US F-35 stealth fighter plane. FILE PHOTO

US 'Fully Committed' To F-35 Fighter Sale To UAE


The US remains "fully committed" to a proposed sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates a senior US official has told the Associated Press.

Despite the Biden administration slowing down the deal, a senior American official overseeing arms exports has told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Washington remains committed.

Mira Resnick, a deputy US assistant secretary of state in the Biden administration, also told the AP at the Dubai Air Show that Gulf Arab partners aren't looking to purchase weapons from Russia as a hedge over American concerns about human rights in the region.

That's even as a high-level Russian delegation met Tuesday with Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at an air show prominently featuring Moscow's competitor to the F-35, the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate.

"The F-35 is already in this region, whether it's Israelis flying the F-35, whether it's American F-35," Resnick said. "We would like the UAE to be able to operate the F-35 in a way that (they) can be our security partners and to deter threats, including from Iran."

The proposed sale of 50 F-35s came at the end of President Donald Trump's administration, rising out of a deal that saw the UAE recognize Israel.

The $23 billion sale also included armed drones and other defense equipment sought by the Emirates, a hereditarily ruled federation of seven sheikhdoms also home to Dubai.

After President Joe Biden came into office, his new administration put the arms sale and others on hold, in part over criticism of the UAE and Saudi Arabia over their yearslong war in Yemen, which has sparked the world's worst humanitarian crisis and rages on today.

Only Israel flies the F-35 in the region, part of its so-called "qualitative edge" granted by America after Israel fought several wars against its Arab neighbors since its founding.

Resnick said she'd heard no concerns from Israel or other allies over the F-35 sale to the Emirates, saying "We are fully committed to the F-35 and transferring the F-35, which is a game changer for the Emiratis."

"We are working with them as we speak to make sure that there are clarifications to the various assurances that were made to the previous administration."

Biden himself pledged during his campaign to make Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a "pariah" after US intelligence agencies said they believe he ordered the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"We have worked with with Saudi Arabia to make sure that they are able to defend themselves. We know that there are complications in... this relationship and in relationships around the globe," Resnick said.

"But we continue to reinvest and make sure that they can invest in their own defense."

Russia similarly has sought to make an impression at the show, flying a new attack helicopter and showing off the Checkmate fighter jet in a music-video-style presentation to journalists on the tarmac.

But Resnick dismissed that effort, saying "we have not seen any strategic competitor be able to fill the kind of role that we play here in the region."

Report by AP

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