A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced measures to block the Trump administration’s proposed weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates, calling it a dangerous move that could weaken Israel and lead to an arms race in the region.
The joint resolutions of disapproval come a week after the State Department notified Congress of the U.S. government’s intention to sell $23 billion worth of munitions to the Gulf nation. Earlier this year, the UAE signed a peace accord with Israel and pledged to normalize relations with the country.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is spearheading the effort alongside Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who regularly advocates a noninterventionist foreign policy.
“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,” Menendez said in a statement.
The senators charge that the Trump administration circumvented the standard protocol for arms sales to foreign nations, which includes a congressional review period. They also said the administration has not responded to their questions about how the U.S. “would deal with specific national security risks inherent in the proposed sale,” which includes 50 F-35 aircraft, a massive stockpile of missiles, and 18 Reaper drones.
Such munitions would be serious upgrades for Abu Dhabi’s military capabilities as they continue to deploy proxies in Yemen and other nations.
In addition to their concerns about heightening tensions in the region, Democrats have argued that the outgoing Trump administration should not be making major foreign-policy moves during the presidential transition period — especially ones that could hamstring the incoming Biden administration.
“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,” Murphy said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) plans to introduce similar measures in the House, citing human-rights concerns given Abu Dhabi’s track record.
But it remains highly unlikely that Congress will be able to stop the transfers. President Donald Trump is certain to veto any effort to overturn the sales, and a two-thirds majority in both chambers would be required to override a presidential veto.
The statutory 30-day window for blocking the sales ends on Dec. 10.
Jacqueline Feldscher contributed to this report.