The arms sale, which includes F-35s, flows from the UAE’s agreement to normalise relations with Israel.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi on Saturday to discuss a planned multibillion-dollar arms deal between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the Gulf nation’s newly normalised relations with Israel.
In a statement this week, the US State Department said Pompeo would meet Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, often considered the country’s de facto ruler, to discuss the UAE-Israel deal “and other issues of bilateral concern including security cooperation and countering Iran’s malign influence in the region”.
Pompeo, who has refused to acknowledge US President Donald Trump’s election loss, has been on a foreign tour that has so far taken him to France, Turkey, Georgia and Israel – countries whose leaders have all congratulated President-elect Joe Biden for his victory.
“During the Trump administration, the United States and the United Arab Emirates relationship has grown deeper and broader than at any point before,” Pompeo said in the statement.
But the Trump administration’s plan to sell $23.3bn in weapons to Abu Dhabi, including F-35 aircraft and unmanned aerial systems, has drawn the ire of legislators in Washington, DC, who are trying to stop the transfer.
The arms sale comes after the UAE agreed to normalise relations with Israel in a deal that was brokered ahead of the US elections.
The UAE is one of three Arab nations to do so in the past few months, with Bahrain and Sudan also announcing deals with Israel at the behest of the Trump administration.
Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Bob Menendez and Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, have criticised the arms sale to the Emirati government and put forward four bipartisan joint resolutions seeking to stop the deal.
The senators say they fear the Gulf nation will use the arms in violations of international law.
The UAE is our ally, but there is no escaping that the Emiratis have a history of transferring U.S. arms to extremist militias, and have violated international law in Libya and Yemen. At the very least, we should not rush this sale through in a lame duck session. https://t.co/JYW8RXQ66G
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) November 19, 2020
“The Emiratis are an important security partner, but their recent behavior indicates that these weapons may be used in violation of US and international law,” Murphy said in a statement.
“A sale this large and this consequential should not happen in the waning days of a lame duck presidency, and Congress must take steps to stop this dangerous transfer of weapons.”
But the UAE remains one of the US’s strongest allies in the Middle East, alongside Israel and Saudi Arabia, as it seeks to heap pressure on Iran.
The Trump administration has tried to score political points domestically by brokering normalisation deals between Arab countries and Israel.
Those deals have been rejected by Palestinian leaders as an affront to their rights and as cementing Israel’s control over the occupied territories.