U.S. President Donald Trump has presided over the signing of so-called “normalization” deals between numerous Arab regimes and Israel. And now, the UAE wants to purchase F-35 fighter jets in return for the deal. Despite initially opposing the sale, the Israeli government later withdrew its objection. Yet, Tel Aviv is still working clandestinely to foil the planned sale with the support of the U.S. Congress, while Trump is working to carry out the transaction as soon as possible.
Pro-Israel senators are opposing the sale of the F-35s to the Emiratis under the pretext of protecting Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. While some Democrats, particularly those from the “Leftist” wing of the party, object to the sale on the grounds that the UAE will use American weapons against civilians in Yemen. Meanwhile, Trump is eager to close the deal before Biden moves into the White House under the pretext of the need to increase the UAE’s military power against Iran.
On November 30, the Trump administration gave a briefing to the relevant U.S. Congress committees in order to be able to move forward with the sale. According to information leaked to American media outlets, the senators were not satisfied with the justifications put forward by the Trump administration.
Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," said in a statement that he was concerned that the sale could undermine Israel's military superiority.
Many senators think it’s unwise to rush sales. In reality, under normal circumstances, such sales take years before they’re given the green light.
On November 18, Democratic Senators Robert Menendez and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Rand Paul submitted joint resolutions to block the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE. If these resolutions are not approved by December 11, Trump will be free to proceed with the sale.
Another reason some senators are trying to block the UAE’s purchase of U.S. weapons has to do with China.
The Trump administration has been implementing a tougher policy towards China in recent days. Trump's efforts are seen as attempts to influence Biden's China policy.
US National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe stated that China is the biggest threat to the U.S. since the Second World War.
In a Dec. 4 article penned for the Wall Street Journal, Radcliffe pointed that the "Intelligence information is loud and clear: Beijing aims to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, technologically and militarily."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a statement that visa restrictions would be imposed on members of China's unit that oversees influence operations.
The Pentagon also added four more Chinese companies to its "blacklist" for alleged ties to the Chinese army. This shows that the foundation is being laid for a legal cover to impose sanctions on these companies.
The increasing cooperation between the UAE and China has not escaped the attention of anti-Beijing politicians. A report published by the Pentagon about the military activities of units in Africa said that mercenaries from the Russian “Wagner” security group, which are fighting alongside warlord Khalifa Haftar were financed by the UAE, and thus these anti-China politicians in the U.S. want to use this report as a pretext to halt arms sales to the UAE.
The UAE celebrated its founding day on Dec. 2. A column penned by the UAE’s Ambassador to Beijing Ali Obeid al-Zahiri for a Chinese news website on this occasion was not warmly received in Washington. In his column, Zahiri stated that the relationship between China and the Emirates is a comprehensive strategic partnership. Noting that the relationship with China continues within the scope of China's "One Belt One Road" project, it was remarkable that Zahiri said their ties are experiencing a "golden age".
Zhao Lijian from the Chinese Foreign Ministry addressed the article in a tweet that read: “We can’t wait to deepen our Belt and Road cooperation with the UAE.” This message caused a great deal of discomfort among American anti-China politicians. Several articles published on U.S. media websites pointed to the fact that the UAE has to make a choice between the U.S. and China. The closing sentence of a Dec. 4 “Washington Examiner” news article penned by Tom Rogan was the following: “The UAE deserves Washington's offer of a simple choice: the F-35 or the China strategic partnership. It cannot have both.”