DUBAI -- Officials here heard late Thursday that Karl Rove had decided to pull the plug. President Bush's political adviser was said to have conveyed to a top manager of Dubai Ports World in Washington that the White House couldn't hold out any longer against congressional pressure to kill the Arab company's plan to acquire freight terminals at six U.S. ports. The initial response of one Dubai executive was: "Who's Karl Rove?" But in the end, political leaders here recognized that it was time to fold a losing hand.Those "craven members of congress" were only responding to the anti Arab xenophobia of the American people. The point Ignatius missed is that it is that same Karl Rove and the same administration that is responsible for that xenophobia, carefully cultivated since 9-11 for political purposes. Ultimately the responsibility for the DP World debacle has to fall on the shoulders of the very man who was forced to intervene and pull the plug, none other than Karl Rove and his boss.
Until Rove's decision, Dubai's business leaders had insisted they would fight on. The chairman of Dubai Ports World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, told me emphatically on Wednesday that his company would do whatever was necessary to convince Congress that the deal posed no security risk -- new investment, additional equipment, more scanning of cargo, special checks of UAE personnel, including himself. But that was before the House Appropriations Committee voted 62 to 2 to kill the deal.
I suspect America will pay a steep price for Congress's rejection of this deal. It sent a message that for all the U.S. rhetoric about free trade and partnerships with allies, America is basically hostile to Arab investment. And it shouldn't be surprising if Arab investors respond in kind. One could blame it all on craven members of Congress, if the opinion polls didn't show that Americans are overwhelmingly against the deal -- and suspicious of Muslims in general. Those poll numbers tell us that America hasn't gotten over Sept. 11, 2001. If anything, Iraq has deepened the country's anxiety, introspection and foreboding.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Once Again David Ignatius Misses the point
I agree that the brouhaha over DP World taking over US ports was just that, brouhaha. Compared to the reality that the Republican controlled government had taken virtually no action to secure the ports and had in fact resisted attempts to do so is a much greater security threat. Ignatius is correct when he says the debacle is a case of Burning Allies -- and Ourselves.