Report: Sheikh Khalid Attempting Bloodless Coup in Ras al-Khaimah
A bloodless coup to take control of the UAE emirate of Ras al-Khaimah has been plotted by US lobbyists and an English solicitor, the Guardian has reported. Ousted in 2003 by his father and brother, Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi has reportedly hired 59-year-old British lawyer Peter Cathcart to coordinate a plot to return him to power after seven years in exile.
The Guardian on Monday reported to have been given access to documents showing that Cathcart participated in a multimillion-pound campaign on Sheikh Khalid's behalf to "undermine the current regime's standing" and to force the UAE's leadership in Abu Dhabi to "make a change." According to the documents, the men involved have accused the current regime in Ras al-Khaimah of becoming "a rogue state and gateway for Iran," permitting the shipments of weapons, nuclear weapon components, drugs, blood diamonds, military personal and al-Qaeda affiliates.
"Cathcart, a miniature steam train enthusiast and chairman of his local parish council who operates from modest offices in the outer London suburbs, cuts an unlikely figure in the plot, which involves highly paid US PR consultants, Washington lobbyists and former US-special forces strategists hired at a cost of at least $3.7m (£2.6m)," writes the Guardian.
"They include BSKH, the lobbying firm which helped Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who opposed Saddam Hussein and was widely blamed for providing unsubstantiated evidence about weapons of mass destruction used as justification for an invasion of Iraq."
The Guardian does not allege that Cathcart acted unlawfully.
"The plotters have claimed the RAK (Ras al-Khaimah) regime is implicated in an alleged terror plot to blow up the world's tallest building in Dubai, and a possible Iranian attack on US participants in the America's Cup yachting race, due to take place in the emirate but later cancelled," the article continues.
News of Sheikh Khalid's attempt to claim power comes amid global concerns over Iran's controversial nuclear ambitions. Sheikh Khalid has reportedly highlighted links between Iran and Ras al-Khaimah to gain much needed support, particularly from Washington.
Speaking in Washington last February, Sheikh Khalid said, "I am troubled that the current regime has allowed RAK (Ras al-Khaimah) to devolve into a rogue state and strategic gateway for Iran. Published reports in the Gulf region have repeatedly indicated that Iran has taken advantage of our free trade zones, using them as a transfer point to smuggle cargo, including arms, electronics, weapons parts, drugs and even humans to Africa, Europe and Asia."
Both the UAE and the UAE embassy in London have denied Sheikh Khalid claims that Ras al-Khaimah is has nuclear links with Iran. "These appear to be old, scurrilous rumours which Sheik Khalid has made on numerous occasions," a UAE spokesperson said in a statement. "His claims are baseless and without foundation and should be seen in the context of his long-standing dispute with his family. We are surprised that these old allegations are now being rehashed once again."
Sheikh Khalid has reportedly returned from London to the UAE last month and has met with officials in Abu Dhabi to discuss the issue. Under way since at least 2008, the plot "is now entering its endgame."
According to the report, "Cathcart has overseen the disbursement of several million dollars to fund the plot and acted as an intermediary between PR consultants, lobbyists and Sheikh Khalid. Cathcart has also met congressmen in Washington DC on behalf of the sheikh and oversaw requests for new appointments to the team. On one occasion he was asked to approve win-bonuses for would-be US advisers of $250,000 per person if the sheikh returns to power."
When asked by the Guardian if "regime change" a "legitimate goal, he told the paper, "If you believe in the peace, prosperity and security of the region and in protecting US national security interests, of course. If you are pro-Iranian or believe that the questionable activities in RAK (Ras al-Khaimah) should be allowed to move forward without any concern, then you would probably not approve of our activities."