A US State Department spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that the Biden cabinet would pause some US foreign arms sales for what it described as a "routine" review.
“The Department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending US defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review,” the official told Sputnik via email.
According to the official, the review is a “a routine administrative action typical to most any transition" that demonstrates “our strategic objectives of building stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partners".
It was not specified which deals would be put on pause, but the Bloomberg defense reporter said earlier in the day that contracts to sell F-35 Lockeed Martin jets to the UAE and weapons to Saudi Arabia were among them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the US particularly wants to ensure that American weapons are not used to "further the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen".
Later in the day, UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba outlined the importance of the deliveries of F-35 fighter jets amid the US plans to review arms sales.
“As in previous transitions, the UAE anticipated a review of current policies by the new administration. Specifically, the F-35 package is much more than selling military hardware to a partner. Like the US, it allows the UAE to maintain a strong deterrent to aggression. In parallel with new dialogue and security cooperation, it helps to reassure regional partners,” Al Otaiba said on late Wednesday, as quoted by the Embassy's Twitter page.
Earlier, Reuters reported that hours before Joe Biden's inauguration the United Arab Emirates had inked a deal with the US to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, after long expressing interest in obtaining American weapons before Washington promised Abu Dhabi to sell arms if the UAE normalized ties with Israel.
On 20 January, Biden was inaugurated as US president, successing Donald Trump. The new administration, according to State Secretary Anthony Blinken, is currently reviewing the latest actions by the Trump Cabinet, particularly its designation of Yemen’s Houthis as terrorist organisation and Russian actions regarding Navalny incident and SolarWinds security breach.
US Arms Sales to the UAE After Abraham Accords
After the so-called Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020, with Abu Dhabi normalizing relations with Tel Aviv, Israel has agreed to allow Washington to sell "certain weapons", given that Tel Aviv's "qualitative military edge" in the region is secured.
Before the normalization, Tel Aviv objected to the UAE purchasing weapons from the US.
"The prime minister and defense minister both agree that since the US is upgrading Israel's military capability and is maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE", the statement from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at the time, after Gantz and former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in October signed the agreement that removed Israel's objection to the transfer of weapons to the UAE.
While some US lawmakers criticised the UAE for participating in Yemen conflict and made congressional efforts to block Trump's move to sell arms to Abu Dhabi in December, former president's administration said at the time that the US military sales to the UAE were “enabling the UAE to deter" what the White House believed to be "increasing Iranian aggressive behavior and threats”.