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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Authorities step up crackdown on companies linked to Iran

June 21, 2010 | 11:54 am


Is it a public relations offensive meant to ease pressure on it from the United States, or is the United Arab Emirates finally cracking down on illicit trade with Iran?

The Dubai-based Gulf News reported Monday that the government has shut down more than 40 companies with alleged links to the Iranian government or the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The UAE, and its glittery city-state of Dubai in particular, have been criticized in the past for acting as a conduit for banned materials and laundered money in and out of Iran.

Earlier this month, the United Nations approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, citing its unwillingness to cooperate over its nuclear enrichment program. The sanctions singled out 40 companies linked to Iranian financing, imports and shipping, including 15 tied directly to the Revolutionary Guards.

A number of those companies were based or maintained offices in the Emirates, sometimes hiding behind front companies that were registered in a third country. As a result, all Iranian-owned companies in the UAE have come under suspicion, even those that are not subject to sanctions.

"Everyone is being investigated," Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, told Babylon & Beyond.

'"These closures have been going on for a while,"  he said.

Gulf News quoted an unnamed source who said the companies that were shut down were proven to be involved in money laundering or importing dual-use materials that could be used in weapons development, but did not give examples of what those materials could be.

"Operations of any company in the UAE proved to have connections with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, other entities or individuals subject to the UN asset freeze will immediately be shut down," said the source, sounding a lot like an Emirati government official. "The UAE is committed to meet its obligations towards the global effort for non-proliferation."

News of the crackdown coincides with reports over the weekend that Egypt allowed a large fleet of U.S. Navy vessels and at least one Israeli ship to pass through the Suez canal. The article, which originally appeared in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, was quickly picked up by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the U.S. news agency UPI, sparking rumors of an impending military confrontation.

Karasik dismissed those rumors, pointing out that the U.S. maintains several battle carrier groups throughout the Persian Gulf that it replaces once or twice a year.

"It's either a routine replacement or it's being conveniently used to test what the Iranians will do," he said.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A view of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is cracking down on companies with links to the Iranian government. Credit: Ramkumar Ramesh via Wikimedia Commons