Friday 26 February 2021 
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US Profitable Trade
More killings in the region

Qodsna Editorial Board

The U.S. sold $175 billion in weapons to foreign partners and allies in fiscal 2020, a 2.8 percent rise from the previous year’s total, according to a Friday announcement from the Defense and State departments.

 

The total comes at the end of the Trump administration, which made increasing arms exports a key part of its economic growth platform.

 

Export licenses via the Direct Commercial Sales program totaled $124.3 billion in FY20, up from $114.7 billion the previous year. A series of reforms, started under the Obama administration and continued under the Trump team, has pushed more defense articles into the commercial sales realm.

 

Deals made through the Foreign Military Sales program, which cover the majority of large defense articles, totaled $50.78 billion. Of that total, $44.79 billion came in payments from partner nations, $3.3 billion from Foreign Military Financing, and $2.69 billion for cases funded under Defense Department Title 10 grant assistance programs, such as train and equip programs.

 

The FMS total represents an 8 percent drop from FY19. In FY17, the U.S. sold $41.93 billion in FMS deals. That number jumped a dramatic 33 percent in FY18 to $55.6 billion, then dipped slightly to $55.4 billion in FY19.

 

Officials have historically argued that the volatility of the year-to-year FMS process means that the three-year average is the best indicator of overall growth or decline, as it captures sales that implemented late in one fiscal year or early in the next.

 

The total of official sales is different from the total number of FMS cases cleared by the State Department. The latter figure — 68 cases worth $83.5 billion, the highest annual total of FMS notifications since the start of the Trump administration — is a good indicator of future sales, but quantities and dollar figures often change during negotiations.

 

Fiscal 2021 already looks to be a big year for arms sales abroad, though some announced deals have been met with controversy. In November, DSCA approved a $10.4 billion sale of F-35s and a $2.97 billion sale of MQ-9s to the United Arab Emirates, though several lawmakers have moved to block that sale.

 

The increase in approved sales came despite impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reflects the importance both the government and defense companies put on meeting requests from allies and partners, said R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

 

“Through supply chains and revenue streams, though they were disrupted and budgets are uncertain, our partners’ programmatic needs remain unchanged,” he said. “Both the United States government and industry continue to honor our commitments to our partners.”

 

The Trump administration is pursuing a new deal to provide precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, as prior sales to the kingdom are facing new scrutiny, a top Senate Democrat said on May.

 

In a CNN op-ed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez said he discovered that the administration is pursuing a previously undisclosed arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which includes “thousands more precision-guided bombs to the President’s ‘friend,’ Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

 

Over five years from 2015 to 2019, international arms exports grew by 5.5 per cent from the 2010-2014 period, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

 

Half of US arms exports went to the Middle East, and half of that to Saudi Arabia, the world's number one importer of major arms. The kingdom's arms imports jumped by 130 percent from the 2010-2014 period, and it was on the receiving end of 12 per cent of global major arms transfers in 2015 to 2019. The fact that so much heavy weaponry is exported to the Middle East is particularly "of concern", Wezeman said, as the region is experiencing "conflicts and tensions and potential further conflict escalation".

The researchers also noted that despite "wide-ranging concerns" in the UK and the US about Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen, both countries continued to export arms to Saudi Arabia.

 




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