President Joe Biden’s administration indicated Wednesday it was moving forward with a $23 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates but was considering restrictions and would not deliver them soon.
The State Department shortly after Biden’s inauguration in January ordered a review of the massive arms package, which was approved by former President Donald Trump when the Gulf ally recognized Israel.
Responding to a lawsuit seeking to block the sale, the State Department said it planned a “robust and sustained dialogue” with the United Arab Emirates on arms transfers.
Read more: Present and Future of the American F-35
“We can confirm 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 said.
“Projected delivery dates on these sales, if eventually implemented, will be several years in the future.”
The lawsuit was filed by a group on behalf of purported victims of Emirati “aggression” who pointed to the Gulf state’s participation in the bloody Saudi-led offensive in Yemen and its support for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar.
Biden's decision to proceed with the $23 billion weapon sales deal to the #UAE that includes the prized F-35 jets, vindicates Abu Dhabi's move to sign the peace deal with Israel. F-35s would dramatically upgrade the UAE’s military capability, giving it a big edge in the region.
— Sameer Hashmi (@sameerhashmi) April 14, 2021
Announcing a refiled lawsuit, the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs said it had “hoped for better things out of the Biden administration.”
Representative Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he remained “concerned” by the sale.
“Fortunately, none of these transfers would occur any time soon, so there will be ample time for Congress to review whether these transfers should go forward and what restrictions and conditions would be imposed,” Meeks said.
The first Arab nation to receive F-35s
The United Arab Emirates would be the first Arab nation to receive the F-35s, top-of-the-line jets that are stealth capable and can be used to gather intelligence, strike deep into enemy territory and engage in air duels.
The United Arab Emirates will receive 50 of the jets, equal to the fleet of Israel, which has previously rejected to Arab nations receiving the planes as it believes that the Jewish state must maintain a military edge in the region.
But it dropped objections after the United Arab Emirates last year agreed to recognize Israel. Three more Arab nations followed suit, in what Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel, considered one of his major foreign policy achievements.
The Trump administration argued that the main concern justifying the sale was Iran, which has hostile relations with Israel and several Gulf Arab states.
Lawmakers from Biden’s Democratic Party argued that the package would set off an arms race in a sensitive region but failed in Congress to block the sale.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk