Trump administration’s proposed F-35 sale to UAE hits snag

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The Trump administration proposal to sell the F-35, the world’s most advanced and sophisticated stealth warplane to the United Arab Emirates, the UAE, is facing turbulence.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has raised concerns about the proposed sale and its impact on the security of U.S. technology and its impact on Israel’s defense.

“Any potential arms sales must continue congressional consultations on meeting our obligation to retain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and satisfying the other requirements of the Arms Export Control Act,” the senator recently told the committee.

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“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if Israel’s the only country in the Middle East that has F-35’s, that selling it to someone else no longer produces that qualitative military edge in the air,” said ranking member Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who was skeptical of the potential sale to the UAE and questioned whether it is even allowed under U.S. law.

The proposed sale is a result of the recent agreement in which the Gulf state and Bahrain, established diplomatic ties with Israel. That development has been hailed as a historic step for Middle East peace, but some fear that an unspoken part of the deal is providing the F-35 to the UAE, which has alarmed some because of Abu Dhabi’s close ties to the Chinese defense establishment and trade with Iran.

“Foreign military sales are a diplomatic tool used to advance our relationships, but they cannot come at the expense of our security,” says Joel Rubin, president of the Washington Strategy Group and former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration.

“When the U.S. engages in military sales with foreign governments, we do so with