US Senate backs sale of F-35 jets to UAE

Courtesy: US Air Force
Courtesy: US Air Force

Washington - Most senators dismissed fears that President Donald Trump was setting off a dangerous arms race in the region.


Published: Thu 10 Dec 2020, 6:27 AM

Last updated: Thu 10 Dec 2020, 6:57 AM

Democrats failed on Wednesday to block the United States from selling top-of-the-line fighter-jets to the UAE, with most senators dismissing fears that President Donald Trump was setting off a dangerous arms race.

In one of the largest arms deals of its four-year term, the outgoing administration has approved $23 billion in stealth-capable F-35 jets, unarmed drones and other weapons to the Gulf ally.

Splitting mostly on party lines, opponents failed to convince a threshold of 50 senators in two procedural votes that Trump was acting hastily before President-elect Joe Biden takes over next month.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt said that selling weapons to the UAE supported US jobs and provided “reinforcement of our friends who see common enemies and are working directly to move their country and their region in a much better direction.”

Trump had already threatened to veto the resolutions if they passed, meaning both the Senate and House of Representatives needed two-thirds majorities to override him.

The White House in a statement said that the weapons would enable the UAE to “deter increasing Iranian aggressive behaviour and threats issued in the wake of the peace deal with Israel.”

The two Democratic senators from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both joined Republicans on the drone sales, which involve Raytheon, a major employer in their state, and Sinema also rejected the bid to stop the F-35s.

One of the costliest warplanes in the world, the F-35, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, carries high-end sensors and data-collection tools and can be used for airstrikes, intelligence gathering and air-to-air combat.

The State Department said the UAE would buy 50 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — equivalent to Israel’s fleet.

Israel has historically opposed the sale of the jet to any Arab nation, considering it a military advantage.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped objections as the UAE moved in September to recognise Israel.

Bahrain and Sudan have since also moved to normalise relations with Israel, which has instead been discussing with the US how to expand its military edge further.

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