Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dubai, or Not Dubai... That Is the Question...

Remember back in February of 2006, when everyone was in a brouhaha over the sale of 22 U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates corporation? When Bush approved, without the knowledge of the Congress or Senate, a secret deal that would allow the middle-eastern company to own these ports (in October of 2005)?:

Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries. (Source.)
Even Republicans pretended to be against the deal!:

[...] both houses of Congress were really prepared to forge ahead in the [Republican-controlled] Senate, somewhat reluctantly, at least on the part of the Republican leadership, to block this deal.
And the [Republican-controlled] Senate voted earlier today to allow an amendment by [Democratic] Senator Schumer to block the deal, something that they didn't particularly want. (Source; phrases in bold mine.)
At first, both the President and Dubai Ports World balked, and said they wouldn't sell, they would keep ownership of the U.S. Ports, despite the security concerns of the public the President is supposed to represent:

Dubai's government-owned port company said it would refuse to sell the six ports it is acquiring in the United States, despite intense criticism that the company's acquisition would undermine American security.

In Washington, President George W. Bush once again defended the sale, saying "people don't need to worry about security."

Speaking with reporters at the end of a cabinet meeting, Bush assured the American public that "the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government." (Source.)
His government. Read: Not Congress or the Senate, the only branch of government constitutionally allowed to make and agree to contracts with foreign governments. As always, we were supposed to just take his word for it. Ha!

The president said that people were not concerned about port security when a British company was running the port operation, but they felt differently about an Arab company at the helm. He said the United Arab Emirates was a valuable partner in the war in terror.

Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, from which two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers came.(Source.)
It's good to see the President with the "plan for a safe America" so trusting of a government that brought us two of our 9/11 hijackers, isn't it? Regardless of whether it was actually safe or not (and I do actually think it was personally, but that's not what this is truly about...), we heard that Congress then blocked the sale in the beginning of March 2006, and Dubai would have to release it's holdings on the ports, right?

[...] the D.P. World statement says, they're not saying that they are selling them. They are simply saying that they are transferring them. So, that could very well mean that they [...] could still be effectively controlled by Dubai.
And that could be very well what the Dubai company is planning to do as well. (Source.)
So, not sell them, just relinquish control from overseas... Hmm... But, then, in the middle of March 2006, Dubai said they would sell the ports:

Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates-owned company, confirmed on Thursday it would sell all its US port operations within four to six months to a US buyer. (Source.)
So we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Whew! They would sell. By the beginning of June 2006, even World Nut Daily was saying:

Dubai Ports World--the United Arab Emirates-owned company at the center of a national security controversy earlier this year--has not yet kept its promise to sell its operations in the U.S. to an American company.

No announcements have been made by DP World identifying potential purchasers, and the company's spokesmen have no comment when pressed for details of any divestiture transactions that may be under consideration.(Source.)
And just a few short days later in June 2006, we heard:

Close to 100 companies have expressed an interest in buying facilities at major US ports from Dubai Ports World, a source close to the sales process said today.

Dubai Ports World, which is owned by Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, bought the facilities at six US ports earlier this year as part of its US$6.8 billion ($11.01 billion) purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company of Britain.

But Dubai Ports World later said it would sell the US assets to a US entity, after American lawmakers said they had security concerns about the deal.

Among the companies expressing interest in buying the US port facilities are port operators, private equity funds, infrastructure funds, shipping companies and logistics firms, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. (Source.)
So we thought, Okay, things are still on track.

And guess what?


On October 1st, it was announced that:

DP World is close to agreeing the sale of its US ports business most likely to an international shipping line within six weeks, according to Jamal Majid bin Thaniah, group chief executive of Ports and Free Zone World. (Source.)
Oh, well, that's two months later than it was supposed to happen, but at least they're finally selling it, right? Not necessarily:

Under an agreement with the US government, P&O Ports North America's operations have been isolated from DP World, Bin Sulayem said.

"We have no say in it, we have no interference. The bank is negotiating the sale on our behalf," he said, describing the issue as "complicated" as P&O has terminal and logistics operations in a total of 22 ports in the US. (Source.)
It's "complicated." They have no idea if they're selling it or not, the bank is handling everything, but the have an agreement with the U.S. Wonderful, isn't it?

It's been 8 months. Eight.

To summarize: President makes a secret deal giving the Dubai Ports (owned by the middle eastern government United Arab Emirates) giving them full leeway and access to 22 U.S. Ports (the same government that produced 2 9/11 hijackers). Congress finds the backbone to stand up to him (which is amazing in and of itself) and gives the company 6 months to sell the U.S. ports to a U.S. company. DP says no at first, but then says, okay, in 4 to 6 months. By June, they haven't done a thing until someone comments about it. Suddenly there are 100 interested parties. Now, by October, they have no idea who's doing what because they aren't selling it, their bank is, and somehow, even though they say the sale should be complete in "six more weeks," they have an "agreement" to simply manage the U.S. ports separately from the rest of their company on American shores in New Jersey...

Yes, New Jersey. You mean you didn't know? Sounds pretty permanent to me, this control of the ports. In fact, Dubai is having an uproar about the new port security laws just passed by the Senate:

Sanborn said Dubai Ports World is working to form a coalition with other private port operators to address security issues and called on governments around the world to meet industry representatives early next year to hammer out new global standards for port security.

He said any large port would require a number of scanning devices capable of detecting nuclear or other weapons inside shipping containers to upgrade security without impinging on the international supply chain of goods.

The estimated cost of $500,000 per scanner is small compared with the $300 million overall investment for equipping even a small port, he said.
The act authorizes $3.4 billion over five years for safety measures, including installing radiation detectors at the 22 largest U.S. ports by the end of next year. (Source.)
Wait. Isn't Dubai selling it's U.S. Ports in just under six weeks? And doesn't the new standards for port security go into effect "by the end of next year? Why is Dubai worried about this for their U.S. Ports if they won't even be owning them "in six weeks"?

Anybody still think Dubai is actually selling the ports? Me neither...

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