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Thursday, February 15, 2024

U.S intends to move forward on F-35 sale to UAE, U.S. official says

The United States intends to move forward with the sale of 50 F-35 stealth fighters jets to the United Arab Emirates but there must be a clear understanding of "Emirati obligations," a U.S. official said on Tuesday as progress on the sale slows. The deal is reportedly worth $23 billion and is currently being reviewed

The Biden administration has every intention of “moving forward” with the US-UAE deal that would see the Gulf nation purchase F-35 fighter jets, a senior US official said Tuesday.

Initially struck under the Trump administration, the UAE had requested to buy the US fighter jet and other weapons, including armed drones, as part of the Abraham Accords deal, which saw the UAE normalize ties with Israel.

Read more: The US brokered “Abraham Accord” between Israel and UAE

What is the deal?

The deal is reportedly worth $23 billion and is currently being reviewed to ensure “that we have unmistakably clear, mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations … before, during and after delivery,” the US official told reporters in a phone briefing.

But with delivery away and the Biden administration’s decision to review all foreign arms sales, skepticism over the deal surfaced in recent months.

“The Biden-Harris administration intends to move forward with those proposed defense sales,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Security Mira Resnick said.

She was speaking after she participated in the Dubai Air Show.

“I anticipate a continued robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to ensure that any defense transfers meet our mutual national security strategic objectives to really build a stronger, interoperable, more capable security partnership while protecting US technology,” Resnick said.

Read more: Israel and UAE strike ‘historic’ US-brokered deal for peace

UAE and US relations development 

The outcome of the American presidential election did not please the leadership in Abu Dhabi. Like their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel, Emirati officials have been supportive of most pillars of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.

Heavily focused on efforts to weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran, keen to avoid criticising the human rights records of US-friendly governments, and always determined to increase American arms sales to regional actors such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the outgoing administration established deep relations with Abu Dhabi.

Although the UAE is likely in a strong position to work closely with the Biden administration, the change in US leadership raises some concerns for Abu Dhabi. However, with a foreign policy that has proven to be flexible, the UAE might successfully navigate the coming changes in US foreign policy more easily than other governments, particularly in light of the Abraham Accords’ passage and the UAE’s hedging policy toward Iran.

Read more: Coronavirus allows UAE to extend hand of friendship to Israel

Many in Washington believe that the UAE has been America’s strongest Arab ally in the “Global War on Terrorism” and Biden’s administration will probably try to build on the special partnership that Washington and Abu Dhabi began investing in heavily back in the 2000s—at least in certain domains.

Reuters with additional input by GVS