Relaxed U.S. arms export policy could boost Iran, Al Qaida
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's new arms export policy could result in greater access to U.S. weapons by Iran and Al Qaida, a report said.
The Institute for Policy Studies asserted that Obama, despite his pledge to link arms with human rights, has lifted restrictions on U.S. exports that could allow weapons to reach Al Qaida and Iran.
In a report, the Washington-based institute, that has staked out generally leftist positions on U.S. foreign affairs, said the policy would enable the most advanced U.S. platforms to reach leading human rights abusers, including Saudi Arabia.
"Ironically, the administration's new rhetoric of restraint has been enunciated in parallel with an effort to loosen arms export controls, an initiative that could inadvertently make it easier for U.S. weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and human rights abusers," the report, titled "Obama's Arms Sales Policy: Promotion Or Restraint?" said.
In January 2014, the Obama administration, which oversaw $60 billion in arms exports in 2013, decided to remove thousands of items off the U.S. Munitions List. Many of these low-technology items have been placed on the less restrictive Commerce Control List, which would not require a license from the State Department.
Author William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, said U.S. arms exports have not been restricted to Saudi Arabia, which ordered nearly $30 billion worth of fighter-jets and missiles from Washington. He said Obama's new policy could lead to the transfer of U.S. weapons, such as helicopters and surveillance equipment, to Al Qaida or Iran.
"The decision to allow many of the items moved to the Commerce list to go to 36 allied nations with no license at all will make it easier for smugglers that have set up front companies in these allied nations to get a hold of U.S. arms components and ship them on to Iran, China, or other destinations prohibited under U.S. law," the report said.
The report said Al Qaida has already benefited from U.S. weapons poured into Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s. Iran, with aging U.S. aircraft, would also seek to exploit the new U.S. policy, lobbied by the defense industry, and try to acquire spare parts for its American fighter-jets and attack helicopters.
"Given the uncertainties of current global politics, a policy of unrestrained arms exports is both unwise and unacceptable," the report said.