Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed his support for a major arms sale to the UAE the Trump administration is hoping to push through. McConnell urged the Senate to vote against resolutions that could be brought to the floor this week that aim to block the deal.
“It’s a little baffling to suggest that, now of all times, a protest gesture with no chance of obtaining a veto-proof majority is a valuable use of the Senate’s time. But above and beyond that, the strategic realities dictate that Congress should not stand in the way of this sale,” McConnell said on Tuesday.
The arms sale consists of F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones, and 14,000 munitions and bombs. Altogether, the deal is worth $23 billion. Congress has raised concerns over giving Abu Dhabi such advanced weaponry due to its involvement in Yemen and Libya.
Another concern in Congress over arms sales to the UAE is Israel’s military superiority in the region, known as the Qualitative Military Edge. But the Israelis gave Washington the green light for the sale after receiving a commitment from the US to supply Israel with new advanced weapons of its own.
On Monday, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, said Israel was “very comfortable” with the UAE arms deal. “We strongly believe this agreement, this arms package, will not violate the US commitment to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” he said.
The UAE sale is seen as a reward for Abu Dhabi’s decision to normalize relations with Israel. The agreement was reached in part to further isolate Iran in the region. Dermer described the UAE as an “ally in confronting Iran.”
“What keeps me up at night isn’t the sale of the F-35 to the UAE,” Dermer said. “It’s the idea that someone would return to the nuclear deal with Iran.”