The U.A.E. port deal: A threat to America, harm to Israel

Since the DPW deal would facilitate the bill of lading information for all shipments through DPW-managed ports to Israel to be given to directly to every Arab nation that is sworn to the destruction of Israel, the DPW deal should ring alarm bells for both American and Israeli security.

Fred Taub, Boycott Watch

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The pending deal to allow the United-Arab-Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World Company to run six major US ports poses more dangers than most Americans realize. US Army supplies such as tanks, and other vital military equipment at an additional two US ports will also be effected. While daily news items only mention six US ports of entry, in reality Dubai Ports World Company may gain access to as many as twenty US ports overall that periphally are connected to the six main ports in question.

That the attacks on 9/11 were financed and planned through insitutions in the U.A.E. should be cause enough for sensible American leaders to quash the deal. But another important factor people should also be concerned about is how the deal will affect Israel, the USA's only stable and reliable democratic ally in the Middle East.

The Bush administration claims the company managing the ports is not responsible for security and then says that job is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard. The fact is everyone working at ports has security responsibility just as individuals are responsible for locking their own cars and homes, not the police. The company managing the ports will have special access to all shipments, timetables, routes, container content, bills of lading, secured holding areas and, most worrisome to intelligence analysts, access to information about secret US shipments around the world including where such items are being shipped to and from. The information gathered by any port operator, placed in the wrong hands, can easily be offered to foreign agents without the US knowing it, thus foreign management can create an intelligence security nightmare for the US. A good outcome of this issue coming to light is that in the future no foreign entity should be allowed to control this vital part of US security. At least the Brits were close democratic allies, but Dubai and the U.A.E. are dictatorships and dictatorships have a way of spiraling out of control in successive years--look at Iran and Iraq.

While the United Arab Emirates is friendly to the US now and allows US Naval ships to dock there, there is more to the U.A.E. story than just that. Simply put, the U.A.E. needs us more than we need them since they are staring across the waters at Islamic revolutionary Iran and things are still unstable with Osama Bin Laden running around and the Iraqi insurgency almost next door.

The U.A.E. was formed in 1971 and is a federation of seven Emirates, including Dubai. The U.A.E. has limited federal powers, leaving many governmental powers to member emirates, and not all member emirates are part of the federation court system which has both civil and Islamic courts. Those Islamic courts rule over all family matters and women do not have the right to vote anywhere in the U.A.E. This raises questions about human rights that we as Americans all support. Should our ports be operated by a nation that denies women the right to vote and will encourage misogyny? Will U.S. unions walk out on potential strikes demanding the right of women in the Middle East to vote before working for Dubai Port Works in the future? Considering that women working US docks are union members, that we may expect to hear from them comes as no surprise.

The U.A.E. is also currently a major drug transshipment point for Southwest Asian drug producing countries and, being a major financial center, this makes the U.A.E. an ideal locale for the money laundering that is often associated with the drug trade. The U.A.E. has undefined and open borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, thus allowing drugs and other goods, including weapons, to be moved between those countries without scrutiny. A Middle East open-borders crisis occurred in 2002 when North Korean SCUD missiles were shipped to Yemen and then vanished. Considering that the U.A.E. has open borders and would control ports on both ends of a single shipment, we need to be seriously concerned with U.A.E. control of our ports.

The U.A.E. is also a member of the Arab League and is a signatory member of the Arab boycott of Israel. The Syrian-based Central Office for the Boycott of Israel, a.k.a. the Central Boycott Office, enforces the pan-Arab boycott of Israel on 3 levels:

First, CBO-enforced primary boycotts forbid Israeli products into any Arab country, including Israeli components in finished goods(Arabs were upset, for example, when they found Israeli batteries in Apple computers and demanded the suppliers remove all such batteries from future shipments).

Such secondary and tertiary boycotts are generally boycotts of companies that work with companies that have other business with Israel, regardless if any element of a shipment emanates from Israel. In a global economy, such boycotts are harder to enforce on a wide scale. These elements of the Arab boycott of Israel are, however, managed by the CBO which also goes as far as banning any ship that ever docked in any Israeli port from any future docking at an Arab country port. The official boycott list is tightly held and is estimated to include more than 200,000 companies. Recent Arab League meetings have included agreements to strengthen the Arab boycott of Israel, thus the Arab boycott of Israel is still very active.

A recent US Trade Representative report on trade barriers states that although the U.A.E. no longer enforces the secondary and tertiary aspects of the boycott, it still enforces the primary boycott and ?occasional government contracts continue to contain pro forma provisions requiring a contractual obligation to ?observe all regulations and instructions enforced from time to time by the League of Arab States regarding the boycott of Israel especially those related to blacklisted companies, ships, and persons.??

In 1977, the US government passed a law creating the Office of Antiboycott Compliance in the Department of Commerce in order to prevent any US persons from joining into foreign sanctioned boycotts against nations friendly to the US, thus preventing individuals from creating de facto foreign policy. This law primarily applies to the Arab boycott of Israel, making it illegal to take actions in furtherance of that boycott. The OAC primarily concerns itself with prosecuting businesses that supply information about Israeli product content and other business dealings with Israel to boycotting nations. To get around the secondary aspects of this law, Arab countries simply require declarations that the goods shipped are 100% US made, thus Arab importers accomplish their boycott goals by assuring the product contains no Israeli components. OAC-imposed fines for supplying information about Israeli product content to boycotting nations can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus denial of future export licenses. But the OAC seldom enforces the law.

Second, the bill of lading is documentation about every shipment via truck, train or ship and contains detailed information about a shipment's content, quantities, origin and destination. With this information, the U.A.E. via Dubai Ports World would be able to examine detailed information about shipments to and from Israel, a nation the U.A.E. actively boycotts. Even if such information is guaranteed to remain in the US, digital copies of such data can be made and emailed globally. The DPW deal would therefore facilitate the supply of information contained in the bills of lading of commercial products to be used by the Arab League nations to offer alternative products to US buyers, thus creating a trade barrier for Israeli exporters. In fact, by Dubai having this information, the Arab world would be able to launch a full-scale economic war against Israel by using shipping information to enact total disruption of Israeli exports in the US and around the world.

This is not a cloak and dagger fantasy. The Arab League and its members have been running several campaigns to ruin Israel economically on a global scale for years. The first such campaign was the Arab League boycott which started as early as 1921, twenty-seven years before Israel was a state, and which is still in full force today. A second "divest-from-Israel" campaign was enacted to, in the words of its organizers, make Israel ?economically unbalanced? and to create a ?one state solution? meaning a Palestinian state without Israel. A third such campaign, which was enacted while the Palestinian Authority was claiming to negotiate with Israel in good faith for a Palestinian state, is the PA-organized economic blockade of Israel in Malaysia.

Third, having DPW-managed ports would also make shipping military goods to Israel difficult. Tanks, trucks and other large military hardware do not fit into shipping containers, thus they can not be hidden, even by the CIA. This is not information the US or Israel wants in the hands of countries sworn to Israel?s destruction. When push comes to shove, Israel is still the most reliable American ally in the Middle East and another democracy.

Since the DPW deal would facilitate the bill of lading information for all shipments through DPW-managed ports to Israel to be given to directly to every Arab nation that is sworn to the destruction of Israel, the DPW deal should ring alarm bells for both American and Israeli security.

On the terror front, since the U.A.E. is a major drug port and DPW will have access to secured shipping areas, ceding our ports to Arab control may potentially be opening US ports to a new channel of drug and weapons imports, including terror weapons imports and money laundering. It is true the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security are responsible for port security, but when the same company runs both the import and export port for a single shipment, security can too easily be compromised. For that same reason, we should not allow, for example, a Columbian or Mexican port operating company to have operational access to US ports for shipments to and from those countries either to staunch drug shipments.

The US Antiboycott laws are vital to prevent boycotts from being used to create de facto foreign policy. The DPW deal would cause irreparable harm to Israel?s economy. Although US ships visit many foreign ports, we have to ask ourselves if we want to bring economic harm and possibly devastating harm to another democratic ally, namely Israel, that ultimately may fall back on ourselves.

Some pundits have argued that DPW can manage the ports more inexpensively than any US company can, but the price of those savings will be too high --and deadly. It is time to stand up for America and demand that American companies run American ports.