Democrats failed Wednesday to block the United States from selling top-of-the-line fighter-jets to the United Arab Emirates, with most senators dismissing fears that President Donald Trump was setting off a dangerous arms race.
In one of the largest arms deals of its four-year term, the outgoing administration has approved $23 billion in stealth-capable F-35 jets, unarmed drones and other weapons to the Gulf ally after it agreed to recognize Israel, a major cause for Trump.
Splitting mostly on party lines, opponents failed to convince a threshold of 50 senators in two procedural votes that Trump was acting hastily before President-elect Joe Biden takes over next month to bolster a nation that was part of Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt said that selling weapons to the UAE supported US jobs and provided "reinforcement of our friends who see common enemies and are working directly to move their country and their region in a much better direction."
Trump had already threatened to veto the resolutions if they passed, meaning both the Senate and House of Representatives needed two-thirds majorities to override him.
The White House in a statement said that the weapons would enable the UAE to "deter increasing Iranian aggressive behavior and threats issued in the wake of that peace deal."
Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that Iran posed risks but said: "We have yet to understand exactly what military threat the F-35s or armed drones will be addressing vis-a-vis Iran."
He noted that Qatar -- a fellow US ally which is under a blockade by the UAE and Saudi Arabia -- has already been pushing for its own F-35s.
"Do we really think that we can sell this just to the UAE and not have those other countries come knocking on our door and starting a very sophisticated arms race in the tinderbox of the world?" Menendez asked on the Senate floor.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online