UAE training Syrian regime intelligence agents, providing aid to Damascus

Jun 24, 2020

The United Arab Emirates has been found to be training Syrian military intelligence officers and providing aid to the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, reveals a report by the French-language site Orient XXI.

Emirati officials are providing training to Syrian intelligence officers – 31 of whom are non-commissioned officers and eight of whom are information and communication systems engineers – in the logistics, technical and scientific fields. Support has also been provided by the Emirati officers to the general staff of the Syrian Arab Army, with five Syrian pilots having been allowed to train at the UAE’s Khalifa Bin Zayed military academy.

According to the investigation, the training – which ranged from between two months to one year beginning from 15 January – was primarily supervised by four officers of the Syrian regime’s intelligence services, including Assad’s own cousin Lieutenant-Colonel Jihad Barakat.

The Syrian intelligence services have been notorious for their role in the kidnappings, torture and killings of over 100,000 detainees throughout the ongoing Syrian civil war, making Abu Dhabi’s training of its agents a concerning discovery.

The UAE has also been providing aid such as medical supplies and food to the hospitals and facilities located within Syrian regime-controlled areas, as well as financing the reconstruction of public buildings, thermal power stations and hydraulic plants within the capital Damascus.

The Emirates’ training and aid provision to the Assad regime was reportedly initiated when the Gulf state reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018, reviving relations between the two which had been severed following the start of the unrest in 2011.

Abu Dhabi’s aiding of Damascus was conducted in spite of the Arab League’s boycott of Al-Assad, and is revealed a week after the United States imposed strict sanctions under the landmark Caesar Act on the Syrian regime and its affiliates, which also threatens to sanction and restrict any individual or state which helps the regime in any way.

Last week, during a press conference on the implementation of the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act“, commenting on the UAE’s support for Al-Assad, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Franklin Jeffrey announced: “The UAE knows that we absolutely refuse that countries take such steps… We have clearly stressed that we consider this a bad idea.”

- Middle East Monitor