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03/13/2006

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John Noble

As Dan Hill points out above, the domestic port security threat arises abroad, at the foreign ports where a weapon might be loaded aboard a ship, never to be unloaded. But dashing the DPW deal not only solves the wrong problem -- it compounds it.

Dubai's intelligence network, with closer cooperation of allied intelligence services of the UAE and other Arab countries than U.S. intelligence agencies will ever enjoy, is uniquely suited to protect U.S. port security by the prevention or discovery of terrorist infiltration at the source of the threat.

DPW's acquisition of P&O gave Dubai a stake in the security of American ports; and a compelling incentive to prevent any incident for which it could be scapegoated by virtue of its operation of the U.S. port where the attack occurred, particularly if it also controlled operations at the port where the attack was launched.

The mysteries here are Dubai's willingness to accept that exposure, and the President's incredible admission -- indeed insistence -- that he first heard about it in the paper. The former can only be explained by a U.S. demand that the UAE demonstrate its U.S. allegiance in the war against terrorism by assuming some of the risk that it can mitigage. The latter is explained by the UAE's insistence that the strategic alliance cemented by its operation of U.S. ports not be portrayed as such because it would provoke terrorists to punish Dubai and/or target U.S. ports.

The engineering of DPW's acquisition of operational control of critical U.S. ports was a strategic coup for which the President might have been applauded if he could have defended it on its merits. Its sabotage by unthinking xenophobes and political opportunists, both Democrat and Republican, is a tragedy. Dubai is probably delighted to flip the port operation contracts and escape the exposure it entailed. But even assuming the emirs are still smiling, the brainless anti-Arab sentiments that killed the deal can only be seen by the Arab street as further evidence of U.S. animosity and beligerence, and reason enough to target our ports as a pointed lesson.

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