The State Department is pausing some U.S. weapons sales inked during the Trump administration so the deals can be reviewed by President Joe Biden’s incoming team, including a contentious sale of F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates.
The move follows consternation on Capitol Hill over former President Donald Trump’s arms deals with Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE fighter sale. It also comes as some top Democrats on Capitol Hill push for the Biden administration to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the pause of the sale Wednesday. The new top diplomat said the administration supports pacts between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries struck under the Trump administration — such as the Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and the UAE — but added weapons sales that accompanied the agreement would be reviewed.
Blinken characterized the review as routine.
“We think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbor and other countries in the region is a very positive development,” Blinken told reporters. “We’re also trying to make sure that we have a full understanding of any commitments that may have been made in securing those agreements, and that’s something that we’re looking at right now.
“Generally speaking, when it comes to arms sales, it is typical at the start of an administration to review any pending sales to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy,” he added.
UAE responds: The review of the F-35 sale by the Biden administration was expected, argued Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. But he contended the package amounts to “much more then selling military hardware to a partner.”