Reports on Wednesday said that America’s expected sale of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates had been paused, frozen or suspended.These are all terms for what is essentially a review of the Trump administration’s desire to view the F-35 as a selling point of US diplomacy and gain an important military-technological footprint in the Emirates. It happened to come at the same time as the Abraham Accords agreement with Israel and was incorrectly seen as part of the larger peace deal.The reality is more complex. The UAE and other states have wanted advanced US military technology, such as drones or the F-35, for many years. The F-35 program is itself critiqued within US military circles, so the plane is not just about gaining military hardware, but about being part of the US F-35 alliance system. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with the 5th generation aircraft. Turkey was supposed to acquire it, as a NATO member, but it has purchased the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia.F-35s are operated by nine countries today. There are more than 585 aircraft, according to November 2020 numbers, and fly from 26 bases worldwide. This included Al-Dhafra base in the UAE from where the US F-35s operate. A report in 2019 said the F-35A had deployed to the airbase for the first time. Last year, the US and Israel drilled three times with the warplane.If the UAE acquires them then there is potential for more joint training. The UAE is also close to India and Greece and it looks to be doing more air drills with Greece. Israel is increasingly a partner with Greece. That means F-35s in the UAE fit well in the regional military alliance structure.There is another side to this however. While the F-35 is an expensive big-ticket item that can be seen as a reward for US partners and allies, it also takes years to deliver. It was not clear how many of the aircraft the UAE would acquire in the end. Israel will have 50 soon and may get 75. The decision by the Biden administration to pause the sales was read by some as criticism of the Trump administration’s decision. But others familiar with the situation say this was a normal move and was anticipated. This is because the sales had been moved forward quickly in the fall of 2020.A senior administration official said the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia were being frozen pending the review, but that sales to the Emirates were not frozen while they are being examined.“The $23 billion arms package to the UAE includes long-lead items such as jet fighters and drones that wouldn’t be delivered in some cases for many years,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The UAE Embassy in Washington said this was anticipated.The Biden administration is known to be critical of Riyadh’s war in Yemen but also supports selling to Saudi Arabia the technology to defend itself. That means more air defense to stop drones and missiles that Iran supplies to its allies.The administration is not known to be as critical of the UAE or Israel, and all appearances indicate that relations between Israel and the Biden administration are starting on the right foot. That includes discussions with counterparts at the State Department, Central Command and National Security Council, as well as intelligence.Regarding the UAE, it is important to pay attention not only to the F-35 deal, but to overall US signals to the Gulf, including Bahrain and Qatar, and US conversations with Jordan and Egypt, or even Oman, Sudan and Morocco. The F-35 is a symbolic and important aircraft. The UAE has received advanced US weapons in the past. The question for the Biden administration is whether it wants to use arms sales, or the appearance of slowing down such sales, as leverage. Washington has already been slow in the past to supply partners such as Saudi Arabia or the UAE with armed drones.Countries looked to China to fill the vacuum, while Turkey and Iran built their own armed drones. The US has been focused on another Chinese-related issue: China’s interest in the port of Haifa. However, UAE port operator DP World is moving forward with privatization plans for Haifa Port, Bloomberg reported today. In contrast to Beijing’s interest, that would be seen positively in Washington. Port operations, F-35s, peace deals and all these facets linking Israel, the UAE and the US are a multi-layered cake that can play a role in regional stability. The US administration would likely look positively on this growing relationship, with F-35s eventually in the pipeline.