The Biden administration says it will go ahead with a big Trump administration sale of jet fighters and advanced armed drones to the United Arab Emirates, over objections from Democrats and some others that the Gulf country is fueling conflicts around the Middle East.
The administration initially had paused some Trump-era arms sales to Gulf countries for review, including a $23 billion transfer of F-35 combat aircraft, M-Q9 drones and related weapons to the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. officials argue that the nation benefits from having strong strategic partners with interoperable defense systems. The sales also benefit American arms manufacturers. The United States remains the world’s top arms exporter, with half of its sales between 2015 and 2019 going to the Middle East, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
A State Department official, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity to discuss the sale, said the U.S. would be working with the UAE in the years leading up to delivery to try to make sure the arms are used in accordance with human rights standards and the laws of war.
Opponents to the UAE arms deal accuse the Gulf nation of harmful interference in conflicts in the Middle East, including rights abuses as a combatant in the war in Yemen, and diverting weapons to militias in Yemen and Libya.
Senate Democrats had tried and failed to muster support in the Senate for blocking the deal, announced by the Trump administration in its final months. Some arms-trade experts, including William Hartung of the Center for International Policy, had urged the Biden administration not to go ahead with the deal, saying it contradicted Biden’s pledge of a foreign policy in line with human rights and American values.