WASHINGTON, D.C.—No matter what Bush and his supporters say, there is indisputable evidence of tight connections between the United Arab Emirates and leadership of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The country is the center of financial activity in the Persian Gulf, and has next to no laws controlling money laundering.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, appearing in Paul Thompson’s 9-11 timeline:
“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))”
It remains a key center of operations for Victor Bout, the notorious arms dealer, with ties to Taliban and Al Qaeda. There were also ties to the infamous BCCI.
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.’ “