The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told me.
Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.
Driving the news: A senior State Department official told me the department is “temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review it”.
- The official claimed that was a “routine administrative action typical to most any transition,” intended to ensure U.S. arms sales “meet our strategic objectives."
- The suspension of the arms deals was first reported by Bloomberg News.
The big picture: The F-35 deal came in the context of the U.S.-brokered normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel.
- Israel had been the only country in the region to possess the F-35, but dropped its objections to the sale after protracted discussions with the Trump administration.
- Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing that the Biden administration supported Israel's recent normalization deals, but would review some of the commitments the Trump administration had made to achieve them.
- Blinken also committed to ending U.S. support for the war in Yemen. The Biden administration is concerned the munitions included in that deal will be used there.