The episode has also re-ignited debate over the morality of targeted assassinations. And it has revealed Dubai as a kind of modern Casablanca, a Middle Eastern crossroads of arms dealers, espionage, oil money, and a much underestimated Dubai police force.
Mabhouh asked for a suite with sealed windows and no balcony, and was given two white plastic card keys to Room 230, in the back wing of the Rotana hotel. “That will be all,” he said, dismissing the hotel staff member who had escorted him to his room.
He showered, changed, put some documents in the room safe, and exited the hotel – heading to the Dubai Mall to buy some sneakers. A weight lifter in his youth, he would be turning 50 in a few weeks, on Valentine’s Day. Did he also go over to Dubai’s Iranian consulate for a meeting? Unclear. Did he meet anyone? We may never know.
At 8:24 p.m., back at the Rotana, he walked slowly down the second-floor hallway toward his room, catching a quick look at himself in the full-length mirrors running along the walls. He slipped his electronic key in the slot, leaning in ever so slightly on the dark wooden door. Once, twice. On the third try it clicked open.
Standing by the window inside, he might have glanced out at the pool area and the road to the airport beyond and then drawn the burgundy striped curtain. There were no cameras in the room to reveal what happened next. Did he push the beige chair out of its place, against the door, as an added precaution?
But, clearly, he was not alone.