Dozens of rights groups denounce US arms sales to UAE

Groups raise concern about the UAE’s role in Libya, Yemen conflicts in attempt to halt $23bn in arms sales.

An F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates in this 2019 photo [Staff Sgt Chris Thornbury/US Air Force via AP]

Twenty-nine arms control and human rights organisations have signed a letter opposing the sale of $23bn worth of missiles, fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates and asking US Congress to block the deal.

“The hope is to stop these sales altogether,” said Seth Binder, advocacy officer at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), who spearheaded the effort. “But if that is not possible in the short term, this sends an important signal to the incoming Biden administration that there is a diverse group of organizations that oppose delivery of these weapons.”

The Trump administration formally notified Congress that it plans to sell 50 advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE as part of a broader arms deal worth more than $23bn.

Three US senators proposed legislation to halt the sale, which also includes drones from privately held General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s and missiles made by Raytheon, setting up a showdown with President Donald Trump just weeks before he is due to leave office.

US law covering major arms deals allows senators to force votes on resolutions of disapproval. However, to go into effect the resolutions must pass the Republican-led Senate, which rarely breaks with Trump. They also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

The letter, which will be sent to legislators and the US State Department, said, “The planned arms sales to the UAE, a party to the conflicts in Yemen and Libya, would fuel continued civilian harm and further exacerbate these humanitarian crises.”

“The proposed sales violate long-standing provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act that prohibit the United States from providing arms and security assistance to perpetrators of gross human rights abuses and those restricting access to humanitarian assistance,” the letter said.

Signatories to the letter include human rights organisations from the region, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Mwatana for Human Rights. US-based organisations like Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain were also signatories.

The UAE embassy in Washington told Reuters News Agency in a statement, “Aligned closely with US interests and values, the UAE’s highly capable military is a forceful deterrent to aggression and an effective response to violent extremism.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies