Middle East

Don't Sell Weapons to the UAE

Selling weapons to the UAE would stamp brutality and extremism abroad with American approval.

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The proposed sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets and other weaponry to the United Arab Emirates has mainly drawn scrutiny for its potential effects on the new U.S.-brokered deal normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel. "We have a clear policy about maintaining our advantage and will protest any weaponry that might damage that advantage," said Eli Cohen, Israel's intelligence minister, shortly before the agreement was signed.

Cohen's comments fueled fears of a Middle Eastern arms race should the sale go through. That possibility is troubling, but there's a more immediate consequence to consider: The UAE is part of the U.S.-enabled, Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war—and that coalition is responsible for the worst man-made humanitarian disaster in the world. Selling not merely arms but a whole weapons platform (with its implicit promise of additional future sales) to the UAE is a mistake. It does not contribute to U.S. security, and it risks further implicating our government in indefensible carelessness about civilian casualties.

Legal scholars already warn that Washington's support for the Yemen intervention, which began during former President Barack Obama's administration and has continued under President Donald Trump over broad congressional objection, could put U.S. officials at risk of war crime prosecution. The likelihood may seem low as the United States is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the Trump administration has said it considers the ICC to have "no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority" where America is concerned. Still, as The New York Times reported, "some State Department officials who shepherd arms sales overseas are worried enough to consider retaining their own legal counsel and have discussed the possibility of being arrested while vacationing abroad."

Though both the Obama and Trump administrations took some measures to mitigate harm to civilians, neither ended U.S. facilitation of coalition attacks, and Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, resumed weapons sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia after Congress blocked them for two years. Pompeo was able to bypass the congressional suspension with an emergency. Though subsequent internal review determined this move was legal, it found Pompeo's State Department "did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties." The declaration was also supposed to be a "one-time event," in Pompeo's words. A second emergency declaration to push through this UAE sale would make that a lie.

Most of the attention to the crisis in Yemen and the United States' role therein has centered on the Saudi regime, whose air campaign has been responsible for high-profile airstrikes on civilian targets, like the school bus bombing (an attack conducted, incidentally, with an American bomb). But the "UAE served as the backbone of the coalition's ground war in Yemen and was involved with allied Yemeni militias in running a series of secret torture facilities there," notes the Center for International Policy's William D. Hartung at The Washington Post. "It continues to arm, train, and pay the salaries of militias that have engaged in systematic human rights abuses." Selling weapons to the UAE would again stamp all that brutality and extremism with American approval in contravention of everything the United States is supposed to represent.

But we do not have to make this sale. Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE is not a treaty ally of the United States. Its regime is oppressive at home and commits war crimes abroad. We do not owe the Emirati government this sale, nor does it make sense from any strategic or humanitarian perspective.

It will not make the United States safer, and it can only exacerbate the crisis in Yemen. It might even aid the Iran-linked Yemeni rebels Washington opposes, as past weapons transfers to the UAE have landed in the hands of extremist groups—those very rebels included. Though ostensibly a way to smooth the negotiating process, this sale could ultimately undermine the UAE-Israel deal while causing alarm among other regional powers, like Qatar. Arms race fears may prove justified, but even if they don't, arming the UAE is no step toward peace.

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  1. The free market should decide who gets advanced military weapons.

    1. Absolutely. I say free the weaponizers. Dump ITAR. Allow any company to sell any weapons, even if only to governments. Make the US the world’s arsenal.

      I see no drawbacks. I see plenty of benefits:
      * US would corner the market
      * US would know what weapons everybody else had
      * US would know first how to counter all those weapons
      * US could block exports in case of war; especially of spare parts

      1. You totes missed the moral of Iron Man!

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    2. Why does Bonnie hate high-paying manufacturing jobs based in America?

  2. Why is Trump dragging us into the Yemen civil war?

    1. Because the Yemeni rebels are aligned with Iran, the greatest threat to the State of Israel. It is in American’s interest to put an end to the axis of evil that exists between Iran and Yemen!

    2. Trying to court Obama-era Democrats?

      1. Gotta get those Lincoln Log Project and Faye Reagan Battalion Republicans back onto the Trump Train!

        1. “Faye Reagan Battalion…”

          That’s the new Space Force unit, right?

    3. Having trouble reading? What part of “began during former President Barack Obama’s administration” did you not understand?

      Okay, Trump gets zero points because he’s not leading us out but that’s very different from “dragging us into”.

  3. So, doing business with China DOESN’T “stamp brutality and extremism abroad with American approval” but doing business with OTHER countries does.

    Why is that?

    1. Because Americans are not doing business with China. They are doing business with companies that happen to be based in China. A private American buying everyday consumer goods from a Chinese business does not begin to approach equivalence with the government of the United States selling weapons to the government of UAE.

      1. “Because Americans are not doing business with China. They are doing business with companies that happen to be based in China. A private American buying everyday consumer goods from a Chinese business does not begin to approach equivalence with the government of the United States selling weapons to the government of UAE. ”

        Private American companies are doing business with UAE. The government does not own companies that make weaponry.

        So, again, the difference is…?

        1. The American government owns the IP rights for anything it pays for in most DOD contracts unless it is already existing tech.

        2. Should add that Blargifth is also wrong though since China and Chinese businesses aren’t mutually exclusive. The real difference is what we are buying and selling. Also Chinese trade policy is still a relict of the Cold War where is was used to divide the two competing Communist Blocs and a way to stop the USA from having to send troops into South East Asia to die. Too bad we haven’t tried to update that trade policy by perhaps strengthening trade partnerships with, oh I don’t know, a Trans Pacific trading pact that excludes China so that Americans have more options of whom they trade with and having fewer barriers to get to those trade deals.

      2. All companies based in China belong to the communist party.
        Full stop.

  4. I thought abandoning our middle eastern allies made Trump the bad guy last time. What changed?

    1. But seriously, I have trouble getting bothered that we have other countries fighting our wars for us and paying us for the privilege of doing so. Usually it’s the other way around, so I actually like this change of pace.

      1. Not our war(s). Weapons going to the UAE are virtually certain to also wind up in Libya in support of Haftar (I think probably moreso than to Yemen, honestly). We don’t have a dog in that race.

        1. Everybody has a dog in Libya.
          It’s extremely weird.

          1. I would say we have an interest in Libya, the same way everybody else does. When I say we have no dog, I mean that it doesn’t look to me like the US has a stake in who wins, especially since we have “allies” on both sides. Either that, or the US secretly hopes Haftar wins but doesn’t want to come out and say it.

  5. Or, I’m not responsible for how people use my product.

    1. F-35s are for flying fast and target shooting and maybe for hunting fast moving game. We need common sense fighter jet control.

      1. F-35s are for flying fast and target shooting and maybe for hunting fast moving game.

        I grew up next to an air base, and this does, in fact, seem to be what they are primarily for.

  6. The problem with the F-35 is that there is a lot of secret technology on those. That is why they stopped the sale to Turkey. Uh uh they bought the Russian S-400 anti aircraft system. You do not want to then give them our latest super stealth plane to play around with.

    If they want planes we have plenty of others more than capable of taking on Iran. Lots of other things for sale. They might even be interested in the Iron Dome from Israel. That would be interesting.

    1. Give em the monkey model then. I doubt the UAE will give anything away that the Israelis haven’t already.

      The novelty in F-35 isn’t the LO—though that is supposed to be awesome compared to even something like the F15-SAs the Saudis are supposed to get. It’s the networking and computer processing that the -35 can do. Basically AEGIS in the Air, with the ability to guide weapons to terminal engagement areas w/o turning the radars on. I dunno if the foreign sales recipients will be getting all of those toys.

      The flight performance isn’t shabby though. Amazing what engine technology can do these days.

    2. The super secret tech on the F-35s is all software, and it’s why we insist on them being serviced by our crews.
      The problem with Turkey getting the F-35 after getting the S-400 is the fact that they could use the jets to real world test and train the S-400 radars on.

  7. fueled fears of a Middle Eastern arms race should the sale go through. That possibility is troubling,

    Is it? USA and USSR had an arms race and no direct conflict happened but that was nuclear. Can’t think of other examples other then The 3rd Reich build up before WW2 but that was a pretty one sided affair other then the French Maginot line.

  8. Intervening in the ME again. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. We’re going to get it right this time.

  9. Libertarian: no warfare, no welfare, peacelovedope (becomes full on Somalia)

    Republican: defend yourself, some welfare, law and order, wins elections, remains strong

    Democrat: where’s my pants?

    1. Considering Trump signed Criminal Justice reform, is largely allowing marijuana legalization to continue, and is pushing for troop withdrawals, and accused the Pentagon to be in favor of “endless war”, it seems Trump and some Republicans like Libertarianism.

      Also I wasn’t aware “no warfare and peacelovedope” was a Somalia thing?

      1. Don’t you remember the power struggles between the various Somali Peacelords?

  10. The UAE is our ally. We arm them so we don’t have to protect them.

    This is good policy. It makes us less likely to get involved in a direct conflict with Iran.

    1. Maybe if we were selling them F-18’s instead of F-35’s, anyway.

    2. False dilemma presented by an admitted coward. The USA needs to GTFO of the MENA

  11. The proposed sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets and other weaponry to the United Arab Emirates has mainly drawn scrutiny for its potential effects on the new U.S.-brokered deal normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel.

    Actually, the prospect of this weapons deal is the main reason that the UAE signed the deal normalizing relations in the first place. Intelligence Minister Cohen is fooling himself if he thinks there was ever a chance that the UAE or Bahrain would have signed the deal if they didn’t believe the payoff would be access to U.S. weapons.

    1. It’s like you’ve been paying attention to the MidEast since Sadat and Begin’s Camp David Accords or something.

  12. “But we do not have to make this sale. Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE is not a treaty ally of the United States. Its regime is oppressive at home and commits war crimes abroad. We do not owe the Emirati government this sale, nor does it make sense from any strategic or humanitarian perspective.”

    A similar argument is consistently made in favor of tariffs on Chinese imports, but we are just as consistently reminded by Reason (specifically, Mr. Boehm) that our government has no inherent authority to pursue any international trade policies or objectives, on moral grounds, that restrict the economic activity of private individuals.

    Here, however, we are told that our government has a moral imperative to refrain from selling military products to the UAE, which would also have the effect of restricting the economic activity of private individuals (defense manufacturers, etc.).

    How can we reconcile these positions?

    1. Because defense manufacturers don’t own the IP for weapon systems, the US government does. Defense contractors signed on to those contracts and must be held to the provisions of the contract. One of them being the US government gets to dictate sales of weapon systems.

      Now can you reconcile the fact the Constitution expressly gives the Congress the power to tax, no amendment has been passed changing that and yet here we have a president taxing the American people. Been awhile since I took US History but I seem to recall something important in our history regarding taxation and representation.

      1. No representation without campaign donations!

        Or something like that.

  13. “Selling weapons to the UAE would stamp MORE brutality and extremism abroad with American approval.”

    There, I fixed it for you…

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  15. New at Reason : The Libertarian case against international trade !

    P.S: if cosmotarians think that some trades with oppressive governments can be harmful, shouldn’t we start by talking about offshoring US manfacturing jobs to chinese labor camps ?

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