh summit was clear: "Trump has subcontracted the fight against political Islam to them and they need to take the lead".

Since then, a team of FBI investigators have been sent to Qatar's capital city of Doha to assist the Qataris in the investigation, according to Qatari and U.S. officials. Less than 24 hours later, Trump had taken the Saudi side on Twitter, seriously undermining his government's position.

"The state of Qatar has been subjected to a campaign of lies that have reached the point of complete fabrication". The U.S. relies heavily on Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar to orchestrate air attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

And it is trying to galvanize the Arab world to assume greater responsibility in fighting IS, something governments won't be able to do if they're consumed with internal spats.

The sources said Erdogan would continue his contacts on the issue. Lindsey Graham, summing up America's strategic conundrum.

'If it does, we will offer them (route) alternatives, ' he said.

Energy-rich Qatar has long had strained ties with its neighbors, but the move by Saudi Arabia and its supporters raised fears of more volatility in the region.

Yet a prolonged crisis will put significant pressure on Qatar. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the ban took effect Tuesday, but there is no plan yet to repatriate the more than 200,000 Filipino workers in Qatar.

What does President Donald Trump have to do with it?