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U.S. arms sales deliveries jumped to more than $25 billion in FY 2015, increasing the total value of U.S. arms deliveries by at least $5 billion over recent years, according to latest data from several U.S. government reports. 

The debate over the recent U.S. offer to sell M1A2 Abrams battle tanks to Saudi Arabia has raised the question of Saudi dependency on U.S. equipment for its defense needs in general and for the prosecution of its war in Yemen in particular. Saudi Arabia has requested up to 153 tanks, 20 of which have been described by the Pentagon as being destined to replenish vehicles damaged in the war in Yemen. The deal also includes related equipment, including machine guns, grenade launchers, night vision devices, and ammunition.

Last month the United States approved a $1.29 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia. This deal is the latest in a string of major arms sales agreements totaling $20.8 billion since the Gulf country began fighting in Yemen against the Houthi rebels in March 2015. In addition, from 2009-14 the United States delivered over $13 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, making it the largest recipient of U.S. arms in the world. Human rights groups have denounced the most recent sale, citing the recklessness of the Saudi-led air attacks that have left thousands of civilians dead.

In the midst of 2011’s Arab uprisings, thousands of tear gas canisters bearing the conspicuous “Made in U.S.A.” designations became a symbol of U.S. support for authoritarian regimes and violent repression of peaceful dissent in countries like Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia. While U.S. transfers of crowd control items like tear gas are sometimes viewed as encouraging a non-lethal approach to protests, the regimes excessive and improper use of tear gas have caused cases of serious injury or death. In response, Congress has sought to better control such transfers, but the gaps in such controls are growing to an alarming level.

“What happened in Kunduz is happening multiple times a day in Yemen,” stated Tariq Riebl on an October 20 panel entitled “Humanitarian and Security Consequences of Military Support to the Region.” Riebl, who recently returned from three months in Yemen with Oxfam International, was joined by experts William D. Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and Senior Advisor to Security Assistance Monitor, Martin Butcher, a Policy Advisor at Oxfam International, and moderator Natalie Goldring, a Senior Fellow for the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

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