Several US senators have said they would introduce legislation to block the sale of more than $23 billion of weapons to the United Arab Emirates, voicing concern over the deal seen as a reward for the Persian Gulf Arab country’s recognition of Israel.
Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Rand Paul will introduce resolutions of disapproval of President Donald Trump’s plan to sell F-35 fighter aircraft, Reaper drones and air-to-air missiles to the UAE.
The munitions also include products from privately held General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s and missiles made by Raytheon, and more than 14,000 bombs.
Lawmakers expressed concern about whether the UAE sales would violate a longstanding agreement with Israel that any US weapons sold in the Middle East would not impair Tel Aviv’s “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME) in the Middle East region.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat close to President-elect Joe Biden, also said that the UAE violated terms of previous sales, pointing to reports that weapons sent to the US ally have been discovered in war-ravaged Yemen and Libya.
“I support the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race,” Murphy said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week formally informed Congress of the sale, hailing the UAE normalization with Israel and casting the sale as part of efforts against Iran.
The senators said the Trump administration, seeking to rush the sale as it brokered a peace deal between the UAE and Israel, circumvented the normal review process. They said State and the Pentagon failed to respond to their inquiries.
The UAE had long requested the F-35 fighter jets, which have stealth capacity and can be deployed for precision bombing, intelligence gathering and air-to-air combat.
Israel had considered its own F-35 fleet to be vital to its own strategic edge over Arab nations but dropped its opposition to the US sale as it saw the advantage of normalized ties.
Tel Aviv last month ended its opposition after getting so-called US guarantees that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.
Congress last year tried to block a major arms package for Saudi Arabia and the UAE but failed to muster the two-thirds majority to override Trump’s vetoes.