Dubai’s royal family are po’d at the furor over the ports deal brought on by Capitol Hill Republicans and Democrats. They’re preparing to retaliate, not with military might, but with a power equal to. They’re ready to kick our wallets.
Retaliation from the emirate could come against lucrative deals with aircraft maker Boeing and by curtailing the docking of hundreds of American ships, including U.S. Navy ships, each year at its port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the source added.
And don’t think that doesn’t scare some folks.
It is not clear how much of Dubai’s behind-the-scenes anger would be followed up by action, but Boeing has been made aware of the threat and is already reportedly lobbying to save the ports deal.
The Emirates Group airline will decide later this year whether it will buy Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner or its competitor, Airbus A350. The airline last fall placed an order worth $9.7 billion for 42 Boeing 777 aircraft, making Dubai Boeing’s largest 777 customer.
And when the subject is Boeing, it becomes a matter of interest to Congress. Specifically, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Any repercussion to Boeing could put House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in a delicate position. Boeing’s decision to move its headquarters to Chicago has been seen as calculated to facilitate a close relationship with Hastert. He is against the ports deal, and his office did not return calls by press time.
There is reason for the White House to be concerned. If Dubai feels like they’re being disrespected by the United States, one response could be to limit our military’s ability to use ports in their country.
A Republican trade lobbyist said that because the ports deal is a national-security issue blocking it would not be in violation of World Trade Agreement rules.
“In terms of them retaliating legally against the U.S. … I don’t think there are many options there,” the lobbyist said.
But when it comes to the emirates’ cooperation in the war on terrorism and in intelligence gathering, there is concern that some help may be pulled.
“If we reject the company in terms of doing the [ports] work, they are going to lose a lot of face. In the Arab culture, losing face is a big deal,” a former government official said. “We risk losing that help. It is not an empty threat.”
Dubai is a critical logistics hub for the U.S. Navy and a popular relaxation destination for troops fighting in the Middle East. On many occasions since the ports story erupted, the Pentagon has stressed the importance of the U.S-UAE relationship.
Last year, the U.S. Navy docked 590 supply vessels in Dubai, plus 56 warships, Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, said in a Senate hearing last month. About 77,000 military personnel went on leave in the UAE last year, he added.
It all comes down to money and access. Congress will find a way to pass the deal if a loss of state dollars is at stake. Likewise, the Bush administration will find a way to keep our military vessels in Dubai. So, this leaves me wondering if the fight against the port deal is really just a waste of time for everyone involved. While it may score short term political points for one side or another, it doesn’t appear that any of this will stop Washington from pursuing the goal – pocketing the money and securing the needed access.