Below are three pieces related to the Dubai Ports contretemps, with some comments on the relevance of Philip Bobbitt's views on what he calls "the market state" to this affair. -- As the Dubai Ports World deal collapsed, Time reported Thursday that another recent contracting arrangement may be of interest to those worried about such matters: "Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), is an old British company that last January was sold to a Dubai government investment vehicle for $285 million." -- What makes this significant is the fact that "last June, the U.S. Navy signed on too, awarding ISS a $50 million contract to be the 'husbanding agent' for vessels in most Southwest Asia ports, including those in the Middle East." -- ABC News reported Friday that the White House had asked Dubai Ports World to withdraw from the deal in order to spare the president further political embarrassment. -- In a speculative piece on the deep background of the Dubai ports imbroglio, Mike Whitney argued Tuesday that geopolitical factors must be appreciated to understand it: "This tiny state [Dubai] forms the promontory that juts out into the famed Straits of Hormuz through which 40% of the worlds oil passes every day. Across the narrow straights sits Iran, the next victim on the list of 'axis of evil' nations. Any attack on Iran will require that military forces quickly deploy to Dubai to forestall the closing of the straits and the subsequent devastation that would occur to world oil supplies and financial markets." -- What's missing in all these discussions is an illuminating perspective of historian and constitutional law scholar Philip Bobbitt, what's going on here is not merely imprudence and venality, though these surely play a role, but also an historical shift in the principle of state legitimation. -- Bobbitt argued in a recent book that ours is the age of the emerging "market-state," i.e. "the emerging constitutional order that promises to maximize the opportunity of its people, tending to privatize many state activities and making representative government more responsive to the market" (The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002], p. 912). -- According to Bobbitt, "The market-state is a constitutional adaptation to the end of the Long War (i.e. the triumph of bourgeois parliamentarism over fascism and Communism in the period 1914-1991) and to the revolutions in computation, communications, and weapons of mass destruction that brought about that end. . . . [T]he market state assesses its economic success or failure by its society's ability to secure more and better good and services, but in contrast to the the nation-state it does not see the State as more than a minimal provider or redistributor" (ibid., pp. 228-29). -- Bobbitt's argument suggests that public opinion is perhaps the only force with much hope of arresting the development of the market-state, which adds to the interest of the political outcome of the Dubai Ports World affair....
THE DUBAI DEAL YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT
By Daren Fonda
March 9, 2006
** Even as one company gives up on US ports, a different Middle Eastern firm remains a major contractor for the Navy. **
With midterm elections approaching, no politician wanted to go home and explain to voters why a company controlled by the government of Dubai was taking over operations at six U.S. ports -- without so much as a meow of protest from Congress. As it turns out, that won't be necessary. Dubai Ports World, the firm at the center of the controversy, announced today that it would give up its bid to manage U.S. ports, agreeing to transfer the contracts to a "U.S. entity."
Yet while one Dubai company may be giving up on U.S. ports, another one shows no signs of quitting the U.S. -- or of giving up a contract with the Navy to provide shore services for vessels in the Middle East. The firm, Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), is an old British company that last January was sold to a Dubai government investment vehicle for $285 million. ISS has more than 200 offices around the world and provides services to clients ranging from cruise ship operators to oil tankers to commercial cargo vessels. In the U.S., the company operates out of more than a dozen port cities, including Houston, Miami, and New Orleans, arranging pilots, tugs, linesmen, and stevedores, among other things. The firm is also a defense contractor which has long worked for Britain's Royal Navy. And last June, the U.S. Navy signed on too, awarding ISS a $50 million contract to be the "husbanding agent" for vessels in most Southwest Asia ports, including those in the Middle East, according to an unclassified Navy logistics manual for the Fifth Fleet and a press release from ISS.
Why is a Dubai shipping services company doing business with the Pentagon when handing over U.S. port operations to the emirate would supposedly compromise national security? Because it makes sense. Call it the reality of living in a globally connected business world. Your IBM laptop is now manufactured by a Chinese company that may outsource customer support to an Indian firm and the logistics to FedEx. Dubai companies aren't just buying overseas assets like hotels in New York and wax museums in London; they're providing jobs and business for U.S. companies. Boeing, for one, can only hope it doesn't receive a frosty reception the next time it wants to sell airplanes to Dubai's booming airline, Emirates. Rival Airbus would be more than happy to take advantage of Washington's creeping protectionism.
The Navy, for one, has long understood that it would be virtually impossible to rely solely on Western-owned companies for critical services. It simply couldn't operate without local firms providing logistics support at the 200 ports its ships visit around the world. After the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, the Navy undertook a wide-scale review of contracting procedures, including those involving ship husbanding. As a result of that review, the Navy took several steps to increase the security of ships in foreign ports, but maintained its system of contracting. "We've been doing business in the Persian Gulf for 60 years," says a Navy official who was unable to confirm the details of the ISS contract. Moreover, Dubai is considered one of the best-equipped ports for the Navy -- it's also a crucial logistical base for operations in the region, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No question, the husbanding contract provides the potential for mischief. Husbanding agents arrange everything from fuel to spare parts to fresh vegetables for vessels at ports of call. More critically, they often provide security, like erecting concrete barriers and what the military calls "force protection." Husbanding agents often learn weeks in advance of a ship's schedule so as to be prepared when the vessel arrives, information that the Navy keeps closely guarded since it could be invaluable in the hands of terrorists. The suicide bombing of the Cole, for instance, occurred less than three hours after the ship had completed mooring in the harbor of Aden, Yemen. "It would have been much more difficult for the bombers to execute the attack without some previous knowledge of the ship's schedule and its intent to pull into Aden," says a former Navy officer.
Contacted by TIME, a spokesman for ISS confirmed the existence of the contract, but said that confidentiality terms prevented him from discussing it. A statement issued by the firm declared that "ISS has undergone rigorous external security checks" and has "comprehensive internal policies on security." Regarding its U.S. port operations, the company states that all port staff "are fully vetted and cleared and undergo a background check to enable them to work within the port limits."
While ISS doesn't appear eager to discuss its defense work, a press release issued last fall offers some details. The release states that ISS "will be responsible for providing all the logistics requirements of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in ports throughout the [Middle East] region." The release also notes that ISS may be asked to provide services for U.S. military training exercises and "contingency operations inland." ISS's partner for those services? None other than KBR, the division of Halliburton -- Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm -- that has won billions of dollars in contracts for the Iraq war and reconstruction. Ironically, Halliburton's name has come up as a possible candidate to be the "U.S. entity" to take over the U.S. ports management from Dubai Ports World.
ISS, in fact, isn't the only Dubai company that has won big business with the Pentagon. In December 2004, another such firm, Seven Seas Shipchandlers, won a $700 million contract to be the prime vendor for maintenance and repair operations for troops in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East. Seven Seas has also provided food supplies to U.S. troops in Iraq. Another Dubai-based firm, MAC International, is under contract to deliver $67.2 million worth of police trucks to the Army. Those vehicles, however, will bear a stamp that should please any Washington pol: Made In Detroit.
WHITE HOUSE ASKED DUBAI PORTS TO PULL OUT
** Stunning Defeat for Bush, but Republicans in Congress Promise to Put It Behind Them **
March 10, 2006
The White House asked Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, to give up its management stake in U.S. ports, to save President Bush from the politically difficult position of vetoing a key piece of legislation to protect America's ports, ABC News has learned.
When the company announced Thursday that it would sell its management stake in six U.S. ports, it was a stunning defeat for Bush, who had put his political capital on the line to back the deal, ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos said.
"Certainly, it's the most significant break with the Republican leadership in the Congress this term," he said.
The Democrats -- suddenly feeling united -- insist the scuttled ports deal is proof that the White House is weakened and divided against its own party.
"They couldn't hold their forces on the other side," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., "and this is a retreat under fire, make no mistake."
"[Capitol] Hill was leading the charge," Stephanopoulos said. "They've been telling the White House for three weeks, 'This deal is dead. We're going to override you.'"
With victory in hand, leading Republicans insist there are no hard feelings.
"In all fairness, I'm not going to be a Monday-morning quarterback," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. "It's all over now."
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., agreed.
"I think this incident is behind us, and we will go forward," he said.
A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP
The defeat does lead one to question how much control the increasingly unpopular White House will have over Republicans in Congress during this election year. Stephanopoulos said he had been struck by how many Republican members of Congress had said they were holding the White House in contempt.
"They're saying they're arrogant, and they don't trust their competence anymore," he said.
The complex relationship between the president and the Republican members of Congress affects how effective they will be.
"The more they abandon the president, the more they weaken the president," Stephanopoulos said. "But, it also hurts their prospects in the midterm elections. They have debates coming up on immigration, the budget, Iraq."
"I think they want to be together with the president," he added, "but not at their own expense."
On Thursday, Dubai Ports World closed its $6.8 billion purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the British firm that runs important port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia through a U.S. subsidiary. It also plays a lesser role in dockside activities at 16 other American ports.
The takeover plan was disclosed last month, setting off a political firestorm in the United States even though the company's U.S. operations were only a small part of the global transaction. Dubai Ports valued its rival's American operations at less than 10 percent of the nearly $7 billion total purchase.
Republicans denounced the plan, furious that they had learned about it from news reports and not the White House. They cited concerns over a company run by a foreign government overseeing operations at U.S. ports already vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Democrats also pledged to halt the takeover and clamored for a vote in the Senate. They sought to gain political advantage from the controversy by trying to narrow a polling gap with the GOP on issues of national security.
After the company's announcement Thursday, the Senate indefinitely postponed a vote on a Democratic move to block the deal.
Bush had defended the deal, calling the United Arab Emirates a strong ally in the war on terror and pledging to cast the first veto of his presidency if Congress voted to interfere.
Senate Republicans initially tried to fend off a vote, and the administration agreed to a 45-day review of the transaction. That strategy collapsed Wednesday with the 62-2 vote in the House Appropriations Committee to stop the sale. Republican leaders of Congress privately told the president the Senate would inevitably do the same, despite his threats to veto any legislation killing the deal.
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.
DUBAI AND THE STRAITS OF HORMUZ
By Mike Whitney
March 6, 2006
--"If you want to understand the policy of a country, look at the map. --Napoleon Bonaparte.
Geography is fate.
United Arab Emirates is located at the center of an oil-dependent world. This tiny state forms the promontory that juts out into the famed Straits of Hormuz through which 40% of the worlds oil passes every day. Across the narrow straights sits Iran, the next victim on the list of axis of evil nations. Any attack on Iran will require that military forces quickly deploy to Dubai to forestall the closing of the straits and the subsequent devastation that would occur to world oil supplies and financial markets.
This is the critical point that is being intentionally concealed by Americas diversionary media. This is the reason that President Bush continues to force the Dubai port plan even though 70% of the American people and Congress resoundingly oppose it.
The importance of UAE as a staging area for future hostilities cannot be overstated. No military strategy can hope to succeed without first establishing a beachhead across the straits in Iran so that the danger of blowing up oil tankers and blocking passage is removed. This tells us that plans for an attack may be on track for late March as originally threatened by Israel.
For its part, Iran has been trying to work out an agreement for enriching uranium with Russia, although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still insists that the NPT provides an inalienable right for the peaceful development of nuclear fuel.
Ahmadinejad is right, of course, but it makes little difference. The United States has already brushed aside the Iran-Russia plan and is pushing to have the Security Council censure Iran at its next meeting. So too, talks have broken off between Iran and the EU-3 without producing any positive results. The Euro-leaders are clearly abetting Washingtons gambit; paving the way for another war.
Ahmadinejad has done nothing to help his cause by blurting out absurd statements that have made him look foolish and irrational. (Israel should be wiped off the map.) Still, its doubtful that anyone could withstand the withering swift-boating of the Western media once they commence their campaign of character assassination, the likes of which we have seen many times before.
Ahmadinejad recently said, We want peace, security, and progress for all the countries of the region, especially our neighbors. History has shown that Iran is a good neighbor. We are just working on nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. His comments, of course, were not covered in the Western media since they conveyed the message of a responsible leader with benign motives rather than the ridiculous blather of madman.
As far as we know, however, Ahmadinejad has been straightforward in his claims. The IAEA has consistently found that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the NPT and that there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program.
That hasnt stop Washington, though. The die was cast for war with Iran nearly a decade ago in policy papers drawn up by far-right political ideologues that now control all the levers of foreign policy in the Bush White House.
The situation with Iran is bound to reach crisis level this week as the IAEAs board off governors is expected to issue a statement expressing its fears that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
Al Jazeera reported that, Diplomats in Washington and Vienna said the Security Council could adopt a "presidential declaration" calling on Tehran to heed IAEA calls to suspend uranium enrichment and co-operate with inspections.
A presidential declaration?
This is a clear admission that the IAEA has NOT found Iran in violation of its treaty obligations, but is looking for some way to accommodate the United States insistence that Iran should be publicly scolded by the international body.
Will this public humiliation be used as a pretext for war?
A Western diplomat told AFP the European countries had decided against a resolution at this weeks board meeting, after hearing from Russia and China that there was no support for one. (Al Jazeera)
Again, this suggests that there is no proof of foul play.
Nevertheless, European leaders and the United States want to issue a statement that would call on Iran to voluntarily suspend all enrichment-activities and submit to more extensive investigations. In other words, Iran is being asked to voluntarily give up all of its rights under the terms of the NPT.
But why would Iran willingly accept being treated like a pariah when there is no evidence that it has done anything wrong?
The hypocrisy of this Bush-backed plan is breathtaking. Bush just finished a trip to India and Pakistan where he effectively declared himself the final arbiter of who will get nuclear technology and fuel and who wont. His actions were a clear affront to the IAEA, the UN, the NPT, and the United States Congress, who is supposed to determine such matters as treaties.
Bush has apparently elected himself the god of all things nuclear.
He has successfully destroyed the already feeble credibility the NPT by capriciously handing out nuclear technology to friends and withholding it from enemies. He turned the notion of evenhandedness and international law into a private fiefdom where science and technology are distributed according to the whims of Washington mandarins.
The NPT is dead.
Will this final assault on international agreements clear the path for war with Iran?
It is hard to say, but the Financial Times reported that, Iranian activists involved in a classified research project for the marines told the FT the Pentagon was examining the depth and nature of grievances against the Islamic government (Iran) and appeared to be studying whether Iran would be prone to violent fragmentation along the same kind of fault-lines that are splitting Iraq.
So, along with the $85 million Congress just voted to provide for pro-democracy movements in Iran, Marine Intelligence is looking for ways to exacerbate ethnic tensions to foment revolution to topple the Tehran government. The plan for regime change in Iran is still being aggressively pursued, even though neighboring Iraq is in utter chaos.
The UAE port deal is just more indication that an attack on Iran is forthcoming. Its location is crucial to the success of any American invasion.
For the Pentagon warlords Dubai has become the strategic epicenter of the global resource war. As peace activist and author Uri Avnery said, Regimes come and go, rulers rise and fall, ideologies flourish and wither, but geography stands forever. Its geography that decides the basic interest of every state.
All eyes should be focused on Dubai and the tenuous future of the Straits of Hormuz.