Dubai, July 2 Officials here have confirmed that "Security forces have interdicted scores of ships suspected of carrying illicit cargo and seized numerous sensitive shipments that could be used for the manufacture of weapons systems, including specialised aluminium sheets, titanium, high-speed computers and sophisticated machine tools." Titanium is used in long-range missiles.
Although the destination of the illegal cargo seems obvious, officials refuse to confirm that these shipments were bound for Iran. A crackdown has been initiated throughout the UAE on illegal weaponry; companies and money transfers are also being scrutinised. Many officials say that the country is being used as a transit point for smuggling both money and illegal goods, and that there exist many underground trade ties with Iran. Numerous raids have been conducted on what many observers say are front companies for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Dubai; about forty bank accounts have been frozen.
At a meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s Hamad al-Kaabi, ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that the UAE was committed to making and implementing laws related to the trade in nuclear and ‘dual-use’ goods. His country’s actions, he said, had "led to the shutting down of dozens of international and local companies involved in money laundering and proliferation of dual use and dangerous materials". The goods include some whose trade is banned under the UN nuclear non-proliferation regulations. Without naming Iran, Kaabi said, "The UAE has implemented many notable United Nations security council resolutions. A lot of these have banned certain goods going to certain countries."
Observers say that the UAE has taken action now for two reasons. One, the UN Security Council recently approved new sanctions against Iran, specifically banning trade in missile and other systems to companies connected with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This put additional heat on them. Two, although Dubai has traditionally had the closest links with Iran amongst all the Emirates, its bailout last year by Abu Dhabi has resulted in pressure being put on it by its benefactor to sever links with Iran. The UAE is also believed to be a transit point for arms shipments by Iran to extremist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East, a fact that does not go down will with many in the region.
The British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, quotes Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, as saying that "the UAE wants to show the West that it is an active partner in enforcing sanctions against Iran."