Dem, GOP senators introduce resolutions to block $23B arms sale to UAE

Bipartisan group wants government to think twice before sending “a massive infusion of weapons to a country in a volatile region.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A bipartisan trio of senators filed multiple resolutions in the Senate on Wednesday in a bid to block a massive $23 billion arms deal with the United Arab Emirates. It includes the weapons Israel originally said it did not want going to the country with whom it recently signed a historic peace treaty.

Four separate resolutions were submitted that would halt the Trump administration’s plan to sell the UAE advanced F-35 stealth bombers, drones, missiles and bombs.

The bipartisan trio included Democratic Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, as well as Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“As I tried to warn the Trump administration, circumventing deliberative processes for considering a massive infusion of weapons to a country in a volatile region with multiple ongoing conflicts is downright irresponsible,” Menendez said in a statement released on his website.

With the signing of the Abraham Accords in September, which paved the way for Israel to establish diplomatic relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, U.S. officials let it be known that they wanted to sell to the UAE the F-35. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially objected to the deal, but he later relented when Defense Minister Benny Gantz traveled to Washington and got reassurances the Americans would protect Israel’s qualitative advantage in military capability.

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Last week, the Trump administration announced to Congress that it approved a massive arms sale to the UAE that includes up to 50 of the F-35 stealth aircraft worth some $10.4 billion, $3 billion worth of the advanced MQ-9B armed drones, and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions worth $10 billion.

Once the administration notifies Congress of the sale, there is a 30-day period in which Congress can block the sales with resolutions such as the ones introduced by the three Senators, The Hill reported.

The arms deal will be resolved one way or the other while Trump is still in the White House. During his term the president vetoed three attempts by Congress to block other arms sales to Middle East, including to Saudi Arabia, where legislators are concerned about the country’s human rights record and the prolonged Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen civil war.

“The Emiratis are an important security partner, but their recent behavior indicates that these weapons may be used in violation of U.S. and international law,” said Murphy. “The UAE has violated past arms sales agreements, resulting in U.S. arms ending up in the arms of dangerous militia groups, and they have failed to comply with international law in Libya and Yemen.”

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The U.S. Air Force and Army have a large presence at the sprawling Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, where the USAF operates not only the F-35 for operations in the region, but also F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, and military drones.