Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why The U.A.E. And Why Now?

With all the hoopla about the purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. by Dubai Ports World, a State owned U.A.E. company, I started looking at reasons for the uproar in various areas. Why would the Bush administration be so vehemently opposed to the Congress delaying things to take a look at the deal? Why would George Bush, as one Libertarian blogger put it pick this as the "hill he's willing to battle to the death upon"? What is so important about this one deal that the Wheeler Dealer in Chief would be willing to actually take up his pen for a veto, when he's yet to veto ANYTHING that crossed his desk? And why would he bother to deny ever having heard of a deal like this as opposition mounted?

Perhaps, he's been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak and some of his future plans are being jeopardised by all the attention this is being given. The major beneficiaries in this deal are the stockholders of P&OSN and DPW, since they are going to reap the benefits of this buyout. Jobs at the ports will stay the same and security in the US is already handled by the US Coast Guard. AT a glance, nothing will change. But....DPW is not a privately owned company. It is a State Owned Company, that makes things a bit different in most peoples eyes, as well it should. DPW is one of the worlds leading companies for port operations. They are well qualified to do the job, and yet they are owned by Persian Gulf Arabs and, given the continual harping on Homeland Security in this country you can see why there's a big, burning question mark. The Bush White House has failed to answer any questions about why the Secretaries and heads of the government have vetted this.

Maybe I can shed a tiny light. I'm not an analyst and I don't play one on TV, but I do read and can put two and two together, sometimes I even get the answer right.

1. Why the UAE? Well, the US has a big, and getting bigger airbase there, just outside Abu Dhabi. If, likely when the government decides to engage in conflict with Iran the base will be right where they need it in the front lines of an Iranian conflict. This could very well be a tit for tat deal with the administration. The US gets the UAE base and their ports and they get a lucrative new income source with no real questions about the deal. It might have almost worked, too.

2. Saudi Arabia. Yep. No-one's bothered to even mention them in this matter. Why is that? Because it would almost appear that they haven't anything to do with the matter, when they could well be the cause for this. The Saudi reticence to allow forward basing and expanded support in the region may well have driven the US to deal with the UAE. The Saudis have a much greater tie to 9/11 than a couple of banks in the UAE, couple this with the refusal to co-operate militarily with the Bush Administration and a willingness by the UAE to assume a greater role in that capacity and you have another reason. This also allows the US to balance some political difficulties that have been present between the UAE and Sau Rewarding loyalty and slapping the Saudi's in the face.

3. Iran. It's a given that our government wants a forward base of operations for a future conflict with Iran. The UAE is well situated for such an event and the UAE has zero love for Iran who has possession of three islands the UAE contends are theirs. This entire deal could be a form of "baksheesh", a bribe for the UAE. It's how business is done in the Arab world. The promise of getting the ports contracts in the US, a shot at getting their islands back and a chance to slap the Saudis are a much greater incentive than a carton of smokes or a trip to Vegas.

The UAE is a lot closer to being "secularist" than other countries in the area and that may well make them easier to deal with for the Bush Administration. They have longstanding grudges with Iran and the Saudi's. They are seriously into making money and, as anyone knows "War is good for business".

In the end this may all boil down to a backroom business deal dragged out into the light with the parties on our side not wishing to reveal the details to the "interested parties". Access to our ports may well be bribe in order for our government to engage in their expansionist "business". I can't say with 100% certainty but, after 6 years in that region I have to say it looks as if it could be the case. All in all, tho it won't hurt for our Congress to ask the pertinent questions given the current sentiments towards the deal.

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