The Biden Administration is moving forward with the controversial Trump-era $23 billion sale of F-35 and MQ-9B drones to the U.A.E.
“While we will not comment on ongoing litigation, we can confirm that that the Administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson revealed to The Huffington Post.
Shortly after becoming the President, Biden suspended the export of weapons to U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia for their involvement in the Yemen War, a conflict described by the United Nations as one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Abu Dhabi has also been accused of “fueling” the Libyan Civil War by supplying armed drones, and repeatedly violating end-use rules.
Read: U.S. Arms Sales to Middle East Ballooned During Yemen War
“The estimated delivery dates on these sales, if implemented, are scheduled for after 2025 or later….. We will also continue to reinforce with the U.A.E. and all recipients of U.S. defense articles and services that U.S.-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
It has been widely speculated that the former U.S. administration used the F-35 aircraft to entice the Emirates to normalize ties with Israel. With the Abraham Accords or the Israel-U.A.E. peace deal being hammered out late last year, the parties may have worked out a way. Abu Dhabi may have agreed to make their F-35s visible to Israeli radars, besides being okay with Israel’s F-35 jets being far more superior in terms of capabilities.
Aside of 50 F-35 Lightning II jets and 18 MQ-9B drones, the contract will cover a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, as well as related products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies.
In December, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said, “On this sale, in particular, the consultative process was really important. Because this sale is as big and as hairy and as complicated as you get. We are, for the first time, selling F-35s and MQ-9 Reaper drones into the heart of the Middle East. We’ve never done it before.”
On the arms sale spiral in the Middle East, Murphy said: “Today we may be selling the F-35s and the MQ-9s to the U.A.E., but the Saudis are going to want it, the Qataris have already requested it, and it just fuels Iran’s interest in continuing to build up its own military programming.”