For a time the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh threatened to tarnish further Dubais reputation, with some commentators describing the city as the Middle Easts new Big Easy (a reference to New Orleans which until recently was widely regarded as the murder capital of the world). But decisive action by the Dubai Police seems to have spiked a perception that had been evolving since Chechens settled a score last year in Jumeirah with the murder of the former warlord, Sulim Yamadayev, and a contract killing ordered up by her Egyptian billionaire former lover took out Lebanese pop star, Suzanne Tamim.
Any international city inevitably attracts international crime and politically motivated killing. One only has to consider the outcry that followed the slow murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London using nuclear poison at the end of 2007. Few capitals have escaped such problems in recent years and of course the media are always drawn to shows of international skulduggery as are moths to a light. Indeed, for a generation brought up on the antics of James Bond and Jason Bourne, what appears to be the real thing produces a visceral thrill.
This latest assassination has challenged Dubai, not least because the emirate has long prized its reputation as a relatively crime-free, law-abiding societya safe haven in a troubled region. Thus from the moment of the announcement of Mr al-Mabhouhs murder the government of Dubai sought to reassure visitors and locals alike that the emirate remained a safe and secure destination. Some have said that Dubais open door policy may have attracted villainy. Dubai leaderships thoughtful response to the provocation of the Mabhouh killing may show the limit of its tolerance. The Dubai Police news conference on 15 February clearly showed they had decided enough was enough. Commentators and observers will now be interested to see whether the message has had sufficient impact.