Rights groups call on Congress to block UAE deal

Rights groups call on Biden administration to block mammoth UAE arms deal
2 min read
02 December, 2020
The groups argue that the arms sales could lead to further human suffering in Yemen.
The UAE had long requested the F-35s which have stealth capacity. [Getty]

Twenty-nine arms control and human rights groups have backed a letter decrying the US' ongoing efforts to hasten a mammoth $23 billion weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates.

"The hope is to stop these sales altogether," said Seth Binder, advocacy officer at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), who is leading the campaign against the weapons' deal.

"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 organisations that oppose delivery of these weapons."

The human rights groups are asking Congress to block the deal, after three US senators proposed legislation to stop the sale to the UAE. This would include a sale of up to 50 F-35 fighter jets, almost 20 Reaper drones, and about 14,000 bombs and munitions. However, the Republican majority Senate is unlikely to roadblock Trump.

"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," said the letter addressed to legislators and the US State Department, and signed by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Mwatana for Human Rights, US-based Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, and others.

"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.

This follows a classified meeting between the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and President Donald Trump's administration on Monday, as part of an effort by the incumbent leader to hasten the dealings before his term comes to an end.

"Just a mind blowing number of unsettled issues and questions the Administration couldn't answer," tweeted Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who attended the meeting.

"Hard to overstate the danger of rushing this though."

The UAE embassy in Washington said its military is a "forceful deterrent to aggression" and an "effective response to violent extremism" according to the Reuters.

The UAE had long requested the F-35s, which have stealth capacity and can be deployed for precision bombing, intelligence gathering and air-to-air combat.

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