Trump says he has 'no problem' selling UAE advanced F-35 planes

UAE is eyeing stealth fighter jet as a component to make the small, wealthy country into a regional military power

AFP/Reuters September 15, 2020
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: FILE


US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would have "no problem" selling advanced F-35 warplanes to the United Arab Emirates, despite objections from close ally Israel.

"I personally would have no problem with it," he said on Fox News. "I would have no problem in selling them the F-35."

Trump, who will oversee the signing of a deal normaliaing relations between Israel and the UAE later Tuesday, said the sale would mean "tremendous jobs at home."

The UAE is eyeing the stealth fighter jet as a component in its ambitious plans to make the small, wealthy country into a regional military power. Israel -- currently the only country in the region to possess the US warplanes -- has pushed back, insisting on retaining its overwhelming technical advantage against its Arab neighbors.

Analysts say that the UAE has used its demand for F-35s as a bargaining chip in agreeing to sign up to the Trump-brokered peace accords being signed at the White House that also include Bahrain.

Trump "understands Israel's security probably more than any American president in decades," the president's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner said last week.

"But the United Arab Emirates is a great military, you know, partner of America. We work together on a lot of things. They’re right on the border with Iran and have real threats. And I think that there's a lot of opportunity to be gained by working on this," he said.

UAE to modernise its military

The United Arab Emirates wants to modernise its military and a request for US F-35 warplanes has been on the table since before a normalisation deal with Israel, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Tuesday.

The agreement, known as the Abraham Accord, should dispel “any grain of doubt” on why the Gulf state should get stealth F-35 fighter jets from the United States, Gargash told reporters.

“The UAE seeks like any country that takes its military seriously, to modernise its military, always, so our request for the F-35 and other systems pre-dates this agreement,” he said.

The UAE’s existing F-16 jets are now almost two decades old and it is time to renew them, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government would oppose any US F-35 warplane sales to the UAE, despite forging relations with the Gulf power.

The UAE and Gulf neighbour Bahrain are set to sign normalisation accords with Israel at a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

Gargash said the country’s decision to normalise ties broke a “psychological barrier” and is the way forward for the region, giving it more leverage.



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