Washington should pay more attention to U.S. interests, distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons when selling arms

By Daniel DePetris

Instead of automatically selling more offensive weapons to governments in the Middle East, Washington should deliberate with the utmost seriousness whether the U.S. arms export in question is in the U.S. national security interest. Does it help a partner balance against a peer competitor? Or does it only convince the competitor to acquire ever-more high-caliber weapons in fear of being vulnerable?

Continuing the status-quo will only reaffirm Saudi Arabia’s belief that the United States is a benevolent junior partner who can be manipulated. Just as important, a U.S. arms export control policy detached from sound strategy has deeply negative implications for U.S. national security interests in the Middle East by depicting Washington as a meddling power picking sides in a Saudi-Iranian rivalry violently playing out in several theaters. The proxy conflicts fueled by Tehran and Riyadh have produced an advantageous environment for the very transitional terrorists Washington purportedly aims to combat. The Trump administration should be counseling de-escalation, not carelessly dragging itself into a sectarian-infused confrontation between regional governments.

This piece was originally published by Real Clear Defense on June 14, 2019. Read more HERE.