Biden admin pauses controversial arms sales for review

By Justin Doubleday / January 27, 2021 at 4:08 PM

The State Department is pausing multiple arms sales pushed through by the Trump administration to "allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review," according to a State Department official.

The official said the pause is "typical" with any transition to a new administration. The pause pertains to "some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales," according to the official, without getting into specifics.

"This is a routine administrative action typical to most any transition, and demonstrates this Administration's commitment to transparency and good governance, as well as ensuring U.S. arms sales meet our strategic objectives of building stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partners," the official said.

Bloomberg News first reported the pause. The deals affected include the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and munitions to Saudi Arabia, according to Bloomberg.

In November, the Trump administration notified Congress that it had approved selling the UAE 50 F-35 aircraft for an estimated $10.4 billion, air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions for an estimated $10 billion and 18 MQ-9B unmanned aerial systems for nearly $3 billion. The deal was made after the United States helped broker peace deals between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel under the "Abraham Accords."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration went around Congress to sell weapons to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE under an "emergency" declaration in 2019.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about selling Saudi Arabia and the UAE weapons due to their involvement in the war in Yemen.

President Biden "has made clear that we will end our support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and I think we will work on that in very short order once the president-elect is president," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Blinken also told Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that the State Department would "return to regular order" in its consultations with Congress on arms sales.

While he applauded the Abraham Accords, Blinken also said, "there are certain commitments that may have been made in the context of getting those countries to normalize relations with Israel that I think we should take a hard look at."