Thursday, February 23, 2006

The latest on the ports deal

President Bush struggled to convince congressional sceptics today that letting a state-owned Dubai Ports take over management at six major US seaports did not represent a security risk.

Senior administration officials from the Departments of Defence, State, Treasury and Homeland Security appeared before a hastily called Senate committee briefing to offer assurances over the deal.

Dubai Ports is also not sitting back quietly on this. They are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire high profile lobbyists to push the deal through Congress, including ex-US senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, ex-senate minority leader Tom Daschele and ex- US Secretary of State Madeline Albright!

Another aspect that bothers me, frankly, is President Bush insuting my intelligence. On the one hand, the White House stated that neither President Bush nor Treasury Secretary Snow knew about this until it was a `done deal'. Yet President Bush, three days later is threatening to veto this and saying that a deal he supposedly knew nothing about is interfering with his ability to conduct foreign policy? I don't expect or even demand truthfulness from the president on every occasion, but this is a bit much.

There are some good arguments on letting this deal go through; apparently Dubai has indeed been helpful in some aspects of the war, and one airforce man I correspond with who ought to know wrote me that without the use of the Al Dhafra air base, the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan would have been extremely problematical.

The United Arab Emirates is certainly the most Western of Persian Gulf nations.Its ruling emirs permit Navy warships to dock and refit in the bustling port of Dubai. It also hosts U.S. Air Force warplanes, refueling jets and spy planes at the Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi. And that base sits right across the Persian Gulf from Iran,which may very well be a decisive factor.

The arguments against this weigh heavily as well; First aside from Dubai's past association with Islamic terrorism, there is the fact that even though the administration is claiming that nothing is changing and that the present employees would remain in place, no guarantee exists that things won't change in the future.

Even more to the point, if this goes through, the US will have a foreign entity with the knowledge of all of Homeland Securities' criteria for port security...and knowledge of the loopholes and blind areas in the system.

I also am extremely suspicious of the high powered lobbying that's going on, the `Islamophobia' card that's being played and what I consider to be the Bush Administration dissembling on this from the beginning. Not to mention that ex-president Jimmy Carter favors this deal!

The President needs to sit down with Congress and make the necessary changes needed to reassure them that this deal is necessary and more important, completely vetted as far as our security goes. The President needs to make a case for this action.That aspect was handled poorly from the very beginning, and as I said, doesn't pass the smell test.

If President Bush is unable and/or unwilling to do that, then it needs to be opposed and if necessary killed by appropriate Congressional action.


Jason Pappas said...

The UAE needs us to defend it from Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia (Saddam is gone now.) That should be enough for continued relations.

Freedom Fighter said...

Oh, I very much agree.

And the port facilities and airbase we pay a hefty fee for the use of are the UAE SHiek's security blanket as well as a lucrative source of earnings.

Real alliances come from shared values. The relationship between the US and the UAE is a relationship of convenience.