The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has hung on a multi-billion-dollar deal to purchase US-made F-35 fighter jets, as a sign of Abu Dhabi’s increasing frustration with the attempts of Washington to limit Chinese technology sales to the oil-rich Gulf state.
“The UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35,” an Emirati official stated to CNN. “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis led to the re-assessment.”
“The UAE and US were working toward an understanding that would address mutual defense security conditions for the acquisition,” the official further added. “The US remains the UAE’s preferred provider for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F-35 may be re-opened in the future.”
The US State Department stated that the White House stayed “committed” to the deal, which was viewed as a foundation of an August 2020 agreement to settle diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel. The sale that would involve the most advanced weaponry of the US ever transferred to a state of Arab that has been on a collision course since then, with US politicians increasing concerns about the deal.
On Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby even stated that the US was ready to work with the UAE to address both the nation’s concerns. “The US partnership with the UAE is more strategic and more complex than anyone weapons sale,” Kirby stated at a press gaggle. “We will always insist, as a matter of statutory requirements and policy, on a variety of end-user requirements. That’s typical.”
“And these end-user requirements and protection of US defense equipment are universal, non-negotiable, and not specific to the UAE,” he further added.
“As we recently confirmed at the Dubai Air Show, the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to the proposed sales of F-35 aircraft, the MQ-9B, and munitions even as we continue consultations to ensure that we have a clear, mutual understanding of Emirati obligations and actions before, during and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson stated.
The US government has been going on pushing the UAE to drop China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from its telecommunications network and stated that the technology could pose a risk of security for its weapons systems.
“The F-35 is our crown jewel of the United States, of our air force and so we need to be able to protect the technology security for all of our partners,” Mira Resnick who is the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security stated CNN’s Becky Anderson previous week, replying to a question about whether the UAE could have to choose between Huawei and the F-35s.
“These are the conversations we have with the Emiratis about the choices they can make now to be sure they can be part of the F-35 program,” Resnick further added.
But UAE officials have been skeptical about the claims of the US about the potential security breach and have shown anxiety about getting caught up in a “new cold war” between a top trading partner and its actual strategy. “What we are worried about is this fine line between acute competition (between China and the US) and a new Cold War,” Anwar Gargash who is a diplomatic adviser to the UAE leadership, stated in remarks to the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington previous week. “Because I think we, as a small state, will be affected negatively by this, but will not have the ability in any way to affect this competition even positively really.”
“But our position remains the same. That these facilities were not really military facilities,” he further added. “But then again, you had the concerns of your major ally, and I think it would be foolish for you not to address the concerns of your ally.”
A military delegation from the UAE is yet to visit the Pentagon tomorrow, according to Kirby who is the Pentagon press secretary. Though the meeting was not supposed to be about the sale of F-35s, it will almost certainly come up, he stated.
“The meeting wasn’t designed to talk about a military sale,” he said. “It was designed to talk about the broad scope of our defense relationship with the UAE. But I would anticipate that this would be something that we would take advantage of the opportunity to talk with them about their concerns, as well as sharing our concerns about the sale.”