US Senate fails to block arms sales to UAE despite concerns of misuse and regional arms race

Two resolutions presented to block the sale of F-35 jets and Reaper Drones to UAE were defeated by a simple majority of 49 to 47 and 50 to 46 in the 100-member Senate

December 10, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : Scrumshus / Wikimedia Commons

Rejecting appeals made by a number of civil society, anti-war and human rights groups, a majority of Senate members in the US Congress on Wednesday, December 9, refused to block Trump administration’s decision to sell weapons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The two resolutions seeking to block the advanced F-35 fighter jets and Reaper Drones were defeated by a simple majority of 49 to 47 and 50 to 46 in the 100-member senate.

The resolutions, presented by Democratic Party’s New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, sought to block the decision made by the outgoing president Donald Trump to sell weapons worth USD 23 billion to the UAE. Menendez argued that “sale of this magnitude requires due diligence.” He expressed concern that if the sale goes through at this moment, it might start a new arms race in the region which is already unstable.

Two Democratic Party Senators from Arizona broke ranks and voted against the resolution inviting public outcry.

The Donald Trump administration had notified the Congress of the decision on November 10. Trump had also threatened to veto resolutions blocking the deal. Given the fact Republicans have a majority in the current Senate, the resolution would have been at best a symbolic gesture. To avoid the presidential veto, they needed support from two-third of the members of both houses of the Congress.  

The US arms sales to the UAE is tied with the latter’s “normalization” of relations with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords signed at the White House in September this year.

Civil society groups had earlier petitioned the Congress to stop the deal citing the human rights records of the UAE and its involvement in the war in Yemen and its violations of the United Nations arms’ embargo on Libya. Anti-War group CODEPINK called the failure of the Senate to block the arms sales to UAE a “dangerous move” which arms “human rights violators.”

Last month at least 80 human rights and peace groups also petitioned the president elect Joe Biden to review the arms sales to the UAE and to end the US involvement in the war in Yemen, though it is very unlikely that the arms sales deal will be stopped.