One of the three former CIA officials with knowledge of the agency’s UAE operations said intelligence on its government is needed for reasons beyond its regional interventions. The UAE is also forging closer ties with Russia – including a wide-ranging strategic partnership signed last year to cooperate on security, trade and oil markets – and with China, where Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s defector ruler, last month made a three-day visit for a UAE-China economic forum.
Some national security experts, however, continue to see enough alignment between U.S. and UAE interests to explain the continued lack of spying.
“Their enemies are our enemies,” said Norman Roule, a retired CIA official, referring to Iran and al-Qaeda. “Abu Dhabi’s actions have contributed to the war on terror, particularly against al-Queda in Yemen.”