President Bush wants to allow a company owned by Dubai (which is part of the United Arab Emirates or UAE) to manage shipping terminals at six American seaports. Such terminals are used for civilian and military shipping purposes. Those terminals are currently managed by a British company. Many Americans object to allowing Dubai to run these ports.
American-owned companies manage less than ten percent of the 100 major shipping terminals in the U.S. The majority of these major shipping terminals in the U.S. are managed by foreign-owned companies. Even companies owned by or linked to foreign governments operate some American ports. For example, companies owned by the governments of Singapore and Venezuela operate shipping terminals in America. A company run by a high-ranking Chinese government official operates a NY shipping terminal that has been used to deploy American troops to Iraq. The American public has not objected to any of these arrangements. (However, government officials did object to a Chinese companyâ€™s efforts to buy an American oil company, Unocal, in 2005. In 2006, government officials objected to an Israeli companyâ€™s attempt to buy an American software security company which has developed intrusion detection software used on some government computers.)
Another Dubai-owned company is trying to buy nine American factories that make parts for tanks, military planes, missiles, and missile launch systems.
Arguments By Those Who Believe America Should Not Allow A Muslim Country To Manage Some American Seaports
1. With a Muslim-owned company running American ports, Al Qaeda could more easily infiltrate the ports, gain access to manifests and cargo, get information about port operations and layouts, bring in personnel and weapons, and disrupt American military operations at the ports.
2. Dubai may not be trustworthy or competent. The U.S. Coast Guard says it doesnâ€™t know whether personnel from Dubai can be trusted. The UAE has a shady background. The UAE was one of only three countries that had diplomatic relations with the Taliban before 9/11. UAE officials met with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan before 9/11. Furthermore, Dubai had connections to 9/11: Two hijackers were UAE citizens, and some funds used by the hijackers passed through Dubaiâ€™s banking system. The â€œFather of the Pakistani Bomb,â€ A.Q. Khan, used the UAE to transfer nuclear components from Pakistan to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. If the UAE canâ€™t keep track of whatâ€™s happening in its own country, how can it be trusted with American ports?
3. Operators have input into how ports are run. Itâ€™s important for operators to be trustworthy, because only a very small percentage of the cargo coming into America is physically checked by U.S. government officials. 25,000 huge shipping containers come into American ports each day. Government officials physically check less than six percent of the containers because of a lack of funding from Congress and President Bush. Many ports also lack sufficient camera surveillance systems and emergency command centers.
4. American ports, and other critical infrastructure, should be managed by American-owned companies. American ports are too important to entrust to someone else.
5. Even if this deal is rejected, Dubai and other Muslim countries will continue to support America in the War on Terror, because itâ€™s in their own interests to fight Al Qaeda.
6. Even if this deal is rejected, Dubai and other Muslim countries will continue to invest in other sectors of America, as long as they believe they will make money.
Arguments By Those Who Believe America Should Allow A Muslim Country To Manage Some American Seaports
1. Muslim management of ports should not be an issue, as long as those Muslims have no known links to Al Qaeda. There is no reason to believe that Al Qaeda can infiltrate the Dubai-owned company more easily than any other company. This company is reputable; it runs ports in many countries, and there have been no terrorism problems. The company runs ports to make money; it will not allow its worldwide profits or reputation to be damaged by weak security. The company has explicitly agreed to cooperate with the U.S. to prevent shipments of nuclear materials and smuggling.
2. Dubai is trustworthy. Since 9/11, the UAE has been an ally of America in the War on Terror. The UAE shares intelligence with America. The UAE allows the U.S. military to use UAE territory for American operations in Iraq and Afghan. The U.S. trusts the UAE enough to sell military planes to the UAE. Furthermore, there is no evidence that UAE officials knew anything about 9/11 planning. The hijackers used financial services in several countries, including the U.S., not just in the UAE (a major banking center).
3. Operators do not control port security. The U.S. Coast Guard secures the physical facilities and keeps track of who is on ships coming into American ports. U.S. Customs is responsible for cargo security issues. Federal agents check the manifest of every arriving container. Port employees (who are mostly American citizens) screen all arriving containers for radiation. (American agents also check containers for radiation before it’s loaded at some foreign ports, including in the UAE.)
4. If American companies are not ready to run all the ports, someone else has to do it. American ports have been safe under foreign management for years.
5. America relies on Dubai and other Muslim countries in the War on Terror. Discrimination against Dubai will alienate Dubai and other Muslim countries and harm security relations. This will make America less safe.
6. America does a lot of business with Dubai and other Muslim countries. Discrimination against Dubai could lead to a reduction in Muslim foreign investment coming into America. Dubai might stop buying military equipment and commercial airliners from American companies, and start buying from companies in other countries instead.