ARMS FOR ALLIES: Security Perceptions and Pragmatism in the F-35 Arms Deal between the US and the UAE

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The US-UAE F-35 deal that followed the Abraham Accords peace agreement between Israel and the UAE is unprecedented in terms of advanced fighter planes sales to a country that could potentially pose a risk to Israel’s military status in the region. The US legal commitment to this Israeli military standing takes the shape of a legal doctrine also known as the Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Building on several security related theories within the field of International Relations (IR) – notably, the security dilemma, collective security, triadic relationships and the patron’s dilemma – this thesis tries to gain a better understanding in terms of what drives the US to close an arms deal of this magnitude. It moreover serves to shed light on the motives, interests and objectives of actors involved in the deal. Leading in the analysis is the constructivist perspective, although liberalist and realist perspectives are taken into account to a certain extent. The most important outcome of the analysis is how security perceptions, especially in the shape of emotions of fear and perceived threat, play a pivotal role in understanding decision making and policy in geopolitics. In the case of the F-35 deal, pragmatic and fear-based policy predominates QME legislation for two main reasons. One being the way in which legal frameworks such as the QME, but also the notion of human rights, offer policy makers the possibility for grey area maneuvering. The second reason is the prioritizing of forming an allied front against Iran over Israel’s QME – that is partially already uplifted by the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel. Moreover, Iran is an important regional adversary for Israel as well.
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