UAE Counterterrorism

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) strongly condemns terrorism and extremism in all forms. By working closely with the United States (US) and other international partners, the UAE is demonstrating its commitment to confront, degrade and eradicate terrorism and extremism across the Middle East and worldwide. 

The UAE believes that violent extremists will not be defeated by military force alone. More holistic approaches are needed, including: cutting off funding; disrupting the recruitment of foreign fighters; securing borders; halting the spread of hate and promotion of violence via the web and social media; and, preventing the use of religious centers to radicalize and recruit. 

The US Department of State and international leaders have commended the UAE and its leadership for their continued commitment to enhancing counterterrorism capacity and ongoing international counterterrorism cooperation.

The UAE has gone all in. It’s the strongest relationship that the United States has in the Arab world today. - General Anthony Zinni (ret.), former Commander, US Central Command

Military Commitment to Combating Terrorism and Extremism

  • The UAE is actively participating with the US and other coalition partners in the fight against ISIL/Daesh. 
  • The UAE’s contributions to the fight against terrorism include combating extremist movements such as Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Taliban, the Houthis, and Al Shebaab. The UAE continues to deploy forces in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, among other theaters, in the fight against terrorists and extremists.

Disrupting Illicit Financing

Close International Cooperation to Monitor and Shut Down Terrorist Financing Networks

  • ​​Through close monitoring and strict enforcement, the UAE has effectively prevented and disrupted the illicit financing of extremist groups through the UAE financial system and within UAE borders.
  • The Joint UAE-US Financial Counterterrorism Task Force enhances cooperation, coordination and information sharing to shut down terrorist financing networks and cut off the flow of funds to extremists.
    • The Task Force helps block funding to extremists from individuals and commercial activity such as black market sales of oil, and prevents access to the international banking system.
  • The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) and chairs the Training and Typologies Working Group.
  • The UAE’s financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

Enhanced Financial Monitoring 

  • The UAE supports strict enforcement of counterterrorist financing laws and regulations, encouraging increased monitoring of charitable fundraising and further examination of money flows across the region.
  • The Central Bank conducts Anti-Money Laundering training both locally and regionally, and has expanded its cooperation with foreign financial intelligence units.
  • During key periods of religious observance, the UAE government airs television commercials warning citizens and residents to refrain from donating money through unapproved channels, including religious centers, as the funds could unknowingly support terrorist causes.

Increased Government Capacity

  • The UAE judicial and financial systems have a number of mechanisms in place to freeze and confiscate terrorist assets and the assets of those suspected of terrorist financing. 
  • The State Security Court, a branch of the Federal Supreme Court, has increased its capacity to handle terrorist support cases, including trying cases against those suspected of illegally collecting money to finance a terrorist organization.

Countering Extremist Propaganda and Preventing the Exploitation of Web and Social Media

Promoting Tolerance and Compassion

  • The UAE is leading efforts to promote tolerance and compassion through Islam, countering the root causes of extremism and disrupting the messages that lead to radicalization.
  • Prominent UAE officials and religious leaders continue to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology and highlight the dangers of violent extremism. 
  • To prevent violent extremist preaching in UAE religious centers, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments works closely with religious leaders in the UAE and monitors possible violations. 
  • UAE-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and New York-based Religions for Peace hosted a joint conference with religious leaders to discuss ways to combat religious extremism.
    • The conference resulted in a three-year action plan, including: developing tool kits; training local and national leaders in countering religious extremists; launching a large-scale social media campaign; providing humanitarian assistance to at risk populations; and, implementing programs to promote tolerance and rehabilitate and de-radicalize religious extremists.

Countering Extremists’ Propaganda and the Exploitation of Web and Social Media

  • The Sawab Center is a joint collaboration between the UAE and US to counter extremist propaganda and terrorist messaging in the online space. The Center was announced by US President Barack Obama at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, and is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
    • Since its launch in July 2015, the Sawab Center has contested Daesh’s online presence by responding directly to its propaganda through immediate reactive messaging as well as proactive campaigns and other content that exposes Daesh’s true nature, highlights the successes of the Global Coalition, amplifies regional voices of moderation, and offers an alternative, positive vision that underscores the true values and diversity of Islam.
    • As co-leads in the Communications Working Group of the counter-Daesh Coalition, the UAE and the US pledged to collaborate on the center.
    • Sawab has placed a specific emphasis on amplifying credible third party voices, whether these are organizations active in the anti-extremism field, moderate religious scholars, or well-known personalities.
    • In addition, Sawab seeks to amplify credible religious narratives to counteract Daesh rhetoric and has cooperated with like-minded entities including Al-Azhar.  Sawab highlighted the Marrakesh Declaration prominently.
    • Sawab has consulted and shared its experience with many countries and international organizations interested in similar efforts to counter violent extremism and regularly coordinates with other members of the Coalition on social media campaigns and to align on messaging.
    • Sawab is a model of bilateral cooperation against the scourge of Daesh terrorism, helping blunt Daesh’s previously unopposed online dominance.
  • Under the UAE government’s cybercrime law, the UAE criminalizes the use of the internet by terrorist groups to “promote their ideologies and finance their activities.” 

Stopping the Flow of Foreign Fighters

Close Coordination with Regional and International Partners

  • The UAE has been proactive in preventing UAE nationals from joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.
  • Through close coordination and cooperation, the UAE and the US are working together to stop the influx of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq.
  • The UAE and Gulf Cooperation Countries are actively working together to enhance regional stability, increase interoperability and improve border security. Efforts include creating a regional police force based in Abu Dhabi and a joint naval force based in Bahrain.

First Preclearance Facility in the Middle East

  • The UAE hosts the first US Customs and Border preclearance facility in the Middle East at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The facility is yet another layer in the close security cooperation between the UAE and US as the two countries work together to ensure global security and stability. 

Encouraging International Dialogue on Countering Extremism

  • The UAE is home to Hedayah, the Global Center for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, a “think and do” tank that provides communities and governments around the world with tools to increase their capabilities to counter extremism and recruitment efforts by terrorist organizations. Hedayah was created by the UAE, US, and other member countries of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in 2012.