Middle East

UAE under fire for spying officials, activists in Yemen

UAE reportedly used Israeli spyware to spy on most members of the internationally recognized government in Yemen

Mohammed Alragawi   | 04.08.2021
UAE under fire for spying officials, activists in Yemen

ISTANBUL

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reportedly used an Israeli spyware known as Pegasus to spy on most members of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

An investigation published last month by 17 media organizations said the Pegasus spyware, made and licensed by Israeli company NSO, was used by the UAE to monitor and spy on the ministers of the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The wiretapping activities reportedly targeted the Yemeni president and his family members, former Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghr, former Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al-Mikhlaf, and current Minister of Youth and Sports, Naif al-Bakri.

The list of targets for surveillance also included Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani, former Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maisari, former Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, Director of the Office of the Yemeni Presidency Abdullah al-Alimi and former Transport Minister Saleh al-Jabwani.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, al-Jabwani said he was “not surprised” by the revelation as he was “expecting such actions from the UAE”.

“The UAE is a rogue police state which engages in all kinds of illegal work such as espionage, organized assassinations, building secret prisons, destroying the social fabric and dividing countries, which all was practiced in Yemen by the UAE,” said al-Jabwani, who served as a transport minister between December 2017 and December 2020.

According to leaks, the Pegasus spyware had been used in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists on a global scale.

The UAE has denied the spying allegations, saying in a statement by the Foreign Ministry that “allegations… claiming that the UAE is amongst a number of countries accused of alleged surveillance targeting journalists and individuals have no evidentiary basis.”

The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led military coalition against Houthi rebels, which launched a massive air campaign against the Shia rebel movement in 2015 to roll back Houthi military gains in Yemen.

The Iran-aligned rebels overran much of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014, forcing the Hadi government to flee to Saudi Arabia.


Under surveillance

Al-Jabwani argued that he “knew from the first day” of his return from Saudi Arabia to the southern city of Aden to exercise his duties as a transport minister in December 2017 that he was “under surveillance by the Emirates and others.”

“I did not care because I had no secrets to hide. I used to go to work in the morning without knowing whether I would return home or not,” he said.

Al-Jabwani said that having his name on the list of targets for surveillance was a “normal act for the UAE” as it considers him a “number-one enemy” because of his stance against the UAE practices in Yemen.

“From the first moment of my work in the transport ministry, I expressed my views against the UAE frankly and publicly. Spying on us shows the devil nature of this country,” he opined.

Observers believe that the UAE started to spy on Hadi’s government after their dispute on the formation of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) in May 2017.

The dispute was triggered by Hadi’s dismissal of STC leader Aidarus al-Zoubaidi from his post as Aden governor.

“The UAE spies on everyone in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia, the legitimate government and leaders of its Yemeni ally, the STC,” Abdulsalam Muhammed, chairman of Abaad Studies and Research Center, told Anadolu Agency.

Since the UAE has its own strategy to control large parts of Yemen, “spying provides it with a lot of information about the government’s plans regarding military and political resolutions to normalize the situation in the liberated areas that might jeopardize the UAE’s interests in the south,” he said.

Over the past six years, the UAE has pursued an ambitious strategic agenda in the Red Sea, building military installations and securing control of Yemen’s southern coasts along the Arabian Sea in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and Socotra Island.

Muhammed claims that Abu Dhabi has “obstructed state projects” aimed at achieving economic and political stability in Yemeni areas liberated from Houthi rebels.

Yemeni silence

The Yemeni government has yet to comment on the UAE spying allegations.

Al-Jabwani, however, believes that the government is “not going to make any comments on this issue”, claiming that Yemeni Prime Minister, Muin Abdul Malik, is “participating in a similar program with the two countries of the Saudi-led coalition”, in reference to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, Muhammed said it is “not surprising that the government did not comment on this matter” as it has not made statements on other major issues.

“The government knows that this issue is much related to the UAE's relationship with Saudi Arabia, so it does not want to trap its main supporter, the Saudis, in the corner and prefers to be silent,” he opined.

As a consequence of this spying activities, the Yemeni government is “supposed to announce the end of the UAE’s presence in Yemen”, Muhammed said, but due to its “uselessness and lack of sovereignty, the government cannot comment on this matter.”

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
Related topics
Bu haberi paylaşın