The White House has temporarily suspended arms deals negotiated by the Trump administration with several countries in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The announcement comes just a day after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was confirmed by the Senate and touted as a “routine administrative action” as the new administration takes on new positions.
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“The department is temporarily suspending some upcoming U.S. defense transfers and sales as part of foreign military sales and direct trade sales to allow incoming management to review,”
“This is a routine administrative action, typical of most transitions, and demonstrates the administration’s commitment to transparency and good governance, as well as ensuring that arms sales in the United States meet our strategic goals of building stronger, more interoperable and more capable security partners “, a spokesman added.
The State Department has not confirmed which countries will freeze arms deals, but a report by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday noted that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to be among the countries affected.
The United States and the United Arab Emirates struck a $ 23 billion deal late last year that will provide the Middle East with 50 F-35s and 18 armed drones, along with other security equipment.
The agreement followed the normalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE in August – although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially called the reports on the arms deal “fake news”.
“The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clauses on the issue, and the United States has made it clear to Israel that it will always protect Israel’s qualitative advantage,” Netanyahu said in August.
But UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otayba confirmed the planned tweet sale on Wednesday, noting that the arms deal helps the United States maintain regional stability.
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“As in previous transitions, the UAE expected a review of current policies from the new administration,” the ambassador said. “In particular, the F-35 package is much more than selling military equipment to a partner.”
“It also enables the UAE to bear most of the regional burden of collective security, freeing up US assets for other global challenges, a long-standing US bipartisan priority,” he continued.
Blinken also said the weapons review was a matter of procedure at a briefing on Wednesday.
“Generally speaking, when it comes to arms sales, it is typical at the beginning of the administration to review all upcoming sales to make sure that what is being considered is something that is advancing in our strategic goals and progressing in our foreign policy, so that’s what we’re doing at the moment, “he said.
Senate Democrats have tried to block the UAE’s arms deal, citing concerns about the Arab nation’s involvement in Yemen – the arena of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since years of civil war.
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The Senate chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, of California, said he welcomed the decision to freeze arms sales, saying the agreement was “inexplicably hasty without a thorough review of the implications for U.S. national security and the innocent live in Yemen. “
“I encourage the Biden administration to carefully consider the broader regional implications for the security of these sales and to consult with Congress as it continues its mandatory study of these and other arms sales,” Menendez tweeted Wednesday.
Rich Edison contributed to this report.