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Monday, November 6, 2017
Trump could let the UAE buy F-35 jets

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Take a look at this reckless comment:
"...under currently conceivable scenarios, if anyone thinks that the UAE
will use this airplane to attack Israel, he or she is not living in
Shoshana Bryen, senior director at the Washington-based Jewish Policy Center

Why "reckless"?

Look again at her wording: "under currently conceivable scenarios".

That's "currently".

And that's the problem.

We aren't talking about something that impacts just the next day, week,
month, year.

Shoshana Bryen is absolutely correct that - at least until the next news
bulletin reports dramatic developments - it is inconceivable that the UAE
attacks Israel.

The challenge is to think beyond the "current" situation.

If Shoshana Bryen can't conceive a scenario according to which there is a
leadership in the UAE that does decide to join in action against the Jewish
State then she lacks an imagination.

Trump could let the UAE buy F-35 jets
By: Barbara Opall-Rome 5 November 2017

WASHINGTON ― As part of a larger U.S. strategy for enhanced strategic
cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, the Trump administration has
agreed to consider a long-standing request by Abu Dhabi to enter into
preliminary talks on future procurement of the F-35 joint strike fighter.

While no decision has been made, the willingness to consider extending a
classified briefing to the UAE as the first significant step toward
acquisition of the fifth-generation stealth fighter signals a departure from
policy enforced under former President Barack Obama. The Obama
administration had consistently rebuffed Emirati requests for the briefing
dating back to 2011, citing Washington’s commitment to preserve Israel’s
so-called Qualitative Military Edge, or QME.

In interviews, Gulf experts and industry executives insist the Trump
administration fully intends to uphold congressionally mandated commitments
to the QME, which aim to provide Israel the weaponry and assistance it needs
to unilaterally defend itself against any combination of regional foes. At
the same time, Washington wants to build on an expanded U.S.-UAE Defense
Cooperation Agreement unveiled in May during Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme
Commander Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s meetings with Trump and Defense
Secretary Jim Mattis in the U.S. capital.

“The Trump team has agreed to consider the request. It’s not a ‘yes’ yet,
but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen once the dust settles,” a former
Pentagon official told Defense News. He was referring to the ongoing dispute
between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with Qatar ― a rift the
administration needs to amend before it can effectively implement Trump’s
new strategy for countering nuclear and non-nuclear threats from Iran.

Experts cite a convergence of events that support extending preliminary F-35
program access to the UAE, the only Arab country to have participated in six
U.S.-led coalition missions since the 1991 Gulf War and which hosts
thousands of Americans deployed with the U.S. Air Force’s 380th Air
Expeditionary Wing.

Firstly, unlike Saudi Arabia, which is some 20 kilometers from Israel’s Red
Sea town of Eilat, the UAE does not share a maritime or land border with
Israel. And unlike Saudi Arabia or other Gulf Cooperation Council states,
the UAE Air Force has openly participated with the Israeli Air Force in
international exercises, the latest in March in Greece with the Italian and
Hellenic air forces and in annual U.S. Air Force Red Flag drills in Nevada.

Considering the common threat from Iran, and the time it would take for Abu
Dhabi to negotiate a contract with Washington, let alone begin to take first
deliveries, sources note that Israel will have enjoyed more than a decade of
exclusivity as the only Air Force in the region to operate the F-35.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense declined public comment on the potential easing
of F-35 restrictions for Abu Dhabi, citing sensitivities. Privately,
however, sources said Israel is unlikely to object if initial steps are
limited only to the UAE, and will not trigger wider approval for other GCC

“The two countries are not allies; not even friends. But under currently
conceivable scenarios, if anyone thinks that the UAE will use this airplane
to attack Israel, he or she is not living in reality,” said Shoshana Bryen,
senior director at the Washington-based Jewish Policy Center.

Danny Sebright, president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, said Abu
Dhabi has been frustrated by U.S. policy governing technology transfer to
the region. “The way our policy works now is Israel versus all other Arab
countries. But they have no negative intentions toward the Israelis and don’t
see themselves going to war with them. And as such, they don’t want
decisions being held up based on how other Arab countries may affect Israel’s

In a recent interview, Sebright said Washington should consider UAE’s
requests based on the merits of its long-standing partnership with the U.S.
and its contribution to regional stability. He said the new 15-year Defense
Cooperation Agreement is meant to be an indefinite umbrella agreement that
should ultimately cover the F-35 and other front-line American weaponry as
well as joint research and development, more special operations cooperation,
and other bilateral initiatives.

In a 13-page report published by the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council last
month, Sebright listed a broad spectrum of areas ― from counterterrorism to
Afghanistan reconstruction efforts ― in which Abu Dhabi has materially
contributed to U.S. security and its interests in and far beyond the Arabian
Gulf. He noted that the UAE is one of the largest customers of the U.S.
Foreign Military Sales program and ranks among the top 15 defense spenders
in the world.

“U.S.-UAE basing agreements, joint training and weapons sales are not merely
for show. ... The UAE has become not just a consumer of security, but also a
provider of security in the Gulf region and the wider Middle East,” Sebright

Nevertheless, he warned that U.S. restrictions may force Abu Dhabi to
turning to non-Western countries for major military systems. Earlier this
year, the UAE and Russia signed a letter of intent to jointly develop a
fifth-generation fighter based on the MiG-29, while Moscow announced UAE
interest in potential procurement of the Sukhoi Su-35.

“Whether or not this transpires can be viewed as a reflection of the UAE’s
frustration with the US acquisition process,” Sebright wrote. He said Abu
Dhabi’s unmet F-35 request “is not an isolated case.” He cited the UAE’s
purchase of Chinese UAVs as a supplement to a U.S. acquisition of unarmed
Predator drones, the catalyst being Washington’s refusal to approve
strike-capable systems.

“The UAE is not only a consumer of US security, but a provider for US
security. ... While they may be willing to consider non-Western suppliers,
it is important to emphasize that it continues to demonstrate a strong
preference for US [weaponry] … which comes with US training and support and
further reinforces the bilateral defense and security relationship that is
so important” to both countries, the report concludes.

Simon Henderson, director of the Washington Institute’s Gulf and Energy
Policy Program, suggested that Saudi Arabia could dispel concerns regarding
its intentions toward Israel by publicly participating in U.S.-led exercises
aimed at regional defense.

“The US would consider selling F-35s to the Saudis if the Saudis were not a
threat to Israel. And an indication they are not a threat to Israel would be
for Saudi Arabia and Israel to take part in the same third-party air
exercises,” Henderson said.

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