Barely days to go before the United States election results, the Trump Administration has agreed to sell F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following its recognition of Israel, uncofirmed US media reports say.
“President Donald Trump's administration informally gave a required notification to Congress on the sale, which could significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel's military edge," Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee was quoted as saying by AFP.
It is not known if an “informal” notification, has any sanctity in the US foreign military sales (FMS) program process. Generally, it is the State Department which gives a formal notification of a potential FMS sale to Congress which has the right to question the potential sale.
The Congress rarely blocks an FMS sale as it means loss of business for the relevant contractor- in the case of the F-35, it is Lockheed Martin. The US defence giant is already hit due to the loss of business from Turkey- after the Trump administration blocked sale of F-35 jets to it.
However the big question is; if a democratic administration comes to power then what will be the fate of this "informal" notification. Will that be withdrawn, given the strong pro-Israel lobby among democrats, some of whom have already voiced opinion that denying the UAE F-35s would be a certain way of maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge.
As of October 30, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has not posted any notice of a potential sale of F-35 jets to the UAE.
Speculation is rife that President Trump is obliged to clear F-35 jets sale to the UAE after it agreed to normalize ties with Israel. He may have done it just before the elections as a parting gift to the UAE.
Abu Dhabi has long since eyed F-35 jets and on numerous occasions expressed concern on not being able to procure them. Examples include not showing interest in the latest generation F-16V jets and an engagement with Russia to jointly develop a version of the MiG-29.