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Friday, February 24, 2006

Did We Say Six? 

A la Donald Rumsfeld, we appear to have misstated the facts:
A United Arab Emirates government-owned company is poised to take over port terminal operations in 21 American ports, far more than the six widely reported.

The Bush administration has approved the takeover of British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, a deal set to go forward March 2 unless Congress intervenes.

P&O is the parent company of P&O Ports North America, which leases terminals for the import and export and loading and unloading and security of cargo in 21 ports, 11 on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the company's Web site.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. said after the briefing she expects swift, bi-partisan approval for a bill to require a national security review before it is allowed to go forward.

At issue is a 1992 amendment to a law that requires a 45-day review if the foreign takeover of a U.S. company "could affect national security." Many members of Congress see that review as mandatory in this case.

But Bush administration officials said Thursday that review is only triggered if a Cabinet official expresses a national security concern during an interagency review of a proposed takeover.

"We have a difference of opinion on the interpretation of your amendment," said Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt.
Zemblans of long standing will recognize the name of Viktor Bout, the renegade Russian gunrunner whose escapades in Iran, Angola, Liberia, and other global hot spots have been so ably chronicled by our distinguished colleague The Yorkshire Ranter. James Ridgeway of the Village Voice sees Bout's dealings as emblematic of the general business climate our new partners have striven to maintain in Dubai, a climate that is by all reports quite congenial to the entrepreneur:
In truth, one administration after another has slashed the operational capability of the Coast Guard. Reagan even contemplated its privatization by a major defense firm. As for the Customs Service, it inspects as little as 5 percent of the cargo going through the New York ports.

This is a dream setup for any arms or dope dealer, and that's exactly what the United Arab Emirates is all about. The ties between its top officials and royal family with the
Taliban and Al Qaeda go back at least a decade.

The UAE is not only the center of financial dealings in the Persian Gulf, it is switching central for dope and arms dealing. The dope comes out of Afghanistan into the UAE where tax monies are collected and used to buy arms, which were sent back in for the Taliban. Some of this money is thought to have helped finance the 9-11 attacks. A money trail is set forth in the government's filings in the
Moussaoui case.

Long at the center of this operation is the mysterious Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout. The U.N. has accused Bout of providing arms to brutal regimes in Sierra Leone,Angola and to Charles Taylor in Liberia. The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C. research organization that operates a network of foreign correspondents, published a report on Bout in January 2002, citing Belgian intelligence documents from before the 9-11 attacks it had obtained. These documents reportedly show Bout earned $50 million in profits from selling weapons to the Taliban after they came to power in the late 1990s. The Center states, "Another European intelligence source independently verified the sales, and intelligence documents from an African country in which Bout operates—obtained by the Center—claim that Bout ran guns for the Taliban 'on behalf of the Pakistan government.' " Peter Hain, the British Foreign Office Minister for Europe who has led the international effort to expose criminal networks behind the conflict diamonds and small arms trade in Africa, told the Center's reporters,
it was clear that Bout's supply of weapons to the Taliban "and to its ally, Osama bin Laden" posed a real danger . . . .

No one is suggesting Bout has any great love for the radical Muslim fundamentalists of Taliban ilk. He sold guns to the Russians fighting the CIA-backed Afghan mujahideen in their war with the Soviet Union and to the warlords opposing the Taliban. His planes are registered to various companies all operating out of the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, the United Arab Emirates have been viewed as hub for trade going and coming to Afghanistan, with drugs coming from Afghanistan on their way to the West, and weapons from Bout, going back. While transportation was via Bout's different air cargo interests, it also involved the Afghan state airlines, called Ariana Airlines. The airline was controlled by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda agents masquerading as Ariana employees flew out of Afghanistan, through Sharjah, one of the emirates, and on to points west.
Mr. Ridgeway has also written a concise summary of the UAE's ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Clip it, save it, whip it out, and wave it in the face of any Bush apologist who accuses opponents of the port deal of xenophobia and racism.

(Thanks to our indefatigable colleagues at Cursor for the links.)

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