A recent report by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network has exposed the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) alleged involvement in financing an extensive smear campaign across Europe. The UAE reportedly paid over €5.7 million to a Swiss private intelligence firm, Alp Services, to tarnish the reputations of individuals and organizations, linking them with the Muslim Brotherhood. This strategic operation aimed to sway public opinion against Qatar during the diplomatic crisis of 2017, as it was perceived to be supportive of Brotherhood-affiliated groups. The EIC report, based on 78,000 confidential documents obtained from French media outlet Mediaparts, uncovers the UAE’s elaborate efforts to manipulate narratives and target progressive Muslim voices.
Creating a Vast Smear Campaign
Between 2017 and 2020, the UAE engaged Alp Services to build an extensive database comprising information on individuals and organizations from 18 different European countries. This intelligence was intended for use by Emirati authorities. The report reveals that the UAE orchestrated multiple tactics, including modifying Wikipedia pages, launching media campaigns, and exerting pressure on banks to close the accounts of targeted individuals and organizations.
Targeting Progressive Muslim Voices
The primary objective of the UAE’s operation was to link individuals with extremism, with a particular focus on those in Belgium and France. The smear campaign listed 80 organizations and 160 individuals from Belgium, including Climate Minister Zakia Khattabi, a Moroccan descendant and former co-chair of the left-wing Ecolo party. Khattabi vehemently denied any affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, dismissing the UAE’s attempts to link her to the group as completely false.
Another individual targeted by the UAE was Belgian centre-left political scientist Fouad Gandoul, who, like Khattabi, denied any links to the Brotherhood. His inclusion in the list was attributed to his membership in a group associated with progressive Muslim politics. The list of targets extended to politicians, including a French presidential candidate, and several Islamic-oriented charities and humanitarian organizations.
UAE’s Stance on the Muslim Brotherhood
The UAE’s antagonism towards the Muslim Brotherhood is well-documented. It backed a brutal military coup against the democratically elected late President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, a prominent member of the Brotherhood. Despite the group renouncing violence, the UAE categorizes the Muslim Brotherhood and any entities it associates with as “terrorist groups.”
The revelations brought forth by the EIC report raise serious concerns about the UAE’s efforts to manipulate information and target progressive voices within Europe. The use of a Swiss intelligence firm and significant financial resources underscore the magnitude of the alleged smear campaign. As investigations continue, the implications of these actions on international relations and the reputation of those unjustly targeted remain at the forefront of the debate.