Why Joe Biden Could Cancel The Sale Of Stealth F-35 Fighter Jets To The UAE, If Elected To Power?

Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden’s top aide has hinted at the cancellation of the F-35 fighter jet sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) if Biden wins the 2020 election. The deal has already received a green signal from the Trump administration.

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Tony Blinken, Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, deputy NSA to the president and deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, revealed that Trump’s commitment to sell the F-35s to UAE could be a “quid pro quo” of the peace deal signed between Israel and UAE.

“The Obama-Biden administration made those planes available to Israel and only Israel in the region,” Blinken said in an interview with The Times Of Israel. 

He added that in order to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge as current US law requires, the Biden administration would have to “take a hard look” at the F-35 sale, that still needs approval from the Congress. “Whether it was actually a quid pro quo or not, it sure looks like one.”

After the UAE and Israel signed the historic peace accord brokered by the US, it opened the doors for the UAE to acquire the latest, state-of-art weaponry from the US without Israeli objection. 

Blinken acknowledged Trump’s administration’s success in pushing the UAE, along with Bahrain and Sudan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

“Symbolism matters and some of the additional practical things that flow from [these agreements] matter, including more people-to-people ties, more trade, and investment, etc,” he said.

“As a basic principle, encouraging Arab countries to recognize and normalize with Israel is something we supported during the Obama-Biden administration and would support in a Biden-[Harris] administration,” Blinken added.

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The US has usually refrained from selling weapons to Arab countries to maintain Israel’s superiority in the region. Hence, Israel possesses the advanced F-35s whereas, Washington has not sold it to any country in the Middle East before. The agreement with Israel states that any arms sale in the Middle East region should not undermine Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”

However, Reuters reported that the US and UAE are hoping to reach an initial agreement on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets before December 2, which is celebrated as UAE’s National Day.

Last week, the US State Department approved a $10.4 billion arms package including 50 Lockheed F-35 Lightning II jets as well as MQ-9 Reaper drones to the UAE and sent it to Congress for approval. 

As reported by EurAsian Times in August, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu denied that he has agreed to reports of the US selling its F-35 jets to the UAE.

“From the start, the prime minister objected to the sale of F-35 jets and other advanced weapons to any countries in the Middle East, including Arab countries that make peace with Israel,” Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, adding that the pact doesn’t include any agreement for the reported multi-billion deal to go ahead.

“The prime minister voiced that consistent stance time and again before the American administration, and it hasn’t changed,” the statement said. 

However, last week, Haaretz reported that Jesruslam has requested American officials to sell the F-22 fighter jets to the Israeli Air Force in order to maintain its air superiority following the agreement of the US to sell the F-35s to the UAE.    

A joint statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister, Benjamin Gantz said that Israel wouldn’t oppose the F-35 sale to UAE as Washington has promised to upgrade Israel’s military edge in the Middle East.

“After careful examination of the issue by officials and experts in the Defense Ministry, it was decided that Israel does not oppose supplying certain weapon systems to the UAE, so long as it is anchored in an agreement with the United States which upgrades Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and guarantees it’s superiority in the Middle East for the coming decades,” said the statement.

Analysts have speculated Biden has a softer stance on Israel as compared to the Obama administration. Blinken also emphasized that Biden has “demonstrated in word and also in deed an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”