UAE envoy says his country expected US review of policies
WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden’s administration has temporarily paused some pending arms sales to US allies in order to review them, a US State Department official said on Wednesday.
Reviews of this sort are typical for a new administration and the State Department said it was temporarily pausing sales authorised by former President Donald Trump, including a $23 billion package of cutting-edge F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates.
The department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending US defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review, the official said.
On his first full day on the job, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that a review was routine for any new administration to ensure that a sale “advances our strategic objectives.”
The United Arab Emirates is to be the first Arab nation to receive the versatile stealth-capable fighter-jets after it agreed to recognise Israel — a normalisation that Blinken said he supports.
UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba said on Wednesday that the UAE anticipated a review of current policies by the new US administration, welcoming joint efforts to de-escalate tensions and for renewed regional dialogue, according to a statement posted on the Embassy’s Twitter account.
“The UAE will work closely with the Biden administration on a comprehensive approach to Middle East peace and stability,” the ambassador said in the post.
The Biden administration’s decision signalled a fresh look at US policy in the Middle East, four years after Saudi Arabia and Israel constituted the main pillar of Trump’s policy against Iran’s influence in the region.
In this regard, Otaiba said his country expects the new US administration to review its current policies. However, he welcomed joint efforts to reduce tension and revive regional dialogue.
The Emirati ambassador added in a series of tweets that the UAE will work closely with the Biden administration to come up with a comprehensive approach to peace and stability in the Middle East.
“The UAE has always fought alongside the US. And through hundreds of joint missions and participation in six US-led Coalition efforts, we have learned that the key to military coordination is interoperability. With the same equipment and training, US and UAE forces are more effective together when and where it matters,” he said.
A potential halt to the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates could raise questions about whether the Arab Gulf country will continue its normalisation with Israel, which Trump saw as a key foreign policy achievement.
“Specifically, the F-35 package is much more than selling military hardware to a partner. Like the US, it allows the UAE to maintain a strong deterrent to aggression. In parallel with new dialogue and security cooperation, it helps to reassure regional partners. It also enables the UAE to take on more of the regional burden for collective security, freeing US assets for other global challenges, a long-time bipartisan US priority,” Otaiba said.
The package to the United Arab Emirates included unarmed drones, while the United States has been preparing major sales of munitions to Saudi Arabia.
Trump had explicitly backed arms sales on commercial grounds, saying that the Saudis were creating US jobs by buying from US manufacturers.
The F-35 jets are a major component of a $23 billion sale of high-tech armaments from General Atomics, Lockheed and Raytheon Technologies Corp to the United Arab Emirates.
On a post-earnings conference call with investors on Tuesday, Raytheon’s management said “with the change in administration, it becomes less likely that we’re going to be able to get a license” for a direct commercial sale of offensive weapons worth about $500 million to a Middle East customer. Raytheon did not give the name of the customer.