Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Port Deal 

The predictable brouhaha has erupted over the Administration's decision to allow Dubai Ports World, a company that's owned by the United Arab Emirates, to acquire the Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a UK firm that has contracts to operate six major US ports. According to the Administration the UAE has been an ally in the GWOT and has supported the US military by providing port facilities for Navy ships and airfields. The UAE is in the southeastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula and occupies the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, directly south of Iran. It contains the ports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. From a strictly geographic standpoint, it seems to me that if the UAE is our ally, then we ought to exert ourselves to make sure they remain our ally.

I have no qualms about the deal with respect to port security. As the Administration has pointed out (quoting from a Fox News story), On Wednesday, presidential adviser Dan Bartlett said that security for the ports will remain with the United States.

"The physical security of the ports is at the charge of the Coast Guard. The actual cargo that comes in on the ships, is ... charged to the United States Customs Service. So it's critically important for America to understand that doesn't change — not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not six months from now. They are in charge of the security of our ports," Bartlett said.

My concerns are twofold. First, what happens to the profits that DP World earns from these operations? Although the UAE might be our ally against Al Qaeda, that does not necessarily mean that they don't wish to achieve the same end--i.e., a worldwide Caliphate. As someone a lot smarter than I am pointed out, the major difference between Wahabbism/Salifism and other less radical schools of Islamist thought is in the means taken to achieve the triumph of Islam. If the Emirs of the UAE do in fact desire a worldwide Caliphate, wouldn't they be inclined to use the profits reaped from the infidel West to finance their religious/political ends? (I may be wrong, but in my understanding, in Islam there is no difference between the religious and the political, because the Koran, being the word of God as spoken through the mouth of the Prophet, is the perfect and immutable source of all law.)

My second concern is how will the information gained by DP world on the detailed operations of the US ports be used, and how will it be protected? There's no way you'll ever convince me that every single person of power in the UAE is dead set against al Qaeda, and all it takes is one person with access to information to give it to the likes of bin Laden and Zarqawi, especially since the United States will have little or no control over such access. The implications of this kind of security hole are immeasurable.

I recommend to you Michelle Malkin's blog post on how the deal was financed. I don't always agree with Michelle, but she's smart enough to be pretty sure of her facts, or at least the reliability of her sources, before going public with her opinions.

So, while I understand the value of having the UAE as an ally against al Qaeda and its ilk, I think it would only be prudent for Congress to look into the process by which the transaction was vetted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, to make sure all the rules were followed, all relevant concerns raised and addressed, and that no conflict of interest existed among the members of the Committee.

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