Bipartisan group of senators takes aim at proposed $23 billion weapons sale to United Arab Emirates

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A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday unveiled legislation to reject a massive weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates that has been approved by the State Department.

The Trump administration earlier this month formally notified Congress of its intent to sell $23 billion worth of Reaper drones, munitions, air-to-air missiles and 50 F-35 joint strike fighters to the UAE.

Congress must approve all foreign weapons sales after they have been authorized by the State Department.

Sens. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat; and Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, on Wednesday introduced four separate resolutions of disapproval rejecting the weapons sale.

The lawmakers said the Trump administration is attempting to “rush” the sale and claimed the White House “circumvented the informal congressional review process that grants the Congressional committees of jurisdiction time to ensure proposed arms sales of this magnitude are consistent with U.S. values, national security objectives, and the safety of our allies.”

The sale comes roughly two months after the UAE joined the Abraham Accords, formalizing diplomatic relations with Israel. The historic agreement also opened the door for increased defense cooperation with the UAE, but ignited fears among pro-Israel lawmakers and Israeli officials that Israel’s qualitiative military advantage in the region could be weakened.

“There are a number of outstanding concerns as to how these sales would impact the national security interests of both the United States and of Israel,” Mr. Menendez said in a statement.

“As a result, Congress is once again stepping in to serve as a check to avoid putting profit over U.S. national security and that of our allies, and to hopefully prevent a new arms race in the Middle East.”

Mr. Murphy said that while he supports the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, “nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race.”

“The UAE has violated past arms sales agreements, resulting in U.S. arms ending up in the arms of dangerous militia groups, and they have failed to comply with international law in Libya and Yemen,” he continued. “A sale this large and this consequential should not happen in the waning days of a lame duck presidency, and Congress must take steps to stop this dangerous transfer of weapons.”

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