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Jewish World Review
January 15, 2008
/ 8 Shevat 5768
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
There is something surreal about the spectacle of President
Bush touring the Persian Gulf. It calls to mind the signature line of
Mad Magazine's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman: "What, me worry?"
Mr. Bush's trip is, after all, premised on the notion that the Arab
leaders he is courting there are reliable allies. Such a proposition
should be subjected to the closest of critical scrutiny by Congress, the
press and the American electorate since a number of highly debatable,
and increasingly portentous, policies are predicated on this assumption.
Saudi Arabia and the other, smaller desert principalities are
"moderates" who are as opposed as we to the totalitarian political
agenda of fanatical ideologues such as Osama bin Laden.
The Gulfies share our concern about the rising power of Iran
and therefore can be counted upon to join us in countering that region's
would-be Islamofascist superpower. It follows not only that we can
safely provide these autocracies with an array of advanced weapons, but
we must do so.
The Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf will be helpful in
brokering a peace between Palestinians and Israelis - if only the United
States pressures the Jewish State to make territorial and other
concessions that may imperil the latter. And,
The willingness of the Gulf's potentates to recycle the
immense wealth they have accumulated in recent years - primarily through
oil sales at exorbitantly inflated prices - to purchase big stakes in
U.S. companies and capital markets is a welcome development. Such
investment is to be encouraged, and those who say otherwise should be
condemned as "Chicken Little xenophobes" in the words of former GE
chairman Jack Welch and his wife, Suzy.
In fact, the Welch tag-team used a January 21 Business Week column to
admonish a letter-writer worried about Arab and other sovereign wealth
funds buying up American corporations: "In trying times, U.S. companies
always attract opportunistic, activist shareholders. Sometimes they
look like Carl Icahn or Nelson Peltz. Sometimes they look like
shiny-faced hedge fund managers just out of Wharton or Harvard Business
School. And sometimes - like now - they look Chinese or Saudi or
whatever. It doesn't matter. They're all after the same thing: the
opportunities in America's capitalistic market."
Unfortunately, this confidence in the inexorable forces of
"globalization" is as misplaced in the case of the so-called
"pro-Western" Arab states as are the other assumptions driving American
policy towards the region at the moment. To be sure, at least some of
those to whom President Bush has been paying court in recent days are
genuinely desirous of American protection, arms, pressure on Israel and
investment opportunities. But to confuse such short-term,
expediency-driven common interests with a durable strategic partnership
is, for want of a better term, globaloney.
A litmus test of the true intentions of the Saudis and other
oil-rich Arab fiefdoms can be found in an initiative moving forward in
Western capital markets - including, increasingly those of the United
States - in parallel with their sovereign wealth investments in major
financial institutions and exchanges: Shariah finance.
As my colleague, Alex Alexiev, has noted in an important analysis of
this phenomenon, Shariah finance is an invention of the
Muslim Brotherhood, not the Koran; it dates back to the 1920s, not the
seventh century. This Islamist invention is designed to promote and
underwrite that ideology's political agenda of ghettoizing and
dominating Muslim populations - and, in due course, non-Muslim ones.
Forcing American enterprises to offer products Islamist "Shariah
advisors" deem to comply with their political-religious-legal code is a
Trojan horse for legitimating that code, Shariah, as practiced by the
Saudi, Taliban, Sudanese and Iranian regimes. It enriches and gives
enormous influence to these advisor/ideologues and affords them new
opportunities to drive millions (if not billions) in tithing and profits
to so-called Islamist "charities" and other enemies of the West.
Encouragement of this cancer by Saudi and like-minded investors inside
the West's capitalist system is one of the ominous facts that belies the
benign nostrums about globalization and the Persian Gulf served up by
the likes of Mr. and Mrs. Welch, and embraced by the Bush
Administration. Shariah finance is a prime indicator of why real care
must be exercised about arming its proponents, weakening our ally -
Israel - at their behest and encouraging their strategic penetration of
With respect to the latter, this would seem to be an ideal time for
increased scrutiny of Gulf states' purchases of American companies.
Last year, in the wake of the firestorm concerning Dubai's proposed
take-over of American ports, Congress enacted legislation to strengthen
the hand of security-minded federal agencies involved in the Committee
on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Heretofore, CFIUS
has been a notorious rubber-stamp even for transactions involving deeply
problematic foreigners, as long as they bring cash. Incredibly, the
Bush Administration is reportedly poised to adopt implementing
regulations that will effectively gut this legislation - and compound
CFIUS' past, toothless oversight.
A Democratic-led Congress returns to work this week. In 2006, its
leaders promised that, if given a chance to run Capitol Hill again, they
would restore the constitutionally mandated concept of
checks-and-balances. Arguably, the practice of that principle of
divided government has never been more needed than with respect to the
all-too-prevalent, "What, me worry?" attitude in Washington about the
true nature, reliability and ulterior motives of our "friends" in the
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comments by clicking here.
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