America's Arms Sales

May 4, 1979

Report Outline
Arming the Middle East
Arms Policy Since 1940
Trends in the Arms Trade
Special Focus

Arming the Middle East

New Events vs. Carter's Vow to Cut Sales

Government-to-government transfers of conventional weapons — not nuclear arms — have been an integral part of American foreign policy since World War II. Recent events in the Middle East seem to indicate that at least for the immediate future U.S. arms shipments abroad will continue to play an important role in the relationship between this country and its allies. Arms supplied by the United States, the largest seller of arms in the world, were important factors in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed March 26, the rise and fall of the Shah of Iran and the simmering war between North and South Yemen.

The political machinations in the Middle East are being played out against the backdrop of the worldwide competition between the United States and the Soviet Union — the second leading seller of arms — to gain influence and win friends around the world. Neither the United States nor the Soviet Union sells nuclear weapons, and the two countries are now completing talks leading to a new agreement for limiting the deployment of offensive nuclear weapons.

President Carter came to office two years ago promising to cut down U.S. arms sales. During the 1976 presidential campaign he constantly criticized the extent of arms sales under the Nixon and Ford administrations. “We cannot be both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of weapons of war,” Carter said numerous times during the campaign. Soon after taking office, Carter ordered a review of U.S. military sales practices. He then outlined his new arms sales policy on May 19, 1977, announcing that “the United States will henceforth view arms transfers as an exceptional foreign policy implement ….” Warning of the “threat to world peace embodied in this spiraling arms traffic,” Carter said he would “place the burden of persuasion … on those who favor a particular arms sale rather than on those who oppose it.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Arms Sales and Trafficking
Jun. 19, 2012  Small Arms Trade
Dec. 09, 1994  Arms Sales
Apr. 17, 1987  Third World Arms Industries
May 04, 1979  America's Arms Sales
May 07, 1976  World Arms Sales
Sep. 02, 1970  International Arms Sales
Apr. 28, 1965  Traffic in Arms
Sep. 09, 1936  Government Manufacture of Munitions
May 11, 1933  Arms Embargoes and the Traffic in Munitions
Apr. 27, 1925  Conference for Control of the International Traffic in Arms
Arms Control and Disarmament
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia