The Pegasus case also made waves in the Middle East, with news of the questioning of Iraqi state leaders and politicians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The two Gulf monarchies have sought to normalize their relations with Iraq in recent years, the targets perhaps more important because of Iran, whose citizens, oddly enough, were not among the victims of the spyware.
Day by day, more and more information about spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO, its users and its targets is leaking out. The Middle East has been largely overshadowed by the news so far, the main reason being that most Arab countries – but we can also mention Iran or Turkey – have bad or tepid relations with the Jewish state, making it unlikely that Israel would share such sensitivity. technology with them.
However, the Pegasus case, blown up by the international press, still has a branch in the region, because according to information so far, only the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have had access to the program, and even boldly even applied it. Before we get into how it has been used in Iraq and who has been silenced, it is worth giving a little geopolitical insight, Until 2020, there was not even a diplomatic relationship between the two Gulf kingdoms and Israel (not yet with Saudi Arabia), while their use of spyware dates back to 2016-2017.
The relationship between the three countries has been marked by sharp differences in formal and informal relations in recent decades. Even in the last century, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh mainly defined their foreign policy towards Tel Aviv by the Palestinian issue, which led to hostile relations. But in the twenty-first century, with the strengthening of Iran, they found a common enemy for themselves, but for a long time this was not enough to normalize relations. It took several things.
- On the other hand, the younger generation in the two Arab countries was much more pragmatic regarding the issue of Israel and more ambitious in dealing with national interests.
- On the other hand, from 2010 onwards, the United States made more and more indications of this You want to “leave” the areaThat is, playing a smaller role in the “costs” of the confrontation between Iran and Israel or the Iranian-Gulf confrontation.
Washington also realized that the two Gulf countries and Israel could be each other’s natural ally, and actively lobbied the three parties to normalize relations. The first is The so-called Abrahamic agreements Through the UAE, Bahrain established diplomatic relations in 2020, then Sudan and Morocco also joined the move. This was a breakthrough because Israel had only been recognized by two states since its creation, Egypt and Jordan. An agreement with Riyadh has not yet been reached, because the Saudi leadership remains one of the leaders of the entire Muslim world, the protector of the holy places in Mecca and Medina, so it has greater coercion and influence.
Regarding the Abraham agreements last year, more attention was paid to the fact that Israeli companies and individuals have been unofficially in the UAE for a decade, so that they can also travel with a third country passport.
The current disclosure that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have used Israeli spyware for years should be interpreted in this context. Further evidence that relations were good enough in the background for an Israeli company to sell such sensitive spy-paper technology to an Arab country that was still hostile at the time.
Why did you stay outside Tehran?
Judging by the names that have become known these days, the principalities of the two countries were more active in the secret services. What made the Iraqi goals particularly interesting to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh is that most of them have close ties to Iran.
As for Tehran’s role, it is worth stopping at a word. There is not a single Iranian among the phone numbers that have become known so far, which is very strange compared to the fact that they are the enemies of the two Gulf states, and not Iraq, with which relations have been normalized. This can be explained by the fact that the Israelis sold spyware with restrictions that the UAE and Saudi Arabia cannot spy against Iranian targets. This also means that the Israeli services do not want anyone else in the Persian state whose main intelligence target was to participate in intelligence activities with its own program.
This is how Iraq becomes really interesting, where Tehran has a lot of influence, and it exists as a kind of shadow in many areas. Targets in Iraq include former prime ministers, heads of state and even the former head of the Iraqi intelligence service, who is currently the country’s prime minister. Mustafa Al-Kazemi. He was among those intercepted Ali al-Sistani Grandfather Shiite religious supreme dignity, or Ammar al-HakimLeader of one of the traditional Shiite parties. Among the goals Masroor Barzan The current head of state of the Kurdistan Region. And if it is also intercepted, other members of the Kurdish leadership could also be potential targets.
In addition to journalists and activists, a separate group consists of politicians who were formerly leaders of Iranian-backed Shiite militias. They spoke on a daily and weekly basis with their Iranian partners, including those who were liquidated in Baghdad in 2020. Qasim Suleiman with the general. Then the commandos and American planes cooperated The Iranian general was killed, whose phones were hacked by US intelligence. Now, journalists have also found two numbers in the list that belong to the general and that Abu Dhabi or Riyadh may have installed the software.
He was among the leaders who were intercepted Abu Mahdi al-Muhandiswho traveled with Solomon when he was shot, Faleh al-Fayyad, Senior National Security Adviser to the former Prime Minister, Head of the Militia Coordination Office, and former Spokesperson. As mentioned earlier, the significance of these eavesdropping operations for the Saudis and Emiratis is that through them they were able to monitor Iranian targets that they would not be able to directly intercept.