U.S. military aid and arms sales exacerbate existing conflicts in the Middle East and fuel ongoing regional militarization.
In 2020, the amount of U.S. arms sales approved worldwide reached a record-high at $83.5 billion, a $15 billion increase from the previous year, with more than half of its weapons delivered to the conflict-torn Middle East. A Congressional Research Service report from 2017 noted that “the United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades.” Now with new reports of plans for F-35 sales to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is demonstrating that it values profits for U.S. arms manufacturers over the practices of these governments toward their own civilians as well as other civilians, such Yemenis caught in a civil war and who will suffer as a result of these deals.
While arms sales are lucrative for U.S. defense corporations and purportedly promote U.S. security interests, they come at a steep cost to ordinary civilians who have paid and continue to pay for the ongoing conflicts that are fueled by these arms sales. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, Libya and elsewhere, thousands of civilians have died with countless more wounded as a result of armed conflict. Basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electrical systems have been destroyed and young people are growing up with trauma and fear. These circumstances have declined further as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Sadly, these conditions, coupled with the high volume of weapons that will remain long after a conflict ends, will likely lead to instability and insecurity for generations to come.
In Israel-Palestine, U.S. military aid to Israel is counterproductive to a just and lasting peace to the conflict. Since World War II, the U.S. has given more military aid to Israel than to any other country. The aid, so far not conditioned on the protection of human rights, has had a high cost in civilian lives and infrastructure, and has supported illegal settlements and other discriminatory and violent practices toward the Palestinian population, and has enabled the perpetuation of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. Now, in order to preserve Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” in the region, Congress is considering a bill that would provide Israel with highly destructive Massive Ordinance Penetrators (also called “Bunker Busters”). Such a deal would serve to fuel a regional arms race, detrimental to stability and long-term security in the Middle East.
In recent years, Israel has become not only a recipient of U.S. military aid, but also an arms exporter. For example, sale of Israeli military equipment, including drones, to Azerbaijan has fueled renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and exacerbated the growing humanitarian crisis there. Amnesty International reported in October that an Israel-made cluster bomb, banned under international law, was fired by Azerbaijan resulting in untold civilian casualties.
The continued provision of military aid and arms to the countries of the Middle East, it has been clear, does not result in greater peace, but rather greater conflict, casualties, and loss of life. The U.S. has not advanced its own security or the security of the people in the region through military aid or arms sales.