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In 'Disastrous Decision,' US Prepares to Widen Exports of Armed Drones

'This is a disastrous decision for human rights and arms control,' says William Hartung of Center for International Policy

The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Obama administration will allow the widespread export of armed drones for the first time, signaling that the White House is preparing to provide its allied nations with highly controversial weapons as the U.S. steps up its so-called 'War on Terror,' the Washington Post reports.

The policy, to be announced Tuesday, is also the result of U.S. defense companies seeking to stake their claim in the growing global arms market, which military analyst Steven Zaloga told the Post is now worth more than $6 billion a year.

The Post reports:

Under the new rules, which remain classified, foreign governments’ requests for drones will be examined on a case-by-case basis, officials said. In addition to regulations governing all military sales, the sale of armed drones would be subject to Cold War-era rules establishing a “strong presumption of denial,” meaning that foreign governments would have to make a strong case for acquiring the aircraft.

Human rights and anti-war groups are likely to oppose the policy. William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told Common Dreams that expanding drone exportation is "one of [the Obama administration's] worst policy decisions."

Foreign governments will reportedly have to abide by the U.S. monitoring how they use the drones. The rules also include a set of "proper use" principles, laid out by the U.S..
 
"Regardless of what guidelines are established for their use, history tells us that once the United States transfers a weapon to another nation it is extremely difficult to control how it is used," Hartung said. "Nations that possess armed drones will be able to engage more easily in military strikes against neighboring nations or attacks on their own people."
 
Moreover, Hartung said, "The United States should be reining in its own drone strikes, not making it easier for other nations to use them."
"Regardless of what guidelines are established for their use, history tells us that once the United States transfers a weapon to another nation it is extremely difficult to control how it is used."
—William Hartung, Center for International Policy

Among those rules, according to an unclassified summary of the policy: The drones are not to be used "to conduct unlawful surveillance or [for] unlawful force against their domestic populations."

The Post continues:

The policy also may face some opposition in Congress. Like all major weapons sales, drone exports above a certain dollar value would be subject to congressional notification, giving lawmakers an opportunity to hold up some if they have concerns.

News of the policy comes amid increased scrutiny of drone use, both in the U.S. and abroad. In October, it was revealed that the Obama administration was loosening its standards for avoiding civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.

"This is a disastrous decision for human rights and arms control," Hartung said.

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