Analysis: Is Dubai turning into another Beirut?

Two political assassinations in less than a year are leading some to wonder if this glamorous city is turning dangerous.

dubai real estate extraordinary view 248 (photo credit: )
dubai real estate extraordinary view 248
(photo credit: )
“When stepping into the newly renovated Al-Bustan Rotana Dubai, guests are enchanted by its unique blend of traditional Arabian hospitality and modern luxury, synonymous only with a Leading Hotel of the World,” reads a promo for the five-star hotel.
Whatever business Mahmoud Mabhouh had in Dubai, he didn’t have a chance to enjoy Al-Bustan Rotana’s “traditional Arabian hospitality and modern luxury.”
After arriving in Dubai on January 19 at 2:55 p.m. via Emirates Flight #192, Mabhouh went straight to the hotel. According to local police sources, he was followed by two European-looking men. Mabhouh checked into the hotel, a modest five-story building, located in Dubai’s al-Garhoud leisure quarter. Surprisingly, he registered with his real name, according to Talal Nasser, a senior spokesman for Hamas in Damascus.
“He has five passports, one of them with his real name, the other with different names, and this time he traveled under his actual identity,” Nasser said, talking to Arab media in Damascus.
About 24 hours after his arrival, in the late afternoon of January 20, the hotel staff discovered Mabhouh dead in his room.
Only nine months ago, on March 30, another high-profile personality was assassinated in Dubai – Sulim Yamadayev, a Chechen leader who was once a close aide to Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov.
Yamadayev, who left Russia following a bitter fight with Kadyrov, had settled in Dubai in late 2008. He was gunned down in the parking lot of the Jumeirah Beach Residence, the luxury apartment building where he resided, and was fatally wounded, dying later in Dubai’s hospital, police said.
A golden gun, which allegedly belonged to Kadyrov, was left at the crime scene. Dubai Police arrested two suspects in the case, but the main suspect, a Russian Duma deputy named Adam Delihanov, is still wanted in the UAE.
Two high-profile political murders in less than a year: could it be that glamorous Dubai is turning into a new Beirut, a city known both for style and elegance, and deadly, often unsolved political assassinations?
Until now the city was considered a safe haven, where exiled politicians, dissident journalists and business adventurists could quietly meet, close deals and bide their time.
After leaving her native Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto made Dubai her home, living there until December 2008, when she decided to make a political comeback. So did Nawaz Sharif, a former Pakistani prime minister.
Located in close proximity to Iran, Dubai has also become an important financial hub, where Iranian businessmen and politicians close important deals for oil, weapons and gold. The Syrians have also invested a great deal in local economy. According to CIA records, much of the Assad family fortune was invested in Dubai; the family reportedly lost a great deal of cash during Dubai’s latest financial crisis.
How long, really, could this glossy city, full of intrigues and conspiracies, survive without some noisy political assassinations?
Some Dubai residents  believe that Dubai’s quiet was always a myth.
“The so-called Dubai safety is no more then a facade. This city has long ago become a harbor for mafia, contrabandists and drug and weapon dealers. This is the real Dubai, not the touristic one that people picture in their minds. It was especially so before the crisis,” a Russian national now resident in Dubai told The Jerusalem Post.
He described the atmosphere in Dubai as tense and said that the assassination provided some very “black PR” to the emirate, which was already mired in negative publicity following the credit crisis that broke in November.
Nevertheless, the authorities in Dubai, although deeply embarrassed and infuriated by the incident, make their utmost effort to convey an air of “business as usual.”
The London based A-Sharq al-Awsat as well as Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya quoted Dubai officials expressing their astonishment at the fact that such a senior Hamas figure as Mabhouh had been traveling without bodyguards and under his own name, without notifying the authorities in Dubai of his arrival.
Dubai Police Chief Lt.-Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim promised that his force was doing all in their power to solve the crime and to bring the criminals to justice.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, told A-Sharq al-Awsat, “Again Dubai is being used to hunt down and kill political exiles. This cannot be tolerated.”
Although the emirate authorities didn’t immediately blame Israel in Mabhouh association, the local media lashed out at Israel.
“Police in Dubai have been left a long list of evidence following the violent murder of a Hamas commander in a hotel room 10 days ago. That trail of evidence points to professional assassins using fake European passports operating on the orders of secret security minions in Tel Aviv. That operatives of the Jewish state had the bloody-minded audacity to carry out their dirty work on UAE soil is repugnant and a grave slight to the sovereignty of the nation,” an editorial in the daily Gulf News said.
Israeli experts claim that Mabhouh, who, according to Hamas, was trying to obtain weapons designated for Gaza, could have been killed by arms dealers when a deal went sour.
Interestingly, a local paper, 7 days, revealed that just six months ago Mahmoud Mabhouh was poisoned in Beirut, an attempt that left him unconscious for 30 hours. According to the latest statement by the Dubai Police, Mabhouh died from poison, traces of which were discovered during the forensic analysis in a laboratory in Paris.
Could it indeed be that Dubai is turning into a Gulf version of Beirut?