Some restrictions on U.S. arms sales to human rights violators in the Middle East have recently been relaxed by the Trump Administration, a new report from the Congressional Research Service noted.
“In early 2016, Bahrain submitted a request to purchase a number of F-16s [from the U.S.] and to upgrade its existing aircraft in a deal worth as much as $4 billion. However, when the Obama Administration informally pre-notified the sale to Congress, it explained that the sale would not move forward unless Bahrain took steps toward improving its record on human rights. The Trump Administration dropped those conditions in March 2017, even though U.N. investigators have asserted a ‘sharp deterioration' of human rights over the past year in Bahrain. Congress was formally notified of the sale in September 2017.”
The use of self-imposed U.S. restriction on arms sales “as a mechanism to achieve changes in [foreign] behavior has questionable effectiveness and can have unintended consequences,” said CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel in Senate testimony quoted by CRS. “We should avoid using the programs as a lever of influence or denial to our own detriment.”
The new CRS report describes and analyzes arms sales to seven Middle Eastern countries.
“The United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades. However, other major producers like Russia, France, and China are also key players in the region. Their respective strategies and goals for arms sales appear to differ in some ways,” the report said.
See Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy, October 11, 2017.