Front Page Magazine, March 1, 2006
by Paul Sperry
Why is this typically Bush-hating entity suddenly acting like the President’s best friend?
When the Council on American-Islamic Relations parrots White House talking points, you know there’s something very wrong inside the Beltway.
CAIR spokesman Arsalan Iftikhar agrees there’s no reason to get in a lather over the United Arab Emirates taking over just about every major shipping terminal along our Eastern Seaboard. The UAE is harmless, and if you’re alarmed about the deal, well, you’re an Islamophobe caught up in the post-9/11 “industry of fear.”
“What’s important to understand here is that all this is doing is demonizing the entire world Muslim population,” Iftikhar complained on MSNBC.
And besides, he says the UAE won’t have anything to do with port security — not that it matters if they did. “We have to clarify a few things here,” he asserted, sounding more like a White House spokesman. “First of all, none of these port security operations are being given over to this country. The Department of Homeland Security is still going to have full autonomy when it comes to security at the ports.”
So relax. Iftikhar, like President Bush, says he sees no difference in risk between the UAE or the U.K. operating the docks where millions of cargo containers enter New York and Baltimore and Miami. What about UAE’s terror record? Pshaw! “These are knee-jerk responses” borne of anti-Arab racism, he says.
As a Muslim-rights pressure group, CAIR’s own knee-jerk response in defending the UAE is not surprising — after all, it’s populated by Muslims. But the group has more at stake in this case. In fact, it has a direct financial interest in defending the UAE — a financial relationship that has never been reported in the mainstream media and never publicly disclosed by CAIR, even as it claims to receive no foreign support.
Truth be told, CAIR has an otherwise glaring conflict of interest in speaking out about the White House-approved deal to give UAE-owned Dubai Ports World control of six of our ports effective March 2. And it’s something that producers at FOX, CNN and NBC should know before they ever book another CAIR flack. Here’s what CAIR is hiding:
The U.S.-based executives of Dubai Ports World report to the emir of Dubai, who owns controlling interest in the Dubai-based company. His name is Gen. Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. It just so happens that Sheik Maktoum also owns the deed to CAIR’s headquarters located practically in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. As I first reported in my book, “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington,” CAIR’s deed is recorded in the name of his foundation, the Al-Maktoum Foundation. It put up more than $978,000 for the property and holds the rights to sell it, manage it and collect rents from other tenants in the multistory red-brick building on the CAIR property, located at 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., in Washington. (You can view the relevant pages of the documents on the book’s companion website, sperryfiles.com.)
CAIR’s landlord, Sheik Maktoum, doubles as UAE defense minister. Before 9/11, he provided UAE military C-130 cargo planes to supply al-Qaida hunting camps in Afghanistan with all the amenities they needed when he and other high-level UAE officials and princes took hunting trips there. On one trip
in 1999, roughly half the UAE royal family was the guest of Osama bin laden at his camp near Kandahar. They flew in on an official UAE aircraft, according to a recently declassified CIA memo dated Feb. 19, 1999, and titled, “Recent High Level UAE Visits to Afghanistan.” The memo also determined that Dubai officials had lied to U.S. officials about visiting the camps. And they were believed to have even tipped off bin Laden about a coming strike on his camps. Mind you, this was just months after bin Laden blew up the two U.S. embassies in Africa (a plot which was financed in part through Dubai banks), so they knew they were in bad company. Just like CAIR knows it’s in bad company.
The Dubai officials also had a cozy relationship with the Taliban. By now you’ve probably heard that the UAE was one of only three countries in the world — the others being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — to formally recognize the Taliban in diplomatic circles. What you haven’t heard is that Dubai was one of the Taliban’s only travel and financial outlets to the outside world. Dubai booked flights for them and acted as their banker. But CAIR doesn’t care about that, either (nor apparently does the White House).
So with all the bonding that bin Laden did with Dubai royals before 9/11, it’s little wonder that he deployed 13 of his 19 hijackers from Dubai to hit America. That’s right, all 13 entered the U.S. from Dubai (and that’s not even counting the original 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Katani, who also entered through Dubai before an alert INS inspector at Orlando airport sent him packing). Or little wonder that two were Emirates, and that one — Marwan al-Shehhi — in fact served under Sheik Maktoum in the UAE Army. He no doubt made the general proud by crashing his plane into the South Tower.
It’s also not surprising, given Dubai’s cozy ties to bin Laden and Taleb leaders, that the hijackers were able to use Dubai as their financial base in addition to their forward staging base. As they came through Dubai, they were outfitted by the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with credit cards, cash, bank accounts and American-style clothing. More than $100,000 in al-Qaida funds were funneled through Dubai banks. One single transfer from Dubai into al-Shehhi’s and his pal Mohamed Atta’s Florida checking account totaled $70,000.
The day before crashing his hijacked United Airlines jet, al-Shehhi wired $5,400 in leftover al-Qaida funds back to Dubai. Other hijackers also wired residuals there. After the attacks, investigators traced al-Shehhi phone calls back to the UAE, where he is now celebrated as a hero in mosques and other local gathering places outside the gaze of Western investors, who are too intoxicated by glittering high-rises and other signs of modernity to understand that the desert oasis is still haunted by ancient demons.
Sheik Maktoum’s reaction to the mass murder of 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was shockingly unsympathetic (as was CAIR’s). In fact, he reserved his sympathies for Palestinians. Two weeks after 9/11, Sheik Maktoum warned Washington not to attack “innocent” Muslims in Afghanistan and to instead focus on “Israeli terrorists” in its war on terrorism. He argued that they are the only real terrorists.
“The Arab and Muslim communities have paid dearly for terrorism, especially the state terrorism practiced by the government of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and extremist groups in Israel,” he bellowed. “Regrettably, the powers in the international community [read: America, “the Great Satan”] have done nothing but watch the Israeli terrorists, a matter which has angered Arabs and Muslims [including most assuredly Sheik Maktoum].” He added, “Confrontation of terrorism must cover Israeli terrorism.”
Sheik Maktoum defines Palestinian suicide bombings as “legitimate acts of resistance,” and not terrorism (which makes you wonder how he defines 9/11), and he has held Dubai telethons to support the families of suicide bombers. Also, the sheik has been accused of winking at al-Qaida money-laundering in his city-state, and helping an ailing bin Laden receive care at a Dubai hospital when he was on the lam.
This is CAIR’s main sugar daddy (it also get funds from Saudi benefactors), and the Arab ruler with whom the White House has entrusted our vital port security.
Making matters worse, the CEO who answers directly to Maktoum at his Dubai Ports operation — Mohammed Sharaf — studied in Arizona in the early 1990s at the same time al-Qaida was setting up an American beachhead there. Several prominent al-Qaida leaders emerged from the Arizona university
system. In addition, one of the 9/11 pilots, Hani Hanjour, studied English there in 1990, and later took flying lessons in the Phoenix area.
This is a red flag the Treasury group that supposedly vetted the port deal more than likely overlooked. If officials really didn’t rubber-stamp the deal, they would have called the FBI agent who wrote the famously prescient “Phoenix memo” before 9/11. I’m sure he could fill them in on any troubling connections Sharaf may have in Arizona.
CAIR, which has an operating budget of more than $5 million a year, has its own connections to terrorism. Formed by two ethnic-Palestinians from a Hamas front, it has had at least five officials on its payroll or board convicted of terror-related charges or tied to terrorism. They include: Randall “Ismail” Royer, Ghassan Elashi, Bassem Khafagi, Rabih Haddad and Siraj Wahhaj. So it’s not exactly the best character witness for Arab officials who say they are cooperating with us in the war on terror.
Problem is, the White House also says we can trust UAE leaders, that they’ve been a “a very good ally” in our war on terror and, why, they’re even letting our Navy dock in their port (which is no real comfort since Yemen did the same thing). Truth is, like the Saudis, they’ve done next to nothing to help us track down bin Laden or track his finances through their banks. That’s why the administration took the extraordinary move of demanding in writing, as part of the secret port deal, that they cooperate in counterterror investigations. There’d be no need to ask for such security concessions if they were already cooperating fully as claimed, and weren’t still a serious terror risk (which makes you wonder even more why the White House is pushing so hard to add risk to our already risky port situation).
But then, the administration knows all this. The U.S. Border Patrol has designated UAE as one of the 35 (all Muslim) “special interest countries,” according to sensitive Department of Homeland Security documents I’ve obtained. And UAE shows up on the Customs and Border Protection Intelligence and National Targeting Center’s list of 69 “countries of interest for potential terrorist activities.” What’s more, UAE is one of only five countries where DHS has stationed Visa Security Officers, putting to rest any notion that UAE does not still pose a terror threat.
And think about it: If UAE leaders were friends with bin Laden enough to hunt with him before 9/11, why would they suddenly become our friends after 9/11? They wouldn’t, of course, and they aren’t. And CAIR, whose real agenda is to Islamize America, isn’t either. So no one should care what the hell it thinks on the subject. Just as we shouldn’t trade with the enemy, we shouldn’t legitimize the terror-tied groups they bankroll.