‘A long shot’: Rand Paul moves to block sale of F-35s to UAE

The bill is aimed at stopping a $23 billion sale of F-35s, Reaper drones, and munitions to the UAE.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that a bill he co-sponsored to block the Trump administration’s sale of F-35 fighter jets and other arms to the United Arab Emirates has significant support but stands a slim chance of passing, the Jewish Insider reported Tuesday.

“I think there’ll be a significant vote not to sell the F-35s,” Paul told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding, “I don’t know what significant means.”

“I think it’s a long shot to win,” he said.

Paul also suggested that the arms sale was connected to the recently signed Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain.

“They’ve made the case that it’s not really part of the Abraham Accords. But it kind of is part of the Abraham Accords,” he said.

Paul said it would be “very bad publicity” for the UAE to pull out of the normalization agreement even if the weapons sale was blocked.

He said that it’s very rare for the Senate to vote to block arms sales as it did in a series of resolutions last year.

“That was historic and really not, I think, understood by enough people how big of a deal that was for Congress to vote against the president selling arms,” Paul said.

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President Donald Trump vetoed those three bills in July 2019. Two were aimed at blocking the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia while the third would have limited the sale of weapons to the UAE.

As with the current legislation, lawmakers in support of the 2019 bills criticized the UAE’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen.

Last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced that he, along with Paul and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), had introduced a privileged resolution “to stop a massive, $23 billion sale of F-35s, Reaper drones, and munitions to the UAE.”

A privileged resolution is one which must be brought to a vote on the Senate floor, and that vote is expected to occur this week.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told MSNBC on Monday that he was “very comfortable” with the UAE obtaining the jets.

“We believe that the UAE is an ally in confronting Iran, and we do not believe that this arms package will violate the U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” he said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said that it does not oppose the arms agreement, while the liberal J Street has come out against it.

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“We do not oppose the proposed arms sale to the UAE, given the peace agreement reached between Israel and the UAE as well as the agreement reached between the U.S. and Israel to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) will not be adversely impacted by the sale,” an AIPAC spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Tuesday.

“We oppose this arms sale and urge senators to vote for the bipartisan resolutions rejecting it,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told HuffPost on Sunday.