(by Alex Magnet, NYSun.com) – Members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s board of commissioners will meet next Wednesday to discuss the proposed deal that would grant control of significant operations at one of their ports to a company owned by the Dubai government in the United Arab Emirates, a country with ties to terrorism.
Opposition to the proposed deal, which would give Dubai Ports World operational control at six American seaports – including one in Manhattan and one in New Jersey – is gathering steam both in the Port Authority and among members of Congress.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal committee composed of the secretaries of 12 federal agencies and chaired by the secretary of the treasury, John Snow, has approved the arrangement by which Dubai Ports World would acquire the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which currently operates the port facilities, in a $6.8 billion merger approved by the British company’s investors on Monday.
Today, Senator Schumer, who first spoke out against the federal government’s approval of the arrangement, will begin a campaign for a new and more thorough review of the deal.
Mr. Schumer, a Democrat of New York, will be joined by one Democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, and one Republican, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, along with three Republican members of the house of representatives, Vito Fossella, Chris Shays, and Mark Foley, of New York, Connecticut, and Florida respectively.
Mr. Schumer on Monday said the committee’s approval of the deal was too hasty and that economic and political concerns may have outweighed those of national security. He said one of his concerns was that terrorists could more easily infiltrate the company’s operations without its knowledge.
One of the terrorists who flew a plane into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Marwan al-Shehhi, was born in the United Arab Emirates. Other hijackers traveled through that country to America, though President Bush now considers the Emirates an ally in the war on terror.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the unelected ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates. The Emirates have been criticized as a haven for radical Islam. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s world fact book, the country’s location on the Persian Gulf and its position as a major financial center have made a stopping point for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Yesterday, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King urged the Bush administration to reconsider federal approval of deal for reasons of national security.
“The White House can stop this deal ultimately, and I’ve asked them to go very slow and look at it very carefully.” Mr. King, a Republican of New York, told the Associated Press. “The thing to do is find out if any of our departments have security concerns.”
The Associated Press quoted Mr. Foley yesterday as saying, “If our ports are the most vulnerable targets for terrorism and if we are at war, as the president says, we should be overly critical of handing over the management of our ports to any foreign countries, post 9/11.”
The treasury secretary, Mr. Snow, yesterday told reporters he could not discuss specific transactions that the committee reviews.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, Brooklyn McLaughlin, told The New York Sun on Tuesday that no agency on the committee objected to the deal going forward.
She added that there is a higher level of scrutiny for government-owned companies.
Contacted by the Sun on Tuesday, members of New York’s City Council questioned the wisdom of granting the Emirati company control over New York port operations.
“On its face, this looks like f– insanity to me,” the Republican minority leader of the City Council, James Oddo, told The New York Sun, though he said he was not familiar with the specifics of the deal.
The chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, Peter Vallone Jr., a Democrat of Queens, said the deal “raises some legitimate concerns.”
Several Middle East scholars and terrorism specialists told the Sun on Tuesday that allowing Dubai Ports World to have control over port operations in America would be dangerous.
“This shouldn’t happen. It really boggles the mind,” the director of the American Center for Democracy and the author of “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed – and How To Stop It,” Rachel Ehrenfeld, told the Sun. She said the United Arab Emirates is “a big hub for all kinds of terrorist activities. … We know that terrorist money is being laundered there.”
The director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Ali Al-Ahmed, said that in addition to being a staging point for the hijackers and a place where Al Qaeda launders money, the United Arab Emirates “has been fueling the insurgency in Iraq. They have hosted a lot of the Sunni insurgent supporters and Sunni insurgents.”
He added: “If they’re allowing this to happen in their country – Al Qaeda activities and Sunni insurgent in Iraq activities – why shouldn’t they allow it in New York, where it’s going to be more and more valuable?”
“It’s the proverbial fox in the henhouse,” the vice president of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Morris Amitay, said.
A spokeswoman for the Emerati Embassy in Washington, Farah Atassi, could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.
The chairman of Dubai Ports World, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, told the Guardian newspaper that references to terrorism at a general meeting of the British company’s shareholders on Monday were “bad,” and that such stereotyping could not be condoned. The proposed deal would give the Emirati company control over operations at the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal in Manhattan, and at a Port Authority terminal in Newark, New Jersey, as well as terminals in Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia.
Responding to reporters’ questions yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg said, “Any company that deals in this city has to abide by our laws.”
“The shipping business is a big international business. We are not going to lock ourselves into a cocoon,” He said, adding: “I think every one of the Senator’s concerns has to be addressed.”
A spokesmen for the Port Authority did not return requests for comment.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. Define emir. Who is the emir of Dubai?
2a). What is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)?
2b). For what purpose does CFIUS exist?
2c). Under what provision can the President deny the arrangement approved by CFIUS by which Dubai would acquire the control at 6 American seaports? (Click here to find the answers to 2b and 2c.)
3. Name the congressmen opposed to the federal government’s approval of the proposed deal to grant control of U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of Dubai.
4. What two points does Senator Schumer make about the committee’s approval? What does he say is his main concern about a Dubai company controlling U.S. ports?
5. Although President Bush now considers the Emirates an ally in the war on terror, what fact about 9/11 causes concern about Dubai controlling U.S. ports?
6. Re-read the concerns voiced by people interviewed for this article:
–Senator Schumer, para. 6
–Congressman Foley, para. 11
–Peter King, House Homeland Security Committee chairman, para. 10
–Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of American Center for Democracy, para. 19
–Ali Al-Ahmed, director of Institute for Gulf Affairs, para. 20-21
Do you think granting control of U.S. seaports to a foreign government is OK? Explain your answer.
A brief description of the United Arab Emirates:
Formerly known as the Trucial States, the United Arab Emirates are a federation of seven individual states, all ruled by emirs. (An emirate is a nation/territory ruled by an emir.) Founded between the 7th and 8th centuries, the Trucial States granted the United Kingdom control of their defense and foreign affairs in treaties signed in the 19th. In 1971, six of these states – Abu Zaby, ‘Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn – merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were then joined in 1972 by Ra’s al Khaymah.
(For further information on Dubai from the CIA factbook, click here, or from the United Arab Emirates official website, click here.)
(For a map of the Middle East, click here.)
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