In a recent release of files known as UAEGate, a shocking revelation has emerged regarding the UAE’s covert operation to defame and undermine several Muslims in Europe during the Qatar diplomatic crisis in 2017. The UAE intelligence agency joined forces with the Swiss-based Alp Services company to specifically target prominent Muslim figures, falsely linking them to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an organization deemed as a terrorist group in the UAE.
The UAE’s Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood
The conflict between the UAE and the Muslim Brotherhood extends beyond mere ideological disparities; it originates from the apprehension that the organization’s influence may disrupt autocratic regimes in the MENA region. This fear was further intensified by the emergence of governments associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia following the Arab Spring of 2011. Consequently, in 2017, the UAE, in collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, imposed an unlawful blockade on Qatar, alleging its support for terrorism and affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ‘Arnica’ or ‘Crocus’ Mission
The United Arab Emirates’ covert operation, known as Project Arnica or Project Crocus, had two main targets: Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. The objective of this mission was to disrupt the Muslim community in Europe by disseminating fabricated information about specific individuals, thus tarnishing the reputation of respected Muslims, Islamic organizations, and civil society institutions.
Targeting European Muslims
Dr. Andreas Krieg, an Assistant Professor at King’s College London, has shed light on the extensive consequences of the UAE’s mission. It is unjustly targeted notable figures like Benoît Hamon, Samia Ghali, the CNRS, and La France insoumise. Shockingly, the Alp Services provided the UAE secret services with a misleading infographic that falsely associated more than 1,000 individuals and 400 organizations with the Muslim Brotherhood across 18 European states.
The tactics employed by the UAE involved creating a distressing map of supposed radical Muslims via Alp Services. The leaked information, acquired by Mediapart and the European Investigative Collaborations, exposed the UAE’s erroneous linking of these individuals with terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda. Esteemed French journalist Taha Bouhafs condemned this operation, denouncing it as a surveillance campaign on social media designed to undermine those who advocate against the discrimination endured by Muslims.
UAE vs. Qatar: The Battle for Influence
The conflict between the UAE and Qatar has extended its influence to the Islamic European community. Qatar has strategically established networks that aim to promote dialogue on Islam, reject Islamophobia, and address regional conflicts, particularly in Palestine. On the contrary, the UAE has sought to tarnish Qatar’s reputation by undermining the standing of Muslim civil society in Europe, as many Europeans supported Qatar’s stance during the Arab Spring.
The Detainment and Surveillance of Dissidents
Over the years, the UAE has maintained a steadfast stance against the Muslim Brotherhood, perceiving it as a threat to national security. Consequently, the government has implemented stringent measures to counteract the influence and activities of this organization. However, it is disheartening to observe that some individuals, despite completing their sentences, remain detained due to the UAE authorities’ decision to prolong their detention on charges of holding extremist beliefs.
Revealing Israel’s Involvement
The investigation has brought to light the devious strategies employed by Alp Services, which involved running media campaigns, fabricating false documents, and manipulating Wikipedia data to tarnish the reputations of individuals. These actions by the agency even resulted in the bankruptcy of businessman Hazim Nada. Notably, France became a prime target, with Alp Services offering UAE intelligence various options to launch campaigns against specific individuals, each with different costs.
The UAEGate files have exposed the UAE’s covert campaign to defame European Muslims and Qatar. The UAE’s apprehension regarding the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ongoing rivalry with Qatar have fueled these malicious endeavors. As the truth gradually unfolds, the imperative for transparency and accountability in intelligence operations becomes increasingly vital to safeguard civil liberties and foster healthy international relations.