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US Democrats question Biden decision to greenlight $23 billion UAE arms sale

The arms deal includes F-35 jets and armed UAVs [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2021

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An arms sale, brokered by Trump, and approved by Biden, will be reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee, over concerns that weapons could be used against civilians.

A recent multi-billion dollar US arms deal with the UAE was questioned on Wednesday by the Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, according to reports by Reuters

Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks has expressed concerns that the Biden administration is going ahead with the deal, first brokered by former president Trump, and has said that the deal would be reviewed. 

The $23 billion deal included the sale of advanced F-35 jets and armed drones

The arms deal was one of the final acts of Donald Trump while he was in office, signed just hours before Biden took office on 20 January. 

Initially, Democrats had "paused" the deal, so as to review its contents. On Tuesday, the Biden administration informed Congress that the deal would go ahead. 

"I still have many questions about any decision by the Biden Administration to go forward with the Trump Administration’s proposed transfers of F-35s, armed UAVs (drones), munitions and other weapon," said Meeks in a statement. 

"Fortunately, none of these transfers would occur any time soon, so there will be ample time for Congress to review whether these transfers should go forward and what restrictions and conditions would be imposed," he added.

A spokesman for the US State Department said on Tuesday that delivery date was estimated to be not before 2025. 

The UAE has come under intense scrutiny for its role in the devastating war in Yemen, where "war crimes" have allegedly been committed by the Saudi-led coalition. In turn, rights groups have urged the US to end all arms sales with the UAE.

"In continuing to sell weapons to the UAE, US authorities are ignoring pervasive evidence of airstrikes and other attacks by the Saudi and UAE-led coalition in Yemen that unlawfully killed civilians," said Sarah Holewinski, Washington director at Human Rights Watch, when the deal was first announced in December 2020. 

Read more: Can European arms companies be held liable for war crimes in Yemen?

In response to the original deal, the non-profit think tank the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs filed a lawsuit over the deal. Yesterday, the filling was amended to included the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, as a defendant. 

"We are troubled that the Biden administration would allow this sale to proceed even after the State Department’s own Inspector General reported in 2020 that 'the Department [of State] did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties and legal concerns associated with the transfer [of these weapons]," said Justin Thomas Russell, the group's principal director.

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