US officials have “leaked” information about a possible future UAE arms deal that includes the F-35 fighter jet.
Rabat – US officials have leaked news about a possible arms deal with the UAE which would see the sale of its latest and most cherished piece of military hardware, the F-35.
The feted deal, though, appears to simply be a nominal gesture towards the UAE. After the Emiratis signed a peace agreement with Israel, they saw no reason for the US to not sell its jets, each worth $80-100 million.
But the Trump administration is well aware that any arms sale with the UAE would have to be approved by congress, and that it would take years before the UAE would even receive their first F-35. The UAE has been eager to purchase the advanced F-35 stealth fighter for years, but it is likely the military technology is just being used to play geopolitical games.
The leak could be part of generating another “good news story” for Trump who has been eager to pepper the news with victories for his administration. Arms deals are often presented as job-creating ventures by US politicians and media and it appears that the deal has had its desired effects.
Trump’s approval numbers have been going up over the last weeks, slightly boosting Trump’s reelection chances despite his administration’s COVID-19 debacle. As the US election gets down to the wire, however, any political maneuvering, especially one widely telegraphed, should be circumspect.
It is possible that the announcement is part of a US foreign policy to show other Arab nations the “benefits” of normalizing relations with Israel. Nominally granting the UAE the f-35, the US’ most advanced US fighter jet, could be used to push others to also adopt similar agreements.
Saudi Arabia, one of the US arms industry’s top customers, could be the principal target of the leaked news. By presenting normalization with Israel as a key factor in determining who gets the F-35, the story could be aimed at pushing the Saudis and other Arab allies of Palestine to reconsider their positions.
US officials could also have leaked the news to pressure Turkey, perhaps the UAE’s greatest geopolitical foe, back to the negotiating table. Turkey has been blocked from the F-35, which it helped finance, because of its interest in using the Russian S-400 system. The US sees the S-400 system as a major threat to the F-35.
Offering the F-35 to one of Turkey’s regional enemies could pressure Erdogan to renegotiate after months of failed initiatives to draw Turkey back into the fold of NATO and the US. Should this be the case, the move would come in tandem with last week’s report of a two-year freeze on arms sales to Turkey, a key NATO ally of the US. .
Whatever the motivation for the announced arms deal, it is very unlikely to happen. The US guarantees Israeli military supremacy in the region which this sale would undermine. Israel would be able to use its powerful lobby in Washington to simply pressure lawmakers to vote against approval of the arms deal.
There are also strategic reasons not to sell the F-35 to the UAE. The Emiratis’ proximity to Iran, which could soon purchase Russia’s S-400 when its UN arms embargo ends in October. The US is currently trying to manipulate UN processes to prevent this at all cost. If Iran does install the S-400 system, it could pose a major threat to the F-35’s stealth capabilities in the future.
With all these obstacles to overcome before the UAE would see a F-35 delivered, it is very likely the announcement was meant to influence other nations. More to the point, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already stated that Israel would not “permit” the Emiratis to ever buy the F-35, even as the UAE is now nominally a partner of Israel.