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Israel linked to exiled sheikh’s bid for ‘coup’ in Gulf emirate of RAK
• UK ambassador advising Sheikh Khalid of Ras al-Khaimeh
• Tiny UAE state ‘aids trafficking of nuclear parts’ to Iran
Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London, has met Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesIsrael is aiding an exiled Arab sheikh who is vying to seize control of a strategically important Gulf emirate only 40 miles from Iran.
The Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, has met Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi, the exiled crown prince of Ras al-Khaimeh (RAK), who asked him to help with his campaign to oust the leadership of the northernmost state in the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting took place in London in March and has been followed by phone calls and wider assistance and advice, according to records of the relationship seen by the Guardian.
Khalid, who has been based in London and has hired a solicitor from Ickenham as his agent, is bidding to replace his ailing father, Sheikh Saqr, and half brother, Sheikh Saud, to take control of RAK.
Israel’s involvement in what would be a bloodless coup in one of the most sensitive regions in the world, would be “extremely uncomfortable”, according to Dr Christopher Davidson, an expert on the politics of the UAE at Durham University.
Khalid, who was sent into exile in 2003, claims RAK is now acting as a trafficking hub for nuclear arms parts to Iran and has spent more than £4m on an international public relations and lobbying campaign to persuade American politicians and the pro-Israel lobby in the US that it would be safer if he were in charge.
The alliance with Israel is the latest twist in the already extraordinary saga of Khalid’s bid to return to power. In June the Guardian revealed that his fighting fund was being channelled through Peter Cathcart, a 59-year-old miniature steam railway enthusiast and parish council chairman who runs a family firm of solicitors in Ickenham, west London.
He in turn was spending it on top Washington lobbyists, Californian PR consultants and military experts to draw up dossiers damning the regime in RAK.
Prosor has pressed his contacts in the US government on behalf of Khalid whose aides asked for help setting up meetings in Washington with anyone interested in their claims about RAK’s alleged sanctions busting, particularly concerning parts for the Iranian nuclear programme, plot records seen by this newspaper show.
An email from Cathcart to the ambassador’s office reports that “His Highness … very much enjoyed his meeting with the ambassador”.
In April Cathcart arranged for the two men to speak on the phone when the sheikh was in Oman and a note of the conversation recorded by Cathcart shows the ambassador “is working with certain people from his side” and “promised that the matter will be solved in his [the sheikh’s] favour”.
Sheikh Saqr is understood to be dying in hospital in Abu Dhabi and his son, Sheikh Saud, 54, the sitting crown prince, has been told to begin preparations for his wake, a significant event in emirates politics, which is likely to be attended by Abu Dhabi’s rulers, who will have a large influence over which of the sons will succeed him.
“By meeting with the Israeli ambassador, he is sending out signals to Abu Dhabi and Washington DC that he will be hawkish on Iran if it comes to war,” said Davidson. “This is a new kind of coup. It doesn’t involve slitting throats, but instead spending large sums of money on global communications. It is the first of its kind and I am betting on it being successful. I think by the end of the summer we will have a verdict.”
Asked about Israel’s involvement, Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Khalid, said: “There is significant interest in the current RAK regime’s relationship to Iran, particularly in the context of trying to stop the flow of arms, goods and technology from going through RAK to the Islamic Republic. Sheikh Khalid and representatives from his team meet with elected officials, high-ranking government officials and media representatives of various countries all the time. In fact, this week Sheikh Khalid’s representatives are in Washington DC meeting representatives of the US foreign policy/national security establishment who are very concerned about the activity in RAK.”
Odelia Englander, a spokeswoman at the Israeli embassy in London, declined to comment.