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Pompeo says F-35 sale to UAE was ‘critical’ to the Abraham Accords

Former US secretary of state suggests Biden’s support for Israel during the recent Gaza war was hiding ‘an entirely different message’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, December 9, 2020. (John Bazemore/AP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, December 9, 2020. (John Bazemore/AP)

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has told an Israeli newspaper that the deal for the US to sell F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates was an integral part of last year’s Abraham Accords.

For months, Israeli, US and Emirati officials publicly denied that the arms deal was part of the negotiations that brought about the normalization deal between Israel and the UAE last year. But Trump officials acknowledged at the time that the agreement put Abu Dhabi in a better position to receive such advanced weaponry, and a source with direct knowledge of the talks told The Times of Israel that both the US and Israel knew that the arms deal was “very much part of the deal.”

“There was a series of actions that allowed the accords to advance and eventually be signed, including” the F-35 deal, Pompeo told Yedioth Ahronoth in an interview that will be published in full on Friday. “Also the [assassination] of [Iranian Gen.] Soleimani was deeply connected to the Abraham Accords,” he added in comments published in Hebrew. “It proved to the world that the United States is determined in its battle against Iran.”

Pompeo said the Trump administration’s decision to boost Saudi military capabilities, to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and to declare that Israeli settlements are not inconsistent with international law, “led world leaders to come to the conclusion that these people, us, the Trump administration, are serious and determined people.”

An F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, August 5, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/US Air Force via AP)

But those world leaders, he continued, “also needed other promises to know that we appreciate them as partners in defense of peace. The agreement to sell the F-35 was critical to that, because it proved that we have full faith in them as defense partners. Beyond the technology of the jet, beyond the capabilities it gives the Emiratis, the very sale says that Israelis and Americans believe that the Emirates can share their perception of security. And that is very, very important.”

The State Department notified Congress of the massive arms deal in November — less than two months after the UAE signed a White House-brokered normalization agreement with Israel. After taking office in January, the Biden administration put a temporary hold on several major foreign arms sales initiated by former US president Donald Trump, including the deal to provide 50 F-35 advanced fighter jets to the UAE. Then in April, the administration told Congress it would move ahead with the deal.

In the interview with Yedioth, Pompeo — who recently visited Israel to attend the retirement ceremony of Mossad chief Yossi Cohen — heavily criticized US President Joe Biden’s behavior during the recent 11-day military conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, May 13, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“Yes, Biden definitely came up with the right words,” Pompeo said. “But I think that most people who were watching understood that there was really an entirely different message,” he added, pointing to the fact that “at the moment that he uttered words of support for Israel, he released funds to the Palestinians.”

“At the exact moment that his mouth was talking, he removed the terror designation from the Houthis. At the exact moment he gave that speech, American officials sat in Vienna and spoke — albeit indirectly — with the Iranians, about several million dollars that they’re about to give the same assholes who fund Hamas.”

The Biden administration has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran about reversing Trump’s exit from the 2015 Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The discussions in Vienna, brokered by European diplomats, have been locked in dispute on which US sanctions on Iran to lift.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that “hundreds” of US sanctions will remain on Iran even if the United States rejoins the 2015 nuclear accord.

Pompeo, a former director of the CIA and former member of Congress, has been fueling speculation since he left office that he is positioning himself to run for president in 2024.

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