Maps courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps
used with permission.
Study the above map. See the UAE in blue? Now, also consider the location of Saudia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, and Iran. The only nations that can not have their shipping shut down by Iran are Saudia Arabia and Oman and Yemen.
Now, recall the majority of people on the Gulf are Sunni Muslims and in Iran they are Shia (Bahrain is Sunni ruled but has a Shia majority), that is there is a natural and profound antagonism between the two sets. Not only is there the religious difference but there are territory conflicts. Iran and the UAE have a territory conflict over some islands in the Persian Gulf.
So, this adds to the tension.
Iran: The Boogeyman
Now, we know Iran is trying its best to obtain nuclear weapons. The Arabian Peninsula nations do not want that to happen anymore than we do (and I would urge them to forget about trying to make the Mideast Nuclear free in an attempt to disarm Israel, this is being too clever by half) as Iran would get even more pushy.
Now, Iran's trump card is it can easily shut down shipping going in and out of the Persian Gulf and can make shipping difficult all the way out the Indian Ocean. Of course, we would not allow for that but it would take some time to take care of. Of course, everyone thinks "Oh no! The world loses access to oil".
Oil is a Two Edged Sword
Oil is of course the most important thing flowing out of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman into the Indian Ocean. Now, we have the memories of the oil embargoes from the '70s. Now, the oil nations are solely dependent on one product for their income and that is the oil. So if oil isn't getting to market they are not getting money to run their nations and to buy their Mercedes with. In the past when oil price was low the governments of the Persian Gulf region were cutting budgets, instituting taxes (usually on expatriates). These nations are very dependent on oil revenue and it would hit them very hard if they could not deliver their oil to market.
Also, remember oil is a commodity. While there are differences in oil from place to place remember it all goes into one big pot and oil consuming nations draw from that pot. They don't buy from a particular nation. Even the oil pumped in our nation goes into that pot it doesn't just stay here in the USA.
Good or Bad?
Before we pass judgment on the Port deal we need to consider all of the above plus some point raised by James Robbins at NRO.
Source: National Review Online - Port Insecurity? (On the Dubai port deal.) - James S. Robbins
- December 2004: Dubai was the first government in the region to sign on to the U.S. Container Security Initiative to screen all containers heading for the United States for security risks.
- May 2005: Dubai signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to bar passage of nuclear material from passing through its ports, and install radiation-detecting equipment.
Of course critics point out two of the 9/11-19 came from the UAE (but I would remind 19 of 19 lived here in the USA prior to the 9/11) and there are other negatives.
On the whole this is not so simple as the critics make it out to be.
A few more things. It is US Customs and Security who is responsible for security. All other ports in the world are not run or owned by any US company.
I put all the above together and believe there is much more incentive for the UAE to do things right and not to allow themselves to be used as conduits of terror. I have little problem with the deal.
Alas, the deal may be good but it makes for bad press and is easily demagogued.