Former US President Donald Trump took full advantage of his last hours in office this week to push through a flurry of controversial decisions. One of Trumps final acts was signing a deal to sell state of the art warplanes and drones to the United Arab Emirates. His administration reportedly signed the deal just one hour before Trump's tumultuous presidential term was over.
Under the agreement, the UAE is expected to receive 50 stealth F 35 warplanes and 18 advanced Reaper drones. The Emiratis have long expressed interest in getting the stealth jets. The UAE was promised a chance to purchase them when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel last August, angering the Palestinians.
The arms deal was pushed by the president's son in law, Jared Kushner, who was central to the normalization of ties with Israel. The weapons package is considered another part of Trump's notorious dealings with Persian Gulf Arab allies, which have long records of human rights violations.
Trump boosted weapons transfers despite outcry by human rights advocates
The Emiratis, for instance, have been deeply involved in the devastating Saudi led war on Yemen, which has triggered the world's worst humanitarian disaster. The UAE has carried out a large number of aerial bombardments in Yemen where hospitals, schools, weddings and funerals have been among the targets on the ground; the business minded former US president boosted weapons transfers to its regional allies despite outcry by human rights advocates.
A coalition of human rights organizations recently urged the US to avoid further arms sales to the United Arab Emirates. The rights groups believe more arms for the Emirati’s would worsen a set of bloody conflicts in Yemen, Libya and beyond.
Former US President, Donald Trump, was dismissive of such warnings as the United States itself has been deeply involved in the Yemen war ever since it began in 2015. US military support for the Saudis and their Emirati allies has included mid air refueling, military intelligence and logistics.
During his presidential campaign the new US president signaled, a major shift. He has pledged to take a tough line on human rights issues, even when it comes to America's allies. Biden has also hinted at ending weapons transfers and military support to the Saudi led coalition pounding Yemen.
Actions speak louder than words
But critics say actions speak louder than words. They say there is no guarantee that Biden will change America's approach as promised. Saudi and Emirati petrodollars have proven to be irresistible to many American presidents. Is Joe Biden really willing to put human rights first and change America's stance in the region?
I don't think any American government, any American President, is going to step completely away from the Petro dollars coming into the American defense industry. However, I think everyone has to realize in Washington and elsewhere, is that this war, I hate to keep harping on American national security but what does it have to do with American national security?
Brian Downing, Journalist
How will he deal with powerful Saudi and Emirati lobbies in Washington? Biden faces tough choices over Yemen and his ties with the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE as he will probably need to make very important decisions.