United Arab Emirates threatens to withdraw US$23 billion F-35, Drone deal with US

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates is threatening to withdraw from a transaction worth billions of dollars to buy US-made F-35s, Reaper drones and other advanced weapons, US officials say, it will be a significant shake-up between the two longtime allies. increasingly conflicted about China’s role in the Gulf.

The Emirati government has told US officials it intends to cancel the deal because Abu Dhabi considers the security requirements put in place by the US to protect high-tech weapons from espionage, officials said. China is too hard.

It is unclear whether the $23 billion arms deal, signed in the final days of the Trump administration, is dead or whether the Emirati threat is a negotiated move ahead of the visit. on Wednesday of a high-ranking UAE military delegation to the Pentagon for two days of talks.

“The UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to purchase the F-35,” a UAE official said in a statement. “Technical requirements, sovereign operating limitations, and cost/benefit analysis led to the reassessment.”

The US, the UAE official said, “remains the UAE’s preferred supplier for advanced defense requirements and discussions about the F-35 could be reopened in the future.”

American officials said the threat letter was written by a relatively low-ranking official in the government, suggesting defeat was a negotiating tactic during the meeting. Other officials said that while the US has legitimate security concerns, there has been a scramble to salvage an arms sale to a Gulf ally.

US officials acknowledged receiving the letter and the Emirati concerns. However, the US is increasingly challenged by Chinese influence inside the UAE and has put in place conditions to ensure that its fifth-generation jet fighters and advanced drones will not be easily disrupted. Chinese spies attack.

“We remain committed to these sales and the Emirate has raised some concerns,” a US official said. “Honestly, we have some questions of our own. This reciprocity is not unusual given significant arms sales and we hope to be able to resolve these issues and we think that joint military dialogue will give us the opportunity to do so. association to do it. ”

The Biden administration has waged a vigorous campaign to convince allies to be wary of drawing closer to China on security matters. Countries like the UAE that have deep economic ties to China are also expanding their security ties, and US officials increasingly believe that the Chinese government poses a threat to US national security by their activities in those countries.

The demise of the deal will boost perception in the Middle East and elsewhere that America’s decades-old role as the security supplier of choice in the region is dwindling. Top Saudi officials have expressed alarm over a series of events in recent years, including the Obama administration’s secret nuclear negotiations with Iran, and the failure of the United States to respond to an attack. into Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. of Yemeni rebels backed by Iran, and America’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

The threat to cancel the contract comes less than two weeks after the Emirati government signed an agreement with France purchased 80 Rafale jet fighters and dozens of military helicopters. The nearly $20 billion deal with the French government suggests the Emirate is looking elsewhere for security partners.

Relations between the UAE and the US broke down this spring when US intelligence agencies learned that China has secretly built People familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Senior officials from the United Kingdom say they do not think the site China is building is a military facility. But it was closed after several meetings and visits by US officials, people familiar with the matter said.

The United States has long been concerned about Abu Dhabi’s entanglement with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, which provides the country’s communications infrastructure. US officials and members of Congress see Huawei as a national security threat, concerned that the Chinese government could use the private company’s equipment, embedded in telecommunications networks around the world. worldwide, to spy on or disrupt communications. The company and the Chinese government have denied such allegations.

Arms Deal, Completed for Former President

Donald Trump‘S

last day at the office, worth an estimated $23 billion, and includes 50 F-35A fighters worth $10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B drones worth nearly $3 billion, and other bombs and ammunition worth $10 billion, according to a statement by the UAE embassy in Washington.

During his first week in office, Biden decided to re-examine the sale and freeze some arms sales to another key Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia. The administration has decided to proceed with the proposed sale, subject to continued negotiations over the assurances Washington seeks regarding the use of the weapons. The F-35 jet fighters will not be delivered until 2027.

U.S. and UAE officials have never publicly disclosed the terms and conditions of each sale. Officials said Washington wants assurances that the latest US defense technology will not be shared with third countries and a ban on its use in conflicts including Libya and Yemen, where Emirate forces are active.

Emirates, among other requests, wants the F-35s delivered earlier than 2027, a person familiar with the matter said.

Emirates Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, told the Journal earlier this year: “The UAE has a long and consistent track record in protecting US military technology, both within the alliances in which it operates. I have served with the US military and inside the UAE where a wide range of sensitive US military assets have been deployed over the years.”

Write letter for Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-arab-emirates-threatens-to-pull-out-of-23-billion-f-35-drone-deal-with-u-s-11639491997 United Arab Emirates threatens to withdraw US$23 billion F-35, Drone deal with US

Ethan Gach

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