US Confirms Sale of F-35s to UAE

November 11, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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An F-35 fighter jet (illustrative)

Wednesday, 11 November 2020 | The US State Department yesterday approved the sale of a massive package of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a bid to help Abu Dhabi beef up its armed forces in the face of potential Iranian aggression.

The package, which will reportedly set the Gulf nation back an estimated US $23,37 billion, includes 18 advanced armed Reaper drone systems, air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions as well as the ultimate prize of 50 stealth F-35 fighter jets.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally notified Congress of the sale, pointing out that it forms part of the Trump administration’s efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and that the decision was contingent on the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with former foe Israel.

“This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran,” Pompeo said in a 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,” Pompeo continued. “Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.”

The prospect of the UAE obtaining advanced arms initially raised concerns in Israeli defense circles that it may affect Jerusalem’s military superiority in the region. In the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the US pledged to obtain the Jewish state’s nod of approval before selling advanced weapons systems to any Middle Eastern country, thus preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region.

The US has made good on its promise, maintaining the balance of power by selecting what it sells to Arab nations and ensuring that Israel has the top pick. The F-35 stealth fighter is a case in point.

Israel was the second country after the US to add the world’s most advanced warplanes to its fleet and is the only air force in the Middle East boasting the F-35. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish state currently boasts some 24 of the jets and is set to add an addition 50 of the fighter planes to their fleet. 

The US laid Israel’s concerns over losing its military edge to rest during a series of meetings between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his US counterpart Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Jerusalem and Washington. The discourse culminated late last month with the two defense ministers signing a declaration of the US commitment to maintain the Jewish state’s QME in the Middle East to ensure stability in the often volatile region.

According to Gantz, the agreement gives Israel access to the “tools it needs to contend with aggressive and destabilizing forces, making it an even more effective ally to the US and creating the conditions for peace to prosper.”

Pompeo echoed the pledge in his statement yesterday, describing the UAE deal as “consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s QME; exemplifies the United States’ steadfast position as the security partner of choice; and demonstrates our commitment to the success of the Abraham Accords.”

Posted on November 11, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 11, 2020)

Photo Credit: 272 447/