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Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Dubai anything goes, until the Mossad shows up

I've seen a lot of people asking why Dubai has gotten so excited over the liquidation of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, and over the use of foreign passports to do so, while ignoring the fact that al-Mabhouh himself was a terrorist and entered the country on a false passport. Perhaps this will explain why.
Dubai is also considered the most "Western" of the Gulf states - in other words, the most Americanized. But it is there that thousands of Iranian companies operate, exploiting the freedom to conduct business in order to construct commercial "annexes" for the Iranian regime and thus circumvent international sanctions. Iran also received Pakistani nuclear instruction via Dubai, after A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, established a company to "disseminate information" in Dubai.

But Dubai has several masks. It helps Iran, but behind its back it provides the United States with an opportunity to gather intelligence about that country. The U.S. Consulate in Dubai also operates as a station for gathering information and enlisting agents. A few years ago the U.S. State Department wanted to close the consulate, but the CIA succeeded in convincing it to leave it open and even to boost the number of employees so that it could handle the hundreds and perhaps thousands of Iranians who come to request visas.

It's not only the U.S. intelligence services that love Dubai: The tremendous scope of commerce and the large number of companies and foreign agencies there are an excellent cover and an appropriate disguise for any city of spies.

Dubai has now replaced 20th-century Istanbul, Nicosia, Casablanca and Berlin as a hotbed of spying activity. Russians exchange information with Pakistanis, Afghans and Chechens trade tactics, members of Hezbollah convert illegal money and diamonds in bank transactions "for widows and orphans," and all while enjoying car races and performances by international artists.

Dubai is proud of the fact that it is one of the safest cities in the world. It was, at least until Israeli businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum was kidnapped there, or until a famous Lebanese singer, Suzanne Tamim, was murdered there by a senior security guard working for Egypt's most important businessman, Hisham Talaat Moustafa (who is now appealing the death sentence imposed for the murder). Or until Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated by a group that utilized not only disguises, but also the cover provided by Dubai to anyone who wants it: of living it up in a city of entertainment and big money, of tennis tournaments and freedom. This is a place that is still committed to the Arab boycott of Israel, but has no problem hosting an Israeli tennis player [this year- but not last year. And given that this year she almost won, maybe next year they won't let her back in. CiJ].

A few weeks ago I contacted a Dubai real estate agent to discuss the market there, in the wake of the crisis in the emirate. I asked the agent whether he has any problem selling apartments to Israeli citizens. "You know what our situation is. But we have no problem selling to you if you come with a foreign passport," he replied without hesitation. But on another occasion, when I asked whether a scientific convention in the city was open to Israelis, they told me: "We have no business with Israel. You cannot participate."
Read the whole thing.

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