A State Department official overseeing US arms exports told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Biden administration is “fully committed” to selling F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
Mira Resnick, a deputy assistant secretary of state, made the comments from the Dubai Air Show. “We are fully committed to the F-35 and transferring the F-35, which is a game-changer for the Emiratis,” she said. “We are working with them as we speak to make sure that there are clarifications to the various assurances that were made to the previous administration.”
The potential sale for about 50 F-35s is the UAE’s reward for normalizing with Israel and was first put forward by the Trump administration as part of a $23 billion weapons package that also includes Reaper drones and missiles. The Biden administration initially paused the sale for a “review” but said in March that it intends to go through with the deal.
The deal initially met opposition in Congress from those who feared if Abu Dhabi obtained F-35s, it would threaten Israel’s military superiority in the region, known as the Qualitative Military Edge (QME). But Israel signed off on the deal after getting guarantees that it would receive more advanced military equipment from Washington.
Resnick said the UAE could use the F-35 to help the US and Israel against Iran. “The F-35 is already in this region, whether it’s Israelis flying the F-35, whether it’s American F-35,” she said. “We would like the UAE to be able to operate the F-35 in a way that [they] can be our security partners and to deter threats, including from Iran.”
A major aspect of the US-brokered normalization deals between Israel and the Gulf states is to form a coalition against Iran. Last week, in a sign of growing cooperation, the UAE, Israel, Bahrain, and the US held their first official military drills together.
The massive arms sale to the UAE is another example of President Biden not following through on his promise to end “offensive” support for the war in Yemen. The UAE isn’t as involved in the war as it was a few years ago, but Abu Dhabi is still a member of the Saudi-led coalition. The UAE also has a history of supporting al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.