The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan

Milenko NedelskovskiMilenko Nedelskovski

The exile in the Balkans of Mohammed Dahlan

 

The troubled course and power of Mohammed Dahlan are shaking Palestinians. Near Yasser Arafat, he implemented his assassination at the request of Israel. Unable to maintain order during the fratricidal war between Hamas and Fatah, he resigned from his post and fled abroad. Now based in Egypt, he heads Palestinian security again and has excellent relations with Yahya Sinwar, the Prime Minister of Gaza. During his exile, he has woven many links that he now exploits …

The UAE Crown Prince’s pit bull

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He’s the man of a thousand lives. He’s the man with a thousand faces. “He is also the man of a thousand crimes” persifles his enemies. Mohammed Dahlan’s name slams like a bullet from AK-47, a weapon he wields with mastery. If his name is on everyone’s lips in the Middle East, few venture to pronounce it aloud. Fear…

Former head of security of Yasser Arafat, former strong man of Fatah, possible successor of Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian Authority, Dahlan’s shadow hangs over all the intrigues stirring the Near and Middle East. The Palestinian uses his networks and money in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with incomparable dexterity to establish the influence of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Recently, it was his role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that was revealed. Last November, the Turkish daily “Yeni Safak” reported that the second team sent to the Saudi Arabian consulate to clean up after the Saudi journalist’s murder was recruited by Mohammed Dahlan himself and that the men present on the spot were the same as those involved in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhif, an influential Hamas member, in 2010.

Mercenaries in Yemen

A must in the region, “Abu Fadi”, its war name, even seems to have a gift of ubiquity, as it seems to be in several places at the same time. Recently, his involvement in the financing and arming of mercenaries deployed in Yemen to fight Houthi rebels has been the subject of much debate. Some intelligence services also provide him with a number of targeted assassinations with the help of a mercenary team led by the Israeli Abraham Golan. His expertise has made him the most prominent security advisor in Abu Dhabi. His mandate: to influence the re-composition of the Middle East in the direction most favourable to MBZ and to sabotage Qatari interests by the most vile means. The Emirati monarchy is also counting on him to crush all internal disputes mercilessly. Observers see him as the most ferocious watchdog of the Emiratis. “It’s the MBZ pit bull who always keeps him on a leash” risks one of them.

MBZ and Dahlan: a long friendship

Dahlan first met Mohammed Ben Zayed, born like him in 1961, in 1993, during a trip by Yasser Arafat to Abu Dhabi. The first, a young adviser to the Palestinian raïs, is preparing to take over the leadership of Preventive Security, one of the police units in the Gaza Strip, which has just been evacuated by the Israeli army, in accordance with the Oslo agreements. A function that he will transform into a financial pump, by taking a tithe from freight trucks entering the territory. The position will also allow him to establish useful contacts with many foreign intelligence services, including the Israeli Shin Beth.

The second, not yet known as “MBZ”, was at that time a fighter pilot, who was positioned to become the heir to his half-brother Khalifa, to whom the succession of Zayed, the founder of the UAE, was already promised. Like Dahlan, the young prince turned a state institution, the Offsets Bureau – which manages the funds that foreign arms companies must reinvest locally after obtaining a contract – into the matrix of his political rise.

The two thirty-somethings, driven by the same thirst for power, met several times and became sympathetic.

Thus, when in the summer of 2011, Mahmoud Abbas had him expelled from Fatah and sued him for embezzlement, it was quite naturally in the Emirates that he took refuge.

In Abu Dhabi, Dahlan is working harder than ever. To counter the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, winners of the elections held in Egypt and Tunisia after the uprisings of 2011, his Emirate master inaugurated a secret and strong diplomacy. As a good barker, Dahlan will be one of the giants of this counterrevolutionary enterprise.

In Egypt, “MBZ” and “Abu Fadi” support the destabilization of Mohamed Mursi, the winner of the 2012 presidential election, from the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, they finance the gigantic demonstrations in June 2013 that led to Power General Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi.

Suitcases full of cash

Dahlan also invests in Egyptian media on behalf of the Emirates. He is participating in the launch of the Al-Ghad television channel, directed by journalist Abdellatif Menawi, a nostalgic for the Mubarak regime. In return, the Egyptian authorities provide him with services. In April 2015, they let his wife, Jalila, enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing point, while under pressure from Mahmoud Abbas, Israel had closed the Erez gate on the north side. Once there, with suitcases full of cash, Jalila Dahlan financed a collective wedding for 400 Gazans. The day after the wedding, huge posters bearing the image of Khalifa Ben Zayed proclaimed “Thank you Emirates” on the walls of Gaza.

The Emirates’ man also operated his famous contacts in Libya. In this country, Abu Dhabi supports Marshal Khalifa Haftar, based in Cyrenaica, against the pro-Qatar camp of Misrata, and against the Prime Minister of national understanding, Faïez Sarraj, who is favoured by the Western World. Dahlan knows several former kadhafists present in Haftar’s entourage: Mohammed Ismaïl, Hassan Tatanaki, a philanthropic billionaire connected to arms dealers, and Kadhaf Al-Dam, a cousin of the Libyan Guide killed by the Misrata rebels in October 2011.

Deliveries of Emirati weapons to Camp Haftar, Libya

Multiple sources claim that these men have helped “Abu Fadi” to travel to Cyrenaica several times since 2012. One of the SissiLeaks, these clandestine recordings of conversations between the Egyptian president and his entourage that leaked into the media in the winter of 2015, referred to a trip by Dahlan, by private jet, from Cairo to Libya. To do what ? Many observers are convinced that Dahlan is one of the actors in the chain of Emirates arms deliveries to Camp Haftar, which was highlighted by the UN panel of experts on Libya. In addition to his security background, the vast network he has in the Balkans qualifies him for this role as an intermediary.

In the 2000s, on the strength of the old friendship between former Yugoslavia and the PLO, forged in the non-aligned movement, the opportunist Dahlan infiltrated the business circles of this region. He approached two senior executives: Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro four times between 1991 and 2016, long suspected of mafia connections; and Aleksandar Vucic, former Prime Minister and now President of Serbia, whose transparency is not his best quality.

Through a cascade of Balkan companies, most of them shady ones (Monte Mena, Levant International Corporation, Alfursan or Queens Beach Development…), Dahlan was able to conclude some lucrative business such as the production of Egyptian cigarettes “Cleopatra” or as this acquisition of land along the Zagreb- Belgrade highway, revealed by the Balkan Investing Reporting Network (BIRN). But above all, he helped his boss, Mohammed Ben Zayed, to penetrate this market. Between 2013 and 2015, Abu Dhabi won several major contracts in Serbia under particularly opaque conditions, including the Belgrade Waterfront, a project estimated at $3.5 billion to renovate an old part of the capital.

Huge stocks of weapons available in the Balkans

For his good offices, Dahlan received Serbian and Montenegrin passports, as well as eleven from his relatives. And Mohammed Ben Zayed’s interest in the Balkans is also due to the region’s huge arms stocks, a legacy of the civil war of the 1990s. An investigation by BIRN and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, published in 2016 in the Guardian, revealed that in 2015, at least eight cargo planes loaded with weapons took off from Serbia for Abu Dhabi. Random? In June of that same year, General Haftar visited Belgrade.

Some of this equipment was reportedly re-exported to Libya under the supervision of Mohammed Dahlan. In a telephone conversation available on YouTube, recorded clandestinely, we also hear a relative of Mahmoud Jibril, the Prime Minister of the rebellion in 2011, offer a militia leader “Dahlan’s help”. For many experts in the region, there is no doubt: “Dahlan is the man of the Emirates to bring troops to Haftar. He works with Haftar’s son, Saddam. The two men are also business partners and are reported to have invested in a mining site in Sudan. “The appetite of MBZ’s Pittbull is insatiable…

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