US President Donald Trump announced on September 15 that he had “no problem” selling American F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) despite Israeli opposition.
Speaking to Fox News today, Trump said, "Personally, I will not have a problem with that; I will not have a problem selling them F-35s," indicating that this will secure "a lot of jobs" in the United States. The president spoke hours before the the UAE and Israel signed an agreement to normalize relations between them in Washington.
On August 13, Israel and the UAE announced that, under the auspices of the United States, they had reached a historic agreement for normalization between them, whereby the UAE became the third Arab country to recognize Israel after Egypt and Jordan. And Bahrain decided last week to join the UAE in normalizing relations with Israel.
That selling the F-35 jet and other advanced arms to the UAE was a priority for the Trump administration was made clear when Jared Kushner, President’s Trump’s advisor and US officials visited the Al-Dhafra Air Base which hosts the USAF F-35 aircraft on September 1.
F-35 jets were stationed close to the tarmac when Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien were speaking to Emirati pilots. O’Brien told reporters that the US expected a “significant security aspect” in the Israel-UAE normalization, without elaborating.
Earlier reports said that the F-35 jets had been stationed there for more than a year and that Emirati pilots and technical staff were getting familiar with the aircraft in the jointly-operated base.
“Al-Dhafra has hosted the F-35 for years, as well as surveillance aircraft, armed drones and refueling planes. The American delegation’s visit to the base during the tour suggests the F-35 sale remains a key part of the deal,” reported the Times of Israel.
In the past couple of years, Abu Dhabi has made no progress on a fighter jet procurement program after inviting Eurofighter, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to send proposals to purchase a new set of jet to replace its old F-16s. It even “discussed” with the Russians the possibility of jointly manufacturing the MiG-35 jet in the UAE.
All this now seems to be an attempt get Washington to approve the sale of advanced weapons to the UAE which could include besides the F-35, attack and reconnaissance drones and air defence systems.