When Biden took office, he paused several pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE that had been made under the previous administration. Unfortunately, Biden is now allowing a major arms deal with the UAE to go ahead:
President Joe Biden is advancing controversial Trump-era plans to transfer $23.4 billion in sophisticated weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, a State Department spokesperson told HuffPost on Tuesday ― despite concerns from influential lawmakers and progressive activists, as well as the Biden administration’s promise to review the package.
The arms deal is widely perceived to be the UAE’s reward for its agreement with Israel, but allowing the deal to proceed undermines Biden’s commitment to halt U.S. support for the Saudi coalition and it lets a government guilty of war crimes off the hook for its many abuses in Yemen and Libya. The deal includes several advanced weapons, including MQ-9 armed drones and the F-35. Given the UAE’s track record of using drones to attack civilians in Libya and bombing civilians in Yemen, it is unconscionable that the U.S. would provide them with even more sophisticated weapons. This is why Human Rights Watch was calling for an embargo of U.S. arms for the UAE last year:
The United States should halt proposed weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Human Rights Watch said today. It should suspend all future sales until the UAE curtails unlawful airstrikes in Yemen and Libya, halts support and weapons transfers to abusive local forces, and credibly investigates previous alleged violations in both countries.
The UAE has also violated its end-user agreement with the U.S. in the past by providing its proxies in Yemen with U.S.-made weapons. Their government has proven that they can’t be trusted with U.S. weapons, and they have shown that they will use them to commit war crimes. Biden is telling their government that it will not be held accountable for its role in destabilizing in Libya and Yemen:
Calling Biden’s move a “terrible decision,” Kate Kizer of the advocacy group Win Without War said sending the weapons to the UAE could embolden other U.S. partners to worsen international conflicts.
“It’s a very worrisome signal that there is not a commitment to real accountability,” she continued.
While the UAE has reduced its direct role in Yemen, it is still very much a part of the Saudi coalition war effort, so signing off on a large arms sale to them contradicts the president’s statement that he would halt “relevant arms sales” to the Saudi coalition. The weapons included in this deal will not be delivered for several years, but that is all the more reason not to let the sale move forward now. At the very least, the U.S. could use this arms package as leverage to pressure the UAE as part of the administration’s effort to end the war on Yemen. Letting it proceed now signals the UAE that its destructive behavior in other countries will be rewarded. It is the wrong decision, and it ought to be reversed as soon as possible.