New U.S. Arms Sales Proposed to Saudi Arabia

Arms Sales to KSA, EU Expands Military Aid Powers, The Importance of Arms Control Treaties and more



January 11, 2021

New U.S. Arms Sales Proposed to Saudi Arabia

Security Assistance Monitor, December 2020

Just weeks after the announcement of a controversial arms package to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Trump Administration has notified Congress of an additional $290 million in proposed munitions sales to Saudi Arabia. 

The sale, for 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, includes very same sorts of munitions that have been used to devastating effect in the Saudi-Led war in Yemen, where coalition airstrikes have killed scores of civilians and decimated the civilian infrastructure of the already impoverished country. 

Arms sales to members of the Saudi-led coalition have catalyzed an increasingly robust response from lawmakers and civil society. In 2019, Congress passed joint resolutions of disapproval for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE after the Trump administration circumvented traditional notification processes through the use of an emergency declaration. Though the resolutions were vetoed, it marked an important moment for lawmakers and indicated their willingness to expand their authority over U.S. arms transfers. 

In December, sales of armed drones, advanced fighter jets, and thousands of munitions to the UAE drew a similar response from Congress. Though efforts to block the sales failed, the message of opposition was clear and could be seen as a signal to the incoming Biden administration, which has promised to reconsider weapons transfers to countries like Saudi Arabia. 

The recent Sale to Saudi Arabia caps a record year for the Trump Administration’s arms exports, with more than $130 billion in Foreign Military Sales notified to Congress. Many of those sales have come after Trump’s electoral defeat.  Advocates looking to the incoming Biden Administration to impose stronger safeguards on U.S. arms transfers will be watching early actions on these most recent sales as a signal of things to come. 


January 12, 2021

With a new administration taking office, the 2021 Forum on the Arms Trade annual conference, “Advancing More Responsible Arms Trade Policy,” looks to inform early discussions of how lawmakers and a Biden White House can reshape the U.S. role in the global arms trade. This virtual event on Tuesday, January 12, will feature leading Congressional and civil society voices in virtual conversation with audience participants. RSVP now to join our in-depth discussion of new opportunities to develop a responsible U.S. arms transfer policy.  Join us! 
Register Here

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts

EU pushes ahead with foreign military assistance plan

Financial Times,  December 14

The EU will for the first time gain powers to send military aid and equipment to foreign conflicts under a contentious €5bn “European Peace Facility”, whose creation member states agreed in principle on Friday, reflects a push to build more “hard power” and increase the EU’s influence in international conflicts.

Lawsuit targets State Department over $23 billion weapons sale to UAE

The Hill, December 31

A foreign policy research organization is suing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department in an effort to block the sale of $23 billion in advanced military systems to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), arguing the U.S. government did not meet the requirements of the law.

Germany approved $1.4bn in arms exports to the Middle East in 2020

Middle East Monitor, January 4 

Germany approved €1.16 billion ($1.4 billion) worth of arms exports to the Middle East in 2020, local news outlets reported, citing the country’s Economy Ministry.

UAE’s F-35 contracts expected to be signed before end of Trump administration

Defense News, January 8

A contract for the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the United Arab Emirates is likely to be inked before the end of the Trump administration, despite concerns raised by advocates and Congress. 

Research, Analysis, and Opinion


Pushing Billions in Arms Sales Is Not an ‘Accomplishment’

Defense One, December 19

In this piece, CIP’s William Hartung pushes back against the Trump Administration declaration of success for its record-breaking arms sales. 

Early Actions to Watch for a More Responsible U.S. Arms Trade Policy

Forum on the Arms Trade, January 8

Jeff Abramson highlights what early actions a Biden Administration should take to re-assert responsibility in the U.S. arms trade.

The Regime: How Arms Control Treaties Keep Us Safe

War on the Rocks, January 8

In this episode of Horns of a Dilemma, Amb. (ret.) Bonnie Jenkins discusses the array of treaty obligations, international law, and other agreements that make up the arms control and nuclear non-proliferation regime.


Data Fact of the Week:

Arms Sales to the United Arab Emirates During the Trump Administration

The graphic above illustrates U.S. foreign military sales to the UAE since 2009, including the most recent notification of over $23B in arms which Congress failed to block in December of last year. 

As the graphic shows, the most recent package is one of the largest ever proposed for Abu Dhabi. 

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