On April 13th, US State Department said that the Biden administration was moving forward with a $23 billion weapon sale to the UAE.
In January, the Biden administration announced a blanket review of all recent arms sales cleared by the Trump administration. While it notably froze a pair of weapons deals for Saudi Arabia, the administration had never put in place a hard freeze on the UAE equipment.
It’s too much profit to overlook, as well.
A State Department spokesman said in a statement 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.”
The NYCFPA (New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs) said that as a result of the Biden administration deciding not to halt the sales, it will file an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Back in December, when the Trump administration announced the sale, the NYCFPA filled a legal claim that the Trump administration failed to provide a reasonable explanation for its decision to sell F-35 fighter jets and other weapons to the UAE, which would place it in breach of the Administrative Procedure Act.
The $23.37 billion package contains products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the UAE for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters, and worried that the weapons transfers might violate U.S. guarantees that Israel will retain a military advantage in the region.
At any point between now and delivery of the weapons systems — which, for the F-35s, may take until 2025 or 2026 — the administration can stop it. Whether it will do so is unlikely.
“Projected delivery dates on these sales, if eventually implemented, will be several years in the future. Thus, we anticipate a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to any defense transfers [in order to] meet our mutual strategic objectives to build a stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partnership,” the State Department spokesman said. “We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of U.S. defense articles and services that U.S.-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict.”
The Biden administration is also reviewing its policy for military sales to Saudi Arabia, including some Trump-era weapons deals, in light of the Saudi involvement in Yemen and other human rights concerns.
It has not released the results of that review. In February, U.S. officials told Reuters the administration was considering cancelling past deals that posed human rights concerns and limiting future sales to “defensive” weapons.
Of course, if profits are concerned, the F-35, MQ-9 Reaper drones and more can also be dubbed “defensive” weapons.
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