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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who paid for Mabhouh's 5-star hotel room?

Forbes' Claudia Rosett asks a good question:
When I dropped by the Al Bustan Rotana during a recent trip to Dubai, it struck me that the luxuriousness of the hotel has not been fully conveyed. That matters. The opulence with which al-Mabhouh surrounded himself on his fatal trip underscores some big unanswered questions, not about the alleged killers (whose trail has received plenty of official attention) but about al-Mabhouh (whose doings in Dubai have yet to be explained).

Al-Mabhouh was, after all, a senior member of Hamas--a Palestinian organization that expects of its underlings an austere dedication to Islamic law and tutors them to sacrifice everything for such Hamas charter causes as the destruction of Israel. Al-Mabhouh, like a number of other Hamas leaders, was based in Damascus. But he was a big cog in a Hamas system that in 2007 seized complete control of Gaza and with the backing of Iran has made it a priority to saturate Gaza with weapons, while the population lives in poverty...

When al-Mabhouh arrived in Dubai from Damascus on Jan. 19, it seems that austerity was not on his agenda. He checked into a plush hotel, geared to cosmopolitan pleasures. Though rates fluctuate with the season, rooms at the Al Bustan go for hundreds of dollars per night, sums that for the average resident of Gaza would represent quite a windfall.

Guests of the Al Bustan enter a huge marble-floored lobby, with a lofty atrium, tiled fountains and indoor palm trees. The arcade sells designer clothes. Restaurants on the premises offer everything from pan-fried Hokkaido scallops to "the most tender cut of corn-fed beef."

How was al-Mabhouh paying for his five-star lodgings in Dubai? That may be the least of the questions pertaining to his activities. But let's start somewhere. Could the UAE authorities please enlighten us on such basic matters as how al-Mabhouh arranged to pay for his luxury stay on their turf, what he did there and whether he had visited before? And with all the resources of the Arab League now on the case, would it be too much to ask for full details--whether from Damascus, Dubai or anyplace else that played host to al-Mabhouh--of who was picking up the tab for his travel, and why?


UPDATE: Commenter Sshender asked whether this hotel was not that expensive in comparison with other Dubai hotels. I just did a quick check and the al-Bustan Rotana is relatively inexpensive for a five-star hotel - mid week rates are about $180 a night. On the other hand, other 5-star hotels range from $100 a night to well over $1000. And Dubai does have budget hotels at around $50 a night.