US arms sales to UAE draw fire from 29 rights groups

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Twenty-nine arms control and human rights organisations have signed a letter opposing the sale of US$23 billion (S$30.85 billion) worth of missiles, fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates and asking the US Congress to block the deal.

“The hope is to stop these sales altogether,” said Mr Seth Binder, advocacy officer at the Project on Middle East Democracy, 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 organisations that oppose delivery of these weapons.”

Three US senators proposed legislation to halt the sale, which 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 Mr Trump. They also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

The letter, which will be sent to lawmakers 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.”

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.

The UAE embassy in Washington told Reuters 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.”

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