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Friday, March 03, 2006

Joe Roche on the UAE

Joe Roche, who spent a year as a volunteer in Israel assisting the Israeli military before joining the U.S. Army after 9/11, has some thoughts he wanted to share on the UAE port deal:
When I heard the sale of the ports' deal was going to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, I was impressed. The UAE is a solid ally in the War On Terror, and will prove to be critically important in the years ahead. I've traveled around the Persian Gulf and have many friends who live there, and the UAE has always impressed me as an important country on the side of the United States.

The first time I became familiar with the UAE was during my college studies. Iran was waging the much forgotten Tanker War with the U.S., and losing badly. There were many fronts of conflict with Iran, including massive support for international terrorism and a very ominous military build-up aimed at challenging the Carter Doctrine.

President Carter announced this doctrine in 1980 against the Soviet threat, which has grounded our policies in the Persian Gulf ever since. It is based on free and open commerce, protection of law, safe shipping, and most importantly no domination of the Strait of Hormuz by any single power, especially a hostile power to the U.S. This strait is the narrow opening to the Persian Gulf from the Indian Ocean that is flanked by Iran and the UAE.

The UAE was and is the single most important country to the U.S. doctrine. Our military has built up strong, extensive and vital relationships with the UAE, establishing one of the most important presences there that we have overseas.

President Reagan exercised this power in the Tanker War. Iran engaged in multiple acts of aggression against international shipping, threatened the strait and thereby challenged the Carter Doctrine. Iranian ships tried to attack our ships but were destroyed 100% of the time. They laid mines that struck several ships, including our naval vessels. Reagan unleashed Operation Earnest Will in July, 1987, which included Navy SEAL commandos blowing up an Iranian oil platform, capturing an Iranian minelayer ship, firing over 1,000 artillery rounds destroying two Iranian armed facilities, and more. Most of this went unreported and is therefore largely forgotten.

The central issue that confronts the UAE and U.S. today is Iran's military occupation of three little islands, Abu Musa and the Tunbs, in the strait that are actually UAE territory. They are in the middle of the shipping lanes, and with recent Iranian military buildups on them, present a grave threat should Iran decide to challenge shipping in the Gulf. This is a complex issue that illustrates past weakness in U.S. policies, with implications that cause confusion today.

Specifically, in 1971, Iran was an ally of the U.S. while the Arab Gulf states were weak (before the oil boom) and under stress from Marxism. Therefore, when Iran began its takeover of the islands, Nixon, Ford and Carter basically looked the other way, thinking that Iran was going to be the stable pro-US power in the region for the future. This was crushing to the UAE. The status of these islands took a very ominous turn for the worse in 1992 when Iran aggressively moved missiles in and ended the UAE's past attempts at negotiated deals. This escaped U.S. censure because we were focused on the post-Desert Storm issues liberating Kuwait from Iraq, and our ally Egypt had invaded and occupied the small Halaib area of Sudan. If you feel confused by this, imagine how complex this appeared to the first Bush Administration. Better to look the other way, it was decided.

The UAE had to swallow this. During the following years under Clinton, the UAE witnessed contradictory U.S. policies. While Iran engaged in acts of terrorism, the Clinton White House blocked CIA and FBI pursuit of Iranian links. And though people are making an issue of the UAE's recognition of the Taliban, Clinton didn't do anything to stop the extensive U.S. oil companies talks with Taliban leaders.

Thus, what seems like simple black-and-white issues to us today really were very confused and muddied in that region, largely because of past U.S. weakness and inconsistencies. Since 9/11, however, we have focused with clarity and simplicity on our interests. In this, the UAE has been very welcoming and extremely supporting. Our military has extensive facilities in that country that have been central in the current War On Terror. The UAE has been an excellent ally working to crush Al Qaeda.

I don't think enough people realize just how important the UAE is to our country. The biggest issue in that region is the emerging conflict with Iran that is going to dominate for years. In this, the UAE is going to be an absolutely vital ally to the U.S. We both are committed to each other in many ways, which include Abu Musa and the Tunbs.

I should add that the ports' issue has been very misreported. Major Garret on Brit Hume's Special Report on Fox News has done an excellent job in clarifying this with reports from Baltimore and elsewhere specifically about the ports in question. This isn't an issue changing our security or jobs. The ports in question are already operated by a foreign firm from Britain, which I don't think is safer and more trustworthy than the UAE firm. The UAE firm runs ports for our military in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea which are far more secure than the domestic ports in question.

I'm a supporter of Israel and I have been deployed to the Persian Gulf. Yes, I'm offended at the UAE's funding of Hamas and the solidarity it has shown in league with the Arab boycott of Israel, but I also don't believe the UAE is in a position to buck the regional Arab obsession on these issues. If the concerns expressed here in Washington and our press were accurate, I would be the first to oppose the sale. They aren't. I think this is a knee-jerk reaction exploiting the lack of knowledge by the American people about the UAE, the issues involved, and the substance of the ports' issue. I'm glad that the UAE company has decided to delay its deal so as to open the way for "investigation," but I hope that this deal will go through. The UAE is a good U.S. ally and one that can be counted on.
Joe also wanted me to recommend this link "for anyone interested in a good explanation of this specific issue."

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:29 PM

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