The email account of one of Washington’s most connected and influential foreign operatives has been hacked. A small tranche of those emails was sent this week to media outlets, including The Intercept, HuffPost and The Daily Beast, with the hacker promising to release a trove publicly.
The hotmail account belongs to the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and The Intercept can confirm it is the one he used for most Washington business. HuffPost confirmed at least one of the emails as authentic and the UAE has confirmed that Otaiba’s account was indeed hacked.
Otaiba’s influence derives largely from his pocketbook, as the ambassador is well known for throwing lavish dinner parties, galas and hosting powerful figures on extravagant trips. Several Christmases ago, he sent out iPads as gifts to journalists and other Washington power players as gifts. There’s no telling what kind of messages might reside in that inbox.
The hackers used a .ru email address, associated with Russia, and referred to themselves as GlobalLeaks, tying themselves to DCLeaks, a website that previously released Democratic emails. The intelligence community has said DCLeaks is a Russian-operated website, which means that the Otaiba hackers are either connected with Russia or trying to give the impression that they are.
Russia and the Gulf monarchies, client states of the United States, are longtime rivals, backing opposing sides in Syria and clashing for decades over Iran, a Russian client state and a Gulf enemy.
The emails provided so far to the The Intercept show a growing relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
On the surface, the alliance should be surprising, as the UAE does not even recognize Israel. But the two countries have worked together in the past against their common adversary, Iran.
On March 10 of this year, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz authored an e-mail to both the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba and FDD senior counselor John Hannah — a former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney — with the subject line “Target list of companies investing in Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia.”
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