The Trump administration has set in motion the sale of F-35 Jets, MQ-9B Dribes and weapons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) altogether worth a staggering $23 billion; marking the single biggest arms sale deal to a Middle Eastern ally.
US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has directed the State Department to formally notify Congress of the administration’s intent to authorize the UAE’s proposed purchase of F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets and combat drones, a state department release said Tuesday.
The proposed upgrade package includes up to 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, valued at $10.4 billion; up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems, valued at $2.97 billion; and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, valued at $10 billion. Altogether the deal could be worth $23 Billion.
In a statement posted the U.S. Department of State’s website, Pompeo said, “this is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran.”
“The UAE’s historic agreement to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape,” Pompeo said. “Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success,” Pompeo was quoted as saying in the release.
The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with US partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.
“Security cooperation and defense trade are powerful tools of American diplomacy. Today’s announcement echoes the enhanced defense cooperation we embarked upon with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Camp David Accords, as well as our closer security relationship with Jordan following its normalization of ties with Israel in 1994. Together, we are committed to securing the success of the Abraham Accords,” the statement read.
Today's greenlight could come under scrutiny of the incoming Biden administration even if the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) receives the go-ahead from the State Department and the US Congress receives the notification of sale.
A section of the Israeli lobby is against the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE as it fears Israel could lose its military edge over its Arab neighbors, even those with which it has friendly relations.