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The United Arab Emirates modernizes its intelligence services

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By Corneliu Pivariu

The developments in the Middle East at the beginning of the third millenium and especially after the so-called Arab spring brought to the attention of the countries of the Middle East and predominantly the Gulf ones the necessity of modernizing the intelligence services for meeting the current conditions of political, economic, social and technological developments.

The civil war in Syria and the involvement of a large spectrum of interests in this country underlined once more the necessity of improving the intelligence services of the Middle East and of the Gulf area countries that wanted to play a more significant role in this conflict. The specificity of the area determined the great powers outside the region to turn to the Arab allies there in order to expand the cooperation with the counterpart intelligence services for accomplishing certain missions the latter have right from the outset a better approach (from commanding the language, familiarity with the customs, coping with local conditions, connections,…). Moreover, the Arab leaders understood better that information is a power multiplier and assessed it more thoroughly, closer to its real value, without betting exclusively on the economic and financial strength the Gulf states enjoy.

One of the Gulf countries which started to carry out intense actions to this purpose and turned to the services rendered by professionals who were once part of the Western intelligence services is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Employing private contractors for training national intelligence structures is a relatively new phenomenon yet all those working in the field agree with or there are no certain reservations from both the country these experts are coming from and from the receiving country.

If by the end of November 2017 the UAE media published articles stressing that the country achieved the utmost that has been done globally in the field of civil constructions and mentioned the possibility of starting the design works for building a city on Planet Mars, the situation of the intelligence services is quite different. The UAE’s intelligence component has two well divided parts. One of them, which may be called the traditional side, works within the police and the army, with components able to collect information in the fields of security, criminality and drug trafficking in each of the emirates. Besides the two parts, the two main Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have each its own structures for investigating, arresting and prosecuting the suspects.

A particular mention should be made of the Abu Dhabi police that benefits of state-of-the-art equipment and technologies and cooperates with numerous specialized national and international organizations. In December 2013, the National College of Defense was set up under the command of Major General Rashad Al Sa’ad. John R. Ballard, a former officer of the US Marines Corps, was appointed dean of the College.

The second component of the UAE intelligence services, of strategic intelligence, the IT and other electronic fields included operates undercover. By the end of February, 2017, the UAE signed a contract worth 189 million dollar with Haris Corporation for a management system of the operational capabilities of the UAE’s Armed Forces. At about 60 km from Abu Dhabi confines, close to Port Zayed, a modern compound for training intelligence officers, where training starts from basic notions, surveillance techniques to special operations, according to CIA model has been built.

The central figure seems to be the former American intelligence officer Larry Sanchez – an intimate of the ruling family of the UAE and chairman of the intelligence consultancy CAGN Global Ltd having its headquarters in Baltimore.

Other private companies are ALUAALLC – headed by a former intelligence officer of the Royal Air Force and DarkMatter that works for the UAE government on intelligence Cyber security. In 2010, Eric Prince – known mainly as owner of the famous Blackwater, set up in Abu Dhaby Reflex Response (R2) company with 51% Emirati participation specialized in intelligence, security, counter-terrorism and revolts quelling operations.

Considering today’s developments in the Gulf and in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE seeks to acquire an important role in intelligence as well, and does not spare the funds for this purpose.


About the author:

Corneliu Pivariu-, Ingepo Consulting. Photographer Ionus Paraschiv

Corneliu Pivariu, former first deputy for military intelligence (two stars general) in the Romanian MoD, retired 2003. Member of IISS – London, alumni of Harvard – Kennedy School Executive Education and others international organizations.

Founder of INGEPO Consulting, and bimonthly Bulletin, Geostrategic Pulse”. Main areas of expertise – geopolitics, intelligence and security.


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