After quietly approving Donald Trump
's largest arms deal
earlier this year, the Biden administration
is now defending it in court with ludicrous logic: it's unfair to suggest the UAE will misuse American weapons simply because it has done so for years.
Several groups have filed a federal lawsuit
against the State Department, including relatives of more than 50 people
killed by UAE military
actions in Libya
, including an attack
blamed on the Emiratis not long before Trump offered them the package of fighter jets, drones, and bombs.
Critics of the UAE deal claim that the process of approving the sale violated US standards for arms exports, and if a judge
agrees, the entire transaction could be halted.
Many of Biden's most important political allies are skeptical of the plan; in December, nearly the entire Democratic Senate
caucus voted to halt the effort, and shortly after taking office, Biden launched an investigation
into the agreement's risk to human rights
and national security
When Stardia reported in April
that Biden would carry out the Trump administration
's plan, House Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said he and his colleagues were "concerned" and had "many questions."
However, in a filing sent to court on July 16 and reviewed by Stardia, Justice Department
lawyers said opponents of the $23 billion sale are unfairly speculating about its consequences. Biden's attorneys said the groups challenging the deal offer "nothing more than conjecture" and made an unusual argument about whether they have the right to bring this suit.
“Plaintiffs’ primary argument in support of standing — that the UAE has been engaged in a continuing course of injurious conduct for the last six years, prior to the sales at issue in this case — only emphasizes that the United States Government
is not the cause of any injury
, and that an injunction to block the sales would not redress any injury,” they wrote.
claims that this should persuade U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman to dismiss the case against the weapons transfer; however, this argument — that the sales are essentially unrelated to ongoing human rights violations — contradicts the administration's statements about its support for the deal and its broader approach to global affairs.
This spring, Biden aides told lawmakers that they are concerned about selling sophisticated armed drones to a Middle Eastern power for the first time
, as well as concerns about UAE policies such as its brutal interventions in Yemen
and Libya, and that Washington
can exert pressure on the Emiratis to be more cautious.
In April, a State Department spokesperson told Stardia, “the estimated delivery dates on these sales, if implemented, are scheduled for after 2025 or later, so we anticipate a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to [ensure] any defense transfers meet our mutual strategic objectives.”
And, in one of the most significant steps toward reforming US foreign policy
in line with his campaign promises, Biden acknowledged that past atrocities should be considered in arms deals.
When he stated that he would prioritize ending the war in Yemen, a progressive goal that has united the Democratic Party
, Biden stated that one step “to underscore our commitment” would be to halt some U.S. arms sales
to Saudi Arabia
, which has used American planes, bombs, and fuel support to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians, sparking outrage and accusations of war crimes.
Biden halted $768 million in bomb sales to Saudi Arabia that Trump had authorized, and a State Department official confirmed to Stardia on Wednesday that those deals are still on hold.
If you give someone more rocks while they are throwing rocks into the water
, guess what they will do? Throw those extra rocks!
Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, Justin Russell
The Biden administration may privately believe that the Emiratis should be treated differently than the Saudis, despite their close collaboration in the punishing Yemen campaign, but it is defending the sale by implying that the UAE will adhere to universal American standards, and key players in shaping America's international approach doubt that the Emiratis will.
“The Emiratis already have a track record
of illegally transferring weapons to [extremist] militias in Yemen, and Congress
, frankly, has not received adequate assurances that such transfers will not occur again,” said Sen. Chris Murphy
(D-Conn.), the chair of the Senate panel overseeing Middle East policy, at an April hearing.
Skeptics of the arms deal say the administration's dubious logic strengthens their case for further investigation.
“If you give someone more rocks and they are already throwing rocks into the water, guess what they are going to do? Throw those extra rocks!” said Justin Russell of the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, the nonprofit that organized the lawsuit against the UAE package.
The White House
and State Department both declined to comment, and a Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Russell's supporters hope to defeat the government's attempt to deny them standing in court in the coming weeks.
“The question of Saudi aggression has dominated the headlines and garnered both international and domestic attention,” he said, adding that “we firmly believe that the Emirati aggression is much more egregious and does not garner public attention, and thus we must seek remedy through a coequal branch of government, that being the judicial branch.”