The Trump administration has accelerated a push to sell the F-35 stealth fighter and advanced armed drones to the United Arab Emirates, American officials familiar with the discussions told The New York Times on Wednesday.
Administration officials in recent weeks gave a classified briefing about the F-35 to the Emirati military despite some concerns among National Security Council staff about the wisdom of disclosing details on one of the Pentagon’s most advanced weapons to a foreign government before a decision about a potential arms sale has been completed, according to the report.
American officials deny that the new push to sell the advanced weapons is a direct reward for the Emirati role in the diplomatic breakthrough, announced by President Donald Trump last week, where the Emirates would become just the third Arab nation to recognize Israel.
However, officials do not dispute that the new momentum on the arms sale — after years of stalled requests by the Emirates to buy the fighter jet — is linked to the broader diplomatic initiative.
Such a move is likely to face strong objections from some parts of the government in Israel, which has the jet and has been wary of the United States selling the aircraft to other nations in the region.
Without the support of the Israeli government, it is unlikely Congress would support the sale, noted The New York Times.
Reports earlier this week claimed that the recently-announced peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel includes a provision for the arming of the UAE with advanced American weapons.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied the reports, saying, “The historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates did not include Israel's consent to any arms deal whatsoever between the United States and the UAE.”
On Wednesday, President Trump said during a White House news conference that the UAE was interested in buying F-35 jets.
“They have the money and they would like to order quite a few F-35s,” he added.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on The New York Times report. Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington.