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Was United Arab Emirates Providing Arms To Syrian Rebels And ISIS?

Dubai, the second wealthiest emirate in the UAE, boasts of being one of the biggest tourist hubs in the world. The country embraces a global culture and welcomes people with the nicest Arab gestures. On the contrary, it is the same nation like Saudi Arabia that provides weaponry support to the rebels and extremists in the war-struck Syria, which is killing thousands of innocent civilians since five years.

Despite Syrian grenade report, recently, Switzerland has planned to ease arms export rules for countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is engaged in a number of civil wars. SonntagsBlick, a German-language newspaper, reported how Swiss-made hand grenades reached into the hands of militants in Syria.

According to the paper, the grenades can be seen in photographs of a weapons stash of an ISIS sleeper cell, clicked by members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, near the disputed town of Idlib in Syria.

ISIS fighters in Syria with Swiss-made grenades

State arms maker RUAG claimed that the ammunition was delivered and approved by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in 2003 to the United Arab Emirates, which later transferred the weapons to Syria.

“There was a case reported in 2003/2004, wherein a RUAG customer made false end-user declarations and failed to comply with the requirements it had acknowledged,” RUAG said.

Switzerland’s SECO later investigated and revealed that the UAE had illegally transferred a portion of RUAG’s 225,000 grenades on to Jordan, which borders Syria. This was indeed a violation of the sales agreement between the two parties. Spokesman for the company stated that possibly the grenades could come from that supply.

However, this has been a practice of UAE for years, as earlier also RUAG-made grenades, which were supplied to the UAE, got in the hands of terrorists in Syria. In 2012, they were found with the Free Syrian Army, a group fighting the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

In the matter of Syria, the UAE seeks dethronement of President Bashar al-Assad. For this, it is long-contributing to a multi-country pool of funds to purchase weapon units for the Syrian rebel groups.

The UAE has always escaped human rights violations under the shadow of its military ally Saudi Arabia. Reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said that extensive weapon supply by the United Arab Emirates has been a key issue in the Syrian conflict, which is sharply fueling the civil war.

“The government is aided with heavy munition from its foreign allies, while the rebels are receiving arms and other non-lethal resources, covertly.”

The battle, with UAE human rights violation, has brought immense misery to the people of Syria. According to the United Nation (UN), million of civilians have fled their home, and thousands have been brutally killed; many more are surviving the wounds. The UAE human rights and war victims are devoid of essentials, including food, drinking water and basic health-care facilities.

Besides acute starvation, several hazardous diseases are threatening thousands of people in the country.

Though Saudi Arabia and US are its closest military allies. Yet, the UAE is functioning majorly independently of them. Over the span of 15 years, the UAE has formed aggressive foreign policies to boost its economic interests in the Middle East and Africa.

To achieve this, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed has shifted UAE’s stance from longstanding neutrality to power projection. Apprehended by the Arab Spring in 2011, the UAE has intervened combatively in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and lately, in Yemen.

In Libya, the UAE is providing strong military backing to General Haftar’s forces, fighting against the government brokered by the United Nations. Neglecting the UN arms embargo, the UAE has circulated hefty weaponry aid to the country.

It is a lucrative business for many countries supplying ammunition, indirectly backing the UAE terrorism, despite restrictions from the UN and European Union (EU) export control regimes. This is worrisome.

The risk of arms being used in Yemen war, or supplied to sanctioned destinations is itself a sufficient reason for weapon dealers to cut their supplies. Unfortunately, some countries continue supplying arms to the United Arab Emirates, which implies that the Yemeni people will continue to suffer for the indeterminable future.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their military allies must stop escaping under the cover of diplomatic flights, and restrict arms transmission in the hands of terrorists across the world.

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