US to sell advanced weapons worth billions to the UAE

Sale of F-35 fighter aircraft and advanced drones to the UAE is expected to increase the arms race in the Middle East region. Activists have especially flagged the potential use of these weapons in Yemen

November 11, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch

The outgoing Trump administration in the US has expedited arms sales to various countries in the world. On Tuesday, November 10, secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced that the US state department has notified the Congress about a proposal to sell weapons worth over USD 23 billion to the UAE. The proposed sale of weapons includes 50 F-35 fighter aircraft, MQ-9B unmanned Aerial systems and drones.

If the deal goes through as per the Trump administration’s plan, the UAE would become the second country in the Middle East region to have F-35s after Israel. Earlier, Israel had objected to the proposal to sell the F-35 to the UAE. It withdrew its objections after the Trump administration reiterated its commitment to maintain Israel’s military advantage over other Middle East countries.

The UAE was the first Arab country to announce a “normalization deal” with Israel in July this year on the prodding of the Trump administration. Following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan also did the same. The Trump administration, in return, promised to sell advanced weapons to the UAE. They tried to justify the sale of these weapons to UAE on the basis of a perceived threat from Iran.

However, critics opposed the sale of weapons to the UAE. In the US, Democrats argued that the lame-duck Trump administration is trying to limit options for president elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Joe Biden has promised to revisit the sale of weapons in the region and rejoin the Iran nuclear deal from which the Trump administration had withdrawn in 2018.

Human rights groups too criticized the decision to sell weapons to the UAE which has been responsible for the war in Yemen. Critics argue that these weapons may be used in Yemen to kill innocent civilians. The use of US arms by Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni war has already been criticized internationally. These groups also expressed their apprehension that the weapons would be used in Libya where the UAE has been accused of violating UN arms embargo earlier by supplying imported weapons to warring factions.

The US has aggressively pursued its arms exports in recent times and increased the supply of weapons in several hotspots in the world. Last month it announced a similar proposal of arms sales to Taiwan. Sale of weapons to the UAE is also expected to increase the arms race in the Middle East region. The conflict prone region is already the largest importer of weapons as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report of 2020.