TCS Daily


An Ally Betrayed

By Harold Hutchison - March 15, 2006 12:00 AM

The decision by Dubai Ports World to sell off its North American operations to an American-based company is the culmination of three weeks of scurrilous attacks that led to the betrayal of an ally. This betrayal is going to have serious consequences for the United States.

First, a look at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is in order. This is a country that has been a long-standing ally of the United States since 1971. The UAE was part of the coalition to liberate Kuwait in 1991, and also has supported the United States in the War on Terror (including, among other things, providing access to a deep-water berth that can accommodate aircraft carriers, use of a training facility for air-to-air training, airfields, and logistics support). It is a country that has proven largely inhospitable to al-Qaeda (instead, the focus is on business), sent forces to Afghanistan to protect the construction of a hospital that they donated and built, and sent humanitarian assistance to Iraq while providing a location for training Iraqi police.

In 2002, the UAE also captured a major al-Qaeda figure, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was involved in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and handed him over to the United States despite threats from the terrorist organization. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the UAE donated $100 million for the relief efforts. Both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Peter Pace have described the relationship the United States has with United Arab Emirates as "very close" and "superb". General Tommy Franks (who commanded Central Command during the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq) praised the UAE for providing first-rate intelligence.

One of the things that has been frequently ignored in the anti-UAE diatribes is the fact that the United Arab Emirates is a Middle Eastern country where religious tolerance is the rule. The UAE's constitution guarantees freedom of religion (albeit it declares Islam as the official religion), and largely permits religious freedom. In 2003, the UAE shut down the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, which was publishing material that promoted anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Isn't that the kind of behavior the United States is trying to promote in the region?

What's more, had the deal gone through, nothing would really change at the ports, particularly with regards to security. Security will remain the province of the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security — whose concerns were addressed.

In another fact ignored by the scare campaign, the UAE has the only port in the Middle East that is part of the Container Security Initiative run by Homeland Security. Dubai Ports World agreed to mandatory participation in other programs to improve security and to prevent the illegal shipment of nuclear materials, will provide documents on internal operations on demand and has agreed to cooperate in future investigations. Additionally the deal was scrutinized by the intelligence community, which also found no problems. The only thing that changes hands is who owns the company that will handle the day-to-day operations (often performed by American longshoremen — usually unionized). Moreover, Dubai Ports World also bought out the port operations of CSX in 2004 — with no real issues raised back then.

Several claims have been made regarding connections to 9/11, specifically the fact that two of the hijackers were from the UAE. First, none of the critics have any proof that either the government of the UAE or Dubai Ports World was involved in the attack. By the standard of these critics, the United Kingdom would be held responsible for Richard Reid, or Germany would be responsible for the Hamburg cell that planned the attack. Second, the United Arab Emirates have stepped up efforts to make money laundering less easy after Dubai was used as a financial conduit for the attacks (again, there is no proof that the UAE or DPW were active participants in the laundering). It should also be noted that at least two Americans have worked with al-Qaeda (Johnny Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla.)

How critical are good relations between the U.S. and the UAE? It needs to be noted that outside of Dubai, the closest facility that can conduct major repairs on an aircraft carrier is Guam. The United Arab Emirates has also been sharing intelligence with the United States and is better equipped in the area of human intelligence against terrorism from Islamic extremists (due to being in the same neighborhood that many major al-Qaeda figures come from) than the United States.

A final note about this controversy. The last time we kicked an ally in that region to the curb was 1979. His name was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, better known as the Shah of Iran. We know how that turned out.

The author is a contributor to Strategypage.

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15 Comments

Payback has already begun
Yesterday, it was reported that UAE was rolling over about 10% of its foreign currency holdings to euros from U.S. dollars.

Ally Betrayed
Very nicely put.
Because Dubai Ports World is the second largest such company in the world and runs run operations in ports all around the world (as well as in Dubai), two questions come to mind that I've not seen addressed:
1) What percentage of US imports and cargo are shipped here from DPW terminals and facilities?
2) Are we supposed to stop importing from any port where they work?

This has been a disgrace; the outcome does nothing to improve domestic security. Thanks.
Jack Rafuse

The High Price of Ignorance
The DPW deal was but one more example of the mindlessness guiding our GWOT. No one--not the administration, not the opposition Democrats, not academia, and not the press--has spent the past five years educating the American people in the complexity and nuance of the environments within which our Islamofacist enemies live and thrive.

Instead, we have been told to go on with life without either sacrifice or new thought. We accept every inconvenience and indignity that the TSA imposes upon airline travelers (can anyone really believe that blocking economy passengers from the first class bathroom serves a security function?). We assess every one of the Bush administration's efforts towards foreign policy and internal security based on strict partisanship. And we steadfastly protest any instance of ethnic profiling while simultaneously committing it (see DPW deal) and wishing that our leaders would do likewise.

There is little doubt that the DPW deal WAS benign, but SOUNDED bad. In a mindless environment, no such deal could pass.

We are going to continue to make such errors until our opinion leaders in politics, the press, and academia admit that the GWOT is not a simple matter, and that critical thought rather than sloganeering is needed.

Port Deal
I agree with previous posts. This is an election year, is the true reality here. The timing of this could not have been worse and the national security turkeys from both parties were in full flight. We need hawks not turkeys. They lack the political will to stop illegal immigration from Mexico by the millions and then worry about a port management deal that leaves the security to our forces?
It would be much easier to send it across the border than across the sea and thru port security at both ends.

About the Shah
This post ends with: "A final note about this controversy. The last time we kicked an ally in that region to the curb was 1979. His name was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, better known as the Shah of Iran. We know how that turned out."

This kind of realpolitik is behind much of the anti American feeling in the middle east. By the end, the Shah was a widely dispised dictator kept in power, with lots of American help, by brutatility the subsequent fundamentalists have not matched. The revolutionaries in 1979 attacked the US embassy for a reason.

The coming revolutions in Egypt and Pakistan might be similar. And what will they (middle easterners) say about the US if we let Iraq sink into an ethnic bloodbath?

Oh stop it
Was the Shah bad? Of course he was. Was the Khomeini government worse? Of course it was. There are few things more brutally repressive than a theocracy of religious fundamentalists.

Benefits of Ignorance
Politicians on both side benefit from ignorant voters and ignorace amonst themselves (plausible deniability).
Make government smaller and they will have less influence.

You've convinced me - The UAE is an earthly paradise for unbelievers and a staunch ally
I was much reassured to read via the link that the UAE graciously forbids the slaughter of Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, and even more reassured to read the it permits them to worship.

I found it a bit odd that trying to convert Muslims is a crime, but then again I guess we whould be delighted to take our "good" Muslims as we find them.

I've changed my opinion - we should treat the UAE just the way we treat England, and giving them the keys to our ports is not enough. We should immediately share nuclear and submarine launched ballistic missile secrets with them.

...
Mr. Hutchinson is absolutely right in his article. However, the "last time" of such a betrayal was more recent than betraying the Shah of Iran with the well known consequences. A decade afterwards, the same was done to the newly established Afghan government and Pakistan - after the long and painful struggle our Afghan and Pakistani allies had fought against the Soviet Union on our behalf. The consequences included a bloody civil war, an ascent of a totalitarian Islamist regime into power in Afghanistan, and the emergence of al-Qaida.

The same policy of betrayal continued throughout the 1990s, with the neglect of all intelligence about al-Qaida and its operations, dismissal of good intelligence offered by many Muslim allies and blind following of disinformation offered by new "partners" representing the Cold War foe.

Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is comparable to the Shah of Iran, except that he has been less of a tyrant and more of a realist in ruling his country, which is equal to Persia in importance in the current struggle the West has to face. Betraying also him, like certain activists demand, would have at least as bad consequences as the betrayal of the Iranian shah.

Meanwhile, the US should have a closer look at certain "allies" and "partners" like Mubarak and Putin.

Capital is even more fungible than oil
The (correct) argument against oil embargoes and individual country import bans is that oil is virtually interchangeable around the world. If we don't buy Saudi oil then it will diminish in price and the Chinese will buy it instead of some other country's oil. We in turn will still need oil and will probably buy the other country oil that the Chinese didn't buy. The Saudis will only suffer to the slight extent that shipping costs (or some other cost) to send the oil to China are slightly greater or else the Chinese would have bought the oil in the first place.

Capital is even more fungible than oil because you don't even have to worry about port facilities and shipping capacities and such. Transfers are done by shipping a few electrons around and The US would suffer to a very small extent indeed.

If the UAE sells US dollars and buys euros it will slightly depress the dollar and elevate the Euro, but that will cause somone else to sell euros and buy dollars for the better bond yield. And in fact the very way we need to talk about such things guarantees the effect since the UAE can only "roll over" dollars when it finds a buyer for them. Unless, of course, the Princes choose to hold a big bonfire and burn their dollar holdings as a protest.

But
the U.S. dollar is under downward pressure from most of the world currencies at this time, largely driven by U.S. fiscal deficits. A public dumping of a large number of U.S. securities at one time will not help the situation.

It's the inevitable consequence
of whipping up the public into a permanent state of hysteria over security. The fortress mentality always results in spectacular failure and mostly its roots lie in willful ignorance about the world around us. It's an occupational disease to which most empires in history have been prone, and the U.S. is starting to succumb to it. Yes, the U.S. was attacked by a relatively small band of ruffians claiming to represent some brand of Islam. Squash them by all means, but the resulting hysteria has led to all too many believing that all Islam is the enemy. In so doing, the U.S. has played into the hands of its enemies. The real victor of the port debacle is not American security, it is Al-Qaeda.

Foolish comment
C'mon, SullyA, get real...no one has suggested we share state secrets with the UAE. Nor that we treat that nation (or any other) like we do the Brits. But that shouldn't mean we should treat the UAE as if it was Al Queida, writ large, either. Not all Islamic nations are Islamofacist. Some might be pretty decent folk. It is clear that this whole issue betrays the worst of the American political system, certainly not the best. Had the Dems announced support for this deal, there would never have been the firestorm that resulted from the Bush support. The whole fiasco was just another case of the Democrat Party's penchant for playing political "Gotcha!" with little to no concern for the nation's welfare.

True, but
Agree with everything you say, DSmith, with one caveat. This was an episode that included protectionist dolts from both parties. Republicans joined in all too enthusiastically. This was a failure of Congress being led by the nose (Lou Dobbs comes to mind) not just Dem's scoring political points.

Maybe
Not all Islamic nations are Islamofacist. Some might be pretty decent folk.

I'm sure there's some beneficience in all societies. The problem with the Islamic societies is that the vast majority don't play well with others and two you only have to peel back the onion a little to inhale the stench of dhimmitude.

And of course, they all seem to be one ayatollah with good oratorical skills away from the Sharia.











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