06:22 GMT30 November 2020
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    It is unclear if the Congress will try to prevent the sale of the weapons to the Gulf state, which might contradict a legal obligation of the US to ensure that Israel maintains a "qualitative military edge" over the rest of the regional powers.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the State Department has approved the sale of the advanced military equipment to the United Arab Emirates, which includes a batch of 50 F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jets. The State Department notified the Congress of the government's intent to sell over $23 billion worth of weapons to the Gulf state.

    "Today, I directed the [State] Department to formally notify Congress of our intent to authorize the UAE’s proposed purchase of several advanced capabilities that are worth $23.37 billion", Pompeo said.

    Secretary of State Pompeo clarified that the shipment of weapons comes as a token of the US' "recognition of [the] deepening relationship" with the UAE and of their need to acquire defence capabilities to "deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran".

    The cutting-edge fighter jets will cost the monarchy $10.4 billion. The batch of military equipment will also include 18 MQ-9B Reaper drones, as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions worth $10 billion.

    Possible Opposition to Weapons Sale

    While Mike Pompeo assured that the sale of cutting-edge weapons to the UAE does not disrupt the balance of power in the region, the US Congress might beg to differ. If American lawmakers find that the deal is in violation of Washington's pledge to maintain the "qualitative military edge" of Israel in the Middle East, they will have 30 days to thwart the sale. They will, however, require two-thirds of Congress to override a presidential veto to force the Trump administration to drop the deal.

    Israel is currently the only state in the region operating F-35 jets and has expressed its discontent over the prospect of the sale of the aircraft to Abu Dhabi despite recently establishing diplomatic relations with the Gulf monarchy. At the same time, Tel Aviv stopped short of attempting to somehow stop the deal. Several media outlets have alleged that the lack of opposition to the F-35 sale was linked to a purported secret provision in the agreement between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi establishing diplomatic ties, which was signed in September 2020. However, Israel has vehemently denied such allegations.


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