Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fear the Dubai port!

Nation: I'm still amused by the overreaction to all of this given the facts, it is all a bunch of political grandstanding, arab phobia and stupidity/ignorance about the whole deal.

Time Magazine: "But to call the United Arab Emirates a country "tied to 9/11" by virtue of the fact that one of the hijackers was born there and others transited through it is akin to attaching the same label to Britain (where shoe-bomber Richard Reid was born) or Germany (where a number of the 9/11 conspirators were based for a time). Dubai's port has a reputation for being one of the best run in the Middle East, says Stephen Flynn, a maritime security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Dubai Ports World, which is a relatively new venture launched by the government of Dubai in 1999, has a number of Americans well known in the shipping industry in its senior leadership. It operates port facilities from Australia through China, Korea and Malaysia to India, Germany and Venezuela. (The acquisition of P&O would give them control over container shipping ports in Vancouver, Buenos Aires and a number of locations in Britain, France and a number of Asian countries.) "It's not exactly a shadow organization for al-Qaeda," says Flynn. Dubai, in fact, was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to join the U.S. Container Security Initiative, which places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports to begin the screening process from a U.S.-bound cargo's point of departure."
Reuters editorial roundup, no surprise about the NYTIMES, they see an opportunity to bash. Experts say this is stupid.
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. security is not at risk if Arab firm Dubai Ports takes control of major U.S. seaports, shipping experts said on Wednesday, pointing to the firm's flawless record and protection from maritime treaties. Under a $6.8 billion deal Dubai Ports World will take over UK firm P&O operations that include six top U.S. ports. The sale has caused a storm in the United States. U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday rejected congressional pressure to step in and suspend the UAE firm's takeover and vowed to veto any legislation to block the deal. Several members of Congress have expressed concerns over security if the ports were run by Dubai Ports. Maritime security experts sided with the president. "They are professionals and they operate in a market and a market provides discipline," said Professor Geoffrey Till, head of defense studies at King's College University in London. "There is a real incentive for them to demonstrate that something like this is not a security threat and rather more so than an English-based consortium," Till, a naval expert, told Reuters at a maritime security conference in London.
Arabs see bias.
As the U.S. secretary of state heads here for talks, many Arabs go further, saying the very basis of American policy toward the Middle East may be at stake: If the United States can't work with a moderate, friendly and socially liberal Arab ally like Dubai, it may not be able to work with any Arabs at all. "If the American politicians were smart, they would hold Dubai up as a role model," said Abdul Khaleq Abdulla, a political scientist at Emirates University. "Punishing us sends the wrong message." President Bush said basically the same Tuesday, threatening to veto legislation aimed at blocking the port deal. "This is a company that has played by the rules, that has been cooperative with the United States, a country that's an ally in the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through," Bush said. Among other things, the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one part, allows the United States to base U.S. Air Force spy planes and refueling flights here and allows U.S. warships to visit. It also has handed over to the United States terrorism suspects arrested on its territory, including the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen.
Foreign investment may cool off.
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Blocking a Dubai company's $6.8 billion purchase of an operator of six U.S. ports may send a chilling signal to U.S. and other companies looking to make politically sensitive international investments, analysts and investors said on Wednesday. The deal would give Dubai Ports World, which is backed by United Arab Emirates government, control over ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New York, New Orleans Philadelphia. The acquisition of British-owned P&O (PO.L: Quote, Profile, Research) would create the world's third-largest ports company. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have railed against the deal, questioning whether the Dubai company could be trusted to guard against terrorism. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that would block the deal. A similar outcry from American lawmakers over the potential risks to U.S. national interests scuttled last year's bid by China's state-controlled CNOOC Ltd. for Unocal Corp.. U.S. oil firm Chevron Corp. (CVX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) later won the bidding for Unocal. Killing the Dubai Ports World deal would mark the latest example of politics clashing with business deals, and could scare other international companies from risking the time and money to navigate a U.S. regulatory review, analysts said. It also could prejudice foreign governments against investments from U.S. companies. "It will not be seen as just case-specific because there have been other such cases, like Unocal. These are cases are seen as complicating the regulatory process with very unpredictable political and congressional involvement," said Cecil Hunt, a lawyer with Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP in Washington
Now I put a lot of this on the White House with its inept media staff and officials who should have seen this coming. Even after it blew up, they should have been out there with facts such as the ones pointed above to head it off. Instead they were caught flat-footed again. There needs to be a purge of that entire part of the White House, this sort of nonsense has happened way too many times. It also caught GOP members by surprise in an election year which gave the Dems an opening to exploit the situation. That is unacceptable. That said the mass hysteria over this deal is idiotic. If the deal is scraped over Dubai of all places in the Middle East, it will hurt all efforts to bring more countries over there to us thru trade relations which is a big asset for us.

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