WASHINGTON and DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has terminated a $23.3 billion deal with the United States for F-35 stealth fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones and a weapons package, with a UAE source telling Breaking Defense talks have been “suspended” indefinitely for a “full reassessment” of the arms deal.
On Monday, a UAE Air Force official sent a letter to the Pentagon withdrawing its offer and acceptance letters for 50 Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters, 18 General Atomics MQ-9Bs and 10 billion worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions manufactured largely by Raytheon.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the letter, which was independently confirmed by multiple sources who spoke to Breaking Defense.
According to a source close to the talks, the motive for dropping the deal is to preserve Abu Dhabi’s sovereignty, which UAE officials say would be hampered by the terms the US is trying to impose. impose to protect equipment, especially the fifth-generation stealth F. -35.
Specifically, the United States opposes the UAE’s contract with Chinese 5G provider Huawei, fearing that the Chinese network will technologically compromise the F-35. He also worries about what he believes to be a Chinese military facility built in a port in the United Arab Emirates, and wonders if Abu Dhabi could protect American military technologies while working so closely with China.
The UAE’s withdrawal from the deal comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Monday and just weeks after the country signed a peace accord. 19 billion dollars with France for 80 Dassault Rafale fighters.
“I suspect they took advantage of the moment,” a source said.
After a year in which UAE officials have insisted they will not abandon Huawei – seen by Emirati leaders as a strategic relationship with China – the LOA withdrawal appears to serve as a message to Washington for it to stick with the initial offering of the F-35, created under the Trump administration and without Huawei’s demands, or they will look elsewhere.
Now US officials are scrambling to figure out if the UAE really wants to kill the deal, or if it’s just a negotiating ploy to get the US to come to the table with terms. more lenient. Notably, a delegation of senior UAE officials is due to visit the Pentagon on Wednesday and Thursday for talks, including a joint military dialogue where the issue of the sale will likely be raised.
Mohammed Bahroon, managing director of the Dubau-based B’huth Center for Public Policy, called the UAE’s move a clear reaction to US demands on Huawei.
These requests “have been used to justify revisions to previous revisions of the agreement, and to impose new controls on technology protection as well as requests for revisions to standard end-user agreements, may have made the much less workable deal than it originally was,” he said. However, “I’m sure it can be resumed if circumstances change.”
What might those circumstances be – the United States abandoning its opposition to Huawei, a misstep by China that causes relations to break, or even the results of the 2024 United States elections that could herald a new United States administration more favorable to the Arab Emirates? united – remain to be seen.
“The Biden-Harris administration remains committed to the proposed sales of F-35 aircraft, the MQ-9B and munitions even as we continue consultations to ensure we have a clear and mutual understanding of the obligations and actions of the parties. Emirates before, during and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson said. “We hope we can resolve any outstanding issues, and we look forward to joint U.S.-Emirati military dialogue later this week.”