US CONFIRMS MILITARY SALES TO THE UAE

US CONFIRMS MILITARY SALES TO THE UAE

President Biden has given approval for a major military sale to the UAE to proceed, after a January decision to review the sale.  The $23.37 billion package includes not only 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft but also 18 MQ-9B ‘Sky Guardian’ Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) and air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.  Estimated delivery dates for the contract suggest that the first equipment will be with the UAE military in 2025.

The details of the US review of this important defence sale to the UAE have not been made public but it is noteworthy that President Biden had threatened to cancel his predecessor’s agreements with any country that was found to be in breach of its international human rights obligations.  Accordingly, President Biden’s decision to approve this contract with the UAE will be seen as a significant moment for both US-Gulf relations and also for relations with the EU.  

It seems probable that the UAE’s military withdrawal from Yemen and last month’s peace initiative by Saudi Arabia will be seen as helpful in persuading Biden that there will be no risk that these new military capabilities will deployed in that conflict.  It has also become evident that President Biden remains concerned by the threat posed by Iran, not just through its nuclear ambitions but also through its persistent meddling across the region, notwithstanding his enthusiasm to restore the 2015 nuclear accord – the JCPOA.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr Biden’s approval of the F-35 agreement will be seen as a clear signal of the continuing importance of the Gulf for the US.  As the strategic struggle between the US and China continues to develop, it seems that the Biden administration has concluded that it is important to keep its Gulf allies on side.