House Chairman Eliot Engel proposes bill to restrict U.S. weapons sales to Middle East countries

Middle East

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Friday unveiled legislation that would place restrictions on the sales of various U.S.-made weapons to Middle East countries other than Israel.

The legislation, introduced by Mr. Engel, New York Democrat, would require countries to meet certain benchmarks including signing a normalization agreement with Israel, ensuring the weapons are modified, a promise to not transfer the weapons, and commitment to not violate international humanitarian law, if they are interested in purchasing the advanced equipment.

“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 check clears,” Mr. Engel said in a statement.

“We need to know that such weapons will be used properly and in a way aligned with our security interests, which include protecting Israel’s qualitative military edge and ensuring adversaries can’t get their hands on American technology.”

Mr. Engel’s bill, dubbed the Middle East Advanced Technology Protection Act, was announced just one day after Congress was informally notified of a proposed sale of 50 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. All international weapons sales must be approved by Congress before advancing.

The weapons sale, that was previously barred, became possible following the UAE’s signing of the Abraham Accords, an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. The UAE was one of the first Arab states to do so in decades, and the move opened the door to greater military cooperation with the U.S.

Following the announcement, Israeli officials quickly rejected efforts from UAE officials to purchase the sophisticated F-35 fighter jets, a purchase that was previously banned.

Despite concern from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress that any sale could cut into Israel’s regional military superiority, Israeli officials ultimately agreed to the UAE’s purchase.

Mr. Engel, however, remains skeptical of the implications on Israel’s military edge if the sale were to proceed and has cited “serious concerns about the potential spread of such advanced weaponry in the region and its potential impact on Israel’s security.”

“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,” he said.

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