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U.S. ambassador to Qatar's assignment ending amid diplomatic crisis

Qatar to host World Cup

The U.S. ambassador to Qatar announced on Tuesday that her assignment in the energy-rich nation engulfed in a diplomatic crisis was ending this month.

"This month, I end my 3 years as U.S. Ambassador to Qatar," Ambassador Dana Shell Smith said on Twitter. "It has been the greatest honor of my life and I'll miss this great country. I will be announcing my personal Twitter account soon. Keep an eye out!"

A State Department spokesperson told CBS News' Kylie Atwood that Smith's departure was part of the "normal rotation of career diplomats." The Senate confirmed Smith as ambassador in July 2014.

"Her decision to leave the Foreign Service was made earlier this year and we wish her the best as she moves on from the Department of State," the spokesperson said.

U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith attends the opening ceremony and screening of "The Eagle Huntress" during the Ajyal Youth Film Festival on Nov. 30, 2016, in Doha, Qatar.
U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Atwood reports that Smith's decision was made before the country's crisis began. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties and started trying to isolate Qatar from the rest of the world, accusing it of backing terrorism and promoting policies that destabilize the region.

On Friday, President Trump accused the country of funding terrorism "at a very high level." Qatar has denied the allegations.

Qatar's isolation is reportedly in reaction to a false news report planted by hackers on May 23, CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reports. CBS News confirmed the FBI was helping Qatar's government investigate a breach of a state-run news outlet that ran the fake story.

Russian hackers suspected of interfering with news site in Qatar

According to CNN, the story "attributed false remarks" to the Qatari leader that "appeared friendly to Iran and Israel and questioned whether President Donald Trump would last in office." The FBI has confirmed the hack may have resulted in fake-news sharing and that Russia was a suspect. A top Russian official denied that Russian hackers were behind the fake story.

"Part of Russia's activity is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and our allies, writ large," said CBS News security contributor Frank Cilluffo, adding that the U.S. cannot let the incident undermine its relationship with Qatar, which hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East.

"U.S. presence in Qatar is so critical to our campaign against ISIS and our aerial campaign in the region," Cilluffo said.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister insisted there was no blockade on Qatar and said his country will provide food and medical supplies if needed.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia among countries cutting ties with Qatar

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said before a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Qatar's ports and airports are open. He said Saudi Arabia has merely denied Qatar use of its airspace, which he says is his country's sovereign right.

Jubeir said Qatar can move goods in and out "whenever they want." He said Saudi Arabia has allowed families to move between countries.

Still, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia is willing to provide food and medical supplies through the King Salman Center, a Saudi humanitarian agency.

Saudi Arabia has closed Qatar's sole land border and joined other countries in cutting off sea traffic, leading panicked residents to stockpile food.