WASHINGTON: Three United States (US) senators have launched a campaign to block the sale of top-of-the-line F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), raising concerns over the deal, which is seen as a gift to the UAE’s recognition of Israel.
According to media reports, even if the three senators persuade a majority in Congress to oppose the $23 billion package, they will face a mountain of obstacles to the veto power of US President Donald Trump.
Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, a close ally of US President-elect Joe Biden, pointed to reports that the UAE had violated previous terms of the sale that weapons sent to the US ally had been recovered from war-torn Libya and Yemen.
“I support the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but there is nothing in this agreement that we need to bring more weapons to the region and an arms embargo,” Murphy said in a statement.
He co-sponsored the resolution with Robert Menendez, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rand Paul, a Republican, who are generally pro-Trump but critical of US military intervention.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally notified Congress last week about the sale. He praised the UAE for normalizing relations with Israel and said the sale was part of its antagonism with Iran.
The UAE has long requested an F-35 with stealth capability and could be deployed for target bombing, intelligence gathering and air-to-air combat.
Israel sees its F-35 fleet as indispensable to its strategic value over the Arab world, but has given up its opposition to US sales, citing the benefits of normalizing relations.
Congress tried last year to block a large arms package to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but failed to get a two-thirds majority to overturn Trump’s veto.
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