UAE Reportedly Pauses Talks With US to Buy F-35 Stealth Fighters
17:22 GMT 14.12.2021 (Updated: 18:32 GMT 14.12.2021)
Abu Dhabi has suspended talks to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from American defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
“The UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35,” an Emirati official told Sputnik on Tuesday, explaining that "technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions and the cost/benefit analysis" had caused them to rethink the deal.
The official added that the US “remains the UAE’s preferred provider for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F-35 may be reopened in the future.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, US officials think the maneuver is a negotiating tactic and they remain optimistic that a deal can still be reached.
The $23 billion deal was originally agreed to by the Trump administration on January 20, 2021, and signed just one hour before Joe Biden was sworn in as the US president, Sputnik reported at the time. The deal includes 50 F-35 stealth aircraft, among the most advanced in the world, and 18 MQ-9 Reaper combat drones. However, Biden said he would reexamine the deal after entering office.
Agreeing to sell Abu Dhabi the advanced fighters only occurred when the wealthy Persian Gulf emirate agreed in August 2020 to normalize relations with Israel, becoming the first Arab nation to do so in early 30 years. Bahrain also joined the agreement, which became known as the Abraham Accords, and Sudan and Morocco followed suit before the end of the year.
However, Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, has maintained that it was a desire to see peace in Palestine and prevent imminent Israeli annexation of the Jordan River Valley, not the promise of buying F-35s, that motivated the Emirati move.
© AP Photo / French Air ForceThis photo released on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French army Rafale fighter jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group
This photo released on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French army Rafale fighter jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group
© AP Photo / French Air Force
At present, the only Middle East nations to operate the highly advanced aircraft is Israel, which the US has agreed to sell the best weapons and to maintain its strategic superiority over its neighbors.
Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron penned a deal in Dubai to sell the UAE $19 billion worth of Dassault Rafale fighters, which are quite advanced, but lack some of the F-35's more unusual attributes, such as stealth capability and vectored thrust.
Weapons sales to the UAE have become controversial in recent years, after the country joined the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen in 2015, which has waged a devastating war against the Shiite Houthi movement that the United Nations estimates has killed 377,000. Weapons sold to the UAE have been found in the hands of Emirati-allied rebel groups in Yemen and others, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula*.
The UAE pulled the vast majority of its troops out of the conflict in 2019, but retains a powerful influence over its allied rebel groups and a small continent of troops remain on the ground in eastern and western Yemen.
*A terrorist group banned in Russia and many other nations