Thursday, February 23, 2006

Surprise, Surprise: UAE Company Offers To Delay Ports Deal

Hey, whattya know: the UAE ports deal is going to be delayed for awhile cuz' the preznit's wingnut friends (e.g., Peter King, Bill Frist, Denny Hastert, Tom Delay Rick Santorum, et al.) are totally opposed to it and ready to shove it back down the preznit's throat:

Facing unrelenting political and national security concerns, an Arab maritime company late last night offered to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports, after White House aide Karl Rove suggested that President Bush could accept some delay of the deal.

The surprise announcement should give Bush extra time to convince lawmakers from both political parties that the port deal does not present an avenue for terrorists to exploit the nation's vulnerable and heavily populated shipping ports. Earlier in the day, Republican and Democratic senators questioned whether the Bush administration followed federal law when it approved Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., also known as P&O. That purchase will give the Dubai-owned firm managerial control over operations at six ports, including those of New York and New Orleans.

Ten administration officials faced a barrage of questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee as they defended their decision to forgo a national security review of the deal. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt said the decision last month to ratify the deal will be reconsidered only if officials find that officers of Dubai Ports World gave the government false, inaccurate or misleading information. But facing a bipartisan revolt over the deal, Rove told Fox News's "Tony Snow Show" that the White House could accept a delay in the transfer of port management, which is set for March 2.

"There are some hurdles, regulatory hurdles, that this still needs to go through on the British side, as well, that are going to be concluded next week," Rove said. "There's no requirement that it close, you know, immediately after that. But our interest is in making certain the members of Congress have full information about it, and that, we're convinced, will give them a level of comfort with this."

In an accord coordinated with the White House, Dubai Ports World agreed not to exercise control or influence the management of the U.S. ports while the administration talks with Congress. Other parts of the deal with P&O will go forward.

"It is not only unreasonable but also impractical to suggest that the closing of this entire global transaction should be delayed," Dubai Ports said in a statement.

It is not at all clear whether the offer will placate lawmakers, who have vowed to block the deal as soon as Congress reconvenes Monday. The imbroglio over the port decision has tarnished the administration's image of political strength on national security matters and called into question why Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials failed to consult with the president and members of Congress before approving the sensitive transaction.

Two things can happen now:

Either the sale delay will give the GOP some time to save face and come up w/ some kinda compromise (e.g., the UAE agrees to really, really stringent security/oversight measures) or the preznit agrees to kill the deal after a review process shows that the sale to the UAE company is suspect.

If the second thing happens, the preznit will try to okay the sale under the radar a year from now - just the way he secretly put his Social Security privatization plan into the 2006 federal budget on page 284 after the nation rejected last years privatization push and the way he undercut John McCain's anti-torture bill by issuing a signing statement that rendered the law essentially meaningless.

I'm betting Bush pulls the second option.

He's just that stubborn and sneaky.

And I bet it hurts him having to renege on a deal with his oil buddies.


Saw your post about this. I have my own thoughts about this move I think you might be interested in.

Thanks for the heads up.
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