July 18, 2017
By Ali Al-Ahmed
Washington DC – United Arab Emirates appears to have helped North Korea’s ballistic missile program through large arms purchases from the pariah state in violation of the U.S. and United Nations Security Council’s embargo, according to a secret State Department memo obtained by the Institute for Gulf Affairs.
In the memo, the State Department warns the U.A.E. that the money spent to purchase of North Korean arms goes to fund its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. “North Korea relies on revenue from overseas arms sales like this to sustain and advance its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, which pose a threat to international peace and security as well as a direct threat to the United States,” the memo said.
On Independence Day, North Korea successfully launched an inter-continental ballistic missile it said was capable of reaching the United States mainland. The launch was condemned by the Trump administration.
The memo titled (Secret/REL UAE) was handed by the State Department to U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba and found in hacked emails sent by a group known as Global Leaks to the Institute for Gulf Affairs on July 13th. Al Otaiba emailed the memo to Major General Fares Mohamed AlMazrouei, then the assistant minister of foreign affairs for military and security matters, on June 3, 2015.
Al Otaiba informed AlMazrouei that he was summoned by the State Department in Washington for the second time on June 1, 2015 regarding an illicit arms deal between a U.A.E. company and North Korea’s arms exporter Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) in the amount of $100 million.
KOMID was sanctioned by the United Nations and by the U.S. Treasury Department, who in 2015 called it “North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles.” The U.S. has placed sanctions on KOMID multiple times since 2005 (in addition to those imposed by the U.N.) for its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.
AlMazrouei forwarded the memo to several U.A.E. officials, including Dr. Anwar Garqash, state minister of foreign affairs. AlMazrouei is now a state minister at the U.A.E. president’s office as an advisor for Mohamed Bin Zaid (MBZ), and frequently represents U.A.E.in the International Coalition against ISIS. AlMazrouei stated that he received the same concerns from the Australian government and sent the information to the leadership, referring to Mohamed bin Zaid.
U.A.E Double Face?
While the United States considers it as among its strongest allies in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in particular, the U.A.E. appears to ignore American strategic concerns of North Korean nuclear and basaltic programs.
U.A.E government would typically be aware of any arms purchases by its arms firms. The weapons trade in the U.A.E is tightly controlled by the government, and arms importers act as de facto procurement groups for the country’s military and security agencies.
Moreover, weapons procurement and purchase companies are controlled by individuals close to the members of the ruling family. It is most likely that U.A.E. government has ordered the purchase. The $100 million scope of the transaction and its urgency pushed by two U.A.E. companies with close ties to the ruling families indicate it would not have happened without prior clearance from the U.A.E. government. The shipment of rockets, machine guns and rifles appears to be headed to Yemen where North Korean arms are used to arms pro-U.A.E. groups, including extremists.
The memorandum stated that Al-Mutlaq appeared to be working on behalf of one of the largest U.A.E.’s arms importer, the International Gold Group (IGG), ran by, Fadhil Saif AlKaabi, a close friend of UAE’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zaid.
The close connections between AlKaabi with the U.A.E are a matter of public knowledge. IGG website featured several photos of AlKaabi and Mohamed bin Zayed this past February and last year during arms expos.
In addition, local U.A.E media featured photos of AlKaabi’s son’s wedding reception in July 2016 with several members of the UAE rulers in attendance. They included General Ahmed bin Tahnoon AlNuhayan, chief of the country’s national military service and reserve.
According to the French Intelligence Online, AlKaabi has provided arms to rebel groups in Yemen, Syria and Libya on behalf of the U.A.E. government.
One more indicator of U.A.E. official knowledge is the long-term relationship Al-Mutlaq’s principal Abdulrahman Abdullah Baqer have had with North Kora’s arms exporters. The memo describes the relationship’s “very long history,” casting doubt on any U.A.E denial of official involvement or prior knowledge of the North Korean relationship with Al-Mutlaq Technology.
The Obama administration did not sanction either Al-Mutlaq Technology nor IGG, in contrast with other companies around the world dealing with North Korean arms exporters, including the Chinese companies. This may have been connected to the influence Al Otaiba enjoyed with several American officials, including then Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a frequent visitor to the U.A.E.
The U.S. has placed sanctions on countries and entities for buying arms from North Korea in the past. Newsweek reported in April that Eritrean Navy was slapped by American sanctions following its purchase of communication equipment from North Korea.
It is not known whether the U.A.E. did anything to address the U.S. concerns. IGG continues to operate normally but the website of Al-Mutlaq Technology (www.mutlaq.ae) has been taken down. No one answered their phone when called by the Institute for Gulf Affairs. Defense Technology, a British website specialized in defense industry in the Middle East, still lists Al-Mutlaq Trading as a supplier of equipment to the U.A.E. ministry of interior and armed forces.
The office of Ambassador Al Otaiba and the U.A.E. Embassy in Washington did not reply to several calls and emails on this report.
One the net:
International Gold Group