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UAE confirms it signed deal to buy F-35 jets from US on last day of Trump’s term

United Arab Emirates’ Washington embassy says it finalized $23 billion weapons agreement; Biden administration can now review its terms

Two US F-35 Lightning II’s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwestern United States, September 19, 2019. (US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)
Two US F-35 Lightning II’s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwestern United States, September 19, 2019. (US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)

The United Arab Emirates confirmed on Thursday that it had inked agreements to buy up to 50 F-35 jets and other weapons from the US on former president Donald Trump’s last full day in office.

The UAE embassy in Washington said it had finalized the deal on Tuesday in a statement posted to its website. It said the letters of agreement signed with the US confirmed the terms of the agreement, including costs, technical specifications and expected delivery schedules.

The embassy said the total value of the contracts was approximately $23 billion. That included the jets, valued at $10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B Reaper drones valued at $2.97 billion and other munitions valued at $10 billion.

“The UAE is committed to de-escalation and a new regional dialogue. This latest defense package confirms the UAE-US partnership by enhancing military interoperability to counter evolving regional threats,” the embassy statement said.

The Reuters news agency first reported the signing of the agreements on Wednesday.

The Biden administration has said it will look at the agreements and can now review the deal.

A US military MQ-9B Reaper drone at a US Army testing site, Yuma, Arizona, November 7, 2019. (US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Colton Brownlee)

Some Democrats in Congress had sought last month to thwart what has been widely viewed as a side-agreement to the Israeli-UAE normalization deal brokered by the US. However, opponents failed to gain enough support on the Hill and the deal moved forward.

Shortly after the announcement of Abu Dhabi’s decision to normalize ties with Israel, reports emerged that in light of the agreement, the United States had agreed to sell the fifth-generation fighter jet to the UAE, after years of denying requests to do so, largely over concerns that such a sale would negatively affect Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region, which Washington is legally bound to maintain.

Israel has officially said it has no connections to the UAE getting the stealth fighters after the US promised to supply Jerusalem with even more advanced equipment. However, several Israeli military officials have expressed unease over the deal.

Because the transfer of such weapons takes years to come about, an incoming Biden administration could also block the deal, but there’s little precedent for a president to scrap such agreements made by a predecessor.

Some Democrats have also grown uncomfortable with the idea of selling such advanced weaponry to the UAE, which has been heavily criticized for its role in the Saudi Arabia-lead offensive in Yemen.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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