The UAE Port Sale: It’s Time To Call The Whole Thing Off

by John Hawkins | February 21, 2006 8:48 am

The Bush Administration is getting hammered from both sides of the aisle for allowing a UAE owned company to take over the operation of 6 American owned ports that were previously run by the British.

Should the Bush administration INITIALLY have put the kibosh on the whole thing?

Maybe, maybe not.

Apparently, the Department of Defense and the FBI gave the all-clear[1] for Dubai Ports World to make the purchase. Furthermore, the UAE is not a hostile country. We consider them to be an ally in the war on terrorism. Since that’s the case, maybe this is being blown up into a bigger deal than it is in reality. Maybe.

On the other hand, Al-Qaeda has been active in that country and that’s a concern. Moreover, it’s a bit worrisome to have US port security reliant on a company from a country that isn’t a Democracy, particularly when that same nation is teeming with people who are sympathetic to our enemies. All it takes is a Jihadi or two working at the ports and the next thing you know they’re slipping a dirty bomb into one of our cities. When you consider that 18% of people in the UAE selected Osama Bin Laden as their most admired world leader[2] less than two years ago — well, let’s just say that odds wouldn’t seem to be in our favor.

In any case: here’s the hard, cold, political reality: The port sale isn’t going to happen. The stink over it will be big and bipartisan, and quite frankly, it doesn’t make sense for the Bush Administration to stick their necks way out for some company from the UAE. So, expect the Bushies to look for a graceful way to exit this whole mess — and, guys? The sooner, the better.

*** Update #1 ***: This comment about the port deal is so over-the-top it’s funny. From the big mouthed mayor of Baltimore, Democrat Martin O’Malley:

“We want to turn over the Port of Baltimore, the home of the Star Spangled Banner, to the United Arab Emirates? Not so long as I’m mayor and not so long as I have breath in my body.”

So he isn’t going to “turn over” the Port of Baltimore to the United Arab Emirates, apparently because it would somehow disgrace the Star Spangled Banner. Okie Dokey. But wait — if he’s turning over the ports to the UAE, who has them now? Why, the Brits do! The country that we were fighting when the Star Spangled Banner was written =D! So O’Malley’s quote was rich with irony — in a geeky sort of way that we political wonks can appreciate.

Hat tip to Kathryn Jean Lopez from The Corner[3] for the quote.

*** Update #2 ***: From Jonah Goldberg at The Corner[4]:

“I’ve been very rough on Bush of late and I agree entirely with the now-obvious consensus that the UAE deal is bad politics. I’m even somewhat convinced that it’s bad policy. But I can’t help but get the whiff of hysteria in all of this. Hillary Clinton’s getting to the right of Bush, talk radio’s going through the roof, Republican presidential wannabes are lining up to distance themselves from the president. There’s even a convenient patina of anti-Arabic feelings in the mix as well as the usual lefty-populist paranoia about secret deals behind the scenes between oilmen and rich Arabs. And, of course, overnight everyone has become an expert in port security.

All this in response to a largely paper transaction (longshoremen will keep their jobs, the coast guard will still handle security, etc etc) between a British-owned and Arab-owned firm. In fact, it doesn’t seem overwhelmingly obvious to me that Jihadis would have a much harder time infiltrating a British firm than an Arab one. But mostly, I’m skeptical that this is the security disaster everyone claims because domestic national security is one of the few areas where I really do trust this White House to err on the side of safety. For five years, liberals have been saying that Bush is an obsessed madman when it comes to the terror threat. And for five years conservatives have been saying, trust him. Suddenly, all of that goes out the window. Again, I think Bush is probably wrong on the merits. But, I somehow doubt he’s as widly wrong as the mob claims.”

  1. all-clear:
  2. most admired world leader:,%20Foreign%20Policy%20and%20the%20Media.htm
  3. The Corner:
  4. The Corner:

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