According to Pompeo, the sale is worth $23.37 billion and includes “up to 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, valued at $10.4 billion; up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems, valued at $2.97 billion; and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, valued at $10 billion.”
The arms sale to the UAE is part of Abu Dhabi’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel, known as the Abraham Accords, which Pompeo made clear in his statement.
“The UAE’s historic agreement to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape,” he said. “Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.”
The arms sales have raised concern in Congress over upholding Israel’s military superiority in the region, known as the Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Pompeo said the massive sale is “fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”
The QME is mandated by US law for Congress to uphold. Since rumors of a possible F-35 sale began to surface, US lawmakers have introduced legislation to add extra checks for Israel’s QME, although Israel has essentially given the green light for weapons sales to Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to reporters after the Trump administration informally notified Congress of the F-35 sale in October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he received strong assurances on “the American commitment to preserve” Israel’s QME.
Human rights organizations have raised the alarm over arms sales to the UAE, citing Abu Dhabi’s support for the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that regularly targets civilian infrastructure. Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been at odds in Yemen in recent years over Abu Dhabi’s support for a southern separatist group, the UAE has not flinched over the Saudi’s siege tactics against the civilian population of Yemen that has caused widespread disease, malnutrition, and mass starvation.
Besides the risk of the weapons being used to harm civilians, the arms could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda. A report from CNN in 2019 documented how advanced military equipment sold to Abu Dhabi was transferred to al-Qaeda in Yemen. An AP News investigation from 2018 found the UAE was directly paying militants in Yemen who are on the US terror list and affiliated with al-Qaeda.