UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The United Arab Emirates is funding the military commander trying to topple the UN-recognized government in Libya and is taking a leading role in a coalition of countries that impose an economic blockade on Qatar despite US calls to settle the dispute.
The UAE, as revealed by a Reuters investigation this year, employs people with previous experience working for the US National Security Agency to spy as part of a program aimed at monitoring Americans.
Despite all this, three former CIA officials said the CIA was not spying on the UAE government, which is very strange, in what some critics call a dangerous dark spot in the CIA world.
This position on the part of the CIA is not new, but what has changed is the nature of the intervention of this small and influential OPEC member throughout the Middle East and Africa.
They are engaged in wars, conducting covert operations and using their financial strength to reshape the regional political scene in ways that often conflict with American interests, sources and foreign policy experts say.
A fourth former CIA official said the CIA’s failure to cope with the UAE’s growing military and political ambitions amounted to “dereliction of duty.”
However, US intelligence services do not completely ignore the UAE. Two sources familiar with the operations of the US National Security Agency told Reuters that the agency is carrying out electronic surveillance operations within the UAE, and these electronic operations are a kind of information collection that involves less risk and less return.
The CIA is also working with the UAE’s intelligence service through a cooperative relationship involving the exchange of information on common adversaries such as Iran or Al Qaeda.
The CIA, however, does not collect information using the human element from informants in the UAE about its authoritarian government, the three former CIA officials told Reuters. This type of intelligence is the most valuable and difficult to gather information.
The CIA, the National Security Agency and the White House declined to comment on US spying activities in the UAE. The UAE Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy in the UAE did not respond to requests for comment.
Former intelligence officials said the lack of CIA intelligence activity in the UAE, something that has not previously been reported in the media, puts the country on a short list of other CIA countries.
This list includes the other members of an intelligence alliance called “The Five Eyes” – Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada.
Four former CIA officials said CIA spies were collecting information using almost every human element about every other country in which the United States has significant interests, including some key allies.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the closest country to the United Arab Emirates.
Two former CIA officials and a former Gulf state intelligence officer say the agency often targets Saudi Arabia, in contrast to the UAE.
Saudi intelligence officers have seized a number of CIA agents trying to recruit Saudi officials to act as informants, the sources said.
The former Gulf state intelligence officer said Saudi intelligence services did not publicly complain about CIA spying attempts but were making unannounced calls to the CIA official in Riyadh to ask him to quietly remove CIA officers from the country.
Former CIA officer Robert Bayer, a well-known author, called the absence of the human element in intelligence gathering from the UAE “a failure” when he was briefed by Reuters.
He said the US decision-maker needs the best information available about domestic politics and family conflicts in the Middle East’s monarchies.
“If you are proud of being a global body, this is a failure. The royal families are very important. ”
– “Rogue State” –
A former official of President Donald Trump’s administration said the lack of information gathering in the UAE is alarming because the emirate is now operating as a “rogue state” in strategic countries such as Libya, Qatar and even further on the African continent.
In Sudan, the UAE spent years and billions in support of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during his long rule and then abandoned it and supported the military leaders who overthrew him in April.
In June, security forces killed dozens of protesters demanding civilian rule and elections. The UAE has also set up military bases in Eritrea and Somaliland.
“If you turn any stone in the Horn of Africa, the UAE will be there,” said the former Trump administration official.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said the UAE has asserted itself as a financial and military power in areas “beyond its immediate vicinity.”
“Whether in Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti or Yemen, the UAE does not ask for permission,” she said.
In Yemen, the UAE and Saudi Arabia led an alliance fighting the Houthis allied with Iran, but the UAE has recently begun withdrawing its troops amid international criticism over air strikes that have killed thousands of civilians and sparked a humanitarian crisis that has pushed millions to the brink of starvation.
The US Congress recently passed resolutions to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but President Trump has vetoed them.
The UAE government has spent $ 46.8 million on US lobbyists since 2017, the Center for Response Policies estimates.
One of three CIA officials familiar with CIA operations in the UAE said collecting information about its government was necessary for reasons beyond its regional interventions.
The UAE is also forging close ties with Russia, including a broad-based strategic partnership signed last year to cooperate in the fields of security, trade and oil markets, as well as close ties with China. Last to attend an economic forum between the two countries.
However, some national security experts still see an adequate alignment between US and UAE interests, explaining the continued absence of espionage.
“Their enemies are our enemies,” said retired CIA official Norman Roll, referring to Iran and al Qaeda.
“Abu Dhabi’s actions have made a contribution to the war on terrorism, especially against al-Qaeda in Yemen,” he said.
– Fear of democracy and political Islam –
The crown prince of Abu Dhabi holds the keys to foreign policy in the UAE and is surrounded by a small group of advisors. His brother, Tahnoun bin Zayed, who studied in the United States and is a fan of various martial arts and owns a stable for Arab race horses, was chosen as his national security adviser.
His son, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed, runs the country’s extensive internal surveillance network.
The UAE’s increasing tendency to intervene abroad dates back to 2011.
Judy Vitori, a former Air Force Intelligence officer who now works at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said mass protests demanding democracy across the region during the Arab Spring uprisings raised growing concern among the ruling elite in the UAE that they retain power.
The UAE leaders regarded the demonstrations as a threat to the monarchy in the region, as are many members of the ruling families in the Gulf region.
Since then they have fought the spread of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, which briefly rose to power in Egypt after popular protests ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The UAE cut off financial support to Egypt when Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012 and then resumed spending billions in aid when the Egyptian army ousted Morsi a year later.
Vittori of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace acknowledged some remaining common goals between the US and UAE governments, but said these interests contrasted with the rulers’ focus on staying in power.
“When the goal is to keep the system at all costs, it will not be a system that aligns with the United States.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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