UAE Ambassador: Argument against F-35 sale is political, not substantial

“Through the Abraham Accords, I think we basically prove that we are doubling down on our relationship with the United States."

F-35 Lightning II pilot US Air Force Captain Kristin "BEO" Wolfe performs the "dedication pass" maneuver at the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Air Show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US November 21, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS)
F-35 Lightning II pilot US Air Force Captain Kristin "BEO" Wolfe performs the "dedication pass" maneuver at the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Air Show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US November 21, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, addressed the arms sales deal to provide his country advanced F-35 jets and said that the opposition to the deal is politically motivated.

“Through the Abraham Accords, I think we basically prove that we are doubling down on our relationship with the United States,” Otaiba said in an online discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington.
“The question is what’s the real argument against it,” he added.
“We are buying weapons with our own money to defend ourselves from a common threat,” the ambassador continued. “We are co-deploying with [the US] everywhere you go. We just made peace with Israel. And so, on substance and policy, there’s really very little argument against it,” he said.

“The most potent argument against it is the political one, that there was a lot of opposition because Donald Trump is the one selling arms to us. And I think that’s really what it comes down to. It comes down to a political debate, not a substantial debate,” Otaiba said.

On Monday, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said in an interview with MSNBC that Israel believes that the UAE is an ally in confronting Iran, and does not think that the proposed arms sales to the Arab state will violate the US commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“What keeps me up at night is actually not the proposed F-35 sale to the Emirates,” said Dermer. “What keeps me up at night is the idea that somebody would return to the nuclear deal with Iran.”

Otaiba also addressed the prospects of a new nuclear agreement with Iran.

“We would be the first ones to sign up for a deal with Iran, but what does that look like?” said the ambassador.

He went on to say that the JCPOA was “a good starting point,” but added that there is a lot more work to be done regarding the ballistic missiles, Iran’s proxies, and the sunset clauses of the agreement.

“I have yet to find any intelligent person in the US who can give me an argument for why does Iran get to keep an enrichment cycle or a reprocessing cycle when your partners – the countries that invest with you and fight with you and go to wars with you – are banned from having an enrichment cycle, and we’ve actually built a nuclear program that has no reprocessing,” he said.
“So how does your adversary get a better deal than your partners? We would love to see a civilian nuclear program in Iran that looks like the one we have in the UAE.”

Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Otaiba said that “the expectations are not very high, but we just hope that there’s talks. We hope that there’s engagement. We hope there’s a conversation.”

He noted that the UAE can’t make it happen.
“The two sides have to decide that this is important for them,” he said.