The $8 billion deal to turn over commercial shipping operations at major American ports to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, continues to stoke controversy. The Bush administration and other supporters of the deal insist that, despite a history of facilitating al Qaeda–including what the 9/11 Commission described as contacts between high-regime officials and Osama bin Laden himself–the UAE is a “good friend” and a valuable ally in the war on terror.
Nevertheless, it has become necessary to ask whether, even now, the UAE is in felony violation of the 1996 law that has become the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism enforcement. Is the UAE providing material support to Hamas, a specially designated terrorist organization?
Any American citizen doing such a thing would be sent to prison. Any American company doing it would surely be convicted and put out of business–and its principals liable for prosecution and imprisonment.
Obviously, the UAE cannot be prosecuted criminally; it has diplomatic immunity. But if it is transgressing our fundamental antiterror law, in the middle of a war on terror, would it be asking too much to insist that it not be rewarded with a profitable commercial deal that would call for it to be read into part of the strategy for our border enforcement?
THE BUSH DOCTRINE
Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
Those were the words President Bush spoke with stirring moral clarity on September 20, 2001, just days after Islamic terrorists annihilated nearly 3000 innocent Americans in suicide hijacking attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This directive, the Bush Doctrine, was echoed in the National Security Strategy of the United States, promulgated by the White House near the first anniversary of 9/11. It proclaims:
The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism–premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.
In many regions, legitimate grievances prevent the emergence of a lasting peace. Such grievances deserve to be, and must be, addressed within a political process. But no cause justifies terror. The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them. [Emphasis supplied.]
At a minimum the Bush Doctrine necessarily means a country supporting terrorist organizations cannot be considered a reliable ally in the war on terror.
In 1996, as part of a major overhaul in counterterrorism law, Congress enacted the material support statutes. (Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2339B is the provision germane for present purposes.) The law states, in pertinent part:
Whoever, within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
MATERIAL SUPPORT TO HAMAS AND PIJ?
The United States government officially designated Hamas a foreign terrorist organization in 1995, and reaffirmed the designation in 1997, following the aforementioned overhaul of counterterror law.
Formed in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas (whose name is derived from Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, meaning the “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is incorrigibly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. To this day, its charter states: “the purpose of HAMAS is to create an Islamic Palestinian state throughout Israel by eliminating the State of Israel through violent jihad.” Hamas is responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks and murders. Its recent electoral triumph in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, far from inducing it to foreswear this deadly posture, appears only to have emboldened it.
Consequently, several people and entities have been indicted in the United States for providing material support to Hamas, as well as related crimes. In announcing one such indictment in 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was plainspoken about the government’s position: “Today, terrorists have lost yet another source of financing and support for their bombs and bloodshed. Our record on terrorist financing is clear: We will hunt down the suppliers of terrorist blood money. We will shut down these sources, and we will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the full justice of the United States of America.”
Is the UAE a source of support for Hamas? It certainly appears to be. In an important article in FrontPage Magazine last Friday (February 24), analysts Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen describe extensive strands of UAE funding for the terror organization. Indeed, as they observe:
On July 27, 2005, the Palestinian Information Center carried a public HAMAS statement thanking the UAE for it’s “unstinting support.” The statement said: “We highly appreciate his highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan (UAE president) in particular and the UAE people and government in general for their limitless support…that contributed more to consolidating our people’s resoluteness in the face of the Israeli occupation”.
The HAMAS statement continued: “the sisterly UAE had… never hesitated in providing aid for our Mujahid people pertaining to rebuilding their houses demolished by the [Israeli military] … The UAE also spared no effort to offer financial and material aids to the Palestinian charitable societies.”
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, the father of the current UAE president, is described as having been an ardent benefactor of Hamas as well as another U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), right up until his death in 2004–i.e., three years after 9/11, the point at which the Bush administration maintains that the UAE became staunchly antiterrorist.
The UAE, moreover, continues to operate an ostensibly “charitable” entity, Human Appeal International, which is alleged to fund the terrorist activities of Hamas and PIJ by routing thousands upon thousands of dollars through the Palestinian Red Crescent Organization, whose branches in the Palestinian territories are controlled by Hamas. The terror organization is said then to transfer the money to purported charities which are actually fronts for Hamas’s dirty work. As Ehrenfeld and Lappen elaborate, the UAE has a “compensation” plan for the Palestinian intifada. In 2001, this plan is said to have “included $3,000 for every Palestinian shaheed [i.e., “martyr” or suicide bomber], $2,000 for his family, $1,500 for those detained by Israel, $1,200 for each orphan. In addition, families of those terrorists whose homes Israel demolished each received $10,000.”
Back in October 2005, moreover, the Palestinian Authority broke ground on a new town to be known as “Sheikh Khalifa City,” in honor of the UAE president, who has ponied up $100 million for the project. As an Israeli news service reports: “The new town will not be used to ease the housing crisis in the PA’s refugee camps, but will rather house relatives of those killed in the years of violence against Israel, other casualties such as the wounded and arrested, and families whose homes were razed during the war.”
Meanwhile, America’s premier expert on Islamic terrorism, Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, recently told MSNBC’s Rita Cosby that “Hamas couriers as late as last year … were sent to the West Bank or Gaza [who] came in with UAE cash. So there is still a problem of terrorist supporting operations.”
DRAWING CONCLUSIONS FROM THE UAE’S MIXED RECORD
It cannot be gainsaid that the UAE was an al Qaeda booster before 9/11. Nor should it be minimized that, ever since, the country has vastly improved, giving valuable assistance to our military overseas. Of course, on the latter score, it is worth noting that–the port deal aside–a good relationship with the U.S. is where the UAE’s interests lie. Its hospitality to American forces and its billions in purchases of American arms are precious insurance for a tiny autocracy that has sometimes tense relations with menacing Iran. Still, proponents of the ports deal understandably emphasize that the UAE’s strides are a welcome development. It is one we should cultivate to the extent we can do so without compromising core principles.
But that means not at the expense of making a mockery of our laws–particularly the laws essential to our security. The ports transaction will be under review for the next 45 days. That probe must include an assessment of the UAE’s ties to Hamas and PIJ.
If there is to be anything left of the Bush Doctrine, the United States cannot allow a country in violation of our counterterrorism laws to play a critical role in admitting, storing and transferring shipments into our country. Nor can we abide a lucrative financial arrangement for a country that uses its wealth to underwrite organizations our law designates as terrorists.
–Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.