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White House approves nearly $3B drone deal with UAE: report

White House approves nearly $3B drone deal with UAE: report
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The State Department has informally told Congress that it plans to sell 18 armed aerial drones worth approximately $2.9 billion to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), people familiar with the matter told Reuters

The reported sale would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a component of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prevents its 35 members from selling armed drones to other nations. 

The U.S., which helped form the agreement in 1987 amid the Cold War, is not legally binding and is treated as an understanding among its member nations.

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The UAE would become the latest to receive drones in the Trump administration’s policy change, with the first being a $600 million deal to sell four unarmed but weapons-ready SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan that Congress was notified about on Tuesday, according to Reuters. 

Reuters reported Thursday that the informal notification of the UAE sale is meant to be followed by a formal and public notification. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees will have the ability to review and potentially block the weapons sale prior to a formal notification.  

The members of these committees have criticized UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen’s civil war, with more than 17,500 civilians killed and injured since fighting broke out in 2015, according to data compiled by the Human Rights Watch

The State Department may wait to formally notify Congress of the sale once staff and members are briefed on it, one of the people familiar with the plans told Reuters. The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object.

The drone sail comes a week after the Trump administration told Congress that it would be moving forward with a planned F-35 fighter jet sale to the UAE

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Dozens of progressive groups endorse Joaquin Castro for Foreign Affairs chair MORE (D-N.Y.) confirmed that the administration had informally notified Congress of the sale, which would allow the UAE to buy the fifth-generation fighter jet, currently owned only by Israel in the region.

Engel, who warned that rushing the sale “is not in anyone’s interest,” urged his colleagues to consider the stakes in selling the advanced aircraft to the UAE.

“This technology would significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a game-changing stealth platform boasting advanced strike capability and unique sensor technology. The export of this aircraft requires very careful consideration and Congress must analyze all of the ramifications,” he said in a statement at the time.