WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Yahoo News’s Skullduggery this week to discuss the administration’s proposed sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and progressive foreign policy under the incoming Biden-Harris administration.
On the proposed arms sale to the United Arab Emirates, Murphy said: “…[W]e’ve never sold this kind of technology into the region. That's the first thing to think about here. Second is, ask yourself whether what the Middle East is missing today is weaponized Reaper drones that can shoot Hellfire missiles with zero risk of human life loss to the operator of that drone. What we know is that the UAE has a really troubled history with respect to how they use U.S. weapons. They've used our weapons to target and kill civilians inside Yemen. Very recently, they transferred weapons we had sold them, equipment we had sold them, to extremist militias inside Yemen. They're in violation of the international arms embargo on Libya. And so there's a lot of bad behavior.”
Murphy continued: “And the question is, ‘why reward the UAE with this massive unprecedented arms sale when we can't be sure how they're going to use those weapons, or whether they're going to actually stay in the hands of the UAE?’ So that, in and of itself, I think is a reason to press pause on the sale. But we also have to understand that it fuels a more general arms race in the region. I mean, if we really care about Iran's ballistic missile program, then why are we continuing to give Iran more reason to build more effective and more powerful ballistic missiles by selling record numbers of arms to Iran's enemies in the region, the Saudis and the Emiratis. So this just makes no sense from a security standpoint. We should be in the security business with the UAE, but we don't have to sell them this number of arms and this serious a level of arms.”
On holding the Saudi’s accountable in the incoming administration and prospects for peace in Yemen, Murphy said: “…I've said from the beginning that we should be suspending our arms sales to the Saudis until we have some degree of accountability, at least a clear admission from the Saudis as to what happened [with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi]. On Yemen, I certainly think that our arms sale should be conditional on the Yemen war coming to a close or at least a temporary peace deal being signed. But I actually think that it just takes active U.S. participation at the secretary level, and we may be able to unlock a peace agreement. Part of the problem over the last four years has been that Tillerson and Pompeo have not been actively involved in trying to settle that conflict. I think there's a peace deal there for the taking. And so if Secretary Blinken gets directly involved, which I think he will, I think we can come up with a resolution there that makes the Saudis and the Emiratis happy, that gives the Houthis some role in the government while ending outright hostilities. And so that's an issue where I just think we have to work harder at it.”
On resetting the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Murphy said: “Don't sell them arms until we have some amount of accountability. If [Mohamed bin Salman] is going to be the leader of the nation, we should tell him that our continued participation and security relationship with Saudi Arabia is dependent on the way in which he uses those weapons. And let's watch what he does in places like Syria and Yemen moving forward.”
On his hopes for progressive foreign policy with the new administration, Murphy said: “…I know Tony well and he's been good to keep in close contact with me over the course of the campaign. Obviously, I worked very closely with him when he was Deputy Secretary of State. What I love about Tony is that he's open to new ideas. He's an experienced diplomat. He's been around for a long time.”
Murphy continued: “I'm of the school that American foreign policy has become a bit sclerotic—that we've become way too dependent on these arms sales to reward our friends and sanctions to punish our adversaries. I think we've got to really develop a whole new toolkit that largely exists outside of the Department of Defense; new tools that State and USAID have in the propaganda space, the energy space, the anti-corruption space. And so I'm hopeful that Blinken is going to come to Congress and say ‘listen, dramatically, plus up my non-military tools, my smart power tools, so that I can actually go toe to toe with Russia and China’ who, by and large, are exerting influence outside of the deployment of brigades and missile systems. So that's what I like about Tony and that's what I'm looking forward to: sort of being able to rethink the American foreign policy toolkit outside of what we give secretaries of states and Departments of Defense and presidents today.”
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