Qatar and Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in Moscow, Jan. 18, 2016. Reuters/Yuri Kochetkov

Russia possibly wanted to divide the U.S. and its Gulf allies when it allegedly planted a fake news story in Qatar’s state news agency triggering a major crisis in the Middle East, CNN reported Thursday, citing U.S. officials.

Intelligence gathered by American authorities investigating the alleged hack told the news outlet Russian hackers were to be blamed for posting the fake news attributing false statements to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. On May 23, the Qatar News Agency ran a news piece stating the emir questioned Donald Trump's presidency and the U.S.’ enmity toward Iran, which is Qatar's ally and other Gulf nations’— particularly Saudi Arabia’s — opponent.

Read: Qatar Airways Grounds Flights After Diplomatic Concerns Over Fake News, Terrorism

"There is no wisdom in harboring hostility towards Iran," the emir was quoted as saying in the story. He also allegedly said Qatar’s relationship with the Trump administration was “tense” even though the emir and Trump met on a positive note in Saudi Arabia last month.

The story was picked up by several news organizations in the Middle East, and the emir’s comments were severely criticized by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, Qatar said the news was false and also termed it as a "shameful cybercrime" incident.

This news created diplomatic tensions between Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. These countries accused Doha of promoting terrorism and announced they would pull out their diplomatic staff from Qatar and even suspend flights to the country. As the nations began severing ties with Doha, the U.S. was left in the lurch.

Qatar, however, maintained it was a victim of hacking.

"Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told CNN. "Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI," he added.

The CNN report also stated it remained unclear whether the alleged hacks were linked to crime groups or Russian intelligence services. The report also came amid growing scrutiny over Russia’s foreign cyber activities, which included its alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump on Tuesday took credit for the Middle Eastern countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar. "So good to see Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding …. extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s comments put the Pentagon in a tough spot and it praised Qatar for a hosting an important U.S. air base, and for its "enduring commitment to regional security.”