On Wednesday, the Senate voted against resolutions that aimed to block a massive arms sale to the UAE that the Trump administration is moving forward. The deal is worth an estimated $23 billion and includes F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones, and munitions.
Separate resolutions that targeted different aspects of the sales failed to pass. One resolution that addressed the drone sale failed 46 to 50. Another resolution that addressed the F-35 sale failed 47 to 49.
Ahead of the vote, President Trump issued a formal warning that he would veto the resolutions. The White House released a statement that said the sales support US foreign policy goals by “enabling the UAE to deter increasing Iranian aggressive behavior and threats.”
The sales are seen as a reward for Abu Dhabi’s decision to normalize relations with Israel. After initially opposing the F-35 sale, Israel gave the US the green light once Washington pledged to supply Israel with new advanced weapons of its own.
The influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC also released a statement ahead of the vote. “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 US and Israel to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) will not be adversely impacted by the sale,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said in a statement.
Selling advanced weaponry to the UAE has raised concerns due to Abu Dhabi’s support for the US-backed Saudi-led coalition that regularly targets civilians. 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 to civilians, weapons sold to the UAE could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen. In 2019, a CNN report showed that advanced military equipment sold to the UAE was transferred to al-Qaeda linked fighters 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.