House Democrats Introduce Bill to Restrict US Arms Sales to Arab Nations

Eliot Engel, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced the legislation on Friday, along with 10 other legislators, amid concerns over the Trump administration's plans to sell F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"The Trump Administration has made it clear that they'll put lethal weaponry in just about anyone's hands without regard to potential loss of life so long as the cheque clears," Engel said in a statement, the Middle East Eye reported.

"So it's up to Congress to consider the ramifications of allowing new partners to purchase the F-35 and other advanced systems.

"The bill I'm introducing would lay out clear conditions governments would have to meet if they want to purchase the F-35 and other sensitive equipment."

The bill requires that before a Middle Eastern country can purchase certain arms from the United States, it must demonstrate that it has signed a normalization agreement with Israel and that its purchase preserves Israel's military advantage.

Among other requirements, the weapons would also need to have been modified to ensure that Israel is able to identify, locate, and continually track them. The recipient country would be barred from altering such modifications.

Lawmakers have made a priority of protecting Israel's military advantage in the region, recently introducing several bills addressing the issue from different angles.

The new series of legislative efforts were prompted by reports that the UAE had been promised a chance to buy American stealth jets in a side deal made when they agreed to normalize relations with Israel in August.

On Thursday, Engel said the Trump administration had moved forward with its plans, informally giving a required notification to Congress on the sale. The White House reportedly intends to sell the UAE 50 F-35 fighter jets, worth about $10.4bn.

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns that selling the F-35s would run afoul of a US commitment, enshrined in law, to maintain Israel's "qualitative military edge".

That bill requires the president to consult with the Israeli regime to ensure that it agrees that its qualitative military edge is preserved by any potential sale in the region. Under current US law, the United States Congress has the sovereign authority to make the distinction, not Israel.

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