Senators launch effort to block Trump from last-minute arms sale to UAE

November 19, 2020 

A bipartisan group of senators is launching an effort to block the Trump administration from going through with a $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) along with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced four joint resolutions rejecting the president's decision to push through the transaction, which would see the UAE purchase billions in drones, fighter jets and air-to-air missiles.

The Trump administration formally notified Congress last week that it planned to go through with the massive sale, which Menendez slammed for sidestepping the normal review protocols for such weapons transfers.

By notifying Congress, the administration set off a 30-day window in which lawmakers are able to block the sales through legislation.

"We are introducing these bipartisan resolutions out of a shared understanding that Congress must strongly assert its statutory authority over our nation's foreign arms sales. As I tried to warn the Trump administration, circumventing deliberative processes for considering a massive infusion of weapons to a country in a volatile region with multiple ongoing conflicts is downright irresponsible," the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement.

He went on to voice concerns about how the sales would impact the national security interests of the United States and Israel.

"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."

Murphy, who serves on the panel with Menendez, voiced his support for Israel and the UAE normalizing relations as they had under President Trump, but warned that their agreement did not require the United States "to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race."

"The Emiratis are an important security partner, but their recent behavior indicates that these weapons may be used in violation of U.S. and international law. 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, adding in closing, "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."

President Trump stands with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the White House in 2017.Getty Images

In September, the UAE, Bahrain and Israel signed the "Abraham Accords," normalizing relations between Israel and the two Arab nations.

In signing the agreement, they became the third and fourth Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The breakthrough also established direct commercial flights between Israel and the UAE.

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