WASHINGTON – An effort to block $ 23 billion in U.S. sales of stealth fighter jets and advanced and armed drones to the United Arab Emirates failed in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, with a pair of resolutions missing by a majority despite concerns about the sale of Israel defenders, human rights groups and lawmakers from both sides.
Both resolutions – one focused on F-35 planes and the other on Reaper drones – were narrowly short of a majority. The resolution opposing the F-35s failed by 47 votes to 49. The resolution on drones failed 46-50, with the two Arizona Democrats Krysten Sinema and Mark Kelly voting against, assuring that the resolution would fail in a Senate tightly divided.
Yet President Donald Trump had previously indicated he plans to veto resolutions, raising the bar for opponents of the arms sale, who would have needed a veto-proof majority to overcome the Trump’s veto.
Still, the votes come as President Trump faces the likelihood that his veto will be overturned for the first time in his presidency on another national security issue, after the House passed the annual Permission Act. defense with veto-proof veto margins despite the threat from Trump. to nix the bill if it reached his desk.
Wednesday’s votes on the UAE deal came shortly before a 30-day window closed on Friday for Congress to step in to block the sale. By law, administration-authorized foreign military sales can continue unless Congress acts to block it within 30 days of official notification of the proposed sale.
Wednesday’s measures met opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Who on Tuesday in the Senate called the moment “baffling” and added: Strategic realities dictate that Congress should not stand in the way of this sale.
On Wednesday, the White House made it clear it would be prepared to veto the resolution if it reached the president’s office. The White House Office of Management and Budget said the administration “strongly opposes” the resolutions and asserted that arms sales “directly support states’ foreign policy and national security objectives. United”.
The Trump administration has prepared for the sale of no less than 50 F-35s, up to 18 Reaper drones and ammunition to the UAE on the bipartisan opposition in Congress, as Trump’s term draws to a close.
“We are continuing to work with the UAE on letters of offer and acceptance which, if concluded, would finalize any deal,” Deputy Secretary for Politico-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper said on Tuesday.
The State Department has said that the sale of arms to the UAE and others in the region will help Gulf allies defend themselves against Iran and strengthen Israel’s security. Critics say it will start an arms race with Tehran. The proposed deal followed shortly after Abu Dhabi officially recognized Israel as a state.
In August, even as Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a landmark peace deal brokered by the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly stated that he had opposed the sale of F-35s to the United States. United Arab Emirates, which could weaken its country’s “qualitative military advantage” over its neighbors that the United States has long been committed to preserving. Netanyahu said at the time that the F-35s were not part of the peace deal.
But the Israeli government has since lifted its opposition, and in a joint interview with the Emirati Ambassador this week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer downplayed the issue.
“What keeps me awake at night is actually not the proposed sale of the F-35 to the Emirates,” Dermer said. He added, in a reference to the new Biden administration: “What keeps me awake at night is the idea that someone is going back to the nuclear deal with Iran. “
International human rights groups also called for a halt to the sale, highlighting the UAE’s record in targeting and killing civilians in Yemen, selling American weapons to extremists and even violating it. ‘an international arms embargo in Libya.
“These American drones could be responsible for attacks by the UAE which violate international humanitarian law and kill, as well as injure, thousands of Yemeni civilians who are already bearing the brunt of one of the most devastating humanitarian disasters in the world,” Philippe Nassif, director of advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, warned.
A key question for lawmakers was whether the United Arab Emirates could be trusted to protect the F-35’s coveted stealth technology and prevent it from falling into the hands of adversaries, said Brad Bowman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“Are we convinced that the technology associated with the F-35, which is the most advanced in the world, will be sufficiently protected? Would the UAE do what is necessary to protect the technology to ensure that it does not leak to others, mainly Russians and Chinese? Said Bowman, a former GOP adviser to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Cooper said the effect of the sale on the humanitarian crisis in the region was an ongoing consideration, but noted that the UAE “has proven itself time and time again” as a “partner we can count on.”
“The United States definitely takes these obligations seriously. We engage with all of our allies and partners when and where reports of unauthorized use, applications or transfers are suspected to occur, ”Cooper said. “We are committed to protecting civilians.”
“Ask yourself if what is missing in the Middle East today are armed Reaper drones that can fire Hellfire missiles without risking loss of life to the operator of this drone?” Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., One of many senators who have proposed resolutions to disapprove the sale, said in an interview last week.