Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stuff It, Rush!

Yah, hey, those Emirates, why, they're just misunderstood and I'm just a racist Arab-hater, and what the Hell's the matter with "free commerce," yada, yada, yada, yada.

On paper the shipment was harmless enough. Sixty-six American-made spark gaps — high-speed electrical switches used in medical devices to break up kidney stones — traveled from the manufacturer in Salem, Massachusetts late last summer to a buyer in Secaucus, New Jersey. From there, according to the export declaration, they were to be shipped to their ultimate destination in Cape Town, South Africa. But these spark gaps can also be used to detonate nuclear bombs — and it turned out that the goods were aimed at an end user in Pakistan, with a stopover in Dubai. The commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates, where trading activity accounts for the biggest single chunk (16.5%) of a $20 billion economy, has become a favorite diversion point on the Persian Gulf for shady cargo. With no export controls and hardly any bureaucracy at ports, airports and free zones, this entrepĂ´t provides stellar cover for smugglers hoping to bypass U.S. embargoes.


The alleged shipper, an Israeli national named Asher Karni, was arrested in December at Denver International Airport. He awaits trial in the U.S. for conspiring to export goods without a license, a crime that could result in a ten-year sentence and a $250,000 fine per count.

Neither Emirates Airlines nor the U.A.E. has been criticized publicly by U.S. officials.

That is particularly odd in light of the recent revelations of the region's pivotal role in the spread of weapons of mass destruction. A Dubai-based computer firm arranged for Malaysian- and European-made gas centrifuge components, used to enrich uranium, to be sent on to Libya. The firm was part of a vast network devised by Pakistan's Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Hardly a revelation to the U.S. government. "Dubai, as a major shipping hub with a large free-trade zone, is in close proximity to countries of concern, and that poses some challenges," says Kenneth Juster, an undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Among the world's top five sea-air hubs, Dubai can accept cargo and send it off in less than four hours. It's only 100 miles to the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas…

Excerpted from Levin's blog, sourced from Forbes.

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