The Trump administration told Congress on Tuesday it had approved the US sale of more than $23 billion in advanced weapons systems, including F-35 fighter jets and armed drones, to the United Arab Emirates, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The formal notification to lawmakers followed a US-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalise relations with Israel, becoming the first of three Arab states to make such a move in recent months.
“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 $23.37 billion package includes up to 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, the State Department said.
The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees – whose members have criticized UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen’s civil war – review major weapons sales before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
Any deal the United States makes to sell weapons in the Middle East must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that the US-made equipment must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing US weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.