The Assassins in Dubai

By Ali Younes – Washington D.C.

The assassination of Hamas commander, Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19th underscored the ruthlessness of Israeli politics in the region and how it intends to project its un-checked power onto the Arab states.

At the beginning, Dubai was taken aback by this brazen assassination which took advantage of the open-door policy with which Dubai treats European and American citizens. Arab and Israeli press reported that the governments of Dubai and the UAE did not wish to have this issue blown out of control so as not to tarnish the image of this economic powerhouse emirate.

President Hosni Mubarak was reported to have tried to “mediate” between UAE/Dubai and Israel to end this issue in exchange of a “quiet” Israeli apology to Dubai which does not appear to be an option for Israel at this point.

It is worth noticing; however, that it is rather unusual for the Mossad to send a 27- member hit team to Dubai to assassinate Al Mabhouh who is relatively low-key figure within Hamas leadership. Moreover, Al Mabhouh who had no security detail to protect him had been arrested by Israel in the past and therefore his appearance was known to the Mossad. In addition, it was obvious to the Mossad that Dubai is ringed with cameras and surveillance systems that can photograph and record everything that takes place in the city. This suggests that the Israeli decision to assassinate Al Mabhouh in this very public way was intentional and aimed to score political and security points in the Arab world.

The UAE which Dubai is a member emirate officially back the Palestinians against Israel, but have had no real problems with Israel. Dubai chief of police Lt. General Dahi Khlafan said that Dubai feels “insulted” that Israel committed this assassination on its soil especially  that Dubai has recently received a high profile Israeli delegation during an international conference. Lt. General Khlafan said in a press conference that:

"Mossad shouldn’t come to us. We haven’t done anything to Israel. This is an insult to us”

According to Israeli press reports and the British journalist Gordon Thomas who wrote in the British newspaper the Independent last week; that this assassination was authorized By Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which then can then be argued that this case is a case of state-sponsored terrorism.

The conspicuous absence of any reference to Israel, during this investigation, as the state suspected of carrying out this act against the government of the UAE or Dubai supports the contention that Dubai is not interested in taking this investigation too far. Dubai realizes that the Israeli intelligence has a working and strategic relationships with western intelligence agencies that might have facilitated some logistical issues for the Mossad during this assassination.

Though one can argue that Dubai has lost nothing in this case, given that Hamas is not very popular within the Arab states system, and Dubai’s live camera-shows and pictures theatrics made this Emirate look good and eager to take on a much bigger and ruthless enemy even if it is in reality will not tantamount to any negative political ramification between Dubai and the Europeans or Israel.

Good old fashion police and detective work are essential in any criminal investigation in order to gather evidence and identify all elements of the crime committed. But it is the terrorism investigation that follows the criminal investigation which includes major political and diplomatic components which then can bring this case to its proper investigation mode.

Therefore, Dubai’s intricate detective work suggests that the Emirate has decided to treats this case as a criminal investigation, not a terrorism investigation which could complicate Dubai’s relations with Israel’s backers in the European capitals and in Washington. For Dubai, despite having the 27 suspects placed on red-notice seeking their arrests by the Interpol, it is highly unlikely that it will ever know the true identities of the assassins even if it knows the address of their employer.

– Ali Younes is a writer and Middle East analyst based in Washington DC. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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