"FM: UAE committed to maintaining good bilateral ties with Iran," from Xinhua, December 19:
ABU DHABI, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is committed to maintaining good bilateral relations with Iran, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said in a report published Friday on local newspaper Gulf News.
Iran is an important neighbor of the UAE and the two countries enjoy many important common interests and ties, Sheikh Abdullah said.
"On this basis, we hope that the establishment of the UAE-Iranian Ministerial Joint Committee will give a positive push to the existing relations between the two countries," a statement by Sheikh Abdullah to the Gulf News was quoted as saying.
The remarks were made in response to the issue of search procedures of Iranian visitors at UAE airports that raised concerns of Iranian authorities, according to the report.
The UAE thinks it is necessary and important that all issues potentially affecting bilateral relations with Iran must be resolved in a proper and timely manner. "There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for a solution to the issues," Sheikh Abdullah said.
"We asked the Iranians to task the UAE-Iranian Consular Joint Committee, due to meet later this month, with resolving the issue and ensuring that proper search procedures are followed. This is based on our belief that the interests of both countries make it necessary to contain any reasons for misunderstanding and resolve them," he added.
More on Dubai and Al Queda
Two of the hijackers came from the UAE and hijacker money was laundered through the UAE. The details are spelled out in documents in the government's case against Moussaoui.
The ties with bin Laden and the Taliban reach far back into the '90s. Prominent Persian Gulf officials, including members of the UAE royal family, and businessmen would fly to Kandahar on UAE and private jets for hunting expeditions, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2001. In addition to ranking UAE ministers, these parties included Saudi big wigs like Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence minister who now is ambassador to the U.S.
General Wayne Downing, Bush's former national director for combating terrorism, was quoted on MSNBC in September, 2003 saying, "They would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses. One noted visitor is Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktum, United Arab Emirates Defense Minister and Crown Prince for the emirate of Dubai.''
Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar joined the hunting parties, and there are suspicions Al Qaeda and Taliban personnel are smuggled out on returning flights.
Here is one report, sourced to the 9-11 Commission,
"February 1999: Bin Laden Missile Strike Called Off for Fear of Hitting Persian Gulf Royalty. Intelligence reports foresee the presence of bin Laden at a desert hunting camp in Afghanistan for about a week. Information on his presence appears reliable, so preparations are made to target his location with cruise missiles. However, intelligence also puts an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and members of the royal family from that country in the same location. Bin Laden is hunting with the Emirati royals, as he did with leaders from the UAE and Saudi Arabia on other occasions (see 1995-2001). Policy makers are concerned that a strike might kill a prince or other senior officials, so the strike never happens. A top UAE official at the time denies that high-level officials are there, but evidence subsequently confirms their presence. (9-11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B))"
As the Financial Times put it, in the UAE, "Western fraud investigators may find a link here or a connection there, with a person suspected of breaking western laws. But in Dubai, and its neighbor Sharjah, trails tend to vanish like wind-blown tracks in desert sands . . . Secrecy keeps everyone guessing—and speculating . . . 'Medieval feudalism' is how one senior western banker described Dubai's style of government, 'with a veneer of 21st century regulations.' "
Meanwhile the US is working to help Iran, I mean the UAE, develop a nuclear program for "civilian purposes." Because of course if there's one thing an oil rich dictatorship, most of whose residents are foreign workers, needs is civilian nuclear power for peaceful purposes. (Hat tip WorldAntiTerror)
The Bush administration plans to sign its first nuclear-cooperation agreement with a Middle Eastern nation within the next few weeks, according to a senior U.S. official, raising concerns among congressional critics who say the deal could fuel nuclear proliferation in the region.
The proposed deal with the United Arab Emirates has attracted attention because the U.A.E.'s largest trading partner is Iran. The U.A.E. has served in the past as a transshipment point for technology with military applications headed to Iran.
Though I'm sure Obama will just cut out the middleman and help Iran directly.