The United Arab Emirates has signed $1.4 billion in military contracts that includes $200 billion worth of US-made drones, contributing to a veritable arms race in drone technology and heightening geo-political tensions in the Middle East.
Washington has traditionally used obedient Arab dictatorships in the Persian Gulf as a military buffer to counter perceived threats like Iran.
But America’s use of drones over Iranian territory, exemplified by the downed drone captured by Tehran in 2011, preceded Iranian claims of innovations in drone capabilities. Arming adversarial Arab monarchs with drones merely feeds the process of proliferation.
“The UAE says the Predator drones, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will not be outfitted for weapons capabilities, but used for reconnaissance,” according to The Associated Press.
At least for now.
“The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress,” USA Today reported in January.
The prospect of other countries using drones in the same lawless, lethal, unaccountable way the US has is unnerving to Americans, who have long believed they should not be subject to the rules everybody else must follow.
“When we possess such weaponry, it turns out there is nothing unnerving or disturbing, apocalyptic or dystopian about it,” Tom Engelhardt observes in Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
But “when the first Iranian or Russian or Chinese missile-armed drones start knocking off their chosen sets of ‘terrorists,’ we won’t like it one bit,” Engelhardt warns. “Then let’s see what we think about the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies—and anyone else in the vicinity—by drone.”