Issue Brief: The Abraham Accords & Implications for U.S. Arms Sales to the Gulf

Abraham Accord and Implications for US Arms Sales, Biden Vows End to U.S. Support to Yemen War, Qatar Requests F-35s and more



October 12, 2020

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

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts

Biden to end US support for Yemen war

Middle East Monitor, October 5

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.”

Taiwan prepares a weapons shopping list to hand US at defense conference

South China Morning Post, October 5

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. 

Exclusive: Qatar makes formal request for F-35 jets

Reuters, October 7

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. 

Greece Joins the Turkey-Russia S-400 Saga, and Congress Wants Answers

Defense One, October 7

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 US military and Elon Musk are planning a 7,500-mph rocket that can deliver weapons anywhere in the world in an hour

Business Insider, October 9

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. 

U.S. warns China against Taiwan attack, stresses U.S. ‘ambiguity’

Reuters, October 7

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. 


Research, Analysis, and Opinion


How Donald Trump’s Middle East deal will affect China’s arms sales in the region

South China Morning Post, October 9

Christian Le Miere’s op-ed argues that the Abraham Accords signal that the regional threat of Iran is a greater security driver than the signatories’ historical antagonism, and that a liberalization in U.S. arms sales to this new coalition of U.S. allies threatens Beijing’s own arms sales in the region.

Jordan: US security assistance and border defense capacity building

Middle East Institute, October 6 

Jumana Kawar argues that the DoD’s border security assistance programs have successfully assisted Jordan in defending its borders against terrorist militia groups, illicit trafficking of WMDs, and training Jordanians in conducting operations against security threats. Nevertheless, she emphasizes that the U.S. and NATO must not pull out of these programs until Jordanian institutions and forces are no longer dependent on the U.S. for joint operational assistance. 

From the U.S. Government

Department of Defense

Data Fact of the Week:

U.S. Arms Sales Notifications to GCC States

The graphic above illustrates the arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states notified to congress between FY 2015-FY2019. 

Arms sales to the GCC have been a long-standing component of U.S. engagement wtih the Middle East, but peace agreements between Israel and some of its Gulf neighbors may remove a hurdle to even more arms exports to the region.

For more information on arms sales to the GCC, check out our latest issue brief here

Upcoming Congressional Hearings



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Upcoming Events (All Online)

10/12: America’s Taiwan Policy: Debating Strategy Ambiguity and the Future of Asian Security, Walsh School of Foreign Service
10/13: Championing Gender-Sensitive Security Sector Reform, hosted by Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security
10/13: Great Power and Great Responsibility in U.S. Arms Transfers, hosted by Stimson Center
10/14: Conversation on a ReSTART for U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control, hosted by Carnegie Endowment for Peace
10/14: The Impact of COVID-19 on Local Peacebuilding in the Middle East, hosted by United States Institute of Peace
10/14: The Future of American Spectrum Policy: Is DoD’s Request for Information the Best Direction?, hosted by Hudson Institute
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