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Two Democrats Help Senate Kill Effort to Stop Sale of F-35s and Drones to UAE

The Trump administration is pushing to lock in the massive arms sale weeks before Inauguration Day.

Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

Most Senate Republicans and a pair of Democrats teamed up on Wednesday to vote down resolutions aiming to block the Trump White House’s lame-duck sale of $23 billion worth of F-35s, Reaper drones, and missiles to the United Arab Emirates, ignoring warnings that providing the Middle East nation with more high-tech weaponry would further implicate the U.S. in mass murder of civilians.

With the exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), every Republican senator present voted against the pair of Democrat-led resolutions. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined the GOP in voting against both resolutions, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) voted in favor of blocking the F-35 sale but against preventing the sale of Reaper drones to UAE — a partner along with the U.S. in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen.

As HuffPost’s Akbar Shahid Ahmed noted, “the defense unit of military contractor Raytheon — which is crucial to the drones being considered — is based in Arizona,” a possible reason behind the two Arizona Democrats’ votes.

The two failed resolutions were sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Paul.

“The Senate today faced a clear choice: defend human rights and prevent atrocities against civilians, or roll over to Trump and his corporate cronies. Many chose the latter,” Erica Fein, advocacy director at Win Without War, said in a statement. “The decision to stand idly by as Trump rams through a last-minute $23 billion arms sale is shameful.”

Citing survey data showing overwhelming public opposition to arms sales to the UAE, Fein called on the incoming Biden administration to “stop these sales from moving forward, meet its campaign promise of ending U.S. complicity in the war in Yemen, reset U.S. relations in the region, and restore U.S. credibility as a partner for peace.”

The Trump administration’s effort to lock in the massive arms sale just weeks before Inauguration Day comes after the president took credit for brokering a “peace deal” between Israel and the UAE in August.

Critics were quick to warn the agreement had absolutely nothing to do with peace, an argument bolstered by the subsequent U.S. attempt to rush through a sale of “50 F-35 aircraft, 18 Reaper drones, and a massive stockpile of missiles” to the UAE. Israel lobbied in support of the weapons sale.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was reportedly a key driving force behind the arms deal and recent efforts to prevent the Senate from blocking it.

“The United States should be working to deescalate conflict in the Middle East, not fueling it by selling more and more weapons to regimes using them to kill civilians,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who voted to stop the sales.

Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action, said in a statement late Wednesday that “Republicans should be ashamed for voting to sell deadly drones and F-35A jets to the United Arab Emirates — a country known for war crimes, human rights abuses, and causing Yemen famine.”

“These votes send a strong message from Senate Democrats to the Biden and Harris administration to rethink arms sales,” said Martin, “especially to countries who may not always hold American interests nor uphold human rights like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.”

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