Joe Biden freezes billions of dollars of arms sales to the Middle East

Joe Biden freezes billions of dollars of arms sales to the Middle East including F-35s to the UAE and smart bombs for Saudi Arabia

  • State Department says deal for 50 F-35s for the United Arab Emirates is frozen while it is reviewed along with munitions deal for Saudi Arabia
  • Trump administration rushed through last-minute deals at end of his presidency
  • F-35s were part of side deal when UAE recognized Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, giving its military world’s most advanced fighter/bombers
  • New Secretary of State Antony Blinken  said he wanted ‘full understanding’ of commitments which led to deals  

President Joe Biden’s administration has temporarily paused some pending arms sales to U.S. allies in order to review them, a U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday.

Reviews of this sort are typical for a new administration, but Donald Trump’s administration was doing deals down to the wire, including one for 50 stealthy F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin as a side deal to the Abraham accords inked only moments before Biden was sworn into office.

The Department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review, the official said.

The F-35 jets are a major component of a $23 billion sale of high-tech armaments from General Atomics, Lockheed and Raytheon Technologies Corp to the United Arab Emirates.

On hold: 50 F-35s like these had been sold to the United Arab Emirates but that deal will now be reviewed

Deal: Saudi’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s purchase of 7,500 smart bombs is on hold as Joe Biden’s administration examine it

Saudi Arabia signed a deal for 7,500 precision-guided bombs with Raytheon, 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at his first State Department briefing, expressed support for the Abraham Accords granting recognition to Israel from several countries.

‘As we’ve said, we very much support the Abraham accords,’ he said. ‘We think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbors and other countries in the region is a very positive development and so we applaud them. And we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on them in the months and years ahead,’ he said.

But he said he wanted a ‘full understanding’ of any commitments that may have been made, when asked about F-35 jet sales to the United Arab Emirates and arms to Saudi Arabia.  

On a post-earnings conference call with investors on Tuesday, Raytheon’s management said ‘with the change in administration, it becomes less likely that we’re going to be able to get a license’ for a direct commercial sale of offensive weapons worth about $500 million to a Middle East customer. Raytheon did not give the name of the customer.

‘The UAE will work closely with the Biden administration on a comprehensive approach to Middle East peace and stability,’ the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said in a statement posted on the Embassy Twitter account.

‘The F-35 package is much more then selling military hardware to a partner, Like the US, it allows the UAE to maintain a strong deterrent to aggression. 

‘In parallel with new dialogue and security cooperation, it helps to reassure regional partners’ Al Otaiba said.

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