The Senate’s bid to block arms sales to the UAE falls short

WASHINGTON – In the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, a $ 23 billion sale of fighter jets and advanced armed drones sneaking into the UAE was blocked in the U.S. Senate, and a few resolutions failed by a majority despite concerns over sales from Israel. advocates, human rights groups and legislators on both sides.

Both resolutions – one focused on F-35 jet engines and the other on Reaper drones – narrowly fell short of the majority. The resolution against the F-35s failed in a 47-49 vote. The drones ’resolution failed 46-50, with both Arizona Democratic sensors Krysten Sinema and Mark Kelly voting against, ensuring the resolution failed in the tightly divided Senate.

However, President Donald Trump has already signaled that he will veto the decisions and raise the bar for opponents of arms sales who would have needed a veto-secured majority to defeat Trump’s veto pen.

Nevertheless, the votes come when President Trump faces the likelihood that his presidency will override his veto on another national security issue for the first time after the House passed the annual National Defense Licensing Act with veto-safe reserves despite Trump’s threat. nickel the bill when it reaches your desk.

Votes on the Emirati deal on Wednesday began shortly before a 30-day period ended on Friday for Congress to take action to block sales. By law, foreign military sales accounted for by the administration may continue unless blocked by Congress within 30 days of official notice of the intended sale.

Wednesday’s measures were opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, who called the timing “sensible” on the Senate floor on Tuesday, adding: Strategic realities dictate that Congress should not hinder this sale.

On Wednesday, the White House made it clear that it would be ready to veto the resolution if it reached the president’s table. According to the White House Office of Administration and Budget, the administration was “strongly opposed” to the resolutions, arguing that arms sales “directly support U.S. foreign policy and national security goals”.

The Trump administration is now ready to sell up to 50 F-35 aircraft, up to 18 Reaper drones and ammunition to the UAE due to bipartisan congressional opposition as Trump’s term in office expires soon.

“We will continue to work with the UAE on letters of offer and acceptance, which, if concluded, will finalize any deal,” Deputy Secretary for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper said Tuesday.

The State Department said arms sales in the UAE and other regions are helping the Gulf allies defend themselves against Iran and strengthen Israel’s security. Critics say an arms race will start with Tehran. The proposed agreement followed shortly after Abu Dhabi formally recognized Israel as a state.

In August, even as Israel and the UAE signed a U.S.-mediated milestone peace deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly stated his opposition to selling F-35s to the UAE, which could weaken his nation’s “quality military”. life”. neighbors that the U.S. has long been committed to preserving. Netanyahu then said the F-35s were not party to the peace treaty.

But the Israeli government has since dissolved its opposition, and in a joint interview with the Emirate Ambassador to the MSNBC “Morning Joe” this week, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ron Dermer underestimated the issue.

“What’s going up at night isn’t really the proposed sale of the F-35 to the Emirates,” Dermer said. Referring to the incoming Biden government, he added: “What keeps up at night is the idea of ​​someone returning to a nuclear deal with Iran.”

International human rights groups have also called for a halt to sales, pointing to the Emirates’ record that civilians were targeted and killed in Yemen, American weapons were sold to extremists, and even violated the international arms embargo in Libya.

“These American drones may be responsible for attacks in the United Arab Emirates that violate international humanitarian law and kill and injure thousands of Yemeni civilians who are already bearing the brunt of one of the world’s most devastating humanitarian disasters,” Philippe Nassif warned the Middle East and North Africa is Amnesty International in the USA.

A key question for lawmakers was whether it was credible in the UAE to protect the coveted stealth technology of the F-35 and prevent it from falling into the hands of opponents, said Brad Bowman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“Are we confident that the technology associated with the F-35, which is the most advanced in the world, will be adequately protected? Would the UAE do everything necessary to protect the technology to make sure it is not leaking to others, especially the Russians and the Chinese? said Bowman, a former GOP adviser to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Cooper said the impact of the sale on the region’s humanitarian crisis was under constant consideration, but noted that the UAE had “proven time and time again” that it was “a partner we can count on”.

“The United States is definitely taking these commitments seriously. We contact all of our allies and partners when and when they are alleged to report any unauthorized use, application, or transfer, ”Cooper said. “We are committed to protecting civilians.”

“Ask yourself if there is a lack of an armed Reaper drone in the Middle East today that can fire Hellfire missiles without the risk of human loss to the operator of that drone?” Senator Chris Murphy, of D-Conn., Is one of the senators who circulated a resolution rejecting the sale, he said in an interview last week.

Dan De Luce and Frank Thorp V. consented.