The US State Department has reportedly notified Congress of plans to sell more than a dozen state-of-the-art armed MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicles to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), less than two months after the Persian Gulf country signed a US-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency that President Donald Trump’s administration had informally sent a required notification on the sale of 18 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to the UAE, in a deal worth as much as $2.9 billion.
The US State Department may wait to formally notify Congress once staff and members are briefed on the potential sale, one of the sources said.
The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales.
The package notified to Congress is for 15 with an option for three additional drones, one of the sources pointed out.
The UAE is also seeking a package of Boeing EA-18G Growlers. The carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft is a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole combat jet, and capable of jamming radar and other advanced capabilities.
Back on October 29, Trump’s administration notified Congress of its intent to sell 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE, in a sale that could amount to $10 billion.
For decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales due to its Israel policy to ensure Tel Aviv’s alleged qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East. This had applied to the F-35, denied to Arab states, while Israel has bought and deployed it.
Moreover, Israel itself seeks to have a share in the lucrative arms market of Persian Gulf kingdoms, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE who spend lavishly on high-tech weapons.
In a joint statement issued by the White House on August 13, Israel and the UAE announced that they had “agreed to the full normalization of relations.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed US-brokered normalization deals with the Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani during a September 15 ceremony at the White House.
The normalization deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. They say the deals ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.