Saturday, February 18, 2006

UAE has "ties" to terrorism?

Well, this has just been the week for UAE news on the blog...

Come to find out that the deal for control of our ports is being heavily questioned, due to the UAE's "troubling ties to international terrorism, " As Think Progress put it.

Having lived in the Emirates for seven years - and kept an ear to the ground - I find this to be sadly amusing. I would argue that the UAE is not a country with damning "ties" to terrorism, in spite of what's been relisted here. But I agree that we should be leery of this contract.

The first thing you have to understand about the Emirates is that while their primary religion is Islam, Capitalism comes in a close second. They've always been about trade and commerce, and while this is a good thing, it sometimes creates questionable situations.

Cases in point (accusations snatched from Think Progress):

– The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

That's right, they did. And they did not do this because they agreed with the Taliban's hard line, but because they wanted to maintain good relations with the country. There are a lot of Afghanis in the UAE, working in one capacity or another, and they wanted to keep the money going. They even criticized them when it became apparent that they were going over the deep end (the buddha bombing)

When the Taliban was involved in 9/11, the UAE gave them no political, monetary or military support during America's invasion. And when the new government was put into place, the UAE recognized it.

It's all about the money.

– The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia.

Has it now? Probably for the same reason as this...

– According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.

and this

– After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.

Along with other middle-east banks, according to the letter Think Progress used. And that's the real kicker, here.

The UAE is very much in-step with its neighbors in that there is little or no real oversight of the banks or ports - not where it counts, anyway. This is also all about the money, and perhaps security: no one will attack the place where they can move their goods and launder their money, and the UAE is known to be a smuggler's paradise.

Again, it's all about the money.

As for the banks - remember BCCI from the Iran-Contra Scandal? They were headquartered in Dubai. In fact, I was shocked to learn - maybe a year or two after I'd gotten to Dubai - that the bank I was set up with upon arrival, Union National Bank, was made out of BCCI's remnants!

So I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about "terrorist" ties to the UAE (two of the 17? pfft!) Instead, spend more time wondering if this company is really on the ball, or if it's going to be remote-operated by people who will let their friends and business partners "habibi" them out of following protocol, or obeying the law.

That is, I would argue, a much more serious concern.


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