US President Donald Trump’s decision to supply the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Lockheed Martin developed F-35 ”stealth jets’ has come under scrutiny which may halt the fast-moving deal.
The top member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez and Senate Armed Services Committee’s senior-most member, Jack Reed, has raised “numerous questions” on the deal, in a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reported Defence News.
According to the report, the letter raised several pressing questions including the security of American soldiers that might be comprised as Abu Dhabi has security ties with American adversaries – Russia and China.
“How would the administration ensure the F-35′s sensitive technology isn’t threatened by the UAE’s ties to China (which sold it Wing Loong drones) and Russia (which is selling it the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, the Pantsir S-1 missile defence system and the Kornet-E anti-tank missile system)?
Has the UAE agreed to terminate cooperation and purchases with Russia and China in exchange for the F-35?,” stated the letter further warning that “US national security and the safety of American troops could be seriously compromised by this sale.”
Earlier, 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.
Questioning the “breakneck speed” of the deal, the two senators accused Trump of tying the deal to the “political calendar” rather than “a sober deliberation about regional security.”
It is “an extremely accelerated schedule, for interagency review, consultation with Congress, and preparation for [finalizing the deal] ― a process that can take months, if not longer,” the Defence News said quoting the letter by the duo.
“It has traditionally taken months for a complete and comprehensive interagency review of a proposed sale of this importance and sensitivity.”
Another hurdle that the deal may face is the agreement with Israel that states that any arms sale in the Middle East region should not undermine Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”
“I would have no problem in selling them the F-35, I would have absolutely no problem,” Trump told Fox News. “They’re very wealthy countries for the most part, like the UAE, and they would like to buy the fighter jets, and I personally would have no problem with it,” Trump said.
He further added that he is willing to sell the same weapons to other Middle Eastern nations that he sold to Israel.
The F-35 Joint Strike Program has eight international program partners — the US, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada.
“Have you, or will you consult with our partners about these risks and their views of this potential sale to the UAE concluding the sale?” the two senators asked.
However, as earlier reported, the Emirati minister has asked Israel to ‘remove hurdles’ for the country to procure these stealth fighters from the US.
Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East to operate the F-35s and the only nation globally to have first used it in combat.“We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them … The whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists,” he said in a virtual interview.