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Legal action prepared as US approves sale of $290 million in bombs to Saudi Arabia

The sale's approval has spawned a legal suit against Mike Pompeo [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2020

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The US has approved a number of arms sales to countries in the Middle East amid objections to their records on human rights.

A flurry of approvals for arms sales have been given to governments across the Middle East, including the recent sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia worth $290 million, in the final weeks of President Donald Trump's administration

But these approvals to countries with appalling record of human rights abuses have not gone unnoticed with growing revolt to the sales after opposition from both Congress and the public.

Among the recent recipients of approvals for arms deals are Saudi Arabia and UAE, who have both come under scrutiny for the huge civilian casualties caused in the war in Yemen, and Egypt, which has taken heavy flak for recent crackdowns against opponents and dissenters.

On Tuesday, the State Department's defence security cooperation agency approved the sale of GBU-39 small diameter bombs for Saudi Arabia, in addition to $4 billion worth of H-64E Apache Helicopters to Kuwait.

Egypt was given approval for defence equipment against missile attack for the aircraft of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi worth $104 million, with further approval for $65.6 million of precision targeting equipment for Egyptian warplanes. The high civilian cost of Egypt's counter-insurgency operation in north Sinai has further blackened Egypt’s record on human rights. 

In an effort to halt the sales, the New York Centre for Foreign Policy Affairs announced that it intends to take legal action against the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, over the proposed $65.6 million sale of advanced drones and F-35 fighter jets to UAE.

In its filing, which is anticipated for Wednesday, they will claim that the outgoing-administration has failed to meet the legal requirements needed to proceed; namely, a full rationale for the sale and a consideration of the impact on US security and world peace. The lawsuit also cites the UAE's actions in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.

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The state department have rejected this claim and insist that the sales support "US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East".

The US remains supportive of Saudi Arabia and UAE's efforts to confront what it sees as Iranian pressure in the Gulf.

Read more: As Trump era ends, Israel and the UAE seek eleventh hour advantages

"But pushing weapons worth tens of billions of dollars out the door and overseas is by no means an accomplishment. It matters who the arms are sold to, and how they are being used. By this measure, US arms sales have been a dismal failure," William Hartung, the director of the arms and security programme at the Centre of International Policy think tank, wrote for Defense One. 

"The UAE should not be receiving US weapons at this time. A primary reason for stopping arms flows to the regime is its central role in the war in Yemen, a conflict that has spawned what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe."

The approval for arms sales come in parallel with continued complaints for the incoming-Joe Biden administration that they have not been given proper access by the Pentagon to ongoing military operations and intelligence briefings. It is not known if the new administration will put a halt to these sales. 

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