WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of nearly two dozen lawmakers is calling for the Trump administration to allow sales of armed unmanned systems to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
The lawmakers appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump to depart from the Obama administration’s opposition to sending the MQ-9 Reaper to those Middle Eastern nations. The Trump administration has already signaled he is more flexible on arms exports by supporting a still-pending sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights caveats imposed by the Obama administration.
The letter is signed by 20 Republicans, many of them on the House Armed Services Committee, and two Democrats from California: Reps. Susan Davis and Scott Peters.
In an interview with Defense News on Tuesday, Hunter said the sales make economic sense and would aid allies against the Islamic State group, adding that a non-sale would mean ceding U.S. market share and influence to a foreign vendor like China.
Opening the pipeline for unmanned systems to Jordan has been a signature cause for Hunter at least since 2015 when he wrote multiple letters to the Obama administration, which pushed back, citing, in part, the Missile Technology Control Regime. The MTCR is an informal pact across 35 nations meant to curb the spread of unmanned nuclear weapons. It is credited with slowing or stopping several ballistic missile programs.
Hunter believes this administration will be more receptive because Trump has been vocal about allies being more self-reliant.
The letter comes as the White House proposes a budget that would kill U.S. subsidies for foreign allies, including Jordan, to buy American-made weapons outright and replace them with a loans program. Israel makes up more than half of the $5.7 billion program, with Egypt and Jordan next in line.
“Congress is not going to pass a budget that cuts our allies off at the knees — and I count Jordan, Egypt and the UAE as allies against ISIS,” he said.
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