US freezes sale of F-35 jets to UAE, munitions to Saudi Arabia: Media reports

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (APP): The Biden administration has temporarily frozen U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the sale of F-35 advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates as it reviews billions of dollars in weapons transactions approved by the Trump administration, according to American media reports.

Citing U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News said that the administration is specifically reviewing the sale of the top-of-the-line F-35s to the UAE, and munitions to Saudi Arabia.

Both sales were harshly criticized by Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

“The department is temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending US defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review,” the State Department said in a statement.

“This is a routine administrative action typical to most any transition, and demonstrates the administration’s commitment to transparency and good governance, as well as ensuring U.S. arms sales meet our strategic objectives of building stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partners,” the spokesperson added.

Asked at a briefing later Wednesday about reviewing sales to the Saudis and UAE, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly called the move as routine.

“Generally speaking, when it comes to arms sales, it is typical at the start of an administration to review any pending sales to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy, so that’s what we’re doing at this moment,” he said.

The Trump administration approved billions of dollars in weapons sales in its waning days.

The F-35 sale came soon after the UAE and Israel signed a peace and normalization agreement mediated by the Trump administration, known as the Abraham Accords.

Though the warplanes were not officially part of the Abraham Accords, UAE officials said soon after the agreement was announced that they hoped it would help the US approve their longstanding request to purchase F-35s.

Democrats and other advocates have been pushing President Biden to reverse the most recent Saudi and UAE sales. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to review the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Senator Bob Menendez, the incoming Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the news Wednesday of the Biden administration’s review, saying the sales were “inexplicably rushed without thorough review of implications for U.S. national security and protection of innocent lives in Yemen.”

“I encourage the Biden administration to carefully consider the broader regional security implications of these sales and to consult with Congress as it continues its due diligence on these and other arms sales,” Menendez tweeted.