The United Arab Emirates government collaborated with coup plotters in Turkey weeks before it was launched using exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan as a go-between with the US-based cleric accused by Turkey of orchestrating the plot, sources close to one of Turkey’s intelligence services told Middle East Eye.
Dahlan is alleged to have transferred money to the coup plotters in Turkey in the weeks before the coup and communicated with Fethullah Gulen, the cleric alleged by Turkey to have masterminded the coup attempt, via a Palestinian businessman based in the US.
The identity of this man, who is close to Dahlan, is known to the Turkish intelligence service.
Throughout the night of the coup on 15 July, pan-Arab media based in Dubai such as Sky News Arabic and Al Arabiya reported that the coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been successful.
At one point, media outlets influenced by the Emirates claimed that Erodgan had fled the country, although there is no suggestion that the media outlets were involved in the coup.
It took the government of the UAE 16 hours - one hour after a statement by Saudi Arabia - to condemn the coup and support Erdogan as the legitimate president of Turkey.
According to sources who spoke to MEE, the UAE then took fright and launched an operation to distance itself from Dahlan.
It put out on social media that there was “anger with Dahlan”. Shortly afterwards, he was forced to leave the UAE and he is understood to be in Egypt currently.
Dahlan is a former leader of the Palestinian political party Fatah who has been exiled from Gaza and the West Bank and is considered to have close ties to Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
He is alleged to have been used as a conduit for UAE funds and communication in many operations in the Middle East.
MEE reported in May that the UAE, Jordan and Egypt had identified Dahlan as a favoured successor to current Fatah leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Dahlan is also linked to attempts to stoke the civil war in Libya. In a secret recording of Abbas Kamel, the then-office manager of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Kamel revealed that Dahlan, accompanied by three people, would secretly visit Libya on a private jet.
Kamel recommended that a military official allow Dahlan to leave the Libyan airport in secret. Kamel said Dahlan had already caused a problem for the Egyptian authorities because he travels “upon orders from the UAE which monitors all his movements”.
Since the failure of the coup, the Emiratis have tried to mend fences with Ankara. Theydetained two Turkish generals operating in Afghanistan who had suspected links to the coup at Dubai international airport.
Mehmet Cahit Bakir, a major general in command of the Afghanistan Turkish Task Force, and Sener Topuc, a brigadier general in command of the Train, Advise and Assist Command in Kabul, were deported back to Ankara.
They are even more fearful of a backlash in the wake of the purge Erdogan is conducting of the Turkish army.
An informed source told MEE: “They now feel that Erdogan is in full power. They do not like him personally and think of him as a man who will seek to take revenge. Once Erdogan has cleaned out the stables, they think he will then turn on those outside the country who supported the coup.”
A total of 126 army generals have been arrested in connection with the attempted coup. This represents about one third of all the generals in the Turkish armed forces.
The revelations about Dahlan’s conversations with a Palestinian businessman before the coup in the US could also increase the pressure on Washington to consider Turkey’s request for Gulen to be extradited.
Turkey’s foreign and justice ministers are set to travel in person to the US to demand the extradition of Gulen, but for that to succeed they must present a US judge with prima facieevidence to back the list of criminal charges, and proof that similar charges exist under US law.
If the charges clear that hurdle, Gulen would still be open to the defence that the charges are political in nature and that he could not be guaranteed of a fair trial in Turkey. About 2,700 judges were removed from their posts after the coup.