Issue Brief: The Abraham Accords & Implications for U.S. Arms Sales to the Gulf
Security Assistance Monitor, October 2020
As U.S. lawmakers consider a proposal for the sale of F-35s to the UAE, SAM has produced a new issue brief on the potential implications of the Abraham Accords on U.S. arms sales to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and specifically the UAE since FY 2009.
The issue brief provides an overview of the longstanding security partnership between the U.S. and GCC states on issues from counterterrorism to curbing Iranian regional influence. Several Gulf states’ increasingly interventionist foreign policies, domestic human rights abuses, and alleged IHL violations have raised concerns from lawmakers, policymakers, and human rights activists about the ethicality of this arms relationship the ethicality of continued arms transfers.
Diplomatic agreements and improved relations between Israel and several of its GCC neighbors have raised the prospects of even greater arms sales to the region, as detente with Tel Aviv removes a longstanding hurdle to expanded security cooperation with the GCC. In fact, some reports suggest that a proposed arms sale to the UAE for F-35’s was tied to Abu Dhabi’s finalization of a diplomatic accord with Israel. If the deal goes through, the UAE will become the first Arab state to possess F-35 stealth fighter jets. Critics of the sale are concerned about preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region and human rights implications of rewarding Abu Dhabi with such sophisticated military equipment despite its human rights and IHL abuses abroad.
To read SAM’s Issue Brief on these developments click here.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen should he win the election, stating that the U.S. should not “check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.”
The 2020 US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference occurred this past week for the countries to discuss Taiwan’s defense and national security needs. Taipei is expected to present a “weapons wish list” to the U.S. Experts predict that the list will be longer than usual following heightened military tensions with Beijing.
A month after the Abraham Accords and reports about a U.S. arms sale to the UAE, Qatar formally requested the F-35 stealth fighter jets from the U.S. Neither Washington nor Doha have commented on the deal.
Reports that Turkey used a Russian S-400 air defense system to track a U.S. made F-16 fighter jet in the Hellenic Air Force signals to Washington that relations with Ankara remain tense. Washington booted Ankara from its F-35 program in 2018 over the purchase of the system.
The U.S. military is partnering with Elon Musk’s Space X to build a rocket that can rapidly deliver 80 tonnes of weapons to any part of the world, which suggests that Washington aims to increase its arms exports and security initiatives abroad.
In a conversation with Chinese officials, US National Security Advisor O’Brian reinforced America’s “strategic ambiguity” on its potential response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He did not rule out military intervention but called on Taiwan to increase its defense investments.