ABU DHABI – Although the United Arab Emirates’ list of designated terrorist organizations has raised questions about who it does and does not include, officials see the move as necessary for the Arabian Gulf sheikhdom.
The list approved by the UAE Cabinet on Nov. 15 includes 83 organizations, including the Washington-based Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Serbian non profit group CANVAS and the Houthi movement in Yemen. The list, however, excludes Lebanese Hezbollah and Gaza- based Hamas.
"Some of the most prominent groups on the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations are included on the UAE list, so Washington will likely view that as a positive and encouraging development in the fight against terror," said David Weinberg, a senior fellow at Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Weinberg said that the detail in the UAE's list shows that a greater level of care went into it than Saudi Arabia's list in March.
"There are almost 10 times as many entities on the UAE list than the Saudi one. Unfortunately, there were a few disappointing elements to the UAE list from an American perspective," he said.
US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke responded to the list, saying, "We have examined the list of organizations that were classified as terrorist groups that was published by the United Arab Emirates a few days ago, and we are aware that two of the organizations on that list are based in the United States. We are trying to get information on the reasons behind this decision."
The UAE has not publicized its reasons for the inclusion of CAIR and the Muslim American Society.
"It's a bit surprisingly to see the UAE going after CAIR, MAS, Cordoba and Muslim communal groups in at least seven European countries given that in the past the UAE had engaged with and reportedly even funded some of these groups," Weinberg said.
However, some American officials and analysts have expressed concerns about the support CAIR leaders have given to radical causes over the years, he said.
"But it's difficult for observers in the US and Europe to understand the sanctioning of all of these communal groups as terrorist entities unless the UAE puts out public dossiers on each group to explain the justification for these actions," he said. "Presumably, the UAE has data to back up its allegations; if so, it would help advance the cause of counterterrorism to make this information public so that other countries can fall in line. And if there's not enough information to back it up, at least in back channels, then perhaps the terror list cast too broad a net."
The most notable exclusions were Hamas and Hezbollah Lebanon.
According to Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Institute for Gulf and Near East Analysis, the inclusion of Hezbollah Lebanon would affect relations with Lebanon and Iran.
"Hezbollah is a political military organization; politically it's part of the Lebanese government and considering it as a terror group would affect relations to a certain point," he said.
Hezbollah is the most powerful non-state actor allied with Iran; any move against Hezbollah would be considered against Iran and the UAE possibly does not want to hurt relations with its neighbor, Kahwaji added
He said details of how the UAE will proceed with its list is still not clear.
"On a Gulf Cooperation Council level there is still no unified definition of what is a terrorist group; for example, Saudi Arabia has asked the UN this week to include Hezbollah as a terrorist group" he said.
Weinberg stated that the list also was hypocritical with regard to groups that target Israel.
"How can Abu Dhabi justify leaving off Hezbollah in Lebanon when it includes Hezbollah in the Hejaz, the Gulf, and Iraq? Doesn't Hezbollah in Lebanon attack civilians, too?
"Americans also have trouble understanding why the UAE would go to such lengths to blacklist groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood but leave off the most undeniably violent Ikhwan offshoot, Hamas, which relishes in launching attacks against civilians," Weinberg said.
"Yes, the UAE supports the Palestinian cause, but shouldn't it also stand consistently against terror, even when it targets Jews? This is something that [Supreme National Security Council member] Dhahi Khalfan, for instance, has admirably spoken out about before, and in this regard the UAE list was disappointing," he said.
The UAE, however, is not the first to walk the delicate path in defining its relations within the region, Kahwaji said.
"In July 2013, Europe came out with their list of terrorist organizations in which they branded the political wing of Hezbollah as non-terrorist organization while the military wing was branded as terrorist," he said.
This decisions came despite the fact that Hezbollah considers itself as one entity.
"This decision was made as not to affect the EU's relations with Iran and during every visit to Lebanon EU officials have increased their meetings with Hezbollah officials so as not to show that they are against them," Kahwaji said.
Weinberg said that the inclusion of some radical Shi'ite groups in Iraq and Yemen that are not on Washington's terror list is an interesting move.
"The listing of the Houthis, for instance, is a very notable development, along with sectarian Shi'ite militias in Iraq, only some of which are considered terrorists by the United States," he said.
Kahwaji said that there are non-state actors developing themselves to be a state or part of the state, like the Houthi's in Yemen.
"This is a complicated issue which will test the relations between Arab states in the future."
Reasons for the inclusion of Serbian non-profit CANVAS is widely understood around the region. Last December, the Kuwaiti National Security Agency released a social media video explaining the role of CANVAS in promoting dissent in the state. Furthermore, security agencies in the region are closely monitoring members and affiliates of the group, however no official stance has been taken until now. ■
The following is the list of organizations designated as terrorist that have been approved by the UAE Cabinet:
The UAE Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Islah (or Da'wat Al-Islah)
Fatah al-Islam (Lebanon)
Associazione Musulmani Italiani (Association of Italian Muslims)
Khalaya Al-Jihad Al-Emirati (Emirati Jihadist Cells)
Osbat al-Ansar (the League of the Followers) in Lebanon.
The Finnish Islamic Association (Suomen Islam-seurakunta)
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM or Tanzim al-Qa idah fi Bilad al-Maghrib al-Islami)
The Muslim Association of Sweden (Sveriges muslimska forbund, SMF)
Hizb al-Ummah (The Ommah Party or Nation's Party) in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula
Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL, Partisans of Islamic Law)
Det Islamske Forbundet i Norge (Islamic Association in Norway)
Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST, Partisans of Sharia) in Tunisia
Islamic Relief UK
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) in Somalia ( Mujahideen Youth Movement)
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) in Britain
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Boko Haraam ( Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad) in Nigeria
Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) of the Global Muslim Brotherhood
Jama'at Ansar al-Shari'a (Partisans of Sharia) in Yemen
Al-Mourabitoun (The Sentinels) group in Mali
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan)
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organization and groups
Ansar al-Dine (Defenders of the faith) movement in Mali
Abu Dhar al-Ghifari Battalion in Syria
Jama'a Islamia in Egypt (AKA al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, The Islamic Group, IG)
The Haqqani Network in Pakistan
Al-Tawheed Brigade (Brigade of Unity, or Monotheism) in Syria
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABM, Supporters of the Holy House or Jerusalem) and now rebranded as Wilayat Sinai (Province or state in the Sinai)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (Soldiers, or Army of the Pure, or of the Righteous)
Al-Tawhid wal-Eman Battalion (Battalion of Unity, or Monotheism, and Faith) in Syria
Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) group
The East Turkistan Islamic Movement in Pakistan (ETIM), AKA the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM)
Katibat al-Khadra in Syria (The Green Battalion)
Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (the Mujahedeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, or MSC)
Jaish-e-Mohammed (The Army of Muhammad)
Abu Bakr Al Siddiq Brigade in Syria
The Houthi Movement in Yemen
Jaish-e-Mohammed (The Army of Muhammad) in Pakistan and India
Talha Ibn 'Ubaid-Allah Company in Syria.
Hezbollah al-Hijaz in Saudi Arabia
Al Mujahideen Al Honoud in Kashmor/India (The Indian Mujahideen, IM)
Al Sarim Al Battar Brigade in Syria
Hezbollah in the Gulf Cooperation Council
Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus (Caucasus Emirate or Kavkaz and Chechen jidadists)
The Abdullah bin Mubarak Brigade in Syria
Al-Qaeda in Iran
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
Qawafil al-Shuhada (Caravans of the Martyrs)
The Badr Organization in Iraq
Abu Sayyaf Organization in the Philippines
Abu Omar Brigade in Syria
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq (The Leagues of the Righteous)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Ahrar Shammar Brigade in Syria (Brigade of the free men of the Shammar Tribe)
Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq
CANVAS Organization in Belgrade, Serbia
The Sarya al-Jabal Brigade in Syria
Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas in Syria
The Muslim American Society (MAS)
Al Shahba' Brigade in Syria
Liwa al-Youm al-Maw'oud in Iraq (Brigade of Judgment Day).
International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS).
Al Ka'kaa' Brigade in Syria
Liwa Ammar bin Yasser (Ammar bin Yasser Brigade)
Ansar al-Islam in Iraq
Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe
Sufyan Al Thawri Brigade
Ansar al-Islam Group in Iraq (Partisans of Islam)
Union of Islamic Organizations of France (L'Union des Organisztions Islamiques de France, UOIF)
Ebad ar-Rahman Brigade (Brigade of Soldiers of Allah) in Syria
Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) in Syria
Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)
Omar Ibn al-Khattab Battalion in Syria
Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham Al Islami (Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant)
Islamic Society of Germany (Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland).
Al-Shayma' Battalion in Syria
Jaysh al-Islam in Palestine (The Army of Islam in Palestine)
The Islamic Society in Denmark (Det Islamiske Trossamfund, DIT)
Katibat al-Haqq (Brigade of the Righteous)
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades
The League of Muslims in Belgium (La Ligue des Musulmans de Belgique, LMB)